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3 questions with Jason Niec, wine bar owner

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When asked what his favorite wine is, Jason Niec proudly says he loves a "big bold California Cabernet Sauvignon," but adds that it is difficult to choose just one. Niec didn't always know about wine; in fact, once upon a time he was just your regular social worker. It was in his pursuit of a new career that he found his true passion for wine, after spending a lot of time at a wine bar in Boca Raton called The Rustic Cellar, which he says was "one of the single best opportunities anyone could have to taste hundreds of wines and learn a great deal about them." Last June, after five years in the wine business, Niec opened his first wine bar, Black Chicken Wine Cellar, in downtown Matthews.

Creative Loafing: How did you get into the wine business?

Jason Niec: I worked at The Rustic Cellar for two years, first as a bartender, and later in a management role. I moved to Charlotte in 2008 and worked with Conrad at The Wine Shop at Foxcroft and later at Gado Gado in Matthews. This gave me a perspective on the Charlotte wine market, and a taste of the wine business in Charlotte and Matthews both. I live in Matthews and felt that the downtown area was under-served in terms of wine shop/wine bars, and decided that it was the location I was looking for to start my first business.

What do you love most about owning a wine bar?

Watching people's faces when they discover a new wine they haven't tried and realize it may be one of their new favorites. I like to watch other people's confidence grow as they learn more about wine and become more comfortable with it. I feel good every day I come in to The Black Chicken Wine Cellar. I love what I do and I'm glad I do it.

How much of the wine that you sell have you personally tasted?

I have tasted 99 percent of the wines I sell and the others I sell on reputation alone. Many of those I haven't tasted due to the price. For example, a wine that costs $200 or more a bottle and scored 100 points from Robert Parker of Wine Spectator, I may sell even though I haven't tasted it. I'd like to take them down off the shelf and crack it ... but if I did, I may find myself out of business.

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