The New York winemaking community suffered a twofold shock this month with the deaths of Marco and Ann Marie Borghese, owners of prominent Long Island winery Castello di Borghese, in separate incidents.
Marco Borghese died June 30 in a car accident after his car failed to navigate a curve in the roadway and collided head-on with a delivery truck. He was 70 years old.
His wife, Ann Marie Borghese, had just passed away on June 21 following a year-long battle with cancer. She was 56 years old.
Marco Borghese, a native of Tuscany, moved to the United States in 1969 and established an export-import business in Philadelphia. It was there that he met his wife, Ann Marie. Despite their lack of winemaking experience, the Borgheses were inspired to break into the field following a Thanksgiving trip to the North Fork of Long Island in 1998. A year later, they purchased parcels of the first vineyards established in Long Island, dating back to 1973, from the Hargrave family. The Borgheses named their winery Castello di Borghese, a nod to Marco’s noble Italian lineage.
At the winery, Marco served as the vineyard manager and winemaker and Ann Marie was involved in the wine’s marketing and established a winery art gallery. An early leader and collaborator in the region, Marco was elected president of the Long Island Wine Council just four years after establishing his winery. Ann Marie served on the council’s special events committee.
According to Steven Bate, the executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, Marco “was instrumental in leading the organization through some difficult, transitional times.”
“Out here, people had all these different business models, and there was oftentimes a competitive tension,” Bate said. He describes Marco as having a distinctly “European charm and relaxed elegance” that allowed him to “come in, calm things down, and get people to work together.”
The winery specialized in traditional European grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as a Meritage blend. According to Bates, as a winemaker, Marco brought a “very Old World style of winemaking that happened to do particularly well in the region.
“He truly set the stage for future growth,” Bate said.
The 85-acre winery and vineyard, originally purchased for $4 million, had been on the market in recent years, currently at a price of $9.5 million.
The Borgheses are survived by their children, Allegra, Giovanni and Fernando, none of whom are involved in the winery’s operations.