Featured Story

Celebration honors wine industry pioneers

In 1973, Louisa and Alex Hargrave planted grapes in the sandy soil of an old Cutchogue potato farm, forever changing the North Fork’s landscape, economy and culture.

To celebrate 50 years of vineyards across the North Fork, the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council and the North Fork Promotional Council will honor Ms. Hargrave, as well as chef John Ross and agriculture expert Bill Sanok, at a commemoration filled with music, catered food and, of course, wine on the Village Green in Cutchogue Thursday, July 13, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Nearly 20 vineyards will be offering vintages at the event, while chef Chris Richards’ East End Events Catering will provide a grazing table and hot hors d’oeuvres. The event is also part of the Rites of Spring classical music festival series. A string trio will perform works by Franz Schubert and Joseph Haydn. 

“We’re putting this nice event together with some nice food,” said Lisa Sannino, the president of the North Fork Promotional Council and the owner of Sannino Vineyards in Cutchogue. “There’ll be some music with wine tasting, which will be something different. Usually people pair wine with chocolate, wine with cheese; we’re pairing it with music.”

“These are the pioneers that really started it off,” she added of the honorees.

Ms. Hargrave, who at one time wrote a wine-centric guest column for The Suffolk Times, has long been credited as a foremother of Long Island’s wine industry. At his Ross’ North Fork Restaurant, Mr. Ross, who recently published his latest book of recipes, pioneered farm-to-table eating here on the North Fork. 

“Bill [Sanok] was part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension and he received a call from the Hargraves when they were initially here with some questions about how to use a potato storage facility to hold grafted grape plants prior to planting,” historical council director Mark MacNish said. “And then from there, he got involved. He’ll be the first one to say that he didn’t know much about it, but he researched it and looked into it, and he’s kind of credited as being the go-to guy at Cornell for helping the early wine producers figure out growing problems and things like that.”

These three pioneers and others like them drastically changed the North Fork. Mr. MacNish recalled just how quickly this transformation took place in the 1970s.

“My house was kind of in the middle of a potato farm,” Mr. MacNish said. “That’s what I grew up with, and then I went away to college and came back and everything was vineyards. So, you know, it really did alter the landscape of the North Fork. We were always a tourist destination out here, but I think the wineries kind of ramped that up a bit.”

Ms. Sannino said the wine industry made the North Fork a well-known destination.

“When you go to other wine regions like Chianti, Italy, it’s all focused around the wine … So I feel like we need to bring that here,” she said. “People know the South Fork, they know the Hamptons, and now they know the North Fork, for better or worse. We’ve got beautiful vineyards, beautiful farms, farm stands, aquaculture, we have it all really, in my opinion.”

Tickets for the celebration of vineyards on the North Fork are available for $75 through eventbrite.com.