Raise a Glass to New Fall Wines at Hamptons Wineries

Wölffer Estate Vineyard grapes, Photo: Barbara Lassen
Wölffer Estate Vineyard grapes, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Fall is harvest time all over the East End, including at our three South Fork vineyards—Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton and Duck Walk Vineyard South in Water Mill. It’s an incredibly busy time of year for our local vineyards, but it’s also a time for winemakers to get excited about the great fruit they’re seeing, and the great wines that will result.

Channing Daughters' L’Enfant Sauvage Chardonnay, Photo: Courtesy Channing Daughters Winery
Channing Daughters Winery’s L’Enfant Sauvage Chardonnay

“We’re super excited for the upcoming harvest, which we think will start for us this week,” says Allison Dubin, general manager and partner at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton. “Generally, the Pinot Grigio and other early ripening varietals come in early September, followed up by reds for rosé, other whites and red grape varieties to make still red wine.” Now would be a great time to stop by the winery to get a taste of the process—and, of course, to get a taste of some great South Fork wine.

At Channing Daughters, their model is to produce fairly limited quantities of very delicious wine. And when it comes down to getting ahold of some of it, well, membership has its privileges. “2015 L’Enfant Sauvage Chardonnay and 2016 Dornfelder are released to our Wine Club in September,” says Dubin. “If any is left it will be released to the public in October.” Of course, you can join the club at any time to insure your access to these tasty limited productions. As Dubin says by way of further enticement: “We will be bottling our Fall Vermouth Variation as well as new Petillant Naturel wines soon.” The Petillant Naturel wines are rustic sparklers that come with a casual crown cap—like a beer bottle. As with Channing’s other selections—you snooze, you lose.

Over at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, they’re never snoozing, neither in their tasting rooms nor behind the scenes. “Things are hopping at Wölffer,” says winemaker and partner Roman Roth, whose own tremendous energy has done so much to make Wölffer a powerhouse among East End wineries.

It’s an energy that has not gone unnoticed in the greater world of American wine. Just the most recent evidence of this: none other than Wine Enthusiast magazine has nominated Wölffer to compete for the prestigious title of American Winery of the Year. Roth couldn’t be happier—but he’s careful to temper his enthusiasm before the results are in. “It’s really cool to be in that group,” he says, with some understatement. “Considering that there are thousands of wineries in California to choose from, it’s great as a recognition of Long Island wine.”

Wölffer's No. 139 Red Cider, Photo: Courtesy Wölffer Estate Vineyard
Wölffer Estate Vineyard’s No. 139 Red Cider

Roth has more to be excited about than Long Island wine, though. There’s cider, too! For the fall, Wölffer has just debuted the next product in its collection of sparkling ciders—the new No. 139 Red Cider. “We decided we wanted to round out the ciders,” Roth explains. The Red Cider joins the Dry White and the Dry Rosé in the popular No. 139 line of mildly alcoholic apple ciders. “It’s lovely and balanced, not sweet, and, at 6.9% ABV, it’s a lot lighter than wine,” says Roth. Ever one to appreciate balance in all things, Roth notes that having a red, white and a rosé cider also provides a proper symmetry with the red, white and rosé wines that Wölffer is celebrated for.

Getting back to wines, Roth offers a bit of a teaser for some new reds coming down the pike at Wölffer. Unlike some of the award-winning tannic Merlots and Cabernet Francs that Wölffer has become famous for, these are reds, Roth says, “that drink like a rosé.” The difference will be in the aging. “These will be light, elegant reds—not oaked or tannic—and with an amazing aroma.” Look for these to appear over the coming months.

Finally, Roth arrives at the moment many of us have been waiting for: that is, fall 2018 will see the release of Wölffer’s very first brandy. That’s right—brandy. “We will release the first brandy in October,” says Roth. Aged for three years in oak barrels, the brandy has been bottled at 88 proof—and there’s not much of it. “It’s a limited release,” says Roth. “Only 600 375 ml bottles have been produced.” At $75 a bottle, this will be a brandy for savoring. “It’s super elegant, with a beautiful aroma,” says Roth. “A real collectors item.” So keep an eye out for it, and snap it up when you can.

Fall is beautiful, but it’s fleeting. When you’ve got young children, you owe it to them and yourself to make it out for some weekend harvest-time frolicking—fall, and childhood, don’t go on forever. Where better to get your agritainment on than at Hank’s Pumpkintown in Water Mill? There you’ll find your pumpkin picking, apple picking, a complex of corn mazes and more.

And amidst the pumpkin picking, corn mazing and general romping, the adults in the party will surely note that right across Montauk Highway from Pumpkintown sits Duck Walk Vineyards, like an oasis in the desert. How easy it is to step across the road for a little relaxation—wine by the glass or bottle in a child-friendly, leashed dog-friendly atmosphere, with live music on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Perhaps a glass of their easy-going Southampton White (which comes in the big bottles) or a touch of their Aphrodite Late Harvest Gewürztraminer beckons.

Enjoy your South Fork sipping!

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