Amanda Wowk

For Robin Epperson-McCarthy, winemaking began as just a temporary job.  In 2003, ahead of studying to get into medical school, Robin planned to spend one harvest working in a wine lab to pay her bills.  At the time, she had no way of knowing that taking the job would change the trajectory of her career.  14 years later, she owns Long Island-based winery Saltbird Cellars and sells five labels spanning reds, whites, and most recently, rosé.  How did Robin turn her passion into reality?  ‘I am always chasing the horizon where new challenges await.  To keep moving forward, [I] need to stay fresh.  I feel that is expressed in my wines, in every glass, every sip.’


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Tried and True

Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to sample Robin’s wines.  With an affinity for reds, I first selected the Red Table Wine–a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Lately, I have been drawn to blends, so it came as no surprise that I was pleased from the very first pour.  According to Robin, blending grape varietals isn’t the only trick to making great wines–the diversity of the local macroclimate is, too.  ‘Long Island is a glacial moraine surrounded by three major bodies of water that moderate the climate.  The result is a long moderate growing season.  We can harvest a large array of varieties at ideal ripeness that normally wouldn’t exist in the same region.’

Of course, winemaking itself is a diverse blend of studies: viticulture, enology, geography, history, and more.  And part of the reason Robin is passionate about the industry is the opportunity for what she calls transequatorial wine wanderings.  She shared: ‘I have been lucky to make wine with the best across the world and I have worked with a lot of different varietals.  When good local fruit comes my way I have a hard time passing it up.  I love being able to apply my learned skills to create a wine that expresses a sense and characteristic of the place where it is grown.’

Applying what she’s learned from these wine wanderings, Saltbird Cellars currently offers a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, a barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc, the Red Table Wine–and the newly released Roseate Rosé.  So new, in fact, that Robin let me try a tank pull, or a sample, before the rosé was even prepped for bottling.


To keep moving forward, I need to stay fresh.  I feel that is expressed in my wines, in every glass, every sip.


Something New

‘I love rosé, my family loves rosé, my friends love rosé… I was messing around with potential rosé blends for next harvest when I created a lovely Cabernet Franc/Syrah blend that I couldn’t stop drinking and just had to share with others.  Just like that, Roseate Rosé took flight.’  With an endorsement like that, I had to make the rosé my next selection.

I popped my bottle open on one of the warmer nights we had this spring.  It was the perfect complement to a picnic in the park, accompanied by a semi-soft cheese like gruyere, marcona almonds, and a schmear of fig jam on a slice of fresh baguette.  By the time dusk approached, we’d polished off both the rosé and the cheese.  Packing up our picnic, I was disappointed to see the rosé go, but I knew that was a sign I’d be going back for more.

But I can’t dilly-dally with my ordering–and neither should you!  This vintage release produced fewer than 100 cases, and the way New Yorkers sip rosé all summer, there’s a likelihood Saltbird Cellars could run out.  To Robin, that would be good news.  If she sells out of rosé this summer, she’s hoping to expand the brand and release two new styles next year.

And me? Well, I’m already planning my next park picnic.


Comments (1)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Oh I CAN'T WAIT to try her rose in 6 months!!!!

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