“I try to entertain people while educating them at the same time, so I make sure everybody has fun and they learn about wines,” said Nate Garn, owner and the man behind Specialty Tastings. “And hopefully, I show them my passion for it.”
Specialty Tastings is a wine-tasting business based in York County. Besides offering private wine sampling parties and working festivals and events, the company also offers tastings of alcoholic beverages and gourmet food.
In the mid 1990s, Garn began his journey with fine wines as the manager of Wine Street Gourmet in downtown Hampton. He was mentored by its owner, George LeCuyer, and was instructed by John Keating, who would come from the College of William & Mary to teach classes on wine. With thanks to both of these gentlemen, Garn began his experience with the samplings and tastings that the storefront offered.
“I did other things for about 15 years. Then around 2011, I formed an LLC and I saw an ad that somebody was looking to do wine tastings at retail outlets, so I answered it, and I’ve been doing it since,” he says.
Garn’s three initiatives are his retail operations, wine tastings and wine samplings. Much of his work occurs within retail storefronts such as Total Wine, Whole Foods and World Market. At these places he works as an independent contractor, showcasing wines from across the globe for customers to consider. He also hosts private wine-tasting parties for individuals and works at events for organizations, including the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus and Peninsula Women’s Network.
“Tasting several wines, we talk about them, comparing notes and sampling different styles and regions, and really, laugh,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun, with everyone having a good time.”
“[If I’m] doing a private party, usually a guest from that party will want to host a party, so it’s word of mouth and referrals most of the time,” he says of Specialty Tastings’ growth.
Depending on the crowd he’s serving and the time of year, Garn will typically recommend different types of wine. “I like Italian, Spanish and French wines best — they all pair with food really well. A lot of people in America are used to California wines or fruity wines, so I try to include wines from different places around the world offering different flavors and styles for comparison. It’s also based on their budget too — that plays a part in the wine selection. A good mix will include two to three white and/or wines from around the world and two to three red wines from Virginia or California.”
Garn likes to pair the wines with a variety of different foods, including cheese and crackers, chocolate and finger sandwiches. “It depends, again, on the event,” he said. “If it’s a party, a lot of times the host will bring a charcuterie board or dessert.”
Garn travels throughout Virginia to wine festivals, staying mostly in the Hampton Roads area but expanding as far as Charlottesville to network and discuss the finest wines, including Virginia’s own home-grown varieties. As a contractor through Specialty Tastings, he has every opportunity to expand his reach, meeting different contacts at various locations.
And what is Garn’s personal favorite? “I like red, dry, full-bodied wines with a lot of tannins—which is the “grippiness” in a dry red wine. I like the cabernet sauvignons, Italian wines, and I also like many French wines, since they’re so elegant and go with food very well,” he says.
Garn hopes to host more home parties and work with more organizations. He also aspires to get into more consulting work. “I like to stay busy enough that it’s not a one-man show, he says.
Garn describes himself as “very busy.” He has been married for 34 years, and has five daughters. Outside of work, he is involved in his church, the Knights of Columbus, and the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce. He also enjoys reading “and trying out wines—it’s a benefit of the business,” he says with a laugh.
TO THE POINT:
Contact: Nate Garn