In this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe return to a trend that boomed during the early days of the pandemic: beverage professionals leaving big cities for suburban towns in search of new business ventures.
What are some motivating factors for doing this? And how can a former chef, sommelier, or bartender succeed in these small communities? Teeter speaks with former NYC sommelier Paul Brady, who is preparing to open Paul Brady Wine in the small town of Beacon, N.Y.
For this Friday’s tasting, Teeter and Sciarrino try some of Paul’s wines for themselves, including Pét-Nats and hybrids with some pretty “dope” names.
Tune in to learn more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast,” Friday edition.
J: Thank God.
A: Yes, it’s been a long week.
Z: It’s scary the extent to which hearing you say those words has made the weekend feel real to me, Adam.
A: I know, isn’t it?
J: I know you all feel the same way.
A: Yeah, we do. So I thought we would have a little bit of a fun conversation that is a rehash of a convo that Zach and I had in the early days of Covid to check in on some stuff. Now that we’ve got Joanna here, I thought we’d get her take as well on the migration of people in the restaurant and bar industry to the ‘burbs and what that means. We had thought that we were going to see more of that, and it seems like we have. We’ve got a fun interview for this episode. This feels like the right time to talk about it again. Are we seeing what we thought we would see? Especially as Covid, hopefully, is winding down, that people left cities for suburbs and open cool sh*t. Do you guys feel like we saw more of that or less of that than we thought we would when people were making that prediction early in Covid?
J: I think we’ve seen more of that. I certainly saw people leave the city to move to places outside of the city, and maybe outside of N.Y., like Hudson Valley and places like that. But I’m actually surprised at how many somms and people in the industry are following suit and opening places in that path as well.
Z: We thought we would see that driven by restaurateurs and chefs, to some extent. I’ve been surprised, as Joanna said, at the number particularly of wine professional-led enterprises that have expanded around the country. It’s this interesting piece that I don’t think I fully understood when we last talked about this. The part of it that made total sense to me was that, if you were the kind of person who had aspired to open your own wine bar or restaurant or even a bottle shop, doing so in a big city was getting to be cost prohibitive for a lot of folks. And also, there’s a sh*tload of competition, right? Whether it’s in Seattle, New York, San Francisco, wherever, you’re fighting for a big market, potentially. But you’re also fighting against a lot of competitors. If you went to a suburban site or even a smaller city, you probably had a lot less competition. So that piece of it made total sense to me. The thing that I didn’t anticipate and was surprised by is the extent to which some of these ventures could really even be supported in some pretty small communities. You could be a relatively successful operator of whatever the kind of venture, especially if it had multiple dimensions to it, like if you’re a bottle shop and a part-time wine bar, and maybe you also sold simple but high-end food goods and stuff. Because the truth is that the market for those kinds of experiences, those kinds of goods, are not concentrated exclusively in cities. The kind of people who like those things have also moved all over the country and have moved out of big cities. Not just because of Covid, although in part because of that. And there’s demand for that kind of experience in places that I think, a few years ago, we might not have expected.
Z: What do you think, Adam? Has it surprised you, or has it been what you expected?
A: It’s what I had expected. I have this theory about Covid in general.
Z: Careful now.
A: It’s not a f*cking hoax. I’m not about to talk about Ivermectin. Why did we have to take it there?
Z: I don’t know, because you said you had a theory about COVID.
A: This isn’t the Joe Rogan podcast, we’re not doing pseudo-science.
Z: For one thing, we don’t have that kind of listenership, unfortunately.
A: Anyway, I’m not trying to give medical advice. I’m trying to talk about my theory. All that Covid did was accelerate this decision for the people that were already thinking about this decision. From all of the conversations I’ve had, it didn’t cause a lot of people to leave who hadn’t already thought about it. There was something in the back of your mind. You’re even seeing this by real estate data now. It’s starting to pull back in the suburbs and it’s getting hot again in the cities. But for those that were already thinking about it, it accelerated that decision. They didn’t think about the decision because of Covid. They were thinking about that decision because of the cost. It’s a lot easier to open things in the suburbs where real estate is much more affordable and there are more opportunities. There are large suburbs outside of all the major cities, and they are hungry audiences for interesting bars and restaurants. You can become “the thing” in that community or one of “the things” in that community. People who recognize that and then are also OK with the suburb lifestyle really can get behind it. You just have to accept that in the suburbs, you’re not going to have as many opportunities for all the cool bars you’d hit up after work for the shift drinks. You also have to be OK with a different kind of staff. We talked about this with our interview, him looking for the staff that he’s hiring at his new venture. Staff in upstate New York is very different from staff you would have access to in New York City. So those are challenges that I just feel like everyone really, really has to think through before they do this. Which is why I think that the only people who did this because of Covid are the people who were already thinking through what that would look like. And the people who are going to do it now, in the waning days of Covid hopefully, are also thinking through all those things. If not, it’s crazy, man. Opening a restaurant or bar is hard anywhere. Doing it in a place where you may have to educate like, “This is why I’m charging this,” or, “This is what this is,” it’s not gonna be easy. You’re doing it for a lifestyle change, right? It’s the same reason why people move to suburbs in general. It’s a lifestyle change.
Z: It’s not just a lifestyle change. I think that’s a part of it, but it’s also a chance to do a thing that just is not viable in the city. That’s what Paul, your interviewee, talks about, or what other people we’ve talked to about this. It could not exist in a city because you don’t have the space, literally. You’re just in a different vibe, right? You mentioned, and I think this is a good point that should be emphasized, that the experience of being a restaurant owner, operator, or even employee in one of these suburban or exurban locations, is functionally very different from what we think of the restaurant industry in a big city. There are probably different kinds of people at different stages in life, with different sorts of desires. But it is an interesting opportunity for people who might want to have a serious restaurant experience as an employee, but don’t want to deal with living in a city. As hard as that is to believe.
A: It’s crazy. But I do think that you’re right. It wasn’t just for the lifestyle, but you have to accept that it will be a different lifestyle. It’s like, “Cool, I can afford to do this. But am I going to be OK with the fact that the bars close at midnight and there’s no local dive for my chef to go get a shot and a beer after work?” Or whatever it is. It’s just a different thing. But yes, I think the opportunities are really rich for lots of people. And again, you can be “the thing,” and that’s a really cool opportunity. The cities that we both live in are very cutthroat. Seattle and New York are not the only cutthroat cities in America. Most of them are. The mean streets of Seattle.
Z: We won’t get into that. The last thing about this that I wanted to say was that it presents different opportunities at a lower cost of entry for operators and a different kind of lifestyle for people who work there. But also, in addition to what you said about having ready audiences in these locations, a lot of times who might want an experience that they otherwise might think they have to go to a bigger city to get. It’s also an opportunity to create a dining experience that might have a harder time working in a city. Something that’s a little more of a hybridization of fine dining on the weekends and your casual counter service during the week. It’s not that you can’t do those things in cities, but your venture has to meet different and broader kinds of demands in one of these communities than just, “We are a high-end French restaurant.” That kind of thing is a hard sell. But if you can offer a few different kinds of experiences under one roof over the course of a week or a month or a year, that’s how these things can be really successful.
J: Yeah. In the best cases, these can be destinations for people to visit from outside of the community.
A: That’s a really good point, and it definitely is a source of revenue. I always look for that when I’m going somewhere, and they have this cool destination spot that a lot of people write about. It’s definitely why a lot of these places get press, too. We write about the places that exist in smaller markets because it’s like, “Oh, they have a great X bar.” I always think about one of my favorite beer bars in the country. It’s this place called BullsHead. It’s in Lititz, Pa., which is this small little town. And they fully recreated a British pub, because the guy’s from London and he’s really into it. He decided to buy an old hotel in this tiny town, and the bar is incredible. Clearly, he’s gotten a lot of press, too, because it exists in this small town, and the bar is incredible. It’s gotten a lot of press, but it also clearly has a local following. You have to know what you’re doing and you will get that out-of-town traffic, because you’ll be the “the thing.” You also have to become a local spot, because that’s how you have your consistent revenue. You have to become a spot for both, which is a different kind of restaurant model, but it’s really exciting. That is what our good buddy, Paul Brady, is trying to do. Paul was a somm in the city for a really long time, moved out of New York, and now is in Beacon running a really cool winery/wine bar. So why don’t we hear my interview with him?
J: Sounds good.
A Conversation With Paul Brady, Founder of Paul Brady Wine
A: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter. And this is a Friday conversation. I’m chatting here with Paul Brady of Paul Brady Wine, but also, #UpNorthShit. He is a former somm. Paul, I’ve known you for a few years now, right?
Paul Brady: Whenever it was that we grabbed that drink at Dante a couple years back.
A: The reason we wanted to have this conversation was because you’re a longtime listener, first time interviewee on the podcast. But I love when we have this back and forth with some of the episodes that we’ve done. You’d reach out to me saying, “Hey, I heard that episode you did about somms leaving the industry and going to do things in smaller towns, different places. And I’d love to talk to you about it.” And I said, “OK, cool, let’s make that happen when your thing opens.” And it just has, right?
P: It’s just about to.
A: Awesome. First of all, tell the listeners a bit about your background.
P: Sure. My first wine job in wine in New York City goes back to 2010-2011, sometime around then. And that was at Brooklyn Winery.
A: You were at Brooklyn Winery?
P: Yeah, really early days.
A: Interesting. I wonder if we interacted at some point, then.
P: It’s entirely possible. I was there for about a year, doing a little bit of everything. I moved on from there to the Terroir wine bar. At that time, Terroir and Hearth Restaurant in the East Village were the same company, then I worked as a manager at Hearth Restaurant. From there, I went on to manage a short-lived wine bar on the Upper East Side called ABV, just for a minute. I had to take some time off for some personal stuff and came back to New York City after spending some time at home in Michigan, and just needed a job right away. I wasn’t really psyched about going back to be a restaurant manager and working 60-80 hours a week. So I was lucky and grabbed a server position, at the time, at Gramercy Tavern. So I had a little more flexibility. That was a great experience for a couple of years. From there, I went on to work as a sommelier in Chelsea. Then there was a harvest and a couple of stages in between that. My next New York City sommelier job was at Temple Court at the Beacon Hotel. I finished that stint with Crafted Hospitality off at CRAFT as a floor somm. That was all before I took the job as a brand ambassador with the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
A: Interesting. I’m sure some listeners would also make this connection to others who you know are not based in New York, I can see how all of these things you’ve done influenced what you do now. Based on the people I know who are at those places, your connection to New York State, to entrepreneurship, it makes a lot of sense. So you go to the New York Grape Foundation and become the ambassador of New York wine. How long were you there for?
P: Just about two years.
A: OK, cool. How challenging was that?
P: It was definitely challenging. Working at a nonprofit is always challenging, I’m sure. I was in charge of a marketing program that was called New York Drinks New York. There’s about 50 wineries from across the entire state that pay into that program. You’re really managing a mixed bag of producers and they all want the same thing, which is sales. My job was essentially to come up with marketing strategies, work with the trade in New York City, and recruiting trade to come on trips throughout the various viticulture regions throughout New York State. They would send me all over the place to do seminars. I wrote a lot of content and just did a lot of educational outreach to both consumers and the trade. For the most part, I was working with those 50-plus wineries that were in that New York Drinks New York program. But they also have an export program, which is marketing the wineries who do export wines throughout the world, or those who want to. So when I was there, we went to international trade shows.
A: Could I maybe say that you’re the reason that, finally, New York City somms think that the Finger Lakes is cool all of a sudden? When I was initially getting into wine in New York, no somm would say a New York wine is good. And then, as we were starting VinePair, we started talking about New York, Virginia, etc. And this is 2014. I’d still have somms be like, “Oh, no, no, no, not New York.” Now I feel like every somm is like, “I’m making wine in New York. I love the Finger Lakes, I’m harvesting.” That’s all you.
P: Not a chance. I wish I had an answer to that.
A: I did see a switch, though, or is that just me?
P: Well, I think that little by little, the various viticulture regions throughout the East Coast are gaining more traction. There’s not one reason, but like you said earlier, my resume indicates that I went from place to place always making sure that I could work with these wines. Going to a place like Terroir, where Paul Grieco comes from Canada, he always had Ontario wines on his various lists. Actually, that was my foray into New York wine, it was Canadian wine. Coming from Michigan, I could see Canada from the end of the street that I grew up on. The first dry Riesling I ever had was from Ontario, believe it or not, just from drinking those wines in my early 20s. It was my Canadian winemakers and somms who said, “Oh, you’re moving to New York? You gotta look for New York wines.” It was via the Ontario cool-climate wines that I found, first, the Finger Lakes, and then the rest of the state. And again, just bounced from place to place, always trying to work with and under wine directors who appreciated those wines, were excited about them, and looked at them as an opportunity and not a responsibility.
A: The interesting, very cool. Do you see that as well? That there seems to have been, all of a sudden, this shift in not just New York wine culture, but Northeastern wine culture in general? Like, “Hey, let’s look outside of the West Coast and concentrate on what’s happening on the East Coast and get really excited about these wines.”
P: The wines themselves are definitely doing a good bit of that work.
A: So they’re getting better?
P: Yes, they’re certainly better than they were even 10 years ago. That’s for a whole bunch of different reasons. But these are challenging climates to grow grapes in. And the growers get better every year as new research comes out. The most striking example of that would be Cabernet Franc, and just how much better the growers are getting at managing those vineyards, and getting that fruit to ripen in better balance than in years before.
A: This is not what this podcast is supposed to be about, but I’m curious, because you have such a background in the Finger Lakes.
P: I gotta stop you. I ran into this all the time. The Wine & Grape Foundation job was the entire state, not just the Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes producers would always look at me and be like, “So you know, for the Finger Lakes and the Finger Lakes and the Finger Lakes.” I’m New York, not just Finger Lakes. Sorry, Adam.
A: No, but you were talking about Cabernet Franc. I’m just curious. Do you feel like they’re getting better at it up there because there is also a desire to have a red varietal that they want the region to be known for besides just Riesling?
P: Everybody certainly understood that red wine was important and it behooves you to have some at your winery. Cornell really stepped up and did a good bit of research in terms of how to manage the Cab Franc vineyards in particular. So that is one of the reasons that that grape has taken off and quality up there.
A: Cool. So you left that, we’re done talking about the Finger Lakes, for the most part. Although, are all of the grapes in these wines that you brought with you from the Finger Lakes?
P: All but one. The red wine is 100 percent Hudson Valley.
A: Oh, cool. So now you are in the Hudson Valley. You’re opening a pretty cool project up there. You’re in Beacon, which is a dope little town with one of the best art museums in the area. Tell me about it. What was the desire? You’ve done the brand ambassador thing. Also, there’s a lot of people who want to be brand ambassadors, because you think it’s a sexy job. You can go talk about things, but it’s got to be very tiring, as well since you’re probably traveling a lot. So what motivated this change and move into entrepreneurship?
P: I actually moved up to the Hudson Valley before the pandemic. I moved up there in 2019.
A: I see the fun pictures of you on the lake; it looks beautiful.
P: Yeah, I got in while the getting was good.
A: Before it got way too overpriced.
P: Yeah, it’s bananas. I was happily working for the Wine & Grape Foundation at that time. But I was learning more about the region and more about myself. I did come to a point, still before the pandemic, during which I realized, “OK, it’s time for me to go and do my own thing. And I know what I want to do and I know where I want to do it.” The brand ambassador job is where I learned all the ins and outs of the different New York State winery licenses and the farm winery license. We could do an entire podcast on that.
A: It’s a really fascinating license.
P: The farm winery license allows you to essentially have a winery. It has to be on a farm, so you have to either have a vineyard or grow something else. As long as you have some sort of farm, you can apply for a farm winery license. With that license, you can also have a satellite tasting room. Essentially, that is what it is.
A: You can have more than one, right?
P: Yeah, I think it’s up to five, which is crazy. No one has that. There are some wineries that do have satellite tasting rooms. So once I learned that, that piqued my interest, because I never wanted to just have a retail shop. Nothing against that, it just just wasn’t for me. I was terrified to open a restaurant, because we should all be terrified to open restaurants at this time in our lives. So once I learned that I could essentially partner up with an already existing winery and work in an alternating proprietorship to have winery space, I can then get my own farm winery license and get my own satellite tasting room. Beacon was an obvious choice. I live in the middle of nowhere between Rhinebeck and the Taconic. But I would take the train sometimes to go down to the city to work, and I always noticed hundreds of people got off in Beacon. Way more than any other stop really along that Hudson line.
A: Even more than Cold Spring?
P: A lot of people get off in Cold Spring, too, to hike. But as you said earlier, Beacon’s got the museum. So it has that Dia Museum and then all those trails. Mt. Beacon is a popular one for city dwellers going up for a day or so. Get off the train and cruise around through Beacon, go hike to the top of Mt. Beacon. There’s a fire tower there. It’s a beautiful view. That’s a good one. And then there’s other lengthier, more challenging trails in the area.
A: There’s a hotel, too.
P: Yeah, there’s a couple of nice hotels there. And the Appalachian Trail goes right through that area.
A: Oh, interesting. I didn’t know that. So you noticed they’re all getting off the train, and you’re like “I gotta come here.”
P: Yeah, it just seemed as good as any spot to open something like what I was considering at that time. As opposed to somewhere like Kingston. I love Kingston; I love hanging out there.
A: It’s awesome.
P: It’s awesome, but there’s no train.
A: The west side of the Hudson Valley is so much different than the east because of its lack of trains. Even though we are all talking about how Kingston is like the new hotness, it is limiting if you don’t have a car.
P: It has its own ecosystem of locals and whatnot, whereas you walk around the other river towns, and there’s a lot of tourists.
A: How far is Beacon from Hudson?
P: Probably about an hour and a half or so.
A: So Beacon really is a lot closer to the city.
P: Yeah, quite a bit closer.
A: Cool. So how long ago did you decide to open this?
P: I put my notice in at the Wine & Grape Foundation. We were at Vinexpo in Paris in February of 2020. It was starting to heat up. And we had plans to go back and, of course, that got canceled along with everything else. So I had already put my notice in before the craziness happened.
A: Had you already started applying for the license and things like that? How did you figure out how to do that?
P: I worked with an attorney. I would recommend to anybody who wants to do this, if you can, do that work with an attorney who specializes in state liquor authority. It’s a really lengthy and quite complicated process. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.
A: Did you raise money?
P: I was fortunate to have family money to be able to get open.
A: OK, cool. So you find the lawyer, you get the license. Where did you want to be in Beacon? What were you thinking when you created the space?
P: I called the realtor who helped me find my house that I had been renting and just asked if he knew any realtors in the Beacon area. He hooked me up with one, and she was fantastic. Kelly Campbell, realtor in the Beacon area. I had to wait a few months because we were under stay-at-home orders. Finally, when realtors could go out again, we started looking for spaces in the Beacon and Cold Spring area.
A: And are you in downtown Beacon?
P: Yeah, our address is Main Street.
A: So you can walk from the train very easily.
P: You could. The Beacon train station is maybe a 10 minute or so walk to the edge of the main street. From there, it’d be another eight or 12 minutes. There’s buses and shuttles and stuff like that.
A: OK, cool. So you find the space.
P: To apply for a liquor license, you have to have an address. You can get the paperwork going technically before you sign your lease, while you’re in negotiations. It took two to three months of negotiations with the landlord, and we signed a lease for Nov. 1 of last year.
A: It’s taken you almost a year since, at least, to get open. Is it mostly build out and getting everything ready?
P: It was a completely brand-new building, blank space. Again, I was very lucky and found a great contractor and architect. And we worked on it together. Construction is totally done now. Licenses are all falling into place. We’ve added a tavern license to our farm winery license. You can do that because if you think about it, a lot of wineries that have weddings and things like that need Champagne or Tito’s Vodka or whatever. You can add a full on-premise or a tavern, wine, and beer license to your winery license. So we did that. Now, we’ve got three licenses. One of them is active and in place, so we could get open. But I just want it to be right.
A: So you’re waiting?
P: Check the website. It could be any day, could be next week, could be very soon.
A: So what’s it called?
P: It’s called Paul Brady Wine.
A: So Paul Brady Wine is the winery and is also the tasting room?
A: Obviously, it has to be. When someone shows up at Paul Brady Wine in Beacon, what are they going to experience?
P: That’s the other cool thing about the farm winery license. With that, you can sell products from any other New York State producer. The whole idea of the license is to promote New York State agriculture, really. When you walk into our space, you’ll see the bar is on the left. It looks just like a regular bar. The retail side is on the right, and it looks just like a regular wine shop. We have close to 50 different producers’ stuff between wine, beer and spirits, cider.
A: So you can sell wine, beer, and spirits, but it’s the farm license? You can sell it all together.
P: Under the same roof, as long as it’s New York,
A: That’s really, really cool. So will you be doing food?
P: We will be doing food.
A: So you’re kind of opening a restaurant, Paul.
P: I’m trying not to. Our food program is really simple. This goes back to Hearth Restaurant. When I worked there, the chef was a guy named George Kaden. There was this dish called the Charcuterie for Two. It was this big board of the most beautiful local, handcrafted charcuterie, all done in-house. To this day, it was my favorite thing ever at Hearth. It came with grilled bread. Back then, there was an option to add foie gras. So that’s what we’re doing. I’ve been in touch with George and he actually helped me. He’s out in Portland, Ore., now. And that’s our entire food program, our board for two. In the beginning, we’re going to roll that out only doing it on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. We have 23 seats. I think that I can fill 23 seats on Friday and Saturday nights in Beacon. I hope, at least. We will take reservations and we hope to do two seatings a night, eventually. That’s what you get. You get the board for two. We have a vegetarian/pescatarian version as well. And all of that is being processed and prepped by chef Brian Arnoff, who is just down the street. His restaurants are called Kitchen Sink and Meyer’s Olde Dutch. So he’s doing all of that processing and prepping. Literally when it shows up to us, all we have to do is put it on board.
A: That’s amazing.
P: So the goal is to completely eliminate food waste, and that stuff has a pretty good shelf life. What we don’t sell on the bar side of things, we can then sell on the retail side of things.
A: Oh, very cool. When you stop at the bar, will you be just pouring your wines?
A: Can you do cocktails or no?
P: As soon as we’re able to, yeah. Not that we’re trying to be a cocktail bar.
A: Is there a cocktail bar in Beacon?
P: Yes, there is probably more than one. There’s one that’s pretty cool called Wonderbar that’s attached to an old-school movie theater. It’s really cool. We don’t want anybody to walk out the door because they can’t get a Gin & Tonic, right? We want to feel like a regular bar.
A: I love that. So we’ve talked a lot about this side of the business. But there’s a whole other side, and I’m staring right at it, which is the actual wine. It’s kind of crazy to me, because you’re really opening two businesses at the same time. You’re opening a tasting room — not a restaurant — and a bar that has all the stuff going on that you’re going to have to think about. How is staffing for you, by the way?
P: I have a business partner and there have been a couple other consultants who have been helping us get open. And we just hired two people that will be hourly. They both have good résumés in hospitality and wine. So we were able to find a couple of good people early on. We’ll see how long they will last. You know, turnovers are quick in these types of situations, but I’m feeling good for the moment.
A: OK, cool. So you have all of that and everything that comes along with that. But now, you also are making wine, because obviously you can’t have this license unless you were actually making wine, I would assume.
P: Yes, you do have to make at least one wine by law.
A: How long has that process been going on, and what kind of wine are you making? I’m staring at at least two wines that are hybrids. What is your thought process in terms of the wine that you’re creating? What have you wanted to create? Talk to me about it.
P: Like you guys, I’ve got a bit of a music background. I approached this like how, at least in the old-school days, you would produce a record if you were the A&R person for a label. What do you want that’s not out there right now? What are you excited about? What do you have to work with? Essentially, I got together with different winemakers who I had a relationship with and just started a conversation. What’s available? What kinds of grapes can we get our hands on? What are some wines that I think would be good and that are maybe missing from the market? Or ones we could stand to make more of? That’s how everything came to be, both by what we wanted to do and what we had access to.
A: OK, very cool. So the four wines that I have in front of me, are they the only four you’re making right now?
P: There’s actually one more. These are all from 2020. And the white wine is from 2019. We’re basically making the same wines again in 2021, and we added one more sparkling wine. We’ll have another Pét-Nat coming next year.
A: Are these natural wines?
P: I would identify two of them as natural wines, at least in the fashionable sense. They would check those boxes, both the red wine and the Pét-Nat.
A: They’re very interesting names to say.
P: In the wine business, when somebody says something is interesting, that’s like the worst thing you could say.
A: Oh no, I think they’re cool. It’s not what you would expect at all. Like Rock & Roll Mouth. What does Bug Dope mean?
P: Bug Dope is a North Country parlance for insect repellent.
A: Oh, so interesting. I love the names, I think they’re really fun. I love the labels. They’re really cool. I love the beanie hat. And you and the winemaker are on the back of each label. That’s super cool. In this regard, are you just making the wines to supply the tasting room and your shop? Or are you trying to get these into locations all over the state?
P: For the moment, we’re happy to keep them on our shelves only. Who knows what the future holds? But, you know, we have a very small amount. We have about 50 cases for each of these labels. With the new Pét-Nat, we’ll have about 100 cases.
A: Was there a reason to go higher on that? Was it just because you could?
P: I found some grapes from a vineyard that I really liked, and it was a good deal. It’s another hybrid grape that I think is, perhaps, underutilized. I actually just tasted the not fully finished, it hasn’t been disgorged yet, the bottle as it exists right now. It’s delicious, so I’m very happy.
A: Very cool. And will you run a wine club?
P: Eventually. These are all things that, as we open, we’ll increase our bandwidth. Wine clubs are fantastic, but they do take a lot of labor. As much as they seem convenient, there is quite a bit of work that you have to put into them.
A: Yeah, it makes sense. So there’s one other topic to chat about, which is hybrids. Two of these wines are made with hybrids, and we’re definitely seeing that more and more. But I feel like there is this, I don’t want to say bias, but some people just don’t understand hybrids. With Fauxjolais, is it as good as Gamay? Why wouldn’t you use “real” grapes? That’s what some people say. Talk to me about hybrids. What gets you so excited about hybrids? And do you think, eventually, we’re just not even going to care whether it’s a hybrid or a conventional grape?
P: I think that’s already starting to happen. A lot of this comes down to access, especially if you’re a young winemaker. From my network in California, people will write to me and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about moving back East and I’m tasting all this great Cab Franc and Chardonnay and stuff like that coming from New York. I’d love to make some wines that have that level of acidity, we can’t really do that out here but you guys have that climate.” Unfortunately, as a brand new winemaker coming to this region, I don’t know how much Cab Franc and Pinot Noir you’re going to be able to get. The growers that have that stuff, they have longstanding contracts with other wineries and things like that. So a lot of it’s just like, “What can you get?” In the case of Fauxjolais, I really wanted to make a wine from the Hudson Valley with Hudson Valley grapes, so I just started calling around to see what fruit I could get. And I was offered De Chaunac, which is the red grape in that wine. It’s another one of the early European-American hybrids. I think it’s technically a French-American hybrid grape, although it came through Canada. I always forget if the De Chaunac was created in Quebec or in France. I need to study up. But certainly, there is vinifera in that grape and then whatever the cross was to plant De Chaunac widely in the ‘70s. And a winemaker who made our Pét-Nat made a De Chaunac in the Finger Lakes that I tasted and really, really liked. And he shared his winemaking technique with me. You’re going to make it and then add vinifera skins to your fermentation or your aging process to add tannin, because these red hybrids struggle with not having enough tannin.
P: It’s something in the genetic crossing or the breeding of them. I don’t want to speak too scientifically because I just don’t have those answers.
A: I love that you’re admitting you don’t have the answers. It takes a very confident person to say that. So where do you get the skins? Is it like, “Hey, does anyone have any leftover skins?”
P: He was making a lot of Chardonnay for himself, so he used Chardonnay skin.
A: Oh, interesting.
P: So he added that to his ferment, and the wine came out like this snappy glou-glou, light red that everybody loves right now. So I was like, “OK, well, I got my hands on some De Chaunac grapes from the Hudson Valley, and let me just get some leftover vinifera skins. So I got Gamay skins from a winery called Whitecliff. They were very generous, gave me their skins, and those went into the ferment and the wine is beautifully structured.
A: That’s super cool. Wow, that’s really cool, Paul.
P: It’s a super useful technique.
A: Could you have gotten the tannins if you had also thrown in the stems and things like that, or it just wouldn’t have done the same as with the skins?
P: Not if they were from the hybrid grape; it would not be the same as vinifera. You could throw anything in. You could have thrown in Cab Franc or Pinot Noir skins. It doesn’t necessarily matter, but I do think those Gamay skins also give a Gamay-like flavor and structure.
A: That’s so cool. So you have this one, and then you’re also making a Pét-Nat. What grapes are you making that with?
P: Léon Millot.
A: So Léon Millot, Marquette, and Cab Franc.
P: A tiny bit of Cab Franc.
A: Wow, interesting. So again, these are from the Finger Lakes now, but hybrid?
P: Yeah. So now we’re up in the Finger Lakes. So what do we have access to? What can we get? There was a grower who had Léon Millot and Marquette, and I had some wines from the Léon Millot Grape that I quite like. Ian Barry makes a delicious Pét-Nat from Léon Millot. Keuka Lake Vineyards makes a still wine from Léon Millot that I really enjoyed in the past. And then the Marquette grape, of course, is pretty new and exciting. There are a lot of fine examples of that. That’s a newer hybrid, so it struggles a little bit less with that whole lack of tannin.
A: Wow, so cool. Altogether, you’re doing four or five wines. They’re really interesting with hybrid grapes, and then obviously non-hybrids. This is dope, man. It’s bug dope. And this is all from your career on the floor. It’s just amazing to see how everything you’ve done has led you here. It’s really cool.
P: Thanks, man. We’re really excited to open, and I can’t thank these winemakers enough. I should really shout them out. We talked about Todd Cavallo from Wild Arc Farm, who made the red wine. And Ben Riccardi. His label’s called Osmote, it’s his own winery. The rosé is mostly Blaufränkish with a bit of Cab Franc and a bit of Pinot Grigio. Peter B. Kraft is the winemaker at Anthony Road. I’ve loved his rosés for a number of years now. That was a really fun experience, going up and doing the blend of the rosé. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the cellar. And then the white wine is from Nathan Kendall, who’s been a dear friend for years now. He just makes these incredibly bone-dry, austere whites that somms go nuts for.
A: I love his wines. Very cool. This is awesome. Paul, where can people find these wines and the tasting room?
P: So we’re up in Beacon. If you’re in New York City, it’s a quick shot up the Metro North. If you’re coming from elsewhere, there are direct flights into Albany, which is really convenient if you want to visit the Hudson Valley. Delta’s got a flight from Detroit. There’s flights from Chicago and probably elsewhere. We’re easy to find. Our address is Main Street, but we’re technically on Eliza Street. But check our website, paulbradywine.com or Instagram at @paulbradywine and we’ll announce our — I hate the term — soft opening.
A: Just your opening.
P: We’re calling it a quiet opening. So just keep checking the web stuff for our quiet opening.
A: Awesome Paul. Thank you so much for joining me. I can’t wait to come up and check it out.
P: Thank you so much, guys. Big fan of the pod.
A Tasting of Paul Brady Wines
A: All right, that was cool. What did you guys think?
Z: Paul’s an interesting guy, man. To take on both the challenges of being a winery and wine/bar/restaurant, does he sleep? Is your vibe that he sleeps? I like sleep too much to do that kind of sh*t. I don’t know.
A: He’s a hard worker to be making the kind of wine he’s making. A different collaboration wine with a different winemaker? That’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of management, Paul. I talk to a lot of different people, man.
Z: And he’s trying to lift some very unknown varieties up.
A: So we’ve got some of his wines here and we’re going to try them. I’m gonna pop some bottles. I didn’t prep-pop.
J: Me neither.
Z: Oh, that’s all right. It’s Friday, man. You’re good. It’s almost the weekend. No one’s in that big of a rush. So what do you guys have? Tell me what you got.
A: Joanna, you go first.
J: I have the Rock and Roll Mouthwash, which is a Pét-Nat.
Z: Can you say that a little bit more enthusiastically?
J: Sorry, I have the Rock and Roll Mouthwash! Was that better? It’s a Pét-Nat sparkling red wine. I understand that it’s made in the style of Lambrusco, but it says on the back, “Old school French-American red hybrid.”
A: And what else do you have?
J: I have another one in the refrigerator. Should I get it?
A: I popped the other two, it’s fine. No, you don’t have to. It’s just a rosé, but you’ll figure that out later.
Z: How about you, Adam? What do you have?
A: I’ve got two wines from Paul Brady, one of which is called Fauxjolais.
Z: That’s probably not $90 on a restaurant list.
A: No, it’s not. It’s 100 percent De Chaunac old school. So it’s a French-American red hybrid that is whole-cluster hand picked. Then it goes through full carbonic maceration, fermented with Gamay Noir skins, and is produced with his buddy Todd Cavallo. The other one that I have is Bug Dope, which is a non-hybrid wine. It is a white blend that is 60 percent Gewürztraminer, 20 percent Riesling, and 9 percent Chardonnay. Obviously, if you listened to that interview, Paul is a really big proponent of New York State wine and up north wine in general. He has a funny hashtag that he has on Instagram that says #upnorthshit. That’s what he’s always talking about. He says that bug dope is “up-north-sh*t” parlance for insect repellent. He makes it with one of the most talented young winemakers on the East Coast of the United States, Nathan Kendall. Nathan makes awesome wine.
Z: Very cool. I’m sorry that I can’t try them, but you’ll have to describe them to me and the rest of the listeners.
A: I’m going to try the Bug Dope first.
J: And I’ll talk about the Low Action Loud, which is the rosé, as well. I’m reading the description, but it’s made from the Bomb Diggity 2020 vintage in collaboration with the master rosé winemaker Peter Becraft from Anthony Road Wine Company in the Finger Lakes. It’s mostly Blaüfrankisch with a little bit of Cab Franc.
A: First of all, the nose on the Bug Dope is dope.
Z: It does not smell like insect repellent, I hope.
A: No, it doesn’t. Interesting choice, Paul. We need to talk to you about why you want to name your wine after insect repellent, but that’s a whole other conversation. The wine’s awesome.
Z: You both know that I’m a strong believer in the potential for hybrid varieties.
A: This one’s not a hybrid. I’m about to get to my hybrid one, and then you can tell me your strong opinion.
Z: OK, sorry. So what is the Bug Dope made from?
A: The Bug Dope is Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Chardonnay. It’s really nice.
J: I’m trying the Rock and Roll Mouthwash now. It is definitely closer to a Lambrusco than a Pét-Nat in terms of the flavor profile. But it’s really delicious; really juicy.
A: OK, I’m going to Fauxjolais. It definitely smells like pickles, but in a good way. There’s really bright red fruit. This is a hybrid, and it has a really nice, savory characteristic that he says comes from that Gamay Noir skin maceration. It’s a nice wine. This is a really fun wine. Again, these are fun wines that I would see doing really well at his wine bar. You could just have a few glasses of this; it’s only 10 and a half percent alcohol. So you can have a few glasses of this and just hang out with your friends. This is screaming to me, “Let’s just get a bunch of cured meats and hang out.” Maybe some cheeses if Naomi’s joining, since she doesn’t eat meat. But I like this a lot. It’s really cool.
J: These are great.
A: Congrats, Paul.
J: Thank you, Paul.
A: Keep doing it. I won’t be here next week because I will be on vacation.
Z: We will somehow get through.
A: No, you won’t.
Z: We’re just not going to do the podcast. Sorry, folks.
A: It’s going to be really hard for all of you guys.
Z: How am I going to know it’s the weekend? I won’t have you to tell me it’s Friday.
A: You sarcastic motherf*cker. Anyway, so you two enjoy it. I’ll be on vacation.
Z: You enjoy that.
A: I’ll see you back here a week after.
J: See you then.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.