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For years, Cabernet Franc was the calling card of Long Island’s North Fork. Winemakers took the varietal from a blending grape to front-and-center, creating layered, textured renditions of a grape that other winemakers paid little notice to. In the years since, the region has pumped out world-class renditions of Merlot, Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc as well as unique blends like an orange Riesling, white Cabernet Franc and even a blueberry port. 

Now, yet another grape is changing the game for Long Island Wine Country — Albariño. With origins in Portugal, and most popularly grown in Spain, this white varietal is crisp and bright, with notes of lemon and lime; a far cry from the herbaceous red, even though they both share a bit of a zesty personality. But, as the climate is changing and winemakers are becoming more experimental, this white grape is poised to be the next rising star. 

“Miguel Martin at Palmer Vineyards planted this variety first on Long Island and we saw from his success with the vines that it was a good fit for our region,” says Rich Olsen-Harbich, head winemaker at Bedell Cellars. “It’s from Rías Baixas on the northwest coast of Spain so it’s used to growing in humid, maritime climates like our own.” 

Olsen-Harbich notes that Bedell first began planting the grape in 2011 on one acre, which has now increased to three acres. Ron Goerler, president and owner of Jamesport Vineyards, has also been increasing his Albariño production. Like Olsen-Harbich, he began growing it one acre at a time, beginning eight years ago. Now, Goerler has four acres of the grape and has T-budded its Riesling plants in order to grow more of this varietal. He explains that this process has proved to be successful for him, both in and out of the vines.


“The consumer has loved it. They are always looking for new varieties to try, and this is very similar to Sauvignon Blanc but more lively and has a very refreshing acidity,” Goerler says. 

But winemakers and wine drinkers are also loving the nuances of Long Island’s Albariño, as the terroir has made a stunning impact on the varietal. “Albariño thrives here on Long Island because of our maritime climate, small berries and hearty skins make it ideal for growing here,” explains Goerler. Olsen-Harbach says drinkers can expect a lot of aromatics, crisp natural acidity, and low alcohol levels with just a hint of saline minerality from the ocean breezes when drinking an Albariño from this region. 

While wine consumers impact future production and scale, the growth of Albariño is also about continued viability, for the region, too. Olsen-Harbich explains that the varietal has plenty of benefits that will boost Long Island’s presence in the wine world. Some of these benefits include yielding well, seeing prime ripeness every single year and it is very resistant to late-season rains and humidity. Additionally, he says the birds tend to stay away from it so loss is less significant than with other varietals. 

“I have very high hopes for Albariño on the North Fork. I believe it will become a major white grape in the region in the near future, along with Sauvignon Blanc. The proof is in the bottle as it makes some of the most delicious white wines that the North Fork has ever produced and pairs perfectly with local seafood and produce,” says Olsen-Harbich.