Meet Chase Cassel from Foxcroft Wine Co. Waverly! Read more about how his interest in craft beer kickstarted his wine career and more!
How did you get interested in wine?
I moved to Greenville and applied everywhere except for Foxcroft because I don’t know anything about wine. But I decided on a whim to go check it out and apply. They hired me although I didn’t have any restaurant experience or wine experience! Within the first week, I realized I really liked the culture there.
I attended some wine training classes there. I was really into craft beer at the time so I started to notice the similarities between wine and beer. Just like the types of hops you’d use to make beer emulates the types of grapes used to make wine and how it affects the different flavors. Both hops and grapes are affected by the soil it was grown in, and the area where it was grown. So that piqued my interest. I wanted to be the best server that I could be so I started studying wine textbooks and attending all the trainings. It grew into something that I really liked, although I never thought that I would.
So that’s how I got into wine initially and it’s been fun to expand my knowledge and be able to answer any and all questions that people might have about wine. Now I’m able to walk into a wine store and look at labels and the region and figure out what the wine should taste like and its flavor profile.
Do you think people into craft beer can take the leap into the world of wine like you did?
When beer enthusiasts are talking to someone that doesn’t like beer they will often say that there is a beer for everybody out there. The same goes for wine. If you like certain things about beer – if you like an oakiness to a beer – you might like a wine with an element of oak. There are correlations. Not all wine tastes the same just like not all beer tastes the same. You find out what you like through trial and error. I didn’t like red wine when I first started working here. But finding flavors that I liked in other things helped me discover what wine I like.
I would also suggest not limiting yourself to domestic pinot noir and cabernets because that might not be a flavor you like in wine from a different part of the world. Some people may not like wine because they only tried a cheaply made California wine years ago. But when you expand to different areas of the world you might find elements that you might like more. I suggest trying a variety of wines from different regions and styles to see what’s out there. Just like I would encourage people to try different kinds of beer. It’s all about finding the one that will hook you in. That will make you want to learn more about wine and try new things.
So now you get to choose the beer we offer here. What inspires your choices?
I like that we don’t pour genetic beers like bud light. We just have local craft beer and we support local breweries. I like that we have the creative control to rotate the beer we offer. We can try new beer on tap or in cans. Recently we brought in beer from Middle James Brewing which is right here in Pineville. I had never heard of them before but I tried it and thought it was pretty good so I put some cans in the cooler and now it’s our top-selling beer! They are super local and super small. There are so many breweries in Charlotte, so it’s cool to be able to try new things and choose what to bring into the store. I get to choose what I think others might like.
Tell us about a memorable bottle of wine. What was special about it?
When I first started here I really just drank rosé or white wine – something on the sweet side. I was not into red wine at all I thought it was all dry and gross. (laughs) But wwo bottles of red changed my mind. I’ll always remember trying the Zuccardi Malbec and Chappellet Mountain Cuvee that we pour by the glass. Those were the first two reds that I tasted and realized that I can drink and enjoy red wine. That ties back into my point about getting beer people to try wine. The flavor profile hooked me into that region and style. I love Argentinian wine now. I think Spanish wines are really cool too. After trying those I started expanding my pallet beyond Moscato and Pinot Grigio.
You discovered both of those through our by-the-glass program, would you say we have a good selection available for guests to try?
We have a good variety – more than other places like steakhouses which only have pretty generic wines on their list. We have some more unique wine like muscadel and Blaufrankisch which is an Austrian wine and something that I had never heard of until I saw it by the glass here. When I was at Greenville, they started pouring assyrtiko which is a Greek white wine. I didn’t even know wine came from Greece so I tried it and was like “wow this is delicious!” That inspired me to dive more into that region. I like that we have wine flights so you can try wine from all over. If you find something you really like you can dive more into that region or style. There are so many options that can open you up to more regions or areas to further explore. Sometimes I can even tie into our events – if someone likes a Malbec by the glass I can let them know that there’s a South-American wine diner coming up if they want an opportunity to explore the region more. I like that we have a wide variety – not just domestic wine with one French and one Italian option. We have wine from all over the world to choose from.
What’s your approach to interacting with guests?
Typically I’ll start with the question “what do you normally drink?” if they say “pinot noir” I would ask if they want to stick with that or if they are open to trying something different. If they like Oregon Pinot Noir, I would suggest Bordeaux too. I’ll then offer them a taste of something by the glass to build a profile based on what they like and don’t like. I like to offer them two options to taste and build a profile based on what they liked or didn’t like and then recommend something based on that. I usually show them two different wines of opposite body styles so I can find what they like and find that sweet spot. It’s effective and people appreciate that we take the time to get to know what they are asking for and give them a few options to choose from. So if they said initially they like Pinot Noir, they would end up being recommended similar wine from Italy or France as well giving that options to expand their horizons. That’s what sets us apart. We could have just poured them a Pinot Noir and then move on. We really take the time to find that perfect bottle or glass for them.
What’s something you recently learned about wine?
It’s always cool to apply something I learned in a textbook to real life. I always knew for a fact that wine from different soil types would taste different but recently I was able to try a flight of the same wine from a similar region but different soil types and it was amazing to really taste the difference in the soil. It was 3 Grenache wines from clay, granite, and limestone soil. I could really taste the difference. I’ve learned the most by tasting. The granite soil type wine was by favorite it added a bit of minerality and depth but it was still smooth.
What do you wish more people knew about wine?
You don’t need to shop wine based on the name brand alone. A lot of people are stuck on drinking only well-known brand names like Caymus. If they moved away from popular names they could open themselves up to lots of new wines and new flavors and not just the same thing over and over again. They could enjoy more variety of and expand their taste in wine and potentially find something cheaper that drinks better. I’ve tried wines that are $300 a bottle and thought it was good but I’ve had $100 bottle that has a little more going on. A big label isn’t always the best wine.