Wine Press: Profile on McCall Vineyard

11/28/2011 10:07 AM |

CAROLYN IANNONE | Russ McCall at the Cutchogue vineyard that shares his name.

Just a swirl of McCall’s 2007 pinot noir hitting your nose is proof Russ McCall has more of one special thing than the rest of us: patience.

Mr. McCall planted the first vines on his Cutchogue farm more than 14 years ago. But it was only in 2007 that he labeled his first bottle of wine with the McCall brand.

Since then, it seems you can’t read a Long Island wine article without seeing the McCall name in it. Pinot Noir? From Long Island? And it’s good? Must be talking about McCall.

After years of running a wholesale business of fine imported wine in Atlanta, Ga., Mr. McCall eventually found himself back at his old summer stomping grounds on the North Fork, where his grandfather strolled in on horse and buggy in 1902.

CAROLYN IANNONE PHOTO | McCall Vineyard is known for its Pinot Noir, which some say is the best on the North Fork.

Partnering with the Peconic Land Trust, Mr. McCall rescued a combined 200 acres of land for his vineyard from plans of aggressive development. This land included Down’s Woods, the site of Fort Corchaug and the farm next to the vineyard, which is currently home to Mr. McCall’s organic, grass fed cattle.

Eventually, expert viticulturist Steve Mudd planted the vineyard in 1997 with clones of Pinot Noir and Merlot that were meticulously researched. Mr. McCall had successfully sold his fruit to fellow North Fork winemakers until he was ready to officially put his name on a bottle.

Then he waited … and waited.

“When you spend time with your neighbors, you learn and you get more out of it,” Mr. McCall said.

His patience paid off. With the help of the late Ben Sisson as vineyard manager and the combined work of winemaker Gilles Martin from Premium Wine Group and Bob Cabral from Millbrook, the 2007 vintage was born.

The Winery has received praise from the New York Times, Martha Stewart’s Blog, Food & Wine Magazine, GQ, and countless local publications. Their wine has appeared on wine lists at eateries like Gramercy Tavern and the North Fork Table and Inn.

“We don’t advertise,” Mr. McCall said. “You have to be authentic. You need the restaurants to say, ‘Hey, you want to try something really good?’”

McCall Vineyards is tucked away in a modest potato barn turned tasting room, down a dirt driveway, among land that was saved from heavy development.

The site of McCall Vineyards could have been something very different. Instead it’s home to perhaps the finest Pinot Noir on the East End.