WINE Q&A: Barbara Shinn and David Page of Shinn Estate Vineyards

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Native Midwesterners Barbara Shinn and David Page first moved to New York City in the early ’90s to open Home, one NYC’s first farm-to-table restaurants. In 1998, they bought the historic Tuthill homestead on the North Fork and planted 20 acres of grapevines. Today, Shinn Estate Vineyards produces more than a dozen wines ranging from cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc to delicious white blends, such as Coalescence (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling). They’re also the first East Coast winery and inn to be solely powered by alternative energy. I asked Barbara and David a few questions about their wines and their favorite local food pairings.

Describe you winemaking philosophy.
The wine we craft is intended to be a living memory of the time and place it was grown. Each vintage, whether it was warm or cool, dry or wet, gives us unique and vibrant fruit. The challenge is to find a voice for the fruit we grow so that the message of each vintage is artfully presented. We are entrusted with being translators for nature.

Tell us about your wines.
All of our white varieties are known for their beautiful aromatics: sauvignon blanc, sémillon, pinot blanc, chardonnay and riesling. We seldom age our whites in barrel, preferring a non-oaked style. This allows the aroma and brightness in flavor to make the wine a refreshing experience. Our reds age 14 to 18 months in small French oak barrels. They remain in their “home” barrel for the duration of the aging. We ferment our wines with the yeast we grow in the vineyard and use low impact farming practices so that when we harvest, our grapes have many different wine yeast varieties on their skins, each playing its unique role and adding unique character.

What’s your favorite pairing with local food?
We cook wine dinners once a month, and our most recent one was very special: Haven, our sauvignon blanc-sémillon blend, served with Peconic Bay scallop crudo with raw white vegetables; 8 Hands Farm braised lamb in a nimono broth, sweet potatoes from Sang Lee Farms, spinach from The Farm [KK’s], and soba noodles paired with our 2012 Estate Merlot; roasted Crescent Farm duck in our wood-burning oven served with faro risotto and rocket from KK paired with our 2012 Malbec 2012; and an Adirondack cheddar with Blue Duck breads, fig jam and 30-year-old honey paired with our 2012 Petit Verdot. We finished with our alembic brandy and apple brandy, which David distills and ages four years in French oak barrels.

What brought you (the winery) to Long Island?
We visited the Finger Lakes, Hudson River Region and the East End of Long Island in the early ’90s, and we were immediately seduced by the North Fork. By the late ’90s, we had the calling for a career change from owning and running restaurants in New York City to growing wine and soon after purchased a 22-acre parcel on Oregon Road in Mattituck. We began planting the vines in 2000 and now have 20 acres of vineyard, the winery, a tasting room, and our four-room Farmhouse Inn, which is located in the historic farmhouse here.

Where can people buy your wine?
Our wines are available throughout New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. The best thing to do is to look on our website (www.shinnestatevineyards.com) where we post a current list of stores and restaurants. The most enjoyable place to purchase our wines is our tasting room. We also have vineyard and winery tours on the weekends and self-guided tours of the vineyard on the weekdays.

What’s your favorite event with your wine club?
We have a futures program where our fans can buy wine prior to its release at a good discount. In March, you can taste the wine from barrel and tank, reserve and purchase your choices and then come pick up your selections when we have bottled and labeled it.

What’s special about visiting your tasting room?
Our guests come here to enjoy our holistically grown wine and to relax on the patio surrounded by the beauty of Oregon Road. Every decision we make is centered on developing and maintaining a healthy farm ecosystem, and this philosophy has found its place in the tasting room, too. Our visitors notice this immediately as they arrive and see our wind turbine and solar panels producing clean energy.

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