David Lecomte, Chief Wine Maker
As far as David is concerned, winemaking is an endless learning process, not a science. As testimony to this philosophy, David has devoted the past 16 years to learning all he can from the finest in the industry, working at some of the best-known wineries in the world. He continues this process - and shares his knowledge - at City Winery, Manhattan's first fully operational winery, as its Head Winemaker.
A native of the Rhone Valley, David most likely has grape vines entwined into his genetic code. Armed with a Degree in Viticulture and Winemaking from the University of Davaye in South Burgundy, plus a Master Degree of Enology and Winemaking from University of Montpellier, David began his wine career at M. Chapoutier Estate as a vineyard worker at the age of 22. He has since worked at other wineries in France (Delas & Fils, Cave de Tain L'Hermitage and Colombo), China (Beijing Dragon Seal), and three wine regions in the United States (Virginia - at Afton Mountain Vineyard; Long Island, NY - at Premium Wine Group, and most recently in California - at Herzog Wine Cellars). In his role as Head Winemaker at City Winery, David takes on the unusual task of creating wine in the middle of Manhattan. Equipped with a deep appreciation for the importance of soil, climate, grape selection and vineyard practices, he is particularly dexterous in the art of identifying where the best of each grape variety is grown and gathering the fruit from the finest vineyards. As David states: "There are no perfect winemaking recipes because each combination of variety, soil, climate, vineyard management and cellar equipment is unique." With this in mind, David has the challenge of guiding amateur enologists - City Winery's 200 barrel owners - as they create their own wine in SoHo. To ensure they have the optimal experience, David sees to it that the grapes are not only the best, but they are transported from the respective vineyards in optimal condition; not just de-stemmed, but hand-sorted, and carefully monitored in each respective fermentation tank. While many winemakers work autonomously with only their own creative vision in mind, David is responsible for the wine what each barrel owner wants to create. By understanding their tastes and preferences, he not only makes the grape-buying decisions, but also advises on the exact blend, the barrel type and the duration of aging. Through his guidance, barrel owners realize their dream to create their own wine. And with approximately 250 bottles to consume at the end of the process, they will be grateful their guide has devoted his life to learning all he can about winemaking.
Ben Riccardi, Assistant Wine Maker
Ben comes to City Winery originally from Ithaca, New York and the Finger Lakes wine region. He’s been making wine since 2008 after graduation from Cornell University’s viticulture and enology program.
Ben’s first winery experience was in Long Island with Bedell Cellars. Later moving home upstate, he worked in the Finger Lakes with names that include Lakewood Vineyards and Red Newt Wine Cellars. Internationally, Ben has been across the globe each winter for the last four years. That’s an experience that brought him to Chile in 2009 with Gillmore Winery, Margaret River in West Australia for 2010, and twice in 2011 and 2012 to New Zealand with the esteemed Pinot Noir houses of Craggy Range, in Hawke’s Bay, and Muddy Water, in the limestone rich hills of the Waipara valley. Between harvests in New Zealand, he had one of his favorite winery experiences in the south of France, working high in the Cevennes mountain range with a vigneron and his family at Domaine Blancardy. Putting his focus especially on Pinot Noir throughout New Zealand and France, Ben took an opportunity at Williams-Selyem in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. There Ben worked with California’s premier Pinot vineyards including City Winery’s source- the Bacigalupi vineyard. Now home again in New York, Ben is excited for the future at City Winery where he hopes to show the culmination of his world experience in the world’s city.
Yanky Drew, Kosher Assistant Winemaker
Yanky Drew says his passion for wine goes a long way back, especially since wine is used quite often in Judaism. “As a kid, I always tried to turn table grapes into wine,” he says. “As you can guess, I was not too successful. But when somebody was making wine, I was there to help. My real turning point was at Yarden Winery in the Golan Heights in Israel. I tasted their Gewürztraminer in the tasting room and was instantly hooked with the barrel rooms, vineyards and so on.” - See more at: http://citywineryblog.com/winemaking-team/#sthash.IbdLF6pi.dpuf
Yanky’s passion for wine drove him to be a home winemaker, tweeting and reading tweets about winemaking. And it was through Twitter that he came to know of City Winery. “I met the previous City Winery Mashgiach, Ilan Tokayer, may his memory be blessed, through our shared tweeting. He then told me about the vacancy [at City Winery].” For Yanky, winemaking is all about the love of the process. “What I enjoy the most about the wine world is people who have a real passion for winemaking and produce great wine for all to enjoy,” he says. “I also appreciate when wine tastes like the variety that it is, in other words, true to its variety. What I like the least about the wine world is producing and selling wine just for the business aspect of it — and people who don’t care to make good wine, only to make money.”
Sikou Nikate, Cellar Hand
Cellar Hand Sikou Nikate was born in Mali, Africa and spent half of his life there before moving to France, where many of his family members live. While Sikou doesn’t drink alcohol, including wine, he enjoys the winemaking process and working with wine.