Kelly Urbanik Koch (who was my pick for Long Island winemaker of the year, by the way) arrived at Macari Vineyards in 2010 after serving as assistant and then head winemaker at Bedell Cellars.

You might expect that sauvignon blanc or the winery’s early-picked chardonnay might have been the hot topic upon her arrival, but they weren’t. Instead, sparkling wine was.

“The Macari family made a delicious sparkling wine back in the mid-late 90s, but the sparkling program had been on hiatus for years,” she told me in an email.

The decision to revive the estate’s sparkling wine program was an easy one because, as Koch put it “We all loved sparkling wine. The equipment to make it was already on site, and the vineyard had a history of making high-quality bubbles.”

macari-cuvee-gabriellaThe result of that decision is Macari Vineyards’ 2010 “Cuvée Gabriella” Sparkling Brut Rosé ($35), a pink bubbly named for the Macari’s daughter, Gabriella, who had previously interned in the Champagne region.

Despite her winemaking experience both here and in her native California, Koch had never made sparkling wine before August 23, 2010, when they picked the pinot noir that would eventually become the first-ever sparkling rosé from the estate.

“Gabriella and I are both lucky to have friends that make sparkling wine in other regions so we are always looking for advice and feedback to improve our results here on Long Island,” Koch said.

Every year they have a chance to refine their process, a truth that Koch characterizes that fact as “tricky.”

“The wine takes so many years to age, develop and become ready for release, and you can’t gauge the results of your actions immediately,” she said.

After tasting this wine on New Year’s Day, with friends and a table full of sparkling wine from all over the world, I’m not sure how much improvement is really necessary. It was a stand out.

Pale pink, bright and refreshing — as sparkling wine should be — it bursts with fresh flavors of strawberry and cherry that are accented by subtle nutty yeastiness. It’s at once mouth-filling and gently creamy on the palate while also being lithe and focused.

Cuvee Grabriella is also a wine that holds a special place in Koch’s heart.

“This was the first fruit picked of the 2010 harvest — my first harvest with the Macaris,” she said.

(Editor’s Note: A version of this review appeared on

About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. After running that site -- which became the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news -- for 12 years, he launched in late 2016 to add the wines of Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and beyond to his beat. Lenn currently serves as the wine columnist for The Suffolk Times weekly newspaper and is the former editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette. He contributes or has contributed to publications like Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beverage Media, Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End and Edible Hudson Valley. Lenn served on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, an annual regional wine immersion conference for writers and trade. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

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