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.
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.
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.
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.
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.