Straight off the vine
Joey and Marc Wolffer follow in their father's footsteps when it comes to wine making. This year they celebrate Wolffer Estate Vineyard's 25th anniversary.
After the tragic death of Christian Wölffer in December 2008, the future of the South Fork’s most successful winery was uncertain. But earlier this year two of the beloved winemaker’s four children purchased his 71-acre Sagaponack vineyard. Now Marc Wölffer, 46, and Joey Wölffer, 31, are furthering their father’s mission as Wölffer Estate Vineyard celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Joey and her husband, Max Rohn, the vineyard’s new managing director, are in charge of daily operations; Marc, who lives in Spain, commutes monthly to Long Island to oversee both the winery and its equestrian center. He is simultaneously developing wines for Wölffer on a vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina, one of his father’s favorite regions.
HC&G: What are your fondest memories
of your father and Wölffer?
Joey Wölffer: The winery was so important to my dad—it was his dream, and he made it a reality. I remember walking through the vines and having great conversations with him, and connecting with him while riding horses together—even though he was a terrible rider!
What changes do you plan on making at Wölffer?
JW: The winery is going to have a more artistic flair to it. We’ll have art exhibits and opening-night parties that attract different kinds of crowds. We are turning a room in the main building into a wine bar, with the intention of it becoming a year-round local hangout. I have a vision of people coming to play chess and backgammon and just chilling out.
How are you collaborating with Wölffer’s longtime winemaker, Roman Roth?
JW: We bought his label, Grapes of Roth, and we’ve made him a partner. We are all one family, and Roman is a true artist. He’s been at Wölffer from the beginning and was my dad’s cohort.
So what will we be drinking at Wölffer this summer?
JW: In mid-June we’re launching a new apple sparkling wine in mini-bottles. It’s a great beverage for the beach and barbecues, made from local apples and very dry and light. And we’ve produced 11,000 cases of rosé, which hopefully will not sell out till fall! For our 25th anniversary party, we’re unveiling the 2010 Christian’s Cuvée, Noblesse Oblige sparkling in 1.5-liter bottles, and also a sparkling rosé.
Marc, you’ve been working with a winery in Mendoza, Argentina. Is Wölffer destined to become an internationally recognized label?
Marc Wölffer: Definitely. One of our prime goals is to develop Wölffer as a global brand.
What is the property like?
MW: Presently we own 35 acres of the Santa Maria de los Andes Vineyard, at the foot of the Andes. It’s breathtaking. We are planning to produce our own wines by 2015 and market them in Europe as well as the U.S.
Despite its allure as a wine region, why Mendoza?
MW: Our father loved Argentina and viewed it as a second home. We take great pride not only in continuing his legacy at Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack, but also in Argentina.