Owner, General Manager & Minion Herder
Born and raised in Calgary, R.J. has a love for the Western Canadian lifestyle, food and culture. R.J. grew up playing sports like baseball, golf and hockey, camping and hanging-out at the lake. Realizing that none of these activities was going to lead to a career, he decided to get serious about life and find his true calling. After graduating from the University of Calgary in 1995, R.J. was hired by Pepsi Beverage Co. as a merchandiser. A few short months later, he was promoted to Territory Manager Retail for South Calgary. R.J. spent two years learning the ropes at Pepsi before being recruited away by UDV Canada, which later morphed into Diageo Canada, the world’s largest adult beverage company. R.J. spent three years as a Retail Territory Manager, followed by three years as an On-Premise Territory Manager in the Southern Alberta market. R.J. was then promoted to District Sales Manager, Southern Alberta where he spent two years managing and developing his team and the market.
During his time at Diageo Canada, R.J. was introduced to the Wine segment of the industry. Prior to this, R.J.’s wine experience was limited to the “stuff his parents made in the big jars in the basement, that gave him heartburn”. At Diageo he was lucky to have a great friend and wine mentor named Ruth Dary, who took him under her wing and forced him to start to learn about wine. Unexpectedly, Ruth was responsible for lighting the “wine” fire in R.J. and introduced him to the thing that would drive his professional life for years to come. After spending years at Pepsi and Diageo, R.J. realized that working for Big International Megaliths was not what he wanted to do. In July 2005 he resigned from Diageo with a flash of his middle finger, and a business plan.
Realizing that wine had become a driving factor in his life, R.J. was convinced by his now pregnant wife to start his own business, and FLUID IMPORTS Inc. was born. R.J. took all the lessons he learned from his corporate life (both good and bad), and decided his business would be based on working directly with Family-owned and Operated producers, not the big corporate ones. During the first few years of building the business, making mistakes, and growing the portfolio – he found his true calling in the wine business. R.J. is proud to have built a business working directly with small, quality-based producers from all over the world and building a family-based and focused company that is serious about its producers and products, but doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
CHRISTIEN HURLBURT (HURLY)
Alberta Sales, A.D.D.Poster Boy & Squirrel Whisperer
Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec (Yes, that is still part of Canada), Hurly was born with a love of Food, Wine and sports team that were once amazing. Realizing that living and working in “Fake France” was not going to lead him to success, Christien packed-up and decided to explore the English world. He spent time in Australia as a Skippy Peanut Butter mascot, and then on to Ireland as a French punching bag that was hired by the local pubs. After losing many fights and teeth to those spirited Irish ladies, Hurly worked as a project manager for a software company for 5 years. Having spent so much time in the bars in Ireland, Christien decided to move to Calgary in the fall of 1998 from Dublin.
The first winter was freezing cold and full of more cowboy hats and country music than he had ever seen. He almost returned to the ‘country’ of Quebec but decided to give it one more year and Calgary really grew on him. Since his arrival in Calgary in 1998 Hurly was responsible for opening and running a number of restaurant, bars and Winebars, all of which were successful and affirmed his love and passion for wine. In 2012/13 Christien decided that he had had enough of the long days and stress of owning restaurants and sold them all and went into a self-impossed semi-retirement. After building and selling 5 restaurants over 14 years, R.J. at Fluid imports took pity and hired him part time. Hurly’s passion for holidays, golf and Tavel Rose make him the ideal wine rep. When everyone else quit the boss had no choice but to hire him full time. It has taken some time but he finally made his first sale last week and is now secure in his sales role at Fluid Imports. Hurly’s keen knowledge of the restaurant industry, contacts and key sales buzz words have made him an integral part of the Fluid Imports team.
Alberta Sales, Bringer of Stability and Football Pool Manager
Growing up in Calgary, Ritchie dreamed of playing second base for the LA Dodgers (take it easy, Blue Jays Nation (he was a Dodger fan before there was a team in Toronto; yes, he’s that old). Many days were spent under blue Alberta skies shagging flies, fielding ground balls, playing catch. All that baseball worked up an appetite, which directly led to another passion, food. He developed a keen interest in producing and especially devouring all kinds of cuisine, which inevitably led to the first summer job in a restaurant. Ritchie observed many customers in the restaurant enjoying a variety of adult beverages; one in particular was especially fascinating, wine. Being the curious type, he decided to investigate and another passion was born. These interests were developing at the same time another less happy discovery was made, Ritchie couldn’t hit a curve ball. It became clear that the closest he would get to the field at Dodger Stadium was a seat behind home plate. But as they say, when one door closes;
The discovery of the association of food and wine led Ritchie to what would become his life’s work for over two decades. The food and wine scene in Calgary was just beginning to evolve, and the introduction of liquor privatization led to an explosion of availability of fine wine from every region of the world. Ritchie greeted this new world with much enthusiasm. He had the very good fortune to work at some of Calgary’s most vibrant dining establishments, 4th Street Rose, Cilantro, Brava Bistro, Teatro, Saint Germaine. Being intimately involved in front house operations and wine programs in the food and beverage scene was a fantastic way to spend twenty-seven years. After a great many memorable meals, amazing bottles and cherished friends along the way, it was time for a new path.
In 2009, Ritchie moved away from the “food” and fully embraced the “beverage” scene. First, he spent two and half years in the retail world with Highlander Wine & Spirits. In 2012, he moved to the import side, a move which ultimately brought him on board at Fluid Imports, where he now “spreads the gospel” of the small independent producer. After many years of being the link between the chef and the diner, he now enjoys being the link between the growers and the wine makers, and those who appreciate their expressions.