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Oct 2, 2017 12:13 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Autumn At Macari Vineyards

Macari Vineyards HANNAH SELINGER
Oct 2, 2017 12:31 PM

It was the first day of fall, a particularly autumnal day, with the wind whipping up off the Long Island Sound and the rain arriving in waves, when Gabrielle Macari shuttled me into her van for a tour of her family’s North Fork vineyards.

Ms. Macari is a 30-year-old vineyard “jack-of-all-trades”: She’s responsible for everything from marketing and social media to distribution. On this September afternoon, she wanted me to see the land in its glory—nearly 500 acres purchased in 1962 by her paternal grandfather, Joe Macari.

On our meandering drive, we saw a family of Maiale Nero pigs, a black breed used in Parma for capocollo; lean turkeys pecking at the rich ground; and, perhaps the most important addition to the Macari ecosystem, cows.

It really is an ecosystem, Ms. Macari wanted me to know. “We feel that there’s this supernatural energy out there,” she said.

Under the tutelage of South Fork biodynamic farming legend Steve Storch, Ms. Macari’s father, another Joe Macari, has designed the vineyard with sustainability and, most important, biodynamics in mind. Cow manure is composted along with fish parts delivered from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in order to fortify the soil for the grapes.

Of the acreage the Macaris own, an astounding 180 acres is under vine, allowing for opportunities in experimentation. Here, a block of Gruner Veltliner; there, Friulano that may not be thriving. There are the predictable Long Island culprits, of course—Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc—but there is also Syrah, which represents itself stunningly under the Macari watchful hand.

The vineyard is truly a family affair. The original Joe is now in his 90s, but the everyday caretaking has been left to his children and grandchildren. Ms. Macari’s two brothers also work on the vineyard, one (yet another Joe) as a vineyard manager, and one (Edward) as the resident pizzaolo.

Just a few weeks ago, 21-year-old Edward Macari opened Avelino, a pizza truck built out of an old shipping container. He parks at the Mattituck winery’s rear, where he produces roughly 100 Neapolitan pies a day for Macari patrons—and anyone else who happens to stop by. It is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon until the dough runs out.

Ms. Macari and I sat down in the winery, in the company of a few bottles, a very fine margherita pizza from Avelino, and my 9-month-old son. We faced misty vineyards, which were beginning to sag heavy with fruit.

“We’re trying to slow down the experience of the winery as much as possible,” she said, which I could feel in the very spirit of the afternoon: languid and lovely.

With so much land under vine, the Macaris have a lot of freedom, and that freedom is expressed in their wide-ranging oeuvre. They hold back reds until they’re “ready,” age some of their Sauvignon Blanc in concrete eggs—what prevails from this method is a creamy, unctuous form of the varietal that’s rarely seen—and produce a fun and formidable unfiltered rosé with a crown cap that’s among the winery’s most popular cuvées, “Horses.” These diverse wines are served up in thin-stemmed, delicate, mouth-blown Zalto glasses, Austrian stemware nearly as divine as the wines themselves.

In the basement, there is a hidden surprise. A stone-walled private tasting room boasts long mahogany tables, buffalo hide benches, and backlit niches stocked with various Macari vintages. The room can accommodate up to 40 guests, and Ms. Macari hopes to hold a pizza and wine tasting in the near future, where patrons can enjoy Avelino pies paired with Macari wines.

As for our own personal pairing, we found that what grows together does, indeed, go together. A hot, chewy margherita pie was well matched with the 2014 Syrah, an inky purple wine with notes of black pepper and bacon fat. But the red-fruited 2014 Cabernet Franc was a fine contender, too.

“I think Cabernet Franc is the most exciting grape,” Ms. Macari told me, recounting that her father had been ridiculed for using the grape as a single varietal wine when he began producing it in 1997. “It’s the perfect grape, because it ripens even in the coldest years.”

Indeed, the wine, like the day, was ripe: Bright, clean and not at all vegetal, it elevated the pizza.

Really, was there a better way to while away a Friday afternoon in fall?

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