Corey Creek Winemaker Marin Brennan Blazes New Trails on the North Fork  

Corey Creek winemaker Marin Brennan
Corey Creek winemaker Marin Brennan
Courtesy of Bedell Cellars

When Marin Brennan brought her curiosity and passion for winemaking to Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue 12 years ago, not too many women were entering the local winemaking industry. But Brennan says that may be changing.

Now the assistant winemaker for Bedell and the lead winemaker for sister winery Corey Creek in Southold, Brennan says she has received more and more applications from women who are looking to enter the industry, and in 2018, the company produced its first varieties that were made by an all-female winemaking team.

“More women are looking to work the harvest to learn the process and get their foot in the door of the industry,” she says.

While there are a few prominent female winemakers on the East End, women are greatly outnumbered by men in the industry in general. According to career site Zippia, only 17.8% of winemakers nationwide are women. Similarly, a 2020 survey by the Women Winemakers of California and Beyond found that just 14% of California vineyards had a female winemaker at the helm.

Brennan got her foot in the door at Bedell by working first as a summer tasting room associate while she was finishing up her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, with a focus in beverages/wine, at Johnson & Wales University. She then returned to Bedell to work the harvest season and has been with the company ever since.

“I love the company, and I love working for Richard Olsen-Harbich, the head winemaker for Bedell, who is a pioneer in the industry,” she says. “And I also had the great opportunity to work for (Bedell founders) Kip and Susan Bedell during my first few years.”

It was during her first winemaking class at Johnson & Wales that Brennan, a native Long Islander, decided she might like to pursue a career in winemaking.

“We learned the basics of different winemaking regions, and I learned what North Fork wines are all about,” she says. “I realized I had this great career opportunity right in my own backyard.”

Compared with Bedell Cellars’ vintages, which are widely available in restaurants and liquor stores throughout the tri-state area, Corey Creek specializes in small-batch wines, which are offered in the tasting rooms at Corey Creek and Bedell Cellars, as well as online. The small batch program was started in 2019 by Brennan, who utilizes diverse vessels and innovative winemaking techniques to produce vintages that are driven by the North Fork terroir.

“Corey Creek has always been such a special place — it has a great energy about it,” she says. “I wanted to make some unique wines that were different from what has been traditionally made by Bedell and other vineyards on the North Fork. With the small batches, I was able to spread my wings and see where I could push these wines.”

For instance, Corey Creek’s Auxerrois is the first of its kind to be produced on the East Coast. The wine is made from 100% hand-harvested Auxerrois blanc grapes, which are native to the Alsace-Lorraine region of France and which Brennan says are similar to chardonnay.

Bedell became the first commercial vineyard on the East Coast to plant this grape variety in 2019. Corey Creek’s Auxerrois features hints of flowers, seashells, herbs and fruits from the North Fork.

The winery’s other small batches include a White Cabernet Franc.

“Cabernet Franc is a red grape,” Brennan says. “It’s one of the most commonly planted grapes on the North Fork, but it’s mostly seen in red wines and occasionally as a rosé. For our White Cabernet Franc, we gently press off the skins so the wine doesn’t pick up the color. We are the only vineyard on the North Fork to make a white wine from cabernet Franc grapes.”

Corey Creek’s rosés are unique, too.

“Rosés are often a blend of grapes, such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet Franc,” she says. “We have made rosés from one varietal, such as our Syrah Rosé and our Malbec Rosé.”

While Corey Creek’s offerings change annually, a few constants remain year after year, including the White Cabernet Franc and Malbec Rosé.

For those who are considering a career in the wine business, Brennan has some advice.

“I would recommend that you pursue working during a harvest,” she says. “Ask a lot of questions, get your hands dirty and learn the business from the ground up. If you are passionate about something, it’s a joy to put in the work.”