When Barbara and Charles Smithen sold their apartment in Manhattan in 1996 and began renting, Mr. Smith asked his wife what she’d like to do with their profit.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to buy any more cement. I don’t want to be in the stock market. I want to buy land,’” Ms. Smithen said, sitting on a cream white couch in the tasting room of Sherwood House Vineyards in Jamesport.
So the couple purchased a small farmhouse and modest 38-acre farm in Mattituck and began growing grapes. They called their land Sherwood House Vineyards, using Mr. Smithen’s middle name.
The plan was to sell grapes to area wineries, until three years later when grapes were ready for harvest and a local winemaker suggested the Smithens produce just one wine.
So they did.
They took their first crop of harvested grapes in 1999 to Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, which produced their first bottle: a Bergundian-style Chardonnay.
Ms. Smithen then went door-to-door in Manhattan, where she and her husband still lived and worked during the week — he as a cardiologist and she as a financial public relations official — to try and sell cases of her Chardonnay.
“I’d have a bottle in my handbag,” she said with a smile.
A few years later, Ms. Smithen, who would commute from Manhattan to Mattituck, started selling bottles from a tiny shed now called the “tasting cottage,” which sits at the end of rows of grapevines on her land in Mattituck.
Now, the Smithens send all of their grapes varieties — Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot — to Premium Wine Group, the custom grape crusher and production facility in Mattituck , for winemaker Gilles Martin to produce.
The “tasting cottage” has had to close during the winter months in years past, so the Smithens decided to open a second tasting room on Main Road in Jamesport in 2010.
They sold about 1,300 cases of wine in the first nine months of 2011 and, having more space now with their Jamesport location, they plan to sell 3,000 cases in 2012.
Ms. Smithen said her signature bottle, the same style as their very first wine, is a 2008 Burgundian-style Chardonnay, which was awarded “Best in Class” at the 2011 Los Angeles International Wine Competition.
The wine, which ferments in a neutral oak barrel from France, has a buttery flavor with hints of vanilla, hazelnut and pear.
“Almost smells like brioche,” Ms. Smithen said with a glass of it in her hand.
The Smithens have lived permanently in the farmhouse on their Mattituck vineyard since they left Manhattan five years ago.
They’ve also foregone their day jobs for the work of winemaking.
“It’s a lot more fun,” Ms. Smithens said.