“I’m very, very lucky. We’re completely blessed.”
That’s how Grey Oaks Country Club Sommelier, Victor Valdivia, describes his role and members’ experiences when it comes to the exclusive wine offerings presented.
With 32 years of experience, the sommelier works to provide exceptional bottle service to his fortunate guests, pairing their palates with luxurious, premium wines.
Interest Stemming from Youth
Starting young, Valdivia has been around the sophisticated beverage since childhood. Both sets of his grandparents were born and raised in Spain, where wine is undoubtedly a large part of the everyday culture – with meals, in particular.
His paternal grandfather sparked Valdivia’s interest in wine, often expressing his love of fine Bordeaux and Spanish varieties. That led to an interest in such a career for the young mind.
“I cut my teeth in New York City,” the New Jersey native explains, noting he started working in the wine and restaurant industry at this time.
In 1997, Florida gained him as a resident. For ten years, the wine lover worked at Naples Grande Beach Resort (previously known as The Registry Resort & Club) in the wine department, noting they had not yet had a sommelier. His following endeavor was at Naples National Golf Club as the Wine Director for eight years.
At last, in 2013, Valdivia joined Grey Oaks Country Club as the Sommelier, which they too had not had previously.
“I was given the opportunity to come in and, from the ground up, build it. We have grown exponentially to new heights. We’ve gone from having around 45 wine selections on the wine list, to now, we’re well over 600,” reports Valdivia. These current assortments are from all regions, both the New and Old World.
He credits much of his success at Grey Oaks Country Club to his superior and the Director of Food and Beverage, Anthony Hobb.
"Anthony has been in the high-end food and beverage business quite a long time and is a giant among my colleagues in Florida. He challenges me to think outside the box in creating a well diversified wine program."
The wine professional is taking his skill even further and is on the journey toward earning his diploma as a Master Sommelier.
His day-to-day routine? It starts with researching hard-to-get selections from boutique producers, which does in fact include delicious tastings. This investigative work goes toward putting together the three separate wine lists that change every few weeks at Grey Oaks Country Club.
Of course, like any classic sommelier, Valdivia also works the floor amid the dinner rush, assisting the country club members with selecting the best wine that serves their requests.
“The key to being a good sommelier is to be a good listener. It’s all about being the Master of Service and pleasing the customer. I’m here to serve the consumers and pair up some amazing wines to leave them very happy.”
Grey Oaks Members Go Behind the Velvet Rope
A large perk for Grey Oaks Country Club and Moorings Park at Grey Oaks members alike is the many wine-focused activities that take place throughout the year at the Southwest Florida country club.
For starters, Valdivia coordinates monthly themed wine classes, allowing participants to “travel” through various countries via the vino. “I take them to Spain and Italy, per se. They learn about the wine chemistry,” he explains, even putting tastebuds to the test. “I show members how to blind taste wine, how I do it.”
In this, he welcomes comprehensive discussions and learning opportunities for wine connoisseurs, or those who wish to be. His goal is to teach his excited, willing audience.
Another event lucky members can indulge in is the exclusive vintner wine dinners – around only five a year are held - organized and hosted by Valdivia. This special evening allows members to sip a variety of limited, unique wines and is a rare, private perk. “I have the actual vintner or owner come to these very special wine dinners – with no more than 60 people.” Naturally, an additional result of his deep, never-ending research.
Though, if you consider that special, Valdivia even escorts fortunate members to the notorious Napa Valley. “I’ll take two to three groups once a year – in June – and we’ll go to special VIP wineries and boutiques. Generally, [we’ll taste] creations most people in the public won’t have access to.”
He stresses these are incredibly luminary tours, with direct connections to the winemakers or owners (sometimes, even inside their homes.) “We go behind the velvet rope.”
Of course, who can forget about Wine Down Wednesdays? In the summer months, all Grey Oaks members are invited between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM to taste a premium selection of wine, hand-selected by Valdivia.
“I choose two wines – a white and a red – and typically, they’re easy-drinking and value-driven; something that’s easy to find in any store. It’s simply a way to introduce members to wine. Maybe they’ve never had a Chardonnay by that certain brand before. So, I’m opening their eyes to new places and new parts of the world.”
Though, this is not to get confused with the bi-monthly Sommelier Selections program he also develops. To elevate the experience and appreciation of the beverage even further, Valdivia compiles ultra-rare selections of wine – ones that are extraordinary and hard to get your hands on, with very good pricing. He then sends out two private emails a month to all Grey Oaks Country Club members offering these assortments for purchase.
These wines are coming straight from the winery and are as exclusive as a Grey Oaks Country Club membership itself. And these opportunities are available to Moorings Park at Grey Oaks members. But hurry – the wine goes fast.
“I’d say I sell around 50 to 125 cases in an hour and a half; we’ve created this huge following with these emails. I cannot get enough wine!”
It’s significant to note that none of these amenities or programs were in existence prior to Valdivia joining the Grey Oaks team eight years ago.
A Partnership as Fine as the Wine
Members of Moorings Park at Grey Oaks receive all the privileges of a Grey Oaks Sports Membership, automatically making the sommeliers offerings available.
Valdivia declares he sees a steady amount of Moorings Park at Grey Oaks members at these unique events and would always like to see more. He encourages everyone to take part as everybody should have the pleasure of tasting these fabulous, treasure-trove wines.
“[Grey Oaks Country Club] loves the partnership with Moorings Park at Grey Oaks; it’s terrific they have access to this ‘club.’”
You can likely find Valdivia at the Pool Café the next time members want to take a vino journey around the world as he’s always open to chatting and making genuine connections with his guests. Perhaps, next time you see him, ask him about his personal favorite wine: Château Lafite.