November 30, 2009
Long Island Wines Show Well in Global Blind Tasting; 2009 Vintage looks promising
Long Island Wines a Natural Choice for Locavores and Oenophiles; 2009 Harvest Promises Enjoyable Drinking
Long Island, NY, November 30, 2009— Known for its glittering Hamptons scene, Long Island has been gaining increased recognition as a source of high quality wines. Where potato crops once flourished, vineyards now thrive on Long Island’s North and South Forks. Tasting rooms on the East End—no longer simply a detour on the way to the beach house or farmer’s market—offer wines on par with those from top wine producing regions around the world and have become destinations year round. Fall, synonymous with harvest, is clearly the busiest time of year, as vineyard managers and winemakers work in concert to reap the full benefits of the latest vintage. An eventful 2009 growing season was discussed at a recent event in New York City, where journalists developed a new appreciation for the region’s wines during a comparative blind tasting.
Long Island Wines Open Eyes at NYC Event
Linda Lawry, Director of the International Wine Center, provided insights into the history and struggles of the region. “Sometimes it’s hard to be a hometown hero…the Long Island wine industry has not found it easy to get the recognition they deserve,” she reflected. Linda, together with Larry Perrine, Partner/CEO of Channing Daughters Winery, and Kip Bedell, Founding Winemaker of Bedell Cellars, led the blind tasting of the region’s prominent varietals―Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc―alongside wines from renowned regions around the globe. Media attendees were pleasantly suprised when wines produced in their own backyard held their own, or in many instances, bested established Old and New World wines.
Perrine, a respected viticuluralist, noted that “experimental winemakers on Long Island have found that the region’s relatively mild temperatures produce aromatically interesting white wines from a wide range of white grape varieties―a feat much more difficult in hotter climates. The resulting wines have clarity, balance and textural finesse without heavy alcohol, and a freshness that enlivens the palate and goes well with food.”
Bedell, a local winemaker since the late 1970’s, provided insights on the region’s growth and development, particularly in relation to red wines. “In the beginning, we found that thin-skinned grapes didn’t perform well with our climate―it was a challenge to get them to ripen fully. We then focused on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, whose critical turning point came with the 1993, 1994, and 1995 vintages. By that time we had mastered crop-thinning and proper trellising which allowed us to produce the ultimate expression of our fruit; we also had tools which didn’t exist when we first planted in 1980.”
Producers Very Positive despite Challenging Growing Season
This year’s harvest began two weeks later than in any previous vintage. Yet local winemakers reflected optimistically, calling it a grower’s year that was mastered despite, as Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery noted, “Long Island’s wild ride with Mother Nature.” Wet weather early in the summer reduced average yields by 10-20%. The grapes that remained benefitted from extended hang time – whites were picked as late as mid-November, and reds even later in the month. Gilles Martin of Sparkling Pointe noted that, while, “a cool and rainy spring brought a lot of concern about the ability for all varieties on Long Island to achieve a fertile fruit set, fall brought us a lot of relief with warm, bright and sunny days helping the vines to slowly forward crop ripening.”
Rich Pisacano, manager of Wölffer Estate vineyards on the South Fork, and Roanoke Vineyards on the North Fork, further noted that, in the island’s maritime climate, “precision and extreme viticulture is the only defense.” Referring to the grapes harvested, he further commented, “what was received by the wineries is remarkable and perhaps beyond most expectations.” Jim Waters of Waters Crest added, “The year was especially challenging for the reds due to the loss of blooms during the June rains but the aromatics are proving intense already - suggesting crisp, clean, mouth-watering passion fruit with bright natural acidity due to the cool nights at the end of the growing season.”
Local wineries look forward to producing a superb vintage of elegant, cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, as well as a range of interesting blends with uncommon varietals – once more offering a diverse selection of affordable wines to choose from at area restaurants, retailers, or through winery websites.