On International Women’s Day, we celebrate Alice Houël – our new assistant winemaker!

Meet winemaker Alice Houël, the latest addition to City Winery NYC! In celebration of International Women’s Day, Alice took the time to give us a unique glimpse into her perspective as a woman in winemaking. City Winery CEO Michael Dorf says, “A balanced blend is not only a valued characteristic in wines– the workplace also demands a balanced blend. We pride ourselves on the integral role women have at City Winery.” Alice embodies the power of passion and determination of a great role model, and we are lucky to have her!

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A native of France, Alice began her career in Champagne before working at Cape Mentelle Vineyards in Australia. She attributes her love of wine to these experiences and describes these formative years as “very important and fulfilling.”

Today, Alice does not let the male-dominated aspect of the industry discourage her or hold her back. “We are just winemakers, and I guess we happen to be female,” she told us. Alice wants other women to focus on their passion above all else. “If you have a passion for wine, do not hesitate to study in the field and start a career. Remember just do what you like, be happy with your job, and keep a good work/life balance.” While she acknowledges the hurdles women winemakers may face, she addresses it with optimism. “It is still a male-dominated field, but there are more and more females making wine. It is probably much better for me than a few decades before!”

If women do encounter workplace challenges, Alice advises, “Do not stop because you may have obstacles! Maybe the place you work is not one that supports women enough, but there are wineries out there where women are encouraged and promoted to high positions.”

Check out more “Phenomenal Femmes” like Alice Houël here:

http://www.winemag.com/2017/03/03/talking-women-in-the-wine-industry/

Founder Michael Dorf’s take on the evolution of City Winery

City Winery’s founder & CEO, Michael Dorf, recently chatted with journalist, Rebecca Pratt, about the evolution of City Winery. Read on for a peek behind the curtain!

How did you get involved in City Winery?

I started City Winery in 2008.  I had started earlier a club in NYC in 1987 called The Knitting Factory which grew into a large entertainment company.  In 2002, I sold my interests and in 2004 made a barrel of wine in California. I caught the bug.  Always loved drinking wine as a fan, but now, wanted to get deeper in the creation of this consumable art form. As they say in winemaking, it is easy to make good wine, it is harder to sell it.  I combined my interests and thought, if I programmed great music in a sit-down environment, that a more sophisticated audience will enjoy a glass of wine served in Reidel perhaps more than other beverages.  I was right, about 70% of our beverage sales are wine, and we make more than half of what we sell to our customers.

What makes you happiest about City Winery?

I love that we are really authentic.  We source great grapes from about 30 vineyards in California, Oregon, and some from Washington, upstate NY, and even parts of Georgia for our Atlanta facility.   I love how the concept is working in cosmopolitan markets around the country, showing that there are sophisticated audiences, young and old, in many great cities everywhere.  I love how we have great relationships with the artists who work with us, many enjoying their experience “working” at City Winery more than any other venues on the circuit.  That is in particular very fulfilling these days, to know that the “medium” we have created is really working for the precious musicians making a living using our stages.

What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started City Winery?

Besides loosing more hair, what I love has been the discovery of winemakers who are huge music fans, chefs who are really closet rock and rollers, and the musicians who hold the chefs and winemakers in the utmost celebrity.  There is such mutual respect and bringing them together has been most interesting.

What do you look for when you recruit people for your team?

Background, resume, and academic history are NOT the most important. It is the person, are they passionate about what they want to do?  Do they enjoy their work so much, that the lines between work and play are very gray? In fact, in our business, the lines are very gray and hopefully you want to be here, want to be seeing a concert, want to be learning about wine, and want to be hanging with other folks who enjoy both.   There is no other restaurant or culinary option to actually make wine, so for someone who wants to be in hospitality, but go deeper into wine, we are the place.  If you happen to also be in the place where your favorite singer is also hanging out, we are your place.  Those are rare and cool unique points that other places are more challenged to work for.  We might not have the free soda machine in the office next to the yoga suite near the HR lounge, but we have other perks that make our place special.  We look for people who want our culture.  We think it is cool and so do 750 other current employees.

What is a quirky, little-known fact about you?

I’m into hiking and mountaineering.  I’m a very good ping pong player, I am embarrassed to say, I do like golf.  I would say, the one fact, not perhaps that public is I used to do some oil painting.  I love great art and did a few pieces in college.  There was a moment when I was 22 years old, hanging out in Europe, sitting in cafes pondering life, that I wondered if I should do something less businessney and more personal and arty, and pursue abstract painting. You know, drink wine in a small studio in Amsterdam or Barcelona and paint.   I don’t know if I have any real talent, but I know what I like. So, I did some work, more private.  The first name for The Knitting Factory that came from sitting in cafe’s was something called “Expressoism”  which turned into several other names before it morphed into The Knitting Factory.