The upstairs room at the Sparkling Pointe winery in Southold is called the Bubble Room. A bubble-like chandelier hangs from the high ceiling. Bubble-like tile surrounds the bar. And only one type of wine is served-bubbly.
“It wasn’t even our idea,” says Tom Rosicki, about producing nothing but sparkling wine. He and his wife, Cynthia, just knew they wanted a winery when they bought the property for the vines in 2002.
Through a series of fortuitous events, the Rosickis bought their vineyard land after one day of looking. Once the land was cleared and tilled, their vineyard manager, Steve Mudd, asked a question that hadn’t occurred to them before: What kind of grapes did they want to plant? The two looked at each other in surprise. They didn’t know. So Mudd asked, “What kind of wine do you like to drink?” The answer was easy, at the same time they said, “Champagne!”
So, in the ground went the three varieties permitted in the Champagne region in France-chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. And from there came the name and the motto: If it’s not sparkling, what’s the point?
(A word about the word “Champagne.” According to law in the European Union, only sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France can be called “Champagne.” This is not the law of the United States, but many U.S. producers of sparkling wine respect the wishes of the Champenois to protect their brand and do not use the word “Champagne” on their labels. In fact, earlier this year, Long Island joined 14 other leading wine regions to become the latest signatory of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin, a global movement aimed at ensuring wine placenames are protected and not miscommunicated to consumers.)
Finding a winemaker was easy. On the North Fork, the one with the most experience in sparkling wine is Frenchman Gilles Martin, who has crafted such wines for Martha Clara and Sherwood House as well as for Roderer Estate, a well-known sparkling wine house in California.
All Sparkling Pointe’s wines are made using the same method required in Champagne, which involves two fermentations. The first happens in tanks and turns grape juice into wine. The second fermentation, which produces the bubbles, takes place in the bottle: the capped bottles retain the CO2, a by-product of fermentation. This is a laborious and lengthy process, and adds to the cost of wines made with this so-called traditional method. (It’s worth noting that there are now a handful of Long Island wineries making sparkling wine with a faster and less costly process known as the Charmat method, including a sparkling rosé from Croteaux and the new Prosecco-style Perlante from Bouké.)
This year, the Rosickis are adding a new bottling to their lineup, a blanc de blanc, which means the wine was made entirely with chardonnay grapes. Typical of the Côtes des Blancs region of Champagne, blanc de blanc is known for being fresh and lively with citrus and apple flavors. This adds to their three other offerings, a brut; the Topaz Imperial, their rosé, and their Brut Seduction, an aged wine.
The Blanc de Blanc, like the other three offerings, has the small persistent bubbles found in fine sparkling wine. It’s a pale yellow, has the yeasty aroma that’s a result of the traditional method, and is light and ready to drink.
And easy to drink. When first conferring with Martin, the Rosickis told him that they wanted the kind of sparkling wine that, between them, they could drink six bottles of and wake up without a hangover. The smile that Tom and Cynthia gave each other as they tell the story leads one to believe that a six-bottle night was not out of the range of possibility.
“We wanted the absolute highest quality,” says Tom, who is clearly excited about and enjoying his new venture with his wife. The two also work together in a law practice that now has three locations throughout the state.
From the Bubble Room are views of the young vineyard behind the tasting room and an empty field to the east of the building. Tom is planning a corn maze for the fall.
And there are more plans for other sparkling wine. An extradry version is in the works, and running counter to Martin’s purism, a sparkling merlot.
And one last thing, their wine is now being poured at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, where Tom and Cynthia met. It’s the only non-rosé domestic sparkling wine on the list. “That’s really cool,” says Tom. “And I can tell you they got a good price.”
Eileen M. Duffy holds a diploma in wine and spirit from the International Wine Center and writes from her home in Southold.