This week’s Meet a Dad interview is with Greg Rubin, owner of Horseneck Wine & Spirits. This dad of two, and certified sommelier, is passionate about wine and proud of his historic small business, which has been open since 1934. “Horseneck is one of the oldest fine wine shops in the country (opened months after Prohibition was repealed!), and the largest liquor store in Greenwich,” shares Greg. “As such, we benefit from a track record of sourcing and acquiring the greatest top producers in the world, with a focus on Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy, and California,” he adds. Greg also owns Vanderbilt Ave Wine in Brooklyn, which specializes in organic, biodynamic, and natural wines—which he’s incorporating into Horseneck’s offerings as well. Here’s more about this dad of two, his family life in Westport, and his favorite wine pairings for Valentine’s Day!
Can you please share a bit about your family life?
My wife, Jenny, and I have a girl and a boy — Hannah who is 9 and Holland who is 6. I’m originally from Boston and Jenny is from Oklahoma (by way of Rhode Island). We lived in NYC for almost 10 years before moving out here 9 years ago. We live in Westport.
What do you love most about having a Greenwich-based business?
Although we live in Westport, we do spend a lot of time in Greenwich, especially at the Bruce Museum, at various charity events around town, and of course, visiting with friends. Having a business here has been such a great experience in many ways — from getting involved with important causes and great schools, to hosting and attending dinners and events at all of the phenomenal restaurants in town, to developing new friendships.
Were you always in the wine industry?
No – Prior to opening Vanderbilt Ave Wine in 2016 I had been in the media/music industry but had always had a passion for food & wine. I met Terry Rogers, the former owner of Horseneck back when I was developing the concept for Vanderbilt Ave and learned more and more about Horseneck over the years. There really aren’t many stores like Horseneck in America — focused on fine wine & spirits sourcing and curation – and so when Terry called me to tell me she was thinking about selling the store I jumped on the chance.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Most people think the best part of the job is tasting all the wines and traveling the world. Don’t get me wrong – those are very cool perks of the job (well, the traveling not so much in the last two years) but the best part of the job is when a customer finds something new and loves it. As adults in this day and age it takes a lot for any of us to feel truly and deeply delighted. And when someone has a bottle of wine in just the right moment, with the right people, alongside the perfect food, they can feel that way — like we all did as kids. I joke with people that I run an adult candy store, but when customers come back to tell me how awesome some new bottle was that they’ve discovered at Horseneck, it makes my job deeply fulfilling.
What advice do you give people who come into your shop and are looking to try something new, but know little about wine?
This is a great question as it applies to pretty much everyone at some point. The first thing I would tell someone like this is: Don’t be nervous to say you don’t know much. We try really hard to make the process of walking in and buying a bottle as comfortable as possible. We’re not going to take advantage of you, we’re not going to talk over your head, and we’re not going to talk down to you either. The second piece of advice is: Don’t be afraid to say how much you want to spend. Again, we’re not trying to squeeze every dollar out of you. We just want you to enjoy whatever bottles you bring home with you. And if you really don’t know what you want (red/white, full bodied / light & crisp, etc.) then the best thing you can do is: Ask us what we’re excited about right now. We’ll steer you to something new and exciting.
What events are coming up at Horseneck?
We are bringing back our in-person tastings, starting with “Cutting Edge Cali: Santa Barbara Edition” on Thursday February 10 at 7:30 (virtual option available; email [email protected] to RSVP – only a few spots remain!). We are hoping to restart our free Thursday tastings which are from 4-6pm and always feature something cool that we’ve offered to our e-mail list earlier that week (sign up on our website). We’re also hoping to bring back or dinner series – Greenwich Supper Club – once the weather warms up.
Valentine’s Day is coming up and a lot of people will be cooking and staying in. What are your favorite wines to pair with each of the below?
OYSTERS – Champagne!! I would recommend something crisp with some real drive to it from a small grower like the 2016 Champagne Ponson 1er Cru ‘Maupas’ Blanc de Noirs
FILET/STEAK – Cab and a slab! I’ve been digging the Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon lately. Delicious California cabernet from a perfectly rocky and mountainous area outside of Napa. These guys have been making killer wines at crazy good prices for decades.
CHOCOLATE – It’s not exactly a popular opinion these days, but one of the big wine pairing guidelines is to drink sweet wine with sweet foods. So unless you’re eating Baker’s Chocolate, which I hope you’re not, you kind of need some sweet flavors in your wine. So, the classic pairing is Port, like the 2012 Late Bottle Vintage Fonseca. But if you want to stick to an awesome bottle of red, I highly recommend pairing chocolate with Amarone. Go real big and grab one of the last bottles of the 2013 Dal Forno Amarone. It’s insanely good.
LOBSTER – There’s nothing better than a well-made Cali Chard or a top notch white Burgundy. For Cali fans I’d go with Far Mountain ‘Myrna’ Sonoma Chardonnay which is the personal project of the winemaker at Quintessa and for white Burgundy I absolutely love the 2019 single vineyard Meursault ‘Les Chevaliers’ from Xavier Monnot. This is one of my favorite wine pairings, full stop.
PASTA (WHITE SAUCE) – What grows together goes together. Pasta that begs for white wine need a nice medium-bodied Italian white. The 2019 Vietti Timorasso from Piedmont, Italy is celebration-level wine at a weeknight price and goes with damn-near everything.
PASTA (BOLOGNESE OR RED SAUCE) – How can you go wrong with any Italian red? The 2015 Piemaggio ‘Le Fioraie’ Chianti Classico is brand new to the United States and has been a home run for us. If you wanted to go big for Valentine’s Day you could always do the 2017 Fratelli Alessandia Barolo di Verduno ‘Monvigliero’ which is just about as perfect a Barolo as there is and comes from the de facto Grand Cru vineyard in that area.
CHICKEN – Super versatile dish…you could do lots of things. For red I would probably do the Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and for white I’m a sucker for a lean and mean Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, so I would recommend one of the truly great white wines of the world – 2018 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc.
We love to support local businesses. Would you please share your favorite local places to:
- Get dinner as a family: I recently ate at Rosina’s in Byram and wow was it awesome. Perfect for the kiddos but equally as great for a low key date night.
- Go out for date night: Well, The Townhouse is walking distance from Horseneck, and Chef Stephen is a total pro, so we definitely go there. And since I live in Westport I’m really excited for Chef Brian Lewis to open The Cottage on the Avenue soon!
- Have fun as a family: We’ve been hiking the Mianus River Gorge Preserve a lot. There’s an old feldspar and quartz mine at the end of one of the trail spurs so the ground and all the rocks sparkle. The kids think it’s a magical forest!
- Workout: I have to shout out my trainer Andy Berman. Great guy, great trainer, and does a ton for the community (Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Catch a Lift, Norma Pfriem Breast Center, My Team Triumph to name a few). He makes house calls and does virtual workouts too, so if anyone is looking for a trainer, I highly recommend him.
- Grab coffee: You’ll see me every day at Granola Bar or CFCF getting my afternoon Joe!
To reach Greg and Horseneck Wine & Spirits, call 203-869-8944 or [email protected]. Order by 3 pm for free local same day delivery.