Paul Grieco | Sommelier and Restaurateur, Terroir

Paul Grieco
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With the opening of Terroir in New York’s East Village in 2008, Paul Grieco transformed himself into the first sommelier punk, ditching conventional uniforms in favor of items like seersucker suits, cargo shorts and a well-worn Canada Dry delivery jacket.

It was a notable departure from his buttoned-up role at Gramercy Tavern, and it was an ethos that extended to the wine list. “On any given night you could find red Bordeaux and German riesling next to Lebanon’s Chateau Musar, or Spanish reds from Bierzo or Australian sémillon,” writes Jon Bonné of the list, which was displayed in a three-ring binder and styled to include rough typefaces, pop-culture references and essays. (On Austria’s Heiligenstein vineyard: “Vineyard workers still attempt to tame this outcropping of Middle Earth, accompanied by geologists looking for a rationale and prostitutes looking for Eliot Spitzer.”) In its seven-year run (the original Terroir closed in 2015), Terroir, with Grieco at the helm, ushered in a new era in wine service—and, more broadly, a revolution in wine culture.

So what does Grieco do when he’s not working, or drinking riesling? Here, the sommelier tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share his favorite bar, his go-to drink in a dive and his preferred hangover recovery regime.

Current occupation:
Restaurateur.

What do want to be when you grow up?
Evel Knievel.

Best thing you ever drank:
Mother’s milk…from my mother.

Worst thing you ever drank:
Mother’s milk…from “another” mother.

First time you ever got drunk:
Second year at University of Toronto on Fuzzy Navels…enough said.

If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Brian Eno, Music for Airports.

What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
Drinking riesling.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
“I drink and I know things.”

Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Pousse Café.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Taking a shower.

Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Napa Valley cabernet.

Your favorite bar, and why:
Any bar that serves vermouth on the rocks with a twist of orange.

Best meal you’ve ever had:
My mother’s shepherd’s pie.

What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Vermouth on the rocks with a twist of orange.

Favorite wine bar?
Terroir East Village.

Favorite dive bar?
Nuts & Bolts.

Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Listening to Einstürzende Neubauten at 11.

The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Chardonnay.

The last text message you sent:
“God, why have you forsaken me”