“Tastemaker” is a term typically used to describe a person — either a sommelier or writer in the wine world — who decides what is good, cool or otherwise interesting. With our new #NYTastemaker profiles, I’ve decided to usurp the term to mean someone who actually makes the wines, ciders, spirits, etc. that we love. A “tastemaker” should make something, after all.
It’s not just that his wines almost always hit my palate right — though they do. The first time I tasted one of his wines, I noticed the label listed the alcohol-by-volume as 12.9% at a time when most everyone was just labeling everything 12.5%. Since then, I’ve spoken with Anthony about myriad topics — both controversial and not. That sort of matter-of-fact transparency is just how he operates — inside the cellar and out. Sure, he prefers a minimalist approach that relies on ambient yeasts and minimal additions, but he’s not above using something to improve a wine if he has to for one reason or another. And he’ll tell you about it and explain why. That’s all too rare in the wine industry. It’s refreshing — much like the acidity he favors in his wines.
Though from New England (yes, he’s a Red Sox and Patriots fan), he’s made wine in some interesting corners of the world — from New Zealand to Italy to his native Massachusets and now Long Island. He’s also a father with two young boys (you’ll find their names on a couple of his wines) who somehow balances everything.
Get to know Anthony — one of New York’s true tastemakers.
Location: Peconic, NY
Current Job: Winemaker, Raphael Vineyards & Owner/Winemaker, Anthony Nappa Wines
Wine of the moment: I have a case of Palmer Vineyards 2015 Albarino that, even though it’s early spring and I really can’t wait to have it with some summer seafood, I keep going back to.
My winemaking style in 1-5 words: Honest, Structured, Pure, Complex, Distinctive
First bottle of wine I remember drinking: Asti Spumante at every holiday meal growing up.
How I got here: I grew up in Massachusetts and love East Coast peeps. After researching I found that Long Island is the most interesting place to make wine on the East Coast.
My winemaking style — in more words: The unique character of this place is what dictates my wine style and makes it so unique. Our wines have naturally balanced chemistry allowing me to make wines without needing any additives or adulteration — from the time that we pick our fruit to bottle. With moderate alcohol, I am able to wild ferment all of our wines. And with modern techniques, I am able to produce clean wines without filtration or fining. I prefer wines that are structured and full bodied with a full middle and a long finish. We have plenty of fruit and acid in our wines here on Long Island but what makes my wines unique is they are tannin driven, often times with little or no oak. I use different fermentation techniques for all of our different wine styles to accentuate each variety but the common thread is a focus on structure and balance.
Mentors: For winemaking, I learned a lot from Anna Chiara Mustilli at Azienda Agricola Mustilli, Bill Russell at Westport Rivers Winery, and Eric Fry at Lenz Winery.
Music playing in the cellar right now: In the cellar we rotate between Spanish music and 80s rock — and sometimes more heavy metal when we are bottling.
Favorite thing about the Long Island wine industry: Working in a small region is fun and intimate. It’s great to have a close-knit community.
Least favorite thing about the Long Island wine industry: Always being the underdog as a small blossoming region. Oh and hurricanes.
One surprising thing that I’m really good at: Ultimate Frisbee.
What I drink: Coffee, rum, Bushmills Black Bush and water (not always in that order). For wine, at my house,we are on a Champagne kick — Krug when we are celebrating, Taittinger on other days. And, as always, I am a Barolo addict.
My “Desert Island Meal” — wine included: Hopefully Sarah is there or I will starve…