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A Toast to Young Tastemakers

Mon, 09/12/2022 - 14:55
Meadowlark North Fork, a new year-round winery from Macari Vineyards, has event spaces, pollinator gardens, and a laid-back atmosphere in which to sample limited-production wines.
Judy D'Mello

The subject of this story was supposed to be Gabriella Macari, the third-generation vintner of Macari Vineyards in Mattituck, who is at the helm of Meadowlark North Fork, the family's newly launched "destination vineyard" down the road in Cutchoque.     

Alas, Ms. Macari, 35, was stuck "putting out a fire" in the fields and couldn't be there. It wasn't a literal fire, thankfully, but this being grape harvesting season it could be any one of a number of figurative fires -- laborer issues, making a final decision on whether the sauvignon blanc grapes were at peak readiness, maybe a sudden flood. Or, perhaps some protective netting around vines came loose, attracting a massive flock of grape-eating starlings that can destroy up to an acre an hour, said Alexandra Macari, Gabriella's mother and the managing director of the winery, who offered herself as interviewee last week. 

Meadowlark, the Macari offshoot winery, is apparently the brainchild of mother and daughter, who decided during the pandemic that the younger Ms. Macari, the general manager of the flagship vineyard, should use her own vision and wine expertise to create a new type of experience. (For the record, the younger Ms. Macari is a certified sommelier who completed her level-four diploma in wine and spirits -- a prestigious recognition from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.) 

The Meadowlark complex opened in July, offering a sprawling lawn with vineyard views, 20 acres of a pollinator garden, and two wine and food options: the Perch, an airy event space with vaulted ceilings, a butler's kitchen, a massive brick hearth, and glass doors that open to a patio and the lawn, making it a perfect setting for a wedding or other catered gatherings, and the Wine Bar, a smaller, cozier tasting room with a pretty copper-topped bar at which one can sit and sip Macari's small-batch wines ("new tastes" as the website calls them), available exclusively at Meadowlark. 

Seated in the patio outside the Wine Bar that's nestled in the midst of a gorgeous, butterfly-filled, pollinator garden, John Maroney, a consultant to the Macari family on art direction and advertising vision, explained the passing of the Macari baton.

"This is really about a new generation of winemaker. I've been working with the family since 1997, since Gabriella was 12," he said. "Now, Gabriella is at the helm but we still have the senior pedigree of her parents, Joe and Alex, who are in on every email, tasting idea, concept. To that, Gabriella is bringing some of her vision. . . . they are all just so dynamic, they inspire you to take the leap, and then they actually back you up on it, which is kind of amazing."

Clearly, wine is not simply about drinking. It's also about creating experiences and memories. People anchor themselves to places and fall in love with their wines, which is why tasting rooms are de rigueur at wineries around the world and why much thought has gone into the creation of Meadowlark. The younger Ms. Macari's "limited wines and innovative winemaking techniques" can be sampled here by the glass in a Meadowlark tasting flight: a 2020 chardonnay, a 2021 sauvignon blanc that has gone through extended maceration, a dry and delicate 2021 rose; a 2020 carbonic pinot noir, and a 2020 limited production malbec. All can be paired with an excellent selection of cheese and charcuterie.

The wine industry on Long Island -- in all of New York State, in fact -- has long suffered from a "New World" image problem. A few decades ago, land here was cheap, considered suitable only for potato farming. Around 1973 the first vineyard on the North Fork opened and over the next 20 years, the area attracted an influx of investors, grape growers, and winemakers from across the globe. Slowly, over time, globalism and more eclectic tastes have blurred the distinctions between Old and New World wines, with both sets of grape growers embracing more traditional, sustainable methods of farming and fermentation. Today things are rather different, at least seemingly so, with the rapid growth of fruit-forward New World wines that many find to be more approachable on the palate.

The Macari family was part of the original wave of North Fork winemakers, recognizing the potential of the area's cool, maritime climate, similar to that of Bordeaux, France, which allowed them to grow Old World vinifera grape varieties, such as cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, with impressive results.

But it was Joseph Macari Jr. (Gabriella's father and Alexandra's husband) who took an emphatic lean toward organics and sustainability after studying with the late Alan York from California and Alvaro Espinoza from Chile, renowned visionaries in biodynamic viticulture. Mr. Macari developed a complex composting program, that exists today thanks to their herd of long horn cattle and a field devoted just to compost, all of which help contribute to the final product. 

But what is the family goal for Meadowlark, their neighboring destination winery?

"To become a great extension of this," said Ms. Macari, as she stood at the edge of her 160 acres of farmland, the sparkling Long Island Sound bluff in front of her and the neat rows of vines behind. "We used to do a lot of events here and we would have to shut down the facility at say, 3 or 4 o'clock. So, I had this revelation: We can't do this anymore."

Whether you visit Meadowlark to sample a glass of the younger Ms. Macari's excellent, slightly effervescent pinot noir or to attend a fun wedding on the lawn, you can expect a warm, laid-back welcome, the friendly, easygoing vibe born of a close, familiar community. It's all quite contagious.

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