Long Island, with a centuries-long history of farming, has undergone an agricultural revolution in just a few decades, sparked in 1973 by a pair of pioneers in planting grapes for fine wine, Louisa and Alex Hargrave. READ
Long Island, with a centuries-long history of farming, has undergone an agricultural revolution in just a few decades, sparked in 1973 by a pair of pioneers in planting grapes for fine wine, Louisa and Alex Hargrave. READ
While the East End of Long Island offers beautiful scenery and recreation, it is the distinct food and wine landscape and deep pride in it that sets this area apart. READ
North Fork wines will once again be on the national stage, as the annual New York Farm Day hits Capitol Hill today.
Originally launched 12 years ago, the event at the Kennedy Caucus Room will feature agricultural products from across New York State, introducing agricultural specialists, members of the Senate, and members of the D.C. media to homegrown products.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Agricultural Committee, will be on hand, touting everything from New York-farmed oysters, apples, yogurt, gin, beer, beans and more.
“Strengthening our agricultural sector and promoting good nutrition for New Yorkers are essential to our long-term health and economic growth,” Ms. Gillibrand said in a statement.
From the North Fork, the following vineyards will be on display: Bedell Cellars, Jamesport Vineyards, Lieb Cellars, One Woman Wines & Vineyards, Palmer Vineyards, Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard. Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponac will also be featured.
In addition, chilled Satur Farms corn soup will be featured at the event.
For Bedell Cellars, it will be the second time this past year that it’s been on display for D.C. politicians: it was served at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
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.
In vineyards across the North Fork, the buds have broken, a leafy sign that the time of grapevine dormancy is over and a new growth cycle is well underway.
Bud break is the moment when winter brown gives way to spring green and the vines produce the shoots that produce flowers that produce the fruit that will eventually become wine.
“We saw bud swell last week and definite bud break on Wednesday,” said Joe Macari, who works at his family’s vineyard in Mattituck.
“There’s still some varieties that aren’t opened up, but they should be within the week,” he said.
Mr. Macari added that in 2010, a banner year for the area, bud break came around Apr. 12, with this year only a week at its heels.
Paumanok’s winemaker, Kareem Massoud, said last month that an early bud break following a mild winter has the potential to extend the growing season and maker for riper grapes, though a late frost could freeze off the primary buds and delay it. Though secondary buds would push out from the plants, Mr. Massoud said they would be less productive than the originals.
Below are local winemakers’s notes on recent releases
BAITING HOLLOW FARM VINEYARD
2008 Mirage Named after one of the vineyard’s rescued horses, this smooth and sumptuous estate blend combines Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
2009 Angel This full-bodied, oak blended Chardonnay named for BHFV’s first rescued thoroughbred offers a rich, rounded structure with notes of vanilla and flavors of pear and apple, with a hint of citron. Perfect with lobster, fish and bold white-meat entrées, it also goes well with light pasta dishes and vegetarian fare.
BEDELL CELLARS/COREY CREEK VINEYARDS
2008 Taste White A refreshing, exotic fusion of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Riesling. Made primarily in stainless steel, showing aromas of chamomile, apples and pears and flavors of juicy, intense stone fruit, citrus peel, honeysuckle and minerals. Pair with grilled red snapper or fresh oysters.
2009 First Crush Red A Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend aged in stainless steel, with bright purple-fruit aromas of crushed grapes, sweet plums, bing cherries, raspberries and spice. Mouth-filling, with lovely softness, light tannins and zesty acidity.
2009 CC Rosé A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with gorgeous watermelon aromas, light spices and flavors of strawberry, peach and pink grapefruit. Completely dry, with very fine, natural acidity and a pleasing salmon-pink color.
2009 Late Harvest Riesling Sublime aromatics of ripe white peaches, candied apricots and almonds. A racy interplay of sweet and tart offers up echoing, mouth-watering flavors of citrus, sweet baked apples and honey with a slight mineral edge. The palate is alive with balanced acidity and a rich lush feel that oozes decadence. Pairs well with fruit sorbets, strudels, almond cream tarts and bread pudding, or enjoy on its own at the end of a fine meal.
BELLA VITA VINEYARDS
2009 Rosé of Merlot Light strawberry in color with flavors of watermelon and a hint of pink grapefruit. Serve chilled for any occasion.
Prima Rossa A Bordeaux blend aged in French oak, this wine exhibits a bouquet of rich blackberry and sweet tobacco melded with soft tannins. Pair with marinated steaks, aged cheeses and spicy game.
CASTELLO DI BORGHESE
Riesling 2009 Lovely aromas of jasmine and orange peel with hints of rose petals and orange peel. This well-balanced wine has pear and peach flavors with crisp acidity followed by layers of green apple. Stainless-steel fermented, this mouthwatering wine is complemented by touches of mineral flavors and pear overtones.
Chardonnay 2009 Stainless-steel fermented. This ripe, rich and complex wine has layers of pear, green apple and cream. The clean, crisp finish melded with hints of vanilla creates a gracious, well-balanced dinner wine. Pair with a smooth, buttery Gruyere and red apples.
2006 Aquebogue Estate Merlot Black cherry, chocolate and buttery caramel on the nose, along with a faint herbaceousness reminiscent of a Cabernet Franc rather than a Merlot. Good with hamburgers, dishes seasoned with oregano, and Italian sausages.
2006 Aquebogue Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Deep cherry color with a nose recalling baked cherry pie or warm cherry strudel. Medium body with hints more of French tarragon than mint. Pairs well with rack of lamb with roasted rosemary potatoes, buttery dishes, or just for drinking on its own.
DUCK WALK VINEYARDS
2008 Pinot Grigio A dry white that opens with notes of apricot, pineapple and green apple and has a remarkably lingering finish. A fantastic “cocktail” wine, it also pairs well with pasta topped with a cream- or oil-based sauce.
2008 Blue Duck Merlot A very rich bouquet of dark berries, dried cherries and cassis. Considerable oak aging results in notes of cedar and toasted oak with a smooth, rich finish. Excellent paired with red meat, pastas and firm, mild cheeses.
2009 Rosé Opens with subtle notes of strawberry and raspberry and finishes crisp and clean. Delightful on its own, it also pairs well with light appetizers and summer salads.
Rosé Wine The color is light salmon with a rim of gold. Beautiful floral aroma with wild strawberry and hints of ripe apples and some lime. The mouth-feel is elegant with great depth and character. Vibrant ripe fruit is well balanced by crisp acidity and great minerality. The finish is extremely long, dry and refreshing, making it extremely food friendly and versatile.
Merlot Dark red, almost ruby in color, with a classic aroma. Wonderful blackberries with hints of smoked sandalwood, fine black pepper and a sweet scent of ripe fruit, all wrapped in beautiful licorice, toasted oak and some lead-pencil notes. The mouth-feel is rich and forward with bright fruit and elegant tannins that are well layered. The finish is long and well balanced between ripe berry notes and classic maceration characters.
HARBES FAMILY FARM & VINEYARD
2007 Old Barn Merlot Black cherry, plum, violet and pine tree notes abound with a hint of white pepper on the palate. Medium bodied, this Merlot is soft and smooth with a long and subtle finish. Enjoy with grilled tuna steak, roast lamb or hamburgers.
Bridge Lane Bubbly Silver This “méthode champenoise” sparkler is classically styled. Aged two years on the lees, producing a bouquet of yeast, toast and baked bread. Earthy, with deeper flavors of baked apple and honey wrapped within soft, creamy bubbles. Elegant but full-bodied, it pairs well with seafood and sushi, foie gras, patés and triple-cream cheeses.
2008 Bridge Lane Chardonnay Fermented entirely in stainless steel to retain purity of character, the style emphasizes bright aromas of stone fruit and green apple, along with some tropical notes. Crisp, clean flavors delight the palate, leaving a fresh finish and a lingering minerality with a subtle earthy edge. This wine is extremely versatile and with its light body and liveliness on the palate, it can be served as an apéritif or with any light fare.
MARTHA CLARA VINEYARDS
2009 “P No Gree G-O” Delivers enticing notes of flint and mineral with hints of candied pineapple. Vibrant acidity makes this a wonderful summertime sipper. Chill and pair with fresh goat cheese, garden fresh pesto with crumbled feta or herb-rubbed, grilled poultry and roasted summer vegetables.
2009 Viognier Offers aromas of a fresh summer bouquet accented with notes of white peach and lemongrass. The richly textured palate offers flavors of fresh-cut pineapple and white fig and a palate-pleasing, balanced acidity. Pairs well with herb-crusted roasted poultry or pork loins. Fresh-baked quiche makes a delightful pairing.
ONE WOMAN WINES & VINEYARDS
2008 Sauvignon Blanc Stainless-steel fermented to perfection, this wine features an array of tropical fruit notes such as mango, passion fruit, strawberry, lychee and crisp green apple.
2008 Rosé Barrel-fermented for eight months to evoke a full-bodied yet dry blush wine, this rosé features hints of smoke and cherry blossom upon the palate, while not being overwhelming. The finish is crisp and peppery.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Blended with Merlot to add suppleness and breadth to the palate. Aromas and flavors of chocolate, raspberry and black cherry overlay a smooth, velvety texture.
2007 Reserve Chardonnay Represents a selection of the best barrels of the vintage. Aromas of pineapple and orange peel dominate, with complex suggestions of green apples, toasted oak and vanilla, balanced by a refreshing acidity. Gold medal, 2010 New York Wine and Food Classic.
2009 Sauvignon Blanc Sweet Table Wine Hand-harvesting of selected portions of the vineyard’s Sauvignon Blanc vineyard commenced in late October 2009. The golden fruit was then frozen solid and pressed slowly to yield a luscious, syrupy juice.
PECONIC BAY WINERY
2009 Steel-Fermented Chardonnay A blend of four different clones, showing aromas of orange peel, pear, tropical fruits, lemon grass and citrus and a spicy, rich character, producing a complex yet balanced wine that has never seen the inside of an oak barrel.
2009 Riesling This dry wine represents an aromatic departure for the vineyard, resembling the floral Rieslings produced on granitic soils in Alsace. This grape is truly a chameleon in the way it mimics its terroir.
2009 Peacock Chardonnay Crisp and lively, stainless-steel fermented, with hints of pear, apple and just a touch of vanilla. Superb paired with lightly seasoned fish, veal, poultry and cheeses.
2007 Mythology A lively and robust blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Decanting will open up hints of black currant and plum on the nose and earthy, woodsy flavors of tobacco, dried cherries and toasted vanilla.
2005 First Label Merlot Full of ripe fruit, this Merlot shows great complexity and exhibits the strength and ripeness from an outstanding vintage. Dark fruit flavors of blackberry, blueberry and beach plum prevail, with mint, eucalyptus, leather and tobacco aromas. Dense and jammy, yet supple and harmonious, with layers of floral freshness integrated elegantly with toasty oak and vanilla.
SHERWOOD HOUSE VINEYARDS
2009 White Merlot A sandy blush made from 100% Merlot cluster-pressed to release only the juice of each grape with little contact from the skin. This crisp, light wine with subtle fruit taste pairs well with a summer day.
2005 Merlot Accents of spices and dark chocolate complement the black cherry aroma. Its complex nose brings subtle oak and vanilla scents that linger down to the palate. Round and velvety, the wine displays the full maturity of its vintage.
2005 House of Sherwood Blanc de Blanc Respecting meticulously the “méthode champenoise,” this sparkling wine is made from the vineyard’s estate-grown Chardonnay. Picked early to preserve the higher acidity that characterizes the base wines used in Champagne and sparkling wines. Aromas of citrus and white pears come to the palate, blended with toasty and doughy characters from three years of aging in contact with the fine yeast from the second fermentation. Fine bubbles convey all the qualities of this delicate and exciting wine.
SHINN ESTATE VINEYARDS
2009 Chardonnay This non-oaked Chardonnay features bright mineral character washed in exotic fruit and gentle, mouthwatering acidity. A long eight-month post-fermentation lees contact adds spicy overtones and silky texture while pear and tropical flavors give way to a polished finish.
2009 Haven Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon The soils at Shinn Estate Vineyards are known on the geological survey as “Haven.” They are well drained and formed as very fine sandy loam. The vineyard named this blend after these glacially formed soils. The fruit spends extended time on the skins before being fermented by indigenous yeast in new French oak barrels.
2007 Nine Barrels Reserve Merlot This reserve wine comprises 87% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. It possesses refined tannins, elegant flavors of blackberry and black plum and distinct aromas of violet, chocolate and earth.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon This full-bodied wine exhibits bold aromas that include mint, eucalyptus and rich minerals. It shows lush red cherry and ripe blackberry fruit character. Serve it alongside roasted lamb chops, venison or broiled steaks.
2007 Malbec The vineyard produces Malbec as an estate wine only in great vintages. The 2007 Malbec exhibits classic aromas of bitter chocolate, earth, dried blueberry and rose petals. It is rich, highly structured and complex.
2007 Petit Verdot The vineyard produces Petit Verdot as an estate wine only in great vintages. The 2007 Petit Verdot exhibits classic aromas of dark-roasted coffee beans, dried mushrooms and black licorice. It is full-bodied, highly structured and complex.
2004 Blanc de Blancs 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir, of a bright gold color, this sparkling wine, produced according to the “méthode champenoise,” presents floral aroma of tree blossoms, ripe pears and delicious baked apples toasted with hazelnut flavors. Its doughy characters add to its fresh brioche scent. Its fine effervescence composes a symphony of tiny bubbles leading to a generous head cordon. Its toasty flavors enhance its creaminess on the palate. Can be appreciated as an apéritif, during a meal or with dessert.
2006 Topaz Imperial 48% Pinot Noir, 52% Chardonnay, this wine has a deep pink and vibrant color. Fresh and elegant, lively with a well-balanced acidity, the wine expresses full savors of strawberry and fresh, sour, red cherry. Delicate and persistent, its fine bubbles compose a harmonious ballet.
2009 Shiraz This wine has a deep vibrant hue, violet-purple in color. The aroma is bursting with white pepper, mint, cardamom and Earl Grey tea leaf. The aroma is reminiscent of a spice rack. Red fruit abounds from the glass with dark plum, some bing cherry and peppery notes. The blend was enhanced with 4% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon to bring another dimension of fruit and tannin nuances. The wine finishes with soft mouth-filling tannins with hints of vanilla.
Riverhead Town has taken the owners of Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard on Sound Avenue to court, accusing them of holding illegal events and building additions without town approvals. The town is seeking more than $100,000 in damages and wants the alleged illegal activities halted.
A group of the vineyard’s neighbors has filed its own suit making similar claims but seeking $5 million in damages. The neighbors say they’ve been subjected to noise from parties at the winery, which they contend is operating illegally.
“When the live bands start, it’s just outrageous,” said Jason Lull, who lives across the street from the vineyard and filed the lawsuit in November with his wife, Stacy Yakaboski, who is an attorney. “We can hear it inside our home.”
Meanwhile, Riverhead Town officials are considering tightening the regulations on wineries that hold private parties and play amplified music.
The vineyard’s attorney, Linda Margolin, says her clients are running an agricultural operation and don’t need any town approvals for their activities under state law and the town code. She insisted that the town’s own master plan encourages such uses of agricultural land.
Neighbor Hudson Wells, who is not a party to the other neighbors’ suit, told the News-Review that he lives a quarter-mile from the vineyard and can hear its music loud and clear. “And I can’t turn the volume off when I’ve had enough,” he said.
In its lawsuit, filed in July, the town charges that Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard’s owners — listed in the court papers as Steven and Sharon Levine and Richard Rubin — have “permitted various outdoor events including outdoor weddings and other events” since October 2008 without the required special events permits from the town.
The town also claims the business has held “various events with outdoor music” that have created “unreasonable noise” in violation of the town code.
The vineyard also has operated without the site plan approvals for a gazebo, a wood frame shed, a brick patio, a wine processing building, a second-floor balcony and conference rooms, according to the town.
Defending the winery, Ms. Margolin pointed to a recent court decision that she said allows the vineyard to continue operating while the town lawsuit is pending.
“The town did go before a judge at the very inception of this lawsuit to get a temporary restraining order [to stop illegal activities] and they simply got virtually nothing,” she said. “That’s because the town code does not require site plan approval for agricultural uses and agricultural accessory uses.”
Ms. Yakaboski says the events and retail sales that are happening at the winery are not agricultural activities. What started with a small farmhouse and horse boarding operation, she said, has expanded to add a tasting room with retail sales upstairs. “Since then, they have expanded into a bar, a catering hall and a nightclub,” she said.
“Apparently the neighbors don’t like the town code or the New York State Agriculture and Markets law,” Ms. Margolin commented. She said the activities mentioned by Ms. Yakaboski “are permitted. Ag and Markets has issued guidelines indicating that a whole variety of direct marketing activities by farm wineries that include entertainment are perfectly appropriate.”
“I am from an agricultural family and this has nothing to do with agriculture,” Ms. Yakaboski said. She and Mr. Lull say there is constant noise coming from the vineyard on weekends in the summer and that they can never get any quiet time in their own home.
“We’re going to be forced to move if they don’t fix this,” Mr. Lull said. “We feel like this is not our home anymore.”
“I understand the importance of wineries, but you’ve got to take into account the rights of people,” Ms. Yakaboski continued. “A lot of us have struggled with the question of how far are they going to go in the name of agriculture.”
“Maybe if it wasn’t so loud, nobody would say anything,” said Tom Schoenewolf, another neighbor who says he can hear loud music from his house, about a quarter-mile away.
Mr. Lull says the vineyard also is allowing amplified music to be played beyond a court-imposed limit of 2 to 6 p.m. He has collected schedules posted on the vineyard’s website advertising bands playing beyond 6 p.m.
Town attorney Dawn Thomas said the town is looking into seeking contempt of court charges against the vineyard because of the amplified music.
“The amazing thing to me is that the town appears to have completely forgotten about its own comprehensive plan,” Ms.
Margolin said. “The comprehensive plan says that one way to preserve agriculture in the town is precisely to facilitate things like this.”
She said it’s as if the town is saying “you can have a business that’s agricultural, but you’re not permitted to be successful.”