Wolffer Estates

Winemakers Next: Long Island Merlot Alliance

The Wolffer Estates is owned by German born businessman Christian Wolffer. It was founded, initially on fourteen acres in Sagaponack on the South Fork in 1987. The winery was originally named Sagpond Vineyards.

Christian Wolffer was born in Hamburg in 1938. He was an executive for BASF, the German chemical giant, and managed their operations in Latin America. Moving on north to Canada he became a successful real estate trader and developer. Later becoming a venture capitalist he opened operations in Hawaii and Florida. In 1987 he purchased a former South Fork potato farm to be a weekend getaway. Ten years later and an investment of reportedly $15 million Wolffer's Tuscan style winery was officially opened.

Roman Roth, becoming one of the winemaking stars on the East End, came to Sagpond in 1992. Roth is the scion of wine and liquor wholesaler/retailers from Rottweil, Germany. He decided on a career in wine making while a teenager and apprenticed at a cooperative in Baden. From there he did a stint in California and then Australia only to end up back in Baden. He took an advanced degree in Oenology and viticulture. This was the same year he joined Wolffer as the winemaker of the then nascent winery. He joined just in time, as Roth characterized it, for ''one of the worst harvests ever on Long Island". Luckily, it followed by the three spectacular years of 93-95. Roth is now the General Manager as well as winemaker of Wolffer.

Richard Pisacano, a local boy made good, joined Wolffer and Roth in 1997 as vineyard manager. He started in the winemaking business as an apprentice at the venerable and pioneering Mudd vineyards. Later he joined another early East End vintner, the Jamesport Vineyards. During that time Pisacano started the Roanoke Vineyards, a small boutique North Fork winemaker.

Wolffer Estates Winery consists of 55 acres producing 15,000 cases a year. In addition, the estate has a 100 acre equestrian center and makes cheeses. They are becoming one of the East End's premier wineries. Their best output is spectacular and always interesting. Wolffer produces food friendly wines using old world and sustainable practices. Despite their strong European roots their wines are very much a Long Island. This is especially so of the Merlots. They are leaner show marked fruit without the flab while displaying remarkable complexities. Wolffer ranked two wines in the top ten for this article.

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Winemakers Next: Long Island Merlot Alliance