7 Questions with Eric Cooperman, The Cliffs Director of Beverage

The Cliffs is home to an amazing family of not only members, but also an astounding team devoted to delivering amazing experiences whether on the course or courts, in the Wellness Center or the dining room and beyond.

One member of this passionate team of professionals is Eric Cooperman, The Cliffs Director of Beverage. Whether you’re a foodie, budding oenophile or full-blown wine connoisseur sharing Eric’s passion for the fruit of the vine, you’re sure to have seen Eric around our communities or attended one of his invigorating wine dinners. But if you’ve yet to have met Eric, let us introduce you. We recently asked him seven questions about his career in the world of wine, the most memorable glass he’s ever had and what he’s most looking forward to during The Cliffs WINE + FOOD 2017

    1. Why did you decide to pursue a career in the world of wine?
      Actually, wine found me. It was during a culinary externship at Johnson & Wales University. I was working in Europe at the two-star La Rive restaurant in the Netherlands. The resident sommelier was resolute on teaching the American apprentice some appreciation for wine. Embarrassingly enough, before this experience, Manischewitz was really the only wine I’d ever known. After tasting a sip of 1994 Felsina Rancia Chianti Classic Riserva I’ve never looked back. The relationship between food and wine became clear and I’ve been smitten ever since. I finished my externship, found my way back to the states and began working in wine. That was twenty years ago.
    2. What are the next steps in your journey to becoming a Master Sommelier?
      Everyone’s path to becoming a Master Sommelier is different. While my career in wine has spanned two decades, formal education through the Court of Master Sommeliers only recently became an aspiration. In 2014, I sat for and passed both the Introductory and Certified Sommelier exams. It is my goal to pass the Advanced exam next year and sit for Master Theory in 2019. Inspiring staff and mentoring those with the desire to learn is a huge passion of mine. It’s a huge part of the journey. Giving back to the next generation of young sommeliers not only feels good but tends to reward in ways unforeseen.
    3. What is the best or most memorable glass of wine you’ve ever had?
      Besides the 1994 Felsina, one of the most memorable wines I’ve ever tasted was a 1975 Château Lafite Rothschild. A birth year wine for me, albeit an off vintage in Bordeaux. My expectations were fairly low, especially after peeling back the foil and discovering a disintegrating cork. To my disbelief, the wine packed gorgeous vibrancy, elegance, and panache. The birthday angels were shining down that day. Paired with the experience of a nine-course prix-fixe dinner in downtown Philadelphia, it was incredible.
    4. What has been your most memorable experience in your working with wine?
      So, about ten years ago, I ran a wine shop in Orlando called Gran Cru. Being a huge fan of Oregon Pinot Noir, I decided to organize a two-day festival focused on Oregon wine and it’s producers. Over thirty producers flew out for this sold-out event. We hosted dinners, tastings, wine classes, and a charity auction. The event concluded, and we began the arduous task of cleaning up after a whirlwind weekend. It was midnight when Howard Rossbach, then owner of Firesteed Winery returned, asking if he could help clean. It was only four of us, and we need the help. We hastily handed him a polishing towel and a rack of glasses. In comes Brian O’Donnell of Belle Pente, followed by David Adelsheim (founder of Adelsheim Vineyard), followed by Harry Peterson-Nedry (founder of Chehalem Winery), followed by Myron Redford (founder of Amity Vineyard), followed by Forrest Klaffke (former winemaker for Willamette Valley Vineyards). Power had gone out in their hotel, leaving them in the dark and thirsty. Returning to the shop, they found themselves in a rare situation, a self-proclaimed reunion of the founding fathers of Oregon wine. Until 4:00 am, they sat polishing glasses, recounting stories with each other, poking fun at failure and reliving successes from the early years of Oregon wine. It was one of the most moving, memorable experiences of my life.
    5. How has THE CLIFFS WINE + FOOD evolved during your time as Director of Beverage?
      We hosted the inaugural WINE + FOOD festival back in 2014. We didn’t know what to expect. Would our Membership support the idea? Would our staff grasp the vision and work tirelessly for nearly two straight weeks? Could we attract principles in the wine industry to fly out here and host events? The answer was absolutely yes! Now in its fourth year, we’ve seen exponential growth and expect another complete sellout of all nineteen events.
    6. What event or aspect of THE CLIFFS WINE + FOOD 2017 are you most looking forward to?
      Besides the excitement of hosting my mentors, John Blazon, MS; Geoff Labitzke, MW; and Nick Demos, I look forward to the unity the festival brings to The Cliffs. On this rare occasion, all seven communities join forces to achieve something few private clubs can execute. Nineteen events over ten days is no easy task, and I’m so grateful to work for a company with such high-level camaraderie and hospitality heart.
    7. Aside from finding the best wines available for Cliffs members, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
      Some of my favorite hobbies include cooking, traveling and hiking. Some say I’ve been spotted with a microphone in hand at several karaoke spots across the country. I’ll neither admit or deny that claim.

Be sure to join Eric as all seven communities gather to celebrate The Cliffs WINE + FOODSeptember 22-30! To learn more, register online or purchase public tickets for The Grand Tasting, visit cliffsliving.com/winefood2017.

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