Grapes have been grown on Long Island since the late 1700s, but the wine industry as it exists here today started in the 1970s, when a few courageous souls decided to try their hands at the European varietals that do best in our mild, maritime climate. It worked. Six vineyards in the ''70s have grown to 60 today, according to the Long Island Wine Council.
Larry Perrine, chief executive and partner at Channing Daughters Winery, is also a founder of the recently formed Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing Inc. not-for-profit initiative, which will offer the first sustainable vineyard certification on the East Coast.
"Our goal is to be able to pass this vineyard business on to succeeding generations and have the land be in better shape than when we started," Perrine said.
A California native, he studied soil science at California State Polytechnic University and pursued graduate studies in oenology and viticulture at Cornell University. He later worked as a researcher in viticulture at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.
Reviewers describe Channing Daughters using various synonyms for "inventive." Is being innovative part of the company philosophy?
There's a kind of a groove -- the more commonplace wines. When I was working at the research facility in Riverhead, I got to see how various varietals performed, especially the Italian wines like Tocai Friulano and pinot grigio. I felt that tastes were changing to brighter, more jewel-like wines, and I just felt I didn't want to be in the merlot, oaky chardonnay groove.
How do you strike a balance between growing the business and quality control?
Between 12,000 and 15,000 cases is a sweet spot in the winery world. The winemaker can keep his nose in everything, and you can self-distribute in places like New York City. We're at about 12,000 now, and we don't have any plans to expand beyond 15,000.
What do you personally bring to the winery?
I bring, first and foremost, knowledge of how to grow, how to take care of the soil, and how to produce ripe grapes in this climate. But what I really brought is a vision of the business. I also know how to find people who can do it even better. It's not about ego, and my pride is in our productive collaboration.
What's your favorite wine?
I can't answer that. It depends on so many things -- the season, the occasion, the menu.
OK, what's your favorite wine for a hot summer evening?
I like the dry rosés. The rosé resurgence in the past 10 years has been remarkable. From a damaged creature, dry rosé is now extremely popular. It's 25 percent of our production.
Name: Channing Daughters winery, Bridgehampton.
What it does: Produce small-batch red, white, rosé and skin-fermented "orange" wines.
Roles they play: Winemakers, vineyard managers, vineyard workers, representatives.
Revenue: $2 million