Romance is visiting a local winery!
In the hamlet of Peconic, just off of Route 25, rests a picturesque Italian villa whose stucco walls and tiled roof look as though they’d be more at home in the Roman countryside than on the North Fork. Welcome to Raphael.
I’ve always been intrigued by Raphael winery and vineyard, as it stands out when compared to the typical barn-style tasting rooms that are more common on the North Fork. I decided to stop in for a taste recently, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the classic Italian theme is more than just a facade—it’s found throughout Raphael, right down to the wine.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked through the grand, wooden double-doors, is that Raphael has one of the largest tasting rooms that I’ve seen on the North Fork, and it’s quite beautiful. Every detail is designed to resemble an Italian monastery, and the theme is carried throughout the building, from the tasting room and banquet hall to the barrel-lined wine cellar where they hold dinners and library tastings for their Reserve Club members.
The massive tasting room and banquet hall are available to rent for parties and weddings, and Raphael is booked nearly every Friday and Saturday during peak wedding season. Each Sunday, however, the winery is open to the public and offers tastings and live music. Raphael will be participating in Winterfest Jazz on the Vine, as well, and will have events each weekend in February and March.
In addition to my tasting, I was also fortunate enough to take a tour of the facility, where I learned a great deal about the winery’s history and production. Raphael was both founded and built by John Petrocelli, owner of Petrocelli Construction in Huntington, in 1996. He named the winery after his father, Raphael, as an homage to his Italian heritage. The vineyard is sustainably farmed, and they are one of the few wineries in the United States that picks and sorts all of their grapes by hand. Putting that much time and effort into their production has yielded spectacular, and flavorful, results.
When Raphael officially opened in 2001, they began exclusively as a merlot-winery. But over the last couple of years, they have started to branch out, and now offer a wider variety of wines. Their tasting list offers a selection of 12 wines, which range in age from 2005 to 2011, and includes a delicious, golden dessert white, the 2008 Late Harvest Semillon, which I like to call “alcoholic-honey.”
In 2010, they introduced their First Label Chardonnay, which is their only oak-aged white, followed by their Sauvignon Blanc in 2011, which is cool-fermented in stainless steel. Raphael’s foray into whites has been a tasty success, but they have stayed true to their reds and offer a wider selection of these, including a 100% merlot Port.
Having mastered the more “traditional” styles, Raphael has created two wines, the White La Tavola and Rose of Merlot, using some different production methods. The White La Tavola is a white that is made from the clear juices of red grapes in a white wine style. The result is a sweet but drinkable blush with notes of strawberry and raspberry. Similarly, the Rose of Merlot is a 100% merlot, rather than the red and white blend of a typical rose. Also processed like a white, this wine is aged in stainless steel and bold red grape flavor with the body of a white wine.
At the tasting room, Raphael’s wines range in price from $7 to $15 per glass and $18 to $49 per bottle, and can also be purchased online or in some local stores. For more information about Raphael, or to schedule a tour, call 631-765-1100 ext. 105, or visit raphaelwine.com.