Forget any unfair pretense of the wine spritzer. For many, the beverage conjures thoughts of watered-down chardonnay or sugary concoctions suited for college parties.
Now Long Island winemakers Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy are aiming to prove the wine spritzer is anything but lame. The duo, which opened the Peconic Cellar Door tasting room in 2017, serving wines from their individual labels, have teamed up to create a joint label, Vinette.
Last month, Shaper and Epperson-McCarthy released two wine spritzers under the Vinette label, a dry white wine spritzer and dry rosé wine spritzer. The winemakers describe Vinette as “wine’s little sister.” Each of the spritzers comes in 375 ml cans, clocking in at an easy-drinking 6% ABV. (By comparison, most canned wines are roughly 12% ABV).
The Vinette spritzers are a marriage of trends with an emphasis on quality wine production, Shaper explained. Inspired by the emerging popularity of hard seltzers and ease of canned wine consumption, the partners set out to create light, refreshing spritzers that even serious wine drinkers would enjoy.
The spritzers are made from Shaper and Epperson-McCarthy’s wine, filtered water, natural flavors and wine grape juice for taste. There are no added sugars. The white spritzer has notes of blueberry and rose water while the rosé spritzer contains hints of pomegranate and lime.
“We wanted to make something fun and low in alcohol that tasted really natural and refreshing,” Shaper said. “These are the kind of quality spritzers that a winemaker would drink because they are made by winemakers. The cans make it feel relaxed, but we’re serious about what we do and it shows.”
The spritzers, which are canned at Moustache Brewery in Riverhead, are now available at the Peconic tasting room as well as local restaurants, such as Waypoint and A Lure in Southold and Mattitaco in Mattituck. There are also two additional “seasonally appropriate” flavors the winemakers hope to release this fall.
Shaper and Epperson-McCarthy, who first met at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck in 2006 and share the tasting room at Peconic Cellar Door, have often consulted each other about their wines, but the spritzers are their first joint production.
“We compliment each other really well, we always say we’re two halves of the same brain,” Epperson-McCarthy said. “This was our first intentional collaboration and when you do something with intent, you make it happen.”
Epperson-McCarthy first embraced the idea of wine spritzers during a trip to visit family in Louisiana.
“When I first got into the industry, years and years ago, I brought a very good bottle of semi-dry riesling down to my family in the south. My grandma said, ‘Thank you so much,’ and turned it into a wine spritzer and I was shocked,” she said with a laugh. “Once I got over myself and tasted it, I realized it was refreshing and delicious. That experience always made me keep spritzers in the back of my mind.”
The concept that each wine and label tells a story is rooted in Shaper and Epperson-McCarthy’s decision to create their newly formed umbrella brand, Chronicle Wines. Chronicle Wines includes their shared Vinette label in addition to Epperson-McCarthy’s Salt Bird Cellars label and Shaper’s three wine brands, Brooklyn Oenology, As If Wines and Haywater Cove.
“Each label has its own story and is its own chapter and that is how we came up with the umbrella Chronicle Wines,” Shaper said. “Wine is about producing something from a specific time and place and each label tells the story of a specific time and place, and the people behind them.”
The move not only helps define their brands, it helps streamline and cut down on paperwork, they said. Though the winemakers produced one red blend under Chronicle Wines, for wine club members only. Two additional Chronicle Wines are planned as part of the 2019 vintage.
Peconic Cellar Door is located at 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic