The winemaking philosophy is based on an understanding of the cycle of nature, the climate and soil, the ripeness of the grapes and the success of time-honored techniques. Utilizing gravity flow and a natural winemaking philosophy, Raphael wines are produced sustainably, utilizing controlled fermentation with little fining and filtration resulting in wines that purely express our local terroir. Our goal is to produce ripe, fruit-driven wines that exhibit a marriage of depth, finesse, elegance, and balance – the flavors of the North Fork – provided first by the terroir and secondly, by the dedicated, impassioned attention of our winemaking team.
The winery was designed by John Petrocelli who was inspired by the Italian monasteries of his ancestral home. Our production facility blends classic Mediterranean architecture with modern winemaking equipment. By building the winery 12 feet underground we are not only able to make our wines using a gentle gravity-flow method, but were able to construct a very energy efficient building using the earth’s natural 55F temperature to cool the winery in the summer and warm it in the winter.
Throughout the seasons, the devoted vineyard staff carries out the rigorous work of caring for the vines. Our vineyard manager Stephen Mudd, is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, safeguarding the quality of the wine and raising it to its utmost perfection. Stephen brings over 30 years of experience in managing vineyards and is considered one of the pioneers of Long Island grape growing. Most of the work is done by hand, year-round — from pruning to leaf pulling. The ancient practice of fruit thinning is carried out during the summer and fall. Approximately half of our crop is sacrificed every year to insure that the remaining fruit will reach the ultimate peak of ripeness. Raphael is one of the few wine estates in the United States that harvest entirely by hand. Work carries on until the carefully chosen moment-when the harvest starts and the grapes are gathered by hand in the traditional and time-honored way. Nothing but the best fruit makes it into our wine.
An old French proverb states, “Only the vines that overlook the water are capable of producing wines of great quality.”
Terroir is the French term that can be loosely translated as “a sense of place.” It is the influence and interaction of the climate and soil of a specific location on the flavors and aromas of the grapes and subsequently, the wine. The North Fork of Long Island is the sunniest spot in New York State and one of the few places on the east coast that can properly ripen European wine grapes. Our terroir is derived from our glacial soils and maritime climate that is influenced by the surrounding waters of the Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound. Some characteristics of our terroir found in the wines of the North Fork are flavors of indigenous, coastal fruits such as strawberry, blackberry, cranberry and beach plum in the red wines, as well as a distinct saline mineralogy found in many of the whites.