Staff photo
Steve Darland reunites with his former boss, Jerry Robinson. CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE

Jerry's View: Fresh-faced kid makes great balsamic vinegar

When I first met Steve Darland he was a fresh faced young man still in high school, hanging out with my #2 son, Kenneth. Both graduated from Highline High School in 1962.

Steve's dad worked at a car lot on 1st Avenue. I needed a car. His dad sold me a 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo-4-speed stick. I had no idea I was going through a mid-life crisis at the time. That car was so fast. It had gears I never thought were needed.

I loved that car. Eventually I got to know Steve a little better since Kenneth wanted to drive my car all the time. Steve was/is a wonderful guy.

When I pushed my kid(s) into the newspaper business I thought I could do the same with Steve. I hired him while he was as the University of Washington to sell advertising in our new Kent location. He was eager to take the job proving to be a natural.

He even won a best-dressed award from Esquire magazine, getting a free trip to New York; a trip he called a great experience in his life.

Steve was always charming and well informed. He learned the business fast enough to skyrocket back to Madison Avenue in a few short years where he started work with the J. Walter Thompson ad agency. I guess he figured he should start with the oldest and most successful agency in New York.

It was a great choice as he parlayed that career into eventually managing a West Coast branch for them in San Francisco before retiring a few years ago to New Mexico.

During that career he worked with Lou Tice of the Pacific Institute here on Harbor Avenue. Lou had been a coach and mentor at Highline when Steve was a student there. (Editor’s note: Lou Tice passed away recently. Steve was in town for the services).

Success seems to follow Steve. It may have something to do with his work ethic. That ethic took him 180 degrees away from advertising and into farming. At his organic farm in Monticello, NM, he blends a special balsamic vinegar (sold in exclusive restaurants) with his wife, Jane. Steve is so careful he spends hours trimming each Trebbiano grape cluster.

After nearly 30 years of planning and pruning, to shake his hand you'll need your own vice-grips. Steve and Jane age the vinegar 12 years in special casks before bottling. This is not the cheap chemical balsamic vinegar you find on grocery shelves. This is true to the Modena, Italy style. So exclusive is the vinegar you'll need to travel to Las Vegas to try some.

Just kidding... If you go online at you can read all about their biz and maybe even buy a bottle. At $150 each you'll want to invite friends and relatives over to try it. Just make sure they have a ticket to the event because they'll be talking about it like their first car with a stick shift.

It goes fast.

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