Long Island Wine Council honors local industry pioneers

The Long Island Wine Council honored five longtime wine aficionados and industry pioneers last Thursday evening at a festive sit-down event at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue — the first of its kind. 

The honorees — Ron Goerler Sr. of Jamesport Vineyards, Bud Koehler and Barbara Tyree of Osprey’s Dominion, Joe Macari Sr. of Macari Vineyards and John Petrocelli Sr. of Raphael — were lauded for their commitment to the industry, for propelling their respective businesses forward and for giving members of the Long Island wine community the opportunity to take winemaking to a new level.

“This actually feels … like a family reunion,” said Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards. “On behalf of the board of the interim Long Island Wine Council, we’re so excited and happy that this event is happening.”

Tom Schaudel, chef and restaurateur, served as the night’s emcee.

“In 51 years,” he said, “I’ve seen tremendous changes in the restaurant business on Long Island and one of the greatest and most fun things to watch was the change in the wine industry and how it came from this nascent bunch of hippies out here growing grapes and doing whatever hippies do … Watch[ing] that grow into what it is today has been just a huge joy for me because I’m a wino at heart.”

North Fork wines, he said, were tough to get behind in the beginning because of their rougher taste, but that all changed in time. His ultimate message was that local winemakers need not apologize for Long Island wines.

“You make great wine,” Mr. Schaudel said. “Shut up and tell everybody.”

Ron Goerler Sr. of Jamesport Winery, 94, was the first to be honored. Mr. Goerler, a Rockville Centre native, enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a pilot at the start of World War II. He returned to school after the war and tackled a number of odd jobs while looking for work in the legal field. Ever the businessman, he has also run a successful family plumbing business for the past 75 years. In 1981, he and his wife, Ann Marie, bought Early Rising Farm in Cutchogue and, in 1985, purchased North Fork Winery, now known as Jamesport Vineyards.

His son, Ron Jr., offered terms of endearment as his father looked on from a nearby table.

“I just can’t say enough about this guy because he has taught me so much over the years, who I am and what I’ve become,” he said. “He’s taught me each and every day how to be a better person, how to run a business and how to really be a pioneer in what we do out here.”

Bill Tyree Jr. accepted an award on behalf of his mother, Barbara, of Osprey’s Dominion in Peconic, and in so doing explained the strong ties among local wine families.

“If your name is Tyree, Koehler or Petrocelli,” he said, “you’re part of a family … We’re large families, but we’ve known each other forever.”

Mr. Tyree offered congratulations to John Petrocelli Sr. of Raphael in Peconic and to his “uncle” Buddy — Bud Koehler, also of Osprey’s Dominion — before turning his attention to his mother.

He also spoke about Mr. Koehler, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Lynbrook. After serving in the Navy, he worked as a laborer in the construction business. In 1985, he and business partner Jack Gillies purchased 25 acres in Cutchogue and an additional 50 in Peconic.

In 1971, Mr. Tyree said, his mother began serving on the board of the Madonna Heights SCO Family of Services, providing emotional and financial support to girls and women. She also founded Tyree Travel in Woodbury, donating all profits to Madonna Heights, as well as the Madonna Heights Ladies Auxiliary. She and her late husband, Bill Tyree, also established the Tyree Learning Center in Sea Cliff, which accommodates children and adolescents with physical and learning disabilities.

“Mom, can you believe you’re here?”her son asked. “I started reading the pamphlet. Mom did this, Mom did that … but then I got the important part. I got the part where Barbara and Bill married on April 7, [1951]. Nowhere in here will you see Mom having any interest in wine or making wine or anything — not even for a second. My dad was another story and my mom and my dad had a love story that is as good as it gets.”

Mr. Tyree said he knows his mother misses her late husband each day and would not be able to accept the award without thinking of him.

Julie Petrocelli Vergari of Raphael spoke on behalf of her father, honoree John Petrocelli Sr. It was in the early 1990s, she said, that her father bought the family farm.

“We made wine in our backyard for many years and decided to go commercial and here we are today,” she said. “We’re really proud of our wines and we’re never going to apologize again.”

Mr. Petrocelli, of Queens, grew up during the Great Depression, served in the Korean War and supported his family through carpentry work. It was through that line of work that he met Bud Koehler and Bill Tyree and while one day making small talk, decided to purchase the Raphael property.

Ms. Petrocelli Vergari also referenced the contributions of honoree Joe Macari Sr. and his wife, Katherine, of Macari Vineyards in Mattituck and Cutchogue.

Mr. Macari, 92, was born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents. His family settled in Corona, Queens, during the Great Depression, much like Mr. Petrocelli’s. Mr. Macari spent a number of his early years working at his family’s candy store and helping his grandparents sell homemade wine at their backyard bocce courts, catapulting him into his Jackson Heights-based real estate business and eventually to his status as mayor of Corona in 1967. It was in 1995 that Mr. Macari started Macari Vineyards with his son, Joe Jr.

All proceeds from last week’s event will be directed toward the funding of a new Long Island Wine Council scholarship, in partnership with event sponsor Farm Credit East.