Carnegie Mellon University

Photo of David Organisak

May 25, 2021

In Vino

Wine expert David Organisak’s cup runneth over thanks to a CMU education

By Kristy Locklin

While growing up in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood, David Organisak rarely saw his parents pop a cork, but he still managed to carve out a career in the wine industry.

The 1983 Tepper School of Business graduate is a Level 3 Sommelier and chief operating officer of California-based Veritas Imports. He’s poured glasses of vino for starlets at Spago in Beverly Hills and picked grapes off the vine in Burgundy, France.

Due to the pandemic, David deals mostly in online sales through his website, wineguyselections.com, but he never stops learning about the beverage. In fact, he just picked up The World Atlas of Wine, 8th Edition.

David attended Carnegie Mellon University for pragmatic reasons: he wanted to get a good education, so he could get a good job. A business degree, he felt, would give him the freedom to explore myriad career paths.

Friends introduced David to the epicurean lifestyle. While he was working for JPMorgan Chase, he began hosting wine-centric parties. Wining and dining was a hobby, but he didn’t think he could earn a living off of it.

One day, David says he experienced a “classic existential moment.” Like a character in a Jack Kerouac novel, he ditched his corporate job and spent six months traveling the country. He ended up in Seattle, where he landed various gigs, including one as a singing, dancing waiter on a cruise ship, The Spirit of Puget Sound.

The vessel’s beverage director asked him to curate the wine list. The first bottle that really knocked his socks off was a 1985 Simi Reserve Cabernet from Washington state that he bought for $25.

Intrigued by the find, he began traveling up and down the coast, visiting vineyards from Oregon to Southern California.

Screw-top bottles vs boxed wine (aka “cardboardeux”)

"Natural corks help age the wine but also allow bacteria to creep in. Some bottles come with composite or plastic corks or other alternative closures. There are winemakers in Burgundy who use screw-on caps on young wines they know will be consumed sooner rather than aged," David says.

"Three-liter boxed wines, which are technically bagged wines, are popular with folks who just want to pop it in the fridge and dispense one glass with supper. You can even find wine in cans and efforts are being made to improve the liners to make them better vehicles for the beverage."

Thanks to his CMU education, he’s been able to bring a business sensibility to numerous restaurant wine programs and move up the industry ladder, from a regional wine rep to a national sales director to a chief operating officer.

Wine has taken David around the world. He’s excited about products coming out of Chile, Georgia and Slovakia, but France — particularly the Burgundy and Champagne regions — holds a special place in his heart…and glass.

“It may sound stereotypical — the Wine Guy loves France! — but the wine and food and people charm me,” he says.

If you can’t afford a vineyard-hopping holiday through Europe, David says you can find plenty of great, affordably priced wines and have them delivered to your door, which removes the anxiety that often comes with walking into a liquor store or winery.

Websites and podcasts also help to break down the barrier between novice wine-drinkers and experts. Beyond that, he says, just open a bottle or two to figure out what you like.

Whether you’re a fan of red, white or rosé, David says we’re all students of the ever-changing beverage.

He just happened to turn that curiosity into a career, which he considers his Holy Grail.