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.

June’s Wine Of The Month: 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyards, CA

June 2016 WOTM Social Square

2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyards, CA

Regular price: $42
Sale Price: $33

A violet hue with notes of wild strawberry and complex spices, this Pinot Noir is one to sip and savor into summertime. Grapes hail from Bacigalupi Vineyard, a benchmark of Sonoma known for producing some of the best Pinot Noir in California. Just last month, more than 50 years after after the first crop of Pinot Noir was planted by the Bacigaupis, Helen Bacigalupi was named both ‘The Most Influential Sonoma Grower’ by Sonoma County Vintners and the ‘Godmother of Pinot Noir’ by Food & Wine Magazine!

March Wine of the Month: 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

Patio tables are out and SPRING is in the air! A perfect excuse to pick up your March Wine of the Month, our bright & bold 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. We can’t keep this stunner on the shelves, so get it while you can. Only $14 all month! Stop by the Barrel Room or head over to our website to pick up your bottle today. BUY NOW!

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Multiuse Spaces appeal to Multipurpose Guests

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Diners visiting Manhattan’s City Winery get transported to a time and place in which grape vines line rolling fields and the day comes to an end with a sun-kissed adieu. While it’s not quite Napa Valley, owner Michael Dorf has gone to painstaking lengths to create a little bit of wine country amidst sprawling high-rise buildings, stop-and-go traffic and busy sidewalks.

The City Winery experience pairs food and wine with music .City Winery locations can now be found in New York, Chicago, Nashville, and Napa, with each featuring a design that brings the romance of wine and music to life. Dorf plans to bring City Winery to Atlanta and Boston next.

While dinner guests eat from a smattering of globally influenced dishes… Read More at RDDMAG.COM 

January’s Wine of the Month: Pinot Noir Reserve Bien Nacido Vineyard

January marks the beginning of our Wine of the Month program! To start it off, this month’s vino is our 2013 Pinot Noir Reserve from the Bien Nacido Vineyard, which was recently awarded 92 points from Wine Enthusiast. Awaken your tastebuds from the doldrums of winter with this fruity pinot which features the refreshing taste of strawberries and the invigorating scent of rosemary. Stop by the Barrel Room or head over to our website to pick up your bottle today!

2013 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Reserve

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City Winery CEO Michael Dorf on Expanding His $40 Million Business and Why Older Fans Just Want a Place to Sit

CEO Michael Dorf recently spoke with Billboard about his start in the industry, his introduction to the world of wine, and where City Winery is headed next. Read the full Q&A by Andy Gensler below, and look for a version of it to appear in the Dec. 12 issue of the magazine.

The original copy of this interview can be found on Billboard‘s website.
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City Winery CEO Michael Dorf on Expanding His $40 Million Business and Why Older Fans Just Want a Place to Sit

by Andy Gensler

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Michael Dorf is the classic New York success story: music-loving Midwesterner arrives downtown in the 1980s; hops into an arts scene that includes Lou Reed, John Zorn, and Sonic Youth; opens a coffeehouse performance space; builds an international brand; walks away from it all; and starts over.

“I needed to think through what I’d like as a customer,” says Dorf, 53, a Milwaukee native who, after founding The Knitting Factory, went on to launch the tech-minded MacFest and Plug-In confabs and produce benefit shows at Carnegie Hall before starting his most lucrative music-business venture yet: City Winery.

Today, the married father of three heads up the chain of venue-restaurants (average capacity: 300) boasting a curated selection of live music and fine vintages, and whose flagship Tribeca location, which opened in 2008, is mere blocks away from Houston Street where Dorf first exercised his entrepreneurial spirit two decades earlier. With clubs in Chicago and Nashville, new venues in Atlanta and Boston planned for 2016 and two more major cities in the works (a Napa, Calif., location, ironically, is closing), Dorf employs some 550 employees and will take in an estimated $40 million in revenue in 2015.

How did you get from Wisconsin to New York City?

I always wanted to be in New York and started getting Swamp Thing, the band I was managing, gigs there. I guess I created a bit of that Steve Jobs’ “distortion reality field” that you could also call outright bull-shitting: I would get them gigs in New York and say, “these guys are the hottest thing in Madison.” And then come back to Madison and say, “the hometown band is really taking off in New York.” I moved there and got an apartment on 10th Street and the band basically moved in with me.

How did that turn into the Knitting Factory?

In 1986 I was getting close to having to come back to Milwaukee because the band was struggling and my plan to be a record mogul [Dorf ran Flaming Pie Records] wasn’t working out. So I borrowed money and took my Bar Mitzvah savings and gave up my apartment and rented the Avon office on Houston Street. My friend Louis Spitzer and I did rudimentary construction and he became my partner. It was going to be a gallery performance art space coffee shop called Expressoism. I envisioned a kind of Jack Kerouac thing that would have been what it was like to be in Paris or in New York during the Beatnik 1950s thing. Then we decided on naming it the Fire Escape, which a week before opening we decided was a really bad name.

You had a huge variety of shows at the Knitting Factory, what was your favorite?

Gosh, so many, but when we took over Estella’s Restaurant below the Knitting Factory Jon Zorn’s Naked City [with Bill Frisell, Fred Frith and Joey Baron and Wayne Horowitz] played. Their music was incredible, eclectic and very very energetic and had a strong rock sound. They did five shows when we opened up the downstairs space. He’d bring in charts, they’d rehearse all day and then they did like 20 songs. And the next day Zorn would bring in another 20 songs and he did that for five days. Each day was completely different and the insanity of Zorn and the masterful craftsman musicianship of those guys was unbelievable.

What prompted the move to Tribeca in 1994?

A couple of things: The ceiling [covered in sweaters with flame retardant spray] was one of many things we did by hand from the electrical work to the plumbing to the means of egress. It was great place, it had incredible history, but it was time to find a place that was bigger and safer and I wanted to expand to have a multi-room venue.

What were some of the endeavors you expanded into beyond daily bookings?

In 1995 I was really getting into technology and produced the first MacFest. We were starting to stream, but you couldn’t even call it streaming with only 14.8 modems. I convinced Bell Atlantic to give us money to start the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in ’96 and then Intel came in and outbid Mac. And the Knitting Factory label was growing like crazy and had an office in Amsterdam.

What prompted your split with the Knitting Factory?

Starting in about 1997 I wanted to expand all aspects of what we were doing and did three consecutive rounds of financing. I started to not call it music, but content and was getting caught up in the idea that the Internet was going to allow me to get our music and our brand in front of millions of people. Then the 2000 dotcom crash came and the implosion of the record business and then 9/11. 2002 was a very tough year and we had to let a ton of people go. By 2003 I had diluted myself out of a control position within the company and recognized that I didn’t want to be fighting with investors and feeling like i didn’t control my own destiny.

What lesson did you learn from that period?

There were so many but as a young entrepreneur, I got caught up in forgetting that technology is just a tool to ultimately accomplish a goal, to provide service to the customer and that’s my approach now.

What was your relationship like with Lou Reed? 

He played at the old Knit and then we got into the wine thing together. We had this Jewish and wine connection.

Didn’t he do your Passover Seder events?

Lou probably came to five or six of my Passover seders. I have a picture of him at our last Passover Seder three or four months before he died. He read Exodus, but he read Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” In the picture he’s embracing me on stage and that means a lot to me, I feel really very lucky to have had a special relationship with him.

How did you get into wine despite hailing from the land of beer?

I’ve always had an interest in Wine. My Uncle Shelley nicknamed me Mr. Beaujolais because freshman year I came home with a bottle of beaujolais. Later I got a chance to make a barrel of wine with one of my brother’s very good friends who was working at Ridge Winery in California. I had this experience of making wine and it was one of the funnest things I had ever done and that’s when I drank the Kool-Aid.

How did that transition into City Winery?

City Winery was a well thought out, methodical plan in order to look at what could be a money-making music business centered around wine. Or you could rephrase it a money making winery business centered around music — they’re interchangeable. We thought of going for a sort of older demographic who have disposable income and are very underserved. These audiences don’t want to stand, they want to sit, they want to be treated in a much more refined way and many of them are pressed for time. So we’ve created a luxury concert experience. We’re really only the game in town putting on a show at the level that we’re putting it on and taking a kind of Danny Meyer restaurant approach to the customer experience for a show. We have shows with the Crosby Stills and Nashes and the Joan Armatrading and last month had Gregg Allman here.

Now you are expanding City Winery. Is there a risk in too much, too soon?

Certainly expansion that is too fast or undercapitalized will not be successful. But a well-planned, strategized and methodical rollout into the right markets mitigates how risky it is. We made a mistake with Napa, but we learned from it. Our openings in Atlanta and Boston; then Toronto; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Denver; Seattle; Miami and wherever else we land in the next few years will be responsible expansion.

Who was your business mentor?

If I have to have one in person it’s George Wein. He’s someone i’ve been close friends with for the last 15 years and we have a very interesting relationship because I started by very much competing with him but he never looked at me in any negative way. He taught me a lot of lessons and continues to be a close friend and just an incredible gentleman.

What is City Winery’s place within the larger touring landscape?

We’re very bullish on the state of touring. As the supply of older talent with some degree of brand awareness continues to age, the expectations of their fans will create more of a need for a space like ours. Live Nation is not getting into the high-end restaurant/wine business, and, frankly, there aren’t too many wineries going into the concert business.

So what do you say to someone who says there are no second acts?

I’d say they’re looking at the wine glass as half empty.

City Winery NYC To Now Offer All 61 Châteaux From The Historical Classification 1855 Grands Crus Classés From One Epic Vintage 2010!

We are proud to announce that as of today, City Winery NYC is the only venue in the world to offer all 61 Châteaux from one single vintage 2010 on its menu!

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To unveil the new addition as well as celebrate the 160th anniversary of the Grands Crus Classes, on Wednesday, City Winery’s Michael Dorf and Tali Dalbaha welcomed Aymeric de Gironde of Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Sophie Schyler Thierry of Chateau Kirwan, Lionel Labat of Chateau La Tour Carnet, Damien Sartorius of Chateau Leoville Barton, Kinou Cazes Hachemian of Chateau Lynch Bages, Master of Wine Mary Gorman of Bordeaux Wine Council, and Philipe Newlin of Duclot La Vinecole for a lavish reception. Esteemed wine journalists from the New York Times, Wine Spectator, Eater NY, Wine & Food Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirit Magazine, Bloomberg, Dr. Vino, Vinepair and the Washington Post also attended.

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A special thank you to all of the wonderful staff who made this possible!

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Photos by E.J. White

Gregg Allman Completes Three of Five Nights at City Winery NYC

Founding member of The Allman Brothers Band Gregg Allman is well into his five-night stint at City Winery NYC! Full of surprises, the legendary musician has changed up his set list nightly, alternating between a variety of songs that span the length of his career. On Sunday, he opened his run with the Allman Brothers’ famous version of “Statesboro,” following it up with a track from his solo career, “I’m No Angel.” Before taking a brief break halfway through the show, he performed “Soulshine,” a song off of the 1994 Allman Brother’s record, Where It All Begins.

Monday’s show kicked off with another Allman Brothers’ favorite, “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” from their 1970 album Idlewild South. The band also performed “Hot ‘Lanta,” an instrumental song which grew out of a jam session and was once a staple at their live shows.

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Photo Credit: Al Pereira

After taking a night off on Tuesday, Allman returned to City Winery last evening to complete the rest of his scheduled shows. Last night’s set list included “Just Before The Bullets Fly,” the title track off his 1988 solo album along with “Multi-Colored Lady,” another solo effort from the record, Laid Back. This came as a special treat, as both had been absent during the previous performances.

“Whipping Post” closed out every evenings, but that wasn’t the end of the show. Allman took the stage again to perform “Southbound” on Monday, while “One Way Out” served as both Sunday and last night’s encore.

The legend is back at City Winery tonight and Friday, which will be his last.