Tonight I have the opportunity to go to an incredible tasting. Imagine tasting all the First Growth Bordeaux’s, Several Grand Cru Burgundies, Top wines from Tuscany and Piedmont at the same place. It really will be wine sensory overload. As the hour of this event approaches, I can’t help but look back to when wine became an important part of my life.
I was not always a wine drinker. In-fact, I never drank wine in my youth. Pop was a Scotch man, Mom did not really drink, and the only time wine was on the table was at the Jewish holidays. So how did my obsession with the Grape occur you ask? There is a single moment, or a single wine that most wine enthusiasts look back on and say, “That’s were it all began”. It’s like a flash of lightning, like the scene from the Godfather when Michael Corleone sees Appolonia for the first time.
For me it was a moment, actually a fantastic fall day 12 years ago. A couple of friends and I discussed developing a documentary about the North Shore Wine Region of Long Island, NY. It was a great story with fun and eclectic characters, and all the makings of an intriguing film. This particular day we were at Lenz Winery and interviewing winemaker Eric Fry. Eric was generous with his time spending a good part of his day taking us through the vineyard, the barrel room, the wine making process, and an incredible tasting. He took us through all the varietals, all the different years, from the barrels, mixed blends, pretty much everything they had to offer and might offer in the next few years. He taught us how to use our senses of sight, smell and taste to distinguish different varietals and flavor profiles. It was like an accelerated mini-wine masters in a day. One of my partners on the film project, a long time wine enthusiast, said “I see it in your eyes, you have been bit”. He was right.
Since then, I have studied, tasted, and enjoyed wine with a pure passion that is reserved for few things in my life. When I approach a new wine I want o know about it, where was it grown, who is the winemaker, what is the story behind the winey. For me wine is best to be experiences with all the senses.
So tonight is an exciting night with great wines to be experiences, but today I will try and do a little research about a few of these phenomenal wines, so I can not only taste the wines, but experience them.
In the video above the Winemakers of the North Fork of Long Island discuss the beginnings of the North Fork AVA
2011 was a great year for wine in the United States. Despite the downturned economy, we are consuming more wine then ever before. In-fact, we just passed France as the world’s largest wine consuming nation for the first time ever. Not only are we drinking more wine in the US, but we are also making more wine in America then ever before.
When you think of American Wine you think California, and maybe if you are into wine you consider Oregon and Washington. But did you know that there is now at least one winery in every state in the United States? Furthermore, there are over 7,000 American wineries in operation as of April 2010. This is good news for the consumer, because with the recent wine making boom is not just about quantity, it’s also about quality.
On a recent visit to the North Fork Wine Region of Long Island, NY, I had a chance to not only taste some world-class wine, but to also experience what the region had to offer. There is no better way to experience wine then to walk the vineyards, feel the soil and talk to the winemakers. That truly makes wine an experience.
The North Fork AVA (American Viticultural Area) is located on a bucolic strip of land between the Peconic Bay (to the South) and the Long Island Sound to the North. Though just across the Bay from it’s glitzy cousin the Hamptons, The North Fork is farming country with over 30 wineries and 300 acres of vineyard planted. With a maritime climate not much different from Bordeaux, they have become known for Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest of the “Bordeaux varietals. And with the soaring prices of the land in this region, the wineries have adapted a quality over quantity approach to winemaking.
From the hand sorting of grapes at Paumanok Vineyards with winemaker Kareem Massoud, to experiencing the biodynamic winemaking of Shinn Estates, the winemakers of the North Fork AVA are all about quality and it shows. The wines have been receiving great reviews and high praise from newspapers and Food & Wine publications nationwide. As the awards continue to accumulate, Long Island Wines are increasingly being sought after in fine restaurants and wine shops around the country. The wine speaks for itself, but the real story behind the North Fork Wine Region is how it came to be.
In 1973, Alex and Louisa Hardgrave purchased a 66-acre potato farm in Cutchogue with the dream of proving that French varietals could be grown on the Island. The couple were unlikely winemakers, being Harvard educated and from the families in banking and business, nonetheless they followed their dream. “I was smitten by the romantic notion, the Virgilian mode of having a small farm,” Alex Hardgrave says. Louisa adds, “We didn’t know how to make wine! Can you believe it, we started a commercial winery having never made anything.” They did make wine, and fast forward forty years; Alex’s vision has come to pass.
That’s the story of the region, as for the wines. They are made in the European style. They tend to be lower in alcohol and very acidic. These wines are food wines and are great for pairing. As with most wine regions, the wines go great with local foods. Paumanok’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is a natural for Longs Island’s Pipes Cove Oysters. Bedell Cellar’s 2007 Musee (91 points Wine Spectator) is a wonderful pairing with a Buffalo Ribeye from North Quarter Farm in Riverhead. Now if you go for the incredibly flavorful Roasted Long Island Duck, you won’t go wrong with Lentz Merlot or Shinn Estates 2008 Wild Boar Doe. The choices are really almost endless, and this is just Long Island.
Imagine 7000 wineries in the US. Different philosophies, different styles, different tastes, It really is a big wine world my friends, so try something new and enjoy the ride.