Among the expensive real estate and luxurious summer retreats of Long Island’s East End lie 750,000 acres of vineyards. Split into two AVAs (North Fork and the Hamptons), production focuses heavily on local demand: rosé.
Winemaking on Long Island is still in its relative infancy, with the “first wave” of vintners not arriving until the 1970s. Among the “second wave” of ’80s arrivals was Wölffer Estate, a now-iconic producer of hugely popular rosé — among many other things.
Here are nine things you need to know about the esteemed East End winery, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
It’s a Long Island winery with European character.
Wölffer Estate was founded in 1988 by Hamburg-born venture capitalist Christian Wölffer. Winemaker and fellow German Roman Roth joined the team in 1992.
The winery is now run by Christian Wölffer’s children.
Wölffer sadly passed away in 2008 at age 70, but the winery remains under family control. It is now headed by two of his children, Marc and Joey, and Roth continues to helm the winemaking operation.
Wölffer Estate wasn’t the original name.
When Christian Wölffer founded the winery, it was originally named Sagpond Vineyards. The property was renamed Wölffer Estate Vineyard in 1997 after the opening of a brand new, 12,000-square-foot facility.
Before grapes, there were potatoes.
Production for Wölffer Estate wines uses grapes from its two Long Island vineyards — a 52-acre vineyard on the North Fork, and a 55-acre vineyard in Sagaponack. The Sagaponack property, which was the original vineyard acquired in 1988, was previously a potato field.
Wölffer’s rosés are really popular. Especially in the Hamptons.
According to search frequency data provided by Wine-Searcher.com, Wölffer Estate produces two of the world’s top five most popular rosé wines. In 2014, Wölffer’s Summer in a Bottle Rosé made headlines when local papers reported supplies were running “dangerously low” in the Hamptons.
Wines are made using a blend of traditional and unusual varieties.
For the famously popular Summer in a Bottle Rosé, Wölffer vinifies an unusual blend of red and white grapes, including Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling. The same blend is used for its equally popular Estate Rosé, plus the addition of Pinot Noir. Wölffer also produces a notable varietal wine using Trebbiano, a white grape rarely seen outside of Italy.
Production is increasing dramatically.
When Christian Wölffer passed away in 2008, the winery was producing around 4,000 cases of rosé per year. Ten years later, the estate now produces nearly 20 times that amount. In 2017, Wölffer Estate sold out of almost 70,000 cases, an increase of 20 percent over the previous year.
Rosé isn’t the only thing on the menu.
Though best known for its rosé, Wölffer also produces red, white, and sparkling wines, as well as gin, hard cider, and a new red cider made with sweet, New York State-grown apples.
There are also stables on site.
The original 55-acre vineyard in Sagaponack only makes up part of a sprawling 125-acre estate. Also located on the property are the Wölffer Estate Stables, with equestrian facilities for hunters, jumpers, and dressage. The stables (and horses) lend their images to some wine labels.