Do you dream of owning your own neighborhood wine shop where you know all the customers by name and can pick out the perfect bottle for them because you know their tastes. The picture is completed by your chocolate labrador lounging peacefully behind the front desk. Learn what it really takes to turn that dream into reality with SwirlSavvy's two-part interview with Alyssa Becker, owner of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn wine shop, Donna Da Vine.
SwirlSavvy: What did you do before starting a wine shop?
Alyssa: Believe it or not I was a corporate bond trader on wall street for 4 years and then went to work for Bloomberg's financial technology firm for 8 yrs. I didn't really take the most direct route to opening a shop, but I'm not going to lie, being surrounded by a couple of thousand bottles of wine is a heck of a lot more fun.
SS:What's the philosophy or style of Donna Da Vine?
A: I'm all about small production, unusual wines. Strange grapes...off the beaten path regions....vineyards no ones ever heard of ... wines with production of less than 100 cases..if it's something funky and delicious I'll bring it in. Of course I'll always carry a chilean sauvignon blanc, or a california cab, but my babies are the diamonds in the rough...the dark horses of the wine world that most people don't know about. That's where my heart lies.
SS: How did it get that name?
A: I was looking to name the shop after my mom, donna, since she was the one who inspired me to really go out and do something I loved for a living. And my husband came up with donna da vine because it means woman of the vine in italian...we thought it was fitting.
SS: What kind of wine experience did you have before starting your own shop?
A: I have come to wine in kind of a roundabout way. I took my first wine class for my 21st birthday with a man named Willie Gluckstern ("the wine avenger") and I fell in love...with wine,not Wilile :). From that point on every opportunity I had for a vacation meant me traveling to a wine region to taste(everywhere from tuscany to tasmania). I took classes at the IWC ( certificate and advanced cert classes), took classes at UC davis, moonlighted evenings and weekends at a wine shop on the upper east side and at vineyards in napa and sonoma. I was fortunate enough to befriend some winemakers from the barossa who allowed me to work part of harvest with them, as well as with some fine people out in california. I did this all while working a full time job. When my mom passed away 2002 it was the catalyst for me to leave wall street and make my love my profession.