Peter & Deborah Carroll bought the
Lenz Winery in 1988, ten years after its founding, and when the Long Island wine community comprised fewer than ten established wineries.
In April 1989 they were joined by Eric Fry, the winemaker who presided over a year-by-year process of quality improvements for thirty years until his retirement. Over most of this time he was assisted by Sam McCullough who agreed to join Lenz in November of 1989 as vineyard manager. Together with Tom Morgan, this core team grew Lenz and made consistent gains in vineyard management and wine quality.
The team has now changed slightly, Thomas Spotteck has replaced Eric Fry, after working for 3 years as his assistant winemaker. And, after Tom Morgan retired his role was taken over by Jerol Bailey.
Philosophically, we are big believers in:
Varietal characteristics: What does this mean? It means that when we release a gewurztraminer, or a merlot, or a sauvignon blanc, we want it to stand out as a clear and outstanding representative of that particular variety, offering a mix of that grape variety’s central characteristics in aroma, texture and flavor
Varietal ripeness: What does this mean? It means that, since we want our wines to show full varietal character, we need to ripen them consistently to the point they will reveal those characteristics. Unripe or less-than-fully-ripe grapes will not yield proper varietal character, and so we also believe in…..
Vineyard health & management: Given all the factors that work against us over the course of a growing season - - weather, rain, humidity, birds, deer, pests - - we work even harder to sustain vine health and permit the grape clusters to ripen properly and fully before we harvest
Being picky: We believe in being picky in several ways. We hand harvest the ripest clusters of grapes, ignoring any that seem less-than-perfect. We then separate the berries from the stems and hand-sort at the level of the individual berries. This degree of selectivity ensures superior wine quality and the delivery of ‘full varietal character’
Low intervention: There are literally thousands of factors, options and choices made each year, from the vineyard to the cellar, before wines are eventually bottled and made ready for sale. Across all of these choices we lean towards less-is-more when it comes to manipulating the wine in any way
The importance of time: When Eric Fry first joined Lenz, he implored Deborah and me not to practice what he called “Chateau Cashflow”, by which he meant rushing wines out of the cellar, slapping a label on it and selling it (too young) in order to generate cashflow. In his opinion, too many wineries, with limited funding, were forced to do this, their wines then suffering from too-early-release. We took this to heart. Today, we typically release our reds only in the 4th or 5th year after production. And we hold back wines from the best vintages in the ‘Lenz Library’ where we have reds going back to 1993 and even 1988.
Today, Lenz is regarded as the maker of some of the best varietal wines. This applies more-than-just locally or regionally. Our wines have compared extremely well when blind-tasted against many super-premium wines from France and California.