The 175-acre Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack, Long Island is a destination of uncommon beauty—even among its idyllic Hamptons setting. It was there, in 2013, that siblings Joey and Marc Wölffer took the reigns of their family vineyard. In 1992, their father Christian and acclaimed winemaker Roman Roth began producing a Wölffer rosé which quickly became a Hamptons staple before growing in acclaim in ever-expanding markets. Under Joey and Marc’s watch, however, the entire Wölffer Estate wines portfolio extended its reach and the burgeoning lifestyle brand would open the Hamptons’ only vineyard-owned restaurant Wölffer Kitchen. Last summer, Wölffer Estate ventured beyond producing within the confines of the Hamptons shores with a Mallorcan Petit-Verdot. This summer, they expanded further with an Argentine rosé that sold out entirely. And these wines speak to the future of the brand as a whole.
Joey Wölffer describes herself as a wine-geek-in-training and she attributes the brand’s success first and foremost to the dreams of her father. “I can’t speak more to the foundation. We were handed something with all the right parts; it just needed new energy, a little passion and a little zest. That’s what we brought to the table. We’ve added something that wasn’t there before with the dream of making my dad’s dream come true—with our own spin,” she explains. As for an overseas expansion, the motivation was two-fold: first, relationships had been in place for years with the vineyards elsewhere and second, she trusted their winemaker to hold true to the brand’s DNA. At the core, however, she shares that demand propelled this: “We are limited by how much land we have and how many grapes we have. Every year we make more and more rosé, but we do want to continue to grow into different markets.”
Roth delicately oversaw harvest and production at all locations. He notes that the through-line was maintaining their signature style. “There’s a freshness that we celebrate with our ocean breeze-like wine that’s the character people have come to like as the rosé wave has grown. They aren’t heavy wines.” As for this year’s Finca rosé release, he explains, “The goal of the Argentina process was to make an elegant wine that is not very alcoholic, heavy, fat and sweet. With that in mind, we picked a little earlier. We had a target. If you have a plan, you have a much better chance of getting what you desire.” For most producers, rosé is an afterthought. Here, however, they set out to make a clean, fruit-driven rosé from the start. The Finca rosé from Argentina is often referred to as a rosé with altitude; grown high in the mountains of Mendoza.
Because of the success of the launch, they’re already planning a larger production run for release next summer. Roth also notes, “We will try a little sibling Finca Wölffer White Blend. If it makes its mark, there could be an elegant red wine in time—elegant in bold letters.” Regarding the entire portfolio, he sums up their wants and wishes concisely: “The last thing we want to make is airline wines: fruit and no character that could be anything from anywhere. What’s most important, because we are a boutique winery—even our Argentina facility is boutique—is making a statement on balance and elegance.” This notion of multiple boutique wineries functioning within one banner is not uncommon, but it isn’t always as well executed as it was with Wölffer Estate.
And yet, they are still a Hamptons brand. It’s more than a vineyard and a restaurant, it’s Joey Wölffer’s roots and it infuses all the wines. “I think that we were always pushing this lifestyle brand—this Hamptons lifestyle that we believe stems from the history and the strength of the art scene and music scene here in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s more than the wine. It’s a community and it’s food and fashion. We are really kind of rounding out a lifestyle brand that is true to the history of the Hamptons,” she explains. As beautiful and fascinating as the story is, it wouldn’t matter if the wines, first and foremost, were not good. Selling out their entire Argentine production run certainly supports our belief that it is.
Shop the Wölffer Estate wines online. As far as visiting their locations, Wölffer Kitchen is open year-round and is located at 29 Main St, Sag Harbor. The estate also hosts a series of events, including this weekend’s Harvest Party on 10 October 2015, complete with a feast, grape stomping and plenty of wine and hard cider. Joey Wölffer herself describes it best: “It’s such a celebration of everything. For us, it’s the start of a new year. The event itself is about so much about what we stand for.”
Images courtesy of Wölffer Estate