In 1977, Peter & Patricia Lenz, having closed their well-known restaurant, A Moveable Feast, were in search of a new adventure. Inspired by the efforts and successes of their friends, Alex & Louisa Hargrave, they purchased a property on the North Fork and planted gewürztraminer, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and a small amount of pinot noir. The old barn, originally part of the Krupski farm, was converted into a tasting room and The Lenz Winery was formally established in 1978.
Peter & Patricia Lenz chose not to produce wine from their vineyard until 1983. Instead, they followed the French and German tradition of cutting off the fruit just as it was forming in order to ensure the development of a deeper root structure. Patricia Lenz explained, “The patience it took to wait years to taste the fruits of our labors was not easy, but wait we did. And it was worth it.”
The Lenzes immersed themselves in the developing wine region, working with the Hargraves to establish the Long Island Wine Council. “They held the standard of both quality and innovation high.”
In 1988, the Lenzes passed the reins to Peter & Deborah Carroll who already had a successful vineyard in nearby Cutchogue. The Carrolls initially leased The Lenz Winery, purchasing it outright in 1994.
(Louisa Hargrave, 2013).
Peter & Deborah were, and are, as committed to quality as the Lenzes. In pursuit of that objective, they selected Eric Fry as winemaker and Sam McCullough as vineyard manager. These two additions have solidified The Lenz Winery’s reputation not merely as one of the original North Fork wineries, but one that has consistently, over almost 4 decades, produced rich, complex, food-friendly wines that only get better with age.
Producing quality wines on the North Fork, however, is at times easier than getting the wine establishment to recognize your efforts. So, in 1996, The Lenz Winery made the bold move to hold their first of many blind tastings. They pulled together an impressive panel of master sommeliers, masters of wine, wine writers and wine educators and had them taste and compare Lenz wines with the best from internationally renowned French producers, like Pétrus. The panel was told what each flight contained and were then asked to rate and distinguish the wines.
The tasters enjoyed the challenge, knowing that there were such distinguished French wines involved, and certain that they would be able to tell them apart from the Lenz wines. In general, however, when the wines were revealed, we (and they!) discovered that it is not at all easy to make the distinction.
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