01/18/13 3:00pm
01/18/2013 3:00 PM
COURTESY PHOTO  |  Louisa and Alex Hargrave left Harvard University, where they met, 40 years ago to head to Long Island's East End.

COURTESY PHOTO | Louisa and Alex Hargrave left Harvard University, where they met, 40 years ago to head to Long Island’s East End.

The Long Island Wine Council celebrated its 40th anniversary Thursday night at Raphael Vineyards in Peconic. The North Fork wine industry began when Louisa and Alex Hargrave took a chance to try something never before done here. In the winter issue of the Long Island Wine Press, published by Times/Review, the Hargraves reflected on how it all began.

Louisa and Alex Hargrave stood under a sunny sky one unseasonably warm winter afternoon with two grape experts who had come from afar to take a gander at Long Island’s very first vineyard.

The young couple, neither of whom had any viticulture experience, were soliciting advice on growing stronger, more fruitful grapevines. The expert, who grew grapes in California, told them to keep the vines with the thickest wood and cut off the side shoots.

The Hargraves exchanged puzzled glances. Just minutes earlier, a grape expert from Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station in upstate New York had given the exact opposite advice: Keep the thinnest wood and do not cut off the side shoots.

COURTESY PHOTO  |  Alex Hargrave majored in Asian studies before turning attention to wine making.

COURTESY PHOTO | Alex Hargrave majored in Asian studies before turning attention to wine making.

“We decided not to take anyone’s advice,” Louisa Hargrave recalled in a recent interview. “We had to inform ourselves. We couldn’t rely on anyone else.”

Exactly 40 years ago, the Hargraves left Harvard University, where they met, and headed for Long Island’s East End, a rural landscape covered with potato farms, cornfields and churches. There was not a single grapevine in the region, now characterized by a bustling wine industry.

The Hargraves had driven across the country to Napa Valley to visit vineyards and explore owning one but were disappointed at the time by the quality of the West Coast’s highly oxidized wines. They knew they wanted to grow vinifera grapes, which grow well in Europe, and were told by Cornell University researcher and agricultural scientist John Wickham that the climate and soils on Long Island were similar to those of France and other regions where vinifera grapes prosper.

And so, they set their sights on grape-growing on Long Island.

“We weren’t satisfied with anything else,” Hargrave said of their decision. “We were young and we thought we had nothing to lose.”

Alex Hargrave had majored in Asian studies and his wife earned degrees in teaching and government. If college taught them anything, though, it was that experts didn’t have all the answers. They couldn’t farm — neither had grown so much as a cherry tomato in a backyard garden — but they knew how do research and banked on their learning skills.

Hargraves2“We took a huge risk,” Hargrave said. “It’s the arrogance of youth — you think you can’t fail. You do what you want to do and just go for it.”

Sixty-six acres and many challenges later, the Hargraves had created a small winemaking operation, population two. The early days were fraught with challenges: diseased plants, destructive birds, natural disasters and nosy, anti-alcohol neighbors.

“There were people who would call reporters every time they saw a bug on a grape leaf and then there’d be some big story,” Hargrave recalled. On the whole, the couple were well-received by fellow farmers on the North Fork, but the “small but vocal faction” caused them their fair share of headaches.

Not having anyone to look to for advice or examples, the Hargraves made fresh decisions — and tragic mistakes.

Eric Fry, 20-year winemaker at Lenz Winery, which was founded a few years after Hargrave Vineyard, said other early vineyard managers and winemakers looked to the Hargraves to glean insight on what to do — and what not to do.

The biggest lesson the fledgling Long Island wine world learned from the Hargraves was where not to plant, Fry said. The Hargraves had planted vines in low spots, which turned out to be a vine’s arch-enemy. Lower ground is typically wet and cold — destructive conditions for a grapevine.

“They didn’t exactly know what they were doing and they made a lot of mistakes,” Fry said. “They were experimenters. Someone had to do that for us to find out.”

 

Their first wine, Hargrave admits, was a disaster. They stored a sorry Sauvignon Blanc in whiskey barrels instead of customary oak barrels.

“We didn’t know how important oak was,” she said.

The whiskey barrels stripped the wine of its color and added a heavy char flavor.

Though the early days were peppered with flops and faux pas, the Hargraves had fallen in love with the art of grape-growing and winemaking.

“I wanted to do work that was physical and meaningful and for my children to experience work effort,” Hargrave said. “I wanted our work to have results — something we could eat and drink.”

The couple’s two children did learn the hard work of farming a vineyard. Their son, Xander, remembers the endless work and spirited energy of each fall’s harvest — and his parents’ faithful devotion to their love of wine.

“They were stubbornly committed to wines they enjoyed drinking — wines that had an old world connection and quality,” said Xander Hargrave, who is now assistant winemaker at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue.

He believes the local wine industry’s prosperity is rooted in a like-minded community with the same goals. “The health and success of the wine industry is linked to the health and success of the community,” he said. “Forty years of the wine industry is just the beginning.”

The Hargraves ended up selling their beloved vineyard just after harvest in 1999, leaving behind two decades of winemaking and a burgeoning wine region now dotted with dozens of vineyards.

True pioneers, the couple set the stage for scores of winemakers who would produce world-class, award-winning wines.

To this day, Louisa Hargrave wants not much more than an alluring glass of wine to relax with. Her idea of a great wine, she said, is one with subtlety, “an interesting and intricate aroma that doesn’t hit you over the head.”  She likes dynamic wines with energy, fruitiness and earthiness.

“Making wines that are very dynamic and have energy from the first taste to the last,” she said. “That’s where I think we succeeded and that’s where winemakers on Long Island today succeed.”

08/05/12 9:34am
08/05/2012 9:34 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead residents Carrie Savonije (from left), Wayne Piaskowski, and Don and Erika Miller toast to the beer sampler they were going to share in a tasting, which included beers from Long Ireland Brewery, Greenport Harbor Brewery and Southampton Publik House, in the new North Fork Tasting room Saturday afternoon. It had its grand opening party at Baiting Hollow Commons Friday evening.

There’s a new place in town for North Fork food and wine lovers.

The North Fork Tasting Room, located in the same shopping center as Lobster Roll Northside and the Gingerbread Factory in Baiting Hollow, opened its doors Saturday afternoon. Owner Fred Terry said the store is a “labor of love” that will introduce new local wines to tourists and residents alike.

“This will be particularly a conduit for wineries and future breweries that are off the beaten track, because we are on the beaten track,” Mr. Terry said.

In addition to wine sales by the glass, the store will use Lobster Roll Northside’s kitchens to make a variety of Mr. Terry’s family recipes, from huckleberry pies and other baked goods to smoked meats and fish.

“It’s something that I wanted to do since the inception of this [restaurant] and that’s more culinary arts, more food,” he said. “The
tasting room is as much food tasting as it is beverage tasting, for me.”

08/01/12 12:00pm
08/01/2012 12:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | NY76.0844.24 makes a top-ranked floral, muscat wine, according to Cornell scientists. So what would you name it?

Love wine? Want to help name a new variety of grape?

Here’s  your chance.

Cornell University is asking the public to help them name two new varieties of grape from their breeding program set to be released next year.

Grape breeder Bruce Reisch is the man behind the new varieties, including a cold-hardy white wine grape and an organic dark red one, currently named NY76.0844.24 and NY95.0301.01, respectively.

Mr. Reisch said the name needs to stand out among the 7,000 other varieties of grape and be “marketable, easy to pronounce and carry positive connotations,” adding that both foreign-sounding and names similar to well-loved varieties are popular.

NY76.0844.24, the white wine grape, was first created in 1976, a highly productive grape that ranks high in its winter hardiness. Mr. Reisch said it has “excellent wine quality and aromatic characters reminiscent of Gewürztraminer or a citrusy Muscat.”

NY95.0301.01, the organic red, was developed in 1995 and fast-tracked into production because of its promise as an organic variety. It is the first grape to be released from a “no-spray” vineyard, with good resistance to both downy and powdery mildews. Mr. Reisch said “it exhibits moderate body, good structure and blueberry flavor on the pallette.”

The winning names will be revealed between February 6 and 8 at the Viticulture 2013 conference in Rochester, NY.

“There are so many different flavors,” Mr. Reisch said. “Why shouldn’t people get excited about new varieties? They keep things interesting for the consumer and are often better for growers.”

Got name suggestions? Leave a comment below to let us know what your ideas are and don’t forget to copy and paste them in an email to Mr. Reisch at bruce.reisch@cornell.edu.

01/21/12 10:30am
01/21/2012 10:30 AM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Helmut Gangl, an award-winnine ice and sweet wine maker from Austria, operates the wine press at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck.

Helmut Gangl leaves his vineyard, situated on the border of Austria and Hungary, every winter and heads for Long Island. An award-winning ice wine and sweet wine maker, Mr. Helmut has teamed up with Joe Macari, owner of Macari Vineyards in Mattituck, to make a variety of dessert wines.

One wine, 2008 Block E White Table Wine, was served at the Governor’s Dinner at the White House last February.

Those looking to make ice wine on Long Island this winter will run into some trouble, as temperatures have yet to take much of a dip. In order to be labeled an ice wine, the juice must be made from grapes that were frozen on the vines, and that has seldom happened this winter.

If grapes are frozen in freezers, as Macari wine is, the resulting bottles must be labeled sweet wines. Mr. Gangl has made Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Merlot sweet wine for Macari, and will make Malbec and Riesling for the first time this year.

We sat down with Mr. Gangl to ask about the process of making sweet wine on the North Fork.

A: The grapes freeze in the freezer. The water in the cells of the grapes freeze and all the aromatics, all the sugars, all the acids are frozen. When you press the frozen berries, then you get the extract sugar, rich in aromatics. Then, when it gets cold, the grapes go outside — we press outside so it must be cold. It has to be between 28 and 32 degrees. The pressing brings out the extract from the grape berries and the frozen water in the cells stays in the berries because you cannot press out the frozen things. After the pressing, the fermentation goes on. We have a long fermentation – not only 2 or 3 weeks like the dry wines. The long fermentation takes 1-3 months. After the fermentation, it’s come to maturing time which is much longer than dry wine. The maturing time is 2 or 3 years in the barrel or stainless steel tank, wherever you want to do it. Then you stabilize the wine and bottle it. You do not sell them because you need maturing in the bottle for 8 months to a year. There is no rule; you have to taste it.

Q: Why is ice wine and sweet wine typically more expensive than other wine?

A: There are a lot of costs. You do not get very much juice – you get 70 percent less juice than from dry grapes. Also, the fermentation takes much longer.

Q: How does a mild winter affect ice winemaking?

A: If the winters are too warm and I press outside, the berries defrost too fast. The aromatics and acids are not the best combination.

Q: What’s a typical profile of a sweet wine?

A: The taste of a sweet wine from the variety Viognier is like apricots. Pure apricots. Very, very intense. A little bit of honey in the after taste. Then you find exotic things inside — mango, pineapple — but not intense pineapple, a touch of pineapple. You have fresh acidity because on Long Isalnd you have a lot of good acidity in the grapes during harvest and maturing time. In your mouth, you feel an elegancy in the after taste.

Q: What is one sweet wine and food pairing you’d suggest?

A: Vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seed oil and Chardonnay sweet wine. The pumpkin seed oil is nutty. Eat that with the ice cream and a little sip of Chardonnay sweet wine. Perfect.

sbrix@timesreview.com

01/20/12 7:59pm
01/20/2012 7:59 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council (center), Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts (right) and Bryan DeLuca, president of East End Tourism Alliance (left).

Wine drinkers and jazz lovers have a reason to get excited: the popular Winterfest Jazz on the Vine concert series is officially underway.

About 100 guests gathered in the ballroom of Hotel Indigo East End Friday evening for Winterfest’s kickoff event.

Mike McGowan of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau (LICVB) said at a press conference prior to the kickoff event that the founders and organizers of Winterfest “gave us the product we desperately needed,” when they began the first set of concerts five years ago, setting up an event that brings large crowds during an otherwise quiet time of year.

He said the concerts invite residents of western Long Island and the tri-state area to the East End, where they support the local economy by shopping in boutiques and dining in restaurants on the north and south forks, places “they know they want to come back to come spring.”

The LICVB sponsors the yearly concert series along with the Long Island Wine Council and East End Arts. This year, 71 concerts — the most performances in Winterfest history — will go on at participating wineries and at Hotel Indigo East End. Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts, said the lineup is especially impressive this year, as the great majority of scheduled musicians have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

Admission to each concert is $15 per person and includes a glass of wine.

The first concert is set for Feb. 11.

Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, said more wineries are participating this year than ever before.

“Wineries and other businesses are beginning to recognize that this program has transformed this region into a winter destination,” he said.

Last year, 6,000 people bought tickets to Winterfest and an estimated 10,000 people flocked to East End wineries during Winterfest season.

After the press conference, guests drank local wine and feasted on light fare while listening to a jazz jam lead by the Steve Watson Trio, a Winterfest headliner.

Eileen Sanger and her husband Freddy Profit came to the kickoff event from Miller Place and sipped full glasses of peppery Bedell Cellars Cabernet Franc during the kickoff.

Veteran Winterfest goers, Ms. Sanger and Mr. Profit are especially excited for the Tessa Souter Group, which is performing at Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards on Feb. 25.

“[Winterfest] is a great attraction for Long Islanders,” Ms. Sanger said. “The wineries are a nice place to spend a cold day.”

“[Local wineries] have a great product out here,” she added.

sbrix@timesreview.com

12/19/11 1:52pm
12/19/2011 1:52 PM
Calverton

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Peter DiBernardi, owner of The Hidden Vineyard, uses a tap to pour wine out of wooden barrels.

If you’re driving along Edwards Avenue in Calverton, you might miss a couple small signs leading you down a narrow road framed with tall corn stalks to a small vineyard.

After the herb farm and after the vegetable stand — if you’re driving slow enough and really paying attention — you’ll see it: The Hidden Vineyard.

You may expect to find a rustic farmhouse beyond the rows of grapevines lining a winding gravel driveway, but standing majestically at the foot of the driveway is actually a large, newly-built colonial.

The vineyard and the house belong to 75-year-old Peter DiBernardi.

“I call it The Hidden Vineyard because nobody can find us,” Mr. DiBernardi said.

READ THE REST ON OUR WINE PRESS BLOG

11/29/11 5:17pm
11/29/2011 5:17 PM
wind turbine

EDVARD LOVAAS COURTESY PHOTO | Work has begun on a wind turbine at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic, the turbine will be the biggest in Southold Town.

This week Pindar Vineyards in Peconic will put up the biggest wind turbine in Southold Town.

Alex Damianos, who spearheaded the project at his family’s vineyard, estimates that the $550,000 turbine will supply at least 90 percent of the vineyard’s energy, which currently costs, on average, $60,000 per year.

The 100 kilowatt turbine, manufactured by Northern, is the same model installed two years ago at Half Hollow Nursery in Laurel, said Mr. Damianos, son of Pindar Vineyards owner Dan Damianos. The Laurel turbine is in Riverhead Township, which historically has allowed larger turbines. The turbine in Laurel was installed by Eastern Energy Systems, while Pindar’s turbine is being installed by GreenLogic. Southold Town did not allow turbines with power output ratings greater than 25 kilowatts until Pindar Vineyards inquired about changing the code to allow the bigger turbines this past spring.

“One hundred kilowatts was unheard of,” said Mr. Damianos, who said that he was told by the Southold building inspector that it could take up to a year to get permits for such a large turbine.

Since then, they’ve been on a mad dash to get the permits in place and the engineering done to have the turbine installed before the end of the year, in order to take advantage of a 30 percent grant from the federal government due to expire at the end of this year.

“Without the federal grant, fiscally it wouldn’t work for us,” he said.

Mr. Damianos then went to Town Supervisor Scott Russell’s office and was happily surprised to find that the Supervisor and the Town Board were eager to put the town on the cutting edge of green technology. The board quickly adopted a code change to allow turbines rated for up to 125 kilowatts.

“We got it changed in one month thanks to Scott Russell,” he said.

GreenLogic poured the concrete foundation for the turbine about a month ago, and after waiting 21 days for the concrete to cure, began to erect the tower Monday, said GreenLogic senior project manager Ashlee Reiniger, who was on the site Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, the turbine and blades were installed, and GreenLogic crews were wiring it up to begin producing electricity.

“This is one of the best sites we’ve tested on Long Island,” said Mr. Reiniger. “It’s just wide open. Nothing stops the wind. The development rights are intact, so we can build there, and it’s close enough to the winemaking facility to feed the wires in.”

Pindar’s turbine is the fourth one in Southold Town. Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards, McCall Vineyards and Shinn Estate Vineyards all have smaller wind turbines.

“It’s a monument now,” said Mr. Damianos. “It’s wine made by wind. Now the largest winery has the largest wind turbine.”

byoung@timesreview.com

11/21/11 4:00pm
11/21/2011 4:00 PM
Pour People

COURTESY PHOTO | Jerol Rickard, Amanda Fortuna, and Bobby Baker at the Long Island Pour Awards.

The men and women pouring wine along the wine trail are often the biggest promoters of wine clubs and winemakers. But they are not the ones getting rich off a vineyard’s success.

When it comes time for all the awards showered on the vineyard, it’s often the owners and winemakers that get all the glory.

Well, not anymore. The “Pour People” — the many men and women who man the tasting rooms in Long Island Wine Country — hosted the first-ever Long Island Pour Awards last week.

The Pour People group started in 2007 when Richard Pisacano of Roanoke Vineyards thought of hosting a party and inviting employees of neighboring tasting rooms to meet, drink and share in some trials and tribulations of what it takes to man the counter. The Pour Party was born and the turnout was a huge success.

This year Amanda Fortuna and George Romero of Roanoke Vineyards revived the group by creating a Facebook page called “The Pour People,” and they invited all their friends along the wine trail to join. All 130 of them and counting.

“We realized that we had a great group of people here,” Mr. Romero said. “We thought, ‘Hey, let’s do something with this!’”

The result was a fast and fun way for pour people to post news and events, while throwing in a few funny stories and friendly competition. And of course, where and when the next pour party is.

Jerol Rickard and Jeff Baily from Lenz thought up last week’s award ceremony.

They invented categories like “The Golden Nose Award,” “Wine Nerd Award,” The Socialite Award,” “Veteran Award,” and many more. Members were invited to nominate and vote for the pourer they thought best fit each award. Tickets were sold to cover the cost of the event, with proceeds going to Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach in Riverhead.

“The coolest thing about the group is that it’s all volunteer,” said Mr. Rickard. “We are all like-minded, friendly people who are supporting local businesses, better educating our customers and giving back to the community.”

The “Pour People” wined and dined at Blackwells Restaurant before heading to the Hilton Garden Inn for the awards ceremony Wednesday.

Complete with golden envelopes, members presented awards made of recycled wine bottles with a golden capsule and self-designed pour awards labels.

“I would just like to say, how can we not smile and have a great day when we are working in a beautiful area with such great people?,” said Sara Carlson of Shinn Estate Vineyards in her acceptance speech for the “Rainbows and Sunshine Award.”

Some other highlights were the male and female “Pourer of the Year Award,” which went to Mr. Rickard from Lenz and Ms. Fortuna of Roanoke. The “Wine Nerd Award” went to Chris Fanjul of The Winemaker Studio.

The first-ever awards ceremony featured huge applause, a little heckling, and lots of laughter, proving even a “Pour Person” can have his day.