In my last post, Vineyards of the North Fork, we learned the where of grapes on the East End of Long Island.
In time, each of those vineyards will have a story attached to its name. We will explore the art of the winemakers who call their work a labor of love. We will learn how their magic coaxes the flavors of the soil and climate to produce a grape’s terroir.
The winemakers give their vineyards special names. They designate a wine block to represent someone they love. A place in time that matters to them. Sometimes their wines are special because they are made from a single varietal from one of the vineyard’s wine blocks.
Alternatively, they might age their grape juice in special barrels, often blending them with another grape or grapes. They work to build a wine so special it lives up to those names or initiates the quest for a new name that better matches the qualities of the wine it will soon illustrate.
It’s time to pour yourself a glass of red, to get yourself in the game, so to speak.
The best part of this narrative lies in tasting and drinking wine. We often gather friends to taste a new wine for the first time; for a special dinner, we select bottles appropriate to the courses of food to be served. A red table wine may often be as special as a select reserve.
One thing is certain – we drink wine to commemorate events rooted in friendship, love, and celebration. We often save rare bottles, our favorites, to share for a future event with those we cherish. I pose a question – considering how it touches people’s hearts – is wine alive? Let me know what you think.
The Start of Long Island Wines
I was born on Long Island and have been traveling the country roads of the East End since the latter part of the 1960s. Most often to visit family who owned farmland. Not so much a farm or a vineyard, but a place to live, grow food and make wine to drink with the evening meal. Having 9 great-uncles meant there were many dinners and plenty of wine. Certainly, nothing matching the quality of today’s Long Island wines, but a wonderful complement to those notable family feasts. To borrow a quote from Anthony Bourdain, “most of our food came from a farm and we served it on a table” – with respect to the commitment though – not requiring the tee-shirt!
It’s been 45 years since Alex and Louisa Hargraves planted their first grapes in Cutchogue, NY. To put that 1973 beginning of East End Viniculture into perspective – it was only 40 years earlier on March 22, 1933, that the 21st Amendment had repealed Prohibition.
The West Coast wine industry had received quite a shellacking during the 13 year Prohibition Era. 94% of the vineyards were closed and in a state of terrible disrepair. It was as if growing grapes and making wine was in its infancy for the second time.
On May 24, 1976, California entered into a blind wine tasting with France. A panel of French judges declared the American wines victorious. That day became known as the Judgment of Paris, and with that decisive victory, the American Wine Industry had secured its place on the global stage. That same year the Hargraves Vineyard on the East End of Long Island was celebrating its third birthday!
Long Island Wines Today
Today, the LI Wine Region produces 500,000 cases of wine and attracts well over 1,000,000 visitors annually. The future of wine on the East End looks very bright indeed.
Let’s take a look at some of the research we did on East End Viniculture:
- In 2007 Food & Wine Magazine asked the question “Can Long Island make World-Class wines?” In retrospect, the answer is a resounding YES!
- In 2013 Edible East End said that Long Island wine is bigger—and better—than ever! We agree wholeheartedly.
- Though it lacks the valleys, Long Island Wine Country Is Just as Legit as Napa and Sonoma.
- Is it diversity or a very few varietals that define a wine region? Long Island Wine’s Hunt for a New Identity
- 40 Years working with traditional French Varietals In Pursuit of Excellence
- Sounds a bit like our Piano Man – A New York State of Wine. This explains some of Miles & Maya’s conversation in Sideways . . .
- Robert Parker says LI wines a remarkable, here are his seven picks!
- Anthony Nappa’s Bordo Antico is an unoaked, wild fermented Cabernet Franc crafted in an Old World rustic style.
A few of the tasting rooms on the East End feel like 25 years ago when I first visited them. Maybe a little like the ones in Napa where you need to know the location and why you are visiting – what grape or technique happens here? may be the only way to instigate a little wine-talk with the owner and/or winemaker. No commercialized wine tours designed to make a buck. Just the pride in wine; come take a look, a taste, understand why.
Sustainable Winegrowing and East End Wine Links!
In 40 years of land stewardship, Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing has developed the first certified sustainable viticulture program on the East Coast – a best practices system that proudly continues a heritage dating back 10,000 years to the Native Americans who first farmed this land. “Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers believe that vineyards should work in harmony with our natural world leaving the land we steward in better condition than when we found it, building a community between vineyards, workers and the land.”
LISW was started by Barbara Shinn, there is a great video on Edible. “This region has so much momentum with sustainable growing,” says Shinn. “If we stay on this track, this region could have some of the healthiest soils in the country. All of the regions on the East Coast are looking to adopt these practices. And we’re making better wine because of it.” Sometimes best practices are what’s best for all concerned, and in this case wine bonds everything together.
East End Wine Links, worth a look…
- NY Wine Events – Festivals, Events, Tastings, Clubs
- LI Wine Council – A beautiful site, lacks many vineyards that are not paid members.
- Curbed builds wonderful interactive maps – this is the North Fork Wine Version
- NY Wines LI Region – Wineries, Wine Trails and Restaurants
- LI Wines Map – this is a great savable PDF Map
- Newsday Winery Finder – A bit more information on the East End.
- It’s impossible to talk East End without including Dan Rattiner
Lagniappe [lan-yap]: Cajun for a little something extra
Thank you for taking the time to follow my story. Every week I add an extra link, one that I hope is worth a few moments of your time.
This week, we are going SIDEWAYS . . .
A few years back I traced the wine trail followed by Miles, Maya, Stephanie and Jack in the movie Sideways. The wine was delicious and the trip was everything that defines a perfect adventure. I might suggest a remake set in the North Fork – after all every wine adventure is better the second time around.
Sideways is certainly my favorite wine film as well as one of my favorite performances by Paul Giamatti. Let’s take a brief look at Wine Sideways!
- Miles talks Pinot Noir explaining his obsession with the grape
- Miles rants about Merlot and the dark side
- Maya – Falling in love with wine & people
If you have not seen Sideways, give us a call and we can plan your wine adventure on the North Fork. The night before you set out to explore I suggest Take Out from The Palm and a bottle of Hitching Post while you watch Miles, Maya, Stephanie and Jack in the comfort of your own suite.
BTW – Merlot really is an exceptional grape, our friend Roman Roth has designed magic in a bottle The Grapes of Roth.
Thinking of coming to enjoy the wines of Long Island? Call or email us to book your stay.
It’s been my pleasure,