Wölffer Estate Vineyards is famous for many things—the high quality of its award-winning wines, its gorgeous tasting room, it’s tremendously popular wine stand, its early foray into rosé, its South American wines, its restaurants, and the list goes on. Winemaker and partner Roman Roth was there at the beginning with founder Christian Wölffer, and Roth now works with Wölffer’s children to maintain and expand what has become known—and celebrated—as the Wölffer lifestyle. Meet Roth at Dan’s Rosé Soirée presented by Porsche on May 27 in Southampton.
Where are you from originally? How do memories of home continue to influence your work?
I’m from Rottweil, Germany, on the edge of the Black Forest region. I grew up in a wonderful winemaking and wine merchant family. There was a great love for wine and a very strong work ethic with lots of marketing events. I still draw from those first experiences.
What’s your earliest wine-related memory?
I was maybe 6 or 7 years old and was selling wine in our retail store. To any customer I would push the Rosenthaler Kadarka, it was a Bulgarian red wine that was sweet and that is why I liked it!
How does living on the East End inform your winemaking?
We have a wonderful restaurant scene on the East End. Perfect to match our food-friendly wines with our local cuisine (especially the seafood). I’m part of a wine club since 2002 called The Luna Wine Club (Lunatics) that meets once a month and tastes the best wines from around the world. In addition to being the winemaker at Wölffer, I also select the wines for the wine list for Wölffer Kitchen Sag Harbor and Amagansett. As a result, I critically taste lots of wines from Long Island and the rest of the world—it helps me from getting “cellar blind,” just tasting only my own wine.
Who inspired your career the most?
My mother and father! My father was a winemaker and a cooper and a distiller, and had good technical knowledge, was very pragmatic and loved dry Rieslings and red wine. My mother was a fantastic cook and loved anything that was special and, above all, she loved people. Every day at 11 a.m. she opened a bottle of Champagne (for 80 years that was her only medicine!). She had a wonderful wine collection and was always happy to share her treasures! Her hobby was to go to the finest restaurants in Germany/Austria/Switzerland and Alsace, and I was very lucky to be her companion on many of these outings.
When did you begin to truly appreciate wine?
Maybe at 15. At 16 I started my apprenticeship to become a winemaker at the Winzerverein Oberrottweil am Kaiserstuhl.
What is it about rosé that has so captured the imagination here on the East End?
At Wölffer Estate we have made a dry rosé since 1992, and we always have taken this wine seriously and made a big effort to make a quality wine, and for marketing this category of wine. The wine is food-friendly, lighter (less alcohol), very versatile and additionally, the color makes you feel good. People who have traveled to the South of France have always had a love for rosé, and that feeling is now sweeping the nation. Wölffer Estate is doing its part to make rosé a success.
What’s special about Long Island wine that you particularly want people to know about and appreciate?
Long Island wine is one of the most food-friendly wines produced in America! Long Island wines, especially Wölffer Estate’s White Horse Reserve wines and The Grapes of Roth, have amazing longevity and belong in any great wine cellar and collection! Our wines represent fantastic value when you compare them to the great wine regions of the world!
What’s the best quote or saying you have ever heard about wine?
Solang Du mit Wein nicht sparst, Du viele Freunde um Dich scharst doch geht`s mit Deinem Wein zu End, kaum einer bleibt, der Dich noch kennt. (You will have many friends, as long you freely share your wine. But when you will run out of it not many will remain.)
Do you ever drink at Wölffer on your days off? If so, what have you learned while there?
I have learned three things over the years tasting/drinking at Wölffer Estate:
1. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful wine library. I do give a fair amount of special VIP tours and on those we will open our carefully aged wines. Every time it’s a fantastic experience to see how amazingly they age and to remember the vintage of each particular wine.
2. Walking through the tasting room: I have learned that either our customers are getting younger or I’m getting older.
3. I almost always spit the wine. As my mother used to say, “You don’t want to be the best customer in your own business.”
What’s the most important thing to teach the next generation of winemakers?
Strive for quality, but—most importantly—try to achieve balance!
What would be your favorite wine to take on an East End picnic? What would you bring to eat along with it?
The Noblesse Oblige Wölffer Rosé Sparkling Methode Champenoise Extra Brut. It’s a wine I never get tired of! I would bring along a Peconic Bay scallop ceviche and some lamb lollypops made by Chef Brian Chewing.
How do you like to spend your free time here on the East End?
Go sailing on a friend’s yacht, go golfing, go home and stay home with my lovely family!
What would you say when making your Toast to Summer 2018?
Here’s to a lovely dry and warm summer without any storms or hurricanes! And cheers to celebrating the 30th anniversary of Wölffer Estate Vineyards!
What else would you like our readers to know about dining and drinking on the East End this summer?
East and drink local! Ask every time you are at a restaurant for a Wölffer wine, or any other wine from your favorite local winery. This will help to build a regional cuisine and identity, and help preserve open space by planting more vineyards and cultivating more farm fields.
Try something new. Don’t always drink the same vodka…for example, have you tried the Wölffer Pink Gin?
Dan’s Rosé Soirée presented by Porsche is Sunday, May 27 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center. GA tickets are $140. VIP tickets are $190 and include event entry from 5 to 8 p.m. PLUS access to the Rosé After Dark VIP After Party Presented by The Palm by Whispering Angel, from 8 to 10 p.m. For tickets and more information about all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTasteofSummer.com. Patrons must be 21 or older to attend.