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New York’s top winery accolade goes to Long Island’s Macari Vineyards

 

Macari Vineyard on  Long Island's North Fork

Macari Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork

By Alan J. Wax

A multi-generational, family-owned Long Island wine producer founded almost two decades ago is getting long overdue recognition.

Macari Vineyards, which now produces about 14,000 cases a wine annually from 200 acres of vines in Mattituck, on Long Island’s North Fork, won the New York State Winery of the Year award at the 2014 New York State Wine & Food Classic, an annual competition run by the New York State Wine & Grape Foundation.

“It was really great. We’re really happy,” co-owner Alexandra Macari said of the award announced Aug. 13 in Watkins Glen. She attributed the win to the winery’s staff. “We have such a solid team,” she said.

Owners Joseph Macari Sr., his wife, Katherine, and Joseph Macari Jr., who runs the winery with his wife, Alexandra, and their children, founded the winery in 1995 on 200 acres of the family’s 50-year-old, 500-acre waterfront estate,  Some of the acreage is used to raise livestock, including Texas Longhorn cattle, goats, donkeys, horses, ducks and rabbits.

In June 2007, the Macaris added 20 acres of vines to their holdings and a second tasting room when they purchased the former Galluccio Vineyard in Cutchogue.

The Macari vineyards, planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viogner, Grüner Veltliner, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier and Syrah, are largely farmed using biodynamic methods with fungicide and pesticide sprayed only once a year. Chemical nitrogen and herbicide has not bee used for the past 16 years. The vineyard was briefly on the selling block a decade ago.

The Winery of the Year award recognizes consistent quality of wines, said Jim Trezise, president of the wine industry group. At least seven wines had to be entered into the competition. Trezise said numbers are assigned for Bronze, Silver, Gold, Double Gold, Best of Class and Best of Category, and then the total is divided by the number of wines entered to derive a ratio; the winery with the highest ratio receives the award. This year, there were 863 entries, 733 of them medaled.

Macari is the third Long Island winery to receive the top winery award, which last year went to McCall Wines, of Cutchogue, and in 2004 to Paumanok Vineyards, of Aquebogue.

Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled, from the Finger Lakes wine region won the coveted Governor’s Cup trophy as the judge’s top wine. The winery was purchased last year by Gene Pierce, owner of nearby Glenora Wine Cellars.

This year’s competition included 835 New York wines, 20 hard ciders and 8 spirits from across New York.

Macari winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch

Macari winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch

Macari won Best Red Wine and Best Cabernet Franc for its 2010 vintage on its way to its Winery of the Year award, along with several other top medals. “We really believe in Cabernet Franc from Long Island, said the UC Davis-trained Kelly Urbanik Koch, Macari’s winemaker since June 2010.

Macari’s other awards included double gold for its 2012 Chardonnay Estate, gold for its 2010 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Dos Aquas red blend, and 2013 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc. It also received silver medals for its 2007 Merlot Reserve, 2010 Bergen Road red blend, 2012 Chardonnay Reserve, 2013 Rose and 2010 Block E Viogner

The awards were based on blind tastings by 22 expert judges, including four from California, 10 from New York, seven from other states, and one from France. They included wine writers, restaurateurs, retailers, and wine educators. Judging panels determined the initial awards, with the top-scoring wines evaluated by all 22 judges for Best of Category and Governor’s Cup awards.

Such awards and medals are useful marketing tools for the numerous small wineries across the state that were eligible to enter the competition.

The complete results can be download from industry group’s web site.

The Best of Category awards, all considered for the Governor’s Cup, went to:

Best Sparkling Wine: Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery 2005 Brut Seduction, Methode Champenoise

Best White Wine: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Rose Wine: Anthony Road Wine Co. 2013 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Best Red Wine: Macari Vineyards & Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc

Best Dessert Wine: Idol Ridge Winery 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Best of Class awards went to Double Gold or Gold medal wines in classes of at least seven wines. The winners:

Best Oaked Chardonnay: Coffee Pot Cellars 2013 Chardonnay

Best Unoaked Chardonnay: Martha Clara Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay

Best Overall Chardonnay: Martha Clara Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay

Best Gewürztraminer: Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2013 Gewürztraminer, Estate Bottled

Best Dry Riesling: Wagner Vineyards 2012 Riesling Dry, Caywood East Vineyards Estate Grown

Best Medium Dry Riesling: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Medium Sweet Riesling: Barnstormer Winery 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling

Best Sweet Riesling: Wagner Vineyards 2012 Riesling Select, Estate Grown & Bottled

Best Overall Riesling: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Sauvignon Blanc: Hosmer Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Best Pinot Grigio: Swedish Hill Winery 2013 Pinot Grigio

Best Grüner Veltliner: Three Brothers Wineries & Estates 2013 Grüner Veltliner, Estate Reserve

Best Vinifera White: Seneca Hayes Wine Cellars 2012 Riesling-Gewürztraminer

Best Other White Vinifera Varietal: Millbrook Vineyards & Winery 2013 Tocai Friulano, Proprietor’s Special Reserve

Best Cayuga: Lucas Vineyards 2013 Cayuga White

Best Traminette: Thirsty Owl Wine Co. 2013 Traminette

Best Vidal: Swedish Hill Winery 2013 Vidal Blanc

Best Vignoles: Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Vignoles

Best Cold Climate White Varietal: Tug Hill Vineyards 2013 LaCrescent, Estate Grown

Best Hybrid White: Lucas Vineyards 2013 Harbor Moon

Best Niagara: Lucas Vineyards Miss Behavin

Best Vinifera Rose: Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Best Catawba: Woodbury Vineyards Foxy Blush Renard

Best Native Blush: 21 Brix Winery Thirsty Elephant

Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Brotherhood Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Best Merlot: Osprey’s Dominion Vineyard 2010 Reserve Merlot

Best Pinot Noir: Ventosa Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir

Best Cabernet Franc: Macari Vineyards & Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc

Best Lemberger: Inspire Moore Winery & Vineyard 2012 Change

Best Syrah: Billsboro Winery 2012 Syrah

Best Other Red Vinifera Varietal: Fulkerson Winery 2013 William Vigne Dry Zwiegelt

Best Vinifera Red: Harbes Vineyard 2012 Red Blend

Best Vinifera/Hybrid Red: Buttonwood Grove Winery Redbud

Best Other Red French-American Varietal: Johnson Estate Winery 2012 Chambourcin, Estate Grown

Best Cold Climate Red Varietal: Thousand Islands Winery 2012 Frontenac

Best Hybrid Red: Lakewood Vineyards 2013 Long Stem Red

Best Concord: 21 Brix Winery Ella’s Red

Best Fruit Wine: King Ferry Winery 2013 Apple Mystique

Best Cider: Kaneb Orchards 2014 St. Lawrence Cider

Best Spirit: Hidden Marsh Distillery Judd’s Wreckin Ball Corn Whiskey

Best Ice Wine: Idol Ridge Winery 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Best Vinifera Sparkling White: Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery 2005 Brut Seduction, Methode Champenoise

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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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Bordeaux’s Stéphane Toutoundji’s advice to Long Island merlot producers

Stéphane Toutoundji in the Raphael vineyard, Peconic, NY

Stéphane Toutoundji in the Raphael vineyard, Peconic, NY

Stéphane Toutoundji, a Bordeaux-based consulting oenologist says the Long Island winery owners and winemakers he’s met have plenty of passion, interest in producing high quality wines, a good climate and good land. What they lack, he said, is perfectly ripened grapes at harvest.

“The wineries are pretty good on the technical side. Everything is there,’” he said, “The only problem is the weather around the picking time.” Often, he said, winemakers are harvesting too late.

Long Island winemakers “have to concentrate on the picking in the vineyard,” he said. ”The key is to have very ripe fruit.”

In addition, he said, winemakers  “have many things to do in the cellar and the vineyards.” He recommended changing the way they barrel age, the temperature at which they ferment their wines and the amount of oxygen they allow into their wines.  He said he favors micro-oxygenation, a process widely used in Bordeaux to introduce oxygen into wine a controlled manner.

Toutoundji, who spent three days this past week with members of the Merliance trade group, visited their wineries and laboratories and offered feedback and guidance on viniculture and wine making technique

It was the consultants first visit to the region and the first time he has sampled its wines. On Long Island, he mostly sampled wines from 2007, 2010 and 2012 vintages as well as a few older bottles at a dinner, which he said aged well.

He described Long Island merlots and merlot-based bends as “very traditional wines with a bit of oak.” He noted, “The fruit is not the same [as elsewhere], the wood is well integrated. It’s well balanced.” White wines, he added, also “are pretty good.”

An early student of the famous oenologist, Michel Rolland, Toutoundji has been a partner since 2002 in the Gilles Pauquet Laboratory in Libourne, France, now known as Oenoteam. It currently serves 300 wineries worldwide, including 60 Bordeaux châteaux, some of them Grand Cru Classe, many in St. Emilion and Pomerol, where merlot is the predominant grape.

Toutoundji’s itinerary included Clovis Point (Jamesport), McCall Wines  (Cutchogue), Raphael (Peconic), Sherwood House Vineyards  (Jamesport), T’Jara Vineyards (Mattituck) and Wölffer Estate Vineyard (Sagaponack).

Among his concerns he said is the sandy soil of Long Island vineyards, which allow rain at harvest time to accumulate near the roots of the vines, causing berries to swell. “If you drain the soil, you get rid of a lot of water,” he explained.

Russ McCall, president of Merliance and owner of McCall Wines, said of the consultant’s visit “was an eye opener” and showed the necessity for the region’s winemakers to communicate more with their colleagues around the world. “We’re a bit insolated on Long Island.”

McCall said Toutoundji’s technical guidance was better suited to the winemakers than winery owners.  And the winemakers were happy to have it.

“It’s always great when a consultant comes in,” said Roman Roth, executive vice president of Merliance and winemaker and partner of Wölffer. He said consultants like Toutoundji challenge winemakers about what they have been doing in their wineries.

As for Toutoundji’s views on drainage, Roth said drainage is trendy topic in France and that Bordeaux oenologist and winemaker Jacque Lurton, who consulted with the Merliance members a year ago, offered similar advice.

Roth said while improving drainage in the vineyards is worthwhile because it more flavorful fruit at harvest, it’s a big capital expense and better suited to new plantings.

Nevertheless, Toutoundji was optimistic for Long Island winemakers growing merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. “This climate is right to grow Bordeaux cepages. It’s good land to grow wine for sure,” he said. “This area will have a very good future for the wine business.”

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Bohlsen’s wine guru Paulo Villela pours trophy wines and ‘cougar milk’

Bohlsen Restaurant Group Beverage Director Paulo Villela in the wine vault at Teller’s Chophouse.

First of two parts

 Paulo Villela is a man of influence.

As beverage director of Long Island’s Bohlsen Restaurant Group, his influence extends to the thousands of patrons who dine at the group’s five high-end eateries: Tellers Chophouse and Verace in Islip, Monsoon in Babylon, H2O in Smithtown, Prime in Huntington and the moderately priced Beachtree Cafe in East Islip. That makes Villela one of the most powerful wine buyers on Long Island. Bohlsen’s restaurants ring up $3 million a year in wine sales.

At the group’s flagship eatery, Tellers, the Brazilian-born Villela oversees a wine cellar with 8,000 bottles –1,000 labels – that includes scores of reserve California Cabernets, rare Barolos and hard-to-find white Burgundies that sell for hundreds of dollars each. You’ll also find cult wines like Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate and Schrader Cellars stored in the walk-in vault of the 1927 art deco former bank building. Wealthy doctors favor these bottled trophies, some priced to $3,500, he confides.  “They cost a lot of money. We charge a lot of money for them, too.”

While admitting its fun to offer cult wines and helps to create a buzz, Villela notes that patrons have become more price conscious. Needless to say, there are plenty of lower priced options at Tellers and the group’s other destinations. “Somebody looking for [a] $40 [bottle] can find it very easily on our short list.”

And, of course, there’s wine by the glass, which starts at $9. Indeed, Villela says, wines by the glass are fastest growing trend across the group, enabling diners to try less-familiar wines, such as Viognier, Falanghina and Gruner Veltliner, and educate themselves without asking a sommelier for assistance.

But the group’s top seller is Pinot Grigio with 24,000 glasses of the ubiquitous Italian white wine slurped up annually at all the restaurants. Villela and his staff refer to Pinot Grigio as “cougar milk.” (Hopefully no additional explanation is required.)

Bohlsen Restaurant Group Beverage Director Paulo Villela shows off wine tap at Verace.

A lot of wine poured at the group’s restaurants is served from kegs, rather than bottles. The group was among the pioneers of the wine-on-tap movement with the launch of Verace, which offers a custom merlot-based red blend made at Long Island’s Raphael Vineyard  and chardonnay and pinot grigio from Piedmont’s Iuli Winery, which is delivered in tanks to Raphael and then kegged. Wine-on-tap, Villela explains, delivers an exceptional price-to-quality ratio. To be sure, there is no keg wine at Teller’s,

At Tellers with its beefy menu, reds, especially Cali Cabs, dominate sales, but these Cabs also sell well at H2O, a seafood eatery. “People still want to have what they’re into regardless of the food,” Villela says. “You’ve got to give people what they want.

To be sure, the Bohlsen restaurants support Long Island’s producers with a list that includes Castello di Borghese, Channing Daughters, Lenz, Macari, Paumanok, Peconic Bay, Wölffer, Shinn Estate and Sherwood House. “The level of quality has risen in the last 10 years,” Villela notes.

Villela’s interest in wine began as a youth in southeastern Brazil, where he grew up on a farm neighbored by Italian immigrants who provided him with homemade wine as long as Villella brought his own bottle. After finishing up a degree in agricultural engineering at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, a family medical issue necessitated a move to New York City in 1983, where Villela found work as a bus boy. He later managed a restaurant, Dolcetto on the Upper East Side, and in 1996, he joined the staff at the Windows on the World, because, he said, he wanted to learn more about wine at the city’s top wine program.  “I went from GM at a restaurant to busser,” he said, explaining that he took the only open post available at Windows. He became a captain in less than a month, learning wine from gurus Kevin Zraly and Andrea Immer Robinson

Now, Bohlsen’s wine guru, the 1998 Sommelier Society of America class valedictorian, joined the group in 2008 after working at Blue Fin Restaurant at the W Hotel in Times Square.

He’s been a welcome addition. “Paulo brings a breath of fresh air to our wine program. His love and appreciation for wine has fueled a culture at the Bohlsen Restaurant Group where wine knowledge is cool,” says Bohlsen co-owner Michael Bohlsen. “The members of our staff have intricate experience with wines ranging from local Sauvignon Blanc to Argentinian Malbec.  This wine knowledge translates to a more well-rounded, seamless dining experience for our guests at the bar and in the dining room.”

Adds, Villela, “We have a very motivated staff.”

Fluent in five languages, Villela conduct staff wine education programs at each of the restaurants and tastes 40-50 wines per week and regularly visits Napa Valley, Italy, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Germany and Spain. Away from work he drinks Cali Cabs, German Riesling and whites from Northern Italy. “I love wines with food,” he says. 

Next: Tasting fall reds with Villela

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McCall Wines: Refined pinots, merlots in a rustic North Fork setting

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

There’s a simple, peaceful rusticity at McCall Wines in Cutchogue on Long Island’s North Fork.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the gentle whirring of a wind turbine was the only sound to be heard as Russ McCall stood over a stone barbecue pit grilling burgers for those who’ve come out to help him pick merlot grapes. The ground chuck burgers – sold raw in McCall’s tasting room at $7 each – are made from the organic grass-fed Charolais cattle that he raises on his 108-acre farm, called the Corchaug Estate. (He sells most of his beef, butchered in Jamaica, Queens, to the North Fork Table & Inn.)

Inside McCall’s tasting room, a former potato barn and stable.

Russ McCall flips burgers outside his tasting room (Photo by Shelley Wax)

No tour busses crowd the parking area, which is entered through a dirt drive, and there’s no rush of tourists fighting for space at the tasting bar, housed in an old potato barn that once was used as a horse stable. This is the North Fork at its rural best. It’s a delightful tasting room experience, the kind I‘m sure McCall had his mind set up given his belief that wineries shouldn’t be bars or restaurants.

Sad to say, I’d never before stopped at McCall since it opened in June 2010. I’m glad that I did so recently.

Rural simplicity aside, the wines poured for visitors – and, of course, for sale, are refined, French inspired sipping pleasures.

For $16 you can get pours of four of McCall’s reds: two pinot noirs, a merlot and a merlot-based Bordeaux-style blend. There’s also a pinot noir-based rose and a sauvignon blanc to sample. Alas, I did not.

McCall, who formerly owned a wine distributorship in Atlanta, has been growing pinot noir and merlot grapes in Cutchogue in 1996, when veteran viticulturist Steve Mudd lent a hand. McCall put his name on a bottle for the first time with the 2007 vintage.

At the southern end of McCall’s 108-acre farm, he’s planted 11 acres of pinot – four French clones brought in from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Pinot noir, a difficult grape to grow anywhere, has had only modest success on the East End.  Among Long Island producers making pinot noir are Castello di Borghese, Duckwalk Vineyards, Jamesport Vineyards and Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards (whose 2009 was named best at the 2012 New York Wine and Food Classic). Anthony Nappa Wines produces Anomoly, a pinot noir rose with grapes from the North Fork and the Finger Lakes.

McCall’s wine line up. (Photo by Shelley Wax)

Picnicking in the vineyard at McCall. (Photo by Shelley Wax)

Inside the tasting room l I started off with the silky 2010 Pinot Noir ($30), which exuded cherry and berry notes. Who knew pinot noir this good could be made on Long Island? But then I tasted the richly perfumed, dark-hued 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir ($60), McCall’s first bottled vintage. It’s an elegant wine with incredibly soft tannins and notes of berries and bramble and hints of earth and oak.

Bob Cabral, winemaker at California’s well-known pinot noir producer Williams Selyem, made both McCall pinot noirs at the Millbrook Winery in the Hudson Valley.  John and Kathe Dyson own both Millbrook and Williams Selyem.

McCall’s merlot grapes are planted on the northern 10 acres of his  farm and are vinified at the nearby Premium Wine Group by French-born and trained Gilles Martin, who’s been making wine on Long Island since 1996 and who also is the winemaker for Sparkling Pointe, Sherwood House Vineyards and Bouké. Martin will be pouring McCall’s wines in New York City on  Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. as part of a Merliance tasting at Artisanal, the cheese bistro.

The very likeable 2008 Merlot ($18) is ruby red, medium-bodied with berries on the nose followed by plums and oak dust on the palate. But the intense 2007 Ben’s Blend outshines the merlot. Named for McCall’s late vineyard manager Ben Sisson (who died three years ago at 49), it’s a wine from a beautiful vintage. Predominantly merlot, its assemblage includes petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc.  The tannins are gentle and notes of smoke, cherry, plum and berries are evident. It’s a fine quaff now, but it should also age nicely.

The McCall Wines tasting room, 22600 Main Road (Route 25), Cutchogue, (631) 734-5764, is open from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, until late November. If you’re heading out to the North Fork it’s a must stop.

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Long Island wines, home brews will compete at Long Island’s ‘County Fair’

The Long Island Fair at Old Bethpage Village Restoration

Commercial wines from Long Island and homebrewed beers will be judged along side pies, pickles, guinea pigs and needlepoint this year at the annual Long Island Fair.

The fair, Sept. 27-30 at the Old Bethpage Restoration, is one of the oldest county fairs in the nation – the first was held in 1842. This year it will include a Long Island wine competition for the second time, and, for the first time, a home beer, mead and cider making competition. There also will be a competition for the best beer labels.

Long Island’s first homegrown commercial wine competition at last year’s fair didn’t get any entrants, because of the organizers’ failure to distribute information in a timely fashion, said Kerri Kiker, assistant fair manager. This year, she said, she hopes things will be different.

The Long Island Fair is the only county fair for Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties and is the official New York State fair for those counties. The Agricultural Society of Queens, Nassau & Suffolk Counties, one of the oldest agricultural societies in the United States, sponsors it.

Entry forms for the wine and beer contests are due by Aug. 31 and products must be delivered in person or via UPS from Sept. 17-24.  Forms and guidelines can be found in the fair’s Premium Book, which is available online.  ‘

‘The wine competition is open to commercial wines made on Long Island, said Kerri Kiker, assistant fair manager.  Wines will be judged by industry experts for presentation; color and clarity; bouquet, flavor, balance and quality. The first prizewinner will receive $150, second $100 and third, $50.

So far, no wines have been entered, said Lisa Loiopioci, the wine competition’s organizer. She cited the newness of contest and the current busy time at East End wineries as  factors. Nevertheless, She said organizers will be flexible about the entry deadline.

Wine competition entrants are limited to two entries per class: red dessert, white dessert fruit wines; pink wines, merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and white wines. Wines entered must be commercially available and bear government approved labels showing a New York State AVA. Four bottles of each entered wine must be dropped off or sent via UPS between Sept.17 -24 to the Old Bethpage Village Restoration.

For more information, phone the fair office on Mondays or Wednesdays at (516) 572-8406.

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Long Island Wine Council’s Taste of Summer: The good, bad and ugly

Anthony Nappa (left) of Anthony Nappa Wines /The Winemakers Studio pours samples at the Long Island Wine Council’s Taste of Summer event at Old  Bethpage Village Restoration.

Sue and Russell Hearn of Suhru Wines and T’jara Vineyard discuss their wines at Taste of Summer.

Juan Miceli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards (left) and Chris Baiz of The Old Field Vineyards at Long Island Wine Council’s Taste of Summer event.

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.

The Good

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).

The bad

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.

The ugly

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.

 

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Shanghai, China wine outlet will showcase New York wines

Thirty New York  wines will be showcased beginning in July at a Shanghai, China, wine exhibition.

The Shanghai New York State Wine Outlet will combine the functions of exhibition, promotion, trade and sales services. The wine selection was curated by Empire State Cellars, the wine-tasting room/retail store at the Riverhead, NY Tanger Outlet Center, which markets 500 New York alcoholic beverages under its farm winery license. Empire State Cellars is a satellite tasting room owned by Peconic Bay Winery.

In October, James Silver, Empire’s general manager, intends to travel to China to represent this selection of luxury New York wines to distributors in Shanghai. Silver, also general manager of Peconic Bay, is a former high-end restaurant sommelier

The Shanghai showcase will feature bottlings from Anthony Road Wine Co. and Shaw Vineyards in the Finger Lakes; Hudson-Chathem Winery in the Hudson Valley and Bedell Cellars, Channing Daughters Winery, Jamesport Vineyards, Medolia Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, Peconic Bay Winery and Shinn Estate Vineyards, all on the East End of Long Island.

“We know about the tastes of China’s emerging middle class, and this new consumer demands authenticity and quality,” Silver said in a statement. “That’s why ESC is delivering some of the greatest names in New York winemaking – well made, hand-crafted products from smaller family-owned and operated wineries.”

The Shanghai outlet is expected to conduct promotional events, wine education classes, coordinated professional trade shows and wine sales and matchmaking events for distributors and buyers.

It’s not the first time Long Island wines have found their way to China. In 2010, Peconic Bay and six other East End, Long Island, wineries combined to ship seven pallets, each 56 cases, of wines to a Bejing-based marketer.

China is considered an exploding wine market and wines from California, Australia, South American and Europe can be found on the menus of high-end restaurants in China. Wine sales in China are expected to rise by 17 percent per year over the next five years, according to a recent forecast by the market research group Euromonitor International.

According to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the statewide trade group based in Canandaigua, less than 15 percent of New York’s wine production is exported.

The Shanghai program resulted from a cooperative efforts of the New York State Small Business Development Center, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the New York State Department of Economic Development and the China International Exhibition & Trading Center of Wine & Beverage, in the Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone in Shanghai.

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Long Island wineries plan June 2 Nassau County tasting event

‘The East End of Long Island is moving west – at least for a day.

The Long Island Wine Council, a winery trade group, is sponsoring a paid public tasting event in Nassau County on June 2 with 30 wineries participating.

The event, called “A Taste of Summer,” will run from 5-7 p.m. with entry an hour earlier for those who purchase VIP tickets. It will take place in the Fairgrounds Barn at Old Bethpage Village Restoration at 1303 Round Swamp Road in Old Bethpage.

In addition to the wineries, who’ll be pouring new releases and summertime wines, Catapano Dairy Farm, a goat cheese producer in Peconic, and Mecox Bay Dairy, of Bridgehampton, which makes cow cheeses, will be sampling their wares. Also, Long Island celebrity chef Tom Schaudel, co-owner of Jewel in Melville and owner of Coolfish in Syosset, A Lure Chowder House in Southold and aMano Osteria & Wine Bar in Mattituck, will be serving his signature snacks.

This is the first time the wine council has held an event in Nassau. Most of its previous events have been on the East End or in New York City. More than a decade ago, a group of East End wineries particpated in a charity food and wine event at the Carltun in Eisenhower Park and more recently many of them poured samples at a tasting at Post Wines in Syosset.

“We have so many loyal customers throughout Long Island that make the trip east to see us. We’re thrilled to be able to offer them as well as those who may not yet have tried our wines an opportunity closer to home,” said Ron Goerler, Jr., president of the wine council.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Taste of Summer event because the winemakers will have an opportunity to show just how far Long Island wines have come in such a short period of time, and I get to try to pair dishes that will live up to that quality,” Schaudel said in a press release.

General admission for the event is $75 and VIP tickets are $100. Wine country visitors who completed tasting by June 2 will be entitled to get one ticket free for each ticket purchases. Passport holders need stamps from 10 different participating wineries to be eligible. For information about the passport program,  click here.

For more information about the “A Taste of Summer” event, call (631) 722 2220 or email info@liwines.com. To purchase tickets,  click here.

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Long Island winemakers head to Nassau County for free April 21 tasting

Post Wines & Spirits in Syosset, Long Island, a long-time champion of Long Island wines, is making it easy for those who don’t want to travel to the East End to sample some of the region’s top wines.

The shop is hosting a group of East End winemakers who’ll be pouring free samples of their wares on April 21, from 2-6 p.m.

The list of wineries participating, so far, includes Lenz Winery, Paumanok Vineyards, Channing Daughters Winery, Wolffer Estate Vineyards, ,Jamesport Vineyards, Bedell Cellars, Macari Vineyards, and Castello Di Borghese Vineyard.

Winemakers Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, Eric Fry of The Lenz Winery in Peconic, and Kelly Urbanik of Macari Vineyards in Mattituck are expected to attend the gathering.

Post Wines is at 610 Jerico Tpke., just west of the Route 135, Syosset, N.Y. 11791. Phone (516) 921-1820.

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