TROY GUSTAVSON PHOTO
Times/Review wine columnist Louisa Hargrave presenting a “Wine Salon Program” to interested oeneofiles at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck on Saturday.
Other promotions conducted in conjunction with the event, which was sponsored by The Wine Spectator magazine, included a “Festival Tasting,” exclusive 10-person “vintner dinners” and a “$275 per person gala dinner and live auction” Saturday night at Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack.
In 1990, the owner of the Wine Spectator, Marvin Shanken, approached the newly organized Long Island Wine Council with a great idea: If we would organize a summertime bash — a barrel tasting that showed off our wines and the splendid produce of Long Island together — he would help us promote it. He told a New York Times reporter, “All the other wines people consume in the immediate New York area come from 3,000 miles away, either from Europe or the West … These come from 100 miles away, they’re reasonably priced and I say shame on the wine trade and the restaurants in the New York region for not paying more attention to them.”
Shanken especially admired Long Island’s merlots; his genius was to design the barrel tasting as an informal walkabout sampling of merlots straight from their barrels, followed by a big, casual picnic. He provided cowboy hats, bandanas and a joint-is-jumping zydeco band.
That first barrel tasting, which attracted more than 600 people to a tent at Hargrave Vineyard in Cutchogue, was a smashing success. We still rave about chef Starr Boggs’ planked swordfish, fluffy as cake, and his perfectly pink duck breast. Zydeco music was new to most of us, but it roused everyone, young and old, to the dance floor. Best of all, the party spurred on the growth of the vineyards and creation of a locally based cuisine.
Today, there are more than 60 vineyards, with 51 licensed producers, on Long Island. The wine business has a different order of magnitude, with over 1,200,000 gallons of wine made here yearly. And now, Shanken is back, lending his imprimatur and sponsorship to the HARVEST Wine Auction and Celebration of Long Island’s East End on Sept. 24 and 25. Long Island’s winemakers are elated to once again have the support of Shanken and the Wine Spectator as presenting sponsor for this new event.
Harvest East End is multi-faceted. Organized by the Long Island Merlot Alliance and Long Island Wine Council, it will take place in many locations on the North and South forks. First, Friday night there will be 10 “Ten-Mile Dinners,” each for 10 guests who will enjoy locally sourced dinners offered by star chefs and winemakers in private homes and gardens ($350 per person). During the day on Saturday, wine lovers can choose among 17 “salons” focused on different aspects of wine ($25 per person). Some, like the Fundamentals of Food and Wine Pairing (led by Channing Daughters winemaker Chris Tracy and restaurateur David Loewenberg), are designed for “foodies”; some, like Know Your Clones: The Many Flavors of Merlot (with Pellegrini Vineyards winemaker Russ Hearn), are for “the wine aficionado”; and some, like Say It! Putting Words to What You Taste and Smell (which I’m leading at Macari Vineyards), are “for the senses,” which means, for anyone.
The Harvest East End celebration culminates with a double whammy, both at WÃ¶lffer Estate in Sagaponack. From 4 to 7 p.m., there will be a Festival Tasting of Long Island’s bounty ($125 per person), a grand tasting of Long Island wines from 27 producers, plus local, seasonal dishes made by East End chefs partnered with farmers and food artisans ranging from Pipes Cove Oysters to Mecox Bay Dairy. Guests may bid in a silent auction that highlights all the twin forks have to offer, ranging from a bronze sculpture by artist Amy Goldman to a cooking class for eight by Sylvia Lehrer.
Finally, there will be a spectacular farm-to-table dinner and live auction ($275 per person; includes entry to the Festival Tasting) hosted by NBC’s Angela LaGreca. The Napa Valley has held a wine auction for years, but this will be the first exclusive auction devoted to Long Island wine. Bid on half-barrels of merlot decorated by noted artists, or on such “wine experience” packages as “Earth, Wind and Fire”: a stay at the Shinn Estate Farmhouse in Mattituck with an aerial tour of the North Fork, vertical tasting of Shinn Estate Vineyards’ merlot and hearthside dinner with “Top Chef” Tom Colicchio.
Harvest East End’s proceeds will go to two local organizations: Peconic Land Trust and East End Hospice. That makes its impact go beyond the promotion of Long Island wine. Because it will benefit the entire community, it has the support of numerous sponsors, from real estate agencies to glass blowers to banks.
For information and tickets go to harvesteastend.com.
An addendum to the list of winners at the New York Wine and Food Classic: Paumanok Vineyards won best merlot for its 2007 Merlot Tuthills Lane Vineyard.
Ms. Hargrave was a founder of the Long Island wine industry in 1973. She is currently a freelance writer and consultant.
HARVEST Wine Auction + Celebration of the East End
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24 and 25, at North and South fork wineries. Events include 10-mile dinners on Friday night and educational wine salons Saturday, a festival tasting and silent auction Saturday afternoon at WÃ¶llfer Estate in Sagaponack, followed by a sold-out gala dinner and live auction.