Eric Fry is very clear on his job definition: he is a winemaker, pure and simple.
He is certainly not a marketer, nor is he interested in having to sell the wines he makes at Lenz Winery in Peconic.
Mr. Fry’s goal is to make wines he likes, and he always hopes to find like-minded customers.
“Basically I’m making wine for me,” he said. “That should be the goal of all winemakers – make wine you like. If you’re trying to please the public or Robert Parker, that’s a moving target, and it’s dishonest. But I’m making wines I like, then I just have to find enough people to agree with me to buy my wine.”
Mr. Fry isn’t interested in making one-dimensional wines you’re likely to forget about the moment the glass is empty.
Instead he tries to make wine that stands out.
“I like wine a little bit funky and barnyardy,” he said. “It’s more interesting than just fresh fruit, plus it develops with age and gets more interesting.”
Mr. Fry is well known for only releasing wines when he thinks they are ready to be consumed. This means that he has only just released a 2005 Cuvee sparkling wine, and the youngest red wines on offer in the Lenz tasting room are 2007 merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
White wines are released relatively more quickly, with chardonnay and a blanc de noir from 2008 already available.
In order to make wines that will age well, Mr. Fry believes the “grapes have to be really ripe, or they are not gonna taste that good.”
He tailors his winemaking to the characteristics of each varietal and to the North Fork’s unique growing conditions.
“Cab sauvignon wants to be happy fruit, because the tannins don’t get real ripe here,” he said. “For the rest of the world, cab is a more masculine varietal, while here it’s almost feminine. Merlot is our masculine, dominant varietal.”
In the cellar, Mr. Fry takes a less-is-more approach to oak aging. As he’s gotten older, he said he’s more likely to use older oak.
Ultimately, Mr. Fry’s goal is to “make a style that’s honest.”
“As long as I have a clientele that agrees, it’s fine,” he said. “I’d be happy to sell every bottle between here and the Hudson River. No disrespects to the rest of the country, but it shows I’m doing a good job if my neighbors want to buy my wine.”
Mr. Fry is also a consulting winemaker for 20 other vineyards, for other Long Island estates as well as for ones from New England, the Finger Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay.
“It keeps my mind alive to respond to the changes of grapes and climate,” he said. “For me it’s intriguing and educational.
“It keeps me fresh for the wines I make here. It’s where I want to be.”