Women Winemakers Take Long Island!

Two Women. Two Winemakers. Two Weddings. When every day is consumed with the land and the grape, it is no wonder that these two winemakers would each choose to be married amidst the vines that define their professional and personal lives. Perry Baiz is the fifth generation to work the farm, first established in 1640, at The Old Field Vineyard in Southold and was married there in mid-July to Zachary Bliss, a boat builder from Shelter Island. The guests were served wine she made with her mother, Ros.

Kelly Urbanik will be married this autumn at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck, where she has been the winemaker for the past three years. She is marrying Rob Koch, a mechanical engineer who was raised there. Urbanik came to wine-making naturally—the third generation of an Italian family that settled in Napa Valley. “My grandpa had a little vineyard we used to take care of,” she says. “It was always part of our lives.”

Urbanik went to college at nearby UC Davis. “I didn’t want to go too far from home,” she says, “I was going to play volleyball but at end of freshman year… I took the Intro to Wine class. I realized this could be what I do.” After graduation, she took an internship In Burgundy, France. “As the harvest started, I moved into the winery, that’s when I decided I wanted to be a winemaker.”

Baiz went to school for environmental biology while her mother was making wine. “I went off and taught scuba diving and travelled,” she says. “My parents never pressured me, they let me work in the vineyard for however much I wanted. Mom was in the winery, so it was a natural flow… I decided that this job rocked!”

Ros Baiz, Perry’s mom, had a circuitous route to winemaking, with stints in television (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,) studying nursing at 40, antiques and the ministry. But the land called to her.

Marrying Christian Baiz in 1984, they lived in Westchester but came often to the family farm where he had a small plot. “His was the second planting [on Long Island]… he got the vines from Louisa [Hargrave],” she says. “About 10 years later … he would sit out there in his vines—they were his mistress!” she laughs.

But winemaking is not easy. Baiz credits local wine men Bob Henn, who worked for Pindar at the time, Howard Dickerson and Sam McCullough for teaching her most of what she knows. “Bob took me into the fields and asked me ‘what are the vines telling you. I want you to feel the wine.’”

“I am more of a biologist than a chemist,” says Perry, who cares deeply about protecting the vineyard. “We have always had sustainable practices. That is second nature to us, and the right thing to do.”

Urbanik, now a long way from California, has made her home on the North Fork. “The Macaris are very passionate about the vineyard and the winery… Its not just a business, its their life.” Her decision to be married at there was easy. “They treat me like one of the family. I never worked somewhere where I felt so appreciated. It’s a good feeling.”

The women all have one thing in common: Winemaking is their way of life. It is their passion and vocation. “I think I just surprise myself by loving it as much as I do,” says the elder Baiz. “It’s the quiet of being out there… I look down the long row. I see the sparkling water. There is this energy out there… between the trees and the vines and the water…”

And it has taught them life lessons, as well. “What I have learned,” she says, “is that vines are very resilient, you can’t worry, nature is not perfect. You have to have an enormous amount of patience… You have a crop that is sitting out there, hanging heavy. The fruit is gorgeous… and then the rain comes, wind comes, fungus comes… Really? You’ve done everything right, and it just didn’t work.”

But these women are resilient, too. They will sit down with a glass of wine when the work is done and plan for next year.

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