I’ve come across several books about and related to the Long Island wine community over the years. My two favorites have been 2003’s “The Vineyard: The Pleasures and Perils of Creating an American Family Winery,” by Louisa Hargrave who founded our local wine region in the 1970s with her then-husband Alex, and more recently Eileen Duffy’s “Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island.”
I recommend both to anyone who is looking to learn more about Long Island wine, but they focus largely on the people who have made Long Island Wine Country what it is today.
If those books are great lectures about the struggles and triumphs of Long Island wine gaining its hard-fought reputation for fine wine, “The Wines of Long Island,” whose third edition has been revised and updated by Hudson Valley-based writer Jose Moreno-Lacalle, is a complete course on the past, present and passion of Long Island wine.
I’ve known Jose for many years. His blog “Wine, Seriously” has been a great resource for anyone interested in local wine since the early 2000s.
Jose’s self-published third edition of this book is based on the second edition, which was written by Edward Beltrami and Philip Palmedo.
“After six years of writing about Long Island wines for my blog, I thought that I had the makings for a book,” Jose told me in an email. “I found The Wines of Long Island 2nd Edition and once I’d read it I realized that this was the book I’d wanted to write, given that it covered the history, personalities and other information, along with profiles of 25 producers.”
And, because the previous authors had done so much research, updating the existing book would save Moreno-Lacalle time.
“I didn’t think it useful to spend time writing that background material all over again,” he said.
So he met with Mr. Palmedo who gave him “full rights to the book, lock, stock, and wine barrel, as long as I left their names on the cover.”
Early chapters of the book delve into Long Island’s soils, climate and vineyard selections and practices before shifting into the myriad grapes and styles of wine made here. Readers will also find a great chapter covering the history and legacy of Long Island wine, which covers important figures like Alex and Louisa Hargrave, David and Steve Mudd and the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.
Though only a page or two, one of my favorite parts of the early section of the book is a vintage chart covering 1988-2018. I’ve never seen anything like it for Long Island wine.
The bulk of the book centers on profiles of more than 60 wineries and producers, including some of the region’s newest labels like RGNY and Del Vino. These aren’t half-page profiles that just recite statistics on vineyard size and bottles produced, either. Jose offers more than that here.
Throughout, Jose’s affection for the region is obvious. ”I love the region, especially the North Fork, for its still-bucolic character, its small towns, and many wineries, each different from the next, as well as the interesting, passionate people that work in the wine trade,” he told me in an email.
Given that the book itself is about the past and present of the region, I was curious about what he sees as coming next for Long Island wine. He told me “Climate change is going to drive changes over the years, clearly, and with it, vineyard practices will have to adjust to this. New varieties will surely be introduced (Tempranillo, perchance?), including new hybrids. Some vineyards will not survive a rising ocean, perhaps, soil salinity may render some sites less amenable to grape growing. But we should also see new technologies, I should think, along with new methods of managing vineyards under changing climatic circumstances. Economic viability will continue to be a challenge and rising land prices could also have an adverse effect, especially on the more marginal producers.”
His focus on a sustainable future for Long Island wine is sprinkled throughout this book’s pages.
I’m not one to write thorough book reviews. It’s just not something I’ve ever been particularly good at. But I think this is an important update to an informative book that any Long Island wine lover would enjoy.
Jose is still setting up online ordering via Amazon, but the book is currently available at several local wineries, including Baiting Hollow, Bedell, Castello di Borghese, Channing Daughters, Laurel Lake, Roanoke, Sannino, Scarola, Sparkling Pointe, and Wölffer’s. It’s also available at Barner Books in New Paltz, Book Hampton, Burton Books in Greenport, Canios Books in Sag Harbor, Southampton Books, and Kitchen Arts and Letters in New York City. It’s also available at Wines by Nature in Wading River.
Lenn Thompson has been writing about American wine — with a focus on New York — for nearly 15 years. After running newyorkcorkreport.com for 12 years, he launched thecorkreport.us in 2016 and The Cork Report Podcast soon after. He lives in Miller Place with his wife and two children.