My love affair with wine started on my first trip to Napa Valley back in December of 1999. While the cliché love-at-first-sight is not a perfect fit, it is not too far off as my exposure to wine prior to that trip was limited to a handful of less than stellar causal encounters.
Wine's appeal wasn't simply its taste or resulting affects, the nature of the seduction was much more complex and dynamic.
In hindsight, there were many elements that attracted me to this ancient libation. One can't overlook the importance that travel can bring about when it comes to opening one's mind and their willingness to try new things. My trip to Napa was my first trip west as part of a larger trip to San Fran and one can't go to this famed wine region without exploring their vino.
Also at play was the stunning natural beauty of Napa Valley's topology with its predominately green landscape, running hills, and mountainous terrain beyond the valley floor. Combined with stunning manicured and manmade elements including what seemed like endless rows of vines hugging the hills only broken up by the occasional resplendent cellar, winery, or chateau.
Learning about the complex and seemingly romantic process of winemaking was also an important element. The influences of the soil, nearby plant life, and the impact of the sun, wind, and rain or the lack there of. The love and care that is involved to nurture a crop with a keen eye toward guiding the product on the vine and afterwards to achieve a desired outcome within the abilities of the winemaker's measured controls. Lastly, the marriage of wine and food and the affect each has on the other.
All of these considerations influenced and shaped my appreciation for wine and the art of winemaking. Over the years, I've traveled to many of the world's most famous and beautiful wine regions including Piemonte, Tuscany, Williamette Valley, and Stellenbosch. I've also visited younger, up-and-coming wine regions in northern Spain, Virginia, New York, and Walla Walla, Washington.
In the younger wine regions, from time to time, I come across a vineyard that feels it could easily fit in with the more esteemed wine regions based on its beauty and for the quality of their product. Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, New York (a village of Southampton) is one of those places.
I first visited Wölffer in March of 2009 as part of a self-guided wine tour that included the South and North Forks of Long Island. Even then it stood out of the crowd in comparison to its Long Island peers. Over the years, Wölffer and its wines have aged beautifully.
Their tasting room is elegant while not pretentious, their back patio is comfortable and provides gorgeous views of the vineyard with a local Hamptons sensibility, they have tables set up on the lawn just a few feet away from the vines, a gazebo surrounded by vines just a short walk from the back patio, and a causal, beautifully unkept tasting area with barstool-high picnic tables under a vine covered trellis.
While their chardonnays and rosés have long been crowd pleasers, I recently tasted their Cassango Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 which was absolutely brilliant. Sadly, however they recently sold out of this vintage.
They offer wine tastings, wine by the glass or by the bottle, and they have a variety of food options on their menu.
If you select one of their tasting menus, knowledgeable servers come and serve you where you sit. Spending time with you detailing and describing each wine.
Another popular offering is their Sunset Fridays and Saturdays event in the summer at their Wine Stand on Montauk Highway. Patrons bring a blanket and enjoy live music, wine, food, and a gorgeous sunset assuming Mother Nature is agreeable.
If you are in the Hamptons and love wine, add Wölffer Estate to your to-do list. It truly feels like a little piece of Napa or a European vineyard just a few hours from NYC.