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A scene from last year’s NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting at the Altman Building. (Credit: Clay Williams)

Eight Long Island vineyards will represent the region at the annual NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting in Chelsea March 20. 

Hosted by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the public tasting provides exposure for local vineyards hoping to break into the competitive New York City wine market.

“While there’s a lot of love for local wines right now, it’s still tough to get buyers at stores and restaurants in the city to notice when you’re going at it alone,” said Ami Oppiso, general manager of Lieb Cellars in Cutchogue. “NY Drinks NY offers us New York wineries the opportunity to come together and create a collective force. When buyers and sommeliers taste a range of really high-quality New York wines, they begin to get a sense for what’s happening in New York wine on the whole.”

One advantage the North Fork has over other regions is proximity to New York City and its wine buyers and influencers.

“The access they have to our vineyards with us being in their backyard helps create a relationship — it helps us develop as a region,” said Gabriella Macari, head of marketing and distribution at Macari Vineyards. The Mattituck winery has been a staple at the tasting event since its inception.

The Grand Tasting, Macari pointed out, gives the opportunity for smaller self-distributing wineries to share the vintages with industry insiders who typically sample from larger producers.

“It’s an opportunity to pour our wines for some of the most notable, influential sommeliers and buyers in the world,” added Oppiso. “As a relatively young region, we’re very lucky to have this stage.”

Everyday consumers also get the chance to discover unfamiliar local wines during the seventh annual event showcasing nearly 40 wineries from Long Island, Niagara Escarpment, the Hudson River Region, the Finger Lakes and Brooklyn. The public also gets  the chance to meet some of the winemakers behind the labels at the event.

“What’s really special is that you get a mix of high quality New York wine in one room,” said Macari. “The more exposure for New York wine, the better. It gives people the chance to try it if they can’t necessarily get to the tasting room.”

The learning experience is not just for the uninitiated. Local wine industry players look forward to a trade show attached to the event for their own edification. Seminars this year are focused on women winemakers of New York and a blind tasting of Cabernet Franc.

“We bring three or four people from our tasting rooms so they get the opportunity to try all the wines as well,” said Macari. “It’s not something we get to do often and it’s important for our palate and our education.”

Bedell Cellars, Channing Daughters, Lenz Winery, Palmer Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards and Wölffer Estate will join Macari and Lieb representing Long Island at the event.

The NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting is Tuesday, March 20 at The Altman Building in Chelsea. The public tasting runs from 6 to 8 p.m. New York cheeses, charcuterie and other hors d’oeuvres will accompany the local pours.

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