About 700 oenophiles gathered at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead Saturday to sip wine, slurp oysters and celebrate the late men and women who have contributed to the Long Island Wine Industry.
The event, Harvest East End, is the Long Island Wine Council‘s biggest annual party and this year’s gala, dubbed “Back to Our Roots,” was a departure from past years in several ways.
For the past three seasons, the bash had been part of the “Dan’s Taste of Summer” series, but this year it was held independently and instead organized by a committee of local winery professionals. And while many restaurants and food providers have offered tastes of their cuisine in years past, this year featured a single caterer: Lombardi’s Love Lane Market. Roasted corn and fresh oysters were also available for an additional charge.
“We wanted it to have an authentic feel,” said Martha Clara winemaker/general manager Juan Micieli-Martinez, who served as event chairman. “We wanted it to capture the North Fork.”
The absence of multiple restaurant stations put the focus on the Wine Council’s member wineries, who had once again sent their winemakers and staffers to pour samples of cabernet franc, sauvignon blanc, rosé and more.
The event also ended much earlier than usual, at 7 p.m. compared to about 11 p.m., with the intent of steering party-goers toward local restaurants for dinner.
Miciliei-Martinez said Harvest East End sold its maximum 550 tickets and estimated there was an additional 150 guests and winery employees at the party.
The biggest draw for those interviewed was being able to sample offerings from multiple wineries in one place and the opportunity to chat with the winemakers themselves.
“What I love about it is that it’s intimate and allows easy access to the winemakers,” said Rebecca Brooks, a Manhattan publicist who had traveled from South Orange, N.J. to attend.
For locals, it also offered a way to show loyalty to the Long Island wine industry.
“We live out here on the North Fork and we support our farmers,” said Jan Bennett of Mattituck.
The evening also paid tribute to several late Long Island Wine Country contributors, including Dr. Dan Damianos, his son Jason, Ann Marie and Marco Borghese, Robert Palmer, Robert Entenmann, Christian Wölffer, Robert Pellegrini, Sam Rubin and Gabby Pisacano.
“I miss all of these friends that are gone,” said Louisa Hargrave, Long Island’s first commercial grape grower.
She urged the audience to continue drinking Long Island grown wine.
“Keep on sipping that wine, it’s good stuff,” she said.