Comtesse Thérèse has been producing wine commercially for thirteen vintages (2001 – 2013). Starting in 2001, fruit was procured from other North Fork of Long Island vineyards. From 2005 onward, grapes have been supplied by the estate vineyard in Aquebogue. Total annual case production started in 2001 with 550 cases, growing to approximately 1000 cases annually. Theresa Dilworth, home wine and beermaker and self-taught in commercial winemaking, is Head Winemaker.
The Consultant Winemaker is Patrick Clementz, since September 2011. Working at Premium Wine Group since early 2010, he spent the preceding six years as Assistant Winemaker at Wolffer Estate Vineyards in Sagaponack, working with Roman Roth. A native of Germany, Patrick is from the Alsace region, where some of Theresa’s ancestors are from.
Before that, Patrick worked as an assistant winemaker at WG Auggen in Auggen, Germany. He has a Master’s degree in Winemaking from Lehr und Versuchsanstalt, Weinberg, Germany. His family owns vineyards in Oberrotweil, Germany, where he has been involved since childhood in the growing and upkeep of grapevines as well as the picking and selling of grapes to local wineries.
PREMIUM WINE GROUP
Starting in 2005, Comtesse Thérèse began making small quantities of hand-crafted wine at the estate vineyard in Aquebogue, New York. However, the majority of the winemaking is done at Premium Wine Group (PWG), the custom production facility in Mattituck, Long Island. Similar to the Napa Valley Wine Co. in California, PWG makes no wine of its own, but provides state-of-the-art facilities, equipment, and personnel for the making of fine wines by its clients. Founded in 2000, it is the only such facility on the east coast of the US. PWG clients supply the grapes, yeasts, barrels, bottles, labels, and explicit winemaking instructions to PWG, which provides the labor, equipment and space.
Russell Hearn is the Director of PWG, which has seven full-time employees and 110 wine tanks. PWG processes over 1,000 tons of fruit into 60,000 cases annually, for about 15 vineyards on Long Island, upstate New York and New England. See their website at www.premiumwinegroup.com
As a general rule, the red wines undergo primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Indigenous, natural “wild” yeasts naturally occurring on the grape skins are used for primary fermentation. Cool temperatures are used for red wine fermentation. Malolactic or secondary fermentation is also allowed to take place spontaneously, using the malolactic bacteria naturally present in the wine. The malolactic fermentation takes place in the steel tanks, and then the wines are moved to barrels for aging for six to 18 months. The red wine is not fined or filtered.
The chardonnay is 100% barrel-fermented in Russian oak barrels using wild yeasts, and may undergo partial malolactic fermentation, depending on the vintage. The rosé and the blanc de noir, made by the process of saignée, or bleeding off the clear juice from red grapes, are steel-fermented.
The type of barrels (oak species, forests, toasting levels, cooperage houses), length of barrel aging, frequency of racking, and other aging techniques vary according to variety and vintage. Comtesse Thérèse is one of the few wineries in the U.S. to use Hungarian oak and Russian oak barrels, in addition to French oak and American oak, and is the first on the East Coast of the U.S. to use Canadian oak barrels.