One could say Brewster McCall, of McCall Wines in Cutchhogue, was born into the food and wine industry. His father, Russell McCall founded a small cheese shop in Atlanta in the 1960’s that he grew into a successful gourmet food distribution and importation business as well as a sister import and distribution company for wine. Growing up in Atlanta, Brewster would often go to work with his father to help out, establishing a work ethic that quickly evolved into a number of summer jobs in restaurants and catering.
Always encouraged to follow his heart, McCall attended Skidmore college in upstate New York where he studied his other passion, theater, along with a second focus, biology. Brewster’s love for acting has taken him to the National Theater Institute in Connecticut and as far away as Moscow and Berlin to hone his craft.
Upon graduating,McCall headed straight for New York City where he knew he could best pursue his love of food and wine as well as stage and screen.
Soon after his arrival in New York, McCall added some formality to his previous industry experience by taking sommelier, bartending and mixology classes. This led Brewster into joining Paul Grieco’s opening team of Hearth restaurant where he stayed for five years followed by another five years at the Craft Restaurant Group.
It was then in 2007 when McCall Wine made its first vintage. This, combined with the growth of Gourmet Foods International, pulled Brewster into the family businesses. McCall’s connections in the New York restaurant scene helped McCall Wines get into the door at places such as Gramercy Tavern, but it was the standout quality of their first wines that got them on the wine lists.
Brewster is now responsible for Sales & Distribution of McCall Wines in New York City as well as their website, social media and PR. He makes the pilgrimage back to the North Fork most weekends to help in the tasting room and coordinate wine club events. In addition, McCall is the Northeast sales rep for Gourmet Foods International covering much of New England and continues to pursue acting opportunities when he can (see him soon in the indy horror film Tales of Poe).
McCall sees his involvement with both companies continuing to develop and similarly believes that McCall wines will grow slowly and sustainably while retaining their focus on quality. Last years New York Wine & Grape Foundation’s 2013 NY Winery of the Year recognition is a nod they are on the right road.
Below, Brewster answers our 5 Questions…
What was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking — and where did you have it and who were you with?
I was always sipping from my parents glasses. Dad founded a wine and spirits distribution company in Atlanta where I grew up with my brother and sister. We always had a bottle of wine on the table — either Burgundy or more likely Bordeaux — mom’s favorite.
When did you know that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
I grew up on the distribution side of the wine industry in Georgia. As soon as I was old enough I was working in restaurants as a server or bartender, both for my love of food and wine and for the flexible schedule while I pursued an acting career. Once I finished college in 2003 I moved to New York City and got myself certified as a bartender, mixologist, and sommelier.
Dad purchased the farm next to our historic family summer home on the North Fork in the mid-90s to block a developer from destroying the neighborhood. He sold the development rights back to the state and planted 21 acres of grapes. While we didn’t make wine for the first 10 years, it was always off on the horizon. As I was ready to move out of the restaurant industry, we started up McCall Wines. I think I’m lucky to have worked in three sides of this industry. It’s funny, working in a small family winery I’m in all three positions — service, sales, and production.
What do you wish were different about the New York wine community and industry?
Honestly I think we are in a very good place. We’re finally seeing the stigma fade around both New York wines and merlot as a varietal, we have room to grow in both production and quality, a metropolis nearby with a growing farm to table movement, and more great wines being produced every year. If I could change anything it would be the weather.
When you’re not drinking your own wines, what are you drinking?
For whites I love Loire, Austria and Alto Adige. Reds are all over the place for me… I love anything unusual but also the classic beauties… Willamette Pinots, French Malbec, and vintage Bordeaux whenever possible. Outside of wine I can get into craft beers (Long Island has some great ones) and the occasional Sidecar or Manhattan.
If you could only pick one grape/wine/producer to live out your days with on a deserted island, what would it be?
Grape? Romoranitin. Grown almost solely in the town of Cour Cheverny in France’s Loire Valley. It’s so beautifully complex it could never grow old.
Wine? It’s a toss up between Nicolas Joly’s 2003 Coulee de Serrant and a 1964 La Mission Haut Brion. They ride the line between being highly cerebral and insanely delicious, and each have a degree of sentimentality.
Naming one producer is the toughest of the three… I’d have to be purely logical and choose a quality producer with a wide variety of wines… But then again pure logic isn’t that exciting. I’ll pass.