Articles by

Carolyn Iannone

11/28/11 10:07am

CAROLYN IANNONE | Russ McCall at the Cutchogue vineyard that shares his name.

Just a swirl of McCall’s 2007 pinot noir hitting your nose is proof Russ McCall has more of one special thing than the rest of us: patience.

Mr. McCall planted the first vines on his Cutchogue farm more than 14 years ago. But it was only in 2007 that he labeled his first bottle of wine with the McCall brand.

Since then, it seems you can’t read a Long Island wine article without seeing the McCall name in it. Pinot Noir? From Long Island? And it’s good? Must be talking about McCall.

After years of running a wholesale business of fine imported wine in Atlanta, Ga., Mr. McCall eventually found himself back at his old summer stomping grounds on the North Fork, where his grandfather strolled in on horse and buggy in 1902.

CAROLYN IANNONE PHOTO | McCall Vineyard is known for its Pinot Noir, which some say is the best on the North Fork.

Partnering with the Peconic Land Trust, Mr. McCall rescued a combined 200 acres of land for his vineyard from plans of aggressive development. This land included Down’s Woods, the site of Fort Corchaug and the farm next to the vineyard, which is currently home to Mr. McCall’s organic, grass fed cattle.

Eventually, expert viticulturist Steve Mudd planted the vineyard in 1997 with clones of Pinot Noir and Merlot that were meticulously researched. Mr. McCall had successfully sold his fruit to fellow North Fork winemakers until he was ready to officially put his name on a bottle.

Then he waited … and waited.

“When you spend time with your neighbors, you learn and you get more out of it,” Mr. McCall said.

His patience paid off. With the help of the late Ben Sisson as vineyard manager and the combined work of winemaker Gilles Martin from Premium Wine Group and Bob Cabral from Millbrook, the 2007 vintage was born.

The Winery has received praise from the New York Times, Martha Stewart’s Blog, Food & Wine Magazine, GQ, and countless local publications. Their wine has appeared on wine lists at eateries like Gramercy Tavern and the North Fork Table and Inn.

“We don’t advertise,” Mr. McCall said. “You have to be authentic. You need the restaurants to say, ‘Hey, you want to try something really good?’”

McCall Vineyards is tucked away in a modest potato barn turned tasting room, down a dirt driveway, among land that was saved from heavy development.

The site of McCall Vineyards could have been something very different. Instead it’s home to perhaps the finest Pinot Noir on the East End.

11/21/11 4:00pm
Pour People

COURTESY PHOTO | Jerol Rickard, Amanda Fortuna, and Bobby Baker at the Long Island Pour Awards.

The men and women pouring wine along the wine trail are often the biggest promoters of wine clubs and winemakers. But they are not the ones getting rich off a vineyard’s success.

When it comes time for all the awards showered on the vineyard, it’s often the owners and winemakers that get all the glory.

Well, not anymore. The “Pour People” — the many men and women who man the tasting rooms in Long Island Wine Country — hosted the first-ever Long Island Pour Awards last week.

The Pour People group started in 2007 when Richard Pisacano of Roanoke Vineyards thought of hosting a party and inviting employees of neighboring tasting rooms to meet, drink and share in some trials and tribulations of what it takes to man the counter. The Pour Party was born and the turnout was a huge success.

This year Amanda Fortuna and George Romero of Roanoke Vineyards revived the group by creating a Facebook page called “The Pour People,” and they invited all their friends along the wine trail to join. All 130 of them and counting.

“We realized that we had a great group of people here,” Mr. Romero said. “We thought, ‘Hey, let’s do something with this!’”

The result was a fast and fun way for pour people to post news and events, while throwing in a few funny stories and friendly competition. And of course, where and when the next pour party is.

Jerol Rickard and Jeff Baily from Lenz thought up last week’s award ceremony.

They invented categories like “The Golden Nose Award,” “Wine Nerd Award,” The Socialite Award,” “Veteran Award,” and many more. Members were invited to nominate and vote for the pourer they thought best fit each award. Tickets were sold to cover the cost of the event, with proceeds going to Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach in Riverhead.

“The coolest thing about the group is that it’s all volunteer,” said Mr. Rickard. “We are all like-minded, friendly people who are supporting local businesses, better educating our customers and giving back to the community.”

The “Pour People” wined and dined at Blackwells Restaurant before heading to the Hilton Garden Inn for the awards ceremony Wednesday.

Complete with golden envelopes, members presented awards made of recycled wine bottles with a golden capsule and self-designed pour awards labels.

“I would just like to say, how can we not smile and have a great day when we are working in a beautiful area with such great people?,” said Sara Carlson of Shinn Estate Vineyards in her acceptance speech for the “Rainbows and Sunshine Award.”

Some other highlights were the male and female “Pourer of the Year Award,” which went to Mr. Rickard from Lenz and Ms. Fortuna of Roanoke. The “Wine Nerd Award” went to Chris Fanjul of The Winemaker Studio.

The first-ever awards ceremony featured huge applause, a little heckling, and lots of laughter, proving even a “Pour Person” can have his day.