With the turn of the steering wheel, foot heavy on the gas, fifteen-year-old, Andy Doyle impulsively embarked on a joy ride. Many years and even more miles later, as the proprietor of the McKinney Wine Merchant, that ride continues today.
“I didn’t have my driver’s license yet,” said Andy, smiling as he remembered the chain of events that influenced the trajectory of his life. “My parents would let me practice driving in the church parking lot without them in the car with me. One day, I don’t know why, I just zipped out of the parking lot.”
As Andy enjoyed driving the real streets of San Francisco that day, he spotted a schoolmate hitchhiking. Before the ride was over, Andy said yes to what would become his first job, introducing him to the world of fine wines and food.
“I picked this guy up. He was a couple of years older than me. I drove him to downtown Tiburon, down on San Francisco Bay. He worked at this place called 39 Main.
“Turns out, he was the cook at this bar and grill, which was basically a millionaire’s saloon. His dishwasher had quit on him, and he asked if I would come down and help out on weekends.”
“I was bar-back, I was busboy, I cooked, I prepped, I cleaned. I even tended bar on the random cold winter night when nobody was around and the bartender wanted to go down and have a drink at the bar next door,” Andy laughed.
Fresh out of high school, Andy joined the Marines, honorably serving our country for the next four years. Upon discharge, he settled in Santa Rosa, California, located in the heart of Sonoma’s wine country.
“I literally just pulled off the highway, found a bar, and got a newspaper with want ads in it. I found an apartment and a job working security.
Post military, Andy attended the police academy and went into law enforcement. However, before long, he found himself back in the world of fine wine.
“The owner of Korbel Champagne Cellars was looking for a driver who could be issued a concealed carry permit,” said Andy, “Kind of like a bodyguard, but not like a Steven Segal type bodyguard. Just someone who could drive him when he had to travel out of town, or to meetings, or to the airport for example.”
While Andy joined Korbel Champagne Cellars as a limousine driver, that job quickly morphed into a sales position. Over the course of the next twenty years, Andy rose through the ranks, enjoying numerous promotions, managerial assignments, and ever growing territories. As an added bonus, he was able to hone his palate for fine wine through involvement with hundreds of wines, growing a large network of relationships with distributors, retailers, restaurants and hotels. But, the most valuable bonus he received was meeting and marrying his wife along the way.
“My wife and I met at Korbel,” said Andy, “She was actually the receptionist. She was the first person I met when I went in for my first job interview. We were married a year later.”
Andy and his wife found their way to North Texas in 1997, choosing McKinney to be home. In 2003, Andy was asked to take on the Great Lakes Area, Korbel’s biggest region in the country. Covering Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, Andy rose to the occasion, but soon it became clear, he and his family missed living in Texas.
“I wasn’t going to walk out, or quit,” said Andy, “Instead, I determined to excel my way out of there. Basically, I just did everything they asked me to do plus more, until eventually, I made my way back to Texas.”
Happily back in McKinney with his family, it wasn’t long before things changed. The country’s epic financial meltdown found Andy, like many Americans at the time, out of work for the first time in his adult life.
One day, while contemplating his fate, Andy decided to take a walk around McKinney’s historic downtown square.
“It was the fall of 2010,” said Andy, “At that time, I was basically an unemployed guy walking around downtown McKinney. Matt Hamilton was putting in his Butcher Shop (Local Yocal). I actually even talked to him about a job.”
After visiting with Matt, Andy continued his walk. He noted how the downtown area had grown in the years he had been gone. Picking up on a new vitality, he observed the Renaissance happening around him.
“I could feel the vibe,” said Andy, “I could see what was happening. As I walked, I determined to find a place to rent, and [continue] in the business of fine and uncommon wines. I just figured that I would be Don Quixote and charge the windmill. I would put in a shop that would either stand up or fall down.”
“I’m not out shopping for a Maserati just yet,” he laughs, “But it’s working out fairly well.”
We tend to agree.
Today, the McKinney Wine Merchant is a fixture on McKinney’s thriving historic downtown square. Located at 120 W. Virginia St., next door to the McKinney Convention and Visitors Bureau, it is conveniently located across the street from Gregory’s Bistro, McKinney’s premier French bistro.
(McKinneyFoodie.com tip: Gregory’s Bistro is BYOB. Always visit Andy before dining at Gregory’s in order to enjoy the perfect pairing for your lunch or dinner.)
Although not a member of the Court of Sommeliers, Andy’s well-trained palate and years of experience, coupled with his engaging approach, make him the go-to guy to assist you in your quest for an enjoyable bottle of wine.
“I don’t ever want to offend people’s intellect. There may be wines you don’t like in my store, but, there are no bad wines in my store. If you want to approach wine as a process of discovering wine, you may run across one you don’t like, but, eventually, you are going to fine one that you love.”
“I blind taste test everything that comes into the store so I form no bias for what I know of the label, or of what a critic might say.”
The McKinney Wine Merchant is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. till Late; Sunday, noon till 4 p.m. and is closed on Monday. Additionally, customers may choose to shop online. Delivery is available within a two-mile radius of the shop before store opens. Check with Andy to learn more about the Wine-Of-The-Month Club and the popular Cab&Slab Club, two yummy and affordable ways to enjoy Andy’s wonderful finds. The latter is paired with a gorgeous selection from Matt Hamilton’s Local Yocal.