The SOMM Journal

October/November 2014

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Page 118 of 120

118 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2014 WHATEVER YOU DO, JUST DON'T ASK LAURA MANIEC if she is or once was the youngest female to have earned the prestigious Master Sommelier designation. "That was true, but it's something that was rooted like ten years ago, and I feel like it needs to stop being talked about . . . it's not what I want to be known as," she said, adding, "it's not the case anymore, anyway." Instead, this 30-something wine expert—one of only of 20-something women in the world with the status that shall not be named—wants to be known as an entrepreneur. And with her second Manhattan wine bar just a few months old, she's on her way. "I'm very proud that I'm very much involved in the restaurants," she said. "I'd rather say I'm an owner/operator and a Master Sommelier working the floor seven nights a week." The business bug bit this native New Yorker early in her life. As a child she said she played restaurant owner or shopkeeper. "I probably always knew I wanted to be an entre - preneur. I had a newspaper route but I hired three people to run it and I would manage them; I even got my dad to help out and be the GM." She envisioned the early Corkbuzz as an online "Daily Candy" for the wine business—a side project to her job as Corporate Wine Director for B. R. Guest, in charge of 20 restau- rants across the country. She registered the name as an LLC, but put the project on the back burner. But fast forward five years later when she was looking to hang her own shingle, she resurrected the Corkbuzz name and decided it perfectly represented her vision: a place where wine could be taught, tasted and talked about. "My model was like a yoga studio where people could come and flow through the space when they want, at the times that work for them and could drop in for a class," she said. Corkbuzz No. 1 opened in Union Square in 2011, quickly becoming the city's go-to spot for discovering new wines. Corkbuzz No. 2 opened in August in the Chelsea Market food hall, near the Meatpacking District, in a narrow space that's part wine bar and part meeting place. In her new space, Maniec features 35 wines by the glass and more than 100 by the bottle, many of which will be familiar to guests. "I like 80% classic wines from classic regions—great expressions of whatever's on the label," she said. "And as an accent, I like 20% the new, interesting and undiscovered." But she's quick to add, "I'm not like some of my peers [who have] wine lists with stuff that nobody knows—that's not me. I'm an advocate for the guest." At the new wine bar, she enlisted the help of 37 of her fellow sommeliers from around the country who helped curate a list. "I don't think anybody can do anything alone in this city. And now more so than ever, the wine community a really amazing place with a lot of people sharing ideas and not coveting everything. So my idea was that this is a collabora - tion that's inspiring and fun . . . why should a wine list be edited by one voice?" Maniec, doesn't plan to stop the buzz at just two. She'll open a location in Charlotte, N.C. in January 2015, with a retail store in addition to the original offerings. Her eye is on San Diego, maybe Aspen or Napa. "We have big thoughts," she said. Maniec Energy by Lana Bortolot / photo by Doug Young Family way: "We have a hospitality gene, inspired by my grandma's 'Sunday Suppers' every week for family and neighbors." Sideways: Enroute to culinary school, she took an 18-week sommelier course, and never looked back. "I fell in love with this idea that wine combined all my passions like travel, culture, language and photography." Way to go: When not playing with Rumi, her mini Australian Shepherd, in her neighborhood park in Brooklyn, she practices yoga and runs. Wandering ways: "My favorite city I've visited to this day is Istanbul, but I can't wait to go back to Greece. And I desperately want to go to Israel. But my happy place is Lucali's Pizza in Brooklyn; it's where I go for inspiration." Wine ways: "Chablis always. And I'm super-obsessed with this Grenache from Australia called Ess & See. I love sun-kissed fruit of the south." closing time THE SIDE BAR LAURA MANIEC, OWNER OF NYC'S CORKBUZZ, IS "AN ADVOCATE FOR THE GUEST"

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