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Robert Palmer (July 16, 1934 – January 16, 2009) was an American advertising executive who became a vintner and one of the pioneering developers of the wine industry on the North Fork of New York's Long Island.

He was born Robert Joseph Prignano on July 16, 1934 in Forest Hills, Queens.[1] He adopted the surname Palmer when he started working as he felt people found it too hard to spell.[2] He went to school in Queens Village, Queens and attended Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York.[2] He did not attend college and started employment in the advertising industry in his early teens. By 1970, he was president and chief executive of Kelly Nason, growing its billings from $14 million to $140 million by the time he left the position in 1978. He started a media buying service, called RJ Palmer, in 1979, which he sold in the 1990s but remained active in the business until two years before his death.[1]

After selling his interest in Kelly Nason, he bought land for his vineyard in 1983 in Aquebogue, in Suffolk County, New York, despite knowing almost nothing about the wine business. The winery he opened in 1986 was one of the most modern in the nascent wine-growing business on the North Fork of Long Island, and he made his business one of the most friendly to visitors. One of the first major investors in the area, Palmer Vineyards produces up to 16,000 cases of wine annually, specializing in Cabernet Franc and sauvignon blanc. His company was one of the first to export wine grown on Long Island internationally.[1] His wines have been served on American Airlines and at restaurants from California to Walt Disney World to Gallagher's Steak House in Manhattan, where it is served as the house wine.[1][2]

Despite a personal preference for martinis, Palmer would taste all of his own wines and exercise final approval on his products, but did not otherwise prefer to drink wine. He had been impressed with people who could accurately identify wines while blindfolded by vineyard and a vintage, which led him to pursue wine tasting as a hobby.[1]

Palmer died at age 74 on January 16, 2009 of a blood infection. He was survived by the former Lorraine Wittmer, his wife of 50 years, three daughters and three grandsons.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Weber, Bruce. "Robert Palmer, Ad Executive Turned Vintner, Dies at 74", The New York Times, January 24, 2009. Accessed January 29, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Harrington, Mark. "Bob Palmer, owner of Palmer Vineyards, dies at 74", Newsday, January 17, 2009. Accessed January 29, 2009.


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