Wölffer Estate is a family owned and operated, sustainably farmed vineyard in Sagaponack led by the curious mind of winemaker and partner Roman Roth. As the vineyard’s first winemaker, this career was more than a desire for the German native, it was a calling.
Roth was raised around fine wine. His father was a winemaker in Germany and created a home filled with creativity and passion, said Roth. During holidays and birthdays, his parents would host elaborate parties. On such occasions, an almost comedic competition would arise between Roth’s mother, his brother, who inherited the family wine merchant business, and himself — a trinity of wine collectors.
Each would go to their section of the family wine cellar and choose a bottle of higher quality and price. Round after round, glass after glass, a bigger name and older vintage ushered a riveting rivalry surrounding the dinner table with good food and laughter, all culminating in singing old songs into the night.
Roman draws inspiration for his work from wineries throughout the globe that he’s visited. At the young age of 16, Roth began his three-year apprenticeship at the Kaiserstuhl Wine Cooperative in Oberrotweil, while attending technical school in Heilbron.
During the summer of 1986, he traveled to Carneros, CA, where he began working at Saintsbury Estate and soon fell in love with his future wife, Dushy, in Hollywood. His travels then took him to New South Wales, Australia and back to Germany to work as a winemaker at Winzerkeller Wiesloch in Baden.
“It would be boring to taste only wine from one region. That would be like listening to only one type of music,” said Roth.
In 1992, he received a Master Winemaker and Cellar Master Degree from the College of Oenology and Viticulture in Weinsberg. It was that same year that he joined Christian Wölffer in New York as the premier winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. Roth recalled, “He told me that I can buy whatever I need and do whatever I want . . . Well, it worked. It’s been 27 vintages now!”
Defined at “the East End appellation,” the maritime climate of the North and South Forks remains moderate year-round, allowing the fruit to ripen into the fall months without jeopardizing the delicate sugar/acid balance, and creating food-friendly wines. Wölffer’s team aims to do most of the work by hand.
“Of course, we do have the special Bridgehampton loam here on the South Fork, which is a fantastic foundation for our high end Perle Chardonnay and the Christian Wölffer Cuvee Merlot. The elegant, yet concentrated style that we are able to make separates us completely from the more alcoholic wines of California and makes us stand up to the best wines from France,” Roth explained.
The busy season for a winemaker is mid-September through Thanksgiving. Roth recalled when Christian Wölffer would invite the entire cellar crew to a celebratory dinner at his house which, Roth said, “turned into a bacchanalian feast.” Though tradition has changed, Roth still takes his team out to dinner, followed by bowling, to toast the conclusion of another successful year.
“Don’t go into the wine business if you don’t love people. You have to love pouring wine, talking about wine, and thinking about wine morning, noon, and night, seven days a week, in order to become successful,” Roth noted.
This season, try pairing a Wölffer Perle Chardonnay with striped bass, roasted local potatoes, fresh corn, and an heirloom tomato salad.
Wölffer Estate Vineyard is located at 139 Sag Road in Sagaponack. Call 631-537-506, visit www.wolffer.com, or follow @wolfferwine for more details.