This November on VinePair, we’re celebrating everything about American Wine. From up-and-coming regions and our favorite bottles, to the challenges winemakers are facing right now, we’re turning a spotlight on the industry across the United States.
At just 22 years old, Germany-native Doreen Winkler was already working as an assistant sommelier in Europe. She went on to study at the German Wine Institute in Mainz, had a stint as a wine director for a luxury hotel in Hamburg, and joined the team of the now-closed Michelin-starred Das Kleine Rote. Then, she traveled throughout Europe visiting winemakers and also worked as a sommelier in restaurants in Sydney, Australia.
By 28, the idea of moving to New York City had fermented in her mind. And so, Winkler traded in vineyard alleyways for NYC alleys — and continued to build her resume for many years as an expert in conventional wines at celebrated NYC restaurants.
A dream is uncorked: While working with esteemed chef Frederik Berselius of Aska in Brooklyn in 2013, Winkler was entrusted to build an entirely natural wine program. “It was still quite rare at the time, and I fell in love with natural wines,” she says. The restaurant garnered “rave reviews,” earning its first Michelin star, she says. “It was very exciting. The wine list was a particular highlight.”
As more chefs and restaurateurs took an interest in natural wines, Winkler began to consult and create natural wine programs. In 2019, pre-pandemic, the savvy sommelier debuted the Orange Wine Club, a subscription service offering three- and six-bottle deliveries to customers’ homes. And this summer, she opened Orange Glou boutique on Broome Street in lower Manhattan.
“The Lower East Side has become a natural wine mecca with wine bars like The Ten Bells, Skin Contact, Somm Time Wine Bar, Dudleys, and Trapizzino within a few blocks of each other so it was the only neighborhood I considered doing this in,” she says.
Orange wine was a natural next step. Orange Glou — “glou” is a French word for “glug” used to describe unpretentious, easy-to-drink wines called “glou glou” wines — is a whimsically decorated shop with pops of its namesake color splashed across an enviable collection of about 50 wines encompassing emerging wine regions and producers such as Eastern Europe’s Strekov (Slovakia) and Keltis (Slovenia), Italy’s Radikon and Gravner, Catalunya’s Partida Creus, and South Australia’s Yetti and the Kokunut.
As well as an in-store experience, the shop is a pickup spot for subscription customers to get their monthly wines rather than mail delivery. It’s also a venue for events that Winkler hosts in the shop’s tasting room throughout the year.
Winkler gushes about orange wine, offers solid tips for savvy women in the wine world and, if she were to host a dinner party serving only orange wines, she shares who is on her invite wishlist. Oh, and everyone’s invited to her birthday party.
1. Why orange? Why not pink or white or red?
I became obsessed with orange wine about nine years ago when I first tasted it. The more I tasted it, the more I loved it. To me, white skin-contact wine is exciting; it has depth, texture, and layers. It is amazing and versatile for food pairings, and so much more. Orange wine isn’t one note — there is such a broad range of flavors, textures, and colors. There is sparkling in the form of piquette, pét-nat, and traditional method, and still orange wines that can go from having just a little texture to being super round and velvety.
2. Did you have an “aha,” eureka moment when you thought: orange wine, subscription series, and boutique?
I started the subscription in the fall of 2019 after much encouragement from my friend, artist Katie Rodgers. She always asked me for orange wine recommendations and thought there were others who would appreciate it, too. And she was right! When I launched Orange Glou wine subscription, she created original artwork for our wine note cards. The store grew out of the success of the subscription. It was the next step in our growth.
Over the years I’ve seen and personally supported the growth of popularity of orange wines. I’ve always put orange wines on wine lists I created and in some cases even created extensive orange wine sections. Orange wine is not just a trend, it’s everywhere now.
3. Do you think orange wines will become as popular as rosé, let’s say?
As of this year they already have become more popular than rosé. I consult on wine lists for four restaurants and orange was flying much faster this year than rosé. Orange wine is a fast-growing category. It’s delicious, versatile, and fun to drink and pair with food — a white wine on steroids — and it can be made anywhere in the world and across all price points. All these factors contribute to its popularity and staying power.
4. Are orange wines more popular in Europe or other parts of the world than the States?
I live and work here in the U.S., so I don’t have enough data to compare but orange wines are very popular in Europe and there are orange wine fairs and festivals there in a few different countries.
5. Do you have a mentor?
I’ve never had a mentor, partially because I was traveling a lot to learn and build my experience. I value hands-on experience like working harvests around the globe and going to wine fairs to discover new producers.
6. As a role model, especially for women in the wine world, what advice do you give?
Learn the back end and financials of the business. As a sommelier, wine knowledge and service are important — but it doesn’t end there. Make yourself extremely useful and sure that you are learning everything that you can in the position.
8. What’s next for Orange Glou and you? Do you think you’ll get into other types of wine, food, or beverages?
We will continue to focus on orange wine and continue to educate people about it. We ship to 44 states, do events in person and via Zoom, and continue to grow our wine subscriptions. This year we are adding some cool swag, too! Next year, we’ll be adding Orange Glou private label wines.
9. Swag, nice! Can you elaborate? And can you also elaborate on what types of events you have planned, and any on your wishlist?
As for swag, we are looking to add some very bright Orange Glou hand-dyed 100 percent organic cotton bags in several sizes, as well as T-shirts, in addition to our Orange Glou glasses and wine opener.
Each month, we host an in-depth tasting at our tasting room at the Orange Glou store. We explore different wines and pairings, showcasing the full spectrum of orange wines paired with various foods like dim sum or Georgian wines and traditional Georgian food. The theme is different every month. These tastings are both fun and educational, and tickets sell out fast.
In upcoming months, I’m planning tastings of wines to pair with holiday food; a very special tasting of rare, “unicorn” wines from legendary producers like Radikon and Gravner; plus an event for Orange Glou’s second birthday. We’ll have a virtual masterclass and birthday party (on November 6) with winemakers from all over the world. Since it will be via Zoom, you don’t have to be in NYC to join and talk to Mateja Gravner, Sasa Radikon, Christian Binner, Jared Brandt, and many more. We’ll be shipping wines in advance to taste together during the event.
Before the pandemic, Orange Glou held monthly popups in NYC and Los Angeles, where guests could try 20 to 25 orange wines by the glass and half-glass. We will start doing pop-ups again in 2022.
10. If you were to invite three people to a dinner party in New York City, with orange wines as the centerpiece, who do you think would appreciate these wines the most and would make the A-list?
Action Bronson who is a rapper, chef, and TV personality; Kristin Vincent, the owner of Sel Rrose, who loves orange wine as much as I do; and my friend Katie Rodgers, who encouraged me to start Orange Glou.