Potential buyers in the works for Martha Clara, Claudio’s

Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead is expected to be sold to the owners of a Mexican winery. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

After more than three years on the market, one of the North Fork’s most prominent commercial properties is expected to change hands soon. 

A family group headed by Mexican businessman José Antonio Rivero Larrea has applied for a liquor license at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead, state records show. The winery and neighboring estate, known as Big E Farm, have been on the market since 2014. The property, which was originally listed at $25 million and most recently priced at $17.5 million, has been in contract for sale since late last year, according to the listing on corcoran.com.

Mr. Rivero Larrea, whose name appears along with those of four family members on the Jan. 3 liquor license application, is chairman of the mining company Autlån, which according to CNN is Mexico’s largest producer of ferroalloys. The publicly traded company announced plans late last year to invest more than $300 million in energy and mining projects in its home country.

The businessman is also a wine enthusiast and the founder of Rivero Gonzalez, a family-owned winery and vineyard he launched 20 years ago in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila. It also operates tasting houses in Mexico City and Monterrey  and is managed by his daughter, María Rivero González. The company has been exporting some of its wines, including a rare white cabernet sauvignon, into the New York City market for several years.

Ms. Rivero González confirmed her family’s interest in the Martha Clara property, but declined an interview about future plans until after the sale is complete.

Corcoran listing agent Sheri Winter Clarry also declined to comment on the proposed sale.

“I look forward to talking about it in the future,” she said.

Big E Farm was the home of the late Robert Entenmann, a former executive at Entenmann’s Bakery.

Mr. Entenmann retired from the family business after it was sold to Warner-Lambert in 1978. He purchased a Sound Avenue potato farm soon after and turned it into a farm to raise thoroughbred race horses. In 1995, he planted 18 acres of vitis vinifera there, taking the first steps toward  establishing Martha Clara Vineyards, which he named for his mother. Mr. Entenmann died in September 2016.

For the second time in as many years a prospective buyer is seeking approvals for a liquor license at the Claudio’s restaurant complex. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Martha Clara is not the only high-profile North Fork commercial listing to see some movement in recent months.

At a Feb. 22 Village Board meeting in Greenport, action being taken by a potential buyer for the Claudio’s restaurant complex was mentioned briefly. The village had published a legal notice for an LLC “to be formed by David Weitz,” saying it intended to pursue liquor licenses for Claudio’s, Claudio’s Clam Bar and Crabby Jerry’s.

The iconic waterfront property has been on the market since January 2015. A previously proposed sale of the property for $12.25 million fell through early last year, leading to an ongoing lawsuit filed by the former prospective buyer.

Co-owner Jan Claudio said her family is currently in preliminary talks with a new group about the sale of the property, but those discussions were “not yet serious.” She declined further comment, saying it would be premature to discuss a sale that had not yet taken place.

The Claudio’s property could sustain up to 50,000 square feet of additional construction without disturbing the existing restaurants, according to a listing portfolio released in late 2014 by New York City real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Opened in 1870 by Manuel Claudio, the main restaurant is billed as the longest continuously family-owned family eatery in the United States.

For nearly 30 years, Claudio’s has been owned by a corporation that includes Bill and Jan Claudio and Bill’s sisters, Kathy and Beatrice. They purchased Claudio’s in 1989 from the siblings’ father, William Claudio Sr., who had owned the popular bar and restaurant since 1930.

gparpan@timesreview.com