At first glance, Alex Rosanelli looks like any other young, put-together North Fork tourist. But Rosanelli, who recently launched the local wine label Hound’s Tree wines with his uncle Alfredo Apolloni, has deep roots on the East End. And the pair’s winemaking roots run even deeper.
Apolloni owns the eponymous Apolloni Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where he is known for his pinot noir and Italian-style wines. A first-generation American whose family hails from the Arezzo region of Tuscany, he brought his winemaking skills with him to the U.S. in the 1970s.
His nephew Rosanelli, who grew up in Rye and spent summers in East Hampton, lives in Mattituck and Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Time spent at Apolloni’s West Coast vineyard helped cultivate his love of winemaking.
“My mom’s family had vineyards going back forever,” he said. “That’s the house style that developed: respect for acidity and aromatic purity.”
Last year, Rosanelli and his uncle bought Sherwood House’s vineyard from founder Barbara Smithen following the death of her husband, Dr. Charles Smithen. The $1,835,000 purchase included an 1860 farmhouse and 36-acre vineyard in Mattituck, but not the Sherwood House brand itself.
“Like many wineries, the wine business is separate from the vineyard business,” Rosanelli explained. “There’s an entity that farms [the land] and there’s an entity that produces bottles and sells wine. We bought the vineyard and sold them our fruit. That’s how the 2015 vintage of Sherwood House was produced.”
After buying the Mattituck vineyard, Rosanelli and his uncle created their new label, Hound’s Tree, for their North Fork wines.
Sherwood House will continue to produce its wines from the same vineyard now owned by the men. Both labels will be sold at Sherwood House’s tasting room in Jamesport. It’s a partnership that works well for both vineyards.
“We have different styles, so it’s a good marriage,” Smithen said. “We’ve always been a boutique vineyard. I don’t want to be a giant, I just always want the quality to be there.”
“They’ve definitely breathed new life into Sherwood House. The vibe is different; everybody sees that we’re turning a corner,” said Kristen Hand, general manager at Sherwood House Vineyards. “Our wine club members, who’ve been so loyal to Sherwood House and the brand for such a long time, have wholeheartedly embraced Hound’s Tree.”
Rosanelli and Apolloni have worked closely with Sherwood House winemaker Gilles Martin to create their first vintage.
“In translating our West Coast experience to an East Coast winery, he’s been tremendously helpful,” Rosanelli said. “Obviously there are differences, but there are a lot of similarities, too. They’re both cool growing regions. The wines, particularly the whites, take on a lot of minerality and finesse. That’s in Oregon and here.”
This past spring, Hound’s Tree released its first two wines: a rosé and a stainless steel chardonnay. The rosé is a blend of the red grape varieties they produce in the proportion they are grown — including 20 percent merlot, 10 percent cabernet franc and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon.
The remainder of the label’s portfolio, which includes cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, will be released soon. Hound’s Tree will also debut two reserve wines next year, including a Bordeaux-style blend of all its grapes and a cabernet franc reserve.
As for the origin of the label’s name, Rosanelli said: “I like to say it’s an ode to my dog Baxter. But really, Hound’s Tree is an archaic name for the dogwood tree and we were inspired by the vines — twisted and gnarled.
“I’m also a sucker for folklore and mythology, which dogwoods are loaded with. From stories of waiting to plant until the dogwood blooms to delirium-inducing berries on some species, it seemed appropriate for our label.”
This story was originally published in the winter 2017 editions of the Long Island Wine Press