A Saturday Tasting at the Macari Vineyard

I was invited by the Macari Vineyard tasting room manager to present a meal to the Macari wine club in the main dining room of the Vineyard—just in time for the bud burst on Macari’s merlot vines outside the kitchen door.

Tasting Menu for the Macari Wine Club, 40 guests.
Saturday, May 9, 2015

Roasted Beet on Sweet Pea and Goat Cheese Coulis
Rabbit Pie
Venison Filet Au Poivre 
Sweet Potato Flan

Carrot & herb garnishes

Carrot & herb garnishes

Macari wines

Macari wines


The Macari family loves their land. About 5 years ago I was invited to lunch at the Macari vineyard, located on the North Fork of Long Island in Mattituck, NY, with my friend Michael Cinque. It was a late fall day, crisp air, the vineyard crew was in a late autumn routine; cleaning machinery and preparing vines for the winter. When we arrived I was amazed to find such a happy group of men working as a team grinding through mundane chores. My guess was that they were all happiest about lunch.


Chef Colin Ambrose with Alexandra and Joesph Macari

Macari vineyard

Macari vineyard

It wasn’t an ordinary lunch–an old shed on the vineyards’ fringe had recently been converted to a tasting  room. The kitchen was brand new and under direction of a large man who filled the room with enthusiasm and wonderful aromas. I soon learned it was the owner Joesph Macari’s cousin, Daniel Bellino-Zwicke. Daniel moved about the kitchen with authority. He handled the food and equipment with style and had a command that immediately identified him as a veteran, from what kitchens I don’t know and had no need to ask.

His menu started with a plate of cheese, figs and bread from an Arthur Avenue bakery. Followed by a salad of amazing crisp, bitter and sweet fall greens in a vinaigrette kissed with truffle oil. For a main course the group enjoyed a handmade pappardelle with boar ragu.

What struck me about my afternoon with Joesph, Danielle and Michael was not so much the wonderful food or the authentic surrounding; it was simply the feeling of comfort. We ate at a large wooden table in a room bordering  the kitchen surrounded by windows looking out onto the work area and then the vineyards beyond. The men were relaxed, happy to be with each other and enjoying a peaceful hour at rest. These were men (the Macari team) who needed to wash their hands prior to the meal, not to be polite or hygienic but because they had come in with greasy, dirty, hard-working man hands. They were big men with big appetites and all of the machismo was left at the door. I was enjoying a family meal with a group of guys who truly appreciated each other and respected the role that each man played on the Macari team. Even Michael, the wine merchant, had earned his place at the table.


Macari Vineyards & Winery

As Michael and I drove back to Amagansett from Mattituck that day, I clearly recall the conversation. We talked about the commitment Mr. Macari and his crew have to building good soil first—the health of the soil being key to the health and vitality of good wine. We also talked about the Macari family—how Joe and his wife Alex had been sending their children out into the world to vineyards and wine shops in Latin America and Europe to learn the old world style of making and selling the products that the family was crafting on Long Island, along with the authentic approach that this family has to sharing a love for life on the farm. It’s a lifestyle that I was so happy to see still exists in this country.

With all of the corporate influence that is evident on the American landscape, the skill and love that comes from a family-produced product, emerging from hard work, commitment to healthy soil and from a goodness generated at an American family table, a corporate approach will never come close to the flavor that emerges from a family farm.

We were on the ferry, departing the Shelter Island pier, when I looked at Michael and said that it would be an honor to go back and return the favor by cooking a lunch at Macari myself some day. To have a chance to organize a meal of home grown herbs and wild game that would pair appropriately with the Macari family wines.

Yesterday I had that opportunity.

Macari dining room at the tasting center

Macari dining room at the tasting center

Bud burst at the Macari vineyard

Bud burst on the merlot vines


Visit the Macari Vineyards & Winery website:  www.macariwines.com
Find Macari wines, available at Amagansett Wine & Spirits, owner Michael Cinque
Check out Daniel Bellino-Zwicke’s book, Sunday Sauce

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