This past April we embarked on our third annual team-building trip to Long Island wine country, where we spent the day eating and drinking our way through various vineyards on the North Fork of LI. We feature several North Fork wineries on our wine list here at Gracie’s, which makes this yearly trip a wonderful opportunity to acquaint our staff with the winemakers, vineyards, and delicious wines that we pour in-house every day. Upon return from our trip, participating staff members were asked to share their experiences on our blog… read on to hear what they had to say!
“I just got back from a weekend trip for work” is usually received as a sign of exhaustion from spreadsheets, conference rooms, and stale coffee. Anyone who would listen to me after I returned from a work trip to Long Island was regaled with a bright tale of camaraderie, sunny days, and delicious wines. Embarking on this journey was a venture into somewhat unknown territories. I had never been to Long Island and I had no idea where we were going. However, the promise of wine and cheese is more than enough to get me into a van. We were in good hands with our sommelier/navigator, Alan, who had not only planned which wineries to visit, but where to get the best coffee, sandwiches, and pizza along the way. The amount of thought that he and Ellen, our fearless leader, had put into the weekend was remarkable and gave us a complete experience. The wine was, of course, the main attraction. Being able to visit and see where the wine is grown gives a whole new layer to tasting it. Walking through the vineyard, seeing how it ferments, and talking to the people who make it really provides a different perspective. The kind of passion and dedication that I heard was so genuine that it inspired me to learn more and enjoy the wine with a new appreciation. I hope to express even a fraction of that passion when I present wines as a server. I was particularly impressed by Wölffer Estate, where they had established a sort of outdoor museum designed to inform guests of the various methods of growing grapevines. It was such a useful tool, executed solely out of the desire to educate people in the styles of winemaking. That kind of passion is essential in creating great wine and sharing it with others. The best part of the weekend was that I shared it with a team. Some of the team I work with everyday and some I had barely known prior to this trip, but we formed a bond. We shared an unforgettable experience through van rides, family dinners, and plenty of sparkling rosé. —Evan Little
The week on Long Island was definitely a trip to remember. I love the fact that I had the chance to be a part of this amazing team to begin with. Many of the wines we tasted were crafted with love and passion to create an amazing experience. You could taste the terroir of the land. One Woman’s (http://www.onewomanwines.com/) wines had me flabbergasted as I experienced the unique taste, mouthfeel, and minerality that location provides to their grapes. I love the complexity of their merlots and even purchased a bottle to remind myself of how the land plays a dramatic part in their productions. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with. The amount of confidence and passion that our team provides is something inspiring in its own. Working with this team has brought so many learning experiences and I am grateful to be a part of such a conscious and amazing team. —Nick Sivo
Long Island, for me, was an eye-opening experience to say the least. As someone who has focused their time and attention on learning about coffee, I’ve found that the production and culture surrounding wine is even more complex. Seeing the vines, and now understanding how much time, money and work goes into making one singular bottle made me feel so inspired by what we do at Gracie’s. Additionally, learning about the stigma behind Long Island wine being lesser than in any way was a shock to me. Not only were the wines incredible but the service, knowledge of the experts, and aesthetic quality of each winery we were able to visit were outstanding. If you have a bad perception about Long Island wine, give it a shot! You will not be disappointed, I guarantee. —Matthew Williams
As a pastry chef and Long Island native, I have always loved wine. Flavor pairings and tasting notes have always intrigued and inspired me, but I never actually learned how to taste wine properly using the right descriptors. Until the Long Island trip, I was never confident about talking about wine. This experience not only helped me grow as a pastry chef, but as a Gracie’s team member. I, along with so many great coworkers including baristas, managers, cooks, and servers, all got to learn and grow together. We even got to do a paired wine and chocolate tasting and teach everyone a little bit about the pastry side of things! I think it was a wonderful opportunity to experience so many beautiful wineries and stories and confidently enter the world of wine. Every winery we went to inspired us all in different and unique ways, and I use those inspirations every day in the pastry field. —Karissa Bednarz