Beauty and the Bottle
Martha Clara Vineyards
By Miranda Beeson
This story is from the back label of Martha Clara 2004 Cabernet Franc, one of a series that pays tribute to Martha Clara Entenmann, mother and grandmother, respectively, of the proprietors, Robert Entenmann and Jackie Entenmann Damianos. In 1995, the Entenmanns planted 18 acres of vitis vinifera grapes on their 200-acre farm. Today there are over 100 acres of vines, producing an astonishing variety of wines wearing quite a variety of labels.
“We categorize our wines by price,” Jackie tells me: “moderate, mid-range and reserve.” We're meeting high up in a loft reminiscent of a tree house in their large, rustic and very busy tasting room. The “face” labels, as they call them at Martha Clara, appear on moderately priced wines: $13.99 to $21.99.
It all started with a signature. In the 1990s, Jackie was working with Robert Kerns, who has since become general manager, to design a logo for their burgeoning business. “We asked each other what we could find that was unique,” says Jackie, and Martha Clara's signature was the answer. It was only natural that a photo of “Mrs. E” on her wedding day would complete “the picture” and become this charming, familial series of labels.
At the other end of the visual spectrum are Martha Clara's “negative space” labels: “50” (pronounced Five-O) and “6025.” Look at one of these labels for a second or two and the background and foreground will change places before your eyes; not exactly an optical illusion, but an entertaining play on space. These wines, all blends, are priced from $15.99 to $39.99. Five-O Red combines six red varietals; Five-O White, seven whites; and 6025 is a seductive blend of traditional Bordeaux reds. What is the solution to these graphic, numerical puzzles? “Five-O refers to turning 50,” Jackie reveals. “It was a nickname we had for my father, for that time when a man turns 50: you've been there, done that; you've gained the voice of experience.” And 6025? It's the address of Martha Clara Vineyards on Sound Avenue in Riverhead. Fun numbers, bold graphics, warm blends. Did I mention these labels glow in the dark?
Does the stag on the labels of Martha Clara's Gewürztraminer and Riesling look familiar? Where have you seen it before? Usually when driving on a country road at dusk on the North Fork. Yes, it's the stag from the deer-crossing sign. Here, they're black on cream and cream on black, leaping across the labels of these two fine wines of German origin — well, Gewürz is really Alsatian, but German-influenced. (“Gewürz,” by the way, means spicy or perfumed, and “Traminer” is the grape variety, in case you have always wondered, as I have, about this mouthful of a name.)
Robert Entenmann's grandfather came to the United States from Germany in 1898 and opened a bakery in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Although the family sold the company in 1978, Entenmann's products are still a popular staple on grocery shelves. That same year, Robert Entenmann bought a North Fork potato farm, where he and daughter Jackie now make wines in the European tradition.
Europe and America, the past and the present, are intertwined at Martha Clara Vineyards. Life has come full circle at this family vineyard.
Miranda Beeson, a freelance writer based in Greenport, is a frequent contributor to the Long Island Wine Press. Her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies. She's at work on a collection of essays about many landscapes, including the North Fork. Ms. Beeson teaches the delight of writing to East End children of all ages. Her Web site, www.mirandabeeson.com, will soon be online.