New Yorker of the Week: Pindar Damianos: Making wine fun

Photo via pindar.net

As the youngest of five children, Pindar Damianos is the general manager of the 400-acre vineyard in Peconic, NY that carries his name. 

Calling the vineyard his “true love,” he helps manage the sprawling vineyard’s tasting room in addition to handling distribution and basically all aspects of the wine business. 

Damiano’s father, Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos helped pioneer the winemaking industry on Long Island in the 1980s and those early efforts have transformed Pindar Vineyards into not only a household name but also Long Island’s best known and largest winemaker producing more than 70,000 cases annually. The family also owns and operates both Duck Walk and Jason’s Vineyard.  

But despite the success and popularity of the Pindar vineyard, Damiano’s laments that not everyone is aware of Long Island’s East End as a major, wine-producing region. 

“We’re nearly 45 years in existence but still many New Yorkers don’t know there’s a wine industry on Long Island.” says Damianos.  “Things are getting better but there are still some city residents who don’t know much about Long Island’s wine country even if they’re aware of vineyards upstate, such as in the Finger lakes region.” 

Damianos, whose vineyard grows 17 varieties of grapes crafted into 23 varietals and proprietary blends, says that he wants to help promote not only Pindar’s vineyards but also the entire wine industry on Long Island.  

He adds that right now is harvest season, when they typically hand-harvest grapes for various white wines including chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. 

He also says this is one of the best times of the year to visit Long Island’s wine country. “The fall brings more people to the east end of Long Island as people take their kids both apple and pumpkin picking…from roughly July to November, we’re the busiest and see crowds out at the vineyard.” 

Damianos says the vineyard is open year-round and to make it easier for city residents, Pindar partners with the Long Island Railroad for escorted tours as part of a package that includes discounted round-trip rail and bus transportation, wine tastings at Duck Walk and Pindar Vineyards, as well as a visit to the seaport Village of Greenport.  

In addition, Damianos says the vineyard regularly hosts numerous special events, such as their Rock the Harvest events that have been done for more than 30 years. 

He says that coming up on October 15th, the vineyard is featuring a free concert from the band BonJourney, a tribute band to the music of both Bon Jovi and Journey.   “It’s something everyone should come out and see,” he says, adding that customers should bring beach chairs to sit on the vineyard’s huge lawn. 

Moreover, Damianos says Pindar is one of only a handful of vineyards where no reservations are needed. “We welcome walk-ins,” he says.  

He adds that the wine business is very customer-service oriented, “you’re dealing with people, with the wine, you talk with people about what wines pair well with certain foods…it can easily become a long conversation with anyone once you get into it,” he says. 

Some of Pindar’s most popular wines include Winter White, on the sweeter side; Spring Splendor with a hint of cranberry, Summer Blush, an easy-drinking, blush and Autumn Gold a dry, crisp blend great with Long Island seafood. 

The vineyard has a tasting room in Peconic and a retail store in Port Jefferson on Main Street where people can do tastings and purchase wines.  Most of Pindar’s wines are distributed in New York State through wine shops across Long Island and Upstate New York. 

“We’re always looking to expand and keep things fresh…we’re still a family winery…my mom and sisters are involved in the running of it,” Damianos says, adding that despite the vineyard’s size, at the heart, they’re still a family operation. 

 “You walk in and still feel the family element and the warmth of family…You still get a friendly face that loves to discuss wines,” he says, adding that they don’t change. 

“One unique thing at Pindar is that people see the ownership…we’re out front and center greeting people as they arrive,” he says. 

As large and busy as Pindar is, people walk in and feel good. “Our vineyard is built on customer service, teaching people about wine and hoping that people buy what they like.” 

Damianos explains that the world of wine can be “overwhelming and at times a bit snobby,” and that’s what Pindar tries to counter with its customer-oriented approach to visitors. 

“People can come here and feel comfortable no matter what types of wines they prefer from dry to sweet…We want people to experience the warmth of the vineyard and try our products.” 

Emphasizing the importance of having people in the state support the Island’s wine industry, Pindar says his dad once said to him,

“If every New Yorker bought one bottle of wine, we wouldn’t be able to make enough.” 

Spencer Krawitz, a former retail manager for the now-defunct Galluccio Vineyard in Cutchogue, NY, says that the island’s wine industry has made great strides in the last few decades.  

“I would say it’s really cool to see how Long Islands’ vineyard region has grown so much in the last 40 years…when the first vines were planted here (on Long Island) no one thought the region would grow into the second most popular wine region in the country, with very good award-winning vineyards and wines,” he says. “Long Island now has some of the best wine makers from around the world.”

And for his part, Damianos says he wants people to buy any wine produced in New York State– not just from PIndar. 

“I want to keep my dad’s legacy alive…to continue his vision with more innovation…staying humble and just following in his footsteps,” he says.  

 “We want to make wine fun.”