Russell Hearn, the acclaimed winemaker who helped establish Lieb Cellars over three decades ago, is coming full circle. Joining forces with his wife Susan, daughter Shelby Ulrich, and son-in-law Brad Ulrich, Russell has purchased the pioneering Long Island winery he helped start in 1992 for $4.5 million.
The acquisition cements Russell’s enduring bond with Lieb Cellars, where he has served as head winemaker since 1993. Under his guidance, Lieb gained renown for standout offerings like its Pinot Blanc, sparking Cuvees, and red varietals. Hearn’s consistent commitment to quality turned the 54-acre sustainably farmed North Fork estate into a regional flagship.
“I first met Mark and Kathy Lieb three decades ago when they were passionate about showcasing the best Long Island wines had to offer, which continues to be the goal of Lieb Cellars today,” said Russell. “I’ve been proud to make Lieb’s Pinot Blanc, Sparkling Cuvees, and red varietals for 30 years and I look forward to continuing that work for years to come.”
Now Russell aims to chart a bold new course for Lieb by merging operations with his family’s nearby Suhru Wines. Launched by Susan in 2008 and managed by Shelby since 2018, Suhru made its name through a wholesale model before expanding into a bustling tasting room.
While building up Suhru, Russell co-founded the East Coast’s first custom-crush winery in 2000, catalyzing boutique Long Island wine. This wealth of experience makes the Suhru-Lieb partnership natural for elevating both, Shelby said.
The families have also partnered with entrepreneurs John and Renée Fondacaro, bringing robust wine and hospitality experience.
“Partnership brings differing views to drive the best direction,” said Russell. “This unification of family-owned Suhru and Lieb brands, and of the Fondacaros and ourselves, lean on our varied skills to improve both wineries.”
Despite the changing of the guard, Russell will stay on as winemaker for Lieb’s Bridge Lane label, retaining his key role.
The North Fork real estate deal was brokered by Corcoran’s Sheri Winter Parker, who called it “an honor and privilege” to work on the sale. Parker previously handled the 2018 deal for the Premium Wine Group, the custom-crush facility Russell co-founded in 2000.
For more information, visit liebcellars.com.