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.

11/04/11 7:00pm
11/04/2011 7:00 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Empire State Cellars tasting bar server Lucinda Bonilla serves a tasting glass of 2010 Vignoles from Hunt Country Vineyards to Lenn Thompson, executive editor of the popular wine blog, New York Cork Report.

After months of pouring, swirling and spitting wines from across the state to select bottles they consider the best, Peconic Bay Winery manager Jim Silver and his staff opened Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlet in Riverhead on Friday.

The store is stocked with 400 different wines and spirits from New York vineyards, and Mr. Silver hopes to grow that number to 600.

“We really tasted everything we could get our hands on and selected what we thought were the best wines in the state,” he said.

Check out our Wine Press blog to read the complete story

10/25/11 4:00pm
10/25/2011 4:00 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | James Ehrlein of Franklin Square and Yesenia Vasquez of East Meadow shared glasses of a 2008 Grapes of Roth Riesling and a 2007 Roanoke Vineyards Gabby’s Cabernet Franc in the wine library at Roanoke Vineyards in Riverhead.

James Ehrlein and Yesenia Vasquez spoke softly in the wine library of Roanoke Vineyards on a recent rainy afternoon as they sipped aged wine and nibbled on goat cheese drizzled with honey.

The two had come from Franklin Square and East Meadow, respectively, where they were working for Global Partners: Running Waters, a charity raising money for flood damage repairs in Central America. They said they were taking a break from fundraising in the Riverhead vineyard’s wine library, a wood-pannel room adjacent to the tasting room in the vineyard’s main building.

“Today we’re relaxing — and learning,” Mr. Ehrlein said, gesturing to his glass of Roanoke Vineyards’ 2007 Gabby’s Cabernet Franc.

The wine library, which opened this past May, is reserved for archived wines that date back to 1994 and are no longer for sale in most tasting rooms.

The library’s collection is comprised of 75 local wine bottles, tucked inside rectangular shelves, from vineyards including Roanoke, Wolffer Estate and Waters Crest Winery. Also available are bottles of Grapes of Roth, a wine company founded by Roman Roth, Roanoke’s winemaker.

“It’s a pretty serious collection,” said Steve Sandell, Roanoke Vineyards’ media and creative director. “It goes back to the Roanoke identity and philosophy — we’re really interested in and really focused on the wine,” he continued, noting that the vineyard seldom holds live music or other events that aren’t specifically focused on wine.

Mr. Sandell said the library is so far attracting people who want to learn more about the wines they’re drinking in a quiet, relaxed setting.

“We think it’s kind of cool to have a place where people can come and select an esoteric bottle of wine and enjoy themselves with it,” he said. “It’s a unique thing out here.”

Wine library patrons can purchase wine by the flight, glass or bottle. Flights, which consist of three tasting portions of different wines, are available for $16 to $18; glasses range in price from $7 to $18; and bottles can cost between $18 and $140.

The library also has its own food menu with suggested wine pairings and the wine librarian, Amanda Fortuna, who is in charge of acquiring and cataloging the bottles, is on hand to answer questions.

A series of winemaker’s roundtable events will be held throughout the year in the library where a small group, limited to 30 people, will taste and discuss wines from across the country.

The first tasting and discussion, on Nov. 19, will be led by Russell Hearn, founder of SUHRU Wines and winemaker at Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue.


10/21/11 12:13pm
10/21/2011 12:13 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Ever feel inadequate during a tasting? Maybe its because you didn't know what everyone was saying? Our glossary should help you with the basics.

We at the Wine Press believe wine tasting experiences are as individualized as the tasters themselves.

Local tasting room managers often tell their customers that tastes and smells are incredibly subjective. Some suggest closing your eyes and letting your senses take in what they may.

Check out our Wine Press blog for our glossary of tasting terms and we hope they help guide you through your next winery tour.

10/19/11 6:00pm
10/19/2011 6:00 PM

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | A new sign directing drivers along the wine trail on Sound Avenue, just east of Northville Turnpike, in Riverhead.

Fifty new Long Island Wine Country signs were recently posted throughout the North and South forks, Long Island Wine Council president Ron Goerler said.

He said the green signs direct drivers through both the North Fork and Hamptons wine trails and will be useful to Wine Country visitors, especially those who come from out of town.

“It was important for us to finish our wine trail off,” he said.

The signs were printed and installed with a $100,000 state grant secured three years ago with the help of former assemblyman Marc Alessi, Mr. Goerler said.

The cash also covered fixing up smaller signs that designate individual wineries.


10/18/11 4:00pm
10/18/2011 4:00 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard owners Sam Rubin, Sharon Levine and Josh Levine.

Sam Rubin knew he wanted to work on a farm when he planted his first garden in the mid-1940s during World War II. He was 16 at the time, and people were encouraged to plant what were called “victory gardens” to grow their own food.

Mr. Rubin went on to own two farms in upstate New York and in Vermont, and in 1988 he purchased a 17-acre farm on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

Read the complete profile on our Wine Press blog

10/13/11 11:00am
10/13/2011 11:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Renowned wine educator and author Kevin Zraly will speak at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue Sunday.

Renowned wine educator and author Kevin Zraly, the 2011 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award winner, will give a free lecture at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue.

Mr. Zraly began Windows on the World Wine School in the mid-1970s at the restaurant that sat at the top of the World Trade Center, where he worked as cellar master and later wine director. The wine course is now held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. He distilled his courses, which still run today, into a best-selling book, “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course,” about a decade later.

Additional honors bestowed on Mr. Zraly include the Society of Wine Educators’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the European Wine Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Food and Beverage Association’s Man of the Year Award.

At Sunday’s lecture, Mr. Zraly will speak about his career experiences, Long Island wines and nationwide changes in the wine industry.

Guests will receive a tasting glass of 2008 Bedell Cellars Musée and 2009 Gallery wines. A question-and-answer session and book signing of Mr. Zraly’s recently released “Complete Wine Course,” 2012 edition, will follow the talk.

To RSVP, email Molly Deegan at molly@bedellcellars.com or call 734-7537.

10/11/11 12:00pm
10/11/2011 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Juan Lopez harvests chardonnay grapes in Paumanok's Tuthill Lane vineyard last Wednesday afternoon. They have to be hand-picked to remove the grapes that have rotted in the clusters.

Grape growers on the North Fork have been hit hard by the wet weather of the past few weeks, which damaged thin-skinned white grapes just before they were due to be harvested.

“Some of the fruit deteriorated and had to be cleaned up before it was harvested. It was more work and a reduced yield,” said Charles Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue.

“Before the hurricane, we were looking at a beautiful outcome, but this year has been a little bit more eventful than we imagined,” he added.

Sal and Maryann Diliberto of Diliberto Winery in Jamesport told a Times/Review photographer this weekend that this has been the worst year ever for farming their grapes, and that they are looking to buy chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grapes to augment their harvest.

The timing of the deluges of late September was near perfect, however, for growers at Sparkling Pointe in Peconic, who harvest their grapes for sparkling wine earlier than most producers, in order to produce wine with more acidity and less sugar content than non-sparkling wines.

“We got lucky,” said Sparkling Pointe winemaker Gilles Martin. “We started on the 10th [of September] and finished on the 21st.”

“We had an excellent crop in terms of yield and quality,” he added.

Mr. Martin said he has heard from other growers whose grapes were not ripe enough to pick before the rains that the rain had swelled the grapes to the bursting point, and in some cases had led to a fungus known as “sour rot” that further damaged the fruit.

But he said most growers who were fighting the fungus have gotten a reprieve from Mother Nature this week, as the hot, dry weather has helped to dry out the fruit.

“They’re doing way better now,” he said.

Mr. Massoud, of Paumanok Vineyards, said rains during warm weather are particularly damaging to grapes.

“If it rains a great deal and at the same time the weather is warm, the vines pull the water from the ground and dispatch it to the fruit,” he said. “It ends up essentially diluting the wine and reduces the intensity of flavor. In extreme cases it causes the fruit to pop.”

Mr. Martin said that sauvignon blanc grapes, in particular, were likely to be damaged by heavy rains, because they have very thin skins.

Mr. Massound said his vineyard started picking red grapes on Saturday, and that the crop seems to be decent.

“Reds are tougher. They usually have thicker skins,” he said. “We may end up salvaging some very reasonable red wines out of what was a difficult year.”