Winery Profiles: Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard owners Lisa and Anthony Sannino in their Peconic tasting room.

When it was time to name their vineyard, Anthony and Lisa Sannino pictured their lives together.

Mr. Sannino would be tending to the grapevines and making wine during the day while his wife poured glasses of wine for customers in a tasting room, a restored potato barn and hog house built in the 1900s.

They would then return to their four children at their home, which would stand majestically in the middle of the vineyard.

“That’s a beautiful life,” Mr. Sannino said. “That’s the way we wanted to live.”

And so the Sanninos called their North Fork vineyard Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard, meaning Sannino Beautiful Life Vineyard in Italian, after Mr. Sannino’s heritage.

Mr. Sannino, who owns a construction company, was a home winemaker for two decades when his family lived in Manorville.  He’d volunteer at Peconic Bay Winery from time to time for former owner Ray Blum and became enamored with grape growing and winemaking.

“I was intrigued by what’s really taking place when you’re crushing those grapes,” Mr. Sannino said.

When a 5.5-acre vineyard in Cutchogue, formerly known as Turn Haven Cellars, was up for sale in 1989, the Sanninos jumped on it.

“I dragged my wife out that night and said, ‘We’re moving,’” Mr. Sannino said. They made wine only for friends and family at first, and didn’t even have a tasting room until Mr. Blum’s family, who own Ackerly Pond Vineyards in Peconic, asked them to take over their tasting room on Peconic Lane.

Ms. Sannino now manages that 1900s-era tasting room and sells both vineyards’ wine there.

In 2006, Mr. Sannino built a home on the vineyard they also use as a Bed and Breakfast.

Mr. Sannino, who also manages the vineyard, grows four varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. His philosophy when making wine is to keep the fruit juice as natural as possible and create varietals and blends that appeal to many customers.

His most favored wine, he said, is a White Merlot, which he creates by extracting and collecting free-run juice of Merlot grapes without letting it make contact with the grape’s skins.

He said customers go crazy for the wine, which sells out every year.

“It’s a conversation piece,” he said.

The Sanninos have run a Vine to Wine program, a hands-on winemaking class, from their tasting room since they opened. Participants are guided through the entire winemaking process and leave with a barrel of wine they’ve made themselves.

The Sanninos see their winery as an educational place and work to ensure the atmosphere isn’t pretentious.

“Everybody’s a beginner,” Mr. Sannino said. “We are too.”

sbrix@timesreview.com