Vale Ian “Arch” Baker
Ian “Arch” Baker was one of nature’s gentlemen. His firm I.H. Baker & Co was a leading wine wholesaler when I was new in the Sydney wine trade in the early 1980s. Arch had started out with Lindemans and Seagram, then started his own business. When Lindemans was taken over by Rothmans he decided when “your boss is a cigarette company it’s time to leave”.
It was when Arch approached Cyril Henschke to let him look after Henschke (tastings) in the Sydney market that one of the key relationships of his working life started. Cyril took him on and, recognising a good palate when he met one, involved him in blending decisions and pre-bottling tastings at Henschke, a role that continued through into Stephen and Prue’s tenure. In fact, Stephen (Cyril’s son) and Prue (Stephen’s wife and viticulturist partner) were in Germany studying at Geisenheim in 1979 when Cyril died tragically and unexpectedly. According to Stephen, who spoke at Arch’s memorial ceremony in Sydney on October 10, Arch helped steer the family through the crisis. He encouraged the family to have more confidence in its wines, to raise the price of Hill of Grace, which was then relatively modest, and gave valuable advice on wine style.
When I.H. Baker was taken over in the late-1980s by an English company, which was more interested in spirits and liqueurs than wine, Matthew Clarke & Co, he decided to jump ship and work for Tucker Seabrook & Co. He took his two most prized agencies, Henschke and Petaluma (tastings), with him. Arch was Henschke’s representative in Sydney for several years until his retirement.
It was then that Arch was pivotal in Henschke commencing its museum maturation program. Tucker Seabrook later morphed into Fine Wine Partners, but carefully cellared Henschke wines can still be bought through this program from FWP.
Arch Baker was a fine man, a gentleman, a dear man, with many friends. He always had a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes and loved telling risqué jokes, often involving New Zealanders and sheep. He was a passionate Waratahs and Wallabies supporter and hated mynah birds. He was a good businessman, a fine palate, and an excellent boss, the last fact attested to by Rod Webb, who worked with him at I.H. Baker. Webb says he has followed Arch’s habits in managing people in business ever since.
Arch was also fit and active, swimming every day at Balmoral Beach with his mates in the Balmoral Braves until the last year or so when Parkinson’s Disease restricted his activities.
Arch Baker died on October 4, aged 84. He is survived his wife Jenny and daughters Justine and Kirsty.
He will be sorely missed.