Winery profiles: Laurel Lake Vineyards

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Laurel Lake Vineyards co-owner Juan Sepúlveda behind the bar of the tasting room on Main Road in Laurel.

Juan Sepúlveda traveled the world in search of the perfect place to own a vineyard.

The head of production at Gillmore Winery and Vineyards in San Javier, Chile, Mr. Sepúlveda wanted to own a winery away from where he was born and raised.

He looked in the wine regions of France, California, Australia and Canada, but a serendipitous change in plans sent him to Long Island.

He was traveling on business, but not looking for vineyard locations, with his friend and colleague, Alejandro Parot, in the spring of 1998. The two missed their flight home to Chile from John F. Kennedy International Airport and called another friend who lived upstate to ask if they could spend the night.

“He said, ‘Don’t come here, go to Long Island,’” Mr. Sepúlveda said.

So they did. They visited the former Hargrave Vineyard, Peconic Bay Winery and Macari Vineyards.

“We fell in love with this region,” Mr. Sepúlveda said. The next year, he and Mr. Parot purchased Laurel Lake Vineyards, named after a lake just to the east, along with Francisco Gillmore, the proprietor of Gillmore Winery and Vineyards, and Joseph DePietto, an accountant from Carle Place.

“We didn’t made a mistake,” said Mr. Sepúlveda, who is also the winemaker and primary operator.

Laurel Lake Vineyards boasts a vast collection of awards and recognitions, including 90 points given to its 2009 Chardonnay Estate Bottled Reserve at the Beverage Testing Institute 2011 World Wine Championship.

The gold-hued Chardonnay, the vineyard’s signature wine, harbors subtle aromas of green apple and unripe pineapple, Mr. Sepúlveda pointed out on a recent afternoon in the his New England-style tasting room on Main Road in Laurel.

“Salty on the tip of the tongue, sour on the side, bitter in the center, sweet in the back and creamy all over,” Mr. Sepulveda said, describing the taste sensations of the wine.

In the warmer climate of Chile, he explained, those same Chardonnay grapes would likely produce a wine with opposite aromas: red apple and ripened pineapple.

After a life-long career in the wine industry in Chile, Mr. Sepúlveda embraces the different weather conditions of the North Fork. There’s barely an air of similarity between the two places he’s grown grapes.

“Trying to compare Long Island wine and Chile wine is like trying to compare a banana with a potato,” he said. “There’s no common point at all.”

And he likes that.

“We’re looking to enlarge — to feel the personality of Long Island in the wine,” he said.

Laurel Lake Vineyards produces about 8,000 cases of wine, made in an on-site production facility, each year.

sbrix@timesreview.com