Meet Kate Webber, Owner & Wine Director, Gibbet Hill Grill

Kate Webber’s extensive wine knowledge and expertise made her the perfect sommelier to review Still River Winery’s New! Sparkling Apple Ice Wine.

During our conversation, Kate also shared insights on Webber Restaurant Group, how she’s blended her Masters in creative writing with a career in wine, and remarks on what’s it like being a woman making her mark in Boston’s wine world.

Can you talk about the holdings and history of the Webber Restaurant Group?

“Many people are interested to learn the pronunciation of the restaurant name, which is JIB-bet. It’s an old English term for a gallows or hangman’s noose. Webber Restaurant Group includes Groton’s Gibbet Hill Grill & The Barn at Gibbet Hill, Hingham’s Scarlet Oak Tavern, Burlington’s Fireside Catering, and we manage Beverly’s The Estate at Moraine Farm, Harvard’s Fruitlands Museum, and LaBelle Winery in Amherst, NH.

On Webber Restaurant Group

“The Webber Restaurant Group is a family-owned and operated business that was made possible by my father Steven Webber who in 2000 purchased a 338-acre farm in Groton, MA, plus an adjacent 188-acre orchard. The motivation for the purchase was not to enter the restaurant business but to prevent imminent and unwanted residential development.

In 2004 my brothers Josh, Jed and I opened the steakhouse called Gibbet Hill Grill on the property. We fashioned a 100-year-old New England style barn on the farm into the restaurant. Shortly afterwards, we opened The Barn at Gibbet Hill, a function facility in a similarly restored barn next door.

I may be biased saying this, but my brothers Jed and Josh are brilliant businessmen. We’re all working hard to grow Webber Restaurant Group intelligently. Admittedly, I have the best job in the world as Wine Director and just love working with my family.”

The Webber Family:  Leaders in the Farm to Fork Movement

All of our operations are run with the principal of using local farms for as much of our sourcing as possible. We believe that in season, New England products cannot be beat in taste and freshness, and we are committed to bringing that bounty to our customers.

In 2009 we increased our level of commitment in the farm-to-fork philosophy and hired a Farm Manager to plant two acres of produce to be used in the Grill and Barn. Today over 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, beets, cucumbers, greens, beans, peppers, herbs, edible flowers, and many other crops are grown and served in our operations.”

So we’ve successfully designed a system where most of our produce in season comes from our own Gibbet Hill Farm in Groton. However, we round out our purchasing by having partnerships throughout the New England farming community so we can access the broadest range of local ingredients.”

What do you think of our New! Sparkling Apple Ice Wine?

“I love it, it’s great! Even with my wine studies and the judging I’ve done at competitions, this was surprisingly the first sparkling apple ice wine I’d ever had. When I had my first taste, I started thinking about what a terrific alternative this wine would be to replace Moscato d’Asti, which is a sparkling white wine from Italy that is popular, low in alcohol and often enjoyed with desserts.

In many ways, this sparkling version of Apfel Eis is more interesting than an Italian sparkling wine because of the crisp apple flavor which is deliciously unique, elegant and comforting at the same time.

I opened a bottle to pour for Gibbet Hill associates and everyone was taken with it. One of the staff was so crazy about it they lobbied and won the chance to take the rest of the bottle home.

The sparkling version of Apfel Eis is a winning proposition for our restaurant because it’s a product our customers are guaranteed to enjoy, and it fits with our values to celebrate outstanding local products whenever we can.”

What’s it like serving our flagship Apfel Eis at Gibbet Hill?

“We’ve featured Still River’s apple ice wine since its first year on the market. It’s always on our wine list and I order it by the case. We always have it available because our restaurant patrons love it and we enjoy selling it.

I serve the wine with confidence because The Holtzman family has a golden reputation for consistently meeting the challenge of producing a dessert wine that delivers a “not too sweet” tartness, achieved through “just right” acidity.

In fact, I often put Apfel Eis on the menus of our summer wine dinners at Gibbet Hill. We hold these events on our deck where diners gain views of Gibbet Hill Farm. As I walk from table to table discussing the menu, it is a pleasure for our guests to actually see the farmland. And, people are so interested to learn that Apfel Eis is wine made from local apples right in nearby Harvard, MA.

Both varieties of Apfel Eis pair wonderfully with stone fruit desserts, like cobblers. We also recommend it with elegant offerings, like pear tart.”

Are There More Women in Today’s Wine Industry?

“In the not too distance past, a large part of the wine industry was comprised of a generation of men. When I started out there was definitely an expectation that I had to prove myself. But today, more people are willing to trust the abilities and expertise of younger women in the field. Sure, there remain some that think women have yet to earn their stripes, but that is changing everyday.

What’s driving that change is a growing population of wine drinkers, many of whom are discriminating women who want to be educated and involved in the purchasing decision of what wines are selected for their enjoyment.

This leads to an environment where it’s more acceptable for women to pursue an education in wine, which in turn leads them to positions of authority in the industry. At the end of the day, influence in the wine world comes from your purchasing power, and we’re seeing more and more women in purchasing positions today.”

Describe Boston’s Wine Community

“In my role as Vice Chair of the Boston Sommelier Society, I get to work with a set of happy, dedicated sommeliers in their 20s and 30s. It is a cohesive, vibrant group, and does include women.”

You have an impressive background in creative writing and hold a Masters of Fine Arts. Do you ever think about combining your love of wine and creative writing?

“I already have. I won a writing contest and was invited to Italy and had the chance to write about those experiences over a 6-month period. That experience led to me being invited to judge at wine competitions. One of the greatest thrills I ever had was working with Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Her many notable and prestigious accomplishments include serving as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993-1995. I want to share an excellent video of her reading her poem, Testimonial, with your Apple Blog readers.

The theme of the poem is if you accept the world, it will accept you back. This idea resonates with me; I never dreamed I would be a sommelier, working in a family business and now pursuing the daunting degree of Master of Wine. But as circumstances unfolded in my life, I embraced them. It’s been my experience that when you open yourself up to unexpected opportunities, great things can happen.” Here’s the clip I know you will enjoy: