Second Generation at the Old Field Vineyards

Perry Weiss

Wine and spirits writer Amy Zavatto visited the Old Field Vineyards for our spring Behind the Bottle column to write about their 2009 Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is very much a mother and daughter operation with Rosamund Baiz working as the winemaker and daughter Perry Weiss tending the vines. The two represent an evolution in Long Island Wine Country where more and more of the second generation is moving into the family business. Writer Joanne Pateman chronicled this for us two years ago in our Spring 2012 issue.

As one drives up to the Old Field Vineyards in Southold, a tall attractive woman in a beige workman’s jumpsuit comes into view. She is pruning grapevines. Her dog snores on a cushion nearby. She’s Perry Weiss, 34, vineyard manager and assistant winemaker.

The Old Field is owned by her parents, Rosamond and Chris Baiz, who have been tending the family’s vineyard since the first vines were planted in 1974. The vineyard expanded with subsequent plantings in 1985 and 1997. More hands were needed. So when Weiss finished college, her mother asked if she wanted to be a part of the family business. “It was me or they had to hire someone else,” says Weiss. “My brother helped out at the winery but had no interest in taking over.”

Luckily Weiss was interested. She had studied environmental biology. And she liked the idea of working outside and being her own boss. She hasn’t regretted her decision, especially when her daily work—in concert with nature—brings good results. “When I see my grapes at harvest time and it’s a good year, I’m joyful,” Weiss says. “We celebrate with a family dinner.”

Weiss’s family dinner is just one on the East End that celebrates not only the bringing in of the grapes, but also the continuity of a family business: a new generation of winemakers and winegrowers on the East End are learning from their parents while appreciating the lifestyle it affords them. “This wine region is evolving as the second-generation winemakers build upon the experiences of their parents and learn by doing themselves. They are taking on principal capabilities,” says Steven Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, the region’s member organization, who has recognized this for a while. “They have grown up in the vineyards seeing their parents’ success and disappointments.” Bate acknowledges that this second generation is among the driving forces behind the wine region’s growth, and that the half-dozen vineyards that don’t have kids coming up or obvious inheritors may not be as successful.

Read the rest of the story by Joanne Pateman here