How Wölffer Rosé Became a Hamptons Lifestyle


“I hate the word ‘trendy,'” said Joey Wölffer, owner of the Hamptons Wölffer Estate winery, known for its rosé. It’s a startling statement from someone who makes one of the most ubiquitous drinks in the Hamptons and beyond. But Ms. Wölffer has been working on it for a while.

When Wölffer Estate began producing rosé in the early 1990s, many wine snobs in this country still associated the pink variety with sweet, modestly priced offerings like “blush” zinfandel white wines, Ms Wölffer said. , considering them not much more stylish than a cheap wine cooler.

“Nobody was drinking it,” Ms. Wölffer, 40, said on a recent Monday afternoon, enjoying a chicken curry lunch on the terrace of the estate’s tasting room in Sagaponack, NY, gazing at the rows of budding vines that spread generously. towards the horizon. “Young people didn’t drink it. Young people did not drink wine.

They are now. Wölffer Estate has been riding the rosé renaissance of the past 15 years and has also helped drive it forward. In 2014, according to the company, Wölffer sold 1,530 cases of its signature line, “Summer in a Bottle,” a crisp rosé in a clear bottle decorated with a whimsical explosion of wildflowers and butterflies.

Last year, the winery sold 69,000 cases of “Summer in a Bottle”, and this year is on track to sell 73,000 cases, as well as 35,000 cases of a new rosé imported from France, “Summer in a Bottle”. Bottle Côtes de Provence”.

Wölffer’s rosés — the company now has eight varieties — have become a staple at backyard parties and beach picnics, a symbol of languid days on Long Island’s South Fork. For young summer lovers, rosé has become a stylish alternative to beer or seltzer.

The winery has also become a stage for its luxury SUV-owning customers and the many visitors who flock to the beach all summer long. On weekend nights, groups of pared-down couples and incognito celebrities show up in pastel shorts and floral-print sundresses to lounge on the grass behind the Wölffer Wine Stand on the south side of the property. , sipping rosé while their kids frolic to live music. In 2017, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin renewed their wedding vows on the grounds of Wolffer.

“Rosé,” Ms. Wölffer said, “has become a way of life.”

A fashion executive, Ms. Wölffer runs her own fashion label, Joey Wölffer Reworked, with a boutique in Sag Harbor, the town where she lives with her husband, Max Rohn (the managing director of Wölffer), and their two daughters, 6. . and 4. (Ms. Wölffer owns and operates the 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 German-born venture capitalist who made his fortune in real estate. His mother, Naomi Marks Wölffer, is a former jewelry designer for Harry Winston and an heiress to the Marks & Spencer retail fortune.

A competitive rider, Joey keeps three horses – two Dutch Warmbloods and a Selle Français – at a 100-acre equestrian center on Wölffer’s 175-acre lot. She and her family frequently appear in the event pages of Dan’s Papers, the Hamptons’ social bible, for its celebrity-studded fundraising dinners.

Mrs. Wölffer knows her life seems like a Town & Country series coming to life. “There is an element of luck being born in this world, I am fully aware of that,” she said.

That doesn’t mean she’s always comfortable. “I’m a personality that has super high highs and super low lows,” she said. Maximalist and multitasker by nature, she speaks in a torrent of words and finds the idea of ​​relaxing – even on a beach chair, magazine in hand – foreign.

Meditation makes her anxious, she says. She prefers boxing. That day, she had a vision of the patterns of a multicolored blouse of her own design, patched from Indian print fabric and other recycled fabrics. Both wrists were a thicket of bracelets. At nearly six feet tall, with three-inch stacked-heel suede ankle boots, she pushed her waist into WNBA power forward territory.

“I’m at my best,” Ms. Wölffer said, “when I go beyond my limits.”

Part of its drive comes from its father, who had the vision for the winery and conjured it from a soggy potato field, planting its first vines in 1988, after moving the family from the Upper East Side. .

“My dad was a booming presence,” Ms. Wölffer said. “He really commanded a play and had a lot of power over people. But growing up with it as a girl was a challenge. It was very difficult, very hard. I think it goes back to his childhood.

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1938, Christian Wölffer’s bourgeois family lived in poverty during the war. “He always said, ‘You have no idea what it’s like to really wrestle,'” Ms Wölffer recalled. “But I was a very anxious child.”

A life in the family business was the last thing she expected. “I wanted to go as far as possible,” she said.

After earning a degree in human and organizational development from Vanderbilt University in 2004, Ms Wölffer traveled to London, where she landed a job as a designer for Meems Ltd., a jewelry company sold in chains like Topshop. . Two years later, Ms. Wölffer moved back to Manhattan and was working as a fashion director for Jones Group, a casual clothing and accessories company, when her father died in a swimming accident while on vacation in Brazil.

At first, she had no interest in a career in wine. “I didn’t want to live my father’s dream,” she says. “I wanted to live my life.”

In the end, however, the family legacy proved too strong. In 2013, she and Marc Wölffer took over Wölffer Estate. They had a major asset: Roman Roth, Wölffer’s German-born winemaker, who had been there from the start and had earned over 90 Wine Spectator ratings for his premium Chardonnays and Merlots.

But they ran into significant obstacles. For starters, Marc Wölffer was 16 years older and grew up in Europe, so the half-siblings barely knew each other. Mrs. Wölffer knew little about wine. Besides, his father had treated the winery as a hobby, not caring that it had been turning red for years. Mrs. Wölffer and her brother, however, saw it as a career. They needed to make a profit.

From the start, Christian Wölffer and Mr. Roth were committed to making rosé, believing that 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.

Both were looking to produce a dry, crisp rosé like the ones they knew from their travels in Provence, southern France, where rosé is an integral part of the Saint-Tropez lifestyle – a wine of thirst (” wine to quench the thirst”) to drink in the afternoon, or as a festive aperitif with a Niçoise salad or a brackish bouillabaisse.

In the United States, however, many wine lovers had associated rosé wine with fruity, mainstream Portuguese offerings like Mateus and Lancers, which rolled high in the days of the bells, or the “white zins” of the yuppies of the 1960s. 1980.

That started to change in the mid-2000s, when discerning consumers began to experience the drier, crisper rosés from Provence, with Château d’Esclans’ best-selling Whispering Angel leading the way. The era of so-called millennial champagne was born.

The Wölffers saw an opportunity to rebrand the Hamptons — a minor player in Long Island wine country, compared to the North Fork — as a hotbed of rosé. That meant renaming the wines themselves, framing rosé as, essentially, a glass of liquid sunshine.

With Ms. Wölffer as brand manager, Wölffer launched Rosé Cider, a festive alternative to seltzer water for the East End’s summer crowd. In 2013, Wölffer followed with “Summer in a Bottle,” with its made-for-Instagram design and name that distilled the philosophy of rosé into four words.

The concept took off, but the 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, little has slowed Wölffer’s momentum. Its eight rosés now account for 70% of its revenue, the company said.

“Seventy thousand cases is just an extraordinary amount of wine for a small estate,” said Kristen Bieler, managing editor at Wine Spectator, which oversees rosé market coverage. She credited Wölffer as “an early pioneer, engaged in the production of dry rosé in the mid-1990s, long before it was fashionable”.

“Their rosés,” she added, “have become summer staples, synonymous with the luxurious Hamptons lifestyle for wine drinkers far beyond the borders of these elite hamlets.”

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