Gustavson Column: Time marches on, just look around you

Pindar Vineyards proprietor “Dr. Dan” Damianos (in purple sweater) hosts a barrel tasting and behind-the-scenes tour for Pindar Wine Club members. (Credit: Courtesy photo)
Pindar Vineyards proprietor “Dr. Dan” Damianos (in purple sweater) hosts a barrel tasting and behind-the-scenes tour for Pindar Wine Club members. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Perhaps it’s my age (68) or maybe it’s just the alignment of the stars, but I can’t seem to be able to write about anything this week other than the passage of time.

Everywhere I look these days, it’s staring me (and us, dear reader) in the face. In short order this summer, we have lost four pillars of the North Fork community. First it was the tragic passing of the Borgheses, Ann Marie and Marco. Then naturalist/nature columnist Paul Stoutenburgh passed away at age 92. And now this week it’s the death of Pindar Vineyards founder Dan Damianos, one of the primary players in the establishment of the Long Island wine region.

Coupled with the prior passage from the scene of other wine region giants like Bob Palmer, Ray Blum and Dave Mudd, the inescapable conclusion is that the first generation of grape growers/winemakers is slowly but surely passing from the scene. Which is, of course, inevitable but none the less regrettable.

The good news, also inevitable, is that in some notable instances generation next is now stepping up to the plate. Off the top of my head, I can think of three encouraging examples of children assuming the mantle of leadership from their parents. A prime example would be the Pindar family, as detailed this week in Dan Damianos’ obituary. Four of his five children are now involved in the family enterprise and, personally, I hope that means they’ll carry on with what their father started.

Then there are the Kontokosta brothers, Dino and Michael, who assumed control of the family’s stunning Soundfront winery after the death of their father, Manny, in 2013.

Most recently, there is the very good news that Zander Hargrave, son of Long Island wine industry pioneers Louisa and Alex Hargrave, has been named head winemaker at Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue. An encouraging development like that is almost enough to make me forget the toll that time has taken on our wine region’s founding generation.

The aforementioned transitions are only part of the reason for my recent tendency to dwell on the passage of time. This year also marks the 45th anniversary of my union with the former Joan Giger Walker and the 50th anniversary of our (yes, we were classmates) graduation from Hackensack (N.J.) High School. Those two milestones alone are reason enough for some quiet reflection.

Closer to home, here on the North Fork, I’ve been personally involved in two long-standing traditions that appear to have run their course. The demise of the first, the Bob Wall Memorial Summer Tennis Tournament, was detailed in this space two weeks ago, so suffice it to say it’s done after a 35-year run.

The demise of the second may come as news to all but a few organizers of the Greenport Maritime Festival. After a 25-year run of its own (and what was to be a one-year hiatus) the folks who run the traditional dory races have decided to pull the plug, quite literally. There will be no races next month because the aging wooden dories, purchased two decades ago from a traditional boat shop in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, are now beyond repair. What’s more, organizers have had to start from scratch every fall trying to recruit enough teams to enter the race. No boats + no contestants = no race.

Finally, I would be remiss in making this announcement if I failed to acknowledge the contributions of longtime race chairman Rob Buchanan and the five local businesses that funded the purchase of the dories some 20 years ago. They were, in alphabetical order, Costello Marine Contracting, Wm. J. Mills & Co., Palmer Vineyards, Port of Egypt Marine and Times/Review Newspapers. Thanks for the memories, folks.

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