02/17/13 8:00am
02/17/2013 8:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Katie O’Callaghan and Steve Messemer of Manhattan listened from the back of a crowded tasting room as the Spherical Flamenco Jazz Trio performed at Pellegrini Vineyards Saturday afternoon.

Snow flurries fell as wine lovers and jazz musicians kicked off Winterfest’s Jazz on the Vine series Saturday afternoon. Originally scheduled to start Feb. 8, the series was postponed by last weekend’s blizzard.

Going on its sixth straight year, the Jazz on the Vine series is designed to bring visitors to the North Fork during the winter season. It will feature more than 80 concerts at local vineyards. Events are also scheduled at the newly renovated Suffolk Theater, Hotel Indigo and the Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead.

“In the dead of winter, to see a full tasting room, it’s amazing,” said John Larsen, tasting room manager at Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue. “It makes the winter go by that much quicker.”

Related: Jazz on the Vine schedule

Pellegrini Vineyards featured a Spherical Flamenco Jazz Trio, with Emma Larsson also performing.

“It’s nice to be able to sit, listen, and enjoy a glass of wine,” said Katie O’Callaghan, who traveled from Manhattan with Steve Messemer to enjoy a Valentine’s Day weekend.

“This is great, the place especially,” Ms. O’Callaghan said. “The acoustics are great, and its not all traditional jazz. It’s nice they do a different style.”

“The fact that it’s actually snowing adds to the charm,” Mr. Messemer said. “This is something we will definitely make into a yearly thing.”

The couple had never been to a Jazz on the Vine event before.

Pellegrini Vineyards will be hosting three other events throughout the series, Mr. Larsen said.

The Mike Engle Vibratrio, a three-man band led by Mike Engle, performed at Palmer Vineyards in Aquebogue Saturday. It was the band’s first time performing in the Jazz on the Vine series.

“We’re loving it,” said Keenan Zach, who plays bass. “It’s a great atmosphere. Exactly what the winter needs.”

“It’s inspiring to see so many people,” added Mike Engle, who described the trio’s music as “organic, spontaneous, but rooted in tradition.”

Mr. Engle said he would be honored to play in the series again.

“They are so nice and they sound great,” said Robin Helmer-Reich, who was cuddled up in a booth, sipping on red wine and listening close by. “Jazz on the Vine is a great program.”

This was the second year Ms. Helmer-Reich, of Center Moriches, has attended the series. “It’s a great thing to do in the dead of winter, when there aren’t too many choices of what to do.”

Blanche Pesc traveled from Rockville Center with her husband Dan and their dog to enjoy the afternoon.

“Every time we’ve come it’s been a great experience,” Ms. Pesc said. “You always end up meeting great people.”

Last year’s series brought more than 7,500 people to the North Fork, up from 6,000 in 2011. Events cost $20 at the door and include a glass of wine. You also get the chance to win a free night’s stay at an East End hotel with a gift basket of Long Island wines.

The events originally scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 8-10 have been postponed until March 22-24, extending the series another week.

Winterfest is produced by East End Arts, the Long Island Wine Council, the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Suffolk County Office of Economic Development. For more information visit www.liwinterfest.com.

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02/02/13 10:00am
02/02/2013 10:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO  |  Papo Vazquez, left, with Willie Williams on saxophone at Raphael Vineyards during last year's Winterfest.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Papo Vazquez, left, with Willie Williams on saxophone at Raphael Vineyards during last year’s Winterfest.

It’s that time of year again when visitors from across the Northeast flock to Long Island Wine Country for Winterfest Jazz on the Vine.

The six-weekend jazz-and-wine celebration kicked off Jan. 25 with a media event and party at Hotel Indigo in Riverhead, with shows booked at select winery tasting rooms Feb. 9 and 10. The festival runs through the weekend of March 16 and 17.

Now in its sixth year, Winterfest has helped the local wine region evolve from a seasonal tourist attraction to a year-round getaway, boosting business at local hotels, restaurants and B&Bs, area businesspeople say.

RELATED: Complete series schedule for Jazz on Vine 2013

In addition to attracting visitors to tasting rooms during traditionally slow months, Winterfest has proved a factor in the North Fork’s recognition as a top wine destination, said Rob Salvatico of the Hotel Indigo. “It used to be that roughly after Thanksgiving you could shut your doors until mid- to late April or May,” Mr. Salvatico said. “Now the weekends are rocking from Valentine’s straight through Saint Patrick’s Day. There’s a lull during Passover and Easter, but then it starts to pick right back up again.”

Mr. Salvatico said from a revenue perspective the numbers Winterfest brings to the region are enough to transform a winter Saturday to a summer Saturday, and last year’s event brought nearly 10,000 visitors to the North Fork over the six weeks.

“Jazz on the Vine is the theme of Long Island Winterfest,” he said, “I don’t think they intended for it to always be jazz, but it was so popular that it’s become a fixture. If you’re a jazz enthusiast, this is going to become a destination for your yearly jazz jaunts.”

He said the popularity of Winterfest hit a new high in 2012 for it’s fifth year anniversary, when Hotel Indigo held a kickoff showcase event for the first time in their ballroom, and supper-style events throughout the six weeks.

“On Saturday nights the musicians would come back to the Hotel Indigo and have jazz jam sessions in our bistro and it was so popular we had to turn people away,” he said. “Every weekend was just wild.”

This year’s event shows no signs of slowing down, according to the president of the Long Island Wine Council trade group, Ron Goerler.

“We have the most acts ever this year,” Mr. Goerler said. “We chose 72 acts to perform at 30 wineries over six weeks. We had 250 people apply to play during Jazz on the Vine this year, so that shows just how much it’s growing.”

Mr. Goerler said the region used to get money from Suffolk County and New York State to fund the festival, but wineries had to charge cover fees for events after grants began drying up.

But that didn’t stop people from visiting, he said.

“Last year we had a record 7,500 people come out for the event and with the region being named [by Wine Enthusiast magazine] one of the top four wine regions in the world to visit in 2013, I’m looking forward to seeing how many people come out this year,” Mr. Goerler said.

The event brought people from as far south as Philadelphia and as far north as upper Westchester and Connecticut, along with folks from New York City and New Jersey, according to Mr. Salvatico, who said Winterfest has “without question” been part of Hotel Indigo’s success through 2012.

“Winterfest actually gave birth to our having live music on Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. “We do that throughout the year now. Anyone can play Muzak all day, but having live music a couple times a week adds an air of elegance and style to the facility. It’s an amenity for our guests and a draw for people locally to come have dinner with us.”

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11/01/11 1:00am
11/01/2011 1:00 AM

• A marketing meeting to lay out a timeline and discuss sponsorships and value-added opportunities for the 2012 Jazz on the Vine program, scheduled for February and March, will be held at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m. Jazz on the Vine last year attracted more than 6,000 visitors to the North Fork during the traditionally quiet winter season.

Representatives of local businesses are encouraged to attend the planning meeting, which is coordinated by the Long Island Wine Council, the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and East End Arts.

RSVP to [email protected] by Nov. 11.