This Winemaker Says Process Matters as Much as Palate

When it comes to winemaking, Russell Hearn said you’ve got to adhere to a strict process in addition to letting your palate guide you.

To Hearn, winemaker at Suhru Wines in the North Fork of Long Island in New York, winemaking is a blend of science and art — with a heavy emphasis on the former.

“Winemaking is 70% sanitation, 20% perspiration (doing the sanitation), 9% inspiration, and 1% degustation, but only at the end of the day,” said Hearn, who’s been Suhru’s winemaker since it started in 2008.

An Australian native, Hearn began his career working in Western Australia, greatly influencing his technical style and artistry. He continued his education working harvests in New Zealand and France before moving to the United States where he has worked in several US wine regions, with the last 30 years spent focused on Long Island and the wine regions across New York State. ⁣

Suhru does not grow its own grapes, instead electing to source its fruit from vineyards located in areas of New York where the grapes needed to make each of its wines grow best. Suhru’s portfolio includes tank-fermented crisp, dry white wines showcasing their varietal aromas, flavors, and crisp acidity as well as barrel-aged and fruit-forward red wines with soft tannins. 

Hearn said winemaking at Suhru involved a lot of physical, mental, and lab work that includes testing the wine every step of the way.

“There is a lot you can tell by taste, but your palate can only take you so far,” Hearn said. “Running the numbers is the best course of action to ensure what you’re tasting is actually what’s happening in the glass.”

Doing so can help ensure the difference in each consumer’s glass is just attributed to subjectivity. 

Beyond the chemistry and physical work is where the artistry comes into play, Hearn explained.

“Personal preference comes into play in a big way and it is a winemaker’s job to not only make wines that are correct and balanced from a chemical standpoint, but to produce wines that showcase the styles of wine they most enjoy,” Hearn said.

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