Tag Archive | "Wolffer Estate Vineyards"

Great Grapes! East End Vineyards Have Another Banner Year

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Grape harvesting at Wolffer Estate Vinyards on Tuesday, 10/13/14

Grape harvesting at Wölffer Estate Vineyard on Tuesday, October 14. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

East End oenophiles were elated last year when the 2013 Long Island grape harvest was lauded as the best ever vintage. According to local winemakers, celebrations are in order again, as 2014 is proving to be another banner year for South Fork vineyards.

“The harvest is coming along fabulous,” said Roman Roth, the winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, in a phone interview on Monday morning.

Mr. Roth became the vineyard’s first winemaker in 1992. Beforehand, he worked in the industry in Germany, California and Australia before settling in Sag Harbor.

“2012 was an amazing vintage, ’13 was the best vintage in history—Long Island history—and then now ’14 is looking very close. We had a couple of rains, but it’s still a great, great vintage,” he said.

“We had three great years in a row. That’s really spectacular,” Mr. Roth added. The year 2011 was difficult, he said, but 2010 had been great as well. “Out of the last five years we had four banner years,” he said.

Christopher Tracy, winemaker at Bridgehampton’s Channing Daughters Winery, also praised the quality of the harvest thus far. “It’s been awesome, it’s been fantastic, it’s been a great growing season,” he said on Wednesday morning.

Both winemakers attribute the seemingly excellent crop to the dry, warm growing season, which according to Mr. Tracy, was “perfect” up until the rain that hit on September 30. Nevertheless, “the quality’s been fantastic and the quantity has been great as well,” he said.

Mr. Tracy was not prepared to qualify the best vintages of the past decade, and said he is “hesitant” to discuss the actual wine until it is ready for consumption. He added “there really aren’t bad vintages anymore.” He attributed this to the advance of viniculture and improvements in vineyards.

“There are warmer and dryer vintages that promote different styles of wine,” he said, but there are very few definitively bad vintages these days.

This vintage is being lauded, he said, because “it’s just easy.”

“It’s an easy harvest and pick,” Mr. Tracy said. “There’s no mess, there’s no rot, it just makes life quite easy in terms of the harvest.”

So far, Mr. Roth said the grapes have not been affected by any diseases or disease-pressure but will make “healthy, great tasting wine.”

East End vineyards typically begin their harvests in mid-September, when they start picking the grapes for the lightest white wines.

“The grapes for the lighter, crisper, fresher, more elegant wines are picked first,” Mr. Roth explained. On September 15, grape pickers at Wölffer began picking pinot noir grapes for sparkling wines and the other crisper white wines. “The hallmark of Long Island wines, and Wölffer wines, is to make 11.5 to 12 volume percent,” Mr. Roth said. “Now these elegant wines, with a little bit of acidity, are very fashionable and that’s what our region can produce.”

As of this week, Mr. Roth estimated Wölffer had completed approximately 60 percent of the harvest and the vineyard is now harvesting grapes for its chardonnay and their heavier white wines. The busy pickers at Wölffer have picked all of the grapes for the rosé, which debuted this summer and, according to Mr. Roth, was a “major hit.” “Rosé will be back,” he said.

Mr. Roth added this year’s aromatic whites are all in and described them as “very fruity, very clean, very pure.”

The harvest at Channing Daughters began on September 11 and has been “pretty much nonstop since then,” Mr. Tracy said. As of Tuesday, October 14, the harvesters at Channing Daughters had picked 217 tons of grapes. Mr. Tracy said they look to finish at approximately 260 tons.

At Channing Daughters, the first grapes to be picked are for the light Muscat and pinot grigio.  The last white to be picked, Mr. Tracy said, is their ribolla gialla. The grape-picking season typically comes to a close with the harvest for the cabernet sauvignon, which typically takes place either in late October or early November.

Mr. Roth said there have been some years the harvest went on as late as November 7. He explained as long as there is a good canopy late into the year, the richest red wines will remain elegant and “won’t become cough syrup,” he said.

“The only thing we’re praying for now is that we get to keep sunshine and there’s no more rain,” Mr. Roth said. He explained he looks for extra concentration and dehydration for his red wines, in order to have a higher skin-to-juice ratio he said.

“You know when you have a berry, there’s so much skin and so much juice and when there’s dehydration the ratio changes.  Then there’s more skin and less juice which gets you more color, more flavor, more tannins, more of everything,” Mr. Roth said. “And so now we just hope for a little bit of an Indian summer,” he said.

“For the reds we need two weeks of sunshine, and that’ll do it,” he added.

As Long Island vineyards continue to gain repute in the eyes of wine drinkers worldwide, Mr. Roth said the bar continues to be set higher and higher.

“You just can’t make bad wine anymore, not that I ever made bad wine, but certainly the pressure is there, which is good. It makes you focus; you fight on all fronts. You make sure everything is clean and you work harder,” he said.

After the huge success of Wölffer’s rosé this summer, Mr. Roth said the winery is slated to make “a little brother or a sister of that,” which will be a white blend that will debut in the spring.

Mr. Tracy wouldn’t divulge the specifics of any upcoming projects but said a couple of new projects will launch in the spring. “There’s always something new and exciting happening here,” he said.

Water’s Edge Radio Hour Celebrates Local Voices of the East End

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.web Waters Edge Radio Hour @ Wolffer 11-9-13_1804

By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Without lighting effects, set design or elaborate costumes, the audience is transported in time and setting, traveling from the waiting room of a modern day doctor’s office to the whaling docks of 1840’s Sag Harbor in a matter of minutes.

“Language is the most powerful thing we have,” says Josh Perl, co-creator of Water’s Edge Radio Hour, a new variety show on WPPB, 88.3 FM. “Good writing is compelling. We can transport people there with just a few words or sound effects and their imagination follows the rest of it.”

Along with partners John Landes and Peter Zablotsky, Perl proudly unveiled his newest project in the tasting room at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack last Saturday.

A locally based radio show a la “A Prairie Home Companion,” Water’s Edge promises to capture the unique character of the East End without catering solely to visitors. The hour-long program includes three short plays, three essays, and two full songs, as well as musical interludes. It will be performed before a live audience and recorded for broadcast on WPPB.

Inspired by his own love of radio, Landes came up with the idea for an East End variety show and quickly enlisted the expertise of Zablotsky and Perl, partners in the Naked Stage Theatre Company and HITfest, the Hamptons Independent Theatre Festival. Perl and Zablotsky added theater connections and experience to Landes’ vision. Also contributing acting chops, Perl hosts the show.

While many local artists wait to unveil their projects until the crowded summer months, Landes felt the winter was the perfect time for Water’s Edge to begin regular broadcasting.

“It occurred to me that the Hamptons – the North and the South Fork – in a lot of ways are perfect for a show like this because we have kind of a captive audience in the winter time,” said Landes. “Those of us who live out here year round and love living out here year round, we know each other in the community and there’s so many good, talented people out here – writers, actors and people who love it out here and want to get the message out to others about what it’s like out here.”

In April, Water’s Edge presented a pilot run at Guild Hall. The story centered on the conflict between a well-known group of locals and some unwelcome outsiders, represented by surprisingly talkative deer ticks and bed bugs.

Following positive feedback on the pilot, Landes, Perl and Zablotsky moved forward, crafting enough material for four shows and continuously working on more. The environment could switch from a whaling ship to a corn maze instantly; it is entirely dependent on sound effects made by the actors. In one scene, two dads sit in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, supported by sounds of a receptionist, baby noises, and Velcro ripping.

“The nice thing about radio is you can do anything,” says Perl. “Our tagline is where anything can happen – and it usually does. We’re able to transport people to the Sag Harbor waterfront in 1840 where Herman Melville is seeking work on a whaling ship.”

Although they range in time period and location, all sketches have one common thread: humor.

“He just happens to have a Jewish mother who’s very worried about him being in a boat with 100 men. His mother errs on the side of a little bit over protective, she wants him to be a butcher like his older brother,” Perl says of Herman Melville.

The creators are hopeful this is the start of a long running variety show with locally written pieces and locally based characters, ranging from celebrities to surfers to fishermen. Water’s Edge strives to go beyond the public’s perception of “The Hamptons” and deliver a compelling and authentic narrative that includes the year round community. Composed entirely of original work, the program is wholly inclusive; the creators are consistently looking for new local writers to contribute editorials and plays. According to Perl, although the plays use “Hamptons kinds of archetypes,” the stories are universal. In one scene, a wealthy older couple searching for entertainment during a fall visit find themselves slightly out of place in a corn maze.

“When a friend tells you a story about people you don’t know, if they’re a good storyteller, you’re right there in the moment with them,” he said. While the stage actor acknowledges that costumes and set design add to certain productions, he said that without those elements, radio allows for the text to truly triumph.

To complement the stories, Hopefully Forgiven, comprised of musicians Brad Penuel and Telly Karoussos, will perform several times during the show.

Water’s Edge Radio Show celebrates the East End community in a way “the Hamptons” are not always celebrated – from a local perspective – and it does so with good humor.

“It’s kind of funny,” says Perl of the variety show. “It’s not kind of funny, it’s actually very funny.”

Upcoming live broadcasts of Water’s Edge Radio Hour will take place on November 23 and December 14 at 7 p.m. at the Wölffer Estate Winery Tasting Room, 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack.

Not the Same Old Jazz Jam

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web jazz jam

By Emily J. Weitz

As enticing an evening as one spent under the twinkling lights at Wölffer Estate Vineyards sounds — especially when accented by a glass of deep merlot and the swooning of a saxophone — when Jazz Jam Session founder Claes Brondal was approached about bringing the jam to the estate, he was hesitant.

“Wolffer has the feeling of being fancy,” said Brondal, “and while I like that, I didn’t want the music to be inhibited.”

His commitment to the freedom of musicians to create has remained paramount as the Jam Session has traveled around the community, from Bay Burger to Bay Street to Page 63 Restaurant.

“Once you get situated in a place, you have to be committed,” Brondal said. “You can’t move around.”

So when he decided to give it a try, he knew it would be at least for the season. He wrote up a mission statement to make sure that the people at Wölffer Estate understood what the Jam Session was about, and that it could not be compromised.

“We are creating uninhibited music,” Brondal says, “not background music, but the main focus. We want people to be able to create without fear, and not worry about the appearance, but only about the music.”

The response from the vineyard was one of complete receptivity, and the result has been a new chapter in the five-year-old story of the Jam.

“The acoustics are so great that we’ve been able to return to the recording styles of the 1950s and 60s,” says Brondal. “The acoustics create the warm sound of the room and the audience.”

This means that, while each instrument needed its own microphone and needed to be controlled individually at other venues, at Wölffer, just two mics can capture the whole sound.

“In the old days,” says Brondal, “there were two mics in the room. The trumpet would be on the left and the bass on the right. That had a certain charm. So we’ve done that at Wölffer and it works really well. It makes sense, because it’s the era of jazz that we’re playing.”

Even though it’s important that the music is the focus of the evening, the Jam Session, born in the noisy dining room of Bay Burger, has never been a place where you had to be silent. There’s no quiet policy, and there’s room for life in the background. The silence comes when the music demands it, and in its best moments, everyone in the audience is held in awe.

“People are forgiving and unforgiving,” says Brondal. “If the music is happening, people are listening. If the music is not happening, people are not listening. You’re not forced to sit there and be quiet because you paid a lot of money or anything. But sometimes, the music commands it.”

He compares the Jam to any moment at a train station in New York City when a crowd is held captivated by a street performer.

“It’s not only the quality, but it’s that it’s authentic. They’re pouring their heart into it. Whether you like jazz or not, if there is a nerve and a passion pouring out of it, it’s inevitable that you’ll be attracted to it.”

As a way to keep the Jam Session fresh, this season Brondal introduced a new element: the special guest series. Once a month, local realtor Douglas Elliman sponsors a special guest to come and play with the regulars, and it always brings an element of surprise.

“Special guests bring a tremendous amount of new energy,” says Brondal. “They help to keep it fresh and encourage us to leave our comfort zone. Everyone will be in new territory.”

One of the original special guests, who has since returned again and again, is trumpet player Randy Brecker.

“He is the most recorded trumpet player in the world,” says Brondal. “He has no business jamming with us on a Thursday night when he’s going on tour the next day but he comes. He does it because it’s grassroots and it’s where we keep this art form alive.”

Tonight, the Jam Session is excited to bring in special guest James Campagnola on the tenor saxophone.

“He’s one of the most sought after musicians in New York City,” says Brondal. “He plays every single note as if he is going to die tomorrow. It’s gut-wrenching, authentic, and very primal.”

Brondal is confident that Campagnola’s presence tonight will take everyone to a new level. Playing with a “superstar” doesn’t intimidate the other musicians; it inspires them.

“It affects everybody’s playing,” he says. “You can do extraordinary things partly because of his good energy. You play not only better, but you play with intent. Everyone is listening.”

The special guest series is helping to create more of those moments when the audience stops, and even the wine seems to pause mid-pour.

“Any authentic, genuine artist,” says Brondal, “when their pouring their love into what they’re doing live in front of you, it’s very powerful. You see it in a lot in jazz. People don’t play it for the money or the prestige, but for the love of it, and love is a powerful thing.”


Music on Main Street, Sag Harbor Flourishes

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web_Singer Songwriters at Phao 5-24-12_3027-1

photo by Michael Heller

Sag Harbor has long been known for its quaint Main Street, the yachts that line Long Wharf and the artist and writers who call the village home. But over the last five years, Sag Harbor has also become known for Thursday nights and a growing music scene. It’s a scene that has developed with musicians and restaurateurs working hand-in-hand to offer a diverse menu of musical genres — from serious jazz to folk, rock and reggae and seemingly everything in between.

This is one of the reasons that musician Bryan Downey, owner of the Noyac-based Bulldog Studios, launched the Hamptons Singer-Songwriters series two-years ago in the lobby of Bay Street Theatre. Over 30 almost sold-out shows later, Downey has brought the series to Phao Thai Restaurant on Thursday nights where all summer between 8:30 and 11:30 p.m. the original work of artists — both well known and emerging — can be heard in the intimate setting of the restaurant.

“There are not a lot of venues out there for singer songwriters,” said Downey in an interview on Tuesday. “There are plenty of venues for people who want to cover The Beatles or Jimmy Buffett, but there wasn’t a place where a singer songwriter could play three songs and put their guts out there on the table.”

The Hamptons Singer-Songwriters series developed organically, said Downey. Inspired by the number of musicians crafting original work on the East End, he and John Monteleone opened the series after musician Jim Turner was unable to make a gig at an open mic session at Blue Sky, now Page@63 Main.

“I called all the singers I knew to see if we could have a concert and it just came together,” said Downey. “It was a February and we had more than 100 people in that room. I thought maybe we could bring it to Bay Street Theatre and serendipitously [Bay Street Theatre creative director] Murphy Davis stopped on me on the street and it just grew from there.”

What separates Hamptons Singer-Songwriters from most live music is that while Downey will occasionally allow musicians to play covers, primarily it is a venue for original music. This gives artists a space and audience to develop work and allows patrons the opportunity to experience something unique.

In addition to local performers like mainstays Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks, Dick Johansson and Inda Eaton, the series also features artists like American Idol hopeful Leah Laurenti (a Patchogue native) and young artists from Sag Harbor eager to perform outside the classroom or Downey’s studio, where he helps young musicians develop their talents.

Tonight, in honor of Bob Dylan’s birthday, part of the session will feature Michael Michaels, a tribute performer to Dylan. It’s a rare allowance Downey admitted, but fitting in celebration of one of the greatest singer songwriters of all time.

Downey said Sag Harbor is the perfect fit for a series like this because of the community’s commitment to the arts.

“It is the center of music out here,” he said. “I feel like this all started off with Jim Turner, one of the great local musicians who plays everywhere, but a lot in Sag Harbor. He is a professional who has kept the music playing and I think most of us are riding on the coattails of Jim Turner.”

Turner traditionally hosted the Thursday night open mic at Blue Sky, now Page @63 Main. That restaurant continues to host live music events, but Turner can now be found on Sunday nights at Muse in the Harbor from 6 to 9 p.m.

Muse in the Harbor owner and chef Matthew Guiffrida has also joined the Thursday night music club, presenting guitarist and singer Steve Fredericks from 7 to 10 p.m. Guiffrida has worked with Fredericks, who performs covers as well as original tunes, since he opened Muse originally in Water Mill.

“No matter where I was, whether at The Patio or The Inn at Quogue — Sag Harbor was always the place I went on my night off because you can walk around and there is love of music,” said Guiffrida. “There is no village like it. It’s down to earth, laid back and there is always something to do.”

Downey credits the Jazz Jam Session at Bay Burger, also on Thursday nights, as creating a venue to celebrate jazz and expanding the growing tradition of music in the village. He even timed singer songwriters session to begin at 8:30 — a half hour before the 7 to 9 p.m. jam session at Bay Burger ends so musicians could experience both events.

Conceived by drummer Claes Brondal along with Bay Burger owners Joe and Liza Tremblay and John Landes, the jazz jam opened in the spring of 2009 and has developed a cult-like following among jazz enthusiasts.

Brondal said it was not only the crowds who fill Bay Burger each Thursday in the summer season that constantly humble him, but also the musicians who show up to sit in on sessions.

Saxophonist Morris Goldberg, recognized as an early pioneer of jazz out of Cape Town, South Africa, and a collaborator of Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon, has often graced the jam session stage. Backed ably by Brondal on drums, Peter Weiss on upright bass and Bryan Campbell on guitar, the jam session house band is coined The Thursday Night Live Band. Trumpet player Randy Brecker has also joined the group as has saxophonist Alex Picton.

There are evenings, said Brondal, where the concentration of world-class musicians gathered in a little burger joint on the Sag Harbor Turnpike is almost startling. He hopes with the proximity to New York that not just the jazz jam, but local music in general continues to grow.

Brondal has recently started working with Wölffer Estate Vineyards to coordinate live music Thursday through Saturdays, bringing different genres like Afro-Cuban jazz and reggae to the stage.

“Even before we had the jazz jam they hosted live music and they continue to draw huge crowds to this day,” said Brondal. “My idea originally with the jazz jam was to bring different styles to the session, but it got too complicated, so I am glad we can start to introduce some new styles at Wölffer. We want diversity and accessibility for everyone when it comes to live music out here.”