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.