Urban Wineries in New York Combine Best of Trends
André Hueston Mack
New York, NY
Despite having a successful career with Citicorp Investment Services, Mack decided to leave his “desk job” to pursue his passion for wine. While working as a sommelier in San Antonio, Mack discovered the joys of introducing guests to the little known vineyards that first attracted him to the business and “the instant gratification of a guest’s reaction.”
In 2003, while still in Texas, Mack was awarded the prestigious title of Best Young Sommelier in America by the highly regarded Chaine des Rotisseurs. This recognition propelled him into the opportunity to work as sommelier at Thomas Keller’s world-renowned French Laundry in Yountville, California. Mack went on to accept the position of Head Sommelier at Keller’s equally famed Per Se in New York City, where he managed a 1500 selection award-winning wine list and consulted with Chef Keller on menu and pairing development regularly. In 2006, Mack was appointed President and CEO of Noble House Wines, a boutique wine wholesaler and distributor in New York City, making him the youngest in the country to hold such an influential position. However, he ultimately realized that his passion still lay in the restaurant industry and earlier this year, a serendipitous meeting brought Mack and The Fireman Hospitality Group together. Winemaking has always been a dream of his and came to fruition when he founded Mouton Noir Wines. Through his career Mack has forged special relationships with star growers and winemakers from around the world to share in this project.
Mack has been featured in major publication such as Food and Wine, Wine and Spirits Magazine, New York Times and Black Enterprise. At 34 years old, Mack is an ardent wine educator who has been invited to host seminars as well as lead panel discussions at several of the country’s most prestigious food and wine gatherings. He enjoys creating and hosting wine dinners that share his love of wine with others.
Real quick. How many winemakers have street teams in New York City? Suffice it to say, not very many and maybe only one. But, as far as we can tell, there aren’t many wine hustlers like MoutonNoirWines – also known as Andre Mack. He gets the word out about his “distinctive garage wines” in ways that are unique to young urban entrepreneurs.
First some background: Mack first became interested in wine while working in the restaurant trade. Just a few short years later, he had worked his way up to head sommelier at a four-star restaurant in New York and he eventually became the first African-American to be named “Best Young Sommelier” by Chaine des Rotisseurs. He founded Mouton Noir Wines in 2004 and began selling his bottles to popular restaurants.
Today, he’s often featured in publications such as Black Enterprise and Food & Wine Magazine. He drums up street level support through wine-tastings, Mouton Noir paraphernalia, a street promotions and the internet. In a relatively short amount of time, he has been building up an army of wine-lovers on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Mack not only does a bang up job of promoting his own wines, he’s also willing to talk about other people’s beverages – including beer!- and even a little history about wine-making. Looking for the perfect bottle to accompany the perfect meal? It’s worth sending him a tweet to see if he can spare some time for a recommendation. Just tell him the BlackTwitterati sent ya.
Wine bars are popping up all over town these days, and diners are also gravitating toward food made with local ingredients, so it makes sense that the next wave in the vino trend will be local wineries. Though a Staten Island vineyard is in the works, and the centuries-old Queens County Farm plans to sell wine from its vineyard this fall, the new urban wineries have to make do with grapes from Long Island or the Finger Lakes.
The Village Voice surveys the nascent scene and spends time with Michael Dorf, the Knitting Factory founder who says making wine is better than hanging with Mick Jagger. This fall Dorf will open City Winery, where he hopes customers will pay $5,000 to make their own barrel of wine, with the help of an expert. (A barrel yields about 250 bottles.)
In Greenpoint, Allie Shaper started Brooklyn Oenology; she also founded the Urban Winery Alliance to foster cooperation between wine makers. Brooklyn Oenology now has a 2005 Merlot and a Chardonnay, both made on Long Island. Asked why it’s not called Long Island Oenology, Shaper says, “Technically, Brooklyn is part of Long Island.” In a couple years she expects to make some of the wine in Kings County.
The Brooklyn Oenology wines are available at Soho’s Vintage New York, where owner Robert Ransom also makes a small amount of wine and hosts tastings. And Red Hook will soon be jumping into the wine making game; wine blogger Dr. Vino reports that Abe Schoener, a Californian wine maker, will be opening an operation in a huge complex on Beard Street at the end of the summer. Again, the grapes will all be shipped in from out of town, but maybe Brooklyn feet will be stomping them.
Tags: #Gothamist and #BlackTwitteratti, #AndréHuestonMack, #microwines, #moutonnoir, #drvino, #nyc, #manhattan, #Sommelier