Laura Maniec: MASTER SOMMELIER, CO-FOUNDER
I’m a native New Yorker and the former Wine and Spirits Director for 20 restaurants across the country. I “retired” so I could create and run my own wine studio. Which means literally running all day long. It’s great because I LOVE all things wine and running-related — I even finished my first marathon in 2010 (woop!) — and my average day is actually never average.
At any moment, you might find me attending blind tasting groups, mentoring my staff and sommeliers, hosting a wine dinner for a cool corporate client, listening to French podcasts on my commute, or waxing poetic about the glorious pairing of Champagne and French fries. I feel grateful to have a job that feels more like I’m hosting a dinner party than working.
Favorite vacation spot? My best friend Kerin introduced me to Sebago Lake in Casco, Maine, about nine years ago. The same week every summer, a group of 30 of us friends camp, lie on “Raft City” in the middle of the lake, cook all week, drink tons of wine and laugh hysterically. When I have kids, I will bring them there for sure.
If you were a wine, what would you be? Clouet Cuvée 1911 from the town of Bouzy in Champagne: fun yet serious, bubbly, unique and warm (as in welcoming, although Bouzy does also happen to be one of the warmest villages in Champagne).
Guilty pleasure? A hunk of cave-aged Gouda with warm, toasty bread and goat’s milk butter. Yes, I put fat on fat, and so what?? I thank my ex-boyfriend who turned me on to it.
What’s your nickname? I have many, but my favorite is Lau… or when my friends’ children call me Titi Lola. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
Favorite food and wine pairing? Lucali pizza in Brooklyn topped with shallots, mushrooms, basil and pepperoni and BYOB Italian wine. Usually it’s Barolo, Frappato or Sangiovese… it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s Italian — what grows together goes together.
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Master Sommelier Laura Maniec brings her extensive wine knowledge and passion for teaching to Corkbuzz Wine Studio, which she opened in New York City's Union Square neighborhood with her business partner Frank Vafier in 2011. Already a rising star in the wine world, Maniec is also the face of Corkbuzz, which has additional locations opening in 2014 in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Maniec’s fresh approach to wine has made Corkbuzz a destination for expert and novice wine drinkers alike and earned her recognition as both a sommelier and entrepreneur. Since opening Corkbuzz, The Wall Street Journal called Maniec the "It Girl" of the New York wine scene, Crain’s New York Business honored her as one of their “40 Under 40,” Food & Wine magazine named her one of 2013’s “Sommeliers of the Year” and Wine Enthusiast included her in their list of "Top 40 Tastemakers Under 40."
Corkbuzz locations are part wine bar, part wine school, all wrapped up in a cool, casual studio designed to feel like a living room. Maniec created the wine program to bring casual and professional wine drinkers together in one space with approachable yet comprehensive classes. Each location's wine bar offers a robust, seasonally inspired menu with dishes designed to complement Maniec’s changing wine and Champagne offerings.
Maniec first discovered her true enthusiasm for wine through an 18-week sommelier certification class at Windows on the World, and just as she was legally allowed to drink, she became a sommelier at Blue Fin, a 400-seat restaurant in New York City. Progressing quickly, she was made a partner as well as wine and spirits director for the entire B.R. Guest Restaurant Group of 20 restaurants across the country. At only 25 years old, she was managing the wine lists as well as educating the entire front-of-house team on wine.
Maniec earned her Master Sommelier designation, the highest accreditation given to wine professionals, in 2009 after nearly eight years of intensive study. She is currently just one of 20 women to have the designation.
In summer 2010, Maniec left B.R. Guest and spent the harvest season in Champagne, which she recounts as one of the best experiences in her life. After finishing the harvest, Maniec returned to New York City to pursue her dream of opening Corkbuzz.
In addition to her work at Corkbuzz, Maniec is on the board of directors for the Guild of Sommeliers and the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier’s New York chapter. She regularly sits on The New York Times tasting panel also contributes to industry publications, including Food & Wine and Sommelier Journal.