The music coming from her headphones all but muted the blooming sounds of a New York City morning. A honk from a swerving taxi, the rap of a storefront gate being rolled up, a peppered conversation among colleagues swiftly walking to catch the four train downtown in time for the bell. Eighteen years old and she had arrived, her breezy hometown of Boca Raton the farthest thing from mind. The plan? Not sure— followed by get a job, which soon led to the glitzy backdrop of Madison Avenue retail including a position selling shoes for Stéphane Kelian. From the beginning, Deana Guglielmo set the bar high, on the finer things.
Eight years later and the city grind had allowed the quiet pace of the Hamptons to romance her away and when the two-ferry commute from Long Island to began to drag, Guglielmo answered an ad in the local paper for a tasting room position at Peconic Bay Winery. At the time the blue-fruit merlots and lean chardonnays of North Fork were just beginning to find their place.
“I knew nothing about wine, I didn’t even know riesling was a varietal,” she says 20 years later. Now a widely respected Platinum Fine Wine Specialist for Republic National Distributing Company, she can speak to wines from all over the world.
Guglielmo and other specialists like her are very much the unsung heroes of the restaurant industry. Those last minute, gotta-have-it, fist-clenching moments are made possible at the buzzer by reps like Deana rushing to and from closing warehouses and busy restaurants. “I love all of it. It’s competitive— with so much wine out there it’s important to bring your ‘A’ game.”
Nearing two decades with RNDC, she thinks back to when she began with just a laptop, a list of “A” clients, and at the time was the only woman selling off-premise wine to retail stores in high ocho, Miami. While admittedly intimidated at first, within 18 months Guglielmo had nailed down her route and even earned herself a trip to Australia from a sales competition. It was during a vertical tasting of Grange from Penfolds that she realized this could be a career. “I mean, here I was from a small town to Madison Avenue shopgirl to winning a trip to Australia for selling wine.” It clicked.
But a few years before taking the job with then-National Distribution Company, the newly hired tasting room manager for Peconic Bay Winery was sent to take a six-week course in the city. It was there that she discovered wine as her niche; 107 stories high in the air with the skyline of Manhattan below her and Kevin Zraly front and center demonstrating how to properly open a bottle of wine, “I was trying to figure it out this whole time—and there was this moment where I realized, this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.” Zraly’s expertise combined with his affable nature, she remembers, “We were all just kind of in awe.” Two years later, the Windows on the World restaurant along with 72 staff members would be lost in the 9/11 terror attacks.
Guglielmo has watched the wine market evolve from its club-like inclusivity to the amalgam of drinkers it is today. “People are drinking wine more than they ever have, younger people are interested— I’ve watched the evolution of different brands, traditional styles, old world wines...”