If Anthony Mattis seems particularly laid-back when he pours you a glass of pinot blanc at Lieb Cellars this summer, it’s because he recently took up Brazilian jiujitsu.
“One of the main things they talk about in jiujitsu is this whole idea of losing your sense of pride,” the 26-year-old said in an interview at the winery’s Cutchogue tasting room, where he is brand ambassador.
“I’ve become very good at just letting stuff glide off my shoulders.”
A Hicksville native who now lives in Riverhead, Mattis graduated from SUNY/Binghamton in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. That same year, he began working at Lieb Cellars.
“I couldn’t get a job in my field, so I came here and talked to the manager at the time,” Mattis said. “He kind of hired me on the spot and I worked part-time in the tasting room.”
Around a year ago, Mattis was promoted to team captain, or assistant manager, at the Oregon Road winery. He recently became a certified wine professional through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.
It’s a career trajectory Mattis couldn’t have predicted just five years ago.
“I studied abroad in Italy in college and didn’t even drink wine,” he said. “I kick myself for it every day.”
One day, Mattis might very well have the chance to rectify that self-described lapse in judgment.
“I have no idea where I want to settle down,” he said. “I’m open to travel. The great thing about the wine industry is it’s all over the world.”
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: There’s kind of a laundry list. I enjoy the people I work with, absolutely. That’s number one here. But I also enjoy the atmosphere and the view. When I’m closing and everyone’s gone, I’ll just sit outside by myself and appreciate the fact that I’m out here and get to work in this environment.
Q: On the flip side, what is the most challenging aspect?
A: Constantly keeping up the friendly energy. It’s not to say I normally don’t feel that way — I normally am genuinely very enthusiastic. But maybe like everyone, some days I’m not so much. That can be tough.
Q: What is your favorite varietal?
A: I don’t have one. After being in the industry for so long and developing an appreciation for wine, it would be like picking one of your children. It depends on how I’m feeling, what I’m eating, what the weather is like.
Q: Besides Long Island, what wine region do you especially like?
A: Tuscany, the home of Chianti. It’s perfect with Italian food. I think that’s the bottle you bring to friends. Everyone knows the name, so they can at least feel more connected to the wine.
Q: Tell me about your most memorable on-the-job experience.
A: It wasn’t even in the tasting room — it was one of the first New York City events I worked and it was for a magazine. We paired a few [Lieb] wines with a few courses by this wonderful chef. I was still a little new and I spoke in front of almost 100 people about how we chose which wines to pair. I love public speaking, so it was right up my alley.
Q: How about the most embarrassing?
A: When I had only been working at Lieb for a few weeks, I was opening a bottle of sparkling wine and the cork shot off and landed on the ceiling. Everyone was OK, but it was the most cringe-worthy moment. It’s never happened since.
Q: What is your go-to Lieb Cellars wine?
A: All the wines are excellent, but if I had to choose, I’m a sucker for traditional-method sparkling wines. I feel like you can drink them any time of the day and not feel guilty. The 2013 Reserve Sparkling Rosé is one of my favorites right now. Also, we’ve gotten many compliments on our brand-new 2014 Reserve Cabernet Franc. I also always have to shout out the 2014 Reserve Pinot Blanc. It’s one of our signature grapes.
Q: Who do you admire in the local wine industry?
A: I really admire our winemaker, Russell Hearn. He’s been in the industry a really long time. What I admire most about him is, first and foremost, he’s an amazing winemaker. Besides that, he’s also an excellent businessman. He partially owns and operates Premium Wine Group [in Mattituck, which also owns Lieb Cellars]. He’s found a way to make really great wine while also overseeing this large winery operation.
Q: After nearly three years at Lieb Cellars, what have you learned about yourself?
A: I think I work very well under pressure. It took a few years, but I like when it’s super busy on Saturday. I fit right in there and I love it.