Long Island Wine Country Begins in Smithtown
Wine is a precious gift from Mother Nature that requires an extraordinary amount of patience, persistence and a bull-like work ethic to produce a successful harvest.
Steve and Laura Gallagher, along with Laura’s sister Barbara Perrotta, are the owners of Whisper Vineyards, a boutique vineyard located in the heart of Smithtown.
Whisper Vineyards has the distinction of being the westernmost winery in Suffolk County, and derived its name from a familiar site in Smithtown.
“Being raised in Smithtown, you remember some facts, like the legendary ride by Richard Smith on his bull named Whisper. We named the vineyards after the bull,” Steve says.
The family trio are stewards of the land, keeping the legacy intact that Laura and Barbara’s father, Joseph Borella, began more than 65 years ago.
Borella bought the property in 1950 and opened Borellas Farmstand, selling fruits and vegetables, which is still open today and adjacent to Whisper Vineyards Tasting Room.
Across Edgewood Avenue sits the vineyard, an 18-acre plot of land teeming with greenery and grapes.
The location is on a valuable tract that could easily be re-imagined as a site for luxury homes, an idea that is totally foreign to Steve.
“Coming into an agricultural family more than 37 years ago, I’ve learned the love of the land is more important than money,” he says.
Together, the family has created an agricultural product that speaks of the place in which it’s grown and harvested.
“It’s hard work,” explains Steve. “We put in a lot of hours and this is no lie, we log about 90 to 100 hours a week, every week. After that, my wife then goes home and does paperwork and scheduling. Her hours far exceed mine, but she loves it.”
Growing grapes is a challenge, and the relationship between the vintner and the plant is one that evolves over time. Steve says he did years of research before planting his first vine in 2004, with the help of his son Brian.
“All of my root stock are perfectly matched to the soil here,” Steve continues. “Having an agricultural background and knowing everything that’s been planted in that ground since 1945 gives us an advantage.”
“Our methodology is we do everything by hand out in that field. We thin our clusters to volumize the flavor of what’s left in the field. I’ve been told I’m too radical with that method, but it’s worked for me so far,” he says, adding, “Any mistakes are 100-percent mine.”
Thankfully, their hard work paid off, and they are enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Last year, Whisper Vineyards entered the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association Competition, which had submissions from more than 500 wineries along the East Coast.
“We entered four wines and won five medals,” Steve says.
The trio were asked to travel to Washington, DC to receive their fifth medal, which was Best in Category.
“That was a high honor for the first sparkling wine that we ever produced,” he says, before sharing invaluable “wine wisdom” he’s learned since opening the vineyard:
“A winemaker is not a magician. If you give him good grapes he’ll do wonderful things, but if you give him garbage he can’t do much with it.”
In addition to their award-winning wine, Whisper Vineyards Tasting Room is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy a glass. The tasting room is beautifully appointed, and though the space isn’t overly large, browsing through the thoughtfully selected gifts is interesting and fun. Wine cork bracelets, a selection of t-shirts and hats, whimsical signs, coasters, and a variety of other products enhance the space.
The Tasting Room Bar is handcrafted from old wine barrels that were assembled and installed by friends of the Gallaghers, and is quite unique.
“The barrels were leaking, so we decided to make a wrap with them. Everything with agriculture is reclaim and reuse,” Steve says.
The winery hosts events for wine club members, which Steve says anyone can join, with full access to their promotions. In-season there is live music on the weekends, and they also host small private parties.
“A lot of people come here because they love the fact that they don’t have to sit in traffic.” he says. “Plus, according to their feedback and comments, our wine is excellent.”
Between the farm stand and the winery, there’s not much time for socializing, but Steve makes sure he is available to answer any questions that come his way.
“My favorite part of the business is the interaction with the customers,” he says. “I think they are surprised how informed we are about our products.”
If you are looking for a unique place that is sure to impress and entertain your out-of-town guests, or would just like to enjoy a glass of outstanding local wine without travelling all the way to the East End, Whisper Vineyards is a must-visit destination.
485 Edgewood Ave., St. James, NY 11780 | 631-257-5222
firstname.lastname@example.org | WhisperVineyards.com