A Bohemian in Wine Country
Joey Wölffer of long island’s Wölffer Estate is redefining the role of winery scion, hosting free-spirited parties and selling style finds out of two former potato-chip trucks.
Southampton, New York, is a famously status-conscious place. But Joey Wölffer, whose father founded Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Southampton in the 1980s, loves talking about the town’s easygoing, bohemian past. “The Hamptons used to be this wonderful place where nobody really cared who anybody was,” she says. “It was such a mix of people. I remember lunches where Bianca Jagger and Lee Radziwill would hang out with my dad and a local farmer.” Today, she’s trying to recapture that feeling by turning Wölffer Estate into a place where everyone’s invited—to drink wine, listen to live music and watch the sun set while their children run around and have way too much fun. “Those kids torture me,” Joey jokes. “I want a sign saying, ‘Unattended children will be given rosé and a puppy.’”
She recently took ownership of Wölffer Estate with her brother, Marc, after the tragic death of their father in a boating accident. “The winery was run for four years by my father’s executors,” she says. “It’s so good to have it be a family business again.” She and her brother recently opened a wine bar at Wölffer that’s a lot more raucous than a traditional tasting room—“It’s rocking,” Joey says—with classes and goofy game nights. At the Wölffer Wine Stand, just off Route 27, visitors can sit down and drink a glass of rosé or Merlot with a selection of vegetables; winery chef Kristofer Kalas uses produce from the estate’s recently refurbished greenhouse. “What’s better than a glass of rosé and a vegetable platter?” Joey asks.
Working with winemaker Roman Roth and general manager Max Rohn (Joey’s husband), the Wölffers have introduced a new rosé called Summer in a Bottle, and what Joey proudly calls a “wacky” line of sparkling ciders:a dry white and a dry rosé. “Marc and I decided, Let’s take a risk. Let’s make cider and add a floral note to it. Let’s make it unlike anything anybody else is doing,” she says. Joey, a jewelry designer and fashion trendspotter, worked on the labels: a surreal juxtaposition of flowers, apples, bugs, mysterious aquatic creatures and women in ’50s-era strapless cocktail dresses—all against a graphic hot-pink Cubist background.
Joey is also the force behind the Styleliner fashion fleet: two potato-chip delivery trucks turned into mobile boutiques selling the beautiful things she finds in places like Turkey, Brazil and Paris. One of the trucks is always either parked in front of Wölffer Estate or crisscrossing the country between New York City and Palm Beach. Joey is currently launching her own fashion line, with leather handbags as the centerpiece. “I love saddlebags,” she says. “I wanted to make an interesting version that felt like me. So I use straps that I’ve found all over the world. Some are from Afghanistan; a couple are embroideries from Bali that my husband found while he was there. The bags convey a sense of world travel, but they are manufactured in the US because I really believe in American-made.”
She also really believes in a good party, like the ones her parents threw. The cheese-and-vegetable calzone is one of her favorite dishes to make when friends come over. She likes to spread out raffia rugs on the lawn so everyone can take off their shoes and relax. It’s the kind of laid-back style that gives her parties a bohemian vibe. “Our dinner parties invariably turn into dance parties,” she says.