our winemaking team
David Lecomte, Head Winemaker New York & Chicago
As far as David Lecomte is concerned, winemaking is an endless learning process, not a science. As testimony to this philosophy, David has devoted the past 16 years to learning all he can from the finest in the industry, working at some of the best-known wineries in the world. He continues this process - and shares his knowledge - at City Winery, Manhattan's first fully operational winery, as its Head Winemaker.
A native of the Rhone Valley, David most likely has grape vines entwined into his genetic code. Armed with a Degree in Viticulture and Winemaking from the University of Davaye in South Burgundy, plus a Master Degree of Enology and Winemaking from University of Montpellier, David began his wine career at M. Chapoutier Estate as a vineyard worker at the age of 22. He has since worked at other wineries in France (Delas & Fils, Cave de Tain L'Hermitage and Colombo), China (Beijing Dragon Seal), and three wine regions in the United States (Virginia - at Afton Mountain Vineyard; Long Island, NY - at Premium Wine Group, and most recently in California - at Herzog Wine Cellars).
In his role as Head Winemaker at City Winery, David takes on the unusual task of creating wine in the middle of Manhattan. Equipped with a deep appreciation for the importance of soil, climate, grape selection and vineyard practices, he is particularly dexterous in the art of identifying where the best of each grape variety is grown and gathering the fruit from the finest vineyards.
As David states: "There are no perfect winemaking recipes because each combination of variety, soil, climate, vineyard management and cellar equipment is unique." With this in mind, David has the challenge of guiding amateur enologists - City Winery's 200 barrel owners - as they create their own wine in SoHo. To ensure they have the optimal experience, David sees to it that the grapes are not only the best, but they are transported from the respective vineyards in optimal condition; not just destemmed, but hand-sorted, and carefully monitored in each respective fermentation tank.
While many winemakers work autonomously with only their own creative vision in mind, David is responsible for the wine what each barrel owner wants to create. By understanding their tastes and preferences, he not only makes the grape-buying decisions, but also advises on the exact blend, the barrel type and the duration of aging. Through his guidance, barrel owners realize their dream to create their own wine. And with approximately 250 bottles to consume at the end of the process, they will be grateful their guide has devoted his life to learning all he can about winemaking.
Robert Kowal, Chicago Winemaker
Robert Kowal, as a self-identified anhedonic neo-Luddite Misanthrope, may seem an odd choice as City Winery’s Chicago wine maker. But passion rather than ambition or convention has always driven him, be it for cinema, wine, or opera. He came to wine as second career while working as a writer/producer for the PBS cooking series, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi. Befriended on that show by Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya, Robert’s nascent interest in wine blossomed. Determined to pursue the dream of the great American Pinot Noir, he moved from balmy Hawaii to soggy Portland in 1995 and volunteered for harvest with the small but renowned family winery, Bethel Heights. Under the tutelage of wine maker Terry Casteel and viticulturist Ted Casteel, Robert learned the vintner’s craft, moving from cellar rat to assistant winemaker in 5 years. At Bethel Heights, Robert worked with not only excellent estate fruit, but also grapes from some of the best vineyards in Oregon such as Freedom Hill, Jacob Hart, and Seven Springs. In 2001 he established his own small label, Frameworks Wine, specializing in small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From 1997 to the present he has served on the wine service committee of the International Pinot Noir Celebration, an annual 3-day wine festival held in McMinnville, Oregon.
Robert was the assistant wine maker under David Lecomte at City Winery New York during the inaugural 2008 vintage. For the past two years he has served as the Northwest vineyard liaison, overseeing City Winery’s Oregon and Washington crop. He brings his passion for wine, his love of the vineyard, and his sardonic wit to Chicago – along with one wife, two cats and sixteen manual typewriters. For his life’s third act he plans to sing the role of Wotan for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2023 production of Wagner’s Ring cycle.
Thank you Volunteers!
City Winery is thankful for the dedicated work of its winery volunteer staff. See photos of our volunteers hard at work - coming soon!