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May 05

TasteCamp: Thoughts on Long Island Wines / Wine Industry

I don't have as many wine notes as I would like from this weekend. Some folks were diligently finding every possible surface to write on, but after the first couple vineyards, well, I just gave up. However, I did have a writing surface for both Shinn and Paumanok, which were also my two favorite vineyards that we visited. I'll post tasting notes for Shinn, Paumonok, and Roanoke over the next few days and into next week.

Looking at the trip as a whole, I had two issues with Long Island wine:

1) Merlot merlot merlot. It's pushed on you, and I think it overshadows other grapes they offer that are just as good or, in many cases, better. Most of the time (with a few exceptions) I wasn't overly blown away by the Long Island Merlot you hear so much about. I had a great cab franc, some not bad sparkling wines, a few lovely cabernet sauvignons, and some great whites and rosés, which were a wonderful change after an overload of reds.

2) Prices. Egads!  I fully expected to ship home a case of wine, but I think we only brought home about five bottles – two of which were dessert wines. Why? Price vs quality. There are a couple of ways to look at this. Most of the wineries are content, it seems, to cater to a New York-area market. If that's the goal, and the locals are willing to pay the prices, then I suppose there is no issue. But if there is any desire to expand into a larger retail market, some of those prices have got to fall. At Roanoke Winery, for example, I was perfectly thrilled with their wines and made the assumption they were all around $20 or so dollars. When I found out they were in the $30-$40 range, well, I was shocked. As I said, some of the prices put a damper on my purchasing. Good for the pocketbook, but not so good for the wineries.

I was impressed with the commitment to sustainable farming we learned about at a lunch provided by Jamestown, Macari, and Shinn Estates. The lunch was all locally grown / farmed / fished and all three wineries, while not certified organic, are working towards it. In some cases, they are happily adding in biodynamic practices. I've said before that while I don't actually buy into biodynamics, I do believe that anyone who is going to pay that much attention to each individual vine and the soil is just going to grow great grapes. Their efforts at sustainability are admirable, especially since, as they pointed out, Long Island is basically a giant sandbar. Biodynamic-leaning Shinn Estates, with their wild dandelions lining the vineyard, was by far one of the prettiest I've seen, even just at bud break.

Our weather for the trip was lacking, until mid-afternoon on Saturday when the sun chose to peek out of the rain clouds long enough to allow us all to traipse through Shinn Estate's vineyards. But for those of you who thought I had a relaxing, beach-filled trip to the Hamptons, rest assured there was much use of the umbrella. It didn't really dampen the fun though.

I'd love to go back to Long Island – I know that much. When Kevin and I travel, we love to learn about the local wine. But we itch to explore everything else as well. Time to learn a little more about the area wasn't really scheduled in, so we found time where we could. Friday, before the festivities started, we ate at an historic diner in Cutchogue and visited a couple of wineries on our own (as well as the Big Duck roadside attraction in Flanders).

Before dinner that night, as well as early Saturday morning, we spent some time walking the adorable town of Greenport where we were staying. I'd love to visit again in the summer when all the little stores are open. Finally, we made a decision to be late to the Sunday tasting so that we could at least drive through the Hamptons and visit the gorgeous old lighthouse in Montauk, at the very tail end of the South Fork. As Roman Roth (winemaker for Wolffer Estate) said when we walked in late, "It's a very Long Island."

If you're up for a weekend getaway, it was an easy flight from Cincinnati to LaGuardia, and an easy 90 minute drive down the Long Island Expressway to get to the North and South Forks of Long Island.

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Posted by Michelle at 5:13 pm in TasteCamp, Tastings, Travel, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()

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