If you’re Tiffany Robibero Selby, then a soon-to-graduate child psychology major at Fordham University, you abandon the professional career path you had been working towards for the last four years and jump head-first into starting your own family winery.
With a few years of a Masters program ahead of her and an uncertain job market, a difficult decision to start a new family business was made just a little easier. That was back in 2007 and marked the beginning of Robibero Family Vineyards located in New Paltz, NY.
Tiffany, co-owner of Robibero, now manages many aspects of winery operations including marketing, financials, event planning and merchandising. She believes Robibero Winery will continue to grow while remaining focused on making quality wines through sustainable vineyard practices. Robibero Selby also hopes to use her talents to grow the entire Hudson Valley wine region and New York wine in general.
What was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking — and where did you have it and who were you with?
Growing up wine was always a big part of our family celebrations. I’m sure I had sips here and there, but the first bottle of wine I remember drinking was Beringer White Zinfandel. Clearly this is not something I am proud of — I even laugh every time I think about it.
It was the summer right after I graduated from high school and my friends and I were celebrating before we went off to college. Everyone was drinking beer and I was not, and to this day I am not a beer drinker. It takes a lot for me to finish a bottle of beer. I remember raiding my friend’s refrigerator for something I could drink and came across that pink bottle and thought to myself that it would probably be good. That is all I remember…..finishing that bottle all by myself.
When did you know that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
The year I graduated high school my dad purchased a 42-acre property in New Paltz that had a winery on the premise as a tenant. We would visit every once in a while and although I couldn’t drink, I became interested in the winemaking process. As a family we would always talk of opening up our own winery one day, and ironically the year I graduated college, the current tenant gave notice they were relocating. We had a choice — find another winery to rent the building, which would have been very hard, or start our own winery.
My parents both have their own day jobs so my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and start learning everything we could about running a winery, growing grapes and making wine. I spent the next two years visiting wineries and reading vineyard and winery management magazines. It was by far the scariest yet most exciting decision of my life and I’m truly grateful I was offered this opportunity.
What do you wish were different about the New York wine community and industry?
I think in the last five years the New York wine industry has seen tremendous growth. More and more consumers are becoming aware of the amazing wines New York is making, and more restaurants and wine shops are carrying New York wines. The farm-to-table movement has definitely helped boost the popularity of New York wines and I believe it has only just begun. The one thing I wish was different is the lack of attention the Hudson Valley Region receives. It is often the forgotten region and we do have some hidden gems that are making quality wines.
When you’re not drinking your own wines, what are you drinking?
I am a big supporter of all the wine regions in New York. To this day I take trips to visit the other wineries and expand my palate on the diversity New York offers. I have a huge collection of New York wines and love drinking them and comparing them to my own wines.
If I’m not drinking New York, you will see a see me with a flute of sparkling or a California Zin in my glass….and no not the White Zin haha.
If you could only pick one grape/wine/producer to live out your days with on a deserted island, what would it be?
This is a tough question. If I had to pick one producer it would be Saarloos and Sons from Los Olivos, California. I love how they give every wine a different name each year because they believe no vintage will ever be the same. They are a true family-run operation and I can relate to them a lot. Their wines are not distributed, they are sold exclusively in their tasting room and online.