When Sarah Nappa, wife of winemaker Anthony Nappa, talks about the wine club members of her husband’s eponymous brand, she uses the word “trust.”
“Even if it is something not in their wheelhouse, they will try it,” she said during a recent interview inside the Southold home the couple shares with their sons — Leo, 4, and Enzo, 1.
Now 10 years after launching the boutique Long Island wine brand, the Nappas are leveraging their customers’ faith for the ability to make wine their way — at least with one of their labels.
In September, the Nappas’ wine club members received three bottles under a new label, Shared Table Farmhouse, which will supplement Mr. Nappa’s Anthony Nappa Wines brand. The lineup — which now includes a sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer, viognier, cabernet franc and more — will feature reserve wines and one-off productions. It will only be available to wine club members and at Mr. Nappa’s Peconic tasting room, The Winemaker Studio.
The original brand began about 10 years ago when Mr. Nappa, then the winemaker at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, produced about 150 cases of pinot noir under the name “Nemesis.” “It was a fun side project,” he said.
A Massachusetts native, Mr. Nappa and his wines have since garnered ink from wine writers, regular scores of 90 and above (the number used to denote an outstanding wine) and a dedicated following of wine enthusiasts. You’ll find his bottles, like the super-popular white pinot noir, in restaurants and wine stores throughout the Northeast. Their reach is far for a Long Island wine brand and they said about a quarter of their customers receive their shipments out of state.
The reasoning for a second brand is also a practical one. Most wholesale distributors are not interested in limited runs, he said.
“It takes a lot of effort to make the first sale,” explained George Eldi, a former wholesale representative and the owner of Wading River wine store Wines By Nature. “And they make their money on the second, third order.”
Diversifying the brands then, made sense for Mr. Nappa.
In part, the move is doubling down on providing value for their loyal following. Rather than shooting for large tasting room crowds that might be more into wine drinking than wine tasting, Mr. Nappa produces a modest run of about 1,500 cases a year. He makes his wine at Raphael Winery, where he is also the head winemaker, and plans to stay in that production range. “If this [Long Island] industry is going to grow, this is the age of the small producer,” Mr. Nappa said.
Not being entirely beholden to the expectations of the wholesale market means Mr. Nappa can avoid certain varieties in less than banner years, and experiment with others during exceptional harvests.
“We can’t make great everything, every year,” Mr. Nappa said. “But we can make a broad range of great wines.”
Subscribers like Dan Timmerman, a longtime club member who lives in Huntington, guarantee that Shared Table has a market.
“We have yet to taste a wine of his that we didn’t like or we would never buy again,” Timmerman said. “We’re not wine connoisseurs, but their wines are delicious.”
The Nappas also plan to operate a bed-and-breakfast at their Southold farm with the caveat that it would be exclusively available to wine club members. Naturally, Ms. Nappa, a professional chef, will provide meals fresh from the farm.
The property is now home to chickens, four Nigerian dwarf goats and the family’s two dogs, Bennett and Smooch. The family hopes to raise crops and pigs, as well.
Shared Table is also the name of the family’s farm, located on the Main Bayview peninsula; it’s featured on the label, designed by local artist Nadira Vlaun.
The Anthony Nappa label will continue to produce about five or six wines per year, bottles they know they can produce with consistency like the aforementioned white pinot noir or the Bordo Antico, New York’s first certified wine made with organic grapes.
“We’re confident we can make this work for us,” Ms. Nappa said.
This story was originally published in the 2018 winter issue of the Long Island Wine Press.