I can think of no single event more tastefully ‘Hamptons holiday chic’ than Wölffer Estate’s annual Lighting of the Vines. Every year, the winery, which is celebrating its 30th year this season, kicks off the holidays during the first weekend of December with a gala cocktail party, complemented by a decorous display of LED lights (the winery estimates about 15,000 of them, to be specific). Like any decent Christmas tree lighting—I’m looking at you, Rockefeller Center—the vine lighting is an affair in and of itself, a moment of pomp and circumstance. The physical lighting is the culmination of a two-hour long cocktail party, which is always held during the first Saturday in December.
This year, the event will take place on Saturday, December 1 and will include a silent auction of holiday wreaths, designed by local artists, designers, and business owners; the lighting itself, in which all 15,000 lights are turned on, illuminating the sprawling Sagaponack grape vines; holiday-themed live jazz music; and hors d’oeuvres, wine, and mulled wine. The Lighting of the Vines has become, over time, the vineyard’s signature event, marking the start (or, these days, mid-point, at least) to the holiday season and ushering in a month of good cheer. The lights remain on the vines until the end of January, bringing a warm glow to an otherwise semi-deserted East End.
All proceeds from the silent auction will go to Fighting Chance, an East End-based charity offering counseling to cancer patients. With localism in mind, the hors d’oeuvres offered at the vine lighting will be sourced locally, from the Amagansett Food Institute. And then, of course, there’s the wine. There will be no shortage of popped Wölffer bottles. As in years past, the Lighting of the Vines promises to be a celebration not only of the holiday season, but also of the consistently fine juice that the winery continues to produce, year after year.
As for the Estate, well, it enjoys a prominent place in East End history. In 1988, Christian Wölffer founded Wölffer Estate, which is now owned and operated by his children, in conjunction with winemaker Roman Roth. The 470-acre estate includes land in Sagaponack, the North Fork, Argentina, and Spain, as well as 160 acres of North Fork land that is farmed in collaboration with other North Fork growers. The winery grows Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trebbiano, Pinot Noir, and Vignole, using sustainable farming practices. All wines are made from estate-grown or locally grown fruit, while the ciders (the winery now produces three: dry white, rosé, and red) are produced from New York State apples—notably, apples grown at Water Mill’s Halsey Apple Orchard.
The winery enjoys fertile, loamy soils and a particular climate—ocean breezes from a few miles away offer grapes maritime conditions under which to thrive. Wines are, accordingly, a smart balance of ripeness and acidity, perfect for pairing with food (the desired intent, really). Now celebrating their 30th season, Wölffer remains the standard-bearer for South Fork winemaking.
At the holidays, is there any finer place to stop in for a tipple (or two)? With sweeping views of the vineyard and a warm, inviting tasting room, Wölffer attracts imbibers all year long. Still, it is the vine lighting that many hold out for as the quintessential event of the season, one that is both festive and deeply rooted in the East End ethos of eating and drinking well. It may not come cheap, but it is worth it: Attendees 7-years-old and up can purchase tickets for $75 apiece, which covers light snacks and beverages. For children under 7, the fee is $35. Although parking is available at the Estate, space is limited. The winery has, however, collaborated with Lyft in an attempt both to ease the parking capacity and to prevent those drinking from driving home. For new users downloading the Lyft app, the code WOLFFER will offer $5 off the first ride. Pro-tip: The ride home is worth the investment.
Tickets tend to sell out quickly, so those interested should visit the winery’s website sooner rather than later. One thing is for sure: the Lighting of the Vines will make your holidays merry, and very, very bright.