It could be argued that tasting room employees are the unsung heroes of any winery.
Wine pourers, whose job is unglamorous in many respects, are tasked with, among other things, the challenge of learning what’s behind the wines they serve, keeping visitors informed and entertained.
Today, we meet 31-year-old Derek Gerard, tasting room manager at Laurel Lake Vineyards in Laurel. Mr. Gerard, who was raised in Mattituck and now lives in Mount Sinai, began working weekend shifts at Laurel Lake in 2009. For a time, he also worked in the tasting room at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck.
Q: What was your introduction to the wine industry?
A: My friend Robin Sidor was the tasting room manager at Laurel Lake in 2009 so I spent a good amount of time there. I worked there part time and learned what I could.
Q: Tasting room employees need to know a decent amount about the wines they serve. How did your wine education begin?
A: At first I knew absolutely nothing about wine. I knew I liked some reds and that was about it. Just from being able to talk to the winemaker here and [Kelly Urbanik Koch] at Macari, I learned a good amount. I also learned how to taste wine and did research online and with books.
Q: What is your favorite wine at the vineyard, and why?
A: Our 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay. I’m primarily a red wine drinker but it’s one of the smoothest oak chardonnays I’ve ever had. It has a nice vanilla flavor and it’s not too full-bodied. It’s medium-bodied.
Q: How do you keep customers happy when there’s a bar full of people waiting to be served?
A: There are times when there are 30 people at the bar and people are really impatient. I get it — you want your wine. People sometimes don’t seem to understand that there are other people in front of them.
Q: What do you like most about the job?
A: I enjoy the social interaction. That’s a big part of it. The interesting people you meet, being able to teach people even a little bit about wine — that’s nice. It comes fairly easily to me.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of being a wine pourer?
A: There are certain situations where people come in who think they know everything about wine. That can be challenging, when people come in here with preconceived notions.
Q: If you could tell prospective winery visitors one thing, what would it be?
A: Keep an open mind and have fun. A lot of people walk in and are like, “Is it OK if I taste that? Is it OK if I have this?” You shouldn’t get drunk and jump up on the tables but you should relax and enjoy yourself. If you taste coconut in a wine, that’s weird, but hey, it’s subjective.
Stop in and say hello to Derek at: