(This story appeared originally in the 5/20 issue of the Long Island Press)

R_rothRoman Roth, general manager and winemaker at Wolffer Estate Vineyards
in Sagaponack, started his winemaking career at an age when most of us
are focused on getting our drivers licenses and, if we’re lucky, our
first cars. But, it was a natural thing for the German native.

was 16," he says. "My father was a cooper and a winemaker before
starting a wine and beer merchant business. As a result, both of my
parents were wine lovers and collectors. Wine always played a special
part in any occasion. I was intrigued by the winemaking process and all
the different [wine] regions in the world. The creative aspect and the
opportunity to travel ultimately made me stay in the business."

travel he has. After his initial three-year apprenticeship at the
Kaiserstuhl Wine Cooperative in Oberrotweil, Roth left Germany for the
U.S. in the summer of 1986. He worked briefly at Saintsbury Estate, a
respected winery in Carneros, Calif. known for its Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay, before heading "down under" to work at an Australian winery
you’ve probably heard of—Rosemount Estate.

After learning from
and being influenced by Philip Shaw at Rosemount and Bob Cartwright of
Leeuwin Estate (also in Australia), he returned to Germany to become
one of the winemakers at Winzerkeller Wiesloch in Baden while pursuing
his Master Winemaker and Cellar Master degree from the College of
Oenology and Viticulture in Weinsberg. In 1992, his degree earned, it
was time for Roth to head back to the U.S. Entrepreneur Christian
Wolffer, looking to start his own winery on LI’s East End, approached
Roth and offered him the opportunity of a lifetime.

"He told
me, ‘You can buy whatever you need and do whatever you want. Just make
sure you make the best wine possible,’" Roth remembers.

asked what has kept him here, Roth answers, "The great challenge is to
create something from scratch. We’ve been able to build a great team, a
great winery and a consistent high quality that is the foundation of
our success."

Roth believes LI is "the best growing region on
the East Coast," and when describing his own winemaking style, he says,
"Grapes and wine need to be treated with respect. One has to be
realistic about what one is trying to achieve. I want to make balanced
wines that can make a statement. Ultimately, I always want to push
quality levels to new heights."

In his time at Wolffer Estate,
Roth has done just that, crafting some of the best wines this side of
California. You can also taste the fruits of Roth’s considerable
talents in the wines of Roanoke Vineyards, Shinn Estate Vineyards and
Vineyard 48 on the North Fork, where he serves as consulting winemaker.

summer, Roth plans to release a 2001 Merlot under his own label, Grapes
of Roth. Since 2001 is widely regarded as one of Long Island’s best
growing years, and given the winemaker, it should be a stellar bottling.