For their first Christmas as a married couple, Jessica DeVellis bought her husband, Massimo DeVellis, a copy of “From Vines to Wines.”
Her father-in-law was an exceptional winemaker in his own home, a trait he passed down to his son. She recognized her husband’s passion for the craft, as well as his desire to venture out and experiment with new techniques and styles.
As Massimo DeVellis puts it, the Jeff Cox book was the dawn of a journey of “self discovery,” and remains a faithful resource.
“I don’t even know if the cover is still on it,” Massimo, 50, said. “The binding is cracked, it falls apart every time I take it out.”
Two decades later, Massimo and Jessica DeVellis, along with Massimo’s childhood friend of 45 years, Joseph Divino, and his wife Ghislane, have opened Insieme Wines and Tasting Room in Oceanside. The full production winery and 45-seat tasting room named after the Italian word for “together” is Nassau County’s newest winery.
Located at 3333 Lawson Blvd., the winery opened last month.
The couple, married 21 years, visited the North Fork constantly throughout their courtship and marriage. There, they popped into wineries to drink, learn and make friends. They longed to bring a little bit of the North Fork vibe to their next venture.
“Its not an easy destination to get to when you’re always in the mood for a glass of wine,” Jessica DeVellis, 47, said. “We live on the south shore, we love the south shore, and we decided we should push it a little south to just make it easy for people who want to go out for a couple of hours for a glass of wine.”
“We picked Oceanside because its just a wonderful community,” she added. “So far, we’ve been welcomed by extremely open arms.”
From grapes to great
Starting out, Massimo DeVellis was driven to replicate some of his favorite bottles of red.
“The things that really got me passionate about wine were Bordeaux and Italian super Tuscan wines, and Chianti Classico,” he said. “And I think our program kind of grew around me just kind of being in love with those wines and that style.”
Massimo DeVellis’ process for each vintage, which takes on average three to four years, starts with selecting high quality grapes. He gets his grapes from California, Washington state, the Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York, and the North Fork.
“Once we can secure the stuff that we want, and we find a place that we love, we kind of stick with it,” he said. “Some of our red wines we’ve been making off the same vineyards for 15 years. Same farmer, same family, same product and we won’t change anything.”
Massimo DeVellis said 2012 to 2016 was a key growing period for production. After outgrowing their home space, the couple made wine out of a production facility in Hicksville in 2016.
Last year, he began production on his 20th vintage. Even with two decades of experience, he said encounters different challenges each year and continues to learn new tricks of the trade.
“It’s more art than science, I can tell you that,” Massimo DeVellis said. “It’s easy to make wine, it’s really hard to make great wine, and its really really hard to make great wine consistently year after year. Like really difficult.”
“It is backbreaking, hard work,” his wife added. “But the reward is seeing everyone that comes and sits in here.”
Flights and food
Insieme’s tasting room offers four flights — three red and one white. Each flight boasts three separate three-ounce pours.
As groups sample the various vintages, they call on the winemaker himself to talk shop. Tasters even stroll down memory lane with Massimo and Jessica DeVellis, recalling where and when they encountered their personal favorite pours.
“The questions I get in the tasting room are pretty fascinating.” Massimo DeVellis said.
“I love how interested people are with the whole process and the wines and where the grapes come from,” Jessica DeVellis added. “It’s awesome, they want to talk to us and we want to talk to them. It’s really been wonderful.”
The couple said the tasting room’s food is just as important as its wine. This is where Jessica DeVellis’ experience shines.
Her mother and father started Remo’s Italian American Delicatessen in New Hyde Park in 1982. She ran the eatery’s catering service for years and calls on the deli’s time-tested suppliers for gourmet Charcuterie at the winery.
The winery also offers elegant small plates, such as burrata with eggplant caponata and ricotta salata, served atop a baguette topped with bresaola and honey, alongside herb cheese-stuffed sweet peppers and arugula.
Jessica DeVellis said she believed her food experience and her husband’s winemaking passion would collide some day. She also said the efforts of her parents, who were Italian immigrants, inspire her in her new venture with her husband.
“It was just a family based business and they worked their tails off seven days a week and grew it into this pretty monstrous place that everyone knew about,” she said. “When I looked at that, I thought we could do that too.”
Looking ahead: live entertainment and custom crushes
After Insieme Wines gets acquanted with Oceanside this winter, the tasting room may expand its offerings come spring. Jessica DeVellis said they the couple is looking into adding live entertainment, food trucks, outdoor seating and maybe a chef.
Down the road, the full production winery plans to offer customers the opportunity to make their own wine.
“You come in when the grapes are delivered, and you’re part of the entire process,” Jessica DeVellis said. “It’s an entire year of being part of the process of crushing, pressing, tasting throughout the year. And then at the end of that year, you go home with five cases of your own personal labeled wine from us. Technically, it’s yours because you’re making it with the winemaker himself.”
[Correction: A prior version of this article incorrectly reported that Insieme Wines is the first winery in Nassau County. It is not. According to the owners, they operate the first “full production winery and tasting room” in Nassau. Greater Long Island regrets the error.]
Top photo: Massimo and Jessica DeVellis