When a young Jon McDaniel began his studies in politics and corporate law, his goal was "to take over the world, in a good way," he jokes. During a brief stint at a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., McDaniel realized the cutthroat political arena wasn't his scene. So when one of the firm's clients, a wine retailer, offered him a job, he dropped everything and reset his course.
In the dozen years since, McDaniel has tried his hand at almost every role in the industry, working in retail, export, distribution and even winemaking. In 2010, after beverage consulting for the World Cup in South Africa, he finally figured out where he fit most comfortably into the wine world: restaurants. McDaniel joined the team at Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Café in Santa Barbara, Calif., then was lured to the Midwest to work as manager and sommelier for the Purple Pig in Chicago.
Now 34 ("going on 85," he quips), McDaniel is the corporate beverage director for the newly renamed Gage Hospitality Group, which includes five Chicago-area restaurants: Acanto, the Gage, Beacon Tavern, Coda di Volpe and the Dawson. He also finds time to teach hospitality classes and make wine under his own label. Editorial assistant Lexi Williams caught up with McDaniel to check on his progress toward (wine) world domination.