Meet Your Winemaker: Long Island Wines

The following is a collection of articles I pitched & published to The Independent Newspaper in May of 2018.  Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


Long Island Wine Country’s North Fork is a magical, six-mile viticultural area. Unlike several famed wine regions throughout the world, the aquatic surroundings of the North Fork moderate climate control for grape growth. The Long Island Wine Council credits a loamy topsoil, well-drained sub-soil, sole-sourced aquifer access, and a cretaceous bedrock sub-water table.
Raphael winery, located in Peconic, continues a centuries-old tradition of winemaking in the Petrocelli family. Raphael’s winemaker, Anthony Nappa, proudly, and passionately, cares for the grapes that then turn into the flavorful varietals indicative of what makes this winery so distinct.

The vineyard is unique due to the 60 acres of vines planted on one contiguous land, making it more convenient to manage and allowing for additional observation of the grapes. Its proximity to the bay with a prevailing easterly wind aids in ripening the grapes, hang time, and retaining the acidity as the flavors develop. The sandy soil is well drained, but still contains the most loam and clay anywhere on Long Island, Nappa told The Independent.

“This combination of unique micro-climate and growing conditions makes this place one of the most premier cool-climate places to make wine in the world,” Nappa explained. Since the winery is on a single level, he strives to create wine with minimal manipulation and no additives.

The process begins by harvesting the grapes, then fermenting them, turning the sugar into alcohol. From there, the white varieties are sterile filtered, meaning “heat and cold stabilized before bottling,” he noted. A bottle can be ready the next spring after harvest season or barrel aged. Red wines are aged in a barrel or tank for approximately 18 to 20 months, with reserve reds aging an additional year or two, while being bottled unfiltered.

Artistic creativity is essential to Nappa’s job, similar to a chef in a kitchen. “Making wine, there is a seasonal flow to the job and maybe the most important aspect of the job is farming. The work in the winery is very much a factory job, processing fruit into wine,” said Nappa.

Originally from Massachusetts, Nappa studied botany at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst before obtaining a degree in Fruit and Vegetable Agriculture from the university’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture. From there, he traveled across the globe to New Zealand, where he trained in winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, receiving dual degrees in Viticulture (the cultivation of grapevines) and Oenology (the study of winemaking).

“After leaving New Zealand, I moved to Italy and eventually back to Massachusetts, before moving to California. I came to the North Fork in 2007 when I saw an ad for a wine making position,” Nappa detailed. “I was interested in living on the east coast. After checking out east coast wines over time, I could see the most interesting place on the east coast to make wine is the North Fork.”

His wine style has evolved over the years through experience learned through trial and error. “Coming out of school, I had a much greater dependence on chemistry and technology, which is often what the university system teaches. Now, I let the grapes dictate the direction the wine will go and play a more shepherding role, bringing the wine through the process.”

The winemaker’s choice for spring season is Raphael’s rosé, which is a Pinot Noir. As summer approaches, Nappa recommends a Sauvignon Blanc, featuring “one of the most unique grapes grown on the North Fork,” he noted.



Dean Babiar is the head winemaker at Jamesport Vineyards, a family run establishment that began in 1986, priding itself as one of region’s oldest vineyards. Driving up to a 165-year old barn which holds the tasting room and winery is the quintessential greeting that you have, indeed, arrived to North Fork Wine Country.

After receiving a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Maryland, Babiar set his trails to the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma valleys. From there, he was a globe trotter to estates in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. He then arrived in Bordeaux, France to focus on Merlot and Cabernet Franc nodes before moving to his ancestral roots in Piedmonte, Italy, where he developed a taste for old winemaking traditions.

It was during his time in Italy, surrounded by family, that Babiar absorbed techniques that would differentiate him in our region. In 2014, he landed in Jamesport, New York.

A life mantra to “do everything with honesty and be nice to people” ties into the essential goal of Babiar’s winemaking process, as little interference as possible. “At the moment, a majority of the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts. I stay away from additives during fermentation and cellaring and keep the sulfur low. You need to be on top of everything early on to make wine like this well,” Babiar said.

In an intimately sized vineyard, the details are the difference. Babiar is reinventing a past pursuit by incorporating an “old process similar to what they use” to make an Amarone wine in Italy.

Naturally, this wine hits 16 percent alcohol by volume without chaptalization (adding sugar to increase alcohol content). It retains an old worldly node, a true gem to savor amid such a modest location.

Babiar detailed, “It’s nothing innovative, but instead, it’s looking back for inspiration. People have been making wines like this for centuries, only now we have a better understanding of it.”

The 2016 Petillant Naturels, Albarino, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, are a trio of sparkling flavors bound to sensationalize summer. The ancestral method has resurged under Babiar’s old-fashioned, yet innovative thinking. The wines are bottled with a crown cap, like a beer, upside down, before the initial fermentation is finished, allowing the natural sugars and yeasts to take hold. Unlike champagne’s tendency to flatten relatively shortly after opening, these Pét-nats retain their bubbly carbonated flavor for, dare to say it, a day or two after.

The Goerler family is hands-on and out in the fields every day, caring for their vines. “You need to really care about this stuff,” Babiar said. “It’s a small team, so everything is hands on. We get a good look at it all every step of the way.”



Wölffer Estate is a family owned and operated, sustainably farmed vineyard in Sagaponack led by the curious mind of winemaker and partner Roman Roth. As the vineyard’s first winemaker, this career was more than a desire for the German native, it was a calling.

Roth was raised around fine wine. His father was a winemaker in Germany and created a home filled with creativity and passion, said Roth. During holidays and birthdays, his parents would host elaborate parties. On such occasions, an almost comedic competition would arise between Roth’s mother, his brother, who inherited the family wine merchant business, and himself — a trinity of wine collectors.

Each would go to their section of the family wine cellar and choose a bottle of higher quality and price. Round after round, glass after glass, a bigger name and older vintage ushered a riveting rivalry surrounding the dinner table with good food and laughter, all culminating in singing old songs into the night.

Roman draws inspiration for his work from wineries throughout the globe that he’s visited. At the young age of 16, Roth began his three-year apprenticeship at the Kaiserstuhl Wine Cooperative in Oberrotweil, while attending technical school in Heilbron.

During the summer of 1986, he traveled to Carneros, CA, where he began working at Saintsbury Estate and soon fell in love with his future wife, Dushy, in Hollywood. His travels then took him to New South Wales, Australia and back to Germany to work as a winemaker at Winzerkeller Wiesloch in Baden.

“It would be boring to taste only wine from one region. That would be like listening to only one type of music,” said Roth.

In 1992, he received a Master Winemaker and Cellar Master Degree from the College of Oenology and Viticulture in Weinsberg. It was that same year that he joined Christian Wölffer in New York as the premier winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. Roth recalled, “He told me that I can buy whatever I need and do whatever I want . . . Well, it worked. It’s been 27 vintages now!”

Defined at “the East End appellation,” the maritime climate of the North and South Forks remains moderate year-round, allowing the fruit to ripen into the fall months without jeopardizing the delicate sugar/acid balance, and creating food-friendly wines. Wölffer’s team aims to do most of the work by hand.

“Of course, we do have the special Bridgehampton loam here on the South Fork, which is a fantastic foundation for our high end Perle Chardonnay and the Christian Wölffer Cuvee Merlot. The elegant, yet concentrated style that we are able to make separates us completely from the more alcoholic wines of California and makes us stand up to the best wines from France,” Roth explained.

The busy season for a winemaker is mid-September through Thanksgiving. Roth recalled when Christian Wölffer would invite the entire cellar crew to a celebratory dinner at his house which, Roth said, “turned into a bacchanalian feast.” Though tradition has changed, Roth still takes his team out to dinner, followed by bowling, to toast the conclusion of another successful year.

“Don’t go into the wine business if you don’t love people. You have to love pouring wine, talking about wine, and thinking about wine morning, noon, and night, seven days a week, in order to become successful,” Roth noted.



Sparkling Pointe winery in Southold exclusively produces Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Wines, spearheaded by Winemaker Gilles Martin. In addition to more than three decades of experience in the wine world, French native Martin holds a degree in biology and food sciences, along with a Masters of Oenology from the University of Montpellier. Martin utilizes this knowledge to create sparkling wines with creativity, passion, and precision.

How did growing up near the famed wine region of Champagne mold you?
I grew up at the gate of the Champagne, in a region called “la Brie.” And after the phylloxera (plant louse) infestation of the 19th Century, the small vineyards of the poor sloppy soils disappeared and the orchards replaced them. My grandparents planted apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees. It is among those fruits that I grew up learning the making of cider and the distillation of plum, pear, cherry, and apple brandy.

This is where I discovered the different savors and flavors of all the fruits grown around the small farm, and the fragrance of the flowers from the garden. In season come strawberries, red currants, raspberries, peaches, etc. It was my first school of tasting, sniffing, and smelling!

What wine region has taught you the most?
Each wine region where I had the privilege to work, taught me something new and different about grapes, wine, people, and culture.

But it is certainly with the Champenois cellar masters, who are making the most technological wine of all, that I learned the most about challenges and successes.

How did you come to work at Sparkling Pointe?
I was preaching to “the Long Island wine choir” about the uniqueness of sparkling wine, when vineyard manager Steve Mudd introduced me to Cynthia and Tom Rosicki, the owners of Sparkling Pointe. Their vision was in perfect harmony with my preaching. I started this new venture with them, with a lot of excitement, in 2003 and became full time in 2007.

How do you combine old world tradition with new world innovation?
My French education, training, and experience in the wine world have given me the corner stone of my winemaking savoir faire. As a winemaker transposed in the new world, I am not subject to traditional boundaries like in Europe.

Using the quality vinifera grape (European varieties) in the particular terroir of Long Island, and today’s new winemaking technique, I create wines, following my Gallic inspiration and my winemaking philosophy, as enjoyable but also as outstanding as the wines from my native terroir.

What is something that, despite your schooling, you had to learn hands-on?
Organoleptic evaluation and the knowledge of rating wine through tasting. Tasting wine to appreciate its ability to compose a blend is certainly something that you don’t learn on the school bench. It will take countless hours of tasting with professionals to understand the wines of an appellation or a terroir.

It is there, in the company of the winemaker and vintners, in the cellar or in the tasting laboratory, that you can discover, appreciate, and understand the value of a specific wine variety, which come from the surrounding vineyards.

What is a common misconception about your job as a winemaker?
Winemaking, like farming, is thought to be ancestral and traditional practices. In fact, Oenology is the science of the wine (from the Greek Onos, the wine and logos, the science), and requires a serious education in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and mechanical engineering. Like science, it is under constant evolution, influenced by research and new technological development.

Describe your typical winemaking process, From harvest to glass.
Harvest starts around the first days of September, for about two weeks. The first fermentation of the base wine lasts four to six weeks and, by October, the wines are settled with fining and clarified by filtration. The blends start in the lab, with extensive tasting to create all the different tiers of products.

By January, the blends are made in the cellar, then heat and cold stabilized to be bottled in April and May. The second fermentation in the bottle takes on average four weeks and, depending on the program, the wines age from 16 months to eight years on the yeast. Then, the bottles are riddled to get rid of the sediments and disgorged to give the liquor its dosage.

The bottles are then corked and receive a wire hood to hold the cork in place, keeping the effervescence of the wine. Labeled, the bottles are then boxed and stored in the warehouse. As an example, our Brut will take three years from harvest to your glass, while our tete de cuvee takes almost 10 years before being released.

How do you celebrate the release of a new wine or the conclusion of a season?
The owners love Brazil and Rio, so the tasting room is decorated with a theme of Brazilian artwork and painting. What is better to celebrate life than samba and sparkling wines! So, every year, Sparkling Pointe has its own Carnaval in July, with real Samba Queens and percussionists — certainly the best time to release our new vintage of “Cuvee Carnaval.”

Do you have a life motto or phrase that you live by? 
Nothing is out of reach, when you put your will to it.


North Fork Potato Chips

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper


More than a century ago, in 1910, Sidor Farms began in Mattituck as a 170-acre potato farm. Faced with competition from large, commercial potato farms, in 2004, Martin Sidor and wife, Carol decided to do more than just sell spuds. That year, North Fork Potato Chips was born.

The crisp, kettle cooked chips come in seven flavors: original, barbeque, salt & vinegar, sweet potato, cheddar and onion, sour cream and onion, and rosemary and garlic. North Fork Potato Chips uses 100 percent sunflower oil. The sunflower oil provides health benefits such as vitamin E, which decreases the risk of heart disease and bolsters immune function, and it is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, decreasing blood cholesterol levels.

“When we first started out, very few chip makers were using sunflower oil. We wanted to produce the healthiest chip possible,” Carol Sidor explained. “Now a few others are giving it a try. I guess you could say we were trendsetters in this healthy respect.”

The Sidors enjoy making their own chips, including such daily tasks as soil preparation, potato disease prevention, and machinery maintenance.

Turning approximately 100 cases per day, which equates to 1200 large bags or 4800 small bags, the hands-on farming practices of the company keeps the majority of work right on Long Island but as the demand grows so does the need for outside help. The Sidors employ four-time production workers at its facility, as well as a three-person cleaning crew. The owners also employ seasonal help for planting and harvesting seasons.

“There’s just something about breaking the ground and smelling the fresh earth that gets our adrenalin going,” Martin Sidor said. “If you are a farmer — a true hands-in-the-dirt kind of person — you develop a sense as to how a particular crop might turn out each year. You see the plants growing, monitor how things are coming along, and make adjustments as necessary.”

An influx of information, such as consumer marketing data, blight forecasts warning of crop diseases, and new technology helping soil improvement contribute to the growing success of the

American small-town farm industry, he added.

“Having farmed for more than half a century, we’ve learned a lot about how to keep things growing and making the most of our land. The key now is to combine that hands-on knowledge with new data and ideas. The better you can do that, the longer you are going the stay in business,” Martin said.

The North Fork contains a loamy soil, providing for delicious potatoes. Back in the heyday, there was once more than 30,000 acres of potato fields on Long Island. That number has since decreased to around 1500 acres due to competition with larger farms in other areas which pay lower costs to raise an acre.

North Fork Potato Chips are primarily sold on the East End, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, in addition to San Francisco.

Visit their website or follow @NorthForkChips on Facebook to learn more.


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Greener For the Good

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper


In March Share the Harvest Farm hosted its fundraiser music event on the greenest day of the year, St. Patrick’s Day. The benefit, held from 7 to 9 PM at The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, raised monies to feed local families in need.

The East Hampton-based organization prides itself on growing high-quality produce, through sustainable farming practices, and donating it to local food pantries. Its mission is also to increase the availability of healthy products and raise awareness about food insecurity on the East End.

Concertgoers heard live performances by Fred Raimondo, Inda Eaton, Nancy Remkus, Sarah Greene, Cynthia Daniels, Job Potter, and Rorie Kelly. It is Share the Harvest Farm’s first spring fundraiser.

“Springtime is the most crucial time for our farm to fundraise, as this is the time of the year that we are beginning to sow our seeds and plant our dreams, none of which would be possible without the financial help of our wonderful community,” said Melissa Mapes, Share the Harvest’s director of community outreach and education. The organization has 15 to 20 year-round volunteers, welcoming more during donation days.

This is the time of year when seeding preparation begins for the summer growing season. Share the Harvest Farm plants crops based on the needs of local organizations which lean towards a vegetarian diet. Crops range from asparagus to zucchini and every veggie in between.

Board member Maxwell Plesset coordinated the event, but an overall team effort is working to make it a success, Mapes noted.

“Supporting your local farms is crucial for any community, as it helps to build up local economy and decrease the amount of carbon emissions by avoiding the long transit of grocery store items,” she said.

“Eating local is so much more experiential as you sit and chat with the farmers about what they grow. Honestly, the food tastes way better when it is harvested the same day from the same sliver of earth you walk on every day. We are so grateful to have that experience ourselves and find that it is very important for us to share that with all members of our community. Access to local healthy foods should be a right to all, not a privilege only for a select few,” Maples expressed.

In a single week, the farm donates to approximately 450 families through more than 10 different organizations. It’s become increasingly apparent that as the cost of living continues to rise, so does the number of persons afflicted by food insecurity, specifically lack of affordable nutrition.

The event perfectly coincided with March being National Nutrition Month.


Volunteers can sign up to hand pick vegetables for the farm-to-community website, or make donations to purchase seeds on its website. Follow the farm on social media @sharetheharvestfarm.

Be on the lookout for the organization’s annual summer BBQ fundraiser during the first week of August.


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Sweet Treats: Crumb Get Some

This article first appeared in the February 21, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper


Calverton’s Clarkson Avenue Crumb Cake Co. is, as the name suggests, a company that produces scrumptious crumb cakes. The mother-son team Susan and James Walsh have taken an old-fashioned, family recipe from the good ol’ days of Brooklyn and brought it to the East End.

Clarkson Avenue is named after the street in East Flatbush, New York where Susan Walsh grew up along with her mother, cousins and uncle. Their roots run deep; the house the family resided in was built by Susan’s great-grandfather in the late 1800s and remained in the family through the mid-1970s.

“This recipe was developed in a home kitchen with many attempts at perfection. Family members [were] forced-fed crumb cake until they never wanted to hear those words again,” Susan, who has been a Hampton Bays resident for the past six years, explained.

She added, “In the words of Grandma Marie Mulligan Delia, ‘All good things come to those who wait.'”

It seems “grandma” was right—this recipe for success wouldn’t be available to the public for another two decades.

James grew up devouring his mother’s crumb cake, inspiring his first job at a bagel store in Huntington at 14 years old. The store provided small, Saran Wrapped crumb cakes that couldn’t compare to those at home. Urging his mother to sell her crumb cake failed for years, until he was eventually given the recipe. Twenty years later, Susan caved and Clarkson Avenue Crumb Cake was born.

“It encapsulated exactly where this journey began; it had real meaning to us as a family,” James said. “There are so many Brooklynite and other borough transplants that have settled on the East End. It is great to watch folks take a bite; it instantly brings them back to their roots. That’s what we are all about.”

The company’s tagline is “Crumb Get Some.” James said, “It’s concise, playful, and has a bit of New York attitude that I think we all share, living in the fast-paced New York-Long Island area.”

The crumb cake is available in a variety of flavors. The Blackout collection, a chocolate crumb, pays homage to the original Blackout Cake by Ebingers, a Brooklyn bakery icon of yesteryear. Brooklyn Joe is a fan favorite within the Blackout line; it’s a chocolate cake with coffee ganache and classic crumb. Love Reese’s? Chocolate cake with homemade peanut butter ganache will be added to the collection soon.

James admitted, “I am very much an idea guy, but if not for my mom’s incredible culinary skill, it would be all for naught when it comes to executing the flavors.”

Expected to launch sometime between mid-summer and early fall is a “Cake of the Month.”

During peak season, find these distinctive desserts sold at the Milk Pail in Water Mill, Babinski Farms in Water Mill, and Schmidt’s Market in Southampton. Clarkson Avenue also participates in the Montauk and Sag Harbor farmers markets. Or drop by the Tourism Center on the LIE at exit 52 year-round for a bite.

During charity season, you can find the cakes at Love Bites, A Hamptons Happening, and the Artist and Writers pre-softball event. Coming up in June is the U.S. Open PGA at Shinnecock Hills, where the company will feature its “crumbkins,” bite-sized coffee cakes. Visit their website or


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Sweet Treats: Blossom Meadow Farm

This article first appeared in the February 7, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper


Bee keeper Laura Klahre has been creating a buzz with her two-acre organic farm in Southold.

She has more than 20 years of experience in the unique profession. Blossom Meadow Farm originally began harvesting honey. There are 100 hives throughout the North Fork upward of eight million bees. Klahre began to realize the plight of solely sticking to the honey bee and switched her focus to native pollinators, in order to harvest fruit for jams.

“Why am I focusing on honey bees? It’s all these other bees, moths, and butterflies that are the superheroes. I need to be focusing on them,” Klahre said about the change. Though bumble bees can make honey, they live in small colonies with a nest life of only a year. A honey bee lives for up to seven years. However, bumble bees travel a half mile, and Mason bees travels only 300 feet, making both essential to the pollination of local crops such as apricots, cherries, and apples.

Moths are also a key tool in agriculture. These nocturnal pollinators visit white flowers, like those of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. All of these are grown on her farm, and are used to make jam.

This new, tasty endeavor began in December of 2017 where a stunning 70 jars were sold in three weeks during a relatively quiet period on the North Fork. Blossom Meadow Farm also sells beeswax candles, honey, seeds, lip balm, and beeswax crayons on Etsy.

Klahre said, “The fruit is a byproduct of feeding my bees. I proudly tell customers that my Mason bees and bumble bees made the jam.”


The jam is sold at the storefront of Coffeepot Cellars, located at 31855 Main Road, Cutchogue, at which her husband, Adam Suprenant is the CEO.

For more information on Blossom Meadow Farm, email or visit


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