The Sagaponack Farm Distillery
A history of a young Hamptons distillery.
Siblings Marilee and Dean Foster, sixth- generation farmers in Sagaponack, saw the writing on the wall in the late 1990s, as potato farming in the Hamptons became less viable due to rising land and production costs. Although they had an impressive 400 acres of potatoes under cultivation, they “noticed the economy around us changing and started shifting to the idea of express- ing the terroir in different ways—which meant spirits in addition to mashed potatoes,” Marilee recounts. While the Fosters continue to grow potatoes on property that now measures just under 100 acres, their dream of making local spirits recently came true. Here, a brief timeline of their seven-year journey:
The Fosters purchase a 15-acre property just north of Wölffer Estate Vineyard, with plans to construct a distillery and tasting room. “The property was a farm, and we saved it from becoming a subdivision,” Marilee Foster says. “The whole idea, which I told the Town of Southampton’s Landmarks & Historic Districts board, is that we would be preserving a farm.”
Sagaponack Farm Distillery becomes one of the first two Hamptons farm distilleries (the other is Wölffer) after receiving a Distilled Spirits Plant permit from the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The Fosters finally obtain all the necessary approvals, including a Certificate of Occupancy and a tasting room permit. Their distiller, Matt Beamer, a former Salt Lake City beer maker, begins running a large twin-column reflux still.
The Fosters receive approval to build the tasting room, which doubles as a sort of farm museum. “It has the spirit of all the farms out here: doors from various barns, old wood from the former Bush farm on Hedges Lane, and a bar top made from an elm cut down in the 1980s on Parsonage Lane,” Marilee says.
Sagaponacka, the distillery’s first potato-based vodka, debuts.
The distillery releases a wheat-based vodka, which wins a best of class award from the American Distilling Institute.
The tasting room opens on December 5, a.k.a. Prohibition Repeal Day.
Plans for a July reopening include new offerings such as rhubarb liqueur (distilled from Foster Farm rhubarb); Single Spud, a 90-proof whiskey-like spirit made from white, red, and blue potato varieties (in three separate bottlings) and finished in oak casks; cucumber-infused vodka; a gin featuring Foster Farm botanicals; and aquavit, made with dill, fennel, and cilantro from Marilee’s herb garden.
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: The Seven-Year Itch.