US winery owner dies in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – A German-born businessman who owned a New York winery has died while swimming in the ocean off of Brazil, police said Friday.

Christian Wolffer, 70, suffered two deep cuts on his back while swimming on New Year’s Eve near the colonial town of Paraty, about 150 kilometers (100 miles) west of Rio de Janeiro, police investigator Luiz Carlos dos Anjos Batista said.

Authorities are investigating whether the cuts were caused by a passing boat. It isn’t clear if Wolffer drowned or died from the cuts. Citing testimony from witnesses, Batista said that Wolffer was at a lunch party at a Brazilian friend’s beach home when he decided to go for a swim.

“Minutes later he was heard shouting for help and seen waving his arms frantically,” Batista said. “One of the guests rushed out in his boat and with the help of two other swimmers, pulled him out of the water with two deep gashes on his back, apparently caused by a passing boat.”

Wolffer was dead by the time he reached the hospital, Batista said, without providing further details.

He said relatives of Wolffer were in Rio and were expected to fly the body to Germany for burial early next week. He did not know who the relatives were.

A former investment banker and venture capitalist, the native of Hamburg, Germany, owned the Wolffer Estate vineyard and winery — formerly known as Sagpond Vineyards — near Sagaponack, New York, in the Hamptons area of Long Island.