Evan Bucholz fixes a drink for patrons at Brix & Rye on Main Street in Greenport. (Credit: Krysten Massa)
I admit it: I’m a bit of a cynic. OK, maybe more than just a bit. No matter the degree, it is my default setting. I’m fine with it, though I do try to keep it in check as much as possible.
But looking back on 2017 and what I’ve written twice a month about Long Island Wine Country, I worry that maybe I’ve focused too much on the negatives: the curse of agritainment and what it’s done to a wine region I have so much affection for; the way local government continues to make it harder than it needs to be for the region to flourish.
For several years, it was easy to point to Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue as the bad guy in the local wine industry. They made it easy, with raucous DJ dance parties, reports of drunken behavior both at and near the winery and, of course, the now-infamous buckets filled with sangria. Vineyard 48 was the bogeyman in the region and seen as the worst-case scenario by locals both inside and outside the industry. It earned that reputation — Vineyard 48 was the worst-case scenario for agritainment gone horribly wrong.
Though it may have reached its wretched peak there, let’s not forget that Vineyard 48 didn’t invent the agritainment, wine festival style of winery. It wasn’t alone in nurturing it over the course of many years. Many local winery owners have played a part in creating a culture of tasting rooms-as-bars that cater to busloads of revelers, many of whom are well on their way to intoxication before they set foot on the North Fork.
Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday. Any holiday so centered on food and wine and family and friends is great in my book, but Thanksgiving also represents the beginning of the holiday season (which also includes my kids’ birthdays) and the wrapping up of the harvest season in wine country.
Bedell Cellars at sunset. (Credit: W Studios New York)
“What are Long Island’s best wineries?”
It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. As much as the Vineyard 48 saga has tainted the image of Long Island wine, both locally and nationally — and I maintain that it did — it has a lot of people talking about Long Island wine. I’m getting a lot of emails and seeing a lot of chatter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too. Maybe that’s the silver lining of the whole Vineyard 48 debacle. (more…)
Look at almost any region’s wine industry in America — and in the world, really — and you’ll find some sort of trade organization formed to support it. In the Napa Valley, it’s the Napa Valley Vintners. Next door in Sonoma you’ll find the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance. In the Champagne region of France, you have organizations like the Comité Champagne. Closer to home, the Finger Lakes region has organizations like the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and Finger Lakes Wine Country. You get the idea.
Our Lenn Thompson notes that tasting room pourers are frequently the public face of any winery. (Credit: David Benthal Photography)
People who talk and write about wine, myself included, often talk about soils, growing seasons, weather, disease pressure and harvest timing. We focus on winemaker decisions about fermentation vessels or yeast strains or barrel aging. But a couple recent experiences at local tasting rooms reminded me of the unsung heroes of any winery — the people pouring the wines in the tasting room.
Over the course of a midweek jaunt on the North Fork, my wife, friends and I visited a handful of tasting rooms — some regular favorites, some that we hadn’t visited in a long time.
At one tasting room, which I’m choosing not to identify by name, we had an exchange with the young lady behind the tasting bar that I will summarize and paraphrase as such: (more…)