The Wölffer brand has been expanding for years, and that’s no surprise to anyone who lives out east. It all started with Wölffer Estate Vineyard, whose label was founded in 1988, and is now the benchmark for South Fork rosé. In 2016, the winery made its brand available in Sag Harbor through its restaurant Wölffer Kitchen, which mimicked the winery’s ethos: local food paired with local wine in an effort to promote the agricultural riches of the East End. If success is measured by expansion, then Wölffer Kitchen is clearly a success. A year later, the team opened its second outpost in Amagansett.
Wölffer has always had a magical way of doing business. Part of that magic has to do with inherent creativity. Joey Wölffer, the daughter of the late founder Christian Wölffer, is a designer herself, whose bohemian spirit inhabits the restaurant spaces. The feel of these restaurants — the joie de vivre, really — is part of what makes them inviting. Yes, it’s the seasonal, local food, too, which you can enjoy year-round. But it’s really the drinks, made with Wölffer products, a self-referential branding that, in these circumstances, makes sense. Wölffer captivated an audience here. There’s something so incredibly smart about all of that. And you can’t help but appreciate the brilliance.
The Sag Harbor version of Wölffer Kitchen allows for a certain voyeurism into Sag Harbor itself. Snag an outdoor table and watch the incredible foot traffic, which, in Sag Harbor, never seems to die down, irrespective of the season. I contend that Wölffer Kitchen offers something beyond the sum of its parts — a holistic experience that is dining, not eating. People-watching, cocktailing, rosé-selecting, ambience-enjoying: all these are part of a singular experience that rises above what you order when you go out to eat.
At Wölffer, the restaurant knows what you want before you do. The experience is designed around what luxury is envisioned to be. It’s a version of hospitality. It’s a brilliance that’s under-recognized, and it’s why, truthfully, the company remained a master in the field for over 30 years.
This is not to say the food isn’t delicious. Because it is. In Sag Harbor, the lollipop lamb chops with feta and cucumber relish are show-stoppers, as is the house-made campanalle with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, and black olives. And can anyone resist wood-fired short rib macaroni and cheese with toasted breadcrumbs and garlic, or the steamed clams with green coconut curry? The grilled ribeye, currently served with an arugula heirloom salad, gorgonzola, and aged balsamic vinegar, is, at $48, a surprisingly affordable find, as far as ribeyes go (trust me, I’m an expert).
In Sag Harbor, you can also enjoy an “in-between” menu while the restaurant amps up for dinner. Snack on a green goddess kale salad, toasted naan, charcuterie, or Peconic oysters on the half shell with verjus mignonette, all while sipping an ice-cold glass of the classic Summer in a Bottle rosé. Of course, there’s plenty of other wines to choose from, too. For the teetotalers among us, there is a line of verjus, absent the alcohol, that, to my mind, tastes even better when served on the rocks, with a hint of seltzer. These Wölffer restaurants have it just right.