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Jason Damianos, North Fork winery owner, killed in crash, police say

The scene of a two-vehicle fatal crash at

The scene of a two-vehicle fatal crash at Harrison Avenue and Old Country Road in Riverhead on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. Photo Credit: LIHotShots / T.J. Lambui

The owner of a North Fork winery — a member of a pioneering winemaking family on Long Island — was killed in a two-vehicle crash Friday morning at a Riverhead intersection, police said.

Jason Damianos, owner of Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport, died after the 5:54 a.m. accident on Old Country Road at Harrison Avenue, Riverhead Town police said.

Damianos, 49, of Mattituck, pulled his 2005 Ford F-150 pickup in front of a 2007 Jeep Cherokee while attempting to make a left from Old Country onto Harrison, police said.

Both Damianos and the other driver, Savanna Lake, 19, of Sound Beach, were taken by ambulance to Peconic Bay Medical Center, police said.

Damianos was pronounced dead at the hospital. Lake was treated for undisclosed injuries.

Riverhead Town police detectives investigating the accident urge anyone with information to call them at 631-727-4500, ext. 328.

Damianos is the son of the late Herodotus “Dan” Damianos, who in 1980 started Pindar, one of Long Island’s largest and oldest vineyards.

“There is no question that the Damianos family, including Dr. Dan and his sons Jason and Pindar and Alexander as well as his daughters, were instrumental in the wine industry and the history of the wine industry on Long Island,” said Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau. “Jason has been a longtime friend of the Farm Bureau and we are extremely sad for his passing.”

Suffolk County Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said the Damianos family was a big influence not only in the wine industry but also in agriculture.

“They are very involved in the community and are a wonderful family and good neighbors,” Krupski said.

Jason Damianos, as well as his siblings, grew up in the vineyard industry, Krupski said.

“They grew up with it as their father grew the business,” Krupski said. “We farmed all around their vineyards. It is really sad to lose Jason like this.”

Ron Goerler Jr. also grew up in a family that was a pioneer in the vineyard industry when his father, Ron Goerler Sr., founded Jamesport Vineyards, one of the oldest and most successful wineries on the North Fork. He has known the Damianos family since Jason and his siblings were kids and they had a shared experience of being second generation in the wine business.

“It is a sad day and a loss to the industry,” said Goerler Jr., 51, who served as past president of the Long Island Wine Council and is president of Jamesport Vineyards. “Our family is at a loss and our condolences go out to the Damianos family.”

Jason, he said, “was a regular guy — chatty and always very nice and easy to get along with,” he said. “And it is very hard for me . . . to see someone so young pass so quickly and he will be missed.”

Jason Damianos graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Hartford and obtained a second degree — a bachelor’s in enology (fermentation science) — from California State University, Fresno, according to the website for Jason’s Vineyard.

Damianos traveled to France to study at the University of Bordeaux and worked in the Médoc, the Graves, Premierès Côtes de Bordeaux, and in the legendary Loupiac and Cadillac areas. He returned to Long Island in 1996 to plant Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport and he also served as head winemaker at the family’s vineyards on the East End.

He served as winemaker at Pindar, his father’s first vineyard, which grew into Long Island’s most widely distributed wine brand. The family-run, Peconic-based winery encompasses more than 500 North Fork acres and produces 70,000 cases of wine a year.

With Patricia Kitchen and John Valenti

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