The combination of strong winds coming in off the ocean, with quality soils helps the Wölffer Estate Vineyard produce its signature, balanced, elegant, and age-worthy wines – with a particular focus on making premium rosés. As we continue our series profiling leading New York State wineries we talk to Roman Roth, winemaker at the estate, about being able to make food-friendly, accessible wines that also have the ability to age and improve with time.
The Wölffer Estate Vineyard is slowly starting to pick up more exports for its premium New York State wines and has the UK very much in its sights.
Tell us about yourself and the winery?
For over 30 years, Wölffer Estate Vineyard has been known as one of the finest producers on the East Coast and a centre for innovation. Our 55 acres of sustainably farmed vines, with the combination of our superior soil and ocean breeze, provides the perfect conditions for achieving our signature balanced, elegant, and age-worthy wines. Since 1992, our rosés have been a centre piece of our high quality portfolio and are a visual and taste portrait of the Hamptons high summer. We are committed to producing food-friendly wines, cider, and spirits through a dedication to quality, penchant for style, and celebration of place.
What grapes do you grow and why?
We grow Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and small lots of Trebbiano, Pinot Noir and Vignole. We use sustainable farming practices and are proud to have been certified for the seventh year in a row as one of the few vineyards recognised by Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing. We carry this philosophy across each of our owned or operated properties. I try and use traditional techniques, but always with an eye toward innovation. My goal is to make wines that are food-friendly, elegant and built for longevity. All our wines are made using estate-grown or locally-sourced fruit.
What makes your particular region suitable for those grapes and what sort of styles of wine do they make?
The estate spans approximately 170 acres including the acclaimed 55 acre sustainably farmed estate vineyard located in Sagaponack, NY and 200 acres in Mendoza, Argentina. Our unique combination of Bridgehampton loam soil and breezes from the Atlantic Ocean, located 2.6 miles from the estate, provide maritime conditions perfect for achieving the balance of ripeness and acidity that has come to define Wölffer’s signature style: food friendly, elegant and built for longevity.
What is your approach/philosophy to winemaking and has that changed at all in recent years?
Making quality wines with a focus on food friendliness, longevity and to be authentic to our region.
What would you say are the big points of difference – the USPs of New York wine that buyers should know?
We make very elegant and balanced wines with great intensity and structure.
What are the main markets for your wine, both domestic and export?
New York, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts (domestic). Just a small amount of our wine goes to export, we have a strong presence in Germany, Japan, Sweden, a bit in Denmark and Bermuda and Vancouver
What are the types of wine in your portfolio that work best in export and why?
Our summer in a bottle, our estate rose along with our Chardonnay, dessert wine and Cabernet francs, they represent our region well.
What do you think of the UK market and why do you want to sell your wines here?
One of the great wine markets in the world where Wölffer would have a presence.
Which channels of the UK market are you focused on – what price points/ ideal type of customers?
How is the Covid-19 outbreak affecting the winery and your business?
Wölffer Estate Vineyard is currently operating under the NY statewide order for wineries to be pick-up only, and work from home has been instated for any nonessential employees. We are continuing to supply our Hamptons wines, ciders, and spirits for the collective hunker-down through online sales, wholesale distribution and local pick-up and delivery services.
Closing tasting rooms, where profitability is strong, is a huge hit to our business, very similar to other producers as well. Luckily though, our wine shops are exempt from shutting down and we will hopefully maintain strong wholesale sales. We also believe in our local community and their support for their favorite local winery until we are able to open again!
What steps are you putting in place to cope and get over it?
Our number one priority has been doing the best we can for the wonderful Wölffer Estate staff. Despite the closures, we are finding creative solutions that can help maintain the retail business, provide jobs, and get wines to our customers in a safe way. We opened the first “Handsfree Wine Drive-Thru”, located Wine Stand at 3312 Montauk hwy, where customers can pull up in their cars can pull up, select wines, and swipe their cards as we load trunks without having to even get out of the car.
Once we are able to reopen, first and foremost we are ensuring the safety of our employees and customers. Any employee who can, is working from home, and our on-site operations are limited to grape growing, winemaking, warehouse operations, and retail sales. Within these areas, we are limiting the number of total employees and keeping them separate from each other and wearing masks.
We are thinking deeply about a new operating model for when we are allowed to have guests back in the winery. Our steps will include monitoring how many guests we have at the location during any time throughout reservation system and a sparse table floor plan. We will ensure guests remain 6 feet apart from our staff and the staff will be working 6 feet from each other through a system of “zones”. We are also providing protective masks and gloves, and ensure our cleaning routines are frequent.
We’ve also established a new offering, Private Virtual Tastings! These Private Tastings will be the virtual experience of what our guests have enjoyed at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. Led by one of our amazing wine experts, participants will follow along as we present the three main wine tasting components; observing the appearance, smelling the aromas, and tasting characteristics of the palate. What makes Wölffer Estate Vineyard so unique is our connection to the vineyard and growing process. We’ll dive into the vintage, sharing details about each varietal and how the grapes went from vine to bottle!