Talking Long Island Wine and Dan’s Harvest East End with Roanoke Vineyards’ Richard Pisacano

“I love that the wineries have preserved some of the oldest and most respected farms out here,” says Richard Pisacano, owner of Roanoke Vineyards in Riverhead, reflecting upon his favorite aspects of Long Island Wine Country. “Roanoke Vineyards was once Robert Young’s farm and went back multi-generations. Every move I make there is with the utmost respect for all who previously stewarded that land. Another favorite thing I love about Long Island Wine Country are the people who have a growing and profound pride for Long Island wine.”

As Pisacano looks forward to joining more than 35 other Long Island wineries, along with top local chefs and purveyors, at Dan’s Harvest East End—the annual wine-and-food celebration benefiting the Long Island Farm Bureau Promotion & Education Foundation and Peconic Land Trust—he shares some wine-tasting secrets, discusses challenges facing the local industry and raises a toast to Long Island Wine Country.

What will you be pouring at Dan’s Harvest East End, and how did you decide upon it?
We’ll be pouring most of our current portfolio. We are aware of the great energy of Harvest East End and what the guests will mostly be requesting. Our goal is to deliver in a big way! We always bring a few surprises along.

What are some wine-tasting tips you can offer to people coming to your vineyard, and in general?
We urge tasters to focus on their own impression of wine. It’s easy to be influenced by preconceived ideas like packaging, variety, price, fanciful names or the atmosphere. Finding wines that you truly enjoy is personal and requires focus.

What drew you to work in the Long Island Wine industry?
The farming side of the industry. Wine growing is perceived as a most romantic line of work and is probably what draws most people to it. I am the rare wine grower who just loved the idea of farming for a living. The romance came later.

Describe the relationship between LI wine and the agriculture, aquaculture and overall East End culinary culture.
The synergy between those who farm locally and the folks who craft and serve the products is impressive. Some are slower to embrace the relationship, but for those who “get it” there is a camaraderie and mutual respect that is inspiring and important.

What was the moment that made you a true wine lover?
I always loved wine but I was bitten hard by the wine bug on a trip to Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux the moment I tasted a brilliant barrel sample with Roman and Dushy Roth. From then on, I became a believer in a perfect wine.

What is the best thing you’ve ever heard anyone say about your wines?
“I never had one I didn’t love.”

What is the funniest way you’ve heard somebody describe a wine?
“No.2 pencil.” I chewed on plenty of pencils as a kid and they all tasted the same to me. Also, I always chuckle when I hear “cat pee.”

Where do you see Long Island wines in 5 years?
It’s hard to say. Five years in wine years is not a very long time. I hope we see more new vineyards.

What key factors are helping Long Island wines increase in quality and reputation outside the region?
LI wines were always high in quality. There is just more of it now. Those of us who raise the bar in the vineyard and cellar have helped the quality. Those of us who tirelessly introduce LI wines outside the region can be thanked for the growing reputation.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the Long Island wine industry?
Land cost, land cost and land cost. All other challenges are surmountable, but there is nothing I can do about the price of an acre. Roanoke Vineyards motto is “How small can we grow,” but with the price of land, even the slightest expansion would be a huge investment for us.

What do those infamous numerical wine ratings mean to you?
If I get a high score, 92 or over, they mean everything and could change the landscape of the business. If I get a low score, it’s a ridiculous system that doesn’t mean a thing.

What are a few insider tips for touring Long Island Wine Country?
Never taste wine with your ears. Forget what you’ve heard and taste the wines. Every winery has something special.

What are some aspects of your wines that would surprise people discovering them for the first time?
Even though we try not to take ourselves overly serious, the entire portfolio is serious, polished and possesses an obvious finesse. We’re humble people but our wines are stuck up.

If you weren’t making wine, you would be: Not sure. Maybe a figureskater.

Make a toast to Long Island Wine: May you be laid down until you’re ready, age with grace and never reveal who you are on the first sip.

Dan’s Harvest East End is Saturday, August 23, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at McCall Vineyard & Ranch in Cutchogue. For tickets, including Vin-IP entry (starting at 6:30 p.m.), and more info, please visit HarvestEastEnd.com.

Roanoke Vineyards is located at 3543 Sound Avenue, Riverhead. Call 631.727.4161 or visit RoanokeVineyards.net for more information. 

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