Dry Extract Interview: Greg Lambrecht of Coravin

Greg Lambrecht

© photo provided

Greg Lambrecht

Greg Lambrecht

© photo provided

Greg Lambrecht is the founder and chairman of Coravin, the revolutionary wine preservation system that he invented which changed the way wine is served. A native New Yorker, he holds degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering from MIT. He also heads Intrinsic Therapeutics, focused on spinal disorders and another medical start-up. The serial inventor holds numerous patents.

The best advice I ever got

An inventor friend of mine, and I invent for a living, told me that invention is not the technology, invention is the understanding of the problem. The best invention comes from the clearest understanding of the unmet need. That advice changed my life. That is how I invent, I do not come up with a technology, I write down a problem. With Coravin I ran into an unmet need: I wanted to drink a glass of wine, and it was sold to me in a bottle. So I remember writing and saying “I need a way of preserving an open bottle of wine.” This became: “I want to drink wine from a bottle without opening it" – the technology was obvious after that.

My life motto

Never give up. If it’s a problem worth solving, and this is such a stupid truism, quitters never win. That is the negative side of it.  But the only people who succeed are those who never give up.

My most played music track

Like with wine, I love music from all over the world, from everywhere and every genre, I have such a thirst for diversity. Bu if there is one it’s probably Paul Simon’s Graceland – the entire album.

If I didn’t do my current job I would be

I work in wine and I work in medicine, I have a spinal implant company – but if I did not work in these fields, I’d try and solve another massive problem for humanity: energy production and storage. We need to change from this 100-year-experiment of fossil fuel to wind and solar power. My measure of success is how many people’s quality of life I can possibly improve in my life.

Skill I don’t currently possess but would like to have 

Languages…. I need to speak so many languages. I speak Japanese, I understand most German, but I would love to speak French, Spanish, Italian, all the languages of wine. Connecting with people is what I love to do. If I had three years off, I would be studying multiple languages at the same time.

My favourite kind of exercise

I am a distance athlete, I race bikes and I mountain-run. There is nothing like being in nature and running trail in the mountains. I run the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado. I train for that every year and It keeps me sane. I love a threatening distance race because it motivates you to exercise. I love distance, I love endurance.

I relax while

I am most relaxed when I am machining something, when I am using industrial tools to cut metal and plastic to make a new shape. I am most relaxed when I am designing or making something, that is my natural habitat. I have a machine shop in my wine cellar in my house. So I have a glass of wine and I work. I love precision.

I collect

I have become fascinated with all the ways that people have tried to remove a cork from a bottle, so not through my own collecting but through the kindness of others, I have received some of the early prototypes of people trying to remove cork from glass. I am not a collector of stuff, but I have the first prototype of everything I have made – except for Coravin.  

My essential newspaper/magazine

I grew up in New York City, so The New York Times. I love the crossword puzzle.

My desert-island wine

The wines that are most fascinating to me are those of the northern Rhône, I love Côte Rôtie, Cornas, Hermitage…I love them because they imply a relationship between humans and plants that is unexpected, unnecessary and yet it exists. Young Côte Rôtie tastes like white pepper, I cannot drink it, it is awful, it is undrinkable. After ten or fifteen years it starts to taste like olives and forest floor, thirty years on it smells like blood and meat and bacon. Nothing tastes like a grape, nothing is like a fruit. What other species creates something where the anticipated consumption date is at least ten years later. I love all that it implies about humanity and our relationship with a plant.

I have learnt a lot from

The guy who is the one who gave me the advice about invention being the need, Dr Joshua Makower – he met me when I was in graduate school and hired me into Pfizer pharmaceuticals and taught me how to invent. Then he left to start his own company, and taught me how to start my own company. He has been involved in pretty much every company I ever started. It is really important to have a mentor.

My last meal and sip will be

Schnitzel, spätzle, white asparagus and Grüner Veltliner from either Prager or Bründlmayer – that is my comfort food.