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10/05/13 10:20pm
10/05/2013 10:20 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | On a beautiful warm afternoon Saturday, a big crowd turned out for the Pour the Core hard cider festival.

Apple season has never tasted so good on the North Fork. The second annual Pour the Core hard cider festival drew more than 2,000 people to Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue Saturday.

To see more photos from the festival, check out Northforker.com.

08/05/13 8:00am
08/05/2013 8:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Winery is for sale, months after its tasting room closed.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Winery is for sale, months after its tasting room closed.

In January, Peconic Bay Winery closed its Cutchogue tasting room to the public and transferred operations to the Empire State Cellars store at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

At the time, general manager Jim Silver was adamant that the winery, founded in 1979, had no plans to close its Cutchogue location altogether.

“We are absolutely not closing our tasting room,” Mr. Silver told The Suffolk Times last winter. “We are just changing it and re-purposing the Cutchogue property. The biggest crowds came out for the special events and we’re going to keep doing them.”

But now, six months later, the winery, including the tasting room and 25 acres of planted vineyards on Main Road, is for sale, Mr. Silver told the New York Times.

“After assessing the profitability of the tasting room, we determined that the return on our investment was not at all reasonable,” Mr. Silver said. He added that hard cider production will not be affected by the winery’s sale.

Paul and Ursula Lowerre, who bought the winery in 1999, might retain the brand, Mr. Silver is quoted as saying. The Lowerres’ 30 acres of vines on Oregon Road in Cutchogue are not on the market.

Russell Hearn, chief operating officer at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck, will oversee vineyard maintenance and acquire the 2013 grapes, Mr. Silver said.

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01/14/13 2:58pm
01/14/2013 2:58 PM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Winery will now do all its non-member tastings at Empire State Cellars at the Tanger Outlet Center.

Peconic Bay Winery will be closing its Cutchogue tasting room to the general public, but the location will continue to be the site of special events and where the company’s wine will be fermented, bottled and stored, according to general manager Jim Silver.

Mr. Silver said Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead — where the company currently sells almost 800 New York wines and some liquor — will soon feature an exclusive space for Peconic Bay Winery products and will also serve as the winery’s retail and tasting room headquarters. Peconic Bay Winery owns the outlet, which it opened about a year ago.

The Cutchogue property will still serve as the location for the Peconic Bay Winery wine club and other private events, as well as food and music festivals.

“A lot of people don’t know what to make of this and some think we are closing,” Mr. Silver said. “We are absolutely not closing our tasting room. We are just changing it and re-purposing the [Cutchogue] property. The biggest crowds came out for the special events and we’re going to keep doing them.”

In a press release, Mr. Silver said the Riverhead tasting room “can accommodate dozens of interested wine tasters each day and the hours of operation are much longer than they are at the winery. We’ll reach a lot more people this way.”

He said though the company laments no longer offering open mic and other frequent events for local musicians, the sound of music will not be leaving the property for good.

Two festivals are already planned with event production company Starfish Junction which puts on such events as the North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ & Wine Festival at Martha Clara Vineyards and the Pour the Core hard cider festival held at Peconic Bay Winery in October.

“We’re planning another cider festival for Oct. 5 and I have a meeting in two weeks for a wine-related festival,” Mr. Silver said, adding that the Cutchogue Lions car show will also soon be held at the Cutchogue location.

Mr. Silver said he is currently talking with limo and other private driving companies to make Tanger a stop on the North Fork wine trail.

“On the way out after a day of touring the area, who wouldn’t feel like a little shopping,” Mr. Silver said. “Guys can come have a beer at the bar and girls can check out some of the shops. It’s going to be a fun place.”

Mr. Silver said the North Fork region accommodates about two million people annually, a number he said is growing all the time.

“Our piece of that is 40 to 50,000 and that’s a lot. I think with this move, there will be more traffic to go around to the other local vineyards and will bring loyal Peconic Bay wine drinkers to Tanger,” he said.  “It’s going to be a bit more quiet around here in Cutchogue, but we’re going to keep ourselves just as busy and I don’t think it will end up having too much of an impact.”

Mr. Silver said North Forkers who truly love the Cutchogue location should join the wine club.

“Wine club members come in all the time to pick up their shipments and hundreds of them will show up,” he said. “We’re going to have eight wine club weekends in Cutchogue, so wine club members can have the place all to themselves.”

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11/22/12 5:00pm
11/22/2012 5:00 PM
Long Island Wine Country, North Fork, Hard Cider

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bob Gammon in the Woodside Orchard barn’s hard cider tasting room in Aquebogue.

First came locally produced wine.

Then came vodka, beer and whisky. And given the number of East End fruit farms it seems only natural that list of alcoholic beverages bottled, brewed or distilled here would grow to include hard cider.

In October, Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue was the site of the area’s first “Pour the Core” hard cider festival, attended by an estimated 800 people.

Since the winery began making the area’s first hard ciders two and a half years ago, said owner Jim Silver, “hard cider has blown up across North America, including Canada.”

Others following this trend include Shinn Estate Vineyards and local winemaker Anthony Nappa.

Most recently, Aquebogue-based Woodside Orchard began its own foray into the world of hard ciders, currently offering two varieties of the sweet and tart autumn-through-winter beverage. Both are 6 percent alcohol, according to Bob Gammon Jr., one of the owners.

Woodside is a family business that’s had the Jamesport orchard since the mid-1980s, and the Gammons began selling hard cider at the Aquebogue location almost a month ago. First, though, came two years of wading through paperwork to get their farm winery license.

“One cider is a little drier because we used different yeasts with the same juice and one left more residual sugar than the other,” said Mr. Gammon.

The two varieties, he said, are made from a blend of eight different kinds of apples.

“We have a third variety we’ll release in another week and a half, just before Thanksgiving, that has cinnamon and other spices,” he said, adding that will also have 6 percent alcohol.

On Saturday, Peconic Bay Winery also released 600 bottles of a Thanksgiving-themed cider, called “Turkey Tom.” It is available for purchase at the winery and Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

Mr. Gammon estimated that Woodside Orchard should have enough hard cider to keep the Aquebogue location open until Christmas, and will reopen in May.

He added that the family is considering showcasing their ciders during a spring “apple blossom festival.”

Woodside Orchard currently grow 27 varieties of apples on 4,000 trees and offers pick-your-own apples in addition to prepacked bags of roughly 11 pounds and baked goods like pies and apple breads.

With hard cider now added to the list they are also in the process of developing another product — apple wine — and are currently waiting for label approval of their Woodside Orchard Apple Wine.

Mr. Gammon said that aromatically, the wine’s nose is reflective of the fruit it’s made from, though it is similar in taste to other white wine. “It fits in with other wines quite nicely,” he said. “It doesn’t stand out one way or another.”

The decision to make apple-holic beverages began with a suggestion by a local winemaker Mr. Gammon said wishes to remain unnamed, who has been a key consultant and a tremendous help in the operation.

“The process of making hard cider is not really that difficult, just time-consuming,” he said. “We press the juice at our Jamesport farm and then we bring it to Aquebogue to ferment in our tanks. It’s about a six-week process from start to finish.”

Mr. Gammon estimates that his business has already produced about 1,000 gallons of hard cider. Once another 250-gallon tank arrives in Aquebogue, the orchard will be able to ferment 1,500 gallons of the stuff at a time.

Hard cider is already for sale at Woodside Orchard’s Main Road location in Aquebogue.

In addition to tastings, $15 glass growlers can be purchased there and returned for refills.

“We’re hoping this could help bring our family business to the next level,” Mr. Gammon said. “It’s being received very well so far. Hard cider has its own niche following and we’re already getting return customers.”

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08/19/12 10:00am
08/19/2012 10:00 AM

Local music lovers will gather at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue between 2 and 7 p.m. today to kick-off the 2012 NOFO Rock & Folk Fest concert series and pay tribute to Levon Helm, a musician whose influence has left an indelible fingerprint in the fabric of American music as the voice of The Band.

The Dirt Farmer band, comprised of core members of the Levon Helm Band, will headline the music festival, which will also include performances by Long Island band Miles to Dayton and the North Fork folk duo The Second Hands.

“Levon, for all of us [in the Dirt Farmer Band] was about good music for all the right reasons,” musician Larry Campbell said of his former bandmate. “I think there’s so much going on in music right now that has the wrong motivation; that’s just out there for money and riches. Money and fame goes away, but the joy of making great music never does and that’s success right there.”

Mr. Helm’s daughter, Amy, also played and sang with the Levon Helm Band before her father’s death in April and performs with The Dirt Farmer Band this afternoon in order to “keep it going” in his memory.

“We’re certainly paying tribute to him and carrying on what we were all about as a unit with his influence,” Mr. Campbell said. “That’s what we want to keep going, because it’s been a profound one for all of us, including him. He told me more than once that this was the best band he’d ever played with.”

Mr. Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s, resulting in damaged vocal cords that initially left one of American music’s most distinctive voices speechless. He would slowly reinvent himself as a vocalist, singing more and more at the musical gatherings he often held at his Woodstock home.

“The first time I heard Levon sing again was at B.B. King’s in New York and it was like finding out the Beatles had gotten back together,” Mr. Campbell said of Mr. Helm’s vocal comeback.

Tickets to today’s event are $25 for anyone 17 and over and is free for all those under 16. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the continuation of the iconic musical gatherings Mr. Helms founded, The Midnight Rambles.

Read an interview with Amy Helm in Thursday’s edition of The Suffolk Times.

07/24/11 1:36am
07/24/2011 1:36 AM

Foghat will be among the acts performing later this month in the second NOFO music festival

If last year’s NOFO Rock and Folk Fest was all about the hullabaloo over permits, traffic control and crowds, this year it’s all about the music. And returning musicians and newcomers to the stage at Peconic Bay Winery are excited about playing the venue.

“It was just one of those perfect weekends,” Corky Laing said of last year’s event. This year, the drummer who played with Mountain will perform with his new band, The Memory Thieves. He describes the band as a “wonderful group of musicians who spark a lot of musical spirit.” And he promises the audience can expect both some of his earlier music and some new “creative” songs.

After some 40 years in the music business, what Mr. Laing wants from his career now is “just some good moments” — and that’s what he experienced at the NOFO Fest last summer.

“It was really just a great party,” he said. While the music may be the main attraction, the people who attend make the event all it is, he said.

Mr. Laing corralled rock drummer Roger Earl of Foghat into playing the gig this year. A native of England, Mr. Earl now makes his home in East Setauket and is looking forward to playing in his own backyard. He’s also hoping two of his daughters and some of his grandchildren will be able to attend.

“Hopefully, a good time will be had by all,” he said. Foghat fans can expect to hear some of the band’s classics as well as some newer tunes, including some from bands 2010 CD “Last Train Home.”

Foghat has undergone many transitions since it debuted in 1971, and Mr. Earl is the last remaining member of the original crew.

“I learned my craft by going out on stage two or three times a week,” he said of the early days. He recalls as a teen band members’ renting rooms above pubs and then putting on their own spontaneous shows. That type of opportunity isn’t around today for young bands, he said. But he thinks some of today’s bands are influenced by the music of the era when he got his start.

While Mr. Earl was making his mark originally in London pubs, John Sebastian was trying to reclaim rock ’n roll for America, where he said it all got started. The veteran of Woodstock will appear at NOFO for the first time, bringing some of the music his fans love from The Lovin’ Spoonful, some from what he calls the “mid-period” and jug band music that reflects his days with the Even Dozen Jug Band. He’ll be coming with some “big boopy guitars and a harmonica player or two,” he said.

“I’ll try to cover as much ground as I can in the time allotted,” Mr. Sebastian said. Obviously, that’s not as much time as he’d get playing a gig at a club, he added.

Mr. Sebastion recently attended a birthday party for Woodstock producer Michael Lang and said he dug into his closet for some old tie-dyed outfits left over from the 1960s that seemed appropriate for the event.

When Gordon Gano and his band, Violent Femmes, debuted in 1983, they were considered the post-punk generation of rock musicians. Now Mr. Gano will appear at NOFO with The Ryan Brothers — Brendan and Billy — and Brendan Ryan promises “a lot of diversity” in the program. It’s mostly a rock band, he said, but there will be some country, some folk and a little bit of funk.

“Mostly, it will be a lot of fun,” Mr. Ryan said.

The collaboration between Mr. Gano and The Ryan Brothers came about during various West Village gigs in New York City.

“I like the North Fork,” Mr. Ryan said, referring to the area as “sort of the anti-Hamptons.” And playing at a winery is a plus, he said.

When Commander Cody (aka George Frayne) takes the stage at NOFO, it won’t be with his former Lost Planet Airmen but with Professor Louie and some of the most talented and well-known musicians he has ever known.

“These are an all-star bunch of guys who all know my music,” Mr. Frayne said. As with Professor Louis, Commander Cody’s career dates back to Woodstock.

The Who Dat Loungers will bring the sounds of New Orleans Mardi Gras to the party, according to booking agent Joe Lauro.

There’s a nine-piece band with two front vocalists bringing “the funk of the Neville Brothers and the Meters” and the “zydeco of Buckwheat Zydeco.” The music will range from traditional Dixieland and jazz to the sounds of Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima, Mr. Lauro said.

And while many of the performers have built national and international reputations, producer Josh Horton said he thought it important to showcase regional artists, noting many have received national attention.

That means Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks will be center stage. It’s a chance to reach people the band might not otherwise reach, Mr. Casey said. Despite their many East End concerts, there are still people who don’t know their music, he said.

“We’re going to feature a lot of our own songs,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful showcase and a celebration of the area.”

The Jon DiVello Band will be on hand with for what Mr. DiVello said is going to be a mix of both the band’s classics and “a lot of new stuff. It’s going to be really fun,” he said.

And because NOFO attracted so many families and so many children last year, Mr. Horton has created the NOFO FAM JAM with the music of Southold’s Brady Rymer. It’s music that appeals to both children and adults, Mr. Rymer said.

He’ll bring a three-piece band with drummer Chris Roselli “to get the energy pumping for the kids,” Mr. Rymer said. Vocalist and accordionist Claudia Mussen will also perform.

“The criteria for a great event this year is the same as NOFO 2010 — great performances, a family-friendly setting, delivering a substantive contribution to the East End Arts Council and a seamless event that makes the community proud,” Mr. Horton said.

The two-day festival runs next Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31.

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Peconic Bay Winery
Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31
11 a.m. to 7 p.m.