Michael Affatato's relationship with wine started with his career in advertising – a career he realized he didn't want not long after he completed his advertising degree at FIT.
At age 23, it was a trip with friends to Napa Valley, California, that opened his eyes to the world of wine.
"I had no prior experience at all with wine," he said, "but it became very clear to me that I didn't want to work in advertising at all."
Now, Affatato, a native of Rocky Point who spends much time in the Three Village area sharing his expertise, is living a wine lover's dream in France as a negociant – someone who buys, ships, and markets to other places. In his case, he works with people in the U.S., China, Brazil, and Ireland. He specializes in French wines with an expertise in Bordeaux and Rhone, though his business, Roche Mere, sells wines from all major French appellations.
He moved to France 15 years ago. "At one point I never thought I would stay there, but it's become my home and I love it," he said.
For a while, Affatato even operated his own chateau, which he operated as a vineyard and bed-and-breakfast. It's now for sale for $2 million.
He recently delivered a presentation at during a wine pairing dinner for 60 people that was wait-list-only in a matter of days.
"I wanted them to feel like they've learned something, without trying to preach to them," Affatato said, adding that he hopes to "communicate the whole harmony and beauty between food and wine pairings."
Rich Mora, owner of in East Setauket, praised Affatato's work, calling him "someone dynamic ... that could get people excited about wine."
"I think in our area you really need someone devoted to it," Mora said. "I think the heart of it is that he's really passionate about wine."
Affatato called the wine business "perhaps the most satisfying career one can have."
"You invariably meet intelligent, cultured, interesting people," he said. "Wine types and styles change constantly, stimulating my intellect, and I love the 'human factor.'"