08/26/13 7:00am
08/26/2013 7:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented at Saturday's charity fundraiser.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented at Saturday’s charity fundraiser.

More than 1,200 food and wine lovers, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, celebrated the 40th anniversary of Long Island Wine Country at the first Harvest East End ever hosted on the North Fork Saturday evening.

The three-and-a-half hour tasting at McCall Wines in Cutchogue stood as a celebration of the growth of a region now noted for its distinctive selection of food and wine, while also giving back to four non-profit organizations that ensure it stays fruitful: Group for the East End, Peconic Land Trust, East End Hospice and the Long Island Farm Bureau.

“Our wines have gained stature and quality and are now highly rated in top publications,” said Ron Goerler Jr., president of the Long Island Wine Council. “Similarly, with the bounty of our local farms and waters, the East End of Long Island has attracted world class culinary [experts].”

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

Guests were given their own personal wine glass as they walked around the event, which was hosted on the South Fork in each of its first three years, to taste selections from 43 different local wineries offering more than 200 varieties of still, sparking and dessert wines. Accompanying the wine was cuisine from 34 local food purveyors – giving guests the ultimate tasting experience.

“This is just amazing,” said Carine Franchica, who was enjoying oysters with her husband, Jay. It was the first Harvest celebration the Mattituck couple had attended – and it was practically in their backyard.

“We walked here,” said Ms. Franchica, who lives off New Suffolk Avenue. When asked where the celebration belonged, she replied: “We like it on our side, because [most of] the wineries are here on the North Fork.”

Many North Fork vineyard representatives agreed, saying the move makes sense.

“It’s a celebration of everyone’s hard work,” said Monica Harbes of Harbes Farm & Vineyard, which opened 10 years ago. “It’s really an exciting industry to be involved in.”

Gov. Cuomo called the North Fork wine region “one of New York’s hidden treasures” and he credited a pair of East End legislators, Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, with  helping to “develop industries we believe we can nurture. The wine industries are those industries in New York.”

“We have invested in it and promoted it,” the governor said. “The industry is taking off like a rocket.”

A 30-second commercial promoting the wine production in New York State was premiered at the event. The spot is expected to run this fall throughout the region.

“Put tourism together with the wine industry, and they can grow an entire region,” Mr. Cuomo said. “And that’s what you’re seeing here on the North Fork of Long Island.”

Gov. Cuomo also presented McCall Wines owner Russ McCall with the Winery of the Year award his winery won at the New York Food & Wine Classc Aug. 13. It is presented to the winery recognized for the best showing based on the level and number of awards won from its wine entries.

The competition, which is run by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation was open to all of New York’s wineries, according to the non-profit trade association’s website. This year’s competition included 842 New York wines.

But the award was secondary Saturday to the McCall family, which was happy to be hosting such a major event.

“For us it’s amazing,” said Brewster McCall of the celebration. “To be able to carry on the legacy of what the Hargraves started is a gift to us. It’s an honor to have been able to host.”

Harvest East End is organized by the wine council and sponsored by Wine Enthusiast magazine with support from Merliance, the Long Island Merlot Alliance.

Mr. Goerler also recognized a pair of Times/Review contributors during Harvest East End— honoring Hargrave Vineyards co-founder Louisa Hargrave, for her vision in planting the island’s first vines, and chef John Ross, who helped ignite the local farm-to-table movement.

“These two people represent what the East End is today,” he said.

cmiller@timesreview.com