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Hard cider generates a buzz at LI fest

Pour logoCider, cider everywhere and every drop to drink.

For cider aficionados and a host of newbies among the 2,000 participants at the 2nd annual Pour the Core cider festival on Oct. 9 at Peconic Bay Winery on Long Island’s North Fork, there were hard ciders aplenty from near and far and places in between.

From near, imbibers could sample True Companion and True Believer, both produced at Peconic Bay, as well as ciders from Woodside Orchards down the highway in Aquebogue and Cider 139 from Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. There were ciders from Upstate New York, New England, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California and the Pacific Northwest. And there were ciders from abroad, from England, Scotland, France and Spain. There were ciders from small artisanal producers as well as large industrial manufacturers.

And not just apple cider. Pear cider, also known as perry, also could be found, albeit in smaller numbers. And, yes, beer, too.

Apple ciders, however, became my focus as most of the perries sampled were too sweet, too watery or worse.  And beer, that’s just a different story.

Most of my cider picks among the offerings  tended to on they dry side.  Many of the cider offerings, particularly those made in the USA, were more reminiscent of wine coolers or worse, sodas. Swedish ciders, which listed their prime ingredient as local water, also were no-shows as far as I was concerned.

High on my list of favorites were the two cider offerings from Virtue Cider Co., a relatively new producer established by former Goose Island brew master Greg Hall.  His Redstreak was dry, crisp and refreshing with just a hint of apple, very much in the traditional English style. Virtue’s Sidra de Nava, done in the Spanish style, was tart like a beer in the lambic style.

Also very dry and much to my liking were a trio from England’s Aspall Cider, the very pale original and the equally light hued Organic, both were quite dry. Aspall’s Perronelle’s Blush Cider, made with added blackberry juice, also proved to be tart with an unmistakable berry character.

Another English winner, Thatcher’s Green Goblin was deep gold, full-bodies, crisp, some what tannic and with notes of oak.

A Scottish import, Thistly Cross, had a golden Champagne color and was eminently drinkable with its medium dry character.

Bob Gammon of Woodside Orchards, Aquebogue, pours his hard cider.

Bob Gammon of Woodside Orchards, Aquebogue, pours his hard cider.

I also enjoyed Woodside’s Traditional, made from a blend of eight culinary apple varieties, a crisp cider with the aroma and taste of just-picked apples.

Another local product, Wolffer’s 139, also was tart, dry and refreshingly enjoyable.

Anthem Cider, a cider label of Wandering Aengus Cider works of Salem, Ore., made from culinary apples, was deep gold, refreshing and off dry. The Wandering Aengus Blossom Cider, made with traditional English and French cider apple varieties, also was very English in style with an apple-pie nose and a mix of sweet and tart notes.

Another American offering, also on the dry side, was the brilliantly gold-hued Angry Orchard Traditional Dry, dry from start to finish with an occasional sweet note in between.

Four Screw from Harvest Moon Cidery in Cazenovia, NY, was surprisingly dry, tart and winey, and is sweetened, apparently, just a tad, by maple syrup.

Two canned ciders from Pennsylvania’s Jack’s Hard Cider surprised. Jack’s Original was quite dry, crisp with soft notes of apple. Jack’s Helen’s Blend was more piquant and quite tasty, too.

One of the more unusual ciders I’d tasted was the 10% abv  (really an apple wine) from Silver Mountain Ciders in Lempster, N.J. Cloudy from bottle conditioning with oak flavors from oak aging and tart apples notes intertwined. A bit extreme, actually.

Among my biggest disappointments were two offerings from Anheuser Busch-InBev:  Michelob Ultra Light Apple Cider, which had a passing resemblance to water kissed by apples, and Stella Artois Cidre, a sugary offering with notes reminiscent of a chemistry lab.

Also, perplexing was the variety of flavored pear ciders from Sweden’s Rekorderlig, which were served on ice with a strawberry and bit of mint. Not for me!

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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 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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