09/01/14 8:50am
09/01/2014 8:50 AM
Grapes ripening at Clovis Point vineyard in Jamesport. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Grapes ripening at Clovis Point vineyard in Jamesport. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

While Long Island’s grapes weathered a harsh winter just fine, the unusually erratic and wet winter months upstate New York experienced have led to extreme losses of grapes across that region, putting the local commodity in high demand, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Read more at northforker.com.

07/12/14 8:00am
07/12/2014 8:00 AM
Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

The untimely and tragic deaths of Ann Marie and Marco Borghese have me thinking about the passage of time, particularly insofar as the North Fork’s grape-growing/wine industry is concerned. To the best of my knowledge, the Borgheses were the first second-generation owners/winemakers/industry boosters to pass from the scene, which is an indicator, after a fashion, of just how long this industry has been around hereabouts. Their recent deaths have also caused me to reflect on the list of others who passed before them, which, again, is a reflection that a lot of years have gone by since Louisa and Alex Hargrave planted their first grapes here in the early 1970s. But first, a word about the Borgheses.  (more…)

08/19/13 1:30pm
08/19/2013 1:30 PM
Times/Review Newsgroup hosts legislative debate

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Martha Clara Vineyards is on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

Eight North Fork wineries can now add a L.I. Sustainable Wine logo to their 2012 vintages.

On Friday, environmental advocacy organization Group for the East End officially endorsed the work of Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing (LISW), a not-for-profit organization that provides education and certification for Long Island vineyards.

“We applaud the efforts of LISW in becoming the first vineyards in the eastern U.S. to earn certified sustainable status,” said Aaron Virgin, vice president of Group for the East End. “It couldn’t come at a better time as the Long Island wine industry celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

“This is the right direction the wine industry should be headed in.”

There are currently 10 “certified sustainable” vineyards on Long Island, eight of which are on the North Fork: Bedell Cellars, Harbes Family Vineyard, Martha Clara Vineyards, One Woman Wines & Vineyards, Palmer Vineyards, Roanoke Vineyards, Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard and Shinn Estate Vineyards. On the South Fork, Wolffer Estate Vineyard and Channing Daughters Winery earned the distinction.

Six North Fork vineyards that joined the LISW in 2013 and are working toward sustainability certification include Kontokosta Winery, Lieb Cellars, Mattebella Vineyards, Mudd Vineyards, Sparkling Pointe and Surrey Lane Vineyard.

LISW’s sustainability certification process is monitored by Allan Connell, former district conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. Mr. Connell oversees a checklist of nearly 200 sustainable grape growing practices.

According to LISW’s website, sustainable viticulture practices include science-based nutrition management to promote vine health and most importantly limit or prevent nitrate leaching into groundwater, how fertilizers are stored, and vine size measurements to help adjust and limit nitrogen use.

“The announcement of our first certified sustainable vineyards strengthens the ecological leadership and social responsibility of the Long Island wine region,” said Richard Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue. “The effort of creating meaningful, rigorous sustainable farming standards for grape growers proves that Long Island wineries are serious about making world-class wines that are ecologically sensitive.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

08/04/13 8:00am
08/04/2013 8:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A reality television show led a Times/Review intern to ask around this week about the silly things tourists say.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A reality television show led a Times/Review intern to ask around this week about the silly things tourists say.

“We’re gonna go to the wine vineyards,” the young woman said.

“Where?” her friend asked.

“In, like, North Fork,” she responded.

This was an exchange between two stars on the last episode of the reality TV show “Princesses: Long Island,” the latest offering from Bravo. Though the girls on the show hail from Nassau County, they ventured out to the Sparkling Pointe vineyard in Southold for the July 28 episode.

Reactions to our homeland were varied: One girl compared the vineyard to the Garden of Eden, while another actually relieved herself in between the rows of grapes.

As drama ensued, one character cried to her parents on the phone, asking if there were an airport nearby so she could take a private jet back to her hometown. As she started walking to Route 48, her friend screamed, “Don’t walk toward the freeway!”

Finally, as the crying girl explained to the camera that she just wanted to leave, she lamented, “But we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

The princesses’ take on the North Fork can’t help but evoke memories of the different ways tourists react to our communities on Long Island’s East End.

It inspired me to ask around this week uncover some of the funny, absurd and borderline insulting things folks in the local tourist industry have heard out-of-towners say.

I left out their names and kept their businesses out of the piece in an effort to encourage them to share the really good stuff.

ON THE FARM

“This one guy asked us, ‘How many seeds are in your tomatoes?’ We said we really didn’t know, so he had us cut them open and look. He said he liked to eat his tomatoes like apples and didn’t like a lot of seeds.”

farm stand employee, Mattituck

“My friend works as a waitress out here and one time a little kid ordered a glass of milk to drink and his dad said to him, ‘It’s gonna take a little while because they have to go out back and milk the cow. We’re in the country and that’s how they do it out here.’”

restaurant worker, Riverhead

“One time, this lady came in and she looks outside and then at me and goes, ‘Are the animals out there real?’ I just stared at her for a minute because I was thinking, ‘Is this lady for real?’ Then I just said, ‘Yes.’ ”

farmer, Cutchogue

Out to eat

“Once this guy came in at like 11:55 p.m., we close at midnight, and he was sitting at the bar. He looked at me and said, ‘Hey, you, call a cab would ya?’ The bartender was like, ‘This is the North Fork; we don’t have cabs.’ ”

restaurant worker, Southold

“While I was working, tourists came in and sat at one of the tables up against the wall that used to be a booth. After I cleared their dishes and was at the counter, just like seven feet away, one woman very loudly said, ‘Service these days. Whatever happened to serve from the left, take from the right?’ which was physically impossible without taking their plates through the window outside. Then the other woman said, ‘I guess they don’t do that out here.’ ”

restaurant worker, Southold Town

“We get lavish requests for sandwiches sometimes. When we ring them up, people are always surprised and comment how the Hamptons is so much more expensive. They are also always asking where the wineries are and where ‘Herbie’s Farm’ is.”

deli worker, Mattituck

OUT AND ABOUT

“One time my friend and I were at Scoops eating ice cream and a group of tourists came up to us and were whispering really loudly, like ‘Oh my gosh, they must be locals’ and gawking at us like we were animals at the zoo.”

Cutchogue resident

“I was on the Cross Sound Ferry in June and a lady was telling her son to wave goodbye to the Hamptons.”

store clerk, Mattituck

Of course this column is meant to be funny. I recognize the tourism economy is a great thing for my hometown and most of the folks who come out here get what we’re all about.

Just do me a favor, though, next time you come visit: Try not to pee in the vineyard.

Ms. Leaden is a student at Manhattan College. She lives in Cutchogue and worked at Times/Review Newsgroup this summer as an intern on a New York Press Association scholarship. She can be reached at intern@timesreview.com.

06/08/13 3:00pm
06/08/2013 3:00 PM
North Fork Wine Trail sign in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A North Fork Wine Trail sign at the intersection of the Main Road and County Road 105 in Aquebogue.

The North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail might be getting longer.

Last Wednesday the New York State Senate passed a bill sponsored by Senator Ken LaValle that proposes extending the North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail about nine miles to Orient Point.

If the legislation passes in the Assembly, the ‍wine ‍trail will continue to the end of Route 25 in Orient. The official ‍trail currently begins at Edwards Avenue in Calverton and ends at the junction of Routes 48 and 25 in Greenport.

“North Fork wineries are an economic engine for our region,” Mr. LaValle said. “Extending the North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail will help boost agritourism, which will benefit our farmers and wineries.”

The bill also calls for the creation of a road sign at exit 73 of the Long Island Expressway notifying drivers that the ‍wine‍trail is accessible from that exit. A sign is already in place at exit 71.

Ron Goerler Jr., president of the Long Island ‍Wine Council, said not placing a sign at exit 73 was an “oversight.”

“If you take exit 73, you’re right at Tanger Outlets,” Mr. Goerler said. “It’s a straight shot onto the North Fork. Tanger brings 13 or 14 million people a year and to have a sign stating the ‍wine industry is just ahead brings more awareness to the region.”

Steve Bate, executive director of the ‍wine council, said the organization doesn’t have revenue fi gures for North Fork wineries but estimates that the region’s more than 50 wineries attract 1.2 million visitors a year — a number that proponents of the bill hope will only increase.

“Senator LaValle has always been a huge supporter of the local ‍wine industry,” Mr. Bate said. “He has helped us with many important pieces of state legislation over the years. This new ‍wine ‍trail bill is just the latest example of how he helps enhance our wineries’ contribution to the local economy.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

02/23/13 7:00am
02/23/2013 7:00 AM
Greenport Harbor

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Kaitlen Berry, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s tasting room manager, pulls a pint.

As the East End continues to polish its image as a leading wine region, a new effort’s a-brewing to turn the region into a destination for craft beer enthusiasts.

Last month, Wine Enthusiast Magazine named the North and South Forks one of the world’s top wine destinations for 2013. In concert with that, two new Riverhead breweries are in the works, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company is expanding, and local farmers have begun to grow hops, an important ingredient in beer.

“If you have three, four or five breweries out here, then people can make a day trip out of coming to the area for craft beer,” said brewer Greg Doroski of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. “Its becoming a destination similar to the vineyards.”

Mr. Doroski noted that the expansion of the local beer industry is similar to what’s happened in Brooklyn, with its trendy craft beer scene. And, he added, Greenport and Riverhead seem to be developing similarly to the way Brooklyn has been gentrifying.

“Growing up out here in Greenport, I can notice the difference. Greenport and Riverhead used to be a little more rough around the edges, but things are changing,” he said. “In Riverhead you have the hotel, the aquarium, the apartments, Long Ireland Beer Company, The Riverhead Project and out here you’ve always had Bruce’s, but now you have places like The Blue Canoe and First and South — there’s more high-end farm-to-table stuff going on.”

When it comes to brewing, Riverhead has an advantage over the rest of the North Fork, Mr. Doroski said, because it offers sewer connections.

“Having sewers makes it an easier place to open breweries,” he said. “There’s also more commercial industrial space.”

Riverhead’s Crooked Ladder Brewing Company is well on its way to opening its doors. Digger O’Dell is about to install a new 16-beer tap system to serve Crooked Ladder and other local brews, and the people behind Moustache Brewing Company recently entered into a lease for a commercial building in Polish Town.

Does Riverhead believe it’s on its way to grabbing the craft beer crown?

“Absolutely,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said. “One hundred percent. There’s a method to our madness about how the downtown is coming up. Becoming a craft brewing mecca will have a positive effect on both Polish Town and downtown. I love the wineries and I do like my chianti or a glass of merlot, but I’m a beer drinker so I concentrate on what I know.”

Mr. Walter said he is happy to see the camaraderie between Long Ireland, an established local beer maker, and brewers just starting out. Long Ireland, which opened in 2011, seems to be thriving, he said.

The Central Islip couple behind Moustache brewery, Matt and Lauri Spitz, said they chose Riverhead over other Long Island locations because of the town’s encouragement.

“Riverhead was one of the only towns to welcome us with open arms,” said Mr. Spitz. “A lot of the towns we talked to weren’t sure what to do with a brewery.” But Riverhead, he said, “is trying to revitalize and pull small businesses in, which is great.”

Through Kickstarter, an online fundraising website, the couple pulled in more than $30,000 in start-up capital for their brewery, which Ms. Spitz said she hopes will contribute to the “blooming” of the East End as a craft beer destination.

“Now we have two breweries and a brew pub in Riverhead,” said Ms. Spitz. “Between that and the wineries, it’s going to be great.”

Growing along with the craft beer industry is its sister business, cultivating hops. Hops, the flower of the Humulus lupulus plant, are used in the brewing process to offset the sweetness of malt sugars and add aroma to beer. A century ago New York produced most of the hops grown in the U.S. Today, that distinction is shared by the Pacific Northwest and Midwest.

Wading River farmer John Condzella wants to change that and make the burgeoning local beer industry even more local.

However, the fourth generation farmer had a difficult time making the most of his farm’s first 800-pound hop harvest this past spring using nothing but human hands.

“We were even having hops-induced nightmares from the picking,” he said, laughing.

And because Mr. Condzella’s hops plants are still maturing, he estimates they will produce between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds next season.

“It takes about an hour for someone to harvest one plant and we’re going to be doubling our hop yard this spring,” he said. He plans to plant an acre’s worth of Willamette, Perle, and Fuggle hops varieties to bring his hop yard to two acres.

He is currently raising money through Kickstarter to import a Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine harvester from Germany for cooperative use among North Fork growers.

One of these growers is Peconic hops farmer Andrew Tralka.

“We just got our license for Farm to Pint,” said Mr. Tralka. “We hope to educate people about hops, to show them what they look like, and the North Fork is the perfect spot for it.”

A harvester would mean more local hops, enabling the growing number of local breweries to make a wet-hopped ale, which requires fresh hops.

“The Wolf has the ability to harvest an acre of hops in an eight-hour day with two people operating the machine,” Mr. Condzella said. “If hand-picking, it would take about 500 hours for the same two people.”

Mr. Condzella said he is in a rush to raise $27,000 to bring the harvester to the North Fork and eliminate “a serious barrier to producing local hops. We want to create a sense of urgency because we feel that sense of urgency and want to show we’re very serious in what we’re doing,” he said. “We want to show the local beer movement is strong. It’s an exciting time for craft and local beer on Long Island. The people involved are very passionate.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com

02/07/13 8:00am
02/07/2013 8:00 AM
Macari Vineyard, Long Island Wine Country

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Workers place protecting nets over vines at Macari Vineyards.

It was a time when potato farms were fast disappearing from the North Fork. Given the expense of farming on Long Island, growers found it all but impossible to compete with potato farmers in the Midwest, Canada and elsewhere. The days when potato fields covered 60,000 acres in Nassau and Suffolk became a memory as farm after farm, from the bay to the Sound, fell to development. It seemed as if the North Fork would soon be no different from Holtsville or most any other place on the West End.

Enter the grape — first planted here commercially by Louisa and Alex Hargrave in 1972. Forty years ago, the couple could never have imagined how those tentative first steps would transform, and help preserve, the region’s centuries-old agriculture tradition.

Many deserve credit for decades of work fighting to maintain the region’s rural way of life; civic groups, environmental advocates and government officials come to mind. But make no mistake, the economy always has final say. As Long Island Farm Bureau director Joe Gergela often says, the best way to preserve farmland is to keep farming profitable. Sure, pumpkins and agritainment have helped, but nothing’s done more for the region and local agriculture than the industry that gave the North Fork its other moniker: Long Island Wine Country.

Row upon row of grapevines, tasting rooms and other supporting structures — not housing developments — have now replaced the rows of spuds and potato barns that long dominated the landscape. Better yet, the vineyard operations have made the region a destination for tourists from near and far. Wineries employ local adults and young people alike and host weddings and other events that supply business for local florists, hotel owners, caterers and restaurateurs, bed & breakfast operators and others. A burgeoning craft beer industry complements the wineries and, with that, some local farmers are taking to growing hops and even barley so beer can be made entirely from local ingredients.

There’s no better time to remember the industry’s contribution to the North Fork and Long Island than now, during the annual Winterfest Jazz on the Vine festival, which kicks off this weekend and runs until March 17. The event was founded to help support the wineries during the slower winter months. Its success has helped Long Island Wine Country evolve into a year-round destination, helping our economy even further.

So here’s to another 40 years of ingenuity and success for the region’s wine industry.

11/22/12 5:00pm
11/22/2012 5:00 PM
Long Island Wine Country, North Fork, Hard Cider

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bob Gammon in the Woodside Orchard barn’s hard cider tasting room in Aquebogue.

First came locally produced wine.

Then came vodka, beer and whisky. And given the number of East End fruit farms it seems only natural that list of alcoholic beverages bottled, brewed or distilled here would grow to include hard cider.

In October, Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue was the site of the area’s first “Pour the Core” hard cider festival, attended by an estimated 800 people.

Since the winery began making the area’s first hard ciders two and a half years ago, said owner Jim Silver, “hard cider has blown up across North America, including Canada.”

Others following this trend include Shinn Estate Vineyards and local winemaker Anthony Nappa.

Most recently, Aquebogue-based Woodside Orchard began its own foray into the world of hard ciders, currently offering two varieties of the sweet and tart autumn-through-winter beverage. Both are 6 percent alcohol, according to Bob Gammon Jr., one of the owners.

Woodside is a family business that’s had the Jamesport orchard since the mid-1980s, and the Gammons began selling hard cider at the Aquebogue location almost a month ago. First, though, came two years of wading through paperwork to get their farm winery license.

“One cider is a little drier because we used different yeasts with the same juice and one left more residual sugar than the other,” said Mr. Gammon.

The two varieties, he said, are made from a blend of eight different kinds of apples.

“We have a third variety we’ll release in another week and a half, just before Thanksgiving, that has cinnamon and other spices,” he said, adding that will also have 6 percent alcohol.

On Saturday, Peconic Bay Winery also released 600 bottles of a Thanksgiving-themed cider, called “Turkey Tom.” It is available for purchase at the winery and Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

Mr. Gammon estimated that Woodside Orchard should have enough hard cider to keep the Aquebogue location open until Christmas, and will reopen in May.

He added that the family is considering showcasing their ciders during a spring “apple blossom festival.”

Woodside Orchard currently grow 27 varieties of apples on 4,000 trees and offers pick-your-own apples in addition to prepacked bags of roughly 11 pounds and baked goods like pies and apple breads.

With hard cider now added to the list they are also in the process of developing another product — apple wine — and are currently waiting for label approval of their Woodside Orchard Apple Wine.

Mr. Gammon said that aromatically, the wine’s nose is reflective of the fruit it’s made from, though it is similar in taste to other white wine. “It fits in with other wines quite nicely,” he said. “It doesn’t stand out one way or another.”

The decision to make apple-holic beverages began with a suggestion by a local winemaker Mr. Gammon said wishes to remain unnamed, who has been a key consultant and a tremendous help in the operation.

“The process of making hard cider is not really that difficult, just time-consuming,” he said. “We press the juice at our Jamesport farm and then we bring it to Aquebogue to ferment in our tanks. It’s about a six-week process from start to finish.”

Mr. Gammon estimates that his business has already produced about 1,000 gallons of hard cider. Once another 250-gallon tank arrives in Aquebogue, the orchard will be able to ferment 1,500 gallons of the stuff at a time.

Hard cider is already for sale at Woodside Orchard’s Main Road location in Aquebogue.

In addition to tastings, $15 glass growlers can be purchased there and returned for refills.

“We’re hoping this could help bring our family business to the next level,” Mr. Gammon said. “It’s being received very well so far. Hard cider has its own niche following and we’re already getting return customers.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com