For the wine pro and restaurateur, luxury is about living, not existing.
By Marc Graser Photos by Sam Gold In collaboration with Bentley Motors.
In partnership with Bentley Motors, meet five inspirational women — interior designer Breegan Jane, Olympic surfer Carissa Moore, wine expert Vanessa Price, Shaka Tea founder Isabella Hughes and business incubator Meli James — all passionate thought leaders in their communities who define success and what modern luxury means today through their inherent curiosity and appreciation for detail.
Vanessa Price remembers the moment she wanted to work in the wine industry. It involved an already opened bottle of Cristal, from 1980, notoriously one of the worst vintages for the Champagne industry. The magnum had been stored at room temperature overnight in an office, not a cellar. The fizz was gone, but that didn’t matter. The result of what was poured into a glass was mesmerizing.
“It was like tasting electricity, and story, and life,” Price recalls. “It was a taste, and a texture, and a feel that I didn’t even know something that I could consume could have. That was the first time that I thought, if something is made right and the attention to detail is there from start to finish, then that creation just stays magical, no matter what happens. That’s when I said I want to dedicate my life to this industry.”
In the world of wine, “I’ve worn every hat,” says Price, who has worked as a sommelier, a sales rep, importer, marketer and events producer.
She creates wine art and educational programs through her Vinum Collective, has had a wine column in New York Magazine, written wine lists for high end restaurants in New York, teaches a popular wine class at Columbia University, and regularly shares her love for grapes on NBC’s TODAY show. Her book “Big Macs & Burgundy” takes the fear out of pairing food with wine.
Price’s goal is to make wine more accessible by having fun with it, never denigrating the artistry of the craft but satisfying the curiosity of an increasing number of wine drinkers in the United States.
It’s not scary to me to not understand something. All day long, I ask why and how, when and where, because I want to understand.”
DRIVEN BY CURIOUSITY
Like many successful entrepreneurs, Price is driven by curiosity.
“It’s not scary to me to not understand something,” she says. “All day long, I ask why and how, when and where, because I want to understand.”
And there’s plenty to learn about wine. Price describes the industry as an intersection of science, history, culture and farming. “It’s this weird, bizarre combination of all of these different areas that I find endlessly fascinating,” she says.
As a sommelier and educator, Price loves to share what she’s learned with others. “I deal with a lot of curious humans, but that’s because they’ve come to me, to this industry, because they want to know more,” she says.
Price is learning something new with perhaps her most ambitious endeavor, a new restaurant in Montauk called Mavericks, housed inside a 100-year-old former hotel and restaurant.
A collaboration with chef Jeremy Blutstein, Mavericks is as bold as Price’s personality: The building, beautifully situated on the water to take in the sunset, features clean modern lines and is painted jet black, which stands out from the Hamptons’ more vintage white wood-clad buildings that give the town at the tip of Long Island its coastal charm.
Price hadn’t necessarily been interested in opening a restaurant, but Mavericks is an opportunity to accomplish something new in Montauk: create a welcoming space where each detail, from the hand-stained floors to the mill work on the bar and the carefully selected glassware to accompany specific wines served to guests, has been meticulously planned.
“It’s bringing a new culinary experience to a community that I know would appreciate it if it existed,” Price says. “We have a captive audience. Out here, your choices are limited, so choosing intentionally to raise the bar was exciting to me. We’re trying to be a place that you come and your eyes light up a little bit.”
People remember the details of their favorite meals. “It would be so amazing if we could be that place for people,” Price says.
I deal with a lot of curious humans, but that’s because they’ve come to me, to this industry, because they want to know more.”
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Price’s career in wine started out at a small winery in Kentucky, where she was born and raised.
“I knew nothing about wine and had zero interest in it,” she says, “but there was something about being exposed to the culture of it and to the way people behaved around it” that she found fascinating. “People would come in and they would just sit differently. They were excited to have an experience, even if these weren’t particularly good wines.”
It would later be wine that brought Price to Montauk in 2018 — namely a rosé, which has become the unofficial water of the Hamptons — while working for Maisons Marques & Domaines USA, a sales and marketing arm of Champagne Louis Roederer.
Naturally, it’s hard not to ask Price what her favorite wine is. “It’s definitely the question I get asked the most without fail,” she says. And the answer is always burgundy (hence why it’s in the title of her book). But the question can also be a hard one to answer, because “it depends on the season, the food, the company, the time of day. Is it just me on a Tuesday night and I’m just having a glass of wine while I work or some big thing?”
That’s the joy of wine, Price adds. “I find wine is very much about a mood.”
For Price, wine is a luxury that should be approachable but also effortless.
“It sort of translates to anything,” she says. “It’s things that make life easier and more beautiful.”
Having an amazing glass of wine “is what living is, as opposed to existing,” Price says, noting that Cristal and other iconic wines are priced the way they are for a reason: their production is infinitesimal, and the amount of effort put into creating them every year with a very detail-oriented philosophy is astronomical.
Story is also important to Price when savoring a wine’s complexity, brightness, acidity and structure. “When I taste a wine for the first time, I want it to tell me that story of where it came from, the story of the craftsmanship that the winemaker put into it.”
When I taste a wine for the first time, I want it to tell me that story of where it came from, the story of the craftsmanship that the winemaker put into it.”
Price is always happy to offer up some free advice. For instance, unless you have a proper way to store wine, never tuck a good bottle away; enjoy it.
“Putting it in your food refrigerator is bad, bad, bad,” she says. “Wine needs a very humid environment so it doesn’t dry out the cork. Your refrigerator is a very dry environment designed to keep your vegetables crisp.
“Tucking it under bed, putting it in your closet, sticking it in a cabinet in your kitchen — these are all places where wine is not going to do well. It has to be cared for and treated properly in order to be able to age. You’re better off just opening it and having a nice time.”
Also, don’t be afraid to ask a sommelier for advice. “They’re literally there to help you,” Price says. “Nobody knows better than the person who wrote the wine list, so it’s always helpful to talk to the somm if you can. Sometimes we don’t do ourselves a service, but I think most genuinely want to help someone find that great experience.”
For this interview we met up with Vanessa Price in Montauk in a convertible Bentley Continental GTC Speed V12, in Neptune blue. It’s a bold, yet elegantly effortless vehicle to drive and perfectly pairs with Price’s personality.