An adorable toddler clings to his very-tattooed father, his ‘sippy-cup’ in direct contrast to his daddy’s wine glass on the small wooden bar. Eye- engaging artwork dots the walls, while spirited young couples fill the Winemaker Studio’s small storefront tasting room in Peconic with laughter, stories and wine commentary. They are drinking, recounting great flavors (‘Ah! Remember that chocolate cabernet with the truffles in Sonoma?’) enjoying a fabulous fall day of wine tasting on the North Fork.
Tasting room manager, Chris Fanjul, an affable and extremely knowledgeable fellow, discusses the attributes of the different wines and winemakers that the studio features with the customers. He explains the artisanal approach taken by owners and wine makers Anthony and Sarah Nappa.
“Our place is an experience,” says Sarah. “It’s a little different. We treat the store as a cooperative, featuring a set group of five wine makers that we carry on a regular basis. They are small producers, hand-on,” she explains. “No one has their own vineyards. They all purchase their fruits… As a small wine maker, you can buy whatever is good that year.” Anthony has been making wines for over ten years and makes a few different wines every year. He sources the grapes each season, working with vineyards where he “knows their growing practices and has a personal relationship,” says Sarah.
“When we set up this place, we were thinking about where we wanted to hang out—but we also wanted to appeal to people who are really interested in wine. We have a lot of specialized product, unusual and unique local wines. This year we added a beer on tap and some bottled beers: Southampton Publick house, and a New York State Spirits tasting event. We try to showcase the best the region has to offer.”
Both Sarah Nappa and the Winemaker Studio are charming and the wines are delicious. (I not only tasted and enjoyed the 2009 Nobel Roth Late Harvest Reisling, I “needed” to bring home a few bottles to share.) And Anthony and Sarah’s path to Peconic has a charm of its own. Sarah was taking a semester abroad in New Zealand studying animal science and Anthony was in school there for Oenology (wine making). He was from Massachusetts and she from Colorado. They became friends but went their own ways, keeping in touch. When time and circumstance finally put them both in the same state—Sarah was in New York City in culinary school and became Sous Chef at North Fork Table and Inn and Anthony was making wine at a vineyard on the North Fork—they experienced the magic that happens when two fine wines come together: a great blend was developed. They married in January of 2012 and together, they debuted Anthony Nappa wines. Starting with one wine called Nemesis, a Pinot Noir, they have built the brand up enough to open the retail space.
The building that houses the Winemaker Studio was built in the 1920s and still has the original tin roof that shelters the daily happy hour from 5-7 p.m., when wine purchases are 30% off regular price.
Occasionally a customer will pick up the guitar in the corner. A fun and welcoming place, people can bring their dogs and hang out for a while, getting a taste of the lifestyle Sarah and Anthony have created for themselves.
“We are fortunate to be able to do something we love,” says Sarah. “And we look forward to the off season—that’s when we can really enjoy the ‘real’ North Fork.” They cook dinners with friends at their home in Southold, where they are care for eight chickens, two beehives, two dogs and two cats. They like to just kick back, sometimes dreaming about the future. “One of our goals is to be self-sustaining…We love being able to have fresh fish and we’re trying to grow and preserve a lot of our fruits and vegetables,” she says. “But we still need to go to the grocery for a few things… you can’t grow cleaning supplies!”