Believe it or not, there are some people in this world who have never had to ponder, “What am I going to be when I grow up? What will I be doing? And will I be able to earn a good and comfortable living?”

Must be nice. As the rest of us are racking our brains as to how we can make our lives unfold in a purposeful and, hopefully, profitable fashion, some others have the privilege to just stroll into the family business, doors already opened, and continue the work of previous generations.

I am not angry about it. Well, maybe a bit jealous. Yet just about everyone I have ever met who has taken up the family crest and workload has been an absolutely outstanding human being. Oh sure, often the second generation can completely screw up the works. But beyond that, matters take a decidedly serious tone and preservation of tradition, upholding high product standards and growth of wealth become pursuits done with intelligence and class.

I have mulled this point because Occupy Wall Street/New Orleans/Albuquerque (I guess) etc. have brought up some interesting questions concerning the 1%. As a devout  and permanent member of the 99%, promising to love, honor and obey a life of middle-class cultures and bank accounts, I would like to believe that our at-the-top brethren are all greedy bastards happy to step on our shoulders to achieve profitability at any cost.

Again, there are, no doubt, those who fit that description perfectly and screw us always-honest, always-respectable peasants. But the gracious recipients of prior generations of hard work and good products in the wine and spirits field strike me as terrific people with whom I would love to tipple on a regular basis and have sitting next to me at a fine dining experience. In fact, if anything, there’s the “please don’t hate me because I am rich” mentality, often going overboard to be regular Joes and Janes.

Two shining examples of fine families accomplishing work in which we can all take pride and enjoyment are the Hennessys and the Trimbachs.

Maurice Hennessy is a very decent man. He is the 8th generation, a direct descendant of the Irish family that went to France in 1765 and established an empire in Cognac and now the world. I just saw Maurice, who is also one of the spokespersons for the huge luxury brand empire, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), standing at the end of an aisle in Dorignac’s, right across from the roasted chicken warming bin, sharing his family’s product with housewives and soccer moms, and even offering some to the EMS crew who had arrived with a gurney to assist an elderly woman who had fallen down in the deli section. They politely demurred, I think.

Through it all, he looked, in his fine-cut French suit and fashionable tie, as if he belonged right there in the wine section of a local grocery purveyor, smiling as if he could not believe his good fortune.

His family pride, Hennessy Cognac, is an internationally revered spirit. It is recognized as a luxury product in every European castle and consulate, in discos, and in the finest bars in every corner of the globe. Maurice began his journey to represent the family business in 1975, when he concentrated on what makes cognac tick. He learned about the grapes and harvest, then he dived into the fine art that is distillation, and every day walked the cellars at Hennessy, thinking about what was happening there with the effects of time, and how his ancestors provided an amazing life for him. Even now back at home, when he enters the Holy of Holies, the Paradis, where the oldest cognacs are stored, many going back almost to the beginning in the late 1700’s, he is completely humbled.

Then there’s Jean Trimbach on the complete opposite side of France, over in the chess-pawn area of Alsace. This strip of land on the French-German border has changed hands often in the course of almost 400 years since his namesake established vineyards and a style of wines in the village of Riquewihr. In 1875, Frédéric Théodore Trimbach moved the then-250-year-old business to the medieval town of Ribeauvillé, not far away.

That was just about the biggest change the company has enacted. Of course, during the campaigns of several world wars, battles were fought literally at the family’s front door. But Trimbach is stronger today thanks to the twelfth generation brothers, Jean and Pierre, with the 13th generation, led by Anne, already on board.

Pierre is quite content to oversee winemaking operations and Jean handles the marketing and does most of the traveling. Jean, who also was recently in New Orleans, is a focused gentleman, quietly enjoying the company of those around him – but thoughts of dry riesling wine are never far from his mind or his words.

He is passionate about the quality of his wines, taking a father’s pride in every label and style.

About this time, many of you out there are saying to yourself either, “I love Trimbach wines and I enjoy Cognac and really look forward to the next time I will be able to enjoy them,” or “I don’t like sweet German wines nor do I like Cognac, and this tale is boring the hell out of me.”

If you are in the latter group, give me just a minute more. If you are in the former group, you are welcome to leave as I am obviously preaching to the choir. But you are also certainly welcome to stay.

There is an absolute at work here. And the bottom-line truth is that fine wine is fine wine. It may not be your style. It may not even appeal to your wallet. But it is fine wine. Here are a few more truths:

      ·      Quality Cognac does not “burn” your throat from too much alcohol
·      German white wines are not all sweet.

I appreciate that you may not want to spend what is necessary to enjoy these two excellent wines just because I suggested you should. However, next time someone else offers to buy one, or even offers you a glass of Hennessy or Trimbach, take advantage of the situation. Open your mouth and open your mind. Then after giving these wines full consideration, if you still come up with a negative view, at least you will have done all you can do to try and appreciate something quite special. 

You don’t have to take my word on Hennessy or Trimbach. Eight and 13 generations, respectively, say something about the families and the traditions. When you have this much history, somebody is doing something quite right and they have been for a very long time.