Russell Hearn, who has been the head winemaker at Lieb Cellars for more than 30 years, is now the owner of 54 acres of sustainable vineyards and its winemaking facility in Cutchogue on the North Fork.
Hearn has partnered with his wife, Susan Hearn, the founder of Suhru Wines, his eldest daughter Shelby Hearn Ulrich, the general manager of Suhru Wines, his son-in-law Brad Ulrich, Suhru Wines’ assistant winemaker, and new business partners John and Renée Fondacaro in the unification of Lieb Cellars and Suhru Wines.
Hearn and his business partners have purchased the Lieb brand, including the property and tasting room, for $4.5 million, according to Hearn Ulrich.
The winery’s sale was handled on both sides by Sheri Winter Parker at Corcoran.
Lieb Cellars was founded in 1992 with a 14-acre Pinot Blanc vineyard, and one year later Hearn joined the company, which released the first wine under the Lieb label.
“I first met Mark and Kathy Lieb three decades ago. They were passionate about wine and looking to showcase the best Long Island had to offer, which continues to be the goal of Lieb Cellars to this day,” Hearn said in a statement released this week. “Lieb focuses on Pinot Blanc, Sparkling Cuvees and a selection of strong red varietals, all wines I have been proud to make for the Lieb brand for the past 30 years and I look forward to continuing to make for many years to come.”
Hearn is considered one of Long Island’s pioneer wine veterans. An Australian native, Hearn started his career in West Australia, before heading to New Zealand, France and regions across the United States. He has brought his innovative winemaking style to Pellegrini Vineyards from 1990 to 2012 and Lieb Cellars from 1993 to the present. He also worked with T’Jara Vineyards from 2002 to 2018, and Bridge Lane, which was introduced as the second label for Lieb Cellars, and Suhru Wines from 2004 and 2008, respectively, to the present.
An active member of the Long Island Wine Region, Mark Lieb and Hearn founded Premium Wine Group, a custom crush facility in 2000, bringing the first winery of its kind to the East Coast and resulting in an explosion of new wine brands and tasting rooms opening across the region,” the statement explained.
Mark Lieb sold Lieb Cellars and Premium Wine Group to a group of private investors.
The business partners’ goal is to continue to grow both Suhru and Lieb Cellars, “accentuating the best of both brands while introducing a few new ideas,” the statement continued.
“Partnership to me is always stimulating,” Hearn said. “It brings differing views to the table to hopefully drive the best direction forward. This unification of Suhru and Lieb is a blending of two family-owned brands as well as the blending of two families, the Fondacaros and our own. The future is clearly defined. Our ultimate goal is to lean on our varied skill sets and experience, both from within and outside the wine industry, to make both Suhru and Lieb better and better for our current and future guests.”
The Lieb Cellars Tasting Room at 13050 Oregon Road will continue to feature a selection of Lieb Cellars and Bridge Lane wines through the end of the year and then Suhru Wines will be introduced in 2024.
Hearn will continue as the winemaker for Bridge Lane Wine and CEO of Premium Wine Group.