New York’s Punk Somm

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.

Terroir, Tribeca, New York City

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.

Paul’s Manifesto to increase Reisling consumption

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)

Sohm by Name, Somm by Nature

Aldo Sohm has been the chef sommelier at Le Bernardin, possibly New York’s most famous seafood restaurant, since 2007 and opened his own iconic Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in 2014. You could say he is one of the NYC’s foremost sommelier influencers.

According to the Michelin Guide, “When the definitive history of NYC’s dining scene is written, Le Bernardin will have a chapter all to itself.” Apparently the team at this renowned seafood restaurant has been “entertaining the city’s movers and shakers for over 20 years and its popularity remains undimmed.” Aldo Sohm has been curating the list and parining the wine there for over a decade.

His passion for wine and hospitality started when he was 19 years old and from there he has gone on to not only work in some fabulous establishments but also become “Best Sommelier in Austria in 2002 and Best Sommelier in the US in 2007, representing the US in Best Sommelier in the World in 2008.

We caught up with him preparing for the reopening of Le Bernandin and asked him about life, lockdown, wine and the business he loves the most..sommeliery.

Why wine and why the on premise? What got you started?

AS: I discovered wine when I worked in one of my first restaurant jobs after graduating from culinary college. There were two Swiss couples who would come in to eat lunch and dinner where I was working, they loved food and wine and asked me what wine they should be drinking.

Wine wasn’t really on my radar until then, but it sparked my interest. I wondered how a person can be so passionate about wine, and I was soon to find out, as one day they asked me to recommend what they should be drinking…that, was it! I bought my first books and began to study. It fascinated me to read about wines from California, Australia, Italy, France and how you travel virtually to each place, learning more about new cultures. 

Treat everyone with kindness and respect. You don’t know who’s in front of you and you don’t know where people will end up in two or three years’ time.

Aldo Sohm

Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, West 51st Street, New York

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned during your career?

AS: Treat everyone with kindness and respect. You don’t know who’s in front of you and you don’t know where people will end up in two or three years’ time.

What would be your advice to young sommeliers wanting to succeed in the business?

AS: Be passionate, determined, work hard and dare to dream! 

Who do you admire the most and who inspired you?

AS: The great thing in working at restaurants like Le Bernardin and Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is that you meet the smartest people in their line of work which means you can learn from anybody, if you are open to it.

Aldo Sohm advocates Zalto glasses

Can you define a great sommelier experience from a customer point of view, what are restaurant customers looking for from a sommelier?

AS: A sommelier has to be able to read the client and the dynamics of the table within a couple of seconds. S/he has to be able to listen to the preferences and build the bridge that will lead them to choose a wine to accompany the cuisine you are serving, in order to create a perfect pairing. We’re here to serve people – we’re in the hospitality industry.

Check out Aldo Sohm at aldosohm.com & aldosohmwinebar.com Instagram: @aldosohm @aldosohmwinebar