Macari Vineyards & Winery is situated on a 500-acre waterfront parcel in Cutchogue that has been in the Macari family for 50 years. Macari is deeply rooted in Long Island soil, but boasts a distinct international flavor. In addition to the Spanish goats, Sicilian donkeys, Texas longhorns and multitude of other critters that populate their land, the family hosts numerous experienced and fledgling winemakers from around the world.
Behind the enormous bar in the tasting room is a large glass panel framing the inner workings of the winery. Suspended above gleaming metal vats is a string of banners displaying the flags of international staff that have come to learn and contribute to Macari winemaking.
“We work through a company called Communicating Through Agriculture,” says Alexandra, daughter-in-law of founder Joseph Macari, Sr. and wife of current vineyard manager, Joseph Macari, Jr. “The majority of our interns have become wonderful winemakers in their countries. We have an open exchange and friendship. That’s the special part: bringing international culture into the winery.”
Their winemaker, Kelly Urbanik, originally from California, is one of very few women making wine on Long Island. She spent time perfecting her craft in France. “We had someone from Chile before Kelly. It took us a long time to find the right winemaker,” says Alexandra, whose family is Spanish and Argentinian. Helmut Gangl, a wine consultant who lives in Austria, comes four times a year to work on the wines. “He influenced our Early Wine. It was made in the Austrian way. “
Macari was established in 1995 with one of the largest plantings of vines on the North Fork, on the grounds of the defunct Mattituck Hills Vineyard. “If I am going to see this while I am alive,” said Joseph, Sr. at the time, “I better do it!” And so he did, cultivating 200 acres that led to the opening of the tasting room in 1998.
Alexandra and Joseph, Jr.’s son, who spent two years in the Merchant Marines, studied viticulture and learned about winemaking in Argentina and New Zealand. He is now assistant vineyard manager. “He always wanted seeds when he was little, he was always in the garden,” says his mom. Their daughter manages the company’s social media profile and is a sommelier in New York. She also travels and represents the winery internationally. Two younger children are still in school.
Alexandra says the “international piece has opened up so many opportunities. It teaches our crew new techniques and develops relationships with wine people we have met.”
Like many of the Long Island wineries, their stewardship of the land is of utmost importance. “Our soil work is what differentiates us,” says Alexandra. Joseph, Jr. is at the forefront of natural farming on Long Island. “We are known for the largest composting facility on the North Fork. We get fish waste from the Fulton Fish Market, manure from horse farms, and make teas to increase productivity.”
They’re particularly proud of their Collina Merlot. “We call it our Pasta Pizza Red!” It won Double Gold in 2011 at the New York Food and Wine Classic. “We were so excited because it went up against more expensive wines.”
Their tasting room also features an assortment of gift items and local food products, including their own honey. They maintain 60 hives. “Joe’s been doing it for 12 years,” Alexandra says. “The spring honey is light; in the fall, we have dark honey. We are addicted to it!”
Macari opened two new rooms in 2010 with views of the vineyard, and they accommodate up to 150 for special events.
Founders Katherine and Joseph Macari created more than a successful family business. They established a way of life. When a young Macari bride was marrying a groom from a winemaking family in the Finger Lakes region of New York, it was destined that the two families would create something new and special. Their families joined in the making of a 2010 Reisling, produced on Long Island with Finger Lakes grapes. A true marrying of hearts and families.