Q: How did you get into wine?
A: I literally fell into it. I grew up in the agricultural industry. My grandparents were the previous of owners of the Jamesport Winery property, before they had vineyards. They sold the property in the 1970s. In the early 80s, when the property was being developed into a vineyard, I found myself tilling the soil I had grown up on. That’s when the bug bit and I continued to develop a passion for wine. The biggest influence in my life was spending a year in Italy abroad in 1986. At that point I was completely saturated by wine culture.
Q: What’s your favorite white grape?
A: I’d have to choose two. Each grape has its own attributes that make it so interesting. I think that’s the nice thing about Long Island – you have the opportunity to work with some many varietals. For white wine, I lean toward a Sauvignon Blanc, which isn’t too widely grown out here. I also like Gewurtztraminer, which is extremely food-friendly and a crowd pleaser. I like working with Gewurtztraminer, too, because I find it very challenging. When you get it to its fullest potential it can be a mesmerizing bottle of wine.
Q: And your favorite red?
A: The grape I probably enjoy working with most is Cabernet Franc. Again, it’s a little finicky so it tends to require more attention in the cellar. You have to really develop a sense of where it’s coming from. The terroir is very important.
Q: What is the best advice you can offer wine drinkers?
A: Always remember you’re drinking a geographical region. You’re not drinking a grape. If you say you like Cabernet Franc, which area of the world do you like Cabernet Franc from? Every region is going to create a different flavor. Terroir and viticulture all have an effect. If you don’t feel like you’re tasting a region [of the world], you have a generic product. Wine has to have an individuality to it. That comes from the winemaker but it also comes from the region [it’s grown].
Q: Do you have anything new on the horizon?
A: We’re going to make a very small production of a stainless steel Chardonnay from a specific block of the vineyard that will hopefully be on the market this summer.
Pellegrini Winery & Vineyard is located at 23005 Main Road in Cutchogue and is open year round seven days a week, with the exception of major holidays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-734-4111 or visit www.pellegrinivineyards.com.
Photo by Rachel Young