In 1972, Mel Knox was vaguely thinking about attending law school or graduate school. Instead, he got a job driving a delivery truck for a huge liquor store where two college friends were running the wine department. The next thing he knew, he’d become a full-fledged wine nut.
Mel worked as a wine buyer for the Wine and Cheese Center of San Francisco beginning in the mid-1970s. The shop had a wine tasting bar and its extremely broad lineup was fairly advanced for that time; at any given week they might have Sauternes going back to the 30s, clarets back into the 19th century, older California wines, ancient Barolos and Barbarescos, German wines going back to 1937, and so on. One time they tasted every Ridge Monte Bello ever made (there were fewer examples then, but it still took two days).
During his tenure at the Wine and Cheese Center, Mel was involved in providing the California wines used in Stephen Spurrier’s legendary Paris tasting where California wines bested the French. Despite his complicity in this event, he was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French Republic in 2010. Although this technically makes him a knight, he prefers not to be referred to as "Sir Mel."
While working at the Wine and Cheese Center, Knox met a broad range of winemakers and was able to taste wines from all over the world. He put his experienced-based education in wine, winemaking, and the wine business to good use while teaching wine appreciation classes at the UC Berkeley Extension program in the 1970s and 80s.
Mel’s insight, knowledge, curiosity, and connections were ultimately parlayed into a successful business importing and selling wine barrels. Taransaud and François Frères are among the French cooperages he helped establish as the go-to barrel manufacturers for winemakers in the USA. He has subsequently had wine cuvées (and children) named after him, and although presently immersed in a state of semi-retirement, he staves off senescence with his involvement in Uvaggio.