Bill Sokolin 1930-2015 In Memoriam
On July 25th, we sprinkled Bill’s ashes in Gardener’s Bay right off Montauk Point. lt was his wish to “buried’ at sea. This was deeply touching experience for our immediate family. We left a trail of flowers in our wake.
My husband loved the East End. A born and bred New Yorker, he spent his first 65 years in Manhattan, venturing out of town only for vineyard vísits, winter vacations to the Caribbean and summers on the East End. After spending 10 summers in rentals from Southampton to Amagansett, Bill decided to move his thriving Madison Ave. wine emporium to a fortuitous location in Southampton, right next door to Tate’s Bake Shop. We purchased a home base in Watermill from which he rarely strayed afterward. In fact, I don’t think he ever actually wore a business suit again, no matter what the occasion.
Bill took over the family retail liquor business in 1958 after his father passed away. His first thought was to sell it and get on with his life, but he suddenly fell madly in love with wine. He was in on the ground floor. Americans were starting to travel to Europe and came home with a passion for the wine they enjoyed in France and Italy. Business was booming and from our vantage wine sales seemed to increase exponentially.
Trips to the wine-producing areas of France, ltaly and Spain ensued. Since American wine-buyers were a rarity at the time, Bill and I were welcomed at great and small establishments wherever we stopped. I recall sleeping in Baron Rothschild’s canopied bed at Chateau Lafite. It was the time of our lives!
Thanks to this business in Europe, since the 1970s our family had been weaned on 3-Star French cooking and Bill began to import wine under the labels of the great French chefs Paul Bocuse, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Michel Guerard, et al. We were always welcomed in theír homes and restaurants with open arms (and mouths). To our delight, on Long lsland we discovered that you did not have to travef across the Atlantic to savor great food. This, too, was available in our backyard. Our personal favorites ran the gamut from Roberts in Watermill to Nick and Toni’s in Easthampton, always with a stop at Bobby Van’s for the best steaks.
Proximity to the vineyards was another of the East End’s many charms. Our backyard in Watermill is adjacent to the vines of Duck Walk Vineyard and we spent innumerable evenings strolling through the grapevines, usually seeing groups of deer in the distance. Of course, a quick check for ticks was de rigeur upon our return. We wondered why we never bumped into any other human beings on our walks although there are quite a few homes that border the vineyard.
Bill especially felt that the North Fork climate was similar to the great Bordeaux wine-producing regions. The vineyards are set between two bodies of water, which creates the perfect “terroir” for viticulture. In his advertising he would always make a comparison; say, between Lenz Cabernet and Chateau Mouton Rothschild for example, for his favorite winemaker was Eric Frye of Lenz who, he believed, was the equal of any of his French peers. Another favorite was the Massoud family of Paumonok Vineyard. We spent many pleasurable afternoons tasting their wines with Ursula and Charles. Our idea of a fine summer day was to drive or take the Shelter lsland ferries to the North Fork for rotating visits to Bedell, Corey Creek, and the purchase of a few cases of wine. Who needed to go to France when such an embarrassment of riches was right in our backyard?
Bill was the author of two books on wine investing, a niche market he felt that he invented. Liquid Assets and The Complete Wine lnvestor are classics in their field. My son David who continues at D. Sokolin Co., lnc. since Bill’s retirement in 2001, has added to our family library with his updated book investing in Liquid Assets. David’s tome has even been printed in Chinese!
Bill’s interest in politics led to an almost weekly Letter to the Editor of the Easthampton Star, which was always printed, making him somewhat of a local celebrity. He’d field phone calls and letters, mostly from readers who disagreed with his liberal, anti-Bush raves. He loved the give and take that ensued, as did the newspaper. This scenario was reminiscent of his very public disagreements with Robert Parker, the well-known author of the eponymous popular wine letter. There was something about a debate that got his juices flowing and contributed to his success and well-being.
Bill spent the last 20 years of his life pursuing his passion for life and politics and wine on Long lsland. He would only venture a quick trip to our apartment in New York to visit our grandchildren and then it was straight back to the East End.
This is my first summer in Watermill without Bill. Although I’ve been lucky enough to fill our house with family and friends, good food and lots of wine, it’s certainly not the same. There are so many wonderful remembrances of times past, to quote Proust, that the summer has been bittersweet. I can’t but reflect on 53 years spent together and I think of Bill every time I raise a glass of wine,