Outspoken and “out there” Paul Grieco left the hallowed rooms of New York’s Gramercy Tavern, and his position overseeing the beverage programme, to set up his own wine bar, Terroir | Tribeca, regarded as one of the city’s best places to enjoy wine.
After working for almost two decades in some of New York’s finest dining establishments Paul explains, “the desire to finally open my own joint and fully take control of a wine / food / hospitality experience was too great to ignore.” He continues, “It was an awakening to go from a $500,000 cellar at G.T., with a monthly spending budget of $100,000, to a much smaller joint, with a $50,000 cellar and a monthly spending budget of $25,000. But it was perfect.”
Variously described as “the first sommelier punk” (PUNCH.com) and as having an “amazingly designed and detailed wine list” (starwinelist.com), Grieco has established the “Wine Bar of Wine Bars”, having swapped the formality of a renowned Michelin-starred, New York bastion for his own “sandbox: our place to play, with our toys and our rules and our friends,” he says. According to PUNCH.com he has done nothing less than “usher in a new era in wine service—and, more broadly, a revolution in wine culture.”
We posed him a few questions about wine, life and the last year.
Best wine experience? Drinking Blue Nun, with a nun dressed in a blue habit…Paul Grieco
Why wine and why the on-trade? What got you started?
To be honest, I am first and foremost in the restaurant business. And wine just happens to be a passion project. And in expressing that passion, guests for some reason allow me to interact with them… and expose my passion… which, depending on the wine we are discussing, I might appear like the statue of David, in the Galleria dell’Accademia.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt during your career?
To be a great conversationalist, one must be a great listener… talk less, listen more…it is amazing what one might learn.
What would be your advice to young Sommeliers wanting to succeed in the business?
Recognize that you are but one cog in the wheel; that wine is in service to food; that you can be single-minded about your wine loves but when you communicate with a guest, you damn well better not be an arrogant arse, the world has enough of those.
Who do you admire the most and who inspired you?
I admire my Mom… she is always gracious, always kind, and never uses the word “I”… she is always more focused on “you”.
Can you define a great Sommelier experience from a customer point of view? What are restaurant customers looking for from a Sommelier?
A guest just asks for someone who listens… truly, truly listens. And if you listen AND understand, the guest will trust you implicitly because they don’t want to worry about things other than their family/friends/acquaintances.
What are the emerging trends in the on-trade in your opinion thanks to the COVID experience?
Virtual classes are here to stay and they allow us to project our joints and passions all over the world…f*#king crazy! We have learnt that interacting with each other is invaluable and to be cherished… so don’t screw it up next time you interact with a guest.
What has been the most difficult thing for you during the last 12 months professionally speaking and what helped to get you through it all?
Not being able to interact meaningfully with people… no intense and intimate discussions and no long-winded diatribes delivered from the bar top about the Scheurebe grape saving the planet.
What got me through it was watching Game of Thrones again… and again. And breakfast cereal.
Everyone talks about new trends and emerging wines/regions but which wine region do you think will make a comeback when things start to open up again?
Chile and Australia and South America are primed to blow the doors off the Covidmobile.
Best wine experience – could be a bottle, a trip, a dinner, a happening…?
Drinking Blue Nun, with a nun dressed in a blue habit… those are hard to find.
Paul Grieco’s email sign off reads:
General AND Manager
Terroir | Tribeca: 24 Harrison Street, New York, New York, 10013
Overlord: Summer of Riesling
Professor Emeritus: Charlemagne University
Student: Oberyn Martell School of Dance
Preacher: The Church of the picea gluaca
Aspiration: Zamboni Operator
Carrier Pigeon: Fitzgerald (Stanley and Shirley now live in Boca Raton…I think)