09/06/12 12:00pm
09/06/2012 12:00 PM
Massoud, Paumanok Vineyard, Aquebogue, Long Island Wine Country

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Paumanok vineyard manager Nabeel Massoud (right), helps crews pick chardonnay for a sparkling wine last Friday.

Though hopes have been high this year for a bone dry grape harvest on the North Fork, the rain did begin to fall this week, resulting in a total of about 2 inches in the 48 hours prior to Wednesday afternoon.

Jason Damianos, owner of Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport and head winemaker at both Pindar and Duck Walk Vineyards, said the amount of rain is significant, but for now, he doesn’t see it affecting harvest.

“The fact of the matter is [our vineyards] not going to be harvesting for another two weeks,” Mr. Damianos said. “So I‘m hoping things will dry out, that we’ll get another spray in before harvest and that the water taken up into the grapes won’t be a factor.”

Harvesting has already begun of some white grapes, especially those used in sparking wines.

Grapes used to make red wines are picked last.

Kareem Massoud, head winemaker at Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, said though the rain is certainly undesirable for the vineyard, he said if these two days are the worst of the weather, the vintage may not be affected.

“We came into September in very good shape in the vineyard,” Mr. Massoud said. “While we would rather not have these two days of rain, we can certainly weather the storm and emerge in very good shape provided we get some good weather again. It’s unrealistic that we won’t have any rain. Even in a great vintage, there will be a few hiccups along the way.”

Mr. Damianos said berries can burst if they take in too much water while ripe, contributing to rot.

“Imagine a grape vine is a human being,” Mr. Damianos said. “To the vine, the grapes are like its babies. The plant is pregnant and conception occurs as the grape becomes ripe. It wants to release those grapes into the soil and water contributes to the bursting of the grape. It doesn’t bother the grape vine. They’re not making the grapes for us.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com

For more on this year’s harvest, pick up the Riverhead News-Review paper or sign up for our e-paper.

09/01/12 12:03pm
09/01/2012 12:03 PM
Lieb, Craft restaurants

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Lieb Cellars director of sales John Morales (from left), advertising consultant Peter Pace and owner Mark Lieb in front of the the new ‘Vineyard’ tasting room.

Something new is coming to the North Fork — and fall Wine Country visitors won’t have to wait long before it’s open to the public.

Lieb Cellars is days away from opening a second tasting room. This one is in a big red barn on Oregon Road in Cutchogue, abutting the winery’s vines and overlooking a sunflower field. The other tasting room is away from the vineyard, in Mattituck.

“Hopefully we’ll be open within the next week at the most,” owner Mark Lieb said Friday. “I’m very happy. This is something we’ve wanted for a long time. We built this building years ago. It’s a beautiful spot.”

The building, which features a patio, tasting room, conference room, offices and cold storage for wine, is a place Mr. Lieb said is not only nice to have, but has become necessary, as the business needed to add office space and provide more elbow room for Wine Country visitors.

“The offices needed to be expanded because we’re growing the business significantly,” he said.

Expansions include a partnership with restaurateur, celebrity chef and five-time James Beard award-winner Tom Colicchio, who chose Lieb Cellar’s pinot blanc for a private label sparkling wine called Craft by Lieb Cellars, Brut Blanc de Blancs. Mr. Colicchio is the founder of Craft and Colicchio & Sons restaurants, including Craftsteak at nearby Foxwoods Resort & Casino.

“The wine will be sold exclusively in Craft restaurants and the Lieb tasting rooms,” said director of sales John Morales.

Mr. Morales is responsible for some of Lieb’s largest clients, which now include Citifield, where two of Lieb Cellars wines are sold by the glass, and Terminal Five at John F. Kennedy airport, where Lieb is the only North Fork winery represented.

“It was hard selling Long Island wine in the beginning,” said Mr. Morales, who has been with Lieb Cellars for 12 years. “Tom [Colicchio] and one of his restaurants, Craft, were one of the first places to really open their doors to the local wine scene. There’s still some hurdles, such as Nassau County, but we’re extremely strong in the Hamptons and pride ourselves on New York City.”

Between the new partnership with Mr. Colicchio, the new tasting room and a mention this month in The New York Times (along with Lenz Winery) for having one of the 12 greatest American wines under $20, the team at Lieb Cellars is looking forward to a great year.

“You’ve got the sunflowers across the street, you’ve got Long Island Sound right over there,” Mr. Lieb said from the new tasting room’s patio. “I think it’s going to be a hot spot this fall.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com

09/30/11 5:00am
09/30/2011 5:00 AM
Wineries on the North Fork of Long Island

COURTESY PHOTO | A screenshot of the Long Island Wine Council's new website.

Have you noticed that the Long Island Wine Council’s website is looking a bit spiffier these days?

The wine council launched a new website Monday with larger images, more space for advertisements, and a link to download the wine council’s smartphone application.

Steve Bate, the council’s executive director, called the old website “an earlier generation site.”

“There were a lot of things that we weren’t doing because we didn’t have the technology in the old site,” he said.

Now, each time a new affiliate, like a restaurant or bed and breakfast, is added to the website, it will automatically be added to the Wine Council’s smart phone application. The website also has expanded social networking capabilities, which Mr. Bate said will likely increase traffic.

In addition to the new technology features, visitors to the site will also notice more color.

“We wanted to have something that was even more visual than the other site,” Mr. Bate said.

And visual it is.

Small pictures adorned the old website, but giant vineyard photographs, including one with an aerial view, now stretch across a large portion of the new site’s homepage.

And advertisers will find some changes, too. Those who wish to take out web advertisements can now opt for long, horizontal banners, while they could previously only be named in a listing.

The goal of both websites is the same: to inform visitors to North Fork wineries about where to wine, where to dine, where to stay and what to do.

The design and development, carried out by Michael Croteau of Croteaux Vineyards in Southold, began this past spring — and isn’t complete yet.

A section will soon be added on wine styles: dry; sweet or sparkling; something Mr. Bate said winery visitors often ask him about.

Another section on the technical aspects of vineyards, like horticulture and winemaking, is coming soon.

sbrix@timesreview.com

08/02/11 4:18am
08/02/2011 4:18 AM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Martha Clara Vineyards winemaker and general manager Juan Micieli-Martinez holds up a bottle of the 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling

The soft white grapes used in the 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling at Martha Clara Vineyards are handled very gently.
Winemakers take special care to hide the grapes and their juices from oxygen to prevent oxidation. The grape juice is then fermented in stainless steel, and upon pouring a golden glass of the finished product, floral aromas with hints of white tea leaves waft through the air.

On the palette, a distinct sweetness is subtly balanced with acidity.

That’s why the winery’s riesling was rated the highest among 564 other wines at the 7th Annual Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association Competition last month in Haymarket, Va.

Entries were submitted by 118 wineries from 11 states.

“This is a big deal for Long Island and a big deal for the North Fork,” said Martha Clara Vineyards winemaker and general manager Juan Micieli-Martinez.

The wine’s victory — which won Best in Show and Best in Category, meaning it was the best riesling overall —  came somewhat as a surprise. The best riesling typically flows from the New York Fingerlakes region, which has a cooler growing climate conducive to producing that wine, Mr. Micieli-Martinez said.

“The Fingerlakes has always been given credit for their dynamite riesling,” he said. “For us to win down here on the island is even more of a special honor.”

He credits Martha Clara’s win to its location — its land and soil — as well as the management of the vines and careful attention to detail and the handling of the grapes and juices.

The competition’s 19 judges considered aroma, taste, structure and overall concept in each wine entered, according to Gordon Murchie, president emeritus of ASWA. Each judge had to be familiar with east coast wines, as grapes in the east differ from those in the west.

He said Martha Clara’s Riesling earned its honor by reaching a certain “level of sophistication.”

“It shows, in the factors of tasting the wine, that overall this is a top quality wine that is going to do extremely well in the consumer marketplace.”

Since the winery has won, it will only sell three bottles of its 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling to members of the public or six bottles each to Martha Clara Vineyards Wine Club members. One bottle costs $19.99.

Other North Fork wineries were bestowed with awards for their wines as well. Sherwood House Vineyards in Mattituck took two silver medals — one for a 2007 Cabernet Franc and one for a 2006 Sherwood Manor.

Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue won a silver for its White Table Wine and a bronze for its 2010 Riesling.

A bronze medal went to the Harbes Family Farm and Vineyard in Mattituck for the 2007 Blue Mack, and Martha Clara also won silver medals for the 2010 So Vin Yon Blonk — which also won Best in Category — and 2009 Cabernet Franc, as well as a bronze for the 2007 Clusters.

samantha@northshoresun.com

05/05/11 6:36am
05/05/2011 6:36 AM

Let’s face it, rules governing the sale and disbursement of alcohol in this country are not only outdated and inconsistent from state to state, in many cases they’re downright silly.

And New York State is no exception.

For example, New York’s Alcoholic Beverages Control, or ABC, laws currently require that the entrance to an establishment that sells alcohol be level with the street, a throwback to the original intent of preventing the proliferation of hidden and unlicensed speakeasy-type bars after the 1933 repeal of Prohibition.

The rules were designed to keep in check people who for over a decade were considered criminals. And the State Liquor Authority is planning to revamp them, SLA officials told a room full of North Fork vintners last Thursday.

This is long overdue. The state’s arbitrary and at times arcane rules have been creating confusion and tension within our tourism industry since the first wineries began to appear in Southold and Riverhead some 30 years ago. Sprinkle in the often contradictory rules and regulations of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the situation gets even more muddy — not only for businesspeople, but for their neighbors. And elected leaders trying to referee disputes.

Riverhead Town has already taken the owners of a Baiting Hollow winery to state Supreme Court over activities the town has deemed inappropriate. So far, the courts have sided with the business owners, citing ag and markets laws. In Southold Town, bar and restaurant owners have become increasingly critical of some wineries for selling restaurant-style dishes, or for looking the other way when customers carry beer or liquor to musical and other outdoor events.

But local hotels, wineries, restaurants, supermarkets and liquor stores should be complementing one another, not serving as potentially destructive rivals. Clear and equitable laws and codes are the only way to achieve harmony here.

With the winemaking industry also growing rapidly in the Finger Lakes region and elsewhere upstate, its clear that New York lawmakers and other officials face a critical mass of problems, and must act accordingly.

As SLA officials warned last week, state officials are going to be lobbied hard by competing business interests, some richer or better organized than others. It’s important they wade through the spin and come up with the fairest way to satisfy all industries involved statewide, lest any gets unduly hurt.

Those selling alcohol here are no longer criminals; they’re our friends and neighbors. If a vineyard owner wants to build a tasting room on the second floor of a barn because his wife’s art studio is downstairs — a real request recently brought before the SLA, as we report in our story — he should be allowed to do so. As of now, he can’t because the alcohol sales would not be conducted at “street level,” as required.
That’s just one example of dozens, even hundreds, of restrictive, nonsensical laws that are still on the books.

02/11/11 9:55pm
02/11/2011 9:55 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | King Scallop Ensemble at the Hilton Garden Inn.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The King Scallop Ensemble at the Hilton Garden Inn.

A ‘Winterfest Warmup’ party Friday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead helped set the mood for the start of Long Island Winterfest, which means six weeks of pairing wine with jazz  at East End vineyards. The 2011 festival’s theme, as in past years, is ‘Jazz on the Vine’ and features four acts each Saturday and Sunday at participating wineries.

The party started Friday night at the Route 58 hotel with the King Scallop Ensemble playing in the Hilton’s Great American Grill. Ensemble members were Neil Ralph on keyboards , trombone player Bob Hovey, drummer James Benard, and Kim Tretrault on bass. They started off the set with ‘Little Sunflower’ by Freddie Hubbard.

The hotel’s general manager, Ed Carroll, said at least half of the rooms were booked by guests who had asked for the ‘Winterfest; Jazz on the Vine’ discount, which is 20% off the regular room price.

The ensemble is playing for the next five Fridays at the Hilton Garden Inn.

There is no cover charge and has free hors d’oeuvres starting at 6 p.m. The jazz starts at 7 p.m.

Click here for previous Winterfest coverage.