Dean Babiar has worked with wine all over the globe, from cellars in Napa Valley, California, to vineyards in Bordeaux, France to wineries in New Zealand.
But the 30-year-old winemaker said it was a taste of Jamesport Vineyards merlot and cabernet franc, given to him by his brother several years ago, that made him consider a career on the North Fork.
“When I tried it, I was so impressed,” said Babiar, a Paramus, New Jersey native. “I like the wine’s ability to retain a high acidity. I’m surprised the region is not more well known.”
Babiar become the new winemaker at Jamesport Vineyards on November 16, just in time to harvest the vineyard’s late riesling and petite verdot grapes. He succeeds vineyard manager Ron Goerler Jr., who will continue in his role as general manager. Goerler served as winemaker at Jamesport, which is owned by his father Ron Goerler Sr., for the past eight years.
During the particularly fruitful harvest of 2014, Goerler noticed that Babiar had sent his resume to the winery, even though he hadn’t advertised the need for a new winemaker. It turned out to be good timing for both men.
“I was at the point this harvest, where trying to be winemaker and vineyard manager while keeping a smile on my face was getting to be a tough thing,” Goerler said adding that he interviewed Babiar over the phone while the new winemaker was still in Italy. “I like the fact that he worked with the same type of grapes in Bordeaux and Italy. And I was impressed with his palate.”
Babiar, a graduate of the University of Maryland’s agricultural economics program, has worked at wineries in South Africa, Argentina, Califronia and Europe. He characterized his winemaking style as “feminine,” and said he prefers “antique type” wines.
“I like a balance between light and elegant, but strong at the same time,” he said, adding that wine lovers can expect the first Jamesport white blends made by him sometime this summer. “I’m really impressed with everything I had to work with.”
While his professional career began about five years ago, his life as a vintner began much earlier. He first made wine for a fifth grade science project, he said.
“I made like 20 gallons of chardonnay,” he said. “I got in trouble because I [accidentally] sprayed it on a teacher.”
After bouncing around for the better part of the past decade, Babiar said he is ready to call Jamesport his home.
“I’m really ready to stick around,” said Babiar, who lives in Greenport . “It’s going to take a while to see (his first vintage) through and notice an impact.”