WINE Q&A: Scott Sandell of Roanoke Vineyards

scott sandell

​Ever wonder the stories behind some of your favorite vineyards? Learning more about the vineyards themselves can make the wine taste even better (if that’s possible). And, it’s always interesting to see what food the winemakers themselves pair with their wine or what one wine they would drink for their final meal. I asked Roanoke Vineyards’ marketing and creative director Scott Sandell some questions about what makes Roanoke so special.

What is your favorite pairing with local food?
The dishes are still in the sink from an exquisite quinoa, feta, shallot and parsley salad served warm with an amazing roasted purple cauliflower from the Halsey farm in Water Mill. The wine was our yet-to-be-released 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, which even at this early stage is showing intense cherry and currant flavors that complement this sort of seasonal menu. That said, I could almost as easily be raving about oysters and sauvignon blanc.

What brought Roanoke Vineyards to Long Island?
I’m always excited about possibility, and the North Fork offers amazing potential for wine. I think it took all of us some time to figure it out, and in the end the Hargraves were really spot on with the concept of well balanced wines that express the essence of the terroir. At Roanoke, we grow varietals that Bordeaux is known for, and our wines are just as lovely but have their own identity and elegance. That’s exciting, and after learning what your specific vineyard can do, the creative floodgates are wide open.

What wine would you drink for your final meal?
Hopefully that’s far enough away so the 2015 Roanoke Cab Sauvignon will be well aged. We just pressed the wine off and already it’s as dark as a Swedish movie, incredibly rich, pristine, and herbicide-free. But if I were to come down with . . . a bad cold, I have a bottle of the 2007 Gabby’s Cabernet Franc under my bed.

Where can people buy your wine?
Roanoke Vineyards has made a very bold move this year by deciding to close to the public. Our wine club members will still be able to visit the tasting room, and buy whatever wines are available (library and current releases). Over the past couple years our wines have just blown out the door. Tremendously exciting, and it’s a good problem to have, but it is also one reason we decided to close our tasting room. Last winter we sold out several wines from the 2013 vintage in our futures program where members tasted the wines directly from the barrel. It was an epic vintage, and we knew we had something special, but this took us by surprise.  Luckily, we made enough of our white wine portfolio, and a couple of our reds so they could appear at our wine bar on Love Lane in Mattituck. In 2012 we opened a small space where we sell not only our wines, but also what we think are the most creative winesbeing made on Long Island, including Wölffer’s Summer in a Bottle, Chris Tracy’s brilliant work for Channing Daughters, and absolutely beautiful wines from the Red Hook Winery. Roanoke Vineyards wines are only available directly from the vineyard and Love Lane.

What is your favorite event with your wine club?
Our wine club programming is pretty adventurous. We have the Winemaker’s Smackdowns, the Winemaker’s Roundtable where we bring in winemakers from all over to talk and taste, our Secret Tastings, our annual re-inactment of the Judgment of Paris (with Long Island wines joining the 90+ point French and California wines, we call it the “Judgment of Riverhead”), we’ve had wine celebrities like George Taber come and visit, and in October our wine club harvested the vineyard and created a field blend on their own(!). But I think my favorite club event is “The Wine Club Curates” where four club members select their two favorite Roanoke wines of all time and discuss them with 24 other members. We get some pretty wonderful stories and observations.

What is special about visiting your tasting room?
The Roanoke tasting room is a former potato barn, and by itself it’s homespun and understated, but what makes it sing are the people who pass through it. Our club members are always interesting and they’ve become the Roanoke extended family. Our staff loves to talk about wine, and they are quite knowledgeable. I think this makes the experience at Roanoke electric.

See all our WINE Q&As here.

While this was being reported Gabby Piscano, the patriarch of the Roanoke family, died Dec. 18. Please revisit his life at the vineyard with our story from the Winter 2014: Issue No. 48.