Winner’s Circle

As summer in the Hamptons season approaches, Joey Wölffer–the spirited entrepreneur behind the now iconic “Summer in a Bottle” and equestrienne–shares how she brings her keen sense of style to business and pleasure.

By Mosha Lundström Halbert

If you were to conjure up the image of a modern day Renaissance woman, it might very well be Joey Wölffer, her own Summer in a Bottle rosé in hand, wearing a maximalist printed ensemble from her shop as she unwinds after a busy day of running her wine empire with a side of horseback riding. For the past decade, she’s stewarded (alongside her brother Marc and husband Max Rohne) her late father’s lauded Hamptons-based Wölffer Estate Vineyard and charming Wölffer Kitchen restaurant in Amagansett as well as her eponymous Sag Harbor clothing boutique. But that’s not all. Wölffer also is a noted equestrienne, as both an international-level show jumper and owner of her own top notch stable and training center. She also consults for women’s wear label Alice and Olivia, advises the Parrish Art Museum, and serves on the board of the Hampton Classic. Here, this stylish vintner and equine enthusiast shares her eye for unexpected pairings – in work and play.

Why were you drawn to such a full-on sport as show jumping with all your other projects?

I’ve always had the bug. And then as I got older, and I got more independent and decided I would like to buy my own horse. Basically at 40, I’m pursuing childhood dreams at a level that I never thought possible. I feel a little crazy, but it makes me so happy. And I think that I’m better at everything when I am happy. It also makes me more focused in my business and my parenting life when I have this big thing that I also have to work hard towards. It is the most grounding thing to be in touch with animals, nature, and what really matters to me.

How does your riding practice influence you as a businessperson? 

I’m addicted to horses, riding, and competition. I think you need to have that competitive edge in business, too. It keeps me going and keeps me wanting to be better. When you’re building brands and companies, you cannot be complacent, because there will be the next best thing on your horizon.

Is there ever a cross-over between your respective worlds of wine and horses? 

This year is particularly exciting because Wölffler Estate Summer in a Bottle is the official rosé of the Wellington International horse show. It’s been really fun and fulfilling to meld these two worlds because rosé is a lifestyle, it’s not just a wine. I’m here [in Florida] riding in the winter season and so is our clientele. They are from all over the world and we are growing this brand all over the world.

Award-winning wine? Check. Champion horses? Check. How do you tie your burgeoning fashion business into the mix? 

I’ve met some of the most interesting people in my store in Sag Harbor that have connected me to people in the wine world and vice versa. We’ve been on a trunk show and pop-up tear with my store at the moment — with stops in Wellington, Palm Beach, and Charleston. I mix all my worlds. Fashion inspires me creatively and we have a really creative wine brand because of my fashion background. I’m more risky and daring and I think about wine like a product. I’m not the type of person to ever do one thing. I need to be busy in order to be productive.

Speaking of symbiotic relationships, what’s your advice when it comes to working well with family and navigating a business that is so deeply personal? 

A lot of these bigger rosés are owned by corporations. There’s a real difference in our touch. There’s no part of my dad’s tragic death that was lucky [Christian Wölffer, the founder of Wölffer Estate Vineyard, died unexpectedly in 2008] . But I grew up a bit. The vineyard was barely breaking even at that time. But I also felt a sense of responsibility, even in my twenties. Everybody has that time when they’re faced with decisions that are bigger than what they can handle. But my mom and my husband really didn’t think I should sell the business. My brother and I weren’t close, but I knew he was a good person. When my husband got involved as CEO, it started to all come together. Our naivete is what helped us in the beginning. Summer in a Bottle came from a gut feeling. I went through quite a bit of self doubt, but have learned to trust my instincts because if you take no risks in life it’s almost impossible to succeed. Tragedy that you obviously cannot prepare for is just part of my story. It pitched me into this wonderful life where I’m pursuing my dreams, both in the workplace, in my sport, and as a mother.

On the topic of innovation and evolving, what’s new and exciting you at Wölffler Estate Vineyards at the moment?

Spring in a Bottle has taken off – our non-alcoholic sparkling rosé. It’s been a hit and now we’re introducing single-size versions, available at Whole Foods, along with our new Hibiscus Cider. We also have a new sake cider, which is the most delicious drink. You put it on ice and can drink it like a martini, but it’s not super high in alcohol and is refreshing. This year we are re-releasing our Blanc de Blanc in celebration of our 35th anniversary – a sparkling white in a very special bottle.

Is there a wine rule you love to break or an unexpected pairing you can vouch for? 

It’s funny, people tend to think of rosé as a lunch drink by the pool, but I drink rosé at dinner, too. I love the lack of snobbery behind it and versatility, which is great for gatherings. My go-to dish throughout summer is spaghetti with clams. I always put more of our rosé wine and garlic than they say and a lot of parsley for flavor, that’s my secret. I serve it with plenty of Summer in a Bottle rosé as well.

What’s one of your signature uncommon combos when it comes to fashion?

I mix stripes with every other print that ever existed. I must have 150 striped shirts. They put me in a good mood. A solid is a bit boring to me, whereas stripes feel unexpected. I wear mine with an African batik skirt that has big jewels and a lot of colors. In Morocco, I wore a bandana skirt with a striped t-shirt that worked well together even though they were so wildly different. Sometimes the best things don’t make sense until you try them.

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