David Noto: Making a career in fine wine
David Noto built a career on bringing high-quality Prosecco, a fine sparkling white wine, from the grape vines of Italy to taste buds to the United States. Noto, 41, was first a mechanical and environmental engineer in New York and Italy for about six years until 1999. He returned to New York City to work in finance as a technology advisor at Citi Group Capital Advisors until February 2012.
He then decided to fully dedicate his life to Prosecco, so he returned to Italy to do the necessary footwork and launched his company Altaneve in May 2013. Noto lives in the Financial District.
Why did you switch careers?
My family was in winemaking before my father for over 10 generations and it's something I've known all my life. And when I was looking to transition after my finance career I decided that this would be a wonderful place to go.
What makes Prosecco a unique kind of wine?
Prosecco is an Italian white sparkling wine and the United States has been importing Prosecco and it has been growing incredibly quickly over the last seven or eight years. However the U.S. only has low to mid-quality Prosecco and [it comes] at a very low price point, low quality, and my passion about Prosecco was always trying to find a good Prosecco in the U.S. I realized that it was not ever available so I decided it was time to find a partner, invest in a company and bring it to the United States.
How is it made?
Prosecco is different than champagne. The difference is the type of grape used and the winemaking process. The type of grape is Glera [and] it's the Charmat process, where the wine during secondary fermentation ages in a tank. Instead of individually it's aged altogether in one tank which is where the yeast and sugars are added. The secondary fermentation with the yeast and the sugars; these are the same things that make it sparkling in champagne, but in champagne it happens over a long period of time and in individual bottles.
What challenges are involved with selling it in NYC?
My brand is really creating a new price quality segment for Prosecco in the United States, so the difficulty is convincing the stores and restaurants that people will pay for an excellent quality, more expensive Prosecco.
Do you wish you had gone into this originally?
I really feel that my experiences assisted me in doing the work that I'm doing now. I bring a lot of project management and technological background and otherwise knowledge to the table that I would not have otherwise been able to do had I done this years ago. So I'm very fortunate to have done so many great work experiences, and in doing so I think I can appreciate what I do now and the passion I have for it in comparison to other things.
What is a pro and a con of your new career?
The pro is doing something that you're very passionate about that keeps you excited and stimulated every day. It really helps you want to wake up in the morning and the hours are of no consequence because you're so excited about doing it. The cons are because you're doing it yourself, there's a lot of financial responsibility and a lot on yourself. People depend on you.
What is next for your business?
We have a whole list of product line extensions that are upcoming in the coming year to two years; we will add a sparkling rosé and we hope to add new products and new sizes of bottles over the coming year as well.
What is your favorite thing to drink besides wine?
I really enjoy red wine, I enjoy vodkas, I enjoy beer, I enjoy tequilas -- I enjoy alcohol but funnily enough I drink less now than I ever have before in my life, because many of the times that I go out in the evenings I am entertaining or it's work and I don't feel it's appropriate to drink during work.
What kind of food do you recommend for a pairing with Prosecco?
One of the greatest things about my Prosecco, and I would say my Prosecco specifically because it's extra dry, it's very easily pairable with foods, so it goes very well by itself, with appetizer type dishes, with vegetables, with poultry, with fish, and with white meat, as well as deserts, with chocolates, cakes. There are just so many wonderful plates that Prosecco goes so well with, especially an extra dry Prosecco that's not too sweet.
Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?
Especially if you're going to wine or spirits, do a little test marketing. A lot of people told me at the beginning that [you should] definitely do a business plan. And the business plan doesn't have to be a 25-page document with all the bells and whistles but it has to make sense. Follow your dreams, do what you're passionate about, but make sure that it makes financial sense.