Tell us about a memorable wine experience.
I recently took a trip to Spain and visited La Rioja where I was able to visit the bodega of R. Lopez de Heredia, Viña Tondonia, which happens to be one of my favorite producers. I had the good fortune of meeting María Jóse Lopez de Heredia six weeks prior to my trip at a tasting we had here at Brooklyn Winery. From the moment she found out I would be visiting, she kept in touch until the day my sister and I arrived, and greeted us with open arms. We hopped in her car and she drove us around the vineyards, bringing us on top of a hill, overlooking all of Rioja Alta, telling stories of her childhood and growing up on the vineyards. It was spectacular!
What's the best way to start learning about wine?
Taste, taste, and taste some more. I am a big advocate and truly enjoy reading about wine, whether it be a book or on the Internet (I haven’t picked up a book unrelated to wine in years). But while reading is very informative and a great learning tool, tasting wine is where it all begins. That’s what really sticks with you.
What's an underrated cuisine when it comes to wine pairing?
It would have to be Mexican food. When’s the last time you walked in a Mexican joint and didn’t see people with giant, salt-rimmed margaritas in their face or lime wedges in their beers? Mexican food can be incredibly complex and have a wide range of flavors, including spice--hot and sweet, earthy, chili-based dishes; sauces that are rich and heavy or light and tomato based; and a lot of warm, creamy cheese dishes which pair beautifully with higher acid wines, or salty cheeses that would pair nicely with a sweeter wine. When you’re not working you... I love to going to the beach, visiting the Chelsea Market, trying out new restaurants and wine bars or relaxing at home and watching a Yankees game.
If you could own a vineyard, where would it be?
Spain holds a special place in my heart, not only because it’s where my family is originally from, but because it is such a beautiful country. It’s also where, in my opinion, some of the best wines are being made right now, so that would definitely be a dream. I’m originally from California, so to be close to my family, my second choice would be Oregon. I love Oregon wines, their frame of mind and their wine-making techniques.
Elizabeth Esqueda has been in the hospitality industry for 12 years now, eight of which she spent working in New York City restaurants. Her love for wine really sparked while working at Michael’s, a powerhouse lunch spot for media moguls and celebrities. There, she had the opportunity to taste an incredible amount of fine wines from the restaurant and guests’ personal cellars, including first growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundies. Elizabeth is currently an assistant manager at Brooklyn Winery, a fully functioning winery and winebar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she has taken over the wine list. She is also studying at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, where she has completed the intermediate and advanced certificates and is now in the two-year diploma program.