Q: How did you get into the wine business? A: I went to school for winemaking and graduated from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand with a degree in both viticulture and oenology.
Q: How did you get to the North Fork? Are you from here?
A: I’m from Massachusetts originally, so I was interested in living on the East Coast. After checking out East Coast wines over time I could see the best place on the east coast to make wine is the North Fork.
But I didn’t come here straight from school. After leaving New Zealand I moved to Italy. Eventually I went back to Massachusetts, and then moved to California. I came to the North Fork in 2007 when I saw an ad for a wine making position.
Q: Wow, you really hopped around from 2004-07.
A: Moving like that is the nature of the wine business. You can do multiple vintages in a year. You can do the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Winemaking is great like that--you can really travel. It’s really fun when you’re young and single.
Q: You said you think the North Fork is the best wine making region on the East Coast. Why?
A: If you look at a map you can see that our 90 mile long island juts out into the Atlantic. Our unique maritime microclimate gives us a long cool season. We also have a large variety of grapes and broad range of wines we can produce well, which is interesting and fun for a winemaker.
Our maritime climate’s hot summer and milder winters allows our cool-climate region to make naturally balanced wines ranging from aromatic whites to full bodied reds.
A: Not directly, I already feel stretched for time and there’s only so many commitments I can make. When I do work on something I always give it 100%, so I do not want to overcommit my time.
But I do work closely with a lot of local winemakers, most everyone is very open and there is some great comradery. I am also a member and/or supporter The Long Island Wine Council, The Long Island Merlot Alliance and the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, who are all committed to sharing ideas and helping each other make better wine and grow the region.
Q: What is unique about your wines?
A: The North Fork is a great place to grow grapes and there’s a common thread among local wines that are more a pure expressions of this unique place. The first step for me was really seeing what makes this region unique and then understanding to accentuate and express that.
At Anthony Nappa Wines and Raphael we’re trying to make honest and pure wines, un-manipulated and without adulteration, and trying to have a transparent discussion of our wine with the consumer. We make all of our wines in very different ways, sometimes nontraditional sometimes very traditional, and many wines are 100% varietal. That said, we don’t add anything to our wines, we don’t add yeast—all the wines are wild fermented. We don’t add tannins, sugar, or enzymes or anything like that. We don’t even add acid, unless we have to adjust the pH.
We’re working on the 2013 reds right now. I think that is was our best year since I’ve been here. It was a perfect storm of weather conditions. We were able to make wines with complete natural balance. There are a lot of great things happening in local wine right now, the wines are better than ever and as great as many from other world famous wine regions.
Q: Wine tasting is great in general, but is there anything particularly special about stopping into The Winemakers Studio? And how is it different from Raphael?
A: The Wine of course!
The great thing about the North Fork tasting experience is how varied it is. You can have a very intimate experience or enjoy a larger, more party-atmosphere with live music, and everything in between. No matter what you’re looking for in wine and experience you can find it here.
The Winemaker’s Studio is “downtown” Peconic—about a block long—and it offers a very small intimate experience. Since we’re not on the Main Road, we don’t get a lot of drive by traffic, so people are specifically looking to stop in. We offer a more wine focused experience.
We sell our wines as well as those of other local winemakers. We don’t take any groups; we don’t have the staff or space, or even the glasses for it. And we do not allow outside food as we have an adjacent food market which also does some limited food offerings of paninis, tapas and cheese plates.
Raphael is a large, beautiful space inside and out, which can accommodate groups, with a reservation, as well as walk in customers. Raphael does many special events, weddings, as well as free live music year round. Raphael does not allow outside food but does have a limited lunch menu and can even accommodate groups for lunch. With inside and outside spaces as well as tours and tastings Raphael has a lot to offer any wine fan.
Q: Are you a traditional winery, featuring only Anthony Nappa Wines?
A: No. At the Winemaker Studio we sell our wines as well as the private label wines of other winemakers. Many of our colleagues, winemakers at other wineries also make some wine for themselves under their own label. At The Studio we can represent them and tell their story in a cohesive way.
We also have a food market called Provisions & Ingredients—my wife’s a chef—so we sell a lot of ingredients as well as cured meats and many NY cheeses. We live out here, and sometimes it’s hard to find certain ingredients outside of chain supermarkets. My wife is very ingredient focused, and Provisions is how she fills the gap out here between the great local farms and the supermarkets.
The two shops work together well, there is great synergy; we remind people to think about what they eat, and to choose “Real Food” as well as continue the discussion of wine as food.
We welcome the public year round from 12-7 pm, 4 days a week, Friday to Monday, and in high summer season—July 4th through Labor Day—we’re open seven days a week. We offer Panini’s, a coffee bar, meat and cheese plates, to compliment the wine tastings. In combination it makes The Winemakers Studio a café style experience, really an Italian enoteca.
Q: What do you like most about the North Fork?
A: Long Island Wine Country is beautiful; the land, the sea, there are not many wine regions in the world where you can live on the ocean and make wine.
Q: Do you have a wine club?
A: Yes. We send our wine club members four shipments a year, each one involving three or four bottles of wine. Throughout the year members are guaranteed to get a sample of all the wines that we make in there shipments. We also have special sales offers and events just for wine club members.