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By Juan Micieli-Martinez
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  • Cornell AgriTech
  • Cornell Craft Beverage Institute
  • Food Science
Juan Micieli-Martinez is a winemaker on Long Island who has worked with the Cornell Craft Beverage Institute (CCBI) for nearly two decades. Given his broad range of Long Island winemaking experience, we asked him about CCBI’s impact on New York state’s wine industry.

What is your role in the wine industry?

A lot of people know me as the former winemaker for Martha Clara Vineyards, which sold in 2018, but I’ve been keeping really busy ever since.

My most exciting role right now is as a winemaker and co-owner of a new wine brand on Long Island called Montauk Daisy, which I launched with my wife. We’ll be working with grapes from Comtesse Therese Vineyard on Long Island, owned and operated by Theresa Dilworth and Mineo Shimura.

I am also currently a winemaker and special project manager for Premium Wine Group (PWG), a contract winemaking facility that helps wineries across New York state produce wines without the huge investment in facilities and equipment. The role gives me the opportunity to help wineries make unique wine styles to fit their markets.

And my to-do list doesn’t stop there. I own a craft beverage consulting business, pHermentations LLC, and I also consult for Glendale Ridge Vineyard in western Massachusetts.

How has CCBI helped meet the needs of the wine industry statewide?

Anna Katharine Mansfield and Chris Gerling of CCBI have been invaluable resources for the entire state wine industry during the pandemic. Last spring, I found their seminar on COVID-19 related winery operations to be particularly helpful. It was so good to have trusted resources to rely on during what was a confusing and scary time.

I truly value CCBI’s ability to work with so many diverse wine regions within our state and the way in which they present important findings.

There is a lot of cross-regional grape purchasing among wineries, which is why I think it is important for winemakers statewide to be aware of the issues that other regions are facing, as grapes being purchased from these regions affect overall wine quality. Events offered by CCBI throughout the year help winemakers understand winemaking conditions across the state, which helps us all improve collectively.

 

Winemaking is highly technical. Which CCBI seminars on tricky topics have been helpful?   

I have had great access to the wisdom and experience of CCBI. In particular, they have created awareness of the importance of fermentation kinetics and the role of yeast assimilable nitrogen. This is the combination of free amino nitrogen, ammonia and ammonium available for wine yeast — Saccharomyces cerevisiae — to use during fermentation. Outside of the fermentable sugars, nitrogen is the most important nutrient needed to carry out a successful fermentation. It helps the fermenting wine reach its intended point of dryness, but if it ferments for too long, the nitrogen can cause off-note odors and other related faults in the wine

In addition, I have always admired how Anna Katharine and Chris can make technical information relatable for the wine industry. This is especially important for tasting room staff who need to explain scientific wine data to the average consumer.

Winemakers can make the best wine, but if tasting room staff don’t know how to translate what we do into marketable language, it gets lost. The tasting room staff I’ve worked with have benefited immensely from CCBI seminars, which helps sell the wine that I am passionate about making.

What do you think surprises people most about Long Island wine?

Expertise from Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and CCBI has helped Long Island winemakers up their game over the years, which in turn has helped us get the recognition from consumers in our region that we deserve.        

In my 20 years, I have seen Long Islanders’ reactions to Long Island wine evolve.  In the 90s and early 2000s, it was the age of discovery. People were astounded that we were even here on Long Island. In the past 10 years, I have seen Long Islanders become more aware of not only the wineries, but also proud of the high-quality wine that is being produced here. I have also seen Long Islanders become more knowledgeable about our region and the food that is being grown on the East End.

What is the most popular wine trend on Long Island?

The Long Island wine industry has seen an increased interest in our rosé wines. When I first worked at PWG in the early 2000s, I could say that we roughly produced 50% reds, 40% whites and 10% other.  In the 'other' category, rosé would have accounted for 5-7% of the total. Now in 2020, we are producing 45% rosé, 35% white wine and 7-10% red wine. It has been a dramatic change.

I’m hopeful to gain additional expertise from CCBI on the identification of different hues of color in different grape varieties that contribute to the beautiful color people love in rosé wines. I’m also interested in finding out how hybrid grapes can best be used in rosé wines.

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