Anthony Sannino has been running Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard with his wife, Lisa, since 2006. Sannino, a largely self-taught winemaker, created the first custom winemaker’s center on the North Fork; members create their own wine barrel as he guides them through every step from vine to bottle. If drinking and lounging is more your speed, you can visit their tasting room or stay overnight in their Tuscan-style bed-and-breakfast. I asked Sannino a few questions about his connection to wine and his favorite local food pairings.
Describe your winemaking philosophy.
I raise my grapes with as much holistic, positive exposure as I do my four children.
Tell us about your wines.
My wines include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, syrah, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. I also produce two red blends: Prima Rossa and a blend selected from the highest quality of all my red varieties that I call Francesco in honor of my dad, who passed in 2012.
What’s your favorite pairing with local food?
Cabernet franc with seared and grilled local venison with a side of foraged mushrooms sautéed with garlic, butter, fresh basil and chardonnay.
What brought you to Long Island?
At the age of 13 the culture of wine was embedded in my soul. My mom was born in Italy, on a very small island called Ischia. In 1981, my mom’s uncle still lived in the very house my mom was born in, and he still produced wine in the same cellar my great grandfather used. I spent that summer shadowing my mom’s uncle from vineyard to cellar, sipping a fair share of wine each day at lunch with him. This particular time in my life shaped and cultivated my future interest in growing and making wine. As a young adult, I began visiting wineries in various regions, including Long Island. After finishing a formal wine program at UC Davis in 1998, I offered my time as a volunteer at Long Island wineries. In 2006, my wife and I purchased our Cutchogue vineyard and built our home on the vineyard.
What’s your favorite event with your wine club?
Our Private Harvest Event. Our members have the opportunity to harvest grapes, run them through the crusher, check the must for sugar content, pH and acidity levels and, of course, taste the juice. Then we enjoy an authentic Italian lunch, including pizza from our wood fired oven, and wines from past vintages.
What’s special about visiting your tasting room?
Visiting our historic tasting barn provides an intimate experience including an informative wine tasting. Our staff is eager to assist, and it is very likely that you will find me, my wife or one of my older daughters at the tasting barn on any given day.
What’s next or new at the winery?
We purchased additional property adjacent to our vineyard in Cutchogue where we plan to plant three acres of vines. We also leased an additional 7.5 acres of vines that we’ll manage and add to our production.
Where can people buy your wine?
My wines can be purchased at our tasting barn and from our online store www.sanninovineyard.com. Our wines are also in local shops and restaurants.