Fernando Silva is the Sommelier and Wine Director at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York. Silva grew up in Argentina. After working on cruise ships in the late ’90s, he decided that hospitality was going to be his lifetime career. Between the years 2003 and 2004, after some tumultuous years in Argentina, Silva left the country for Europe. He spent time in England and Spain; He worked in Brazil in bars and restaurants. During his travels, he was exposed to many different European cultures.
Coming from Latin America, he was barely a social drinker, but in Europe, he discovered the many types of wines that changed his palate and sparked his interest. By the end of 2004, he immigrated to America and secured a job at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
One evening, while working as a head waiter at BallenIsles, he was assigned to a VIP table during his dinner shift, little did he know that this table would change his destiny. Silva made a good impression on his guest Tom Lichtenstein who at the time was the General Manager at the new GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York and the following day Lichtenstein asked BallenIsles if he could make Silva an offer to come and work for GlenArbor. A month later, Silva moved to Bedford Hills, New York, to join the team.
Silva attended English classes at Pleasantville University, Bedford Road, Pleasantville, New York, this helped him to progress quickly in his career. Silva is a people person and not intimidated by anyone. After about a year of working various roles at the club, the owner Mr. Grant Gregory struck up a conversation with him, “what do you want to do with your life? How do you see yourself?” he said as he looked Silva straight in the eye. “I don’t know yet, but I need help to stay in the USA,” replied Silva. They spoke about his love of fine wines and his European travels. Mr. Gregory, impressed by Silva’s passion, stated, “I am going to sponsor you and assist with your Green Card application; I see some potential in you,” he said. Silva was ecstatic.
The road was not easy to comply with the Green Card process, Silva had to leave the USA for a year. During this period, he traveled to Germany, staying in Munich and Hamburg, where he began painting professionally, and then he moved back to Buenos Aires for a few months. In 2012, the timing was right, and he returned to America and his beloved GlenArbor.
A tragic and triumphant two days.
In 2014, not long after his return, the staff quarters at GlenArbor burned down in a fire while Silva was preparing his first art exhibit in a New York Gallery; he lost half of his artwork but thankfully escaped from the fire. The morning after, he received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) announcing that his Green Card had been approved! It was a very emotional time, one of grief and one of celebration.
Today Fernando Silva is in his 15th year at GlenArbor, and after an exhausting and challenging course load, he has passed the certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers. It’s a rarity to find candidates for the Master Sommeliers courses and accreditations in the world of golf and country clubs. That function is usually between a food and beverage manager or through a board member who is the wine connoisseur of the group. It was gratifying both for Silva and the club.
After many years, Silva has developed a strong, family-like bond with the Gregory family, the staff, and the membership. They have come to rely on his expertise and are proud of him. He sits in on many New York Wine tastings and seminars and immerses himself completely. The wine cellars are forever changing at GlenArbor, the membership is not only golf-centric, but food and wine-focused as well.
Silva works closely with Michael Ruggiero, the Executive Chef pairing menu items with his wine selections, “it’s a delicate balance,” he explains. “There are two main functions. One is entertaining, and the other is to compliment the food. I must carefully select the wine to ensure it is friendly with the menu. It can’t overpower the flavors of the food.”
During the offseason, GlenArbor allows Silva to travel to wine regions in Europe and California. This provides valuable opportunities for Silva to research and organize different wine experiences for the members. Still, he has a particular interest in French wines, of which you will find many in the GlenArbor cellars.
Each year Silva has some prestigious events in which to showcase his flair: The Gary Player GlenArbor Golf Club 55 Invitational, The Golf Kitchen Culinary Excellence Awards, now in its third year, and the well-attended Traditions in Wine Excellence Awards. Well-known personalities of the wine world are honored at the event, including Mr. Laurent Drouhin from Maison Joseph Drouhin in 2018, and Mr. Jean Charles Boisset, in 2019. Wine Enthusiast CEO Adam Strum and his wife attended the event last year.
An Artist and a Sommelier.
Silva’s passion I discovered is not just for wines, more a combination of art and wine. I was utterly fascinated by his many talents. “I consider myself an Artist and a bit of a story-teller as well as an entertainer, I am very passionate about life, and I love being around people,” he explained. I asked Silva how he discovered his painting style. He stated, “I combine both painting and wine; I will sit in my studio with a glass of red, and suddenly I find myself in a trance creating a new piece of artwork.
Sometimes I will throw the wine onto the canvas and mix it into the paints. It is very colorful and dramatic!”
Silva has recently begun to showcase both of his talents via social media videos on his Instagram page @artbyfersilva
For inquiries about purchasing a Fernando Silva one of a kind painting, please email: jfs0234@ gmail.com ☐