Wine Press: North Fork winemakers who mad moves in 2010

12/27/2010 7:59 AM |

JANE STARWOOD PHOTO | Rich Olsen-Harbich is now making wine at Bedell Cellars.

In a rapid series of moves, one of them characterized as a “Rubik’s Cube,” three Long Island winemakers changed wineries this summer. Richard Olsen-Harbich, longtime winemaker at Raphael, moved to Bedell Cellars. The vacancy at Raphael was quickly filled by Les Howard, who had been making Pindar Vineyard’s wines for the past two years. And Kelly Urbanik, who had been assistant winemaker and then winemaker at Bedell Cellars since 2005, landed at Macari Vineyards. We hear that Jason Damianos will once again become head winemaker at his family’s Pindar Vineyards.

Richard Olsen-Harbich, Bedell Cellars

Rich Olsen-Harbich (of the Rubik’s Cube comment) has been deeply involved in the Long Island wine industry for some 25 years. He wrote the complex applications for the region’s three viticultural areas and helped found the Long Island Merlot Alliance. As happy as he was at Raphael, he says he was ready to take on a new challenge.

“I’m thrilled to begin working for Michael Lynne,” Rich said in a recent conversation. “Bedell has always been a company I admired and respected. It’s an opportunity to work for a passionate, dedicated owner.” He also expressed delight at working with founding winemaker Kip Bedell and the rest of the Bedell Cellars team. “They want to emphasize the local character of the wines, and that’s what I do. The North Fork provides everything we need to make a beautiful product.”

Les Howard, Raphael

With the move to Raphael, Les Howard has returned to smaller-scale, hands-on winemaking. “I was happy at Pindar and we made some great wines there, but I had to give this a shot” when the opportunity arose, he says. Les, whose roots go centuries deep in North Fork soil, has been working in Long Island wineries since his teen years, starting in the cellar at Pindar, then doing stints at Wolffer, Bedell and Jamesport before returning to Pindar two years ago. “I know winemaking here,” he says; “I learned from the best.”
“I’m really happy to be working with [vineyard manager] Steve Mudd,” Les declares. “He has a wealth of knowledge; it’s an honor to work with him. And the Petrocellis are wonderful, nice people — great to work for.” Les also likes the fact that at Raphael he’s not in the lab all the time. “I get more exercise,” he says with a big grin.

Kelly Urbanik, Macari Vineyards & Winery

I caught up with Kelly Urbanik between frantic days at Macari. They had already harvested the Pinot Noir and were in a waiting mode when we sat down to talk.

Kelly’s from Northern California, so it was a trip to home territory when she flew out to Napa to talk with Macari’s new winemaking consultant, Bob Foley, about joining the team, which also includes “flying winemaker” Helmut Gangl of Austria. They decided it was a great fit, and Kelly says she’s excited to be working with owner Joe Macari Jr.

“Joe works in the vineyard and on the soil,” Kelly says; “he’s really passionate about it. He wants to keep the quality up and he’ll do what it takes. He wants the wines to really represent this place, with a style that doesn’t mask anything: not too much oak or too much manipulation.

“The wines here are really good already,” she adds. “There’s no reason to change things dramatically. Having someone here full time will make things even better.”
The Long Island Wine Press team congratulates these three on their new positions and looks forward to tasting their new wines.