WINE Q&A: Roman Roth of Wölffer Estate Vineyard

‘I’m very proud that all our wines show a distinguishable Wölffer style.’

Roman Roth Makes Gin

Wölffer Estate is a 55-acre vineyard that’s been making wine on the East End of Long Island for more than 20 years. Whether it’s their merlot, cabernet franc, sparkling wines, or their famous Summer in a Bottle rosé blend, Wölffer strives to make American wines in the classic European tradition, and they’re one of the few wineries on the South Fork.

I asked Roman Roth, Wölffer’s winemaker and partner, about his technique and what brought him to Long Island from his native Germany.

Describe your winemaking philosophy.
We have three major goals: to make food friendly wines, to make wines with character that are authentic to our vineyard and region and to make wines with longevity. We can only compete with quality (not quantity), so we pay a lot of attention to every detail and work diligently to achieve our goals. The key is to make the best wine possible no matter the situation.

Tell us about your wines.
We make fruit-driven wines with character and balance. We capture our maritime-influenced terroir, which means wines with elegant acidity, good concentration and moderate alcohol. I’m also very proud that all our wines show a distinguishable Wölffer style. From our vibrant and lively rosés to our classic and elegant chardonnays to the rich (yet balanced) red wines and our dessert wine, there is a clear and similar style coming through that is recognized and loved by our customers.

What’s your favorite pairing with local food?
At our restaurant, Wölffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor, the theme is “food to go with wine, wine to go with food.” Fresh caught striped bass with our Perle Chardonnay is a match made in heaven. Oysters with our Noblesse Oblige sparkling wine is another perfect pairing. As for reds, a mushroom risotto with our Landius Pinot Noir.

What brought you (the winery) to Long Island?
Christian Wölffer, who was the tireless visionary behind Wölffer Estate, was looking for a winemaker in 1992 to start and manage his winery. We met in Germany, and he promised I could buy whatever I needed to make the best wine. Twenty-four years later, the once fledgling winery has become an amazing destination and a standard bearer for quality.

What’s your favorite event with your wine club?
We have three events that I love: Our annual Library Dinners, where we can show the amazing ageability of our wines; The Harvest Party, where we have fun; and the New Vintage Tasting and Harvest Lunch, where we give a glimpse at the newly picked vintage and show the just fermented wines.

What’s special about visiting your tasting room?
The winery building is one of the most beautiful on the East Coast. You feel like you’re in Europe. The sunsets are breathtaking. The winery staff is fabulous.

What’s next or new at the winery?
The most exciting release this year is our 2013 White Horse red wines. The 2013 vintage is for us what 1945 was for Bordeaux. Anybody who buys these wines by the case and keeps a couple of bottles in the cellar will be a very happy person in 20 years! We’re also about to launch our own distilled Wölffer Gin.

Where can people buy your wine?
The easiest place may be online at www.wolffer.com. We’re also in almost 600 restaurants and wine shops all over the East End and the tri-state area.

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Jeff Simpson is an Oklahoman living in New York. He also writes about music and sad things, loves whiskey and wine, and is currently working on several books he may never finish.