Merlot Alliance Names New President and Announces a Scholarship


The Long Island Merlot Alliance has named Juan Micieli-Martinez, winemaker and general manager at Martha Clara Vineyards, as its new president. In addition they announced a scholarship of $3,500 for a student from Suffolk County who wishes to study study of viticulture and enology at Cornell University.

The award also offers a summer-long rotating internship focused on the study of the merlot grape at LIMA’s member wineries: Martha Clara Vineyards, Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Raphael, T’Jara Vineyards and McCall Wines, and through LIMA’s block registry program, which studying merlot vines with an eye toward understanding how the grape—the mostly widely grown vitis vinifera in Long Island—expresses itself in soils on both the North and South forks. (This a huge undertaking, which will result in a map of vineyard parcels according to their productivity, microclimates, soil composition, where the vines were bought, how the vines were trained, and so on.) For now the block registry will just include LIMA member vineyards.

“Our maritime climate is certainly well suited to making interesting, fresh, fruit-driven, food-friendly wines,” says Micieli-Martinez. “I’m really a scientist, and I believe that the work we’re doing at LIMA is going to be important in learning more about the particularity of our wines and, thus, our unique terroir.”

According to LIMA’s press release: A Long Island native, Micieli-Martinez began his career at Pellegrini with the 1999 harvest, fresh out of SUNY Binghamton after completing a double major in biology and psychology. In 2000, he took a slight but integral detour to become a brewer for Southampton Publick House—an experience he found invaluable. Not only did he learn volumes about yeast and fermentation, but it also sparked in him an ahead-of-the-curve idea of putting wine in kegs.

In 2001, he landed at Premium Wine Group, Long Island’s custom-crush facility, and through its owner and one of his mentors, Russell Hearn, was given the opportunity to work a harvest at Houghton Winery in Western Australia, further expanding his winemaking knowledge. Back in Long Island, he became Pellegrini’s production winemaker from 2002 to 2006. Micieli-Martinez spent a year as Shinn Estate Vineyards’ winemaker from 2006 to 2007, at which time he left for his current position at Martha Clara Vineyards.

A silent-auction fundraiser for the scholarship will be folded into LIMA’s annual Merliance launch dinner, to be held Sunday, April 24 at Sag Harbor’s new Wölffer Kitchen at 29 Main Street.

Applications and information about the scholarship may be requested via