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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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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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Long Island’s biggest wine fest Aug. 25 at Hampton Classic, Bridgehampton

The scene at last year’s Harvest East End

Long Island’s biggest wine bash gets underway in just a few days.

Harvest East End, a tasting festival featuring 39 Long Island wineries and almost as many restaurants and food marketers, takes place in Bridgehampton on Aug. 25, the eve of the Hampton Classic horse show.

This is Harvest East End’s third annual festival, a fund raiser for three local charities, East End Hospice, Group for the East End and the Peconic Land Trust, and the first to tie into the Hampton Classic.

“Harvest is shaping up fantastically,” said Roman Roth, technical

director at Wölffer Estate Vineyards and chairman of Harvest East End. “It’s the height of the summer [in the Hamptons] … It will be a full house.”

 

Tickets, $150 each, have been selling briskly and $250 VIP tickets, which provide attendees with an extra hour of tasting and access to library wines, are already sold out.

Roman Roth at 2011 Harvest East End

Last year, the event, put on by Merliance and the Long island Wine Council, both trade groups, attracted 1,000 wine aficionados, half of them attending only the festival. (A gala dinner followed last year, but is not part of this year’s program.) Merliance executive director Donnell Brown Stires said the sponsors are anticipating 1,200 attendees this year.

The lineup of culinary offerings, an array of locally sourced produce, meat, fish and fowl, includes treats from many of the top toques on the East End, including Tom Schaudel of A Mano Osteria,  Mattituck; Noah Schwartz of Noah’s, Greenport; Kevin Penner of Cittanuova, East Hampton; Keith Luce of Luce & Hawkins, Jamesport; and Starr Boggs, among others. They’ll be duck, tomatoes, tuna and lobster in many guises, as well as cheeses and sweets.

Among the 39 participating wine producers (only two East End wineries, Paumanok Vineyards and Lenz Winery, are not participating because they’re not members of the Long Island Wine Council) are numerous well-established producers as well as a few new ones. Award winning bottles, new releases and barrel samples will be among the approximately 200 wines available for tasting.

The wineries and restaurants participating do so on the expectation that people who taste the wines and foods will follow up with visits to the various wineries and eateries.

There’ll be more than wine and food under the big tent. The sponsors will be selling tickets to a luxury raffle. Prizes include three nights in Barbados, a selection of 19 Long Island wines in magnums and two tickets to one of three 2013 Wine Spectator Grand Tour tastings. There will also be a silent auction. Lots will include hands-on wine and food experiences, golf, and even yodeling lessons from Roth.

There’s more. In the several weekends following the event, Harvest will sponsor a series of invitation-only “10 Mile Dinners” in private homes, wineries and gardens, each limited to 10 guests. Two of the dinners already are sold out.  Invitations to the dinners, which feature foods and wine sourced from a 10-mile radius, can be requested by email.

 

 

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Changes in store for Long Island’s annual wine gala

Big changes are at hand for Harvest East End, Long Island’s biggest annual wine event.

Edible East End, the regional foodie magazine, has signed on as presenting sponsor, the event has been moved up from mid-September to late August and the location has been moved to the site of the Hampton Classic horse show in Bridgehampton. Moreover, a big-ticket sit-down dinner and auction is gone and a VIP sparking wine reception and raw bar will be added.

Edible East End replaces Food & Wine magazine as the presenting sponsor of the event, which last year attracted 500 wine aficionados to the Ludlow Farm in Bridgehampton.

“We parted ways amicably with Food & Wine—a great publication with a full plate of great events,” said Donnell Brown Stires, event director for Harvest East End and Executive Director of Merliance, a merlot producers trade group that is one of the event’s sponsors. “Their forte is more ambitious multi-day events. As a single-day, walk-around tasting, Harvest just doesn’t fit into their portfolio this year.”

“Edible East End is the perfect partner for Harvest East End,”  event chair Roman Roth, said in a statement. Roth, executive vice president of Merliance, winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard and owner of the Grapes of Roth, added, “The magazine celebrates local, seasonal wine and food, and the people who produce them, in the same way that Harvest does: in a thoughtful, elegant venue. Edible publishers Brian Halweil and Stephen Munshin have been supportive of Harvest from the event’s inception, and we are delighted that they will take on a larger role.”

Edible East End will be joined in promoting the event by its siblings, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn.

Last year’s Harvest event featured 28 Long Island wineries and 18 restaurants. Organizers said they anticipate the 2012 event will draw as many as 40 East End wine producers and 30 regional chefs.

Brown Stires said the organizers are considering doing a luxury raffle with prizes similar to the lots included in previous live auctions, such as vacations and luxe wine sets, but no decision has been made.

The vinous celebration, organized by the Merliance and the Long Island Wine Council, benefits East End Hospice, Group for the East End and the Peconic Land Trust. Last year, $31,000 was raised for the three charities.

Roth noted that Harvest East End and the equestrian show both draw a well-heeled crowd. The latter, the country’s largest hunter/jumper horse show, draws about 50,000 people over the course of a week.

“We hope to turn the heads of people who may come to The Hamptons without even realizing there’s a world-class wine region surrounding it. It’s a terrific opportunity for us,” Brown Stires said.

In 1990, Wine Spectator working with the wine council organized the first-ever Long Island wine industry gala, a barrel-tasting and barbecue, which drew 600 guests to the former Hargrave Vineyard in Cutchogue in its first year.  Each year, the location shifted to a different vineyard and at its peak the event attracted 1,500 guests. The event was discontinued after 1997, due to county health department concerns about food service at the event. A group of wineries held a joint barrel tasting in 2001, but some wineries balked at the $5,000 entry fee.

In 2003, Wine Spectator organized a new event, called the Long Island Wine Classic and held in conjunction with the Long Island Classic. It was attended by 750 people. It was repeated in 2004.

 

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