For Claudia Purita, “One Woman” isn’t just a catchy name for her vineyard. It’s her way of life.
“I’m in the field pruning and leaf-pulling, tying, whatever needs to be done,” Claudia said. Aside from the help she gets from her daughter Gabriella Purita, who manages the business end, and one field hand, Claudia handles everything from planting to bottling on her own. “I know every single vine by heart,” she said.
Claudia has been working this way since she planted the first of her 35,000 vines in 2004, and she hasn’t slowed yet. “I start at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning, and I work continuously, until I cannot see in the vineyard, and then I go and work in the cellar.”
“She does not stop,” Gabriella said. “We had a huge snowstorm, and she had pneumonia and was is in a snowsuit outside working the vineyard the whole day.”
Claudia moved to the U.S. from Filadelfia, Italy, in 1990. “I didn’t want to leave Italy,” she said, “but when you fall in love, you just follow your heart.” After working in the restaurant industry with her husband, Frank, for several years, she decided to get back to her roots, literally. The Puritas bought their 28-acre potato farm in Southold and Claudia began growing grapes. “We fell in love with this piece of land, because it reminded me of home,” she said.
Having grown up on a farm, Claudia learned about farming and making wine from her father. “We used to grow everything, and everything that came to our dinner table was produced by us—from bread to wine,” she said. “I remember working the vineyard and seeing how my dad used to do it, but it wasn’t commercial scale like I’m doing here. But as big as it is, it’s not too big, because I’m doing everything myself.”
Unfortunately, growing grapes on Long Island is a bit different than in Italy, and Claudia lost her first crop to disease. “It was my first few years and I was growing the same way that we grew on my dad’s farm,” she said, “but I wasn’t aware of what was involved with the humidity we have over here.” Not one to quit, Claudia made the necessary adjustments and released her first successful vintage in 2007, but the weather wasn’t finished with her just yet.
“Dealing with Mother Nature is not always an easy task,” Claudia said. A hailstorm destroyed a second crop in 2009, and then she lost another two-thirds of a crop in 2011 from Hurricane Irene. “We’re dealing with Mother Nature, so there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “We can do whatever we can to prepare and prevent, but storms like Sandy or Irene—we cannot stop them.”
Despite the challenges, Claudia has managed to grow One Woman Vineyard into a successful, award-winning winery, and she’s done so in a sustainable fashion. “I don’t use herbicide in my vineyard, and I try to be as sustainable as nature will allow me to be,” she said. “I try to protect the land and the water to help us live a better life.”
“We use more organic practices,” Gabriella said. “We try not to use any super harsh chemicals and all of our vines are tended to by hand.”
Gabriella takes care of the business end of things, and she’s just as dedicated as her mother. “It’s beyond obsession,” she said. “I handle, quite literally, every aspect after the wine is bottled.” In addition to running the tasting room, she also manages sales and marketing, events and the vineyard’s website. “With her story, it’s hard not to want to help her.”
Gabriella is still in school for business, but learned how to manage things at a young age. “My parents were always in the restaurant industry,” she said. “So, I’ve been very lucky to observe all of the ins and outs.”
While Claudia and Gabriella manage different aspects of the business, they share the same dedication, modesty, and passion for their work. “I think the spotlight should be on the wine,” Claudia said. “My reward is when I see people really enjoy a glass of my wine. I see that smile, and I want some more.”
For more information about One Woman Wines & Vineyards at 5195 Old North Road in Southold, call
631-765-1200, or visit www.onewomanwines.com.