Meet Our Staff
Wayne | Madison | Bernardsville
Gary Fisch, Owner
When Gary was working toward his B.S. from Rider College in Political Science, he didn’t yet know where life was going to take him. In his senior year of college, he began to work part time with his father, a liquor salesman. While other salespeople concentrated on selling liquor, Gary fell in love with wine and decided to become an expert in that newly expanding area. He educated himself at the Sommelier Institute in New Jersey and at several of Windows on the World's wine courses. He began setting up wine seminars for restaurants and sales staff. The secret to his success is a passionate love and broad knowledge of his product -- and the skill to communicate that delight. That enthusiasm and intelligence served him well when he teamed up with his brother Mark in 1987 and opened a 1,500 sq. ft. store in Madison, New Jersey. Two moves later, Gary's Madison store is now 13,000 sq. ft. In 1997, their second 10,000 sq. ft. store opened in Livingston (this has since been sold), followed in 2001 by another 10,000 sq. ft. location in Bernardsville, N.J. In 2008, he opened his largest location to date --24,000 square feet-- at 1308 Route 23 North in Wayne N.J.
Gary travels extensively in order to expand his knowledge of wine. He visits the wine regions of California, France, and Italy on a regular basis, and Gary's expertise has earned him national media attention. He has been "The Wine Guy" on the TV Food Network show - Bobby Flay Hot off the Grill, and has made guest appearances on CNN, New Jersey 12 and Bloomberg radio and television. In January 2009, he was profiled in New Jersey Monthly’s “Power Issue” as one of the 101 Most Influential People in the Garden State. Not bad for a guy who simply loves to share his enthusiasm for wine!
Jon Visser, Wine Director
I've been in the wine industry for over ten years. Starting at Carlo Russo's Wine & Spirit World in Fort Lee as a stock clerk/cashier, I soon became interested in learning about wine. After graduating from college, I took wine classes in New York at Harriet Lembeck's. After finishing her program, I worked for William Grant & Sons as a salesperson in New Jersey and then returned to retail as the wine manager at Carlo Russo's. I enjoy wines from all over the world, especially the great values out of Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The region that I am most passionate about is Bordeaux. The best wine I've ever had is Cheval Blanc 1985, drunk at a bachelor party for one of my best friends. I was 25 and the bottle cost only $85. I wish I could get more at that price!
Maggie Fox, Wine Buyer and Wine Club Director
I came to Gary's after studying for my masters in Food Studies at NYU, earning my advanced wine certificate at the International Wine Center, and working for some of the best food and wine magazines in the country. After all of that studying and research, I was happy to find a place where my passion for food, wine and travel can be applied every day, whether it's through selecting and writing up the upcoming Wine Club selections, traveling to an up-and-coming region to discover new wines for the store, or helping customers pick out something they've never tried before for tonight's dinner. There's nothing more fun to me than learning about the stories behind the wine; it's an industry full of legends and characters.
When I'm not reading and writing about wines, I'm an avid traveler, gardener and home cook. If you ever need a recipe suggestion to go with that wine you've been dying to try, come chat with me. I tend to have a new favorite wine every month (many of which you’ll find in our Wine Club selections!)
Jason Oppenberg, General Manager
I first heard of Gary's Wine & Marketplace about ten years ago when I was working on the distribution side of the Wine & Spirits business. I ran a spirits promotion in Gary's Wine & Marketplace of Madison for a local import company. It was, most definitely, the nicest store I had ever seen - an amazing wine selection coupled with an extensive array of gourmet foods. I had never come across anything like it before. A few years later I made a switch to wine & spirits retail management, and in 2009 I joined the management team at Gary's Wine & Marketplace of Wayne. I grew up around the corner from here, in Montville, so this was most definitely a welcome homecoming for me.
I absolutely love our wine selection here at Gary's - I'm a fan of bold California Cabernet Sauvignon, peppery Shiraz, and medium sweet German Rieslings. Our recently expanded craft beer selection is just as amazing. Please stop by and say "Hello".
Chad Watkins, Assistant Manager
I started working with Gary in October of 2008. Since then I have only grown to love and appreciate wine more and more. My first loves were the Rieslings and Gewuerztraminers of Alsace, where I studied French in college, and I still enjoy them. My philosophy is and has always been to try new wines all the time. There are too many wines out there to drink the same thing every day. My curious nature has also drawn me to formal wine education where I have earned my Intermediate Certificate with Distinction from the WSET and gained the title of Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators. I also spent a week in Bordeaux, France in June 2009 where I became a Certified Bordeaux Educator. I look forward to learning even more about wine and sharing that with others.
Patty Missey, Internet Manager
I began my career at Gary's in October 2009 as the Internet/Guest Service Manager. At that time our Internet dept. was really starting to grow - it is now booming! I love talking to so many wine lovers around the country, and I will do whatever it takes to ensure their experience with Gary's is perfect. I bring to Gary's over 18 years in retail/sales management, and 10 years HR/Personnel experience. Basically I love people and, not to mention, have a long-standing love of wine! If you need help with an order, don't hesitate to call me. I am always happy to hear from our guests.
Alexis Wein, Gourmet Manager
I started as a basket maker while in school and quickly moved into the Gourmet department. I loved it and decided then and there that Gary's Wine and Marketplace was going to be my career. I love all the different facets of my job -- selling cheese, training a new employees - call me weird, but I even like doing inventory! But my favorite part is meeting and building relationships with my customers!
Kathy Brindle, Wine Team
In 2007, I started taking some classes at the International Wine Center in Manhattan to further my knowledge of wine. After completing the WSET Advanced Certification, I joined the Gary's team in 2008. My favorite wines are California Meritage blends and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but I am always open to trying new wines and sharing those discoveries with our guests.
Chris Freudenreich, Wine Team
After twenty-five years with a major German bank I decided it was time for a career change. Being fortunate to have spent time in great wine producing regions (Bacharach in the Rheingau in Germany, Sicily, Provence, Vienna, Austria, Monterey, and Sonoma) wine seemed an obvious choice. I prepared by completing the Intermediate and Advanced WSET wine courses, as well as the Intensive Wine Program at the French Culinary School Institute in NYC. These experiences have enhanced my appreciation for wine and motivated me even more. I am grateful to Gary's for allowing me to put my education and wine experience to use and hope to continue to learn more to share my knowledge with our guests and fellow staff. My favorite wines include the Cremants of Alsace and Burgundy, German Rieslings, the Austrian Blaufrankish and Gruner Veltiner wines, and the volcanic Sicilian Cerasuolo di Vittoria. I am currently preparing to take the CSW exam and hope to start the WSET Diploma Program in January 2012.
Andrew Barnett, Wine Team
My interest in wine began during my senior at Cornell University, when I enrolled in the Hotel School's Introduction to Wines course. After only a few weeks in the class, it became apparent to me that I wanted work in the wine industry. I enjoy learning about many of the world's great wine regions, and have continued my wine education through the WSET. My personal favorite wines include Napa Cab, Bordeaux blends, German Riesling, and Sauternes. If you happen to see me in the Madison store, feel free to ask questions about different bottlings, or just wine in general.
Todd Devine, Wine Team
I have always loved and wanted a career in food. I attended The Culinary Institute of America in 2008, receiving an associate degree in Culinary Arts then I earned a Bachelor's Degree in Food Science and Nutrition Montclair State University in 2010. While in the Culinary Institute I registered for a wine tasting class where I learned about food and wine pairings and loved every minute of it. When I had a chance to work in the gourmet department here at Gary's I jumped at it! My interest in cheese keeps growing along with my relationships with our guests. I am now the proud gourmet manager in Wayne and couldn't be happier.
Brian Maxwell, Manager and Wine Buyer
After spending over 12 years as a chef in New York City and Boston, I came to work at Gary's at Madison. I truly love food friendly wines and enjoy pairing wines with different courses and types of meals. My favorite wines are Italian Reds and German Reislings. I am a diehard Red Sox fan, much to Gary's chagrin! My goal when assisting customers is help them choose a wine they truly will enjoy.
Dave Thompson, Assistant Manager
I started working for Gary's in Bernardsville as a student at FDU 5 years ago and never left – I was hooked. Over the years working here and in restaurants across NJ I have developed a passion for both food and wine. I am currently the gourmet manager in Madison. I love what I do and everyone I work with! Stop in and ask for a taste of any one of our fabulous meats or cheeses!
Sarah Hoyda, Party Planner / Front End Team Leader
My interest in wine developed while working part-time at a local liquor store. Quickly, I became eager to explore this vast world of wine. I began traveling to several wine-making destinations to broaden my horizons including both Napa and Sonoma Counties and Argentina, and joined Gary's staff after a 3-month internship at a vineyard in Casa Blanca, Chile. My favorite wines are full-bodied New World selections, in particular California Chards and fruit-driven robust Red Zins.
I am the Head Event Coordinator in Madison and truly enjoy organizing events and parties and make every effort to ensure your event is a success! Please stop in, call me, or email me if you need guidance for that special function. I strive to provide the best customer service possible and find it rewarding to satisfy a customer's needs. I look forward to continuing my journey of discovering wine, spirits, and beer and helping others do the same.
Megan Crouse, Assistant Cheese Blogger, Madison Gourmet
I graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May of 2011 and began blogging soon after. Working for Gary's allows me to combine my interest in writing with my experience tending to the cheeses in the Madison location. My favorite part of my job is finding new kinds of cheeses and learning about how they're made, so it's been fun to be able to share that information with others.
Rich Isel, Wine Team Leader
After working with a landscaping company for a number of years, I have been on the staff here at Gary's for over 12 years. Initially a beer person, I became more and more interested in wine at our in-store sales presentations and by talking with visiting winemakers and importers. The store has sent me on trips to Napa and Sonoma in California, and to visit wineries in Chile and Argentina. My wine preferences include whites from France, especially the Loire, Alsace and Champagne, as well as New Zealand. In reds, I am fond of Argentina, Southern France, California, and Italy.
Rick Bedkowski, Wine Team
I went to art school in New York City and while I was putting myself through school, I worked in a well-known steak house for extra money. I was there for over five years and slowly came to appreciate wine and spirits more and more. Spanish wines, Tequilas, and cream soda are what I enjoy most.
Annie Monteverdi, Wine Team
After working in my family business for 20 years I decided to explore my interests in wine. I began by taking classes in New York City at the International Wine Center. This experience left me wanting to learn more and explore wine more deeply so boldly I headed to Napa Valley. I enrolled in the Wine Immersion course at the Culinary Institute of America, where I drank, yes had a few glasses of wine, studied hard and left as a Certified Wine Professional. While there I also had the good fortune to work at two different wineries, the oldest and first winery in the Valley, and new more modern winery. I'm a Jersey girl, though, and Napa wasn't home. I've now found my spot at Gary's and now I get to talk about wine all day. What I love about wine is it brings family and friends together and enhances any meal and every conversation. Right now my favorites are Napa Valley Cabernet and Zinfandels. Wine is exciting to me because it is ever changing and timeless at the same time. The best part of my job is that I can explore new wines, new vines, and drink outside the box, so I can share my passion with you.
Keith J. Pignataro, Wine Team
After 23+ years on Wall Street, I decided to follow my heart and turn a hobby and passion of mine - wine - into a second career. I began by augmenting my self-taught knowledge of wine with formal education. Over a period of 18 months, I became a Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educators and received both my Intermediate and Advanced Certificates with Distinction from the WSET. I am currently attending Diploma-level classes at the WSET.
Before landing at Gary's, I spent some time working part-time in my local wine store and for a small wine importer/distributor. I am honored and privileged to be working at Gary's, where I started in December, 2010. The staff is top-notch, and I am fortunate to be learning more and more about wine, spirits and beer from such dedicated and hard-working professionals. When it comes to wine, I have always been open-minded - willing to try new things and expand my palate at the same time. I especially love buying a wine and seeing how it changes over time with age. I look forward to working with each of Gary's clients and for the opportunity to expand their palates and knowledge across a wide range of wines.
Mike Boyle, Wine Sales
I began working at Gary's in Madison five years ago after graduating from wine school in Florida. I worked for a couple of fine wine retail shops but being a Madison native I've found my home here at Gary's. I enjoy Spanish, Italian and domestic wines the most but I can give a good beer recommendation any time!
John Shovlin, Wine Team
I've been with Gary's in Madison for six years. My favorite wines are Californian Cabs and Chardonnay's, but my favorite part of working here is building relationships with our guests. (Note from the editor: Our guests love John!)
Rob Hunter, Wine Team
I first started working in the wine industry in the late 90's as a way to pay my way through college and found that I had an interest in wine, craft beers, spirits, and food. I quickly began listening, reading, and trying new wines, foods, as well as traveling to visit wineries to pick up as much as I could. I enjoy cooking (minus the dishes), talking about wine, music, history, and sports. I enjoy California Cabs, Zins, Rhone wines, and wines from Bordeaux. I look forward to meeting you and helping you out in any way I can.
David Marshall, Manager
I have worked in the wine business in one way or another since 1985. Ten years ago, when I decided to make a career change, I was fortunate enough to work in the Napa Valley. I fell in love with the whole process of winemaking, especially being in the vineyard were it all begins. My earliest preferences were for Rieslings from great German estates, and Napa gave me a special fondness for older Cabernets and big old-vine Zinfandels. A promotion for my wife brought us east, and working for Gary's was a must! I am very proud to be part of his team and look forward to sharing our passion for wine with you.
Ariel Eckes, Front End Team Leader
After years in the restaurant business, I found myself at Gary's looking to make a little extra cash for Christmas as the "wrap girl." That was three Christmas's ago and now I am head cashier at Gary's of Bernardsville. You can find me primarily at the registers or close by. If you need help picking out items for gift baskets or just a second opinion on glasses let me know. My passion for wine has grown exponentially since starting at the store. I will try anything once but my true love is a big luscious California Cab. Next time you're in the store swing by the registers and say Hi!
Amy O'Roarke, Gourmet Manager
I think it all began while earning my Girl Scout cooking badge. I have always loved putting a meal together for family and friends and now enjoy helping others with their culinary needs at Gary's. I have had the opportunity to work in three locations, most recently as Gourmet Manager in Madison and now back in Bernardsville, my original Gary's home. My favorite part of my job is working with the cheeses: the stinkier the better! I guess I'm a bit of a cheese nerd, but I love putting together platters and gift baskets for our customers. Please stop by and see me at the cheese counter and I'll be glad to help you put something great together for your family and friends.
Phil Unger, Wine Team Leader
My long time love and passion for wine inspired a career change several years ago to the wine industry. After graduating from college, I spent 14 years consulting in the energy field. During that time, I tasted, studied and traveled to some of the most famous wine producing regions in the world. Finally, I made the decision to do what I love best and work with wine. Since joining the industry, I have worked in distribution, import, and retail. I am also one of the original "foodies", always looking for the next great meal and perfect wine/food matches. Working at Gary's offers me the opportunity to be part of a dynamic team that loves wine as much as I do and to share my passion for wine with our customers.
John Cauley, Wine Team
After 19 years in the wine business, the last 15 years as Wine Buyer and Salesperson at Epstein's in Morristown, I came to Gary's in the summer of 2004. I have studied at Harriet Lembeck's, travelled extensively through the wine regions of California, and made twenty trips to the wine producing areas of Europe, mostly France and Spain. In addition to my passion for wine, I am an avid bridge enthusiast and enjoy swimming and bicycling. My favorite wines are Sauvignon Blancs from the U.S. and France, and the wines of Spain, New Zealand and the Rhone Valley. I am delighted to be a part of Gary's terrific team, in a position to help you find great buys on great wines.
Joseph Ringwood, Wine Team
After 35 years of sales, marketing, and general management experience in business-to-business environments I decided to follow my passion for wine. I enrolled in a WSET program and studied wine at The Wine School of Philadelphia. I am continuing my formal wine education in the Diploma program at the Wine School. I enjoy wines from around the world. However, prior positions gave me the opportunity to travel extensively in Europe. After spending significant time eating and drinking in Italy, France and Germany I've become a great fan of old world cuisine and wine! I am very fortunate to be at Gary's Wine & Marketplace where I am surrounded by a great team of professionals and an outstanding selection of wines.