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Top Stories 2021: Neighbor’s complaints brings Harbes Vineyard under fire

Harbes Vineyard offered $10,000 to settle charges for violating part of its liquor license, following a State Liquor Authority investigation prompted by complaints from a neighbor.

Karen Wallace, who lives on a private road nearby, said in late September that the Mattituck business has grown into a bustling entertainment venue well beyond a traditional farm, negatively impacting traffic and quality of life for those living nearby.  

“We’ve lived in Mattituck for 22 years and we’ve seen the evolution of the Harbes family business grow from greenhouses [and] small farm stands, to this entertainment complex that it’s now become,” she said, emphasizing that the entire community is impacted by the traffic there.

Ms. Wallace said she filed requests with the SLA and state Department of Agriculture and Markets last spring after repeated inaction from Southold Town authorities.  

The SLA investigation concluded that Harbes violated terms of its liquor license by outsourcing wine production to Pindar Vineyards. A 2006 method of operation from the vineyard states that harvested grapes will be processed on Harbes premises. According to the state report, no updated method of operation has been filed since. 

A separate review from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets found that some attractions at the farm “do not appear to promote or contribute to the on-farm sale or marketing of on-farm products or enhance the public’s understanding or awareness of farming and farm life.”

Keven Danow, a lawyer representing Harbes Vineyard, argued to the SLA that the owners of Harbes did not know they were violating their liquor license. According to an affidavit, Harbes “immediately” began producing wine on premises after learning the SLA requires the vineyard to ferment at least 50 gallons of wine on site. Ed Harbes Sr. said in an interview that the vineyard was trying to improve efficiency and champagne wine was still produced on premises.

In response to the agricultural department review, Mr. Danow said Harbes is “a farm in every sense of the word” and the vineyard’s activities fall under agritourism. 

The SLA did not accept the $10,000 settlement and said it would investigate further charges at a Sept. 29 meeting.