In small wine regions, like eastern Long Island, the pattern usually goes like this: as wineries start to make a name for themselves, outside investors from other wine regions take an interest in smaller-scale wineries. But while Wölffer’s Roman Roth has always kept his eye on the ball at the core 175 acres on Long Island, his ambitious, creative nature also had him asking, “Why not?” when it came to turning the tables on that outside-in pattern.
“Everybody’s waiting for someone from California to come here and buy a winery,” says Roth, “but we did the opposite and went to Argentina and started making 25,000 cases of wine there.”
That project kicked off when Wölffer released its first Argentine-made rosé in 2015. But they’ve gone deeper — certainly, in color.
On October 4, the winery released its latest from their South American project: the 2022 Finca Malbec, made with renowned Argentinian winemaker Susan Bilbo of Domino del Plata, right in time for our collective yearning for heartier, savory fall fare.
It’s an inky, ruby-violet color in the glass, a little bit floral with notes of lilac and violet, and tastes of ripe little black plums, dried raspberry laced with some savory notes of black olive, licorice and cocoa powder that linger into the finish. Even with all that going on, it still feels juicy, even light, on the tongue — and, even better, it’s only $18 a bottle.
“Christian [Wölffer] had a dream to own a vineyard in Argentina. We found out two days before he passed that he had a handshake to buy 50% of a winery [there],” says Roth. Christian Wölffer had fallen in love with Argentina years ago, spending over two month’s each year in the sunny, South American lands. His untimely death in 2008 quashed the project he’d hoped to build, but the idea stayed with Roth and his new partners, Christian’s children, Joey and Marc Wölffer.
Marc eventually took over 85 acres that were his father’s in the Mendoza area of Alto Agrelo-Lujan de Cayo. For winemaker Roth, it was an amazing opportunity to bring his penchant for making food-friendly, expressive wines and apply it to a place where the vineyards soar up to 4,100 feet in the foothills of the Andes — quite a change from our relatively flat and cool maritime terroir.
“It’s the most westerly vineyard in Alto Agrelo, where all the old wineries like Catena are. Ours are the top vineyards on that slope. We make [wines] with altitude, not attitude!” laughs Roth, the bottle’s screw cap top nodding to that ethos.
Roth is no stranger to Argentina’s calling card grape. Malbec — which actually hails from Bordeaux and is one of the five red grapes varieties allowed in that region’s storied French blend. He’s been making Long Island-grown malbec for years, so the chance to explore working with the grape from a different continent entirely was one that excited him.
“We didn’t want to go there and make a fat malbec,” he says. “We brought our elegant style of food-friendly wines to Argentina. And that’s we’re very proud of this.”
The 2022 Wölffer Finca Malbec is available at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, located at 139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack, or via their online store.