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Vines Prove Fruitful

The events on Sept. 11, 2001 had a profound effect on nearly all in the tri-state area, but for first responders, the effects were overwhelming. Long-time Massapequa resident Michael Smith, a member of the New York Fire Department, experienced those effects firsthand.

“While I’ve always been a person that could appreciate life, after 9/11 I became so distraught,” he said. “I realized I need to do something I want to do — something I love to do.”

A 30-year veteran of the fire department, Smith retired in 2002. He and his wife of 33 years, Teresa, began to look for a place they could enjoy life. This mindset brought them to the East End of Long Island, where they often went for day trips. They settled down in a home in Orient Point in 2004; in a home that needed quite a bit of work. And when it was time to landscape the property, a new idea took root — a vineyard.

“I was excited about it from a landscaping point of view,” said Teresa Smith, adding that the beauty and formality of the vines suited the Smith’s new getaway home and lifestyle; and soon the idea of making wine seemed to flow organically.

They both hit the vines running, captivated by the wine-making lifestyle.

“The romance,” said Michael. “The entire process of a bottle of wine is right in front of you, from start to finish. It doesn’t get better than that.”  

The Smiths began growing grapes in 2006. In 2010 they were ready to produce wine.

More than simply a romantic notion though, Michael knew if he was going to make wine, he wanted to make great wine. He did some research with books and the Internet, but quickly realized the best way to learn would be first-hand from those making quality wine. So he visted many vineyards of Long Island asking questions. Through recommendation and introduction he was able to pair with winemaking consultant Gilles Martin, a man synonymous with the best wines Long Island has to offer. The expertise is evident in the Smith’s new venture, OR Wine.

Martin, described the wine style as very similar to a French Burgundy, but right here on Long Island. It is a terroir driven Chardonnay.

“It’s not over powered by the oak,” said Martin, adding that the wine has ripe flavors, with some notes of pear and apple very well balanced and very fresh. “In 2014 we are going to try a more crisp style, a stainless steel Chardonnay.”

Amy Singh, daughter of Michael and Teresa said he father always boasted artistic tendencies and now those shine through in his wine creation.

“Knowing my dad, I knew he had this creative side to him,” she said. “It was beautiful seeing him connect to that side of him again. He really is an artist.”

Daughter-in-law Mikki Smith, married to the Michael and Teresa’s son Scott, helps out as webmaster for the fledgling wine company.

“It has been a real bonding experience working together,” she said. “A fun family experience.”   

And while Scott and Mikki now live in California, helping with the family wine business through Mikki’s marketing helps close the miles between them.

The Smith’s wine, OR Wine, is not mass produced.  Smith trims back the vines to harvest only the best grapes. He’s interested in quality, not quantity and is releasing only 140 cases per year. It is currently available in a few local East End stores and orders are available through their Facebook page www.facebook.com/ORwineestate. The wine should be available in restaurants and wine stores in Nassau this season.