“Fernando is a quintessential wine professional, and it is rare to find someone as accomplished. He is a leading light in wine expertise in the private golf club industry. GlenArbor Golf Club and its team of professionals have the industry accolades to give authority to this very prestigious and worthy award. It is a tremendous honor for the recipient and speaks loudly for their passion for the traditions of wine, the respect of nature, the land, and the game of golf. The Traditions in Wine Excellence Award, I believe, will become a legacy award that will continue well into the future.”
Image by Michael J. Fiedler
I was fortunate to attend the previous two “GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” events in Bedford Hills, New York. Fernando Silva, Sommelier, Michael Ruggiero, Executive Chef, and team seamlessly delivered an unforgettable experience to the club’s members and guests. I believe that this significant annual event will be a gamechanger in the private golf and wine industry. ~ Diana DeLucia
GK: Fernando, how and when did the vision for the “GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” come about?
GlenArbor Golf Club was inaugurated in 2001, and I joined the team in 2005. At that time, a wine program did not exist. The food and beverage manager selected some of the wines, and I remember that the members would bring numerous bottles of expensive wines from their private cellars to enjoy at the club.
I developed an interest in fine wine in 2009 and started reading and studying wines seriously in the following years. I signed up for every seminar and wine tasting I could find in Manhattan. This process and exposure to wine tastings and in-depth study of the wine world changed my approach to the fine dining experience. Every weekend I waited to see the wines the members would bring to dinner. I used to take pictures of the labels and researched the places of origin and the quality levels. All of that effort paid off and the members noticed. The food and beverage director at the time, Bryan Smithwick, promoted me to be the official Sommelier at the club.. Mr. Grant Gregory, the owner, gave me enough freedom to experiment and launch a series of wine tastings, which would take place at the end of every golf tournament to test our membership’s enthusiasm. The response was excellent; they wanted more and more wine experiences.
In 2011, I had to leave the USA for a year to wait for my green card approval. I decided to take a long-awaited wine field trip to discover and learn about the most famous wine regions. I traveled to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and then returned to Argentina to visit Mendoza’s vineyards.
In 2012, I returned to the USA and visited the Napa Valley in California. When I arrived back in New York, I simultaneously registered for the prestigious Court of Masters Sommeliers and the American Sommelier Association. After much work and study, I obtained the proper certifications.
GK: When and how did you introduce an official wine program at the club?
2013 was a period of test and trial. By 2014 the idea of a serious wine program had begun to take form in my mind. I am also a passionate artist, and in the the same year, my work featured at a prestigious art gallery in Manhattan for the first time. I had overcome some serious challenges and gained much education and knowledge, which I could not have done without the mentoring and support of the Gregory family and GlenArbor. I wanted to show my gratitude to the people that believed the most in me. I researched other private clubs and some notable wine clubs in the city. I reached out to Mr. Laurent Drouhin, whom I met through my studies at several wine seminars. I took his advice and expertise to create a new concept in the wine experience at GlenArbor.
GK: How did Mr. Drouhin help you develop this program?
Mr. Drouhin suggested that I discuss creating an effective and more interactive wine program for the club. Mr. Grant Gregory gave me some practical ways to execute long-term plans. After meeting with him several times, at the end of the conversation, he asked me to write down forty different ideas about implementing a wine program even if the idea sounded crazy!
“Family and tradition are some of the core values of our passion for wines in Burgundy and Oregon. When Fernando Silva contacted me on behalf of the Gregory Family to receive the GlenArbor Tradition in Wine Excellence Award, I felt tremendously honored., not personally but in the name of the entire Drouhin family current and past generations. GlenArbor, Golf and wine is a paradise for tradition and passion...”
~ Laurent Drouhin
Maison Joseph Drouhin
Image courtesy Maison Joseph Drouhin
GK: What were some of your final visions?
To create a unique new wine program, we needed to complete the first idea on the list, installing a state-of-the-art wine cellar located on the second floor in our Players Lounge. I reached out to Mr. Adam Strum and his team at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, they helped us create the cellar, and it was complete by 2017. The next step was to implement a marketing campaign among the members with a series of Wine Educational seminars to attract more attention not only from the members but also from wine aficionados in general.
I explained to Mr. Grant Gregory that we needed to create a series of awards to recognize the diverse personalities that impacted the wine world. Help came from Mr. Morgan Gregory with his true entrepreneur style; he came up with a name, mirroring the already existing “Traditions in Golf Awards.” The first “Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” was inaugurated in 2018. It was received with excellent attendance and created a pathway for more events at the club. The following week I presented Mr. Grant Gregory and Mr. Morgan Gregory at least 45 ways and strategies to create, execute and enhance a wine program for private clubs. After reviewing the concepts and removing half of them, he instructed me to select five or six of my most robust visions, and to my delight, he gave me the freedom to try them out at the club.
GlenArbor has always strived for excellence in multiple areas – golf, instruction, food, wine, and “the experience.” We have been blessed to identify and celebrate the leading industry winemakers, families, and originators but, it’s a much bigger platform. The Excellence in Wine Awards celebration recognizes those individuals who excel in moving the needle and those willing to create a platform, vision, and growth for the generations to follow
~ Morgan Gregory President
GlenArbor Golf Club
Image by Michael J. Fiedler
GK: What were some of your final visions?
To create a unique new wine program, we needed to complete the first idea on the list, installing a state-of-the-art wine cellar located on the second floor in our Players Lounge. I reached out to Mr. Adam Strum and his team at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, they helped us create the cellar, and it was complete by 2017.
The next step was to implement a marketing campaign among the members with a series of wine educational seminars to attract more attention not only from the members but also from wine aficionados in general. I explained to Mr. Grant Gregory that we needed to create a series of awards to recognize the diverse personalities that impacted the wine world. Help came from Mr. Morgan Gregory with his true entrepreneur style; he came up with a name, mirroring the already existing “Traditions in Golf Awards.” The first “Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” was inaugurated in 2018. It was received with excellent attendance and created a pathway for more events at the club.
GK: How do you select the recipients?
The recipient of the “GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence Award” does not necessarily have to be a winemaker. The main idea is to select from a group of well-known personalities in the wine industry that has an actual and long-term impact not only in the wine world but also in the hospitality industry, especially in the private club sector. Every recipient of the Award should have a strong respect for the hospitality industry, nature, the land, and the traditions of the game of golf. The Award is the perfect link between the World of Wine and the World of Golf!
GK: Who was the first recipient?
Our first recipient was Mr. Laurent Drouhin, co-owner of Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy, France. Laurent currently resides near New York City. He manages the market’s development and the brand’s image in the United States and the Caribbean. He graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Gestion in Paris.
The second recipient was Mr. Jean-Charles Boisset in 2019. He was born into the world of wine in the village of Vougeot, Burgundy, France. His lifelong passion for wine began as a child. He grew up above the cellars within the view of Château du Clos de Vougeot’s centuries-old vineyards, the epicenter and birthplace of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Mr. Adam Strum, President of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, attended the event with his wife and family and was thrilled that Jean-Charles was the recipient.
“Exhilarating, inspiring, magnetic and so enchanting ! A vortex of joy, happiness, and a true experience of the senses... I feel honored and privileged to receive such recognition and to be part of such a fabulous and exciting collection of grand minds and energies ! Here’s to the rhythm of life and the swing of all senses in motion !”
~ Jean-Charles Boisset Vintner, Proprietor and Wine Entrepeneur
Image by Moanalani Jeffrey
The third recipient was Sir Nick Faldo in 2020. I discovered Sir Nick’s serious wine projects while I was attending a blind wine tasting seminar in Soho. One of my mentors, Mr. Phillipe Newlin, at that time was the Director of Duclot la Vinicole in New York mentioned that he recently came across a famous Golfer at The Harvard Club in Manhattan, Sir Nick Faldo. After several meetings, Sir Nick, invited him to review his wine projects.
I set my mind on inviting Sir Nick to be part of the event, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, that seemed impossible. The second option would be via video conferencing. After exhaustive months of uncertainty and back and forth emails, I received a video acceptance speech from Sir Nick, which I shared with Mr. Morgan Gregory immediately.
A day after receiving the video from Sir Nick, former American football linebacker and Steelers coach William Laird Cowher came to the club for dinner with his wife, famous rock singer Veronica Stigeler. Mr. Cowher is also a wine enthusiast and with the the proximity of the event, he enquired who was going to be the honoree this year. When I mentioned Sir Nick’s name, he reacted with a big smile saying, “Fernando, you know he is a good friend of mine, and it will be an honor for me to do the introduction and presentation of the Award.”
Thank you very much for this honor of Wine Person of the Year! I am beyond thrilled to receive something like this. If there were a Ryder Cup of wine, it would be Napa vs. Bordeaux, and I will be supporting the European team. I can assure you the playoffs will be really fun! I will be flying back to the United States soon, hope-fully, and will have a wee glass to celebrate!
~ Sir Nick Faldo
Image by Michael J. Fiedler
GK: How do you feel Covid-19 will affect the event in the future?
The year 2020 presented a real challenge for us with the strict enforcement of safety protocols in the hospitality industry. But it also set a new way of looking at the industry. As professionals, we have to adapt quickly to the changing times and demands of our membership. In our case, our wine events are planned according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) safety regulations, including testing staff, wearing gloves and masks, social distancing, and frequent sanitation of workstations, dining, and limited clubhouse areas. We maintain the number of attendees for this and all other events to the minimum recommended by the government.
GK: How do you work with Chef Ruggiero to come up with the menu for the GlenArbor Traditions in Wine Excellence dinner?
Executive Chef Michael Ruggiero has an incredible resume and vast experience in fine cuisine. I begin by presenting Michael with the event’s theme and share my ideas while we taste the wines. Every wine and honoree has a different personality, and it shows in the way they represent their terroir, their aromas, and flavors, Sometimes we need to change some of the wines because the actual profile does not match the envisioned dish; there is a lot of creativity involved in the process and also flexibility. Everything progresses, evolving to present the best culinary experience for the members, guests, and staff.
“When tasked to pair food with amazing wines for an event like this the process takes on a variety of factors, cuisine origin of the wine, seasonal ability of ingredients, presentation, among a few thoughts. While the goal is to match flavors with each dish, I won’t let it restrict me from the goal of wanting to create this intense flavor profile. We have to honor the wine, attempt to rival each wines great finish but also not overpower the many delicate notes. We love these opportunities and these marquee events, we circle on the calendar be-cause they only happen a few times a year.”
~ Michael Ruggiero
GlenArbor Golf Club
The GlenArbor Clubhouse at dusk. Image courtesy GlenArbor Golf Club