Paul Grieco Shares His Tips for Running a Wine Bar
Paul Grieco is the owner of the Terroir wine bar in New York City, which he opened in 2010 in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. He also cofounded New York’s original Terroir wine bar, which opened in 2008 and closed in 2015, and the restaurant Hearth, which opened in 2004, both in the East Village.
Grieco was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. His career in hospitality began in his family’s Italian restaurant, La Scala, where he was mentored by his father and grandfather. He moved to New York City in 1991, and went on to work at a number of the city’s top restaurants, including Bouley, Gotham Bar & Grill, and Gramercy Tavern, the latter of which won James Beard Awards— for Outstanding Service in 2001 and for Outstanding Wine Service in 2002—during Grieco’s tenure as the assistant general manager.
An outspoken defender of underdog grapes like Riesling—and these days, Bordeaux—Grieco constantly flips the script on the wine-list status quo. Over the years, his eagerness to explore, and herald, lesser-known varieties, styles, and regions has helped bring a wide range of wines to the attention of many wine professionals.
After shooting Grieco’s Supertasters video, SevenFifty Daily asked him for his tips on business management, what advice he’d give to aspiring somms, what he’d do over in his career if he had the chance—and the bottle he’s most excited about right now.
SevenFifty Daily: What was the epiphany that led you to choose wine as your career?
Paul Grieco: Hearing Gary Numan’s “Cars” in 1980 changed my whole worldview.
What advice would you give to aspiring somms starting out today?
The wine world is a big place. Explore every nook and cranny. Leave your preconceived notions in the closet.
What do you think about formal wine education and training?
I am a fan of anything formal, especially white tie and tails.
On Terroir’s website, you refer to wine as having the ability to be a “change agent.” What are some of the most critical ways in which wine can be an agent for change?
Wine causes one to feel differently upon first sip, which leads to a change in thought, which is followed by a new way to lead one’s life.
What’s something people (either trade professionals or customers) get wrong about hospitality, and how do you, as a wine bar owner, push back against such a misconception?
How we make a guest feel is the most important thing—not the specifics of the wine or food or service or ambience.
What’s your number one piece of business management advice?
Take care of your staff in every way possible. They are the most important aspect of your world.
What bottle—or producer—are you particularly excited about right now, and why?
Franzen’s Bremmer Calmont Riesling Kabinett 2017—it has electricity coursing through it.
If you had to guess, about how many wines would you say you’ve blind-tasted and formally evaluated for professional purposes?
What’s one thing in your career you regret—or would want a “redo” if you had the chance?
My immediate love affair with the Riesling grape. It has prevented me from going on a few dates with California Chardonnay.
What’s next for you?
Sailing around the world and discovering a new passage to the Spice Island