My Hamptons: Roman Roth of Wölffer Estate Vineyard

Roman Smiling in the Vines
Photo: Courtesy Roman Roth

You could say that wine runs in Roman Roth’s veins instead of blood. Winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, Roman was born into the world of wine. He grew up in Rottweil, a Free Imperial City in southwest Germany, “at the edge of the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps,” he says. His father, Remigius Roth, was a winemaker, distiller and wine merchant; his mother Rosa can be seen on his Grapes of Roth bottles. Roth left home at the age of 16 to work as an apprentice in the vineyards of Oberrotweil, Germany. Roth’s career then bounced between California, Australia and back to Germany, before he got a call from Christian Wölffer, who had just purchased a 174-acre potato farm in Sagaponack. Then called Sagpond, the estate was primarily for riding horses until Roman came on board. Roman now lives in East Hampton, summering in Sag Harbor, with his wife and daughter.

BTH: How did Christian Wölffer lure you to the Hamptons?

RR: Christian Wölffer, the founder of Wölffer Estate, was looking for a winemaker in 1992 to plan the vines on his land. Fate had it that we met. He told me that he wanted to make the best wine possible and was willing to spare no expense. He also told me that the Hamptons are half an hour from Manhattan! Both sounded very attractive to me.

BTH: What is the greatest part about your job? If you could snap your fingers and instantly have another career, what would be your dream job?

RR: I have a dream job! I love that I can be very creative and that I can produce something that can be enjoyed and treasured by people. I love the seasonality of being a winemaker…there is never a dull moment. But if I could snap my fingers, I’d be a stained-glass maker!

BTH: What is your favorite wine that you produce?

RR: They are all my children–some are just smarter than the others! But if I had to pick, I would say our Grandioso Rosé, the Perle Chardonnay, the Grapes of Roth Merlot and the Christian Cuvée.

At Wölffer, we have great soil, the Bridgehampton loam, on top of sand. This soil has a great pH to grow grapes and also has good water-holding capacity, while providing good drainage. And being just a couple of miles from the Atlantic moderates the temperature, giving elegance and balance to the wine.

BTH: What is your favorite wine produced by other people?

RR: I love Krug Champagne, and one day in the far future I want to die in Piemonte drinking Barolo.

BTH: What is something most people don’t know about wine?

RR: That our elegant Wölffer white wines with a lower alcohol level can age very well.

BTH: What is your favorite restaurant in the Hamptons?

RR: We are very blessed with a whole array of great restaurants out east, so I love to mix it up.

Of course, my favorite restaurant is one that supports and features the Wölffer wines as well as other Long Island wines.

This is the key to building a great wine region. And I truly love Wölffer Kitchen Sag Harbor and Amagansett!

BTH: Which is your favorite season in the Hamptons?

RR: I love them all: spring with the fresh air and wonderful flowers and smells; summer with the heat and the hustle and bustle of parties. Fall means all my energy is focused on making the new vintage, and winter brings the peace, the snow, the holidays.

BTH: Describe your perfect day on the East End.

RR: Wake up on a sunny day and go jump in the pool. Then breakfast in our beautiful garden in the wonderful company of my daughter, Indira, and my wife, Dushy. Then I’d go for a quick bike ride to run some errands in Sag Harbor, go to the farmers market. Maybe I’d practice some golf for an hour at Poxabogue. Have sandwiches on the beach, go for a swim in the ocean. Followed by a nap! In the evening, I’d go to a dinner party at a friend’s house.

BTH: Speaking of which, if you could have anyone at your Hamptons dinner party–dead or alive–who would you invite?

RR: My parents, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Benjamin Franklin and the Obamas.