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Ray Walker Would Rather Make Great Wine

Is dishing financial advice good preparation for making great wine? Ray Walker decided to find out

Shortly before the 2009 grape harvest in Burgundy, France, Ray Walker decided to leave his job at Merrill Lynch, rent a house in the Côte de Nuits countryside, and open a winery there. That year the 30-year-old vintner became the first American to make Chambertin wine when he founded Maison Ilan.

Walker worked in the family real estate business before joining Merrill as a financial adviser. He wasn’t happy, though, and he was “obsessed” with wine. “I told my wife I wanted to quit to clean tanks and barrels,” he says.