From Grape to Glass: An Education at Sannino Vineyard

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Anthony Sannino, winemaker and owner of Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard in Peconic, gives aspiring viticulturists from left, Debbie Cardile from Westhampton Beach, Kelly Mertz, Susan Hillyer both from South Setauket, Joanne Coughlan from Rye, Patty Merola from Albany, Billy Climaco and Katelyn Rauh both from Port Washington, a behind the scenes of winemaking on a Vine to Wine tour. Photo by Randee Daddonad

Education is an integral part of the Anthony Sannino’s mission as a winemaker, in addition to producing craft vintages using sustainable practices at his namesake vineyard and winery. Located in Peconic, Sannino Vineyard offers a number of educational experiences for their guests, including the comprehensive Vine to Wine tours taking place this month. Exploring everything from the terroirs of prominent wine regions to the vineyard’s own viticulture practices, Sannino aims to offer an in-depth understanding of the journey from grape to glass.

Focusing on the three main components of wine production, Sannino begins his tour in the vineyard discussing Long Island grape growing, microclimates in prominent wine regions, and the varietals that best represent the local region. He explains how each of these functions result in the end product in your glass.

“(Guests) will understand how these specific varieties will be the best expression as wine in their glass and our region as a whole,” Sannino says, adding that following the viticulture portion of the tour he will then discuss the functions of winemaking. “We end with a complete understanding of how and why some wines are barrel aged, and the importance of understanding the difference between those that are and those that are not barrel aged.”

Recently, Sannino began exploring the use of large format barrels for the aging of different red grape varietals, something that northern Italian wine regions have been doing for decades. This resonates with Sannino particularly, as both of his parents are native born Italians. The small island of Ischia, located northwest of the bay of Naples, is where Sannino’s mother’s family is from, and where had has his first glimpse into the culture of wine during one of his earlier visits there. It was the summer of 1981, while the island was covered in hectares of grapes, when Sannino shadowed his great uncle from the vineyard to the same cellar his grandfather used to produce wine. The experience sparked an interest that Sannino, along with his wife, Lisa, later turned into a passionate business.

There are some similarities between the Italian and Long Island wine regions as well. “On a scientific level, there are tremendous similarities in the winemaking process with respect of both regions,” Sannino explains, sharing

that he has always felt a strong desire to incorporate Italian-inspired winemaking influences while also creating his own. “On a technical level, there are also many similarities with regard to the use of traditional and modern winemaking methods and equipment. The artistic aspect of winemaking leaves an enormous door open for the winemaker to explore. This is where we can incorporate methods, equipment and science in an infinite number of combinations to influence our respective style and/or wine signature.”

Sannino Vineyard is a member of Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides education and certification for Long Island vineyards, using international sustainable practices. Through environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic viability, Sannino adheres to these best practices in creating his signature vintages.

Having conducted the Vine to Wine tours for more than five years now, Sannino says it is the number one rated tour on TripAdvisor, and has also placed in the top five best winery tours in the nation by USA Readers’ Choice Awards. “I believe I was able to achieve this status for my tour based on my thorough, approachable and usually funny way of educating my visitors,” he says. “I think my guests are most surprised to learn how complex, how many variables there are and how connected to agriculture wine really is.”

The Vine to Wine tours are an hour long, and include a wine tasting and cheese plate. The cost is $50 per person, plus tax and gratuity. The next tour is this Saturday at 12 p.m. For more information, sanninovineyard.com

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