Story by LISA ANDERSON
Brian Morey stumbled into the wine industry as a college student in Michigan. He was an accounting student by day and a bartender at night. He “accidentally got a job at a wine bar,” after helping out at a wedding. The owner of a high-end wine bar had been a guest at the wedding, and she had enjoyed his bartending style so much, she told him to apply for a job. The bar was only two houses down from Brian’s home, and that job is what started his wine career.
Brian would rotate his accounting homework with learning about and trying wines. “Slowly but surely, I had an interest in wine. As long as people have been around, we’ve been fermenting something. Wine has been a part of so many cultures.”
Becoming a Sommelier
Brian moved to Palm Beach County in the early 1990s and got a job as an accountant. The lifestyle was not his cup of tea. “Sitting in a cubicle doing spreadsheets just wasn’t my thing.”
He had paid his way through college working in the restaurant industry, and after leaving his accounting job, he returned to it. At one point, he co-owned a café with a friend, but the two eventually parted ways and sold the business. “By this time, I was really into wine,” Brian explains.
He applied for a position he saw in the newspaper, and Brian was hired to sell wine for a gentleman who had a true appreciation of it. His employer wanted the wines in the best restaurants, and Brian quickly realized he didn’t know as much about it as he had thought. The customers he was approaching enjoyed drinking French and Italian wines, but Brian’s knowledge was domestically-rooted.
Over the next few years, he increased his knowledge and completed his level one sommelier certification in 2004. Brian attributes a lot of his education to traveling and spending time with wine makers in Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and the West Coast.
The Beginning of Morevino Wine
Brian started his own wine distribution company, in 2003, with the intent of one day owning a restaurant. “The wine business just kind of took off. Before I knew it, I was going from Key West to Charleston and calling on everything from the finest restaurants to Disney to the Four Seasons Hotel—anyone who sold wine. I worked for importers all over the world. It was a great opportunity. The more I did it, the more I liked it. I was smart enough when I started my company to just be quiet, listen, and ask questions.”
Brian, his wife, and their two small children moved out of their Palm Beach County home and onto a family farm in Dunnellon, about 10 years ago. They were caretakers of the farm for several years, before the property sold. Brian continued his wine business, during their stay, and he even looked at opening his restaurant in The Villages about eight years ago. While the business concept felt like a great fit for the area, he wasn’t sold on the leasing options for the community.
Then, two years ago, Brian turned 50. “That’s when I really decided if I was going to do it, I needed to do it now.”
Morevino Wine opened on Silver Springs Boulevard just 37 days before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. Brian faced a walk-in cooler full of food and a nightmare situation for a new business. However, with some ingenuity, he turned his menu into family-style meals. “In about a month, we were doing a tremendous amount of to-go business. I turned to Facebook and we went from 40 or 50 followers to almost 2,000 now. It’s really grown our business. It’s fantastic.”
Beyond his passion for wine, Brian is also a lover of food and a self-taught chef. “Everywhere I went, if I liked it, I came home and made it. I’d put my spin on it and turn it into something of my own. [While] I was in the wine business, I was hoarding all those recipes away. So, that’s where my menu comes from. It’s a little Pacific Rim, a lot of Italian, and there’s also the meat and potatoes, because I’m a Midwest boy from Michigan.”
The restaurant’s wine dinners are one of his monthly favorites, and they have become so popular they have a waiting list. Brian loves the dinners, because it gives him the opportunity to educate the diners about new wines, share some foods not on the menu, and celebrate the kitchen staff. “I get to talk endlessly about wine. My family is sick of hearing about it, but these people want to hear about it,” he laughs.
Brian is definitely in his element when talking about food and wine. His menu is rich with locally sourced food, and the wine list is enhanced by personal stories. Sitting down at his table is all about education, experience, and passion.