Category Archives: Corks – Wine

Long Island vineyard funded through Kickstarter offers different wines

Southold Farm+Cellar, an upstart winery, is producing distinctive wines made from familiar grapes.

 

Regan Meador of Southold Farm+Cellars, his tasting barn and vines

Regan Meador of Southold Farm+Cellars, his tasting barn and vines

By Alan J. Wax

A little more than a year ago, the owners of a Southold, Long Island, vineyard were seeking crowd-sourced funds to plant 9 acres of what they described as “weird” grapes. Now, they’ve not only planted their grapes but they’re selling their first vintage, albeit made with purchased grapes.

The owners of Southold Farm + Cellar, Regan and Carey Meador, raised almost $25,000 through a campaign on Kickstarter.com to plant what Regan Meador called “weird grapes.” This spring, they planted 9 acres of grapes – Teroldego, Lagrein, Goldmuskateller and the not-so-weird syrah— and now they’re are selling four wines from their hard-to-find, small, gut-renovated-barn-cum-tasting room on a rural North Fork lane.

The Meadors’ hope was to bring diversity to the Long Island wine market by planting grapes such as Teroldego, a red Italian variety grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Süditrol, Italy.

The Meadors, now 34, combined their savings with money from relatives two years ago to buy the 23.7-acre former Charles John Family Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork from Leucadia National Corp., which had pulled out all the vines.

Now, with fund raising behind him, vines planted and wine made and on sale, Regan Meador says he feels an air of excitement. “It’s so nice to actually sell something now. It was so esoteric and theoretical. Now I can put stuff in front of you.”

Regan Meador and his wines, inside his tasting barn.

The Wines

And what he’s putting out!

Southold Farm+Cellar’s wines stylistically stand out in the increasingly crowded Long Island market dominated by merlot and chardonnay.

The wines, except for one, are made from grapes purchased from area growers, including Rex Farr, who owns a certified organic vineyard, and the pioneering Mudd Vineyards. Meador made the wine at the Raphael winery in Peconic.

Meador, who has no formal wine making training, but has taken courses from the University of California-Davis and has apprenticed as at Osprey’s Dominion in Southold, was a planner at a New York City advertising agency before turning to oenology.

Greg Gove at the now-closed Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue made Southold’s La Belle Fille Brut Nature 2009, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sparkler. “It was a forgotten step child. It never saw the light of day,” he said, explaining that he bought the entire 100-case stock, disgorged the wines but did not add a dosage, and then slapped on his own label. The wine, it’s French name translates to “The Step Daughter,” sells for $36. It offers a nose of pears. It’s rich and fruity with a dry finish. “I wanted to give people the same experience I had in in stumbling upon it,” Meador said.

Devil’s Advocate, a Chardonnay made from the 40-year old Mustique clone vines at Mudd Vineyards in Southold, is not a typical chardonnay.  Though not a fan of Chardonnay, Meador said he felt compelled to offer one, albeit made his way. He barrel fermented the wine in large, 228-gallon wooden casks, leaving the wine on its skins for seven days. This wine fermented on wild yeast for over four months, going through secondary on its own. A bit of sulfur was added at the end. It’s full-bodied with tropical fruit and spice notes reminiscent of Gewürztraminer. It sells for $26 a bottle; 190 cases were made.

Cast Your Fate to Wind, Southold’s cabernet franc, also is a departure from the North Fork’s traditional handling of the grape.  It was made in a Chinon/Loire style, using whole clusters of grapes that were, in part, foot-stomped and aged in large casks. The organic fruit came from Rex Farr in Calverton. Dark, but light in body, it’s earthy, spicy and full of cigar box character. Meador produced 119 cases; it sells for $32 a bottle.

Damn the Torpedoes a crown cap finished, wild-fermented sparkling red wine in the Lambrusco style made from a Merlot-predominant blend that also includes Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. It offers up noted of dried fruit, and plums. A light summer red, it sells for $28; 148 cases were produced.

The wines already are attracting attention. In just a short time, Meador’s made his first sale to a restaurant— Damn the Torpedoes, Cast Your Fate to The Wind and The Devil’s Advocate are now available at The North Fork Table and Inn in Southold. He’s also selling wine online, and, relying strictly on social media, he attracted 60 visitors on his opening weekend.

And while that last number may seem small, Meador is unperturbed. “I don’t need a big cavalcade of people coming in the door. I want people excited about wine.”

 

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Forget beer and tea: She picks the right wines for high-end Chinese food

Christine Parkinson Portrait

Christine Parkinson

Christine Parkinson, the worldwide wine buyer for London-based Hakkasan Group’s Michelin-rated restaurants, reveals some of her secrets.

By Alan J. Wax 

What wine with Chinese food?

An oft-debated topic with Riesling or Gewurztraminer the usual answers— or beer, or tea.

But don’t tell that to Christine Parkinson, the London-based global group wine buyer at Hakkasan Group restaurants, whose chain of stylish, high-end Chinese food outposts spans the globe. Its 12 locations in London, Beverly Hills, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, New York, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Mumbai and Shanghai, have become destinations for wine as well as Cantonese cuisine.

Recently, I met with Parkinson, who’s been called “one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK” by English wine writer Jancis Robinson, at the almost two-year-old New York City Hakkasan, to gain insight on how she crafted the Hakkasan wine program and how the food that is served influences the wines on the list.

The interior of New York's Hakkasan restaurant

Latticework decor in New York’s Hakkasan restaurant

The New York Theater District location at 311 W. 43rd St. is a stunner. The 11,000-square foot, 200-seat foot eatery is sleek, decorated with marble, ornate wood latticework, glass and mirrors and deep blue colors. The restaurant was bustling with an après-work crowd at the time of our meeting.

Parkinson, who was tasked in 2001 by former Hakkasan CEO Niall Howard to create the first Hakkasan wine list in London, was recruited just 10 weeks before it opened. She has since become regarded as a pioneer in pairing wines with Cantonese cuisine

In those days, she recalled, “it was tea or lager beer” with Chinese food in Britain.

Putting together that first wine list required much research, guidance from colleagues and, of course, lots of tasting, she said, noting she decided at the start “to look for lovely wines.” The wines, of course, had to match the food—all of it. Parkinson and a group of sommeliers and Hakkasan’s chef settled in temporarily at another restaurant and tasted and matched. “The experience taught me that some wines taste dreadful with Cantonese cuisine,” she said, noting that to make the cut, a wine must work with every dish on the menu. “If it goes with the food, I’ll put it on the list.”

Chinese cuisine with its multitude of flavors — mild, savory, sweet and spicy, “makes life very hard for wine,” said Parkinson who said she acquired her wine knowledge as a food and beverage manager, a job that was preceded by work as a chemical analyst and head chef. “From my experience so many wines don’t work with the food. If a customer doesn’t like the match up, she added, they’ll return to their tea and beer.”

Hakkasan's Hakka Noodles with mushrooms and chives

Hakkasan’s Hakka Noodles with mushrooms and chives

Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey

Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey

As we chatted, we nibbled on delicately flavored hakka steamed noodles tossed with mushrooms and chives and an addictive, sweetish Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey. We sipped Ca’ dei Frati Lugana I Frati, an Italian 100 percent Lugana (Trebbiano)-based wine from Lombardy that’s been on Hakkasan wine lists since 2001. A delicate, fragrant wine with floral, apricot and almond notes, it suited both dishes.

Parkinson and her teams of sommeliers have tasted every wine on the restaurants’ lists with the cuisine and continue to taste new wines every Tuesday in each location.

Hakkasan’s wine list is formatted to minimize confusion.  Various sections reflect the categories that Parkinson has placed the wines for Hakkasan’s guests. Each title is followed by a simple, brief explanation. Each page essentially is a separate list.

The lists vary by location, due to availability of the various wines, but Parkinson noted, at their hearts, they are all similar.

The  New York wine list, has about 350 wines, listed in order of body and flavor from light to rich, starting at $30 for the Chilean Riesling, Neblina Vineyard Leyda 2008, and climbing to almost $3,000 for a 1982 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Virtually every wine-producing region in the world is represented, including Greece and New York’s Finger Lakes with Dr. Konstantine Frank Rkatsiteli. There are also 23 different sakes. Nine wines are available by the glass.

Sauvignon Blanc is the group’s top seller by the glass. At the New York Hakkasan it’s Astrolabe, a dry, full bodied New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that goes for $15 a glass or $57 a bottle.

Parkinson says the restaurant’s top selling red is a tempranillo-based Rioja Reserva, Remelluri 2008, which goes for $80 a bottle.

Hakkasan’s menu often pairs best with wines that are fruity, have soft tannins and are light to medium in body, she said, adding, “Sherry is very good with the food – Tio Pepe [Fine Sherry] or a dry Amontillado Sherry with our food is one of my favorites.”

Hakkasan NY, 311 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036 (212) 776-1818

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Gallo Marks 50th Anniversary of its iconic blend, Hearty Burgundy

What was your first real wine?

For me, it was probably a bottle of Gallo Hearty Burgundy.

That’s after dismissing all the sweet kosher wines I drank on Jewish holidays and the fruity Yago Sangria and Boone’s Farm fruit wines that I chugged with college pals to soothe our throats after inhaling the smoke of a weed now considered medicinal. I remember it was at a dinner at a long-gone Italian restaurant in Port Jefferson, N.Y., not far from the Stony Brook University campus, where I spent my undergraduate days. My roommate was buying to celebrate the completion of a project. We thought we were pretty damn sophisticated ordering a bottle of Gallo Hearty Burgundy to wash down the pizza we ordered.

I don’t remember how the wine tasted, or, to be honest, if I really liked it. I didn’t know Burgundy from Bordeaux until some years later when I entered the working world and Terry Robards had begun scribbling his weekly wine column for the New York Times.

But that college-era recollection came back recently upon seeing a press release from Gallo noting that 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Hearty Burgundy by pioneering American winemakers Ernest and Julio Gallo.GALLO FAMILY VINEYARDS HEARTY BURGUNDY WINE

Hearty Burgundy, we are told was the favorite wine of the winery’s late founders, Ernest and Julio Gallo. The brothers originally made it as an ode to the wines from their native Italy.  Of course, no wine from Italy would ever be called Burgundy, the region on France best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Nor has Hearty Burgundy ever been made from those noble grapes.

Although the exact varietal components of the wine vary from vintage to vintage, two grapes, Zinfandel for its brambleberry flavors and Petite Sirah for its depth and dark fruit flavors, have always been a part of this wine.

There’s a reason it endures. It’s better than most of us remember and, of course, there’s its consistency over the years and its price, $9-$10 for a 1.5 liter bottle. I tried some recently—after hunting it down and finding on the shelf nearest the ceiling in a local wine shop.   It’s a moderate bodied, deep purple hued wine. It’s advertised brambleberry aroma is evident in the nose and the berries shine through on the palate as well, along with hints of spice.  It’s better that some of the plonk I’ve tried masquerading as red varietal wine. You know the kind that’s served at catered affairs and pizza joints.

The Gallo folks boast that Hearty Burgundy not only introduced Americans to wine, but also for put American wines on the map during an era when spirits dominated consumption.

Indeed, in 1972, Hearty Burgundy graced the cover of a Time magazine issue featuring a story about the booming California wine industry. In the feature, wine critic Robert Balzer called the wine “… the best wine value in the country today” as it outscored more expensive California and French

“We are both proud and humbled by the longevity of Hearty Burgundy,” third generation family member and vice president of marketing Stephanie Gallo said in the press release. “I have so many fond memories of sharing this wine with my friends and family, especially my grandfather, Ernest – it was his favorite.”

Today, Gallo, of course, is more than cheap industrial wine.  It markets more than 70 labels across the price spectrum, including value varietals, and premium varietals from a cross section of California appellations.  It also markets wines under such brands as Frei Brothers, MacMurray Ranch, Edna Valley Vineyard, Mirassou, Louis Martini, William Hill Estates, and also imports such labels as Martin Codax (Spain), Ecco Domani and Davinci (both Italy) and Alamos (Argentina). It also produces gin and vodka under the New Amsterdam label.

This year, to celebrate Hearty Burgundy’s golden anniversary, Gallo has produced a limited edition bottle that pays homage to the original flavor profile that harkens back to the original blend.

Gallo says Hearty Burgundy pairs well with a variety of hearty foods, including chili, Italian fare, including red sauces, meatballs and hard cheeses like Parmesan and Romano. Though I did not try these pairings, I am fairly confident they’ll work

The anniversary bottling of Gallo Family Vineyards Hearty Burgundy becomes available this month with a suggested retail price of $9 for a 1.5 liter bottle.

Nostalgia comes cheap.

 

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Thieves steal 16,000 bottles of BrewDog prototype beers from UK retailer

BrewDog's Prototype series

BrewDog’s Prototype series

British police are investigating the late night theft of 16,000 bottles of rare beers produced by the iconoclastic Scottish brewer BrewDog.

The beers, worth an estimated £40,000 ($71,000), were stolen from the Essex, England, warehouse of beer retailer Ales by Mail on Dec. 30. Ales By Mail distributes the beers on behalf of the Scottish brewer.

According to published reports a gang of 15 raiders carried out the theft, which was caught by a surveillance camera.

In the wake of the theft, Ales By Mail has made a public plea that retailers, bars and pubs not purchase any of the stolen brews on the black market.

The stolen beer has a retail value of around £40,000, and includes BrewDog beers listed on the brewer’s website as prototypes.

logo-largeThe BrewDog brands stolen include prototype beers Interstellar, Hobo Top and Brixton Porter, along with recent launch Moshi Moshi.  The beers were to have gone on sale this week.

“They are niche craft beers and can only be ordered through the BrewDog website,” Paul Kruzycki, founder and managing director of Ales By Mail, said in a statement.

CCTV camera footage shows a gang of between 10 and 15 thieves, who broke into the warehouse between midnight and 2 a.m. and loaded the beer into a van.

The Prototype series beers, the brewer says, is a chance for its customers “to help us decide what to brew in 2014. “ They are priced on BrewDog’s web site at £6 ($10) per 33ml bottle.

BrewDog describes Hobo Pop as amped-up American wheat beer, produced using extra pale, cara, crystal malts along with wheat and rye. Amarillo and Centennial hops were used. The beer has an OG of 1.0142 and 50 IBUs. Hobo “has bags of vibrant citrusy energy and a complexity you wouldn’t expect in a 4.2% beer,” BrewDog says. “If this hobo had a knapsack, it would be stuffed full of Amarillo, one of our favorite hops.”

Interstellar is a red rye IPA produced using extra pale, crystal and dark crystal malts and rye with Magnum, Willamette and Amarillo hops. The 6.5% abv brew has 65 IBUs and an OG of 1.059. BrewDog says Intersteller has “a complexity on a par with the maintenance manual for the Millenium Falcon. Fuelled by Willamette, this massive beer shares the hop profile of a beer we brewed whilst floating down a river in North West USA… This is an autumnal IPA that will have your palate sent to the spice mines of Kessel, and smashed into who knows what.”

Brixton Porter is a session porter produced using extra pale, dark crystal and black malts, roasted barley and Victoria’s Secret, Bramling Cross and Challenger hops. A 5% abv beer, t has 50 IBUs and an OG of 1.048. “Originally intended as a beer to mark the opening of our Brixton bar, this porter made it further than our ill-fated potential London venue did,” BrewDog says. “With an aroma you’d expect to find in a foreign extra or a stout, this deceptive brown porter will taunt your nose with chocolate, deep rich roasted coffee, and the menacing, smoky salty hit of burning pirate ships.”

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Moshi Moshi 15

Moshi Moshi 15 is a 5.2% abv Pale Ale that sells for £2.59 ($4.25) for 33ml bottle. The beer is the brewery’s 15th birthday salute to Moshi Moshi Records, a small London-based label. A rich biscuity malt base takes the bassline, with the odd caramel pop and slap. Heavy hop riffs play on top; resinous resonance from the rhythm guitar, and the bitter notes we love so much on lead.”

A reward is being offered for information leading to the recovery of the beer and arrest of the thieves.

 

 

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1 month, 3 NYC area beer festivals

Get those pretzel necklaces ready. It’s festival time in New York.

Three beer festivals are scheduled to take place in and around New York City over the next few weeks.

Spider Bite Beer Co. pours at last year's Belmont Park beer expo

Spider Bite Beer Co. pours at last year’s Belmont Park beer expo

First up, is the International Great Beer Expo at Belmont Park in Elmont with day and evening sessions scheduled for Nov. 9.  Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, a hopped up West Coast-style brew, will make its East Coast debut at the sixth annual edition of this event, which features some 50 breweries and a hundred-plus. Tickets are $45 online and $55 at the gate, although a $23 discounted admissions can be found at Goldstar. A word of caution: the event space is partly open to the elements and unheated. Photos from last year’s expo showed many attendees attired in warm clothes and coats. Starfish Junction Productions is the event promoter.

Craft ExpOn Nov. 13, from 7-10 p.m. Great Brewers/Union Beer Distributors presents The Craft Experience, which they described as “the most exclusive event of its kind.”  The event pairs an impressive list of 125 domestic and international craft breweries and 30 little-known craft distillers under one roof. That roof is Center 548, a three-floor event space near the Chelsea Piers at 548 W. 22nd St. Manhattan. Brewery owners, brewmasters and distillers will be hand, too, to talk about their products.  Regular tickets are  $89 and a VIP admit, which offers an opportunity to start tasting an hour before the official start, sells for $125. Union Beer is a major craft beer distributor in New York City, Long island and five other downstate counties in New York as well as a distributor of Anheuser-Busch InBev products.

The scene last year at the Lexington Avenue Armory

The scene last year at the Lexington Avenue Armory

Finally, there is the New York City Craft Beer Festival spread over three sessions on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24 at the Lexington Avenue Armory at E. 68th St. in Manhattan. The Hand Crafted Tasting Co. (an affiliate of concert promoter Mad Dog Presents) puts on the event, which is focused on fall and winter seasonal beers. Seventy-five breweries are expected to participate, each serving up two beers. There’s also an extra-charge Connoisseur Club, which includes harder-find beers and edibles and an extra hour of sampling. Tickets are $55 for general admission,  $75 for VIP admission (an extra hour to sample) and $25 for the Connoisseur Club. Saturday general admission tickets are sold out.

Are you planning on attending any of these?

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Ridgeview, an English bubbly, provides a sparkling surprise at book launch

At a recent reception in New York City sponsored by UK Trade & Investment USA to mark the launch of the “World Atlas of Wine,” I expected to be overwhelmed by meeting authors Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, two of the wine writing world’s heavyweights.

rv_bloomsburyI was wrong. The biggest star — at least for me — was the bubbly being poured for the guests, Ridgeview Wine Estate’s Bloomsbury 2010. (Robinson offered her hand in a friendly greeting and Johnson stared past me as he spoke to the person next to me.)

It was my first taste of British sparkling wine and I was dazzled by this bubbly, a Chardonnay-dominant blend with added Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier produced with the traditional methods used by sparking wine producers in Champagne.

A lovely wine with a pale golden hue, it has a creamy, persistent mousse. The nose is fruity and on the palate there are concentrated notes of citrus and apple, good acidity, a hint of biscuit and a dry finish.

The wine was produced using grapes grown in Sussex in Southern England, Ridgeview co-founder and winemaker Mike Roberts, MBE, a guest at the event, told me.  A large man with thinning white hair, he said consultants from across the Channel in France’s exalted bubbly producing region have provide assistance over the years.

Mike Roberts of Ridgeview

Mike Roberts of Ridgeview

Roberts, 70, an accountant by training and the former owner of a computing business, along with his wife, Chris, founded the winery in 1994, planting in Sussex.  They produced their first vintage in 1996.  Today, they have 110 acres of vines and their wines have been well reviewed and have brought home awards at international competitions.

At last year’s Decanter Wine Awards Ridgeview’s 2006 Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs took the top prize in the Champagne and Sparkling wine category.

And why shouldn’t English sparklers be as good as those made across the Channel? Kent and Sussex, where the best English sparkling wines originate, are about 88 miles north of Champagne. And the English region’s chalky are said to be very similar to the earth where famous names such as Bollinger and Dom Perignon plant their grapes. Climate change has also helped.

Ridgeview sparklers are imported to U.S. by New York City-based Grand Cru Selections.  The Bloomsbury sells for about $33.

Rigdeview’s South Ridge Cuvée Merret 2009, produced exclusively for Laithwaite’s, the British wine merchant,  is available for $32 through the Wall Street Journal Wine Club,  which is operated in partnership with Laithwaite’s, the world’s leading direct-to-home wine seller.

 

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Gov. Cuomo says MTA will expand Taste NY, offering beer, wine, and foods at Grand Central Terminal

taste-ny-logoThe Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to add a Taste NY store in Grand Central Terminal, the Midtown Manhattan transportation, tourist and shopping hub.  The store will sell food and beverages produced in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Cuomo has being pushing the Taste NY initiative since earlier this year to boost awareness and sales of New York produced foods and beverages, particularly to consumers in New York City.

There are already some of the stores at rest stops along the Thruway and the MTA recently introduced New York-made wine, beers and distilled spirits on bar carts on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. Signage on the carts promotes the products and, according to officials, the products have been selling briskly since being added last month.

“Taste NY is all about highlighting the world-class food and beverages that are produced all across New York, which supports tourism and economic activity in communities around the state,” Cuomo said in a Sept. 14 statement, noting that a store at Grand Central “is a great way to showcase the wealth of products that New York’s agricultural industry has to offer and encourage travelers to explore what they’ve been missing.”

“With the explosive interest in artisanal and craft foods and beverages and New York’s long tradition of wine and beer-making, the time is right for the producers of New York’s great foods and beverages to break into and tap this great marketplace of commuters, travelers, tourists and shoppers,” said MTA chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast.

The MTA’s Metro North Railroad issued a request for proposals several weeks ago seeking operators for the store. The request for proposals targets the state’s wineries and other retailers as potential operators of this first stand-alone Taste NY shop. The MTA estimates that 750,000 people pass through the terminal daily. The terminal serves commuters  from Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, and Rockland counties and in Manhattan, the Bronx, and southwestern Connecticut.

Crain’s New York Business reported that the Papyrus stationery store on the ramp up to E. 42nd St. in Grand Central Terminal will close next year to make room for the Taste NY  store. It also reported that Taste NY stores will open in Penn Station, and at LaGuardia and JFK airports.   Taste NY stores  also are planned for Delta Air Lines’ Terminal 2 at JFK and at the US Airways terminal at LaGuardia, the publication reported.

The New Baltimore rest area in Greene County on the New York State Thruway has a dedicated Taste NY space within the Travel Mart store that began selling New York food items in August. HMS Host Corp. operates the New Baltimore Service Area. Additional locations are soon expected to open at other Thruway service areas in Western and Central New York.

Also, the state hosted a Taste NY tent at Farm Aid 2013 concert in Saratoga Springs in September offering beers and wines.

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Long Island’s Harvest East End draws New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo

The scene at Harvest East End viewed from the Library Wines tasting area

The scene at Harvest East End viewed from the Library Wines tasting area

Long Island’s wine industry had its biggest ever blast.

Harvest East End, the industry’s annual celebration of itself, a charity tasting festival for consumers, took place Aug. 24 under a billowy, soft-purple-lit tent 4 at McCall Vineyard and Ranch in Cutchogue.

Throngs of tasters – 1,300 tickets were sold – reveled in the enormous tent as they had at the past three events, sipping from among the hundreds of wines available from 42 local producers and nibbling on the edibles provided by 32 mostly local food purveyors. High-energy music pounded from the loudspeakers.

This year’s Harvest East End was markedly different than those in past years.

It marked the 40th anniversary of the planting of Long Island’s first modern day commercial vineyard with the organizers honoring Louisa Hargrave, who with former husband, Alec Hargrave, established Hargrave Vineyards in Cutchogue (known today at Castello di Borghese Vineyard). Photos from the industry’s early days decorated a fence surrounding a seating area in the center of the tent/

Also honored was restaurateur John Ross, who in 1973 established Ross’ North Fork restaurant in Southold, which soon became an early booster of local wines and locally grown food – long before today’s farm-to-table movement was a popular notion.

Significantly, for the first time, Harvest East End was held on the North Fork, where most of the region’s wineries are located. In past year, the fest was held in the Hamptons.

Gov. Cuomo addresses the crowd at Harvest East End

Gov. Cuomo addresses the crowd at Harvest East End

The festival also brought Gov. Andrew Cuomo, an advocate of  New York’s wine producers since taking office. Cuomo presented the New York State Wine and Grape Foundation’s “Winery of the Year” award to Russell McCall, owner of McCall Wines. The award was announced earlier this month.

McCall Wines, the governor told the crowd, was an example of the “many world-class wineries that have become a mainstay of Long Island’s fast-growing wine industry.”

Cuomo called the North Fork wine region “one of New York’s hidden treasures” and he credited East End legislators, Sen. Ken LaValle and Assemb. Fred Thiele, with helping to “develop industries we believe we can nurture. The wine industries are those industries in New York.”

“We have invested in it and promoted it,” the governor said. “The industry is taking off like a rocket.”

A 30-second TV commercial promoting New York’s wine industry premiered at the event. The spot is expected to run this fall throughout the region.

“Put tourism together with the wine industry, and they can grow an entire region,” Cuomo said. “And that’s what you’re seeing here on the North Fork of Long Island.”

“Our wines have gained stature and quality and are now highly rated in top publications,” said Ron Goerler Jr., president of the Long Island Wine Council. “Similarly, with the bounty of our local farms and waters, the East End of Long Island has attracted world class culinary [experts].”

Indeed, with so many wines available in one place to taste it was impossible to sample them all, let alone take notes. Vibrant whites from the 2012 vintage and just-released and unreleased 2010 reds dominated the offerings.

Among the whites, I was taken by the refreshing, grapefruit juicy Sauvignon Blanc from the region’s newest winery, Kontokosta Winery, in Greenport and an elegant 2012 Chardonnay from Coffee Pot Cellars.

A 2010 Malbec from Peconic Bay Winery stood out among the reds for its elegant French-like soft style.

Nevertheless, for me some of the best wines at the event were to be found in the VIP library wines tasting table, which demonstrated once again for me the age worthiness of the region’s reds.

Jamesport CFTops among them was Jamesport Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2002, a Chinon-like rendition, which at 11 years of age was remarkably fresh with a crisp, red cherry and earthy character and lively acidity.

To be sure other wines also shined.  Pellegrini Vineyards Reserve 2005 was a lush, dense red blend from a terrific vintage, still with lively fruit notes at 8 years of age (the 2007 currently is available at the winery for $70). Old Field Vineyard’s Commodore Perry Merlot 2007 (just released at $40) was chewy and redolent of mushroom and earthy notes. Shinn Estate Vineyard’s intense Nine Barrel Reserve Merlot ($43) offered soft tannins and notes of black pepper.

Edibles included the usual array of chowders, gazpachos and ceviche found at past events (understandable when you’re feeding 1,300 people).

But some chefs went a step further.  There were the generously stuffed meatloaf sliders from Jeannie Morris of Bonnie Jean’s Casual American Eatery, smoked meat and fruit salsa tapas from Kevin Judge of Maple Tree BBQ; piquant meatball shooters from David Plath of Grana Trattoria Antica bites of spicy marinated McCall Ranch beef and bites of spicy marinated McCall Ranch beef from Gerard Hayden of The North Fork Table and Inn. Meanwhile, Erich Lomondo of Kitchen A Bistro turned to pig for his offering—a crisp fried Tete d’Cochon.

Fresh briny Pipes Cove oysters on the half shell were available from Noah Schwartz of Noah’s, while Bobby Beaver of the Frisky Oyster served piping hot Widow’s Hole Oysters Friskafella

The most inventive dish of the event had to be the rich, sweet, custardy duck egg crème brûlée from Paolo Fontana of Mirabelle served in the shell.

Harvest East End was organized by the Long Island Wine Council, the industry’s trade group, and sponsored by Wine Enthusiast magazine with support from Merliance, the Long Island Merlot Alliance.

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Long Island wineries celebrate 40 years at Aug. 24 Harvest East End festival

McCall's vineyard on the south side of Main Road, Cutchogue. (Photo by Shelley Wax)

McCall’s vineyard on the south side of Main Road, Cutchogue. (Photo by Shelley Wax)

It’s time once again for Long Island’s biggest wine celebration, the Harvest East End tasting fest.

This year’s event, which takes place Aug. 24, marks 40 years of winemaking on Long Island. And, it’s the first time that the event, established four years ago, is taking place on the North Fork, where most of the East End wineries are located. Previous fests were held in The Hamptons. This year’s site is McCall’s Vineyard & Ranch in Cutchogue, recently honored as New York State’s Winery of the Year.

The event, presented by the Long Island Wine Council, Merliance  and Wine Enthusiast magazine, will prove attendees with the opportunity to taste wines from such great vintages of 2010 for the reds and 2012 for the whites.  “It doesn’t get any better than that,” said wine council vice president  Roman Roth,

Roman Roth at 2011 Harvest East End

Roman Roth at 2011 Harvest East End

who is winemaker and partner at Wolffer Estate Vineyard. He says there will also be barrel samples of the 2012 reds, offering a “first glimpse of the fantastic ’12 vintage.”

Josh Wesson

Josh Wesson

The main event, which runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m. will be emceed by sommelier Joshua Wesson, who is theformer CEO of Best Cellars . The will honor Louisa Hargrave, the Long Island winemaking pioneer and author, and chef John Ross, author and father of the North Fork’s farm to table cuisine.

More than 40 Long Island vineyards and a restaurants and purveyors of gourmet eats will be showcasing their wares.

All proceeds from the event are to donated to East End Hospice, Group for the East End, The Peconic Land Trust and The Long Island Farm Bureau Foundation. Last year’s event raised $46,000.

Tickets to the event at $150 per person and available online until Aug. 23, 10 p.m. (eastern time).  A VIP ticket, which includes early entry, is $250. Tickets will, however, be available at the door.

The wineries include: Anthony Nappa Wines (Peconic), Baiting Hollow Farm VineyardBedell Cellars (Cutchogue), Bouké (Mattituck), Brooklyn Oenology, Castello di Borghese (Cutchogue), Channing Daughters Winery (Bridgehampton), Clovis Point (Jamesport), Coffee Pot Cellars (Cutchogue), Comtesse Thérèse (Aquebogue), Croteaux Vineyards (Southold), Diliberto Winery (Jamesport), Duck Walk Vineyards (Water Mill), Gramercy Vineyards (Mattituck), Harbes Family Farm & Vineyard (Mattituck), Jamesport Vineyards, Jason’s Vineyard (Jamesport), Kontokosta Winery (Greenport), Lieb Cellars (Mattituck), Macari Vineyards (Mattituck), Martha Clara Vineyards (Riverhead), Mattebella Vineyards (Southold), McCall Wines (Cutchogue), Merliance, Old Field Vineyards (Peconic), One Woman Wines & Vineyards (Southold), Osprey’s Dominion (Peconic), Palmer Vineyards (Riverhead), Peconic Bay Winery (Cutchogue), Pellegrini Vineyards (Cutcogue), Pindar Vineyards (Peconic), Raphael (Peconic), Reilly Cellars (Cutchogue), Roanoke Vineyards (Riverhead), Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard (Peconic), Scarola Vineyards (Mattituck), Sherwood House Vineyards (Mattituck and Jamesport),  Shinn Estate Vineyards (Mattituck), Sparkling Pointe (Southold), Suhru Wines (Mattituck), T’Jara Vineyards (Mattituck), Waters Crest Winery (Cutchogue) and Wölffer Estate Vineyard (Sagaponack).

Regettably, if you’re looking for two of Long Island’s top wine producers, Paumanok Vineyards (Aquebogue) and Lenz Winery (Peconic), you won’t find them here, because they are not members of the Long Island Wine Council. Still, there will be plenty of good wine available.

Participating eateries and food purveyors, from Long Island and New York City, include: A Lure (Southold), A Mano (Mattituck), A Taste of the North Fork (Southold), Bistro 72 (Riverhead), BLT Prime (New York City), Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill, Blue Duck Bakery, Bonnie Jean’s (Rocky Point), Claudio’s (Greenport), Comtesse Thérèse Bistro (Aquebogue), CoolFish Grille & Wine Bar (Syosset), Cuvée at The Greenporter Hotel (Greenport), First and South (Greenport), Fresh (Bridgehampton), Gourmet Sorbet by the Sorbabes (Bridgehampton), Grana Trattoria Antica (Jamesport), Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Jewel (Melville), Kitchen A Bistro (St. James), Le Maison Blanche (Shelter Island), Love Lane Kitchen (Cutchogue), Madison and Main (Sag Harbor), Main Restaurant & Oyster Bar (Greenport), Maple Tree BBQ (Riverhead), Mirabelle (Stony Brook), Noah’s (Greenport), North Fork Chocolate Co. (Calverton), North Fork Table and Inn (Southold), Scrimshaw Restaurant (Greenport), Stonewalls Restaurant (Riverhead), The Frisky Oyster (Greenport), The Riverhead Project, Touch of Venice (Mattituck), Vine Street Cafe.

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A serendipitous find of Brunellos, Barbaresco and Barolos

Photo1With the exception of an occasional media event, I don’t drink a lot of high-end Italian wines.  Can’t say why, for sure, but I probably should.

So it was serendipitous that during a recent stop at Post Wines in Syosset that I encountered Eric Svirida, a rep for Syosset-based Michael Skurnik Wines, pouring samples of the importer’s wares for a dozen or so customers.

Svirida had uncorked a trio of Brunello di Montalcino bottles, among Tuscany’s top reds, and a trio of Piedmontese reds— a Barbaresco and two Barolos. The wines ranged from $32 to $80. Given the typical premium prices often attached to these wines, I was astonished that so were attractive values.

The tasting started with the Brunellos, all from the 2008 vintage, a difficult, but good one for growers with an August hailstorm that damaged many vines. The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, a trade group, ‎ scored the vintage 4/5 stars.

We started with the San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino  2008. San Filippo is an estate of 22 hectares, 11 under vine (5.5ha in Montalcino) east of Montalcino. The wine is ruby red with a powerful nose of deep red fruit, mostly cherry, oak and herbs. The wine is dense, its tannins lush and soft, and there is a hint of heat. The cherry notes continue on the palate and the acidity is bright, suggesting the aging potential of the wine. Post’s price for the event: $36.

Next up was La Colombina Brunello di Montalcino 2008.  A relatively new producer with just 3 hectares near Castelnuovo Abbot, it sold its grapes until 1997, when it produced its first vintage. Wood and tart cherries on the nose were followed on the dense palate with notes of cherries and spices and dry tannins. Post sells this for $36.

The third Brunello was the Ciacci Piccolomino Brunello Pianrosso 2008, a single vineyard wine from the southwestern reaches of Montalcino. A large estate with 172 ha (425 acres) that dates to the 17th Century, this wine is produced with grapes from a single vineyard of just 11.69ha. This mouth coating ruby red wine offers up notes of plums, blackberries, minerals, lots of acidity, some heat and a big-dry finish. It sells for $56 at Post.

On to the Barbaresco, in this case a Sottomano Barbaresco Fausoni 2010. The 2010 Barbaresco vintage has been described by producers as spectacular and it was evident in this wine from a tiny — 1.5ha — 35-year-old vineyard in Nieve. This definitely is a food wine, starting with its huge nose of sweet cherries. On the palate there are cherry, earthy and Balsamic notes. And despite monster tannins, the wine proved accessible. Post price: $47.

Azelia Barolo 2008, our first Barolo, was a winner, in part because of its wallet-friendly price, just $32 at Post. A bit closed, the nose suggested the sweet fruits to come on the chewy, full-bodied palate. I picked up notes of prunes, licorice and cocoa with a mouthful of soft tannins. Accessible now, but it certainly will age well.

Our second Barolo and last wine, was the Chiara Boschis Barolo Cannubi 2008  is produced with Nebbiolo grapes grown in the well-known Cannubi vineyard. Chiara Boschis is the only female winemaker in Barolo. The nose is floral and fruity and on the dense, balanced palate there are generous notes of berries and minerals along persistent, albeit soft, tannins. With a 95-point score by the Wine Advocate, the wine was the priciest of the tasting at $80.

Skin flint that I am, I limited myself to buying one bottle: The Azelia Barolo. It’s hard to pass up such good value.

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