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May 07

TasteCamp: Lunch @ Shinn Estates

Saturday we had lunch at Shinn Estates, provided by Shinn, Macari, and Jamesport Vineyards. The food was excellent and all local- duck, arugula, mushrooms and couscous, asparagus and pasta salad, and I'm not sure what all else. I played vegetarian and stuck to the salads. 

There were a multitude of wines on the table, for which I might have scribbled tasting notes for a couple bottles. But first – the conversation.

The winemakers talked with us about sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming. They incorporate practices from all three into their vineyards, but have found that the Long Island land/climate prohibits them from going completely biodynamic/organic. Pesticides, for instance, still need to be used occasionally. For the most part, the vintners try to "trust in the land."

They pointed out that they feel lucky to have anything grow at all, considering that Long Island is just a "giant sandbar sticking 120 miles into the ocean."  I can't argue with that, but based on the sheer number of vineyards, nurseries, and farms I saw, growing doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. Long Island grape growing, however, is only about 40 years old.

To achieve sustainability, they try to be true farms (yes, folks, vintners are often "grape farmers"), with chickens, rabbits, cows, and horses all resident on the property. This allows for effective composting and fertilizing, all within the farm. Part of the sustainability is letting things like dandelions grow wild. I can't remember why, per se, but it makes for a lovely photo. You'll also notice that the dandelions grow in the area directly under the vines, so something is healthy there somewhere.

It was a really interesting conversation and, oddly enough, they even passed around a flower pot filled with, um, manure. Sounds worse than it was. This is what they bury in the horn at the full moon, or some such thing. I've always sort of poked fun at that practice, but they made mention that the horns add calcium to the soil, so I feel better knowing there's a method to the madness.

(Tasting notes and more conversation after the jump.)

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Posted by Michelle at 9:22 am in TasteCamp, Tastings, Travel, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()
May 06

TasteCamp: Paumanok Vineyard

On Saturday we visited Roanoke, Paumanok, Shinn, Bedell, and Lenz, with a myriad of tastings in between and during each visit. I managed to still be taking notes when we got to Paumanok (only 2 wineries in). We also got a rather nifty barrel tasting at Paumanok, straight from the wine thief (which is a tool, not a person).  This German family-owned winery was one of our favorites that we visited.

Nifty tidbit:
Paumanok was the first vineyard on Long Island to move to screwcaps for many of their wines.

Tasting notes are after the jump.

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Posted by Michelle at 4:14 pm in TasteCamp, Tastings, Travel, Wine Notes, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (1)
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 ()
May 04

TasteCamp East: Thanks for the Memories!

Wasn't that Bob Hope's sign-off song? It's appropriate here, and you're all lucky I don't embed an annoying midi to blare out the old standard.

Kevin and I thoroughly enjoyed TasteCamp.  From hanging out in vineyards during budbreak to eating great food and learning a lot about the Long Island wine industry, it was a non-stop good time.

We really want to thank Lenn, who organized the entire shindig from start to finish. Additionally, it was great of the wineries to host us, often feed us, and take time out from their own busy schedules to take a bunch of bloggers seriously. That was truly appreciated.  I can truly say the Long Island wine industry is thriving. All day Saturday the tasting rooms were dealing not just with a crowd of bloggers, but with separate throngs of willing tasters.

No matter where we meet – Long Island, Sonoma, or the middle-of-nowhere – there is nothing but great conversation and camaraderie when wine bloggers meet. It is always so wonderful to sit at a table of like minds. It's also fun to sit at a table where I'm not the only one pulling out a camera to snap a photo of the food!  I can't tell you how great it is to meet and catch up with these other astute, funny, and friendly bloggers.  When I teach blogging, I explain that you are joining a community. Wine bloggers exemplify "Community" in every way.

I think Long Island and Ohio – at least what I know of the northern Ohio/Lake Erie area – are in a similar place with their wine industry. Southern and Ohio and Kentucky aren't quite as far along, but seeing thriving local wine industries like this reassures me that our local folks aren't that far behind.

View all our TasteCamp posts.

Tomorrow I'll start the first of several posts about some neat experiences we had on the trip. For now, you can flip through my Flickr album below.

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Posted by Michelle at 3:41 pm in Photos, TasteCamp, Travel | Permalink | Comments ()
May 01

TasteCamp EAST 2009

Last year Kevin and I attended the Wine Blogger's Conference in Sonoma. This year, that conflicts directly with BlogHer, where I'm slated to speak on a panel about wine & food blogging. Kevin gets to go to California – but I'll be in Chicago.


So we're also attending the 1st Annual TasteCamp EAST in Long Island Wine Country. TasteCamp was the brainchild of my friend and Long Island wine blogger Lenn Thompson. He says,

The concept for TasteCamp is a simple one: getting enthusiastic
bloggers together in a region that is new to them to taste as much wine
as possible and speak to as many winemakers as possible over the course
of a weekend. Most smaller, lesser-known wine regions in the world
would love to get their wines in front of bloggers, but with TasteCamp,
the bloggers will go to them.

It's a small group of us (about 30 bloggers and spouses), but we've got a full schedule. Our itinerary includes

  • Welcome Reception and Wine Dinner at Raphael Winery, sponsored by Raphael and the Long Island Merlot Alliance
  • Tasting at Roanoke Vineyards
  • Tasting at Paumanok Vineyards
  • Lunch at Shinn Estate Vineyards, sponsored by and featuring wines from Jamesport Vineyards, Macari Vineyards and Shinn Estate Vineyards
  • Long Island Wine Council Tasting at Shinn Estate Vineyards featuring wines from 10 wineries we aren’t visiting
  • Tasting at Bedell Cellars
  • Tasting at Lenz Winery
  • BYOB Dinner at Grand Cru Classes
  • Tasting at Wolffer Estate
  • Tasting at Channing Daughters Winery

It is a jam-packed weekend full of wine and blogger fun. Lenn's hope is that we can have TasteCamps all over the States. I have a head full of ideas for a TasteCamp OHIO in possibly 2010 but absolutely no idea how to organize it.

So that's where we'll be on Friday through Sunday. I hope to fill this blog with tales of the Hamptons (because we're pretentious, you know) throughout next week.


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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in TasteCamp, Travel, Wine Events, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()

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