Lillia Pérez, RG|NY’s well traveled and extremely knowledgeable winemaker, has been immersing herself in Long Island’s wine country. In learning about the unique terroir and often-unpredictable weather on the North Fork, Pérez has begun to create fabulous new wines for the oenophile community on Long Island
RG|NY is relatively new to the Long Island wine community. What has it been like immersing yourselves and your wines into the local scene? What have been some of the high points, some of the challenges?
I would say the main challenge is always the transition of brands, but fortunately people and the local industry have received RG|NY very well. We are proud to be part of Long Island’s growing stage and we are fully committed to contribute to making this area well recognized, locally and abroad.
What aspects of Long Island’s North Fork wine region have you found the most interesting and/or surprising?
I found it interesting how this region has so much to offer in terms of nature and wine styles. If I were living in a big and busy city as Manhattan, I would love to come out here to spend a day or a full weekend just to relax and enjoy great wine experiences.
Surprising? The weather! How it, amazingly, changes from one day to another and can bring good surprises on wines, such as the Riesling 2018. I was not confident that the weather last year would help me to do a good wine out of it and it turned out really good. I’m getting very positive feedback.
What are your goals and visions for RG|NY wines in the immediate future and over the next decade?
First of all, position RG|NY wines in people’s preference, attract more local and abroad consumers, get them involved in the wine culture to enjoy and appreciate, with the same passion I do, all the work behind a glass of wine. Secondly, produce high-quality wines with the potential of competing worldwide.
What advice and insights do you give people coming to RG|NY as far as how to get the most out of their wine-tasting experience?
I would encourage people to come to the area for a day or a weekend and try all the different experiences that we offer, such as indoor and outdoor private spaces to enjoy as a couple or with a large group of friends and family. Relax and enjoy the wines and pairing options. We also offer different educational experiences such as vineyard tours, dinner in the vines and blending sessions, just to mention some. I would love people to be open-minded to try my wine style, which I would define as fruit-forward, dry and elegant.
How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
I believe in adapting the winemaking to what the region offers. My goal is selecting the best-adapted grape varieties that show their optimal expression in the wines.
Where do you find your inspirations as a winemaker?
Traveling to wine regions all around the world and tasting different wine styles inspire me to create my own wines and keep experimenting.
When did you fall in love with wine? What made you want to become a winemaker?
My love for wine happened naturally, as we always drank wine at home, and especially my father always loved to have his cellar full of different options.
Why become a winemaker? Because I loved to drink wine, but not without knowing what happened behind that bottle first, so I wanted to go deeper on learning what makes a good wine.
I first got inspired while I was working at the Mexican Wine Council, where I got to meet very interesting and passionate people, such as Mr. Hans Backhoff, one of the pioneers of making high quality wines in Mexico. I knew I wanted to learn more and get more involved in the wine industry. Then, in Bordeaux, where I completed my masters degree in vineyard and winery management and was very fortunate to work with amazing and knowledgeable people working for Grand Crus Classes, where the quality and [respect for] land is most important in order to produce a great wine.
What are the most challenging aspects of making wine? What are the most rewarding?
Most challenging is weather and harvest time. Weather is something we cannot control, so we need to be there every day tasting the fruit and deciding the best moment to harvest. The most rewarding is watching people drinking my wine!
What are some aspects of your job as winemaker that people could never imagine?
The fun, but also difficult, part of tasting the grapes in the field in order to choose the right timing to harvest. I’ll try to be as close as possible to the right grape maturity in order to achieve the best grape expression in the wines.
What has been the most memorable glass of wine you’ve tasted and why?
Several come to my mind, as I had special experiences with all of them—Château Margaux 1996, Château Carbonnieux blanc, Orange wines from Croatia, and Garnachas from Rioja—not only because they were good wines, but also because I shared them with special people in my life.
Eat, drink and be merry at Dan’s Holidays in the Vines hosted by RG|NY on Saturday, November 30. For tickets and more information, visit HolidaysintheVines.com.