star Vintners

Galluccio Family Wineries
By Ha-Kyung Choi

There’s more to the Hamptons than celebrity pizzazz and exclusive estates. In the North Fork of Long Island, life is appreciated in an entirely different way and at a far slower pace. Amidst farm stands and villages that dot this sleepy side of the island, wineries and vineyards are starting to get noticed. Setting the bar high is Galluccio Family Wineries, one of the most attractive and functional wineries in the area. Formerly known as Gristina Vineyards, the winery was purchased in 2000 by Vince Galluccio, an entrepreneur who spent most of his career in Europe where he developed a taste for fine European wines. Galluccio has steadily improved the quality of the wines and aggressively expanded the winery’s vineyards, production and marketing efforts. With a world-class winemaking team that includes renowned Bordeaux wine consultant Michel Rolland, the winery is entering a new chapter. The first release of the Cru George Allaire (a Chardonnay and a Meritage blend) in spring 2003 marked Galluccio’s foray into the world of premium, handcrafted wines, employing old world winemaking and vineyard management techniques.

Thanks in large part to Galluccio's tireless efforts as a North Fork spokesman, the North Fork is gaining the recognition it deserves. The days of mom-and-pop operations has made way for a new level of professionalism and quality in Long Island. This is one winemaker who believes in the possibility of his wines and exemplifies the potential of North Fork to produce premium quality wines.

Interview with Vince Galluccio
By Ha-Kyung Choi

Ha-Kyung Choi: How did you decide you wanted to own a winery?
Vince Galluccio: Owning a winery was something we’ve always wanted to do. I was working in Europe and was going to retire and buy property there. However, my wife’s mother took ill and so we eventually returned to the US.

HC: Why did you choose the Gristina property?
VG: My wife had a house in the Hamptons for close to 30 years and we had been buying Gristina wines for years. We weren’t even looking to buy a winery in the area but we saw the property was for sale. We had never owned a winery before so we thought that if we were going to do this it should be somewhere close. Starting in Long Island has been a good way to learn what to do and not do and it has been a great learning experience. The winery is small enough to get our arms around and we basically upgraded the facility including production facilities.

We’re currently looking into purchasing property Italy, probably Tuscany or Piedmont, which is where my family is from. Somewhere where there are olive trees and vineyards. We are looking to private label the wines.

HC: Since purchasing the winery, you have implemented a number of changes, including expanding the production volumes and the marketing of the wines. What is your winemaking philosophy and how have you applied them to the winery?
VG: My philosophy was let’s take tried and true wisdom and apply it to Long Island. I took some wine courses, took some jobs in vineyards in Europe and saw the techniques that were being used for thousands of years. People were saying it could never be done in Long Island but that was because no one had the guts to do it. We were the first to start to plant vines closer together so the roots go down 30-40 feet, we were the first to do micro-oxidization and the first to use 1400 gallon wood fermenters. We’ve made a commitment to use organic vinification techniques. We’ve taken a lot of risks but I knew that we were doing the right things and it’s paid off in our wines.

HC: How do you see Long Island evolving as a wine region?
VG: I feel like Long Island is finally getting the regional recognition it deserves. The Long Island Wine Council is doing an outstanding job in promoting the region and the owners are beginning to get more involved in promoting the region. Along with Bedell, we were the first ones to do a national advertising campaign. The ad campaign was not about the winery but it was about promoting the North Fork. At that point, people didn’t even know New York State made wines when the state is one of the largest producers of grapes. People started calling saying they didn’t know New York was making wines and started requesting samples. Now our wines are being served at some of the best restaurants in New York.

HC: Do you believe that there is a Long Island terroir? What is distinctive about this region and the wines?
VG: You can see it with the new wines we are coming out with, particularly the Cru George Allaire. We had a dinner at Restaurant Daniel with Michel Rolland, Chantal Perse of Chateau Pavie and Robert Parker. We were tasting our wines all night and it was a great show. Robert said it’s amazing how far the wines have come in such a short period of time. Before he wouldn’t even write about them but now he says they’re on a track to stardom. We’re cellaring wine that could age for 20 years. We never could have done that before. Our terroir is similar to Bordeaux with a maritime climate and temperate winters. You want to copy success so we try and emulate the best wineries of France and Italy and employ the old world vinification and blending techniques.

HC: Speaking of blends, what was the process behind the George Allaire Meritage blend?
VG: We spent 4 hours sampling different blends to get it right. The Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were each matured separately and blended at the last possible moment. We don’t chaptalize and we use all natural yeasts. My philosophy is don’t reinvent the wheel and this has sped up our process to success.

HC: The Galluccio Cabernet Franc 2001 is offered at Restaurant Daniel as a private label. How important is the private labeling business for the overall bottom line?
VG: We’ve debated what we’re going to do about this extensively. In the end, it accounts for maybe about 10 percent so it’s not very important. We’ll use the Gristina wines for our private labels but generally won’t use our best Galluccio wines. Daniel was a special situation and we gave him the best wines. There was a benefit in doing it since the Galluccio name was co-labeled on the bottle. The response has been immense.

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