Sarah Nappa, co-owner of Peconic’s The Winemaker Studio and its adjoining Italian market, Provisions & Ingredients, might never have landed on the North Fork if she hadn’t caught the travel bug while in college.
The 34-year-old native of Littleton, Colo., was an animal science major at Colorado State University when she decided to study abroad in New Zealand and met her future husband, winemaker Anthony Nappa.
“He was doing his wine degree and I was doing animal science,” she said.
The two kept in touch and, after stints teaching English in Italy, Greece, Peru and Korea, Sarah moved to Long Island in 2008. The couple married in 2012 and has a 20-month-old son, Leo. They live in Southold.
A French Culinary Institute-trained cook and former sous chef at Southold’s North Fork Table & Inn, Sarah and Anthony opened the Winemaker Studio on Peconic Lane in 2011. Provisions & Ingredients, located next door, launched two years later.
“We originally just had the tasting room,” she said. “It became kind of a place where industry professionals would come and hang out.”
At the two businesses, the couple’s guests are encouraged to linger over a bottle of wine and plate of prosciutto. “For us, wine is much more about the experience,” Sarah said. “The best bottles of wine you’ve ever had usually involve a meal and good company.”
“Those are the things we wanted to incorporate here,” she continued. “We didn’t want it to be just taste, taste, taste. We wanted it to be a whole experience.”
Q: What advice would you give prospective visitors to the Winemaker Studio?
A: Try to go off the beaten path and try to come at the less busy times because we’re able to provide more personal attention and information. For us, it’s nice to get some time to talk to people about the wines and the area. This region definitely has the ability to produce some real world-class wines and we want people to understand that. We don’t just want it to be a party.
Q: Aside from the North Fork, what’s your favorite wine region?
A: Definitely Italy. We’re big Italian wine lovers. Part of my culinary program was studying Italian wine so I have a lot of knowledge about it, but I think there’s good tradition there. Great wines.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: Interacting with customers. It’s really nice when people come in and appreciate what we’re doing, or what we’re trying to do — when people come in and they get it. They sit down and embrace it.
Q: On the flip side, what is the most challenging aspect?
A: Probably when people come for the wrong reasons. Dealing with the public can be challenging.
Q: Excluding your husband, Anthony, who do you admire in the local wine industry?
A: Kelly Urbanik Koch is definitely a really good friend. She’s doing some really great stuff over at Macari Vineyards. Some of the classics, too: Eric Fry is great.
Q: Do you help Anthony with the winemaking process?
A: Definitely. Anthony’s really great about getting everyone’s opinions. I go over and we do blending and all that fun stuff. I do a lot of the labels. A lot of the marketing side, I guess. It’s a family biz.
Q: What varietal do you like best and why?
A: I think cabernet franc, especially out here. I feel like the cabernet francs on the North Fork are very expressive of the terroir and of the sort of fingerprint the winemakers themselves put on it. Cab franc isn’t a very well-known grape and I think we do it very well out here.
Q: Which of Anthony’s wines is your favorite?
A: It goes back and forth. I would have to say our most recent sparkling, a 2013 Frizzante. I drank a lot of that last summer. It’s refreshing and fun, real bright. But I think he does red wines very well also.
Q: How about your favorite budget-friendly wine?
A: I always peruse the Italian section, so it would probably be a Dolcetto from Piedmont or a Nero d’Avola from Sicily. They’re both under $20.
Q: If you could have any job besides this one, what would it be?
A: We’re really active at home. We have chickens; we have bees. I would definitely have more animals if I could.
Q: What would you tell people who want to open their own tasting room?
A: Our motto is definitely “Start small.” Control your costs, have a focus and then grow as the business grows.
Q: What goals do you have for the Winemaker Studio and Provisions & Ingredients?
A: We’re always brainstorming. We’re always kind of thinking about the next thing. I don’t know what the future is for the Winemaker Studio. It’s constantly evolving and changing — figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’d like to expand some of the stuff that Provisions is doing, like having fresh salads to-go in the summer. If the market can drive that, we would definitely love to do that. But we also don’t want it to grow too big because it’s really fun where it’s at now.