East met west recently.
Many of Long Island’s East End wineries traveled west on June 2 to the Old Bethpage VillageRestoration in Nassau County to pour their wines for a crowd of 350 imbibers.
Dubbed “A Taste of Summer,” by the Long Island Wine Council, the event brought together 26 of the council’s 43 member wine producers.
Attendees filled the Fairgrounds Building, a restored, air-conditioned, wooden barn-like structure with sweeping ceilings. There they sampled not only wines, but also some of some of Long Island top chef Tom Schaudel’s signature hors d’oeuvres. Yes, there was plenty of tuna tartare.
It was good for the participating wineries, who not only got to pour tastes, but also rang up sales of bottles of the wines they were sampling.
I welcome the opportunity to say hello to the handful of winemakers present, among them Anthony Napa of the Winemakers Studio, Miguel Martin of Palmer Vineyards, Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery, Juan Miceli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards; Anthony Sannino of Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard and Russell Hearn of Suhru and T’Jana Vineyards. A few owners were present, too, including Barbara Smithen of Sherwood House Vineyards, Ron Goerler of Jamesport Vineyards, Chris Baiz of The Old Field Vineyard, Hal Ginsburg of Clovis Point Wines, and Theresa Dilworth of Comtesse Thérèse.
There were plenty of wines to sample and, in keeping with the theme, there were many summery wines, including several refreshing sauvignon blancs, a somewhat under-appreciated grape, at least in the region. Among these were 2011 bottlings from Waters Crest ($23), Raphael ($22), Martha Clara ($19), Palmer Vineyards ($20) and the slightly smoky Jamesport Vineyards 2010 Reserve ($35), a winery that has long championed the grape and produces a bottling that’s been aged in neutral barrels.
Equally enjoyable were the sparklers offered up by Sparkling Pointe winery: 2007 Brut ($29) and 2009 Topaz Imperial ($37); Wölffer Estate’s bargain -priced ($15) Classic White, a fruity blend of Hamptons chardonnay and Finger Lakes riesling and gewurztraminer, a crisp stainless-steel fermented 2011 Chardonnay from Sherwood House )$18); the full-bodied, complex 2010 Wild Chardonnay ($20) from Roanoke Vineyards, a producer better known for its reds; a soft, fruity steel-fermented 2011 Chardeax (a chardonnay/sauvignon blanc blend) from Raphael ($24); Peconic Bay Winery’s 2011 Chardonnay ($24), crisp and redolent of green apples, a crisp elegant 2010 Chardonnay from Castello Borghese Vineyards ($18).
Of the roses, the most interesting were from Anthony Nappa Cellars, a tiny producer. These included the deeply colored, dry 2011 Bliss Rose ($14), based on merlot with a touch of cabernet franc, and the slightly pink-tinged Anomaly ($19), a white pinot noir with the essence of cherries and strawberries.
Among the reds I enjoyed: the jammy, soft Peconic Bay Winery 2010 Red Label Lot 3 ($24), a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc; Pellegrini Vineyards’ big, but nonetheless silky 2005 merlot ($20); Jamesport’s soft and elegant 2007 red blend Jubulant ($45); and, the very accessible T’Jara 2007 Merlot $24) and T’Jara’s richer, more complex 2007 Reserve ($30).
A few dozen older wines also were available for sampling, but only for those who ponied up a few extra bucks for VIP tickets. To be sure, the regular folks didn’t miss much. Many of these so-called library wines – at least to me – were disappointing, past their prime and lacking verve. One that I wished I tried, a 1995 Bedell Cellars Reserve Merlot, however, proved popular and was quickly consumed.
And, instead of fresh, newly released wines, some producers poured older vintages. Perhaps they used the occasion to clear out their cellars. For example, I was disappointed that I was unable to sample the recently released Macari Vineyards Early Wine 2011; instead, the winery poured a year-old vintage of a wine that’s made to be consume fresh.
Another beef. Too many second label wines, made with grapes, perhaps, not good enough to go into the top bottles.
Many of the producers at the event had their wines poured by either tasting room staffers, sales reps or volunteer wine ambassadors. Some were often unable to answer questions about the wines, or worse, ignorant. At Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard’s table, I was poured a rose, so cold that my tongue got frostbite. “It’s supposed to be that way,” a staffer told me after I mentioned the problem. Afraid not. Cold temperatures mask flavors — and flaws. To be fair, temperature control is difficult when wines are chilled in ice-filled tubs. Nevertheless, when I encountered the same problem at another table, a smart pourer I offered me a different warmer sample.
Sadly, a few of the region’s best-known and most-highly regarded wineries including Channing Daughters, McCall Vineyards, Shinn Estate Vineyards, Lenz Winery and Paumanok Vineyards, were noticeably absent. Some were ineligible to participate, because they were not members. For the others, it was a missed opportunity to reach out to potential new customers. Nevertheless, I relish an opportunity to try them the next time I head East.