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Ripening grapes at Palmer Vineyards in the rain. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

There is some tension in Long Island Wine Country.

It would be hyperbolic to suggest that the industry is under attack, but there is certainly a contingent of folks who would be happier if there weren’t as many (or any) wineries on the North Fork.

I’m obviously not on that side of the friction.

To borrow something that a friend of mine posted on Facebook recently about a similar divide in Santa Barbara, I fundamentally believe that grape growing, wine production, retail wine sales and wine marketing activities are all primary agricultural uses that should be allowed to thrive in Southold Town under a fair and balanced set of regulations.

Will the “fair and balanced” happen? Time will tell.

Much gets written about the so-called problems with the local wine industry. Rather than contribute to that stream of not-in-my-backyard misinformation, I want to highlight some of reasons I’m thankful for the Long Island wine industry. It’s that time of year, after all.

I’m thankful for the people.

I’ve been writing about wine, with Long Island wine as the focus, for more than a decade now. The number of smart, passionate people I’ve met along the way is mind-boggling. Sure, there are people for whom wine is “just another job” in their chosen discipline, but most of the people who work in wine are there because it is what makes them happiest. They want to responsibly take care of their land, grow healthy grapes and make the best wine they can. Even if you don’t like certain aspects of the wine industry, I hope you can respect their intent.

I sure do. I’m thankful that I can now call many of these growers and winemakers my friends. They are important parts of my life beyond drinking their wines.

Many of my friends are people who don’t work in the industry directly, but whom I’ve met through the industry. As fellow local wine fans, we’ve connected either at wineries or through my writing and they have enriched my life in ways I certainly never expected. Thank you.

I’m thankful for the places.

I grew up in western Pennsylvania, in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. Most every house was more or less the same, with McMansions popping up here and there where farmland used to be. We had all of the national chain restaurants and stores. Look up “suburb” in the dictionary and that’s what I grew up in. Much of Long Island is the same — but worse.

Not the East End. Not the North Fork in particular. It’s beautiful and it’s agricultural, and small, locally owned shops and restaurants still dominate the landscape. Wineries and vineyards are locally owned businesses that enhance the landscape. Vineyards are beautiful. So are the wineries and tasting rooms. This is a beautiful place that we are lucky to live in and visit. We don’t need more McMansions here.

I’m thankful for the wine.

Wine is made in every state in this country, but as someone who seeks out local wines from every corner, let me tell you that very little of it is better than or even as good as what we have here. It is an incredibly unique life that we live to have wines of this quality grown and made in our backyard. We can get to know the people behind them, too. That’s special and something to be thankful for — rather than something to complain about and get in the way of.

I’m thankful for Long Island wine country.

I hope you are, too.

Lenn Thompson, a Pittsburgh, Pa., native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic wine community.

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