Joseph Carr has created a life and community on Cape Cod that is as rich and soulful as his wine
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“I walked by a French restaurant one day, and I looked in the window to see people dining by candlelight, and waiters wearing tuxedos,” says Joseph Carr with a twinkle in his eye that suggests just how powerful this moment was for him. “So, I went to my dorm and gave a girl three dollars to cut my hair, which was hard for me because I had really cool, long hair,” he explains with a laugh. “I went back to the restaurant to ask the owner for a job, and as he was scrutinizing me, his wife came and said to him, ‘Fred, this kid has been coming in here for a week now, and he went and got a haircut—a terrible haircut—so why don’t we give him a job.”
Today, Joseph Carr is known throughout the wine world for his insightful vintages, for his incredible talent as a sommelier, and for a much better haircut. Along with his twin sister, Carr was the first of his family to go to college, and he went with the intention of studying physical education. But, in a serendipitous turn of events, his college dropped the physical education program in his first year at school, so Carr turned his attention to creative arts—an education that has served him well throughout his years of passionately creating wines, which he refers to as “art projects.”
“I started at that restaurant as a busboy, but I didn’t want to be a busboy because they wore vests. I wanted to wear a tuxedo,” Carr says with a laugh, crediting the lime green tuxedo he wore to his high school prom with giving him such an affinity for high fashion. “Fred came to me one day and gave me a bow tie, an empty bottle of wine, a corkscrew and a book on wine. He told me if I could come back on Monday and be able to tie the bow tie, open the bottle of wine and know everything about the book, he’d let me be a wine steward. And he walked away thinking he’d never see me again, but little did he know I already knew how to tie the bow tie from my days at Methodist Sunday School.” As Carr sat in his dorm reading that book on wine, he found himself transported to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Florence, the Noir Valley—“places that the son of a lumberjack was probably never going to see in his life,” he says. He read the book three times.
Carr did indeed become a wine steward at the restaurant, and thus began his adventure into the wine business. He went on to become the youngest Level 2 Master Sommelier in the country at 23 years old, a certification of distinction earned through years of study and application. For years he traveled to all the places he had read about in that book in college before landing a position at an Australian wine company, Mildara Blass. “I started at the very bottom, and I knew I was at the bottom because nobody reported to me,” he jokes.
Working for Mildara, Carr was given New England as a territory and intended to commute from his home in New York. Four years later, as the president of the company, he walked by a small cottage in Dennis. “I told my wife, I think I found someplace really special,” he recalls. The walls of that cottage were falling down, the pipes were rusted, and there were mice infesting the space. Carr’s wife took one look at the home and said, “This is where we’re going to live someday.” Indeed, she was right, and they purchased that property as well as the cottage next door shortly after.
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