Ami Opisso, General Manager, Lieb Cellars
Ami Opisso, General Manager, Lieb Cellars

The New York Cork Report is back on the North Fork of Long Island for this edition of our “5 Questions With…” series. We recently had a virtual sit down with Ami Opisso, North Fork native and General Manager of Lieb Cellars.

Opisso, a former city dweller living a fast paced life in New York City and Chicago working in advertising and marketing, made the brave jump into wine leaving her six figure salary behind for a small hourly tasting room job, something many of our readers (myself included) likely daydream about but are unwilling to risk themselves.

Ami spent the next three years as the tasting room and wine club manager at Sherwood House Vineyards and worked to achieve her Sommelier Certification from the Sommelier Society of America. For the past year, Opisso has been the Director of Production and is now the General Manager at Lieb Cellars leading such projects as a massive rebranding, re-launching the winery’s Bridge Lane line and opening Lieb’s third tasting room in East Hampton.

What was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking — and where did you have it and who were you with?
I’d like to say it was something fancy or interesting while studying and traveling abroad in Europe, BUT…it was Luna di Luna Pinot Grigio, in the electric blue bottle. $7.99 retail I believe. I was a teenager and stole it from my parents. Speaking of, I really should call them out on their questionable taste in wine in the 90s. They drink decent wine now. Not sure why they were so misguided back then.

When did you know that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
When I was eight years into my exhausting advertising career in NYC and Chicago I came home to the North Fork for a wine-tasting day with my sister. We tasted at Shinn, Sherwood House and One Woman, and then capped the day off with dinner at North Fork Table. Prior to that weekend, despite being from the North Fork, I really never gave North Fork wines or restaurants a chance (since expensed client dinners meant that I was typically drinking Burgundies and Barolos).  That day changed everything.  The quality of the wine, the character of the tasting rooms, the passion of the owners and staff, the rows and rows of stunningly green vines, the gourmet cheeses, Claudia’s chocolate and caramel tart!

A few weeks later, I gave up my advertising career and six figure salary, moved back to the North Fork, took a $10/hour pouring job and never looked back.

What do you wish were different about the New York wine community and industry?
Hmm, the many ways I could answer this. First, I’d like wine trucks (like a food truck that serves wine) to be legal in New York so that we can carry out our brilliant marketing idea (don’t steal it!) of road-tripping all over the state and having skeptics try our wine. To build Lieb’s keg program, a format that we strongly believe in, I’d like retail beer/beverage distributors to be able to sell kegs of wine right next to their kegs of beer.

More generally, I’d wish for vineyard operating expenses to be cheaper on Long Island so that profitability and growth were more easily attainable. As a marketer, I wish the New York wine industry had a more singular and captivating brand message.

When you’re not drinking your own wines, what are you drinking?
Right now, any local dry rosé I can get my hands on. Favorites include Macari and Channing Daughter’s Rosé of Cab Franc. I don’t like simple, fruity rosé. I like a rosé with some body, dimension and kick. I know I’m not supposed to name my own, but our Bridge Lane rosé is second to none in my book.  Strawberry, rhubarb, hints of minerals and fresh green herbs – I’m obsessed. Or, if not rosé, than anything from the Loire.

If you could only pick one grape/wine/producer to live out your days with on a deserted island, what would it be?
Easy. Veueve Clicquot’s vintage brut rosé. Can you tell I like rosé? We haven’t announced it yet, but Lieb will be introducing a traditional method rosé sparkling wine in 2015 that Russell has been working on and we’re really excited about. So next year, I’d probably answer this question differently.