Lisa Donneson was picking sangiovese grapes in Chianti Classico, Italy with a classmate, who would later be her husband, in 1971.
The visit to the vineyards during a trip to study abroad was her “first romantic exposure to wine and grapes.”
She didn’t know then that she’d one day have her own wine company.
After marrying, Ms. Donneson and her husband, Henry Weisburg, traveled the world visiting vineyards and often held elaborate dinner parties where they served vintages from a friend who kept an expansive wine collection.
She found herself studying wine and enrolled in courses at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in 2003.
“I got obsessed with the subject,” she said.
“We were certainly drinking better as a result,” she added with a smile.
The Brooklyn Heights resident had grown up in Roslyn Heights in Nassau County and often visited the vineyards of the North Fork. Shortly after receiving her diploma from Wine and Spirits Education Trust, she thought about launching her own wine company.
“We were in the midst of a green and local movement with food,” she said. “I thought it was only a matter of time before drinking local became popular as well.”
With that, Bouké Wines was born.
She wants her customers to revel in the pleasurable aspect of wine all the way through dinner and dessert, and starting from when they first see a bottle in the liquor store.
She hopes her bottles invoke a “lusty feeling” in customers.
“Visual presence is very important at a wine store,” she said, sitting on a white picnic table just outside Premium Wine Group in Mattituck on a recent sunny afternoon. “It has to look really good.”
She laid different bottles out on the table one by one, explaining that she consulted with three designers before landing on the company she deemed capable of creating the perfect bottle and label.
Ms. Donneson’s wines, which are made with grapes purchased from local vineyards, are all created at the custom crushing facility by veteran winemaker Gilles Martin, who has a masters degree in oenology from Universite Montpellier in France.
Each wine is distinctly unique, but all are aromatic-centric, she says.
The concept behind her line of wines — Bouké and Bouquet — is simple: Bouke wine is dry, and Bouquet bottles are sweet. She made up the name of her company to invoke the aroma and imagery of a bouquet of flowers.
Ms. Donneson’s personal favorite is the Bouquet White Dessert wine. She finds some white dessert wines to be syrupy and overly sweet, she said, so she called on Mr. Martin to make a light-bodied wine that enhances a dessert without masking a treat’s sugary essence.
She now distributes nearly 1,000 bottles of red, white, rose, perlant, white dessert and red dessert wine every year.
Her next project is creating a wine and dessert pairings section of her website, boukewine.com. She recently poached pairs in red wine, peppercorns and bay leaves and found her Red Dessert Wine to be a nice accompaniment.
She’ll soon share lots of pairings on the website, like her White Dessert Wine with baked apples dunked in white wine, trickled with lemon juice and dusted with sugar.
“It’s just a lovely pairing,” she said.