'We're Not Through,' Says Alan Dreeben, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner | Wine Enthusiast's 2020 Wine Star Awards
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‘We’re Not Through,’ Says Alan Dreeben, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner | Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Wine Star Awards

Board of Directors, Republic National Distributing Company

Alan Dreeben, the widely admired and respected partner in Republic National Distributing Company, will step down from the board of directors at the end of 2020, bowing out of management of the second largest wholesale wine and spirits distributor in the United States. Dreeben, 77, will hand off his board seat to his son-in-law Marc Sachs and will take a part-time role as advisory director after 54 years with RNDC.

“Never in my wildest imagination did I think that we would have the size and scope that we have today,” Dreeben tells Wine Enthusiast. “We’re not through. We will continue to grow, but being the biggest is not my goal. My goal has always been to do the best for our customers. Now my part will be to help set the vision and be a cheerleader.”

Often, it seemed as if Dreeben was working for the benefit of nonprofit organizations or the wine industry as a whole as much as he was for the company. His curriculum vitae lists dozens of organizations in health care, education, the arts and religion that he and his wife, Barbara Block Dreeben, have supported over the years.

“I was not to the manor born but came from a modest background,” says the San Antonio-area resident. “To be as lucky as I have been and not to give back is a sin. I truly believe it. There are two ways you can give, time and money, and my choice was to give both.”

He was especially focused on education, serving as a board member or officer for local school associations, the Texas State University system and the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the Jewish Social Service Federation in San Antonio. Dreeben was a member of the Institute of Masters of Wine North America and was instrumental in bringing the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) courses to the U.S .

Heidi Scheid, whose family owns Scheid Family Wines in Monterey County, California, served with Dreeben on the Wine Market Council, a nonprofit whose work supports multiple tiers of the wine business. She is currently the chair.

“Alan Dreeben’s industry accomplishments are profound, but it is the fact that he is one of the most well-liked people around that is truly remarkable.” says Scheid. “He makes people feel valued and included. He practices gratitude and leads by example.”

Alan Dreeben giving a lecture
Photo by Richard J Carson

As a young man in the 1960s, Dreeben worked in sales for E. & J. Gallo. This was when sweet and fortified wines were the biggest sellers, and dry table wines were unknown to most U.S. consumers.

He returned to the family business in Texas, Block Distributing, and stayed with it through the rest of his career. Over time, Block would merge with N. Goldring Corp. and National Distributing to form Republic National. Dreeben was instrumental in building a successful, far-reaching business while helping to educate Americans to appreciate table wine and give them access to the great wines of the world.

“To be invested in wine was unusual back then,” says John Rydman, owner of the Houston-based retail chain Spec’s, who has known Dreeben for decades. “The liquor guys dominated distribution in those days, and they were really structured, all the way down to the street level. Somebody had to fall in love with wine and keep pushing it, and Alan did.”

For his role in popularizing wine consumption, constantly improving the professionalism of the middle tier, and for setting a high bar for ethics and community spirit, Alan Dreeben receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from Wine Enthusiast. —Jim Gordon

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