02/10/14 11:12am
02/10/2014 11:12 AM
Champian Fulton performs at Clovis Point Winery in Jamesport | Katharine Schroeder photo

Champian Fulton performs at Clovis Point Winery in Jamesport | Katharine Schroeder photo

Slushy remnants from recent snowfalls didn’t stop hundreds of people from packing East End wineries and performing arts centers for Long Island Winterfest’s Live on the Vine kickoff weekend — and attendance is expected to improve once the snow melts, festival co-organizer Pat Snyder said Monday. (more…)

05/23/13 9:30am
05/23/2013 9:30 AM

northforkerlogoTimes/Review Newsgroup unveiled today its northforker brand, focusing entirely on tourism, lifestyle and leisure content from the North Fork.

Matt Kapelas

Matt Kapelas

Northforker.com will be updated multiple times each day with information on the region’s wineries, farm products, hotels and restaurants, real estate, arts and music scenes, as well as outdoor and educational activities for children and adults.

The newsgroup’s popular magazine supplements are also in the process of being incorporated under the northforker brand.

Leading these efforts is Matt Kapelas, former longtime managing editor of Long Island Pulse magazine, who was hired earlier this month. He started at Pulse after its fourth issue in 2005 and helped build the Patchogue-based publication into what is today one of the larger regional magazines in the U.S., with 100,000 monthly copies distributed across Suffolk and Nassau counties.

“As a lifelong resident of Suffolk County, I’ve always looked at the North Fork as the last vestige of true Long Island,” said Mr. Kapelas, who lives in Ridge.

“The potential of Northforker.com and Northforker magazines to enhance the lives of the area’s residents and visitors alike is something I’m grateful to be a part of.”

“We have published tourism-based content for decades in print,” added publisher Andrew Olsen, “and we are excited to package this content in a compelling way on the web with this new site.”

Sonja Reinholt Derr, the company’s sales and marketing director, said northforker.com will provide the inside scoop on everything there is to do on the North Fork, with the “when” and the “how” all readily available at readers’ fingertips.

Kael Goodman, CEO of BlankSlate, a tech company out of Brooklyn, developed the site along with Times/Review Newsgroup staffers.

“Our team really sees the potential in the Northforker website as people local to the community as well as tourists need a place to learn about all the great things happening in this area,” Mr. Goodman said. “The North Fork is incredibly unique and Times/Review is uniquely positioned to deliver a site like this.”

The company’s news editors and reporters will be involved in helping to grow northforker.com.

“Just like we provide timely, in-depth coverage of our schools, governments and neighborhoods in our papers,” said executive editor Grant Parpan said, “this website and the magazines will allow us to cover food, wine, real estate and tourism on the North Fork with a heightened focus and attention to timeliness.”

02/17/13 8:00am
02/17/2013 8:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Mike Engle, Byron Preston and Keenan Zach of The Mike Engle Vibratrio perform at Palmer Vineyards in Riverhead Saturday afternoon.

Snow flurries fell as wine lovers and jazz musicians kicked off Winterfest’s Jazz on the Vine series Saturday afternoon. Originally scheduled to start Feb. 8, the series was postponed by last weekend’s blizzard.

Going on its sixth straight year, the Jazz on the Vine series is designed to bring visitors to the North Fork during the winter season. It will feature more than 80 concerts at local vineyards. Events are also scheduled at the newly renovated Suffolk Theater, Hotel Indigo and the Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead.

“In the dead of winter, to see a full tasting room, it’s amazing,” said John Larsen, tasting room manager at Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue. “It makes the winter go by that much quicker.”

Related: Jazz on the Vine schedule

Pellegrini Vineyards featured a Spherical Flamenco Jazz Trio, with Emma Larsson also performing.

“It’s nice to be able to sit, listen, and enjoy a glass of wine,” said Katie O’Callaghan, who traveled from Manhattan with Steve Messemer to enjoy a Valentine’s Day weekend.

“This is great, the place especially,” Ms. O’Callaghan said. “The acoustics are great, and its not all traditional jazz. It’s nice they do a different style.”

“The fact that it’s actually snowing adds to the charm,” Mr. Messemer said. “This is something we will definitely make into a yearly thing.”

The couple had never been to a Jazz on the Vine event before.

Pellegrini Vineyards will be hosting three other events throughout the series, Mr. Larsen said.

The Mike Engle Vibratrio, a three-man band led by Mike Engle, performed at Palmer Vineyards in Aquebogue Saturday. It was the band’s first time performing in the Jazz on the Vine series.

“We’re loving it,” said Keenan Zach, who plays bass. “It’s a great atmosphere. Exactly what the winter needs.”

“It’s inspiring to see so many people,” added Mike Engle, who described the trio’s music as “organic, spontaneous, but rooted in tradition.”

Mr. Engle said he would be honored to play in the series again.

“They are so nice and they sound great,” said Robin Helmer-Reich, who was cuddled up in a booth, sipping on red wine and listening close by. “Jazz on the Vine is a great program.”

This was the second year Ms. Helmer-Reich, of Center Moriches, has attended the series. “It’s a great thing to do in the dead of winter, when there aren’t too many choices of what to do.”

Blanche Pesc traveled from Rockville Center with her husband Dan and their dog to enjoy the afternoon.

“Every time we’ve come it’s been a great experience,” Ms. Pesc said. “You always end up meeting great people.”

Last year’s series brought more than 7,500 people to the North Fork, up from 6,000 in 2011. Events cost $20 at the door and include a glass of wine. You also get the chance to win a free night’s stay at an East End hotel with a gift basket of Long Island wines.

The events originally scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 8-10 have been postponed until March 22-24, extending the series another week.

Winterfest is produced by East End Arts, the Long Island Wine Council, the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Suffolk County Office of Economic Development. For more information visit www.liwinterfest.com.

cmiller@timesreview.com

07/03/12 8:00am
07/03/2012 8:00 AM

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Salt at Shelter Island’s Island Boatyard opened “The Tasting Room” this week. Julia Hathaway pours a glass for proprietor Keith Bavaro. Jamesport Vineyards is partnering with Salt on this new venture.

Jamesport Vineyards brought the North Fork wine industry to the next level this weekend with its newest tasting room, a joint venture between the vineyard and Shelter Island’s new restaurant, Salt, located on the waterfront.

“This is the first tasting room you can reach by boat,” said Salt co-owner Keith Bavaro. “Opening weekend was fantastic. It was a big hit even though we haven’t done any advertising for it yet.”

Not only is the tasting room the first that can be accessed directly by boat, it’s also the first satellite tasting room on Shelter Island.

The genesis for the new tasting outlet occurred when Jamesport Vineyards owner Ron Goerler visited the restaurant with his retail manager, Jack Perdie. “[Mr. Bavaro] had a building that he wasn’t using,” Mr. Goerler said, “and he asked if we wanted to open a tasting room.”

He said the two looked at Mr. Bavaro as if he had two heads but agreed to look at the building anyway.

Once they saw the space, Mr. Goerler said everything began to “make sense.”

He said the waterfront view and the restaurant were just the icing on the cake. What really “made sense” to him was the island itself as an untapped resource for the wine industry.

“With our license we’re allowed to open up to five different locations under the Farm Winery Act,” Mr. Goerler said. “We felt that having a presence for Jamesport where restaurants support us is important because as business models change, retail continues to drive this all.”

Though the regular hours are still being worked out for the new tasting room, Mr. Bavaro said he expects it will be open from noon to 9 p.m. all week through the Fourth of July.

03/20/12 3:00pm
03/20/2012 3:00 PM

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyard's shows off the 2010 Semi-Dry Riesling that was selected as one of the Wall Street Journal's "luxury dozen."

Kareem Massoud is a second-generation wine grower and Paumanok Vineyard’s winemaker for more than 10 years.

The eldest son of owners Ursula and Charles Massoud, Kareem and Paumanok’s 2010 Semi-Dry Riesling were recently chosen as one of the Wall Street Journal’s “luxury dozen,” 12 bottles of 800 that were judged in a blind tasting this year.

Here, Mr. Massoud talks about the possibility of an early bud break this spring season and what this will mean for Long Island’s vineyards, including Paumanok in Aquebogue. The early bud break would come on the heels of a mild winter and has the potential to extend the growing season and make for riper grapes.

If there is a late frost, however, the burgeoning vines could freeze off and delay the growing season. Secondary buds will push out from the plants, though Mr. Massoud explains they will be less productive than the primary buds would have been.

Read more about Paumanok Vineyard and the 2010 Semi-Dry Riesling in this week’s Riverhead-News Review.

10/09/11 12:32pm
10/09/2011 12:32 PM

For Long Island’s vintners, the vintage of 2011 has been one of the most difficult in 30 years. Beginning with a fierce winter that made pruning vines in drifting snow a reminder that viticulture is a test of humans’ desire to dominate nature, the growing season proceeded with one challenge followed by another. Relentless spring rain followed by soaring heat spawned unfriendly fungi and delayed ripening. Localized hail damaged some clusters. Worse, the ripening ability of many vineyards was badly affected by salt spray from Tropical Storm Irene, which caused leaves to shrivel and drop while berry sugar counts were still too low to make wine.

However, much winemaking is romanticized. Ultimately it is like every kind of agriculture; growers must always countenance crop losses. Global climate change, as predicted, has brought heavier than normal weather events. Experienced winemakers become philosophers, taking the good with the bad and making the most of every situation. Some are luckier than others; where one vineyard is denuded by salt spray, another may be favored by a sheltered location and sustain little damage. Many fine wines will still result from this vintage; the lesser wines will be light quaffing stuff, consumed and forgotten by harvest 2012.

While vintners all over the world deal with the vagaries of nature, I found on a recent trip to far-flung parts of the world that some of the oldest wine-growing regions have different challenges, caused by customs, politics and religion.

In modern Turkey (a secular nation created in 1923 from parts of what used to be Byzantine and Ottoman empires), the wine industry has roots going back to 4000 B.C. Noah’s biblical vineyard was located there, and the Greek god of wine, Dionysus (or Bacchus to Romans), was born there. Although the Ottoman Muslims prohibited winemaking during the 500 years of their reign, Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, founded a commercial winery in 1925 in his efforts to westernize Turkey. By 2009, wine consumption in Turkey reached 20,906,762 liters, with national production currently at over 275 million liters.

Increased acceptance of and international investment in Turkish wine were spurred by the introduction of international grape varieties in the 1990s. But even as that wine industry has grown, the secularization of Turkey has met with fierce resistance from its increasingly radicalized Islamic community. Today, its government is run by a Muslim prime minister who has hindered the Turkish wine industry by taxing alcohol and prohibiting restaurants from serving wine in outdoor spaces. I was shocked to find the cheapest wines sold in Turkish restaurants priced at $40 and up due to exorbitant taxes on alcohol.

In contrast, in the (formerly Soviet) Republic of Georgia, the Western-friendly government encourages its wine industry, which has been favored by new infusions of capital. There, the obstacles have more to do with custom than religion. Georgians have made wine for over 8,000 years; their wines are part of their identity.

While it was a state of the Soviet Union, Georgia’s winemaking was centralized and production driven by volume, not by quality. In the Kakheti region, a broad fertile valley under the Caucasus Mountains, households historically made their own wines in buried pottery amphorae, kveris, which were filled with grapes and left to develop, unopened, for several years. Thus, traditional Georgian wines differ greatly from modern, stainless steel fermented wines. They are dry, textured and tannic. I found some I tasted to be compellingly complex and not as oxidized as I expected, but many are just plain funky.

When I went to Vinoterra Schuchmann, a new Georgian winery funded by German investors, I saw how difficult it is to merge this ancient winemaking technique with new methods. Their assistant winemaker, Roland Burdiachveli, grew up in a winemaking family and was educated in Germany. He showed me how new kveris are used to ferment some of the fruit, then removed to French oak barrels for finishing rather than being sealed up for years. The result is a hybrid style that needs to find understanding and acceptance both at home and abroad.

With 60 percent of its wine made in modern tanks, with new technology, and 40 percent made the old way, Schuchmann is betting on both sides of the fence. For them, the search for identity is as much a challenge as an opportunity. They have to train their workers to change both techniques and attitudes. And they, like vintners everywhere, have to contend with weather, too.

Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.

08/31/11 11:25am
08/31/2011 11:25 AM

When wine grapes were first planted on Long Island in the 1970s and ’80s, most growers chose to plant the most important grape varieties of France, including chardonnay and pinot noir. The chardonnay was universally successful as a variety that consistently produced high quality fruit on plants that were easy to tend, but pinot noir proved to be far more challenging, and many acres of this grape were ripped out, replanted to merlot, cabernet franc or more chardonnay.

Experience here proved pinot noir’s reputation as the “heartbreak grape.” Even in Burgundy, where the medieval monks who cultivated the Cote d’Or selected, bred and celebrated pinot noir as their finest red wine grape, the variety is difficult to ripen and even more difficult to make into great wine.

The viticultural problem with pinot is that berries in its clusters are tightly packed, so that if one single berry is damaged by insects, birds or fungus, the entire cluster will quickly rot. It also ripens sooner than most varieties, which should be an advantage, except that it’s the first to attract marauding pests like finches, robins, raccoons and bees. Given a choice between ripe pinot noir and slightly unripe anything else, you can guess where the pests will go. This applies to people, too; pinot noir fruit is exquisitely delicious, and a vineyard planted along a road where pilgrims stroll will be soon denuded, as happened along the route to Santiago de Compostela in medieval times.

When pinot noir succeeds as wine, there is nothing to compare with its aromatic allure, its finesse, subtlety, complexity, silken mouthfeel and nuanced finish. Unfortunately, these qualities do not come easily or automatically as the fruit, even undamaged fruit, is transformed by fermentation into wine. In many ways, it is highly unstable, and the techniques that might be used to stabilize one desirable quality may harm another desirable one.

The deep blue-black color of pinot noir fruit is a cruel ruse because the pigments (anthocyanins) that give it this gorgeous hue exist in equilibrium with a colorless version of the same pigment. Pinot noir is different from most other black or red vitis vinifera wine grapes in that it lacks amylated (stabilized) anthocyanins. I’ve seen a tank of pinot wine that was pitch black when it was first crushed but transformed into the equivalent color of cranberry juice after six months’ aging.

To add insult to injury, pinot’s tannins (astringent particles derived from skins and seeds) have shorter molecular chains than most wine grapes, and are bitter. Many winemakers cold soak pinot noir fruit before fermenting it, in order to extract softer tannins. But in reality, heat and alcohol are needed to maximize color, and the extra time in cold soak also gives the fruit extra time in contact with its seeds, which are the bitterest part.

Most pinot noir is encouraged to complete a secondary fermentation, transforming its sharp malic acid into buttery lactic acid. This effectively softens the wine, but also raises the pH, which further damages its hue. Barrel aging smooths out the edges and adds the flavors and aromas of oak to the wine; it also steals some of the delicate fruit aromas, and accentuates harsh tannins, thus requiring more time in the bottle to soften again.

Despite these challenges, or maybe because of them, the temptation to make great pinot noir has obsessed many winemakers, myself included. After trying for 27 years, with a few years of triumph and many of settling for a blanc de noir or Beaujolais style, I am still obsessed with how to make what every pinot fancier wants — that “iron fist in a velvet glove.”

On Long Island, a few wineries (including Borghese, Laurel Lake, Jamesport and Osprey’s Dominion) persist in producing pinot. The Old Field, Lenz and Sparkling Pointe grow it for rosé and sparkling wines.

In Cutchogue, Russell McCall has 11 acres of mature pinot noir, planted 15 years ago. He believes that the cluster stems must be brown before he harvests so he waits, anxiously, while birds and botrytis threaten his crop. He sorts berries for soundness and ferments in small containers, with punch-down of skins also done by hand. Following the methods used by Burgundian monks in the 13th century has, for him, proved to be the best way to create wines that are subtle, meriting meditation.

What better way to explore one of the world’s most compelling wines?

Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.

07/19/11 5:32am
07/19/2011 5:32 AM

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | LIRR employee Bryan Jecklin pours a glass of Nautique Esprit de Blanc for part-time Southold resident Ed Meredith

Long Island Rail Road passengers boarding the Greenport-bound train from the Ronkonkoma station Friday nights now see a menu on their seat offering refreshments for purchase during the long ride out east.

But other than soda and water, options are limited to two choices — red or white.

The 5:21 p.m. eastbound train from Ronkonkoma, now dubbed the “North Fork Wine Train,” will feature a white and a red wine from six different North Fork wineries each week. The idea is to encourage travelers to use the train and to familiarize North Fork visitors with the region’s wineries.

“This is a kind of pilot project,” said Long Island Wine Council executive director Steve Bate. “But it does seem to be quite popular.” The promotion was made possible through a collaboration between the MTA, the wine council and the North Fork Promotion Council.

This week’s selection on the wine train were Peconic Bay Winery’s Nautique Esprit de Rouge and Nautique Esprit de Blanc.

Other participating wineries include Jason’s Vineyard, Duck Walk, Macari, Pindar and Laurel Lake.

The wine train began Memorial Day weekend and will run until Labor Day. The wine is $5 per glass.

A steady stream of passengers lined up at the bar cart last Friday and more than two-thirds of the wine was gone before the train reached Riverhead. The cart was reportedly out of vino before stopping at Riverhead the Friday before the July 4 weekend. That train carried about 300 passengers, LIRR officials said.

“I think it’s really cool,” said Ed Meredith, a part-time Southold resident who takes the train nearly every weekend. “Now I don’t have to buy beer at Penn Station and keep it cold.” He noted that driving after his trip would not be a problem as his daughter planned to pick him up at the station.

Part-time North Fork resident and LIRR rider Dorothy Rooney enjoyed a glass of wine Friday night, though she said she didn’t need another incentive to take public transportation.

“It’s so much more relaxing on the train,” she said. “I love it.”

For some, it was their first-ever encounter with Long Island wine.

While waiting on line for a glass, Patrick Mahon of Brooklyn said he was so unfamiliar with the area he did not know the name of the place where he and his wife were staying that weekend. But he did say he might come back to visit a vineyard and to taste some more North Fork wine.

“It’s an opportunity to promote our local wineries,” said county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who came up with the idea and sought its implementation. “I have a lot of other ideas I’d like to push in trying to promote the wine industry.”

Mr. Romaine called the promotion “a right step” for the MTA, after the transit authority proposed cutting virtually all LIRR service east of Ronkonkoma, save for summer weekend trains, as a cost-saving measure last year.

Mr. Romaine said he would eventually like to see Saturday and Sunday wine trains working in connection with tour buses to shuttle visitors to the vineyards and local bed and breakfasts.

The LIRR does offer some tour packages, though not for overnight trips and only in the summer.

The wineries do not make much money off the promotion, it’s main benefits come from the advertising, Mr. Bate said. The vineyards sold the cases of wine to the MTA at a discounted rate and the transit authority keeps the proceeds. An LIRR employee mans the cart and pours the wine into small plastic cups for customers.

Though the MTA has reportedly broken even so far with wine sales, officials say it is too early to tell if the promotion has increased ridership.

“The LIRR’s North Fork Wine Train has been well-received by customers. They have been very enthusiastic and positive with their comments,” said MTA spokesman Sal Arena. “It’s too early to make a fair comparison to ridership on the same train last summer without the wine available. But the data is coming in and we will have that answer later in the summer.”

The promotion sits especially well with East End public transportation advocates, who have been calling on the MTA to explore ways to make public transportation more attractive for years.

“It’s like the first time the LIRR has done something for the North Fork,” said Jim Ellwood, a Riverhead resident who sits on the Five Town Rural Transit Board. “I’m just happy they’re offering these amenities.”

vchinese@timesreview.com