By Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards is rebranding.
Fans of the vineyard, which opened its doors in 1983, should expect the same approachable feel to both the wines and the atmosphere at Palmer. The vineyard is maintaining many of the features that make it one of the best on Long Island, like being certified sustainable, but some upgrades and new features are on the way and should be completed in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to Director of Operations Ken Cereola.
5120 Sound Ave.,
Open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“People feel really, really welcome when they come here,” Cereola said in an interview on Palmer’s grounds last week, stressing their rebranding plan won’t compromise their comfortable feel. “We’re not standoffish, we’re not too pretentious.”
Palmer’s rebranding efforts include new labels on the bottles, some expanded outdoor seating areas outside of the tasting room, a brick oven on site for fresh made pizzas, a food truck and events geared toward education for inquiring wine minds. Chef Anna Aracri from Oceans 5 Seafood Market and Eatery in Shoreham handles food at the winery.
One such event, called the Plant. Pick. Pour. Wine Series 2016 is a three-part series in an intimate, interactive setting where participants can learn about the entire wine-making process over the course of three landmark dates that a vineyard incurs in a given year.
On June 11 the focus will be on Palmer’s unique grape varietals, why they work so well in Long Island’s climate and what makes its vineyard so versatile. On Sept. 10, it will be time to start preparing for the 2017 vintage’s harvest. Finally, on Dec. 3 guests will have the opportunity to taste the unreleased 2017 wines before they go on sale. All three events will feature wine tasting, food pairing and information from Palmer’s knowledgeable and well-traveled winemaker Miguel Martin.
Tasting room manager Evan Ducz is particularly excited for the series and said the response has been great in anticipation of the first event on June 11. Despite the educational feel, he reiterated Cereola’s assessment that the goal is to be informative without intimidating wine enthusiasts of varying experience.
“From the staff to the management, I think we make people feel really comfortable,” he said. “Comfortable about wine, which can be intimidating at times, and I think we also give off a really relaxed vibe, a very inviting atmosphere.”
Some other events at Palmer include Yoga in the Vines every Sunday, which is followed by brunch featuring breakfast pizza from their brick oven; a yearly kick-off to a fall harvest festival featuring live music, food and of course—wine; extended hours to 9 p.m. on Friday nights to start the weekend; and by-appointment winemaker tours.
Martin will have been at Palmer as its winemaker for a decade in the fall. Martin is from Spain and as Cereola puts it, has made wines all over the world. His diverse and substantial experience and knowledge gives Palmer a unique element not widely found on Long Island. He blends with grapes more commonly associated with other regions and also bottles an Albariño, a dry yet fruity white that usually comes from Spain.
“He’s a hell of a winemaker, but he’s an even better person,” Cereola said of Martin. “He’s a great guy to be around. He definitely doesn’t just make his wine and then go home. He’s a part of every aspect here.”
Ducz echoed Cereola’s comments about Martin. “As far as just being a tasting room manager the thing that I most appreciate about him is that you can go to him with any question,” Ducz said.
For those who can’t make it out to Riverhead to visit Palmer, some of the wines worth trying from a local wine store include its Rosé of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Old Roots Merlot, according to Cereola and Ducz. I also recommend the Chardonnay.
The combination of Palmer’s team, products, atmosphere and events should place the vineyard toward the top of any list of must-visit North Shore destinations for Long Island residents.