Making her way from the Big Easy to Long Island Wine Country wasn’t always the plan for Bridget Micieli-Martinez, but it’s the place where the New Orleans native has cultivated a love and appreciation of wine and laid down her roots.
Now nearly 15 years into her career in the local wine industry, she was recently named the new general manager at Clovis Point Vineyard and Winery in Jamesport. She began the role in September and said she’s looking forward to helping shape the winery’s trajectory and future.
“It’s a serious title. It’s about being able to be a participating voice in the track of a business that excites me,” she said. “What I’d like to bring to the table is a focus on hospitality. As a native New Orleanian, it’s in our blood.”
Micieli-Martinez first got to know wine while waiting tables during her days at the University of New Orleans. After college she moved to Long Island to pursue a career in New York City, but instead found her way to the wineries of the North Fork. During a day of wine tasting in 2001, she inquired about a help wanted sign she spotted at Pellegrini Vineyards and soon found herself pouring flights on the other side of the bar.
“I quit my salaried position (in an unrelated field) to work in the tasting room,” she said. “They were very accommodating and they really cultivated an interest in wine.”
She distinctly recalled a regional cabernet franc tasting with Pellegrini’s then-winemaker Russell Hearn and other industry players as an incident that sparked her wine appreciation.
“I don’t think I made a peep,” she said. “I was so intrigued by the flavors they were picking up. Raisin and cola. That’s when I realized, ‘wow, this is really cool.’ ”
Since that year, she has seen the region grow from a handful of wineries to 50 producers, many of whom regularly receive accolades in respected wine publications.
“When I first started, there were 16 wineries,” she said. “I remember getting on the LIRR with six packs of wine to go to any tasting we could get.”
Micieli-Martinez went on to work for Martha Clara Vineyards, first as an administrative assistant, then in the public relations department and later as events coordinator. She took a position at Palmer Vineyards in 2006, where she served as tasting room manager and events coordinator and later business administrator until this year.
One of the smaller producers on the North Fork, Clovis Point does not allow buses, limos and requires reservations for groups over six. A large percentage of the 3,000 cases or so produced every year gets gobbled up by its 830 wine club members.
Trying to figure how to best serve its audience while staying focused on quality can be difficult for a winery, but the owners felt she was ripe for the challenge.
“She presented herself very well in the interview. Her background was perfect for what we need,” said Nasrallah Misk, who along with several family members and partner Richard Frey, owns the winery. “And it seems we made the right choice.”
Dedicated to learning more about wine, Micieli-Martinez is a candidate for Certified Sommelier designation with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She also earned a level 3 advanced certificate with merit from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust last spring. The London-based organization is generally considered one of the premiere wine education programs in the world.
“There are so many moving parts to this industry,” Micieli-Martinez said. “You always have to adapt and I find that very cool and exciting.”
Micieli-Martinez lives in Riverhead with her husband, Juan, who is winemaker and general manager at Martha Clara Vineyards, and their son, Benicio.