Food Interview

The World in a Glass

The two cousins behind Gooseneck Vineyards bring global grapes to Rhode Island

Posted

Gooseneck Vineyards is a most unlikely story: Liana Buonanno grew up in Latvia, then moved to New York and met her husband, Rob. Liana worked for JP Morgan, but she shared a passion for wine with Rob’s cousin, Paul Fede. As their friendship grew, Paul and Liana came up with a wild idea – to start a winery that sublets other farmers’ land and machinery. The result was Gooseneck Vineyards, which partners with vintners all over the world, from Oregon to Spain, taking a selection of their grapes and labor to create Gooseneck’s diverse selection. Yet the company is decidedly rooted in Rhode Island, and its festive labels take their inspiration from the New England coast. Today, Gooseneck products can be found in stores and restaurants across the Ocean State, and in 15 other states as well. We met up with Paul and Liana to talk about their ever-growing business.

How would you describe your relationship with wine?
Paul: I grew up in the wine business. My grandfather and his brother, when they came back from World War II, opened a retail store in Providence and eventually started Kingstown Liquors. Our family is Italian, and I was always surrounded by wine. I helped my dad for a couple of years, and I loved how consumers responded to certain labels and the flavor profiles they came back for.
Liana: I enjoy drinking it. I always had good wines on the table when I was with Paul’s family. But it didn’t translate when I went by myself, because I didn’t know what to pick.

How did you decide to join forces for Gooseneck?
Liana: My old job used to be advising large corporations that were in distress. I’d come in with a team, and we’d decide whether they should file for bankruptcy. It was very intense, but it definitely made me feel that I could do anything. Paul had this idea of creating a brand of everyday, high-quality varietals. Whatever wines that were out there, we always said we could do it better. So I quit my job and we said, “Let’s do it.”

You have an unusual business model, growing grapes and crafting wine in many different regions. What was the rationale behind that?
Liana: The premise is very simple: if you want a portfolio of high-quality wines, you cannot possibly make it in one place. There are some companies that just get leftover wine from different places, and they consolidate it under one label, but the wine [isn’t] consistent. So we decided to be involved in every single step. If we were to try to get our own plot of land, get some equipment, there’s no way we could provide the same value.
Paul: Especially if we did it here. Rhode Island just lacks the 20 extra days above 90 degrees to drive up sugars.
Liana: We tasted an obscene amount of wine to find that perfect blend we were looking for. It’s hard work, but we can’t overestimate how lucky we are to do what we do every day.

Tell me about the labels you designed.
Paul: We wanted to capture the colors you see on our southern New England coastline. You go to any beach club, and everybody has pastel colors on, fancy patterns. We wanted Gooseneck to be relaxing, accessible.