By Danny Schrafel
A Huntington attorney is eyeing 10 acres of waterfront land near Crab Meadow Beach with hopes of building what may be the Town of Huntington’s first working vineyard.
Attorney Frederick Giachetti, a lifelong Huntington resident, took the first steps toward realizing that vision when Suffolk County’s Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board voted in favor of sending the project, proposed for 29 Norwood Road near the Crab Meadow Golf Course and a nature preserve, to the full legislature for consideration.
Currently, a vacant farmhouse stands on the wooded property. But why make it a vineyard – and why here?
Passion for the craft plays a role. Giachetti said his wife’s family in Italy has been wine makers and silk manufacturers for more than 150 years, and he’s been making homemade wine for many years using the family recipes.
Now, they’re hoping to grow Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer grapes for wine here, which will be produced in consultation with Mudd Vineyards.
“We’re very excited to do that here,” he said.
The agricultural use, he said, is a natural fit with the parcel’s historic use predominantly as an apple orchard, one that he hopes could one day provide educational opportunities for students at the neighboring Norwood Avenue Elementary School, he said. No additional permits are needed from the State Liquor Authority, Giachetti said, because the vineyard is more than 200 feet away from the front door of the school.
While history and family tradition are fine assets, climate and soil will make or break any agricultural pipe dream. Giachetti said he’s confident Northport is ideal in both aspects – it’s just like the East End, where wineries and vineyards attract more than 1.3 million visitors annually, according to the Long Island Wine Council and produce about 500,000 cases of wine each year.
“It has some of the greatest soil, and coming off of the Long Island Sound, there’s great air drainage over in that area,” he said of Northport. “Just like in the East End, we have some really great soil, and being so north, it’s a great opportunity.”
Still, there’s a bit of final red tape to clear before the vino starts flowing.
The full Suffolk County Legislature must sign off on his application to be included in the state’s Agricultural District program, which, with the state’s blessing, would make the property eligible for lower property taxes. The county vote is expected in June, Giachetti said.
The project must also undergo scrutiny at Huntington Town Hall, where site plan approval and allowances to make wine on the property must be awarded. Town code allows Giachetti to grow grapes as of right, but manufacturing wine on site would require rezoning.
As of right now, Giachetti has final conditional approval to subdivide the parcel and build seven houses. But he’d much rather build a vineyard.
“My wife and I have felt very strongly about this that this might be the right place at the right time to bring a vineyard and winery to a great area,” he said.