Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From Grape to Goblet, Via GOS Wines; the Distributor Based in Jacksonville Specializes in Smaller Vintners

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From Grape to Goblet, Via GOS Wines; the Distributor Based in Jacksonville Specializes in Smaller Vintners

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK BASCH

If you're looking for that perfect bottle of wine for your holiday gathering, Sam Cockrel would be a good person to ask.

For the past few years, Cockrel has been traveling the world in search of interesting vintages. The former banker is a co-owner of GOS Wines & Spirits, a Jacksonville distribution company that specializes in wines from smaller producers all over the world.

"We buy wines mostly from family vineyards," Cockrel said. "That's kind of our niche."

In many cases, Cockrel will visit the vineyards himself and get to know the families.

"They're typically very down-to-Earth, very talented people," he said. "You meet some very, very nice people."

Cockrel, a former executive with Barnett Banks Inc. and the president of two smaller Jacksonville banks, had been retired for several years when he got into the wine business. He had always been interested in wine and would often read the labels on bottles he liked. One time, he noticed the importer was a Jacksonville company called GOS. So he decided to get in touch with the owner, Gonzalo Oliva.

"I tracked Gonzalo down and said, 'I really like your wines. Let's talk about forming a partnership,'" Cockrel said.

So, Cockrel and Oliva became partners in GOS three years ago. At the time, the company was mainly importing wines from Spain, Argentina and Chile. But GOS has been broadening its portfolio to include wines from California and from several other European countries, including a wine called "Vampire" from the Transylvania region of Romania.

"It's a pretty darn good wine," Cockrel said.

GOS also imports wine from New Zealand and Australia, which have become leading producers of wines imported into the U.S.

The company finds wines from a variety of places, including Cockrel's travels. …

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