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Home People Rye People: Ralph Hersom

Rye People: Ralph Hersom

Your Name: Ralph Hersom   

Ralph_hersom_2Your Day Job: Owner, Ralph’s Wines and Spirits. My store strives to be different than your average wine shop by offering unique selections from around the world chosen by me, superior service and weekly wine tastings on Fridays from 4-7pm and Saturdays from 2-6pm.   

MyRye.com: Why did you pick Rye for your wine store? Do Rye residents have an affinity for particular types of wine?

One of my former wine salesmen tipped me off about a liquor store in Rye that was going out of business and he felt strongly that a boutique wine shop would do quite well and be very welcomed by the community. Boy was he right!   

Ralphs_wine_storeYou are also involved in a project called Wine That Loves—seems like this is all about simplifying wine-food combinations. What’s the story?

It’s like having your own personal sommelier make the selection for you. We have created wine blends paired for a specific food. Wine That Loves Pizza and Wine That Loves Pasta with Tomato Sauce are now available. Next month we will be releasing Wine That Loves Grilled Steak, Wine That Loves Roasted Chicken and Wine That Loves Grilled Salmon. My business partner lives in Manhattan.   

In May 1996, at age 25, you were hired by Kevin Zraly as Cellarmaster for the reopening of the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center. What one or two wines make you most remember that iconic restaurant and the people that worked there? 

1. 1988 Williams/Selyem Zinfandel.
Most people are familiar that they make some of the best Pinot Noir in the country but very few have ever had the chance to taste their very limited production Zinfandel. 

2.1989 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne.
One of the world’s greatest white wines from one of the world’s greatest producers not to mention that it cost several thousand dollars!

According to Wikipedia, in the year 2000 Windows on the World grossed $37 million dollars, making it the highest grossing restaurant in the United States. How much of that $37 million was for wine?

Approximately $9 million.   

A year later, in 1997, you were hired by Sirio Maccioni to oversee Le Cirque 2000’s wine program in the renovated Villard House. You remained the Le Cirque wine director for seven years. What are your three greatest memories from working at Le Cirque 2000? 

1. Meeting Gene Simmons of Kiss fame. Grew up a very big fan of them and it was the very first concert I went to at age 14! I told him that I used to have a Kiss lunch box and that I got in trouble for staying up late and watching, "Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park". 

2. Riding in the private elevator in the hotel with Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones en route to their suite to serve a 1982 Lynch Bages to Keith Richards. 

3. Enjoying the many conversations about wine with Robert DeNiro.   

What’s it like to interview for a sommelier job? Do you have to drink wine during the interview?

Usually your resume speaks for itself and the reputation of the wine program at your former place of employment. No drinking is required.

What makes a great sommelier?

A great palate and personality. Kevin Zraly told me when I interviewed for the Window’s on the World job that he would always hire a salesman over a wine geek any day.   

Can you suggest wine pairings for these meals available in and around Rye? 

1. Two slices of pepperoni pizza from Sal’s Pizza in Mamaroneck, a MyRye.com favorite. Wine: Wine That Loves Pizza 

2. Pan seared sesame tuna with wasabi soba noodles from Water Moon on Purchase Street, recommended by  Coldwell Banker’s Judy Croughan. Wine: 2006 Seven Hills Pinot  Gris from Oregon 

3. Chicken Tikka Masala from A Taste of India in Portchester, recommended by  Rye City Councilman Matt Fahey. Wine: 2005 Familia Mayol Finca Sebastian Pinot Noir from Mendoza, Argentina   

If you could enjoy a meal and bottle of wine with anyone in the world, name the person, the meal and the wine.

Travel to Italy in November with my older brother Rick and enjoy a White Truffle Risotto in Piedmont. We’d drink a Magnum of 1982 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva. After I’d hand him the check! After all, what are brothers for?

What do you like to do in your free time?

Enjoy fly fishing, golf, live music and driving my Porsche fast. Eating great food and drinking wonderful wine kind of goes without saying!

Do you drink beer? What’s your favorite?

I very much enjoy beer. Love a Black & Tan (blend of Guinness and Bass Ale) and also Heineken. 

Tell us your contact information:

Your web site: www.ralphswinesandspirits.com

Your store hours: Monday  – Friday 12 noon-8pm, Saturday 11am-8pm. Closed Sundays.

Your phone: 914-921-1847

Your email address: Ralph (AT) ralphswinesandspirits.com 

Thanks, Ralph!


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