Anthony Nappa (left), winemaker at Shinn Estate Vineyards, on the 2008 crush pad.

For the first Q&A of 2009, we pose our standard questions to Anthony Nappa, winemaker at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, NY. Anthony is still a relative newcomer to the region and is one of the East Coast's youngest winemakers. 

What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?

Outside of Boone’s Farms when I was young, I didn’t drink much wine except on holidays with the family, mostly Italian wine or homebrew. Asti Spumante at Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving is still a favorite.

What event/bottle/etc made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?

My father grew up on a vineyard outside of Avellino, Italy, so I guess it may be in the blood. I have always had a very acute sense of smell and as a child I would always smell everything, in nature or my food before I ate it. A defining moment may have been when I was eighteen backpacking around the world drinking a lot of wine along the way. I found myself in a winery in Tasmania, Australia. Tasting through some wines with the winemaker, whom challenged me to identify specific aromas, I was able to impress him. He pulled out a bottle of port which he had made an addition to at crushing which nobody could ever identify. It took me a minute but I got it, it was molasses.

Which of your current wines is your favorite and why?

Every wine I have made has special significance to me. They are all my children and unique. This is why wine is so interesting to work with. Every wine is like a fingerprint, an individual solution made up of varying quantities of thousands of organic compounds. If you break it down to its individual components, with this many variables, literally no two wines that have ever been made are exactly the same.

Currently I have been specifically impressed with our Malbec at Shinn. Its concentration and complexity along with varietal character have given me the impression that Malbec can be a great wine for Long Island. Growers have said it is difficult to grow here, and winemakers know it’s hard to make, as it tends to go stinky in ferment, but that is all part of the fun. We will be bottling a varietal Malbec at Shinn starting with the 2007 vintage.

What has surprised you most about being a member of the Long Island wine community?

I am surprised by how quickly our local industry has received incredible respect and international acclaim in a very competitive marketplace. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a break in our glass ceiling, an expansion of our industry and even more justly deserved recognition for the Long Island wines, particularly with the release of the great 2007 vintage.

Other than your own wines, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?

I do drink a lot of beer. Everyone knows it takes a lot of beer to make great wine. For the most part I have given up liquor altogether. I will have the occasional gin and tonic in the summer or a Dark and Stormy when sailing.

Recently, I have been drinking a lot of local wines trying to get a better understanding of the region and terroir. Otherwise I have been on a Viognier and Nebbiolo kick.

Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?

I always enjoy wine for what it is, but the ‘classic’ American grape, zinfandel, I just can’t get my head around.

Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself. Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that would make (or has made) for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.
A bottle of wine is a photograph of a specific time and place, far off, or right in your own back yard. When you open a bottle of wine you travel through history and around the world. With all five senses you can visit a place, Smell its terroir and climate, Taste its moment in time, and Feel its culture, being the style it was made in.

This experience shared with friends or family, at home or abroad, with food or without, is always an ultimate experience.