All that’s left of Long Island’s Harvest East End wine and food event are memories. To be sure, good ones, the result of lovely weather, a roomy tent, delightful nibbles and, particularly, many good wines.
The Aug. 25 charity event, organized by the Long Island Wine Council and Merliance trade groups and held on the grounds of the Hampton Classic equestrian show in Bridgehampton, brought out 1,200 wine aficionados, and generated charitable proceeds of $42,000 for the Group for the East End, the East End Hospice and the Peconic Land Trust.
I suspect the crowd would’ve been even larger if ticket prices had not been geared to wine aficionados who luxuriate in the Hamptons. Tickets were priced at $150 for three hours of tasting and $250 for four hours, including VIP access to library wines Yes, I’m aware this was a fund raiser and for the participating wineries and local restaurants it never hurts to have deep-pocketed potential customers trying your wares. Full disclosure: as a member of the media I was admitted gratis.
With 39 wineries participating, the place – a tent the length of a football field — was awash in fine wine, including for me, some from producers I’d never before had a chance to sample, among them One Woman Wines & Vineyards and Reilly Cellars.
Among the most memorable wines, however, was one that won’t easily be found: Pellegrini 1997 Encore. Poured at the event’s library wine counter, this red blend produced by winemaker Russell Hearn was soft and velvety and as fresh and fruity as if it had been recently bottled. Simple proof that Long Island wines have the ability to age. The wine was listed with a price tag of $70.
Other enjoyable library wines included the lovely, soft Castello di Borghese 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($44) and the lush One Woman Wine’s 2008 Estate Reserve Merlot ($48).
Back around the tables, the Shinn Estate Vineyards 2009 Estate Merlot ($26) was a charmer and the just-released Reilly Cellars 2003 Merlot ($18), made by Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery, showed plenty of fresh fruit nine years after harvest. The McCall Wines 2008 Merlot Reserve ($24) also was a winner among the reds. A trio of reds from Mattabella Vineyards, all merlot based blends, showed a soft, easy drinking style. They included the non-vintage Famiglia Red ($17), and Old World Blend from the 2007 ($35) and 2008 (#30) vintages. Another soft, easy drinking red, 2008 Red Label Lot #4 was offered by Peconic Bay Winery.
The Grapes of Roth 2010 Dry Riesling was a standout among the whites with notes of slate and lime (no price listed, but the 2009 is $22). Other whites of note, Palmer Vineyards‘ racy 2011 Albariňo ($25 for 500 ml) and the well balanced, refined Pellegrini 2011 Chardonnay ($19).
I also enjoyed a terrific new sparkler, albeit one of limited production (235 cases), the 2008 Sparkling Pointe Blanc de Noirs ($75), an elegant blend of pinot noir and pinot meunier that showed notes of berries and nuts. Another good sparkler, The Old Field Vineyards 2005 Blanc de Noirs ($42), also was delightful with velvety cherry notes.
Among the dozens of dishes available for sampling, the North Carolina style pulled pork from Maple Tree BBQ of Riverhead was a standout among the gazpachos, shell fish, duck and tomato concoctions offered by other purveyors. I also was quite taken with the usual twist on gazpacho – made with beets – from Brooklyn’s Mile End Delicatessen. Alas, chef James Merker did not serve his signature smoked meat, a Montreal version of Jewish-style pastrami. Another unusual bite, fried, boneless duck tongues from First and South of Greenport.
Those involved in the big show, of course, were happy with the outcome.
“The venue, food, wine and organizations all worked together to deliver a delightful experience that really showcased the character and quality of the East End’s bounty and raised money for three worthy causes,” said Tom Matthews, executive editor of the Wine Spectator, the event’s presenting sponsor.
“Harvest continues to grow and achieve new heights for Long Island wine,” said event chair Roman Roth, who also is executive vice president of Merliance and vice president of the Long Island Wine Council. “It was a star-studded night with attendees like singer Shontelle, star chef Philippe Haddad and hometown heroes like WPPB’s Bonnie Grice, our mistress of ceremonies. We are thrilled that our local wines can attract such a world-class, wine-loving audience. And we’re proud to be able to raise funds for causes that help sustain our East End way of life.”