Perhaps it’s a sign of the Long Island wine industry’s rising star that Dan’s Harvest East End drew a record crowd to McCall Wines in Cutchogue Saturday evening.
More than 1,700 people attended the annual gala — where dozens of East End wineries poured their offerings and about 30 Long Island chefs prepared tastes of their cuisines — according to a number provided by Long Island Wine Council executive director Steve Bate.
That attendance number comes on the heels of two recent accomplishments for the 42-year-old wine industry. Two Wölffer Estate Vineyard wines received a score of 94 — the highest a critic has ever rated Long Island wine — in the most recent issue of the Wine Advocate. And earlier this month Paumanok Vineyards, which is not a member of the Long Island Wine Council, was named winery of the year at the New York Wine and Food Classic.
“We’ve sold more tickets than we’ve ever sold,” Bate said. “The fact that the Wine Advocate came out with such great reviews, it showed that we’re at the moment where we should be talking about the quality of the wine and not the agritainment aspect.”
Bate’s organization has recently taken on a mission to brand the region’s image primarily as a destination for sought-after wines and less of a place to hear bands and catch a buzz.
But that doesn’t mean that those in attendance weren’t living it up in Cutchogue Saturday evening.
Food standouts mentioned by several people were burrata cheese with arugula and Umbrian black summer truffles from chef Marco Pellegrini at Caci North Fork and Cornell oysters Friskafella from chef Robby Beaver of The Frisky Oyster.
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Two favorite wines mentioned by several people were McCall Wines’ Marjorie Rosé and Shinn Estate Vineyards cabernet franc.
“It was so good,” Chrissy Gillespie of East Hampton said of the rosé, adding that she loves visiting the upper fork. “I try to get over here whenever I can. I love it over here.”
The event, hosted by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, honored Guy Reuge, longtime chef at Stony Brook’s Mirabelle, and Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.
Zakarian, an author and judge on the Food Network’s Chopped, arrived via helicopter, which he admitted frightened the four-legged residents of the farm. He praised the offerings of the local vintners.
“These wines are world-class and that is incredible,” Zakarian told the crowd. “That all happened in the past 50 years.”
Event chairman Ron Goerler Jr. of Jamesport Vineyards presented Zakarian with a rosé decanter commemorating the event.
“I didn’t know this existed,” Zakarian joked.
Reuge, who was a finalist for a James Beard Award earlier this year, noted that he has been a long-time supporter of the local wine industry.
“It’s a continuation of what happened 40 years ago,” Reuge said. “I just love it.”
Trezise could not attend the event due to a family obligation, organizers said.
Attendee Mark Wingertzahn said that, in his opinion, the region is maturing and reaching a new level of sophistication.
Wingertzahn, a former Long Islander now living in Hellertown, Pa., said he now spreads the gospel of Long Island wine to his friends in the The Keystone State.
“We come back as many years as we can. The North Fork has evolved into a premier wine destination,” he said. “Of all the years we’ve been here, I would say the food is even better this year.”