Wölffer Estate’s Roman Roth Says New York Classic Awards Sweep Confirms Bullish Stance on New York Wine

Roman Roth, Winemaker and Partner, Wölffer Estate Vineyard (Photo by Rima Brindamour)

“We didn’t just win awards in one or two vintages, we won awards across four vintages,” says Wölffer Estate Vineyard’s winemaker and partner Roman Roth. “To me, that says a lot about the quality of the wine being made in New York overall.”

Roth was referring, of course, to the New York Wine Classic 2023, which celebrates the diversity of wine in New York State. This year, 749 wines were entered from 108 wineries across the state. Scores were awarded by the Beverage Testing Institute’s sensory panel, made up of sommeliers, retail buyers, educators and beverage directors.

Of the 749 entries, judges awarded 10 Platinum, 320 Gold, 294 Silver and 81 Bronze medals. Wölffer managed to sweep up four Best in Class titles, 11 Golds and six Silvers.

The Best in Class wines—Best Overall Chardonnay for the 2021 Perle Chardonnay, Best Rosé for the 2022 Estate Rosé, Best Pinot Noir for the 2019 Landius and Best Malbec for the 2020 Cellar Series Malbec—not only spanned four vintages but also demonstrated the flexibility of Wölffer’s terroir in terms of grape varieties.

One doesn’t, Roth points out, typically see an estate that can produce such a broad diversity of grapes, so well.

Roth is quick to credit the winegrowing team, led by vineyard manager Richie Pisacano, which manages 55 acres of estate vines and 28 acres on the North Fork that are sustainably farmed, as well as the handful of long-term growing partners Wölffer has been working with for decades.

A Special Terroir 

But he also believes there is something unique about the terroir of Long Island.

“We are used to reading all of the bad news about climate change,” Roth says. “But there is good news too. I have seen with my own eyes the changes since I became winemaker in 1992.”

Wölffer Estate was founded in 1988 by Christian Wölffer. The estate is owned and operated today by his children, Marc and Joey Wölffer and Roth, who was the estate’s first and thus far only winemaker.

The soil and the ocean breezes, Roth explains, are foundational to the quality of the wine produced here. Bridgehampton loam soil, along with breezes from the nearby Atlantic Ocean, provide the kind of maritime conditions that create perfectly ripe fruit that is still rippling with acidity. But there’s more to it.

“We are blessed in Long Island with an ideal climate for grapes,” Roth says. “We are on the same latitude of Naples and Madrid, and we get this incredible ripening of seeds in skins. We are the last place in New York to get frost, and we don’t face winter damage or frost. But at the same time, we get cooler nights, which lock in flavors. It’s an utterly unique climate that allows for long, slow ripening, with cool breezes that deliver consistent acidity and brightness.”

New York Wine Is Front and Center 

Roth believes that after “decades in the shadows, New York will be front and center in the conversation about wine.”

“Where else,” he muses, “can you get bright Sauvignon Blanc, but also fully ripe, layered and complex Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that don’t taste like cough syrup or

weigh in at 15.5% ABV?”

Interestingly, one of the grapes Roth is most bullish on is one many wine lovers in the U.S. are unfamiliar with: Trebbiano, which, in the right hands, Roth says is uniquely elegant and refreshing. He says that they recently planted another three acres, and hopes to ultimately become the biggest producer in the U.S. of Trebbiano. A feat that would not, he admits, be that difficult. 

But the real story, Roth continues, in Wölffer’s recent win, is ultimately much bigger.

“For centuries, the most expensive and valued wines were from south-facing vineyards in Europe, but today because of the changing climate, their yields and their acidity are way down,” Roth says. “Now, it’s north and northwest facing vineyards in Tasmania, Long Island, and the Finger Lakes that are stepping up and making consistently excellent wines. And you know what? They are much more reasonably priced. The whole world is shifting, and will continue to.”

Wölffer Estate Estate Rosé 2022

Our Gold Label wines showcase the beauty of our maritime terroir at an outstanding value. The rosé that started it all. Complex with great dimension and understated elegance.

  • Vintage: 2022
  • Varietal: 69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 6% Chardonnay, 3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Gris, 1% Riesling
  • Appellation: Long Island
  • Alc. by Vol.: 12.5%

Winemaker Notes: Shiny light rose in color. Elegant floral aromas with rose petals, orange, fresh melon, and ripe kiwi. The mouth-feel is light but with wonderful structure. This dry rosé is fruity and has fine minerality and acidity all creating the most beautiful balance. It is pure, refreshing and savory. The finish is classic with little saline quality and a lingering fruit with some crushed minerals. This rosé is lip-smacking good and has great esprit and sophistication. It is the perfect partner to food. The 2021 vintage even tops any other Estate Rosé in the history of making this wine. Summer at its best!

About the New York Wine Classic

Organized annually by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the New York Wine Classic celebrates a diverse selection of world-class wines from producers within the State. Judging for the 2023 competition took place from April 15th – June 15th, 2023 and included 749 entries from 108 wineries from across the state. A total of 10 Platinum, 320 Gold, 294 Silver, and 81 Bronze medals were awarded.

Picture of Kathleen Willcox and Robin Shreeves

Kathleen Willcox and Robin Shreeves

Kathleen Willcox and Robin Shreeves' work frequently appears in Wine Enthusiast, Wine Searcher, Wine Industry Advisor, Liquor.com and many other publications. They co-founded Thinking Outside the Bottle, which provides communications services to the drinks industry.