Pugliese family photo; Domenica is third in from left
Q: How did you get to the North Fork?
A: My parents came out for a summer place for us when we were kids. They got a little cottage in 1980, it came with 10 acres, and they decided to plant grapes as a hobby. First they put grapes in a couple of acres. Pretty soon all the acres were planted. Then 1986 my Dad made his first wine—a Chardonnay, a Cabernet, and a Merlot. In 1988 he made his first sparkling, a Blanc de Blanc.
Q: Most people don’t consider planting a couple of acres of grapes for a hobby—did your parents have a connection to wine before they came to the North Fork?
A: Yes. My Dad always made wine in Flushing, in the garage. He always had a garden too—you know how Italians are. His father was from Italy. Dad was in construction—wine was the hobby.
Q: That makes sense. So is the tasting room on the 10-acre property with cottage?
A: No. In 1989 Dad bought the property with the tasting room—it was an old potato barn—and he made it our tasting room. Then he built the beautiful grape harbor. Everything about this vineyard and the family business reflects my Dad’s passions.
Q: You mention Pugliese Vineyards is a family business. Who is involved?
A: My brother Peter is the wine maker, my brother Lawrence is the vineyard manager, my Mom and myself are on the tasting room. When our kids come back from college, they help. Hopefully one of them will take it on—there’s eight of them. Right now it’s who’s going to be a doctor, an engineer, but we’ll see.
My brother Ralph is an artist; our calendars and note cards are designed by him, and the framed photos on the wall are all his. He’s been doing the calendars for years—I don’t even know when he started it—people come in each year for the new one.
So even though he doesn’t work in the vineyard business directly, he is a part of the tasting room.
My father started this business; this was his dream, he made it all happen. We sadly lost him in 2011, but we work together, support each other taking the business forward.
Q: You mentioned your Dad made his first wine in 1986. What does Pugliese Vineyards offer now?
A: We make 22, 23 different wines—four sparkling, six whites, seven reds, and five dessert wines. I like the pinot grigio the best, but everyone has their own favorite—with wine you like what you like. I’m a white girl, and the pinot grigio is dry, crisp, has nice citrus fruit to it.
Q: Is Pugliese known for anything in particular?
A: One of our claims to fame is as the vineyard with the hand painted bottles. My mother has bee hand painting the bottles since 1988. She designs the labels too. She personalizes bottles for birthdays, anniversaries.
She painted with oils growing up. When we moved out here she stopped because she was too busy working in the vineyard. So the bottles are a way she can keep painting.
Q: Your mom hand paints the bottles-that’s cool. The North Fork has many vineyard tasting rooms—is there anything that distinguishes the Pugliese experience?
A: Well, besides are great wines…We allow people to bring food and picnic—many tasting rooms don’t allow outside food. We have some 20 picnic tables on the lawn by the pond. Once the summer comes we put a whole bunch of tables under the grape arbor, and the tasting tent goes up in May. It’s really a wonderful afternoon, sitting by the pond, wine tasting and picnicking.
My father bought some baby koi in 1990, put them in the pond—they’re big now—and people like to feed them.
Q: A wine tasting picnick by the pond sounds like a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Some tasting rooms offer entertainment too—tours, live music, special events. Does Pugliese?
A: Starting in May, through October, we have live music every Saturday and Sunday outside. If we have a wedding the music stops early—at 3 pm—but we have music every weekend.
We’re open seven days a week 11-5 in the offseason, from May to October we’re open until six. We don’t do tours. One special event we do every year is a fundraiser for my grandfather’s home town in Italy-- Pomigliano D’Arco. We raise money for scholarships, things like that.
We do it every July. We put on a huge barbeque, Italian music all day long, a chance for all the old timers to get together, see each other. A lot of people from that town live on Long Island now, so it’s a little reunion every year. The public is welcome to buy tickets and join in.
Q: You mentioned summering here from Flushing; when did you guys make the full time switch?
A: My parents got here full time in 1989, as part of the expansion of the vineyard business. We stayed in Flushing until everyone finished school and then we all came out.
We really put down roots—my siblings and I raised our kids here.
Q: You’ve been out here since the mid-1980s. Any thoughts about the changes in the last 30 years? And why put down roots here?
A: In the beginning the North Fork was a secret. As the years progressed, people found out about the wine trail and more and more people have been coming. But in winter you can still drive down Main Road at 9 pm and nobody’s around.
This is the best place in the world. It is, it truly is—it’s the people, it’s the place—it’s just beautiful. The people are warmer. You know everyone—you go into King Kullen, you know 25 people.