On Sundays in April and May we are hosting interactive Instagram experiences from the @SuhruWines Instagram account. Tune in each Sunday at 3pm to see what we have happening! Below is a transcript of the Live Instagram Q&A we hosted Sunday, April 26th with Russell Hearn, winemaker at Suhru Wines! Checkout what he had to say in response to your wine questions!
Russell Hearn, Winemaker
Russell has made extensive contributions to the New York wine industry over the past three decades with his wines garnering extensive critical acclaim and industry wide respect. His innovative winemaking style has influenced the quality of many wineries in our region, none more so than Pellegrini Vineyards and more recently Lieb Cellars and Bridge Lane.
Australian born, he grew up around wine as his mother was in the business. Russell started his career in Western Australia and has taken his training with him throughout his journey with experience gained working in New Zealand, France, and regions across the USA. Russell founded Premium Wine Group a custom crush facility in 2000, encouraging small, fine quality wine producers like Suhru Wines to flourish.
As the winemaker of Suhru Wines, Russell brings his knowledge, experience, and relationships with quality New York State growers. He greatly enjoys the time spent working with Susan & their daughters developing Suhru Wines.
Q: How long have you been a winemaker on Long Island?
A: My first vintage on the North Fork was 1990, after starting in the wine industry in Western Australia (where I grew up) in 1979.
Q: What makes the North Fork of Long Island such a good wine region?
A: The maritime influence of our region moderates our climate year round, ensuring our winters aren't too cold, our summers aren't too hot AND the well drained soils on the North Fork provide good drainage, shedding the summer rainfall.
Q: What makes a Long Island Cabernet Franc special?
A: This varietal only grows well in a few regions of the world—it requires a cool but long growing season and very good vineyard management. Long Island Cabernet Franc is known for bright, aromatic fruit with delicate tannins.
Q: What is your favorite food & wine pairing?
A: I have to go with a classic Australian pairing here: Lamb & Shiraz!
Q: Which wines that you make are your favorite, and why?
A: All of them (otherwise I wouldn't make them). At Suhru we choose to only make the wines we love! That being said, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz are two of my favorites, you don't see either variety very often in New York wine.
Q: What led you to become a winemaker?
A: My mother worked in marketing for a winery in Western Australia, so I grew up around the industry. It appealed to me from the start as a great blend of science and art!
Q: How does making wine in Australia compare to doing it on the North Fork?
A: It's almost the opposite approach with red wines but similar with whites. White wines express the fruit and acidity in both cool (Long Island) and warm (Australia) climates, where as the goal for red wines on Long Island (in a cool climate) is to minimize astringency where in warmer climates like Australia, you want to emphasize it. The higher the astringency, the higher the tannins.
Q: How did you wind up making wine on the North Fork?
A: My wife was from Boston, so we wanted to explore working on the East Coast of the US. We spent 2 years in Virginia (where I worked for Dominion Wine Cellars) but it didn't feel right. Long Island has been a great move to be part of helping establish a new wine region.
Q: What's the difference between Suhru's Brut and Proseco?
A: Our Brut is made using the traditional approach—méthode champenoise—where we referment the wine in the bottle, keeping it on the yeast sediment (sur lees) for 18-30 months. Proseco uses the Charmat method—refermentation occurs in the tank then you bottle straight from tank which captures the carbonation but not the nuances of flavor, which come from spending time on the lees.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working with your family?
A: The constant aggravation! No seriously, the constant enjoyment of our family interaction and our joint love of the wine industry!
Q: How do you know when grapes are ready to be picked and made into wine?
A: During harvest I am walking through the vineyards daily—looking at the health of the canopy, testing the fruit, and keeping an eye on the upcoming weather. Leading up to harvesting the fruit we test for: Brix (sugar content) acidity, and pH. When the fruit flavors develop into what I am looking for in the wine, it is time to pick.
Q: What is the best part of the winemaking process?
A: Tasting of course! No, I really enjoy the seasonality of the process. Growing, harvesting, finishing, bottling. Each season of the year is different. You feel very connected to the cycles of the seasons and what needs to be done in each.
Q: What is the most important step in the winemaking process?
A: As a professional winemaker, my goal is to produce technically correct wines, showing off fruit/vineyard expression. Technical flaws are unacceptable. As both my family and my staff can attest, I always say winemaking is 70% sanitation, 20% perspiration, 9% inspiration, and 1% degustation (drinking) but only at the end of the day!
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On Sunday in April and May we are hosting interactive Instagram experiences from the @SuhruWines Instagram account. Tune in each Sunday at 3pm to see what we have happening! Below is a transcript of the Live Instagram Q&A we hosted Sunday, April 19th with Shelby Hearn, Director of Sales & Marketing at Suhru Wines! Checkout what she had to say in response to your burning questions!
Shelby Hearn, Director of Sales & Marketing
Growing up a winemaker's daughter, Shelby took an interest in the wine industry at a young age. Shelby got her start in the industry in 2005 and has since worked in tasting rooms, planted vineyards, hand-harvested grapes, bottled, worked in the cellar, and has sampled her fair share along the way! Shelby has continued her personal wine education by touring the wine regions of Australia and Hungary, as well as many in the US. Before moving to the North Fork and joining Suhru Wines full-time Shelby, lived in Brooklyn where she was a marketing professional at Penguin Random House and later running marketing efforts at Brooklyn Winery.
Q: Is there any downside to drinking wine from a can?
A: In my opinion no, the taste is the same and the wine stays super fresh, particularly for white wines.
Q: How did you come up with the name Suhru?
A: Suhru is a combination of my parents names “SUsan” and “RUssell” as well as our last name “Hearn”
Q: Do you allow dogs in the tasting room?
A: We do! Well behaved dogs on a leash are always welcome and dogs love our backyard in the warmer months!
A: Bordeaux blends are red blends made from a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec & rarely Carmenere. Our Ember is a Bordeaux blend!
Q: Favorite comfort food or dessert with wine?
A: I have a bit of a sweet tooth so red wine & dark chocolate is always my go to pairing! Our Merlot-infused Dark chocolate is a personal favorite!
Q: Can you distribute to Michigan?
A: Not yet, but we’re hoping soon! Currently we ship to NY, MA & FL but coming in the next week or so we will be adding many more states so stay tuned!
A: Dry Riesling—Rieslings are often thought of as being sweet however a DRY Riesling like ours is one of the most fun wines to pair with foods! Pair it with something with a little spice to really make the flavors shine! Pairing Suggestions: Thai & Indian cuisine, curries, sushi & dry rub BBQ are some of my favorites!
Q: How do you decide between the Ember and the Shiraz or the T’Jara Merlot for a big beef roast?
A: Good question! They are all great choices, but my general rule of thumb with our reds is the bigger the flavors in the meal, the bigger the red you want! For a beef roast, I would go with Ember, it’s big, it’s bold, it has a more robust flavor and nice tannins so it will pair nicely with heavier, richer meat flavors.
A: My favorite wine always changes by season, but I always LOVE our Shiraz! It’s a little fruity, a little spicy, and a whole lot delicious! I also love our Brut! You really can’t go wrong with bubbly and this one is crisp, light, dry, and oh so refreshing!
Q: If you were on a desert island and could only pack one kind of Suhru wine, what would it be?
A: I’d bring our new cans! They’re super convenient, lightweight, and 1 can hold the equivalent of 2 glasses (or half a bottle of wine) so it would make packing super easy!
Q: Where do you grow your grapes?
A: We source our fruit, which means we work with a number of excellent growers on the North Fork (and one in the Finger Lakes where we grow our Riesling). By sourcing our fruit we are not limited to the grapes grown in a single vineyard but instead have the freedom to pick and choose the varietals we love and work with the vineyards that grow those best!
A: Sauvignon Blanc & Scallops are a personal favorite!
Q: How long can you drink wine for once it’s open?
A: To drink it at its peak I would recommend 2-3 days for a full opened bottle. However my pro tip is, if you know you’re not going to finish the bottle, pour the wine into a smaller bottle or jar and make sure there is no air space. You can keep the wine this way for weeks!
Q: What other North Fork wines do you recommend?
A: I’ve got so many great LI wines in my personal collection, but a few of my favorites are: Leo Family Cellars, Lieb Cellars, Paumanok Vineyards, Saltbird Cellars, Bridge Lane Wine, Sparkling Pointe, One Woman Winery & Macari Wines just to name a few.
Q: What’s your favorite board/card game to play while drinking some wine?
A: Wine Wars—it's such a fun wine trivia game and a great way to learn some new wine facts to impress your friends and family!
Q: What are your favorite spots on the North Fork?
A: I love walking out at Orient Point--it’s a nice, quiet walk by the water and in the winter months you can often spot a seal or two!
Q: How do you recommend building a wine collection?
A: Start with what you like and build from there! Whenever I find a wine I really like I buy at least two bottles, one to drink now and one to save. The first bottle goes into the “drink now” rack and the second into my collection. Before you know it and after a few trips to wine country you’ll need another wine rack!
Q: Who in the LI wine industry have you been influenced by?
A: My dad--our winemaker Russell Hearn--has been a huge influence for me, He introduced me to wine, this industry, and the incredible process of winemaking! I have always been fascinated with wine, ever since I was a kid, My love of wine and this industry is all thanks to him! I am also very lucky to have made so many wonderful friends in this industry like the incredible Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson McCarthy of Chronicle wines!
Q: How do I tell which wines I should age and which ones I should drink right away?
A: That’s a harder one to answer without knowing the specifics, it’s always a good idea to check with the winery to see what they recommend. But as a general rule, rosés and stainless steel white wines should be enjoyed within a year whereas barrel aged white and red wines can be aged for 10+ years from their vintage date (in most cases).
Q: What is your favorite snack when you drink wine?
A: Freshly shucked local oysters!
Q: What is it like working for a family business?
A: It's challenging, like any job, but it’s also the most fun I’ve ever had at work! We work hard, we play hard, and I know no matter what my family always has my back! It’s also very rewarding! I love going to work with my mom and the rest of my family everyday, it has given me so many new and exciting opportunities to learn and grow!
Q: What is your favorite season on the North Fork?
A: Late summer/early fall when the days are warm but the nights are cool and you can cozy up by the fire with a glass of red!
Join us next week, Sunday, April 26th at 3pm for a Q&A with our winemaker Russell Hearn, hosted in our Instagram Stories!
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