Women in Wine Part 3 ft. Laura Maniec & Elizabeth Schnieder

Here we are again. 

I just keep running into more and more amazing women to chat with about their life in the wine world. This month we have two women that I have looked up to since I embarked on this wild journey. 

Laura Maniec is the owner and CEO of my favorite wine studio in NYC, Corkbuzz Wine Studio and she happens to be 1 of 32 women who have achieved Master Sommelier status. 

Elizabeth Schneider is a certified sommelier and cohost of the award winning podcast Wine for Normal People. Elizabeth is one of the most real people in the industry I’ve ever chatted with. She’s a fellow Virgo and advocate for making wine accessible to everyone.

Master Sommelier & Corkbuzz Owner – Laura Maniec

How did you get started in wine?

I’ve been in the wine business my whole life. I basically started serving and bartending at a local restaurant in Queens where I grew up. I then got into hospitality and entertaining because of my Grandma and Sunday suppers at her house.

I took my first wine class at the old World Trade center. From there I was a traveling sommelier for BR Guest Hospitality and Greg Harrington, a master sommelier, told me about the master sommelier program. So, I took my first of the series of exams at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I think was 22 years old. From there I kept studying and learning and traveling. I passed my masters exam in 2009 in Sonoma.

What made you want to start Corkbuzz?

I started Corkbuzz in 2010 with my business partner, my uncle. I really thought there was a missing space in the industry for a wine studio. It’s the perfect combination of a restaurant that specializes in wine based entertaining. We teach wine classes for the consumers and for trade. We host wine dinners for personal and corporate clients and are just open for the neighborhood to drop in have some delicious food and wine. 

We then got recruited to open Corkbuzz in Chelsea Market and it’s been a great partnership. I think that all of the best vendors in New York City are there. We also opened a location in North Carolina because that’s where my business partner is located and my family. We have a retail store and restaurant in Charlotte.It’s exciting to see our brand grow outside of our home in New York City.

Tell me more about “Weekly Tastings”

I am the co-curator of the weekly wine offerings. I vet all the wines. I taste them. I make sure that they work for the pack price. I also curator an idea for a pack, like this week we have a pizza pairing pack. It’s like, I love pizza and a lot of people order take out and wine can be intimidating. Those people might buy the same Pinot Noir over and over again. So this way you can be like this is a cool thing I want to buy because I love pizza too and I get 4 new wines I can try. I think Weekly Tastings is such a cool idea and there is nothing else like it in the market. 

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to break into the world of wine?

I think you should definitely seek out a mentor and create a network. I think that’s the one thing that really helps anyone in any industry. It can be as straight forward as walking into a place where you admire the wine director or owner and introducing yourself, becoming a patron. Just saying “Hey do you have any advice”. Invite them for coffee. Just old school networking style I think is the best. Hands on experience is the name of the game.

What’s your go-to wine at the moment?

Napa Valley Cabernets with even 5 years of age. I’m not talking you have to drink from the 80’s or 90’s. But I’ve really been into the idea that the New World is somewhere we could all use a little refresher and be more opened minded about.

You can check out CorkBuzz (and sign up for a wine class!) here and can learn more about Weekly Tasting here

Somm & Award Winning Podcaster – Elizabeth Schneider

How did you get started in wine?

This is a two part answer. The first part is that I had an interest in wine when I lived with my sister in Boston. It was a total nightmare to go wine shopping. You walk and there is a wine of wall and a man asking you what you’re looking for. Somethings he’s saying to you are english, something are not and it can be super intimidating. So my sister and I took a wine tasting course. I’ll never forget that John Miller was our teacher and he taught the best wine class ever. It was at that point I was like, “How do I be John Miller?”. 

It took a long time before I got into wine. I worked in tech to start and then I got my MBA and was about to take a job in Philadelphia. Last minute saw an opening for an associate marketing director for a big winery in California. I got the job and moved out to California and worked on the business side of wine. 

What made you want to start your award winning podcast, Wine for Normal People? 

I started my podcast 6 years ago. I’m actually recording episode 200 this week. When I left the big winery I had a friend, Rick, who runs an app called Hello Vino. I told him about this project I had at the winery creating a guide for the wait staff. It was called The Wait Staff Survival Guide. It was written in a really great way and it was funny. So, I was talking to him about it and I was like I want to get a message out to the public. He was like, let’s start a podcast. Keep in mind this was 6 years ago so I had no clue what a podcast was because they were just starting. 

So Rick and I started the podcast. It started gaining speed and Rick got busy with his app so then my husband became my cohost. It’s kind of a funny thing because there are no photos of my husband. He’s like Wilson from Home Improvement. 

The podcast has really opened all the doors for me. I’m a wine talker. The most important thing to me is the audience. To be able to give someone the gift of not being afraid to ask questions about wine, I couldn’t ask for a better gift than that. 

Tell me more about “Weekly Tastings”

So Weekly Tastings is this project and what the goal is to expose people to and provide an outlet for people to try wines that they maybe wouldn’t try or don’t know. A lot of small producers, mostly international wines that are all super high quality but very affordable ($20 or less!). It’s an opportunity to give people detailed wine notes and teach people. There are videos, tasting cards with pairings etc. It’s a mini education every time you buy a pack.

It’s $69.99 a pack (4 bottles), which includes shipping. I’m all about value. Right now, the wine world the $15-$20 price point is where the action is right now. Each of the wines I pick I feel are really classic examples of the region, or sometimes they’re not and that’s exactly why I pick them. 

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to break into the world of wine?

The ratio is getting better of women to men in wine. It’s a very old school industry. Coming from the tech industry which is fairly egalitarian into the wine industry where there is a very small subset of men who respect women in wine. You just have to know that joining the wine industry is like going back to 1975 in terms of gender relations. But you should not take it. You’re still a person and you still have dignity. But you’ll hear things you may never hear in any other industry.

What’s your go-to wine at the moment?

It changes all the time but right now I would say I’m kind of up on Portugal. I love Portugal because you can’t find their wines anywhere else. There their own grapes. There is this white called encruzado from the Dao region and it tastes like the inside of an almond croissant but it has acidity and rolls around your mouth. For reds, there are so many great reds, but I really like Douro which make a dry port. It’s made with Touriga Nacional as the main grape. These just taste good and won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

You can listen to the Wine for Normal People podcast here and read more about Weekly Tasting here

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