Editor's Note: We wrote this before the quarantining began! You can support Laura and Riverview Wine by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your phone number and they'll call you right back! (PS, they share drink recipes on their Instagram too!)
If you haven't checked out the newest liquor store in JC Heights, it's worth the trip. Walk, drive, ride your scooter, whatever...it's super close to Hoboken too! They carry a great assortment with excellent price points and carry SO MANY local faves plus yummy snacks too! But, more importantly, we should mention that this adorable shop is headed up by a local mama! Be sure to visit Riverview Wine and follow her on Instagram here.
You own a wine store which might mean you are the smartest and coolest human we know. Is this something you always wanted to do and how did you land on this place, this idea, this moment?
I've been in the world of wine for ages now, from restaurant and bar work to events to working for distributors and importers to helping out at wineries during the harvests, but no piece of the wine business ever felt as "right" to me as retail did. I lived in LA for a couple of years where I primarily did retail. I think one of the things that speaks to me about retail is that I am just a facilitator enabling other people to go have their own parties, whereas in a place with on-premise drinking, I felt like I was also supposed to be part of the entertainment. So, when I moved to New Jersey five years ago, my goal was to finally get my own shop. Finding a liquor license and finding funding for liquor licenses in NJ where licenses are population controlled, is a nightmare of a crap-shoot as you can imagine, but I never stopped trying and, luckily, all the stars finally aligned.
What is the best business advice you ever received? How about the worst?
Well, I didn't move to America until I was 27, so I have the benefit of seeing business from both an Italian and American point of view. Juggling them both together is where I generally find the signs that guide me, and often it isn't one manner of doing business that is more right or wrong than the other -- it is the fact that the poison is in the dosage. Maybe that's a long-winded way of saying that in the back of my head, I am always asking myself if what I am doing is beneficial or detrimental to the long term quality of my life.
We all know that the most expensive wine is not always the best wine. BUT what is the most exclusive, expensive, “am I really drinking this” kind of wine that you’ve tasted….and how was it?
Though my heart is in retail, the best ways to get to taste those "unicorn" wines are by working as a sommelier on the floor of a restaurant or by a long drunken meal at a winery when the winemaker is bound to go into his cellar. I've been lucky enough to have so many magical moments in my life like those. If I was to pinpoint one though, it might be when my partner bought me a bottle of Emidio Pepe Montepulciano from my birth year of 1980. We opened it and it was amazing. Decanted it, even more amazing. Went to the store to buy cheese and bread and came back an hour later, even more amazing. Put some veggies in the oven while we watched a movie and kept revisiting it. I swear, it took us 5 hours to finish that one bottle and every 30 minutes it tasted like we were drinking a different wine. Added bonus: Emidio Pepe winery is about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Italy and my partner and I have worked harvests there before.
Inquiring minds want to know, what is your favorite red wine? Your favorite white? Your favorite cocktail?
I don't drink a lot of cocktails I must say, but I do have a type. One of the Italian things I carry with me regarding food and drink is that I prefer limited ingredients done well rather than a circus of flavors that can cancel each other out. The pizza margherita for example is a work of divine art and there are barely any ingredients in it. So I like my cocktails like that: negroni, aviation, spritz, or just a couple ounces of a perfect mescal in a glass without ice even.
Red wine-wise what I'm drinking now: This might surprise you, but there is a winery in Maryland that I can't get enough of called Old Westminster. They have a pet-nat red called Franc Fizz that I would have no problem recommending to any cynic.
White wine-wise what I'm drinking right now: skin contact unfiltered wines add some heartiness to pair with the winter months.
What is your funniest mom fail story?
Does pre-mom count? My partner and I went on a "babymoon" to Sardegna when I was 5 months pregnant. In the land of obscure wines and non-pasteurized cheeses...I had water and bread. There was one day when we rented a boat and rode it to some tiny islands in the Strait of Bonifacio between Sardegna and Corsica unaware that the brutal wind the Mistral was blowing. The boat saw more airtime than watertime as we crashed into the waves. As we finally made it to one of the most pristine beaches I've seen in my life both my partner and I were white as ghosts hoping to God the baby was still alive inside. It was an epic foreshadowing that the life he and I knew beforehand would never be the same again.
You are not originally from this area, but have settled into Jersey City Heights with your family- including your partner, son and your own business. What is your favorite thing about your community and what do you hope you son gets out of watching you contribute to your community in such a big way?
Well, you used the operative word here: "community". It's a real community and you get the sense living here that the appreciation of everyone's properties takes a distant second seat to the preservation of this place as a community. There have been few if any moments of my life where I have felt so connected to the community, part of what is happening, and proud of what the people around me are up to.
Regarding my son, I hope to instill a sense of roots in him while at the same time giving him the wings to experience the world. That's the other rare opportunity the Heights currently offers: such a strong community yet the world and all the ways to connect with it are right at your fingertips.
When you get a break from being a mama and a boss, where are your favorite local spots to unwind?
Low Fidelity is right down the street from me, so it's comforting to just roll out of the house and get a pizza and a cocktail. Bread & Salt is sort of an addiction, can't go too long without a fix. Corto & Green Pear are great dates spots, particularly if there's a certain bottle I've been dying to make disappear. I’m a fixture at Busy Bee Organics for lunch. And on weekends, I vacillate between The Cliff and The Hutton.
We love your store! The overall look of it, the selection, the knowledge of you and your staff, and the price points. How do you go about selecting what you sell in the store?
A few requirements. Delicious is first and foremost. Transporting me to a place is also extremely important. Highlighting the esoteric while not turning my back on the classics is another consideration. Process on achieving those points is also important though it's often chicken and egg sort of thing: if the process were different it would be much more difficult to succeed in the first few requirements. When I say process, I mean as clean as possible with as few ingredients other than yeast and grape juice as possible. Farmer made, manually harvested, no herbicides or pesticides, low or no filtering and fining, low or no sulphur added, indigenous yeast -- these are all fairly standard criteria for the wines I carry.
A day in the life of Laura…go!
My partner is an early bird so he takes the first shift with the baby. Once those two are ready to go, we all head to Modcup. Yes, I could make coffee at home, but I like getting some fresh air before beginning the day. We usually then drop our son off at daycare and pick him up some time after lunch. The rest of the day is the chaotic act of figuring out which one of us will be responsible for our son while the other works. My partner and I finally get time alone on the couch after the store is closed where we stare at a dot on the wall while having a semi-lobotomized conversation.