Local wine broker Norm Rush has created an event to satisfy all wine lovers.
Since 2006, Sante’ South has introduced select wines and gourmet foods to participants of this destination event that sells out every year. The man behind the event is local wine broker Norm Rush, whose love for wine drives him to present the event each year. But there’s a deeper reason for his passion for the event.
The event benefits Alzheimer’s Mississippi, the state advocacy group for those who have Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. In the past 11 years, the event has raised $500,000 for the organization. “It hits close to home for me,” said Norm. “My mother died of Alzheimer’s. She came from a family of many children in Alabama, and all but one of her siblings died of the dreaded disease.”
Norm hails from Orlando, but was born in Bethesda, Maryland, and lived “all over” growing up, including Hawaii and Pensacola. He became interested in wine in the early 1980’s when he worked as a server in one of Orlando’s most well-regarded restaurants, Lily Marlene’s at Church Street Station. Norm was just 19, when he was introduced to wine by the restaurant’s sommelier and wine expert, Reid Ropport. It was love at first sip, a 1966 Haut-Brion Bordeaux. “Reid took me under his wing and taught me about wine. I studied and became a sommelier, too, and I became Reid’s right hand man. He is my wine mentor.”
Lily Marlene’s was a storied place. “There was an eight-top round table in there with high-backed chairs that Al Capone used to frequent back in the day,” laughs Norm. Some of the other restaurants owned by Bob Snow, included Rosie O’Grady’s, Phineas Phogg’s, Orchid Garden and the Cheyenne Saloon, where acts like Merle Haggard regularly played on stage. Norm moved up in Bob’s organization and continued to learn more about wine for a decade.
Looking for a change in his life, Norm moved to Jackson where his sister owned an imaging company. “She did ultrasound and that sort of thing,” he says. “She needed help and I came to Jackson to help her with her company.” After a while, however, Norm says he realized that his love for wine was calling him to do something else. He started a wine brokerage company, BeauMad & Associates, in 1998—a company he still runs today.
“I’ve had a ball in my career, traveling to places like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and Germany. I love to see all the wine-growing regions, learning about the regions, the grapes grown there and the wines produced.” Norm is certified by the World Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators. He has worked to raise the bar for the caliber of wine in Mississippi, and his company has the strongest wine portfolio in the state.
Norm started Sante’ South in Hattiesburg. “We did it there for three years, and the event benefitted Juvenile Diabetes.” He then moved the event to Ridgeland where it is held annually at the Renaissance at Colony Park. In addition to the wine and food, there’s also an invitational art show and 5K run. But make no mistake, the real emphasis of the event is on the wine.
This year’s Sante’ South event will be held April 1. “We have some amazing wineries that will be represented this year,” Norm says. “We’ll have domestic wines from California, Oregon and Washington as well as imports from Argentina, Chile, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain and South Africa.” Many of the wineries are sending the vintners who will be on hand to talk about their wines to those attending the event.
For more information on Sante’ South, go to www.santesouth.org.