WINE Q&A: Russ McCall of McCall Wines

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Beautiful day at the tasting room #northfork #liwine #licharacter

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The McCalls have been growing low-yield grapes and making high quality wines on Long Island’s North Fork since the mid 1990s. Today, they manage more than 25 acres split between two vineyards: the Corchaug Estate Vineyard, which boasts the largest successful pinot noir plantings on Long Island, and Gristina Vineyard, which produces their chardonnay and French-inspired sauvignon blanc. I asked Russ McCall a few questions about his winemaking style and favorite wine club event.

Describe your winemaking philosophy.
I’m only concerned about two things: land preservation and the quality of the wine. I’m not going to put our label on it unless it’s above average.

Tell us about your wines.
Following a French-influenced model, we make high quality, low yield wines that reflect our French influences from our Burgundian pinot noirs to our Sancerre-style sauvignon blanc. We started by planting just merlot and pinot noir, but we now produce a full spectrum of whites and reds, all 100-percent estate grown.

For white, I love pairing local sauvignon blanc with bay scallops or little neck clams.

What’s your favorite pairing with local food?
For white, I love pairing local sauvignon blanc with bay scallops or little neck clams. The sweetness of the scallops and briny flavor of the clams works with the bright acidity of sauvignon blanc. For red, Long Island pinot noir with Long Island duck—a fruity pinot with confit duck leg or an earthy Burgundian style pinot with seared duck breast. The delicate notes of strawberry, cherry and vanilla play against the mild gamey flavor of duck. They are perfect together.

What brought you (the winery) to Long Island?
My grandfather came to the North Fork in 1902 to find a summer home, and my family has been here ever since. I spent my summers in Cutchogue as a child, and it still holds a special place in my heart. The vineyard that we now call the Corchaug Estate is where I used to play as a boy. When I found out that the land was to be developed, I knew I had to preserve the history, and that’s when I decided to plant the vineyard. I have been working with Peconic Land Trust for 20 years to make sure that it will always be used for agriculture.

What’s your favorite event with your wine club?
Our Grand Cru Dinner. We’ve chosen a special location each year in the past, and it feels like less of an event and more like we’re hosting a dinner for friends and family.

What’s special about visiting your tasting room?
The authenticity. Our tasting room is an old potato barn from when this farm was used to grow potatoes and corn. We converted it into a horse barn when I first bought the property and, when we later renovated it into our tasting room, we left two of the stalls. You can still see the cradling on the edges of the stalls where the horses gnawed the wood.

What’s next or new at the winery?
We hope to break ground this year on our new multi-level facility, which will have 11,000 square feet of underground space that will allow us to bring barrel storage and production on-site in the future.

Where can people buy your wine?  
In local shops or online at