Dr. Herodotus Damianos, Founder of Long Island’s Largest Winery, Dies

His Pindar and Duck Walk wineries contributed immensely to the local economy.
Dr. Herodotus "Dan" Damianos, founder of the pioneering Pindar and Duck Walk Vineyards in Long Island, New York, passed away on Monday following a struggle with pulmonary fibrosis. He was 83 years old.

Born in Manhattan to a Greek immigrant family, Dr. Damianos was a doctor of internal medicine who discovered a passion for agriculture in the 1960s after moving his family to suburban Long Island. Discovering abandoned grape vines on his new property, he was inspired to create fine wines from vinifera grapes in Long Island.

In 1979, Dr. Damianos purchased 36 acres of potato fields in the town of Peconic on the North Fork of Long Island. He named the vineyard Pindar, after the ancient Greek poet, and began planting grape vines the following year. Following his first vintage of wines in 1982, Pindar came to be among the first Long Island wines to be distributed on a commercial scale to Manhattan. In 1988, Pindar wines were served at the inauguration of President George H.W. Bush.

In 1994, Dr. Damianos and his son Alex acquired Duck Walk vineyards in the South Fork of Long Island, expanding the family’s vineyard acreage to over 600 acres.

Dr. Damianos maintained his medical practice while establishing his two wineries, spending his spare time in his vineyards with his children. He retired from medicine in 1996 to focus on winemaking.

Today, Pindar is the largest winery on Long Island, growing 17 varieties of grapes and producing 70,000 cases of wine annually. Duck Walk produces an additional 35,000 cases of wine annually. The two vineyards and wineries had been listed for sale last summer at an unnamed price.

According to Steven Bates, Executive Director of the Long Island Wine Council, Dr. Damianos was a leader both within the wine community and beyond. “The size and scale of his wine operations meant that Pindar and Duck Walk became important forces in the local economy, accounting for hundreds of jobs and thousands of tourists to the North Fork every year,” said Bates.

"Dr. Damianos helped to introduce many people to Long Island wine. Although his wine production may have been small by global standards, the amount of his planted acreage Long Island enabled him to achieve economies of scale that enabled him to keep price points relatively low while offering a diverse range of wines. Some of his labels continue to be immensely popular and enjoy a very loyal following," said Bates.

Dr. Damianos is survived by his wife, Barbara; sons Alexander, Jason and Pindar; daughters Alethea Damianos Conroy and Eurydice; and four grandchildren. The two wineries will be maintained by his children who serve various functions within their grape growing, wine making and business operations.

Published on August 21, 2014