"It's the smallest store in New York State"
We sit outside on Main Street in Sayville in front of a tiny little wonderland called Down The Rabbit Hole Wine Boutique. Jessica Green is smiling across from me, mapping out the history of the alleyway turned store while simultaneously describing her journey here, as owner. She is a part of a whimsical history with this shop, and with her ownership she has put her personal stamp on inventory while still keeping the integrity that Down The Rabbit Hole has always brought to Main Street. Her main business is Wine Vie, where she is a consultant to restaurants across Long Island that do not have a regular Sommelier on staff. During the early stages of planning this blog I found DTR on instagram and was immediately drawn to the tiny store and luckily Jessica was ready and willing to sit down for a chat. On this warm early summer morning with a busy Main Street bustling beside us, I get to know Jessica Green.
"Where is the all of good wine?"
Jessica smiles as she tells the story of Suzy McDonald, the founder and original owner of Down The Rabbit Hole Wine Boutique. Suzy was a figure skater that traveled the country, and when she found herself back on Long Island she was missing her California wines. Suzy's friend put a roof on the alleyway next to his store and built her a place for all of the 'good wine'. Quickly the small shop became known for it's selection of hard to find bottles, and names you could not get anywhere else. Today, Jessica upholds the uniqueness that Down The Rabbit Hole was founded with, but added her own twist. The boutique is still a place to find bottles that you won't find most places, especially since she carries all small batch, sustainable wines. It's not just that they're organic, but Jessica seeks out vineyards that follow natural practices such as Biodynamic Farming - the entire process is what she cares about. "There's a book two inches thick of additives that you can put in wine here in America," Jessica explains "but, they only have to put 'sulfates' on the label. It is so vague, and I avoid wines that have been chemically altered for taste and color - instead you get a special experience with every bottle." The shop that once was an alleyway had an expensive reputation as well, but Jessica carries bottles that are more affordable mixed with the pricier selections "It's all about making quality accessible," she stated with pride while discussing her wine catalogue.
Growing up on the North Fork of Long Island the Vineyards were basically her backyard. Even though she never went pumpkin picking (she compared it to living in Manhattan and never going to Times Square) Jessica realized that you really become what's around you. Which is why when she graduated high school she went into healthcare - most of her family members all work in the medical field. She studied nursing & science and even worked Hospice care. While in school she got a job at a vineyard in Jamesport. She started in harvest - which means she actually got her hands dirty. While she hated the labor of it, it was the introduction she needed to what would become her passion. Her boss inspired and took interest in her as he would eventually invest in her Sommelier classes. Her family wasn't too thrilled at first, but once they realized the depth of education that goes into what she was persuing, they understood why Jessica was drawn to it. She even told me that winding up at Down The Rabbit Hole was like sliding doors fate, because she worked the same tasting rooms where Suzy would host parties - but they never crossed paths. To this day they haven't met, Suzy is now living in New Orleans, but Jessica has an immense respect for her reputation and is committed to the DTR legacy.
"Wine does not have to be intimidating"
Jessica Green is committed to education and taking care of people still, and she does it by getting to know her clients. She recognizes their pallets from the bottles they do or do not enjoy, and she's able to make suggestions. She can tell you stories about the vineyards her bottles come from, why you enjoyed one wine and not the other, and give you great suggestions on which wines to bring to a friend's house for dinner. Her consulting company, Wine Vie, is all her. She works with restaurants that don't have a full time sommelier and makes suggestions of which wine they should carry based on their cuisine, clientele, and budget as well as holding in home wine tastings for people. All of this started for Jessica after she became a Mother. She was still working at restaurants as a Sommelier and the long, late shifts didn't suit her newest gig as a Mom - so she got creative. Her original mission was to find a place to open a wine bar, but her real estate agent saw that Down The Rabbit Hole was for sale and Jessica felt that it was fate. The second owner of the boutique, Holly, was going into nursing (talk about coincidence) it wasn't the original plan, but it was one that seemed to be written for her.
There is a wine club, and wine tasting nights held at the Paris Street Market that's a walkable distance from the boutique. Jessica was renting a space for tastings since the smallest store in New York State doesn't hold enough space for social distancing ("6 feet is the distance between my register and the door!") so the owner of Paris Street Market, Gail, told Jessica to use her courtyard and store on Friday nights and they'd make an event out of it. This makes me so happy to hear because this is the community that most small business owners seem to carry with them wherever they go. In a world upside-down, the Main Street Mentality prevails again and again, creating space for curiosity and entertainment for customers. Jessica has that spirit, Wine Vie translates to Wine Life, and she really aims to take care of people within her knowledge and craft.
"It's always ok to go out, and find happiness"
Jessica's story is one that stayed with me so much that I told everyone about her and her store after our meeting. She's a Mother, a Female Sommelier and did not let the pivot of her original goals slow her down. She found a passion in wine after a year of personal loss, and continues to share and educate on what she loves at Down The Rabbit Hole in Sayville. Her customers and clients care about her just as much as she does them. As we were talking she tells me how she gets to know people's tastes (she herself has an old world palette and can recognize if someone has the same, or if they have a new world palette instead) but her customers will return the favor. She gets recommendations from people on what she would love or should look into carrying and she listens - because it is part of the overall experience she gives. Jessica lit up during our conversation, being a part of the history of the boutique while also sharing her passion means a lot to her. I got home and read briefly about what goes into becoming a Sommelier and well, Jessica Green is a badass, from actually harvesting grapes to creating Wine Vie, I have nothing but respect for this woman and highly recommend a trip to her place.
You can visit Down The Rabbit Hole at 4 W Main Street in Sayville. Ask about the Friday Night tasting events while you're there - and you can learn more about Jessica and her services at www.winevie.com