You could say that Zander was born into wine. He grew up surrounded by vines, barrels and tanks at Hargrave Vineyard and was quickly put to work on the bottling line, tasting room, vineyard and the winery. He worked in the cellar for a year following the sale of Hargrave Vineyard to Castello di Borghese and then moved on to other pursuits. He was pulled back into the fray at Peconic Bay Winery by his uncle Charlie who was the Vineyard Manager. He transitioned into the cellar with his mentor, Greg Gove, a tremendously talented winemaker with over 30 years of experience on Long Island. After Peconic Bay Winery closed Joyce and Bob Pellegrini gave Zander an amazing opportunity to continue the tradition of excellence at Pellegrini Vineyards, where is is today.
What are the unique characteristics of your winemaking style?
My goal is always to allow ripe fruit to shine. The metamorphosis of grape juice into wine is totally natural, however, to achieve a higher level of quality requires control and direction. I consider myself the custodian of excellence. Sort of a guardian or stewardship role if you will. After establishing a foundation of proper winery methods, it is critical to build a stylistic vision of where you want a given wine to go. This is the realm where intervention is critical. How long you cold soak Gewurtztraminer, how much new oak you age Cabernet Franc in, will the Chardonnay support Malolactic Fermentation, how long the Merlot stays on its skins. There are many important decisions to be made in order to achieve what I really want, which is to make expressive wines with finesse.
Describe the relationship between the Long Island wine community and the agriculture, aquaculture and overall East End culinary culture.
It can be direct or indirect but I believe we are much more than the sum of our parts. Everything is connected! I have been raising oysters in Richmond Creek for the last six years and find it both gratifying and delicious. I am overwhelmed by the ever expanding bounty of local ingredients and entrepreneurial food ventures. This has always been a fishing and farming community but the North Fork has evolved into a foodie paradise. With an emphasis on the local seasonal cornucopia that is available, our restaurants have become world class bastions of freshness. Our wines have also made commensurate progress in terms of locally grown produce elevated to the highest level. The combination of it all is out of this world!
In your opinion, which foods are paired best with the wines of Long Island?
Whatever is locally sourced. Peconic Bay Scallops, Lobster, Blue Fish, Flounder, Striped Bass, Black Sea Bass (my favorite), Tautog, monkfish, Skate, Swordfish, Oysters, McCall beef, Browder Chicken, Goerler eggs, Crescent Duck, Miloski’s Turkey, Local cheese, cider, fruit, vegetables, tomatoes, lettuce, etc…
What Long Island wine would you recommend to someone just discovering the region
I would recommend Coffee Pot Cellars because the wines are made by Adam Suprenant and Laura Klahre. The wines are terrific and meeting Adam and Laura will provide new visitors with a genuine welcome to our region and most likely some cool information about bees!
What are your passions outside of wine?
I am married to an angel named Julie and have a nine month old Standard Poodle named Zorro. Winemaking is a full time job but I love to get into the local waters whenever I get a chance.
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