Pouring Wine with Cecile Levee of Wine With Me Negril

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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Finally , I got the opportunity to visit Wine With Me and pour wine with Cecile Levee at her revised, relocated wine bar located at the Beachcomber Hotel on Norman Manley Blvd in Negril.


Chris Reckord (CR): How did you get involved with wine? Did you have an ah-ha wine moment?

Cecile Levee (CL): My love affair with wine started in New York City while working for Danny Meyer (Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, Marta, The Modern, Terrace 5 at MoMA, to name a few of his well-known restaurants), at Union Square Cafe. His approach to wine, food and service was something I had never experienced before; the passion was infectious.

My wine ah-ha moment back then was tasting a Chassagne-Montrachet, and recently it was Insignia, until last year on a trip to Napa Valley and I had the privilege of attending a private tasting of Hundred Acre Cabernet, recipient of about 4,100 points rating, (privilege, because it's only available through their mailing list at the modest price of US$400). I am now fortunate to be on the mailing list, but still saving to afford the wines.

CR: How did the idea of Wine With Me come about?

CL: Because of my love for food, wine and service. And more personally, the way I like to eat.

CR: This is the second time around .... What are the major lessons from the MoBay experience?

CL: The major lesson is location, location, location. And space size. Not that I have perfected that this time around. Sometimes you are limited by availability, but the desire is so strong to follow what you are most passionate about that you forget .. and make the best of what you have to work with.

Another factor was 10 years ago I was the first wine bar in Jamaica, so we were way ahead of the market in terms of wine drinking. Now there are at least 10 wine bars in Jamaica and Jamaicans are embracing wines as a part of daily socialising.

CR: Do you have a preferred style of wine? What about preferred wine and food pairings?

CL: My preferred style is full-bodied, meaty wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, Big Cabs, etc. However, I am a really flexible wine drinker. In summer I prefer white wines, orange wines and sparkling, but I do try to drink a glass of red wine daily.

I am not usually caught up with pairings. I love wines so much I find ways to make them work with whatever I am eating, and if they don't pair well, I eat first and drink the wine after.

CR: Which wine countries have you visited? Where else would you love to visit?

CL: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, USA, Canada, Germany, South Africa, China, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Estonia, Cuba, Lithuania, Belgium, UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and Indonesia. It is surprising that a lot of these countries produce wines.

Australia and New Zealand are on my bucket list for total wine experiences.

CR: What are your thoughts on the local wine scene?

CL: I am really thrilled with what's happening on the local wine scene; it means when I am not at Wine With Me I can still have amazing wines. A lot of households are now having, if not a cellar, then at least a wine fridge. Even the supermarkets have got into the game in a big way.


CR: What is your biggest challenge?

CL: The cost of importing wines. The duties are quite prohibitive and maybe we should as a country look at the data showing the health benefits of especially red wines and treat it as such.

CR: If you were able to, what one thing would you do to improve business /or impact the wine culture?

CL: I would get rid of a lot of the unnecessary red tape, reduce interest rates and understand that there is value in businesses that create employment.

For the wine culture reduce the duties! We are a tourist country and being able to offer wines at prices comparative to the country of origin will only work to enhance the value of the product we offer as part of Vacation Jamaica. And for Jamaicans it is an introduction to something new that they can now be a part of; another conversation for personal growth if one chooses.

CR: What's your vision for Wine With Me?

CL: My vision for Wine With Me is to provide the ultimate wine, food and service experience and to infect my staff and customers with the passion.

CR: Any parting thoughts?

CL: I am really excited about the emerging food and wine culture that's happening in Jamaica. There needs to be a better understanding beyond what's on the plate or in the glass and the cost of getting it there is not as simple as 'but Tom Brown sells it for $2'. Not all foods are created equally; ingredients make the difference, so do location, ambience and the type of service offered. So don't be too quick to label someone's food as expensive without understanding the hidden cost of getting it to the table.

And thanks to you, Chris, you have played a very important part in the emerging wine culture in Jamaica.


Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord




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