“I hate the word‘ trend, ’” said Joey Wölffer, owner of the Hamptons Wölffer Estate winery, known for its rosé. It’s an amazing statement from someone who makes one of the most ubiquitous drinks in the Hamptons and beyond. But Mrs. Wölffer has been there for a long time.
When Wölffer Estate began making rosé in the early 1990s, many wine snobs in that country still associated the rose variety with sweet, low-priced offerings, such as “blush” zinfandel white wines, the Mrs. Wölffer, considering them little more elegant than a cheap wine refrigerator.
“No one was drinking from it,” Ms. Wölffer, 40, said on a recent Monday afternoon, enjoying a curry chicken lunch in the courtyard of the estate’s tasting room in Sagaponack, New York. looking at the rows of grapes that stretched generously. towards the horizon. “Young people did not drink it. The young people did not drink wine. “
Now they are. Wölffer Estate has mounted the rosy renaissance of the last 15 years and has also helped drive it. In 2014, according to the company, Wölffer sold 1,530 boxes of its signature line, “Summer in a Bottle,” a crunchy pink in a clear bottle decorated with a whimsical explosion of wildflowers and butterflies.
Last year, the winery sold 69,000 boxes of “Summer in a Bottle” and this year is about to sell 73,000 boxes, along with 35,000 boxes of a new rosé imported from France, “Summer in a Bottle Côtes de Provence “.
Wölffer rosés, the company now has eight varieties, have become a regular item at backyard parties and beach picnics, a symbol of the languid days on Long Island’s South Fork. For young people in the summer, rosé has become an elegant alternative to beer or hard seltzer.
The winery has also become a setting for its luxury SUV owners and the numerous visitors who flock to the beach throughout the summer. On weekends, groups of clean-cut couples and incognito celebrities are presented with pastel shorts and floral-patterned sun dresses to relax on the grass behind the Wölffer Wine Stand on the south side of the property, taking rosy as their children collide with live music. . In 2017, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin renewed their marriage vows on Wolffer grounds.
“Pink,” said Mrs. Wölffer, “has become a way of life.”
Hobby Wine to Vineyard Estate
A fashion executive, Mrs. Wölffer runs her own fashion brand, Joey Wölffer Reworked, with a store in Sag Harbor, the city where she lives with her husband, Max Rohn (Wölffer’s executive director), and the his two daughters, aged 6 years. and 4. (Ms. Wölffer owns and operates Wölffer Estate with her half-brother, Marc Wölffer, who grew up in Germany and still lives in Europe.)
His father, Christian Wölffer, who died in 2009, was a venture capitalist of German descent who made a fortune in real estate. Her mother, Naomi Marks Wölffer, is a former Harry Winston jewelry designer and heiress to the Marks & Spencer retail fortune.
A competitive jumper, Joey keeps three horses, two Dutch Warmblood and a Selle Francais, in a 100-acre equestrian center on 175-acre Wölffer grounds. She and her family frequently appear on the event pages of Dan’s Papers, the Hamptons social bible, for their celebrity charity dinners.
Mrs. Wölffer knows that her life seems to be a lively Town & Country broadcast. “There’s an element of luck to be born into this world, I’m fully aware of that,” he said.
That doesn’t mean you’re always comfortable. “I’m a personality that has very high highs and very high lows,” he said. Maximalist and multitasking by nature, he speaks with a torrent of words and finds the idea of relaxation — even in a beach chair, magazine in hand — alien.
Meditation makes her feel anxious, she said. She prefers boxing. That day, she had a glimpse of the patterns of a multicolored blouse of her own design, glued together with Indian block print fabrics and other recycled fabrics. Both wrists were a bunch of bracelets. With almost six feet tall, with three-inch stacked suede heeled boots, he was pushing his height into the territory of the WNBA forward-pivot.
“I’m at my best,” said Mrs. Wölffer, “when I exceed my limit.”
Part of his drive comes from his father, who had a vision of the winery and evoked it from a soaked potato field, planting his first vineyards in 1988, after moving the family from the Upper East Side.
“My father was a booming presence,” Ms. Wölffer said. “I would really command a room and have a lot of power over people. But growing up with that as a girl was a challenge. It was very difficult, very hard. I think it goes back to her childhood.”
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1938, Christian Wölffer’s middle-class family lived in poverty during the war. “He always said,‘ You have no idea what it’s really like to fight, ’” Ms. Wölffer. “But he was a very insecure child.”
A life in the family business was the last thing I expected. “I wanted to get as far as possible,” he said.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2004 with a degree in human and organizational development, Ms. Wölffer went to London, where she got a job as a designer for Meems Ltd., a jewelry company that sold in chains such as Topshop. Two years later, Ms. Wölffer returned to Manhattan and was working as a trending director for Jones Group, a casual wear and accessories company, when her father died in a holiday swimming accident in Brazil.
At first, I had no interest in a career in wine. “I didn’t want to live my father’s dream,” he said. “I wanted to live mine.”
Eventually, however, the family legacy turned out to be too strong. In 2013, she and Marc Wölffer took over Wölffer Estate. They had an important asset: Roman Roth, Wölffer’s German-born winemaker, who had been there from the beginning, and had earned more than 90 Wine Spectator scores for his high-end chardonnays and merlots.
But they faced major obstacles. To begin with, Marc Wölffer was 16 years older, and had grown up in Europe, so the stepbrothers barely knew each other. Mrs. Wölffer knew little about wine. In addition, his father had treated the winery as a hobby, without worrying that it had been operating in black for years. Mrs. Wölffer and her brother, however, were approaching this as a career. They needed to make a profit.
A Rosé Hotbed Miles from Manhattan
From the beginning, Christian Wölffer and Mr. Roth pledged to make rosés, believing the East End terroir was perfect for producing an “elegant, fun and versatile rosé that would be perfect for cocktails in the East,” Mr. Roth said. Roth.
They both tried to produce a crunchy, dry rosé like the ones they knew from their travels in the Provence region of southern France, where rosé is an intrinsic part of St. Mary’s lifestyle. Tropez: a wine of thirst (“wine to quench thirst”) to drink in the afternoon, or as a festive aperitif with a Nice salad or a salty bouillabaisse.
In the United States, however, many wine enthusiasts had associated rosé wine with Portuguese fruity and mass market offerings, such as Matthew and Lancers, which rose in the days of the bells, or the “white zins” of the 1960s. 1980 yuppie.
This began to change in the mid-2000s, when the most discerning consumers began to discover the driest, crispest rosés in Provence, with Château d’Esclans ’best-selling Whispering Angel at the helm. The era of the so-called millennial champagne was born.
The Wölffers saw the opportunity to highlight the Hamptons, a minor player in the Long Island wine region, compared to the North Fork, as rosy fire. This meant highlighting the wines, framing the rosé as essentially a glass of liquid sun.
With Mrs. Wölffer as brand director, Wölffer launched a pink cider, a festive alternative to the hard seltzer for summer people in the East End. In 2013, Wölffer followed with “Summer in a Bottle,” with her design and name made for Instagram that distilled the ethos of rosé into four words.
The concept took off, but success brought new competition. In 2018, Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi launched their own French rosé called Hampton Water.
So far, however, Wölffer’s momentum has not slowed down much. Its eight rosés now account for 70 percent of its revenue, the company said.
“Seventy thousand boxes is just an extraordinary amount of wine for a small estate,” said Kristen Bieler, senior editor of Wine Spectator, which oversees rosé market coverage. He credited Wölffer as “an early pioneer, committed to producing dry rosé in the mid-1990s, long before it became fashionable.”
“Their rosés,” he added, “have become summer staples, synonymous with the Hamptons’ luxury lifestyle for wine drinkers far beyond the borders of these elite villages. “.