Winery profiles: Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Marco and Ann Marie Borghese, owners of Castello di Borghese, in their Cutchogue tasting room.

Marco and Ann Marie Borghese visited the North Fork for the first time for a wine tasting on Thanksgiving of 1998.

The longtime wine lovers — Mr. Borghese’s relatives owned a vineyard in Florence for generations and Ms. Borghese studied French wine in Paris — at once fell in love with Long Island’s land of grapevines.

“We came here to taste — not to shop for a vineyard,” Mr. Borghese said.

They didn’t know then they would soon own and work on their very own vineyard.

The Borgheses were living and working in Philadelphia, he at a textile importer and she at a jewelry boutique. Around the mid-1990’s, they invested in a wine store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, where they tasted rare and diverse wines from around the world.

“That’s where the palate was born,” Mr. Borghese said.

A few years later, they returned to the North Fork and found that the former Hargrave Vineyard, the first vineyard planted on the East End by Long Island wine industry pioneers Louisa and Alex Hargrave, was up for sale.

They decided to buy Long Island’s oldest vineyard.

Mr. Borghese had grown up on a farm in Italy raising cows and sheep, not tending to grapevines.

“I had to learn on the job,” he explained.

Both the vineyard manager and winemaker, Mr. Borghese grows Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes as well as Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. He makes 18 different varietals from his grapes and is perhaps best known for his Pinot Noir, which won a gold medal in the Best-of-Appellation Evaluation Program, and multiple gold medals at the New York Wine and Food Classic.

Pinot Noir, a smaller, thin-skinned, delicate grape is more fickle than other red grapes and requires assiduous attention to detail.

“You have to have the temperament to babysit it,” Ms. Borghese said.

Castello di Borghese, which means Castle of the Borgheses in Italian, is a medium-sized vineyard, producing 5,000 to 8,000 cases of wine per year.

They say they make Bergundian-style wines rather than Bordeaux-style wines, and they like to produce bottles that are palate- and food-friendly — “complimentary, not competing,” Ms. Borghese said.

The couple expanded their café-style tasting room, a restored barn that had just a 3-by-1-foot shelf the Hargraves used as a bar.

The tasting room now has two bars, a collection of small tables and chairs and shelves filled with a variety of merchandise, like olive oil from Mr. Borghese’s family’s farm in the south of Italy and jams and jellies from their friend’s farm in Armenia.

Dogs are invited to the tile-floored part of the tasting room to socialize with the Borghese’s Italian Pointer, Brix, named after the measurement of sugar content in wine.

The lean pup can run up to 30 miles per hour and can be seen racing after Mr. Borghese’s car in the vineyard.

sbrix@timesreview.com