Wine Column: Reasons to leave the hammock behind

07/09/2012 10:32 AM |

When summer is in full swing, it’s hard to move off the patio at home. I can spend hours under my shady pergola, sipping something cool. Still, however much inertia takes hold, there are wine events coming up on the East End that are motivating enough to make me head on down the pike for some vinous entertainment.

As a devoted lover of bubbly, I never want to miss the James Beard Foundation’s annual summer celebration of all things sparkling: Chefs and Champagne at Wölffer Estate Vineyards in Sagaponack on Saturday, July 21, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Raising money for the ongoing mission of the JBF, “to celebrate, nurture and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future,” Chefs and Champagne is a gigantic, tented walkabout tasting representing the best of the best from America’s chefs. Coming as it does during New York City’s slow time, when anyone who can escapes to the country, it attracts an impressive array of foodie stars.

In past years, Chefs and Champagne has paid tribute to single celebrities like Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse, but this year JBF Award winners Ted Allen and the judges of Food Network’s Chopped — Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson, Aarón Sanchez, Chris Santos and Geoffrey Zakarian — will all receive this honor together. These über talents of the food world are a spirited lot; their energy adds to the vibrancy of the evening.

Nicolas Feuillate is the official Champagne sponsor. I suggest you get there early, before the vintage Brut 2004 runs out, then hop on over to the Wölffer Estate table for winemaker Roman Roth’s divine wines, which this year will include the intriguing Diosa Late Harvest Chardonnay 2010 and Fatalis Fatum 2007.

Later this summer, from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 25 (moved up from its previous September date to take advantage of a new location at the Hampton Classic’s Bridgehampton show grounds) the Wine Spectator will again sponsor Harvest East End, Long Island’s foremost celebration of local wine and food, benefiting East End Hospice, the Group for the East End and Peconic Land Trust. Organized by Merliance (an alliance of Long Island merlot producers) and the Long Island Wine Council, Harvest East End will offer tastes from up to 40 East End wineries and 30 top restaurants with an exciting array of award-winning wines — including barrel samples of not-yet-released wines — and local, seasonal dishes from some of the region’s finest chefs, using all locally sourced foods.

Harvest East End’s Festival Tasting (called “Fall for Long Island” even though it’s still summer when it takes place) is, like Chefs and Champagne, a walkabout event where you can graze to your heart’s content while schmoozing with chefs and vintners. If you want to hang out with the high rollers you can also buy tickets to the VIP section, which will get you in early and give you access to comfortable tables and, more important, a special “wine library” tasting of older vintages. These tickets are almost sold out, so act quickly if you want that extra dose of glamour.

Even more coveted are invitations to a handful of 10 Mile Dinners, part of the Harvest East End experience organized to raise money for its beneficiaries. Soon to be announced, these are dinners held at spectacular private homes and prepared by star chefs using food sourced from within 10 miles. Each dinner features the wines of a single Long Island winery. Most dinners will be open to only 10 invited diners each; invitations can be obtained by applying to [email protected]

Besides these two blockbuster events, many wineries offer delightful places to relax and enjoy a glass of wine, often with music. Among my favorite picks are Martha Clara’s Sunset Vines and Canines educational vineyard walk (the next one is on Aug. 1) — bring your dog down for a walk through the vineyards with winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez and his dog, Satchmo; a sybaritic afternoon sipping rose on the barn swing at Croteaux Vineyards; and Baiting Hollow Farm’s pony rides added to the mix of music and wine, supporting its equine rescues.

On Aug. 19, McCall Vineyards will host the summer’s most singular event: an aboriginally inspired buffet cooked by local chefs, where you can cut your fish or meat with an Algonquin flint, all to benefit the Southold Indian Museum. This is your chance to taste samp (cracked corn) and squash where Cutchogue natives once grew similar crops.
Choose your favorite, get out of that hammock and go for some summer fun.

Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.