08/16/14 3:00pm
08/16/2014 3:00 PM
Beer being poured at last week's festival. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Beer being poured at last week’s festival. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

To the editor:

We wanted to share some thoughts about the recent festival. It is always a great idea to celebrate, as with the craft beer festival this past weekend. We have lived next door to the Peconic Bay Winery property for 14 years and have never had any negative issues with the numerous events [that have] taken place there.  (more…)

10/18/13 4:30pm
10/18/2013 4:30 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Winery is for sale, months after its tasting room closed.

Two months after closing up shop, Peconic Bay Winery announced Friday it’s bottling its final wine for sale to the public.

The final release ­— black labeled Lowerre Family Estate — is a 2010 vintage red blend of the winery’s vineyards on Oregon Road in Mattituck, as well as the original old vines on Main Road in Cutchogue that surround the tasting room itself.

“Early in 2009 we sat down to blend a ‘tete-de-cuvée’ or a grand reserve style,” general manager Jim Silver said in a press release.  “We named that blend after the family that owns the winery and dressed it in a beautiful black label and heavy glass.”

It is a bittersweet moment for Paul Lowerre, owner and president of Lav-Cor Agricultural, Inc., the parent company of Empire State Cellar and Peconic Bay Winery. He said in a release the decision to stop production was based on economics.

“We still farm over 52 acres of premium grapes in Cutchogue and in Mattituck, so I’m not going to say we’re finished producing wine – but we’re most likely finished making wine for ourselves,” he said in the release.

In January, Peconic Bay Winery closed its tasting room to the public and transferred operations to the Empire State Cellars store at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

At the time, Mr. Silver was adamant that the winery, founded in 1979, had no plans to close its Cutchogue location altogether.

But six months later, in August, the winery, tasting room and 25 acres of planted vineyards on Main Road was put on the market.

Mr. Lowerre, who bought the winery in 1999, said the 30 acres of vines on Oregon Road are not for sale.

Russell Hearn, chief operating officer at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck, will oversee vineyard maintenance and acquire the 2013 grapes, Mr. Silver said.

The final wine is a blend of 60 percent Merlot, 30 percent Malbec and 10 percent Cabernet Franc, according to a release.

The wine was aged for more than 18 months in older French barrels, mostly two to four years old. A total of 400 cases were produced.

The wine will be sold at Empire State Cellars, retailing for $49 per bottle. Three-bottle wooden cases are also available for $159. A limited number of 375-milliliter bottles will sell for $29, magnum bottles for $109 and double-magnums for $249.

The wine will be available for tasting at Empire State Cellars through Thanksgiving.

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10/05/13 10:18pm
10/05/2013 10:18 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | On a beautiful warm afternoon Saturday, a big crowd turned out for the Pour the Core hard cider festival.

Apple season has never tasted so good on the North Fork. The second annual Pour the Core hard cider festival drew more than 2,000 people to Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue Saturday.

To see more photos from the festival, check out Northforker.com.

08/05/13 8:00am
08/05/2013 8:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Winery is for sale, months after its tasting room closed.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Winery is for sale, months after its tasting room closed.

In January, Peconic Bay Winery closed its Cutchogue tasting room to the public and transferred operations to the Empire State Cellars store at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

At the time, general manager Jim Silver was adamant that the winery, founded in 1979, had no plans to close its Cutchogue location altogether.

“We are absolutely not closing our tasting room,” Mr. Silver told The Suffolk Times last winter. “We are just changing it and re-purposing the Cutchogue property. The biggest crowds came out for the special events and we’re going to keep doing them.”

But now, six months later, the winery, including the tasting room and 25 acres of planted vineyards on Main Road, is for sale, Mr. Silver told the New York Times.

“After assessing the profitability of the tasting room, we determined that the return on our investment was not at all reasonable,” Mr. Silver said. He added that hard cider production will not be affected by the winery’s sale.

Paul and Ursula Lowerre, who bought the winery in 1999, might retain the brand, Mr. Silver is quoted as saying. The Lowerres’ 30 acres of vines on Oregon Road in Cutchogue are not on the market.

Russell Hearn, chief operating officer at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck, will oversee vineyard maintenance and acquire the 2013 grapes, Mr. Silver said.

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01/14/13 3:00pm
01/14/2013 3:00 PM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Peconic Bay Winery will now do all its non-member tastings at Empire State Cellars at the Tanger Outlet Center.

Peconic Bay Winery will be closing its Cutchogue tasting room to the general public, but the location will continue to be the site of special events and where the company’s wine will be fermented, bottled and stored, according to general manager Jim Silver.

Mr. Silver said Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead — where the company currently sells almost 800 New York wines and some liquor — will soon feature an exclusive space for Peconic Bay Winery products and will also serve as the winery’s retail and tasting room headquarters. Peconic Bay Winery owns the outlet, which it opened about a year ago.

The Cutchogue property will still serve as the location for the Peconic Bay Winery wine club and other private events, as well as food and music festivals.

“A lot of people don’t know what to make of this and some think we are closing,” Mr. Silver said. “We are absolutely not closing our tasting room. We are just changing it and re-purposing the [Cutchogue] property. The biggest crowds came out for the special events and we’re going to keep doing them.”

In a press release, Mr. Silver said the Riverhead tasting room “can accommodate dozens of interested wine tasters each day and the hours of operation are much longer than they are at the winery. We’ll reach a lot more people this way.”

He said though the company laments no longer offering open mic and other frequent events for local musicians, the sound of music will not be leaving the property for good.

Two festivals are already planned with event production company Starfish Junction which puts on such events as the North Fork Craft Beer, BBQ & Wine Festival at Martha Clara Vineyards and the Pour the Core hard cider festival held at Peconic Bay Winery in October.

“We’re planning another cider festival for Oct. 5 and I have a meeting in two weeks for a wine-related festival,” Mr. Silver said, adding that the Cutchogue Lions car show will also soon be held at the Cutchogue location.

Mr. Silver said he is currently talking with limo and other private driving companies to make Tanger a stop on the North Fork wine trail.

“On the way out after a day of touring the area, who wouldn’t feel like a little shopping,” Mr. Silver said. “Guys can come have a beer at the bar and girls can check out some of the shops. It’s going to be a fun place.”

Mr. Silver said the North Fork region accommodates about two million people annually, a number he said is growing all the time.

“Our piece of that is 40 to 50,000 and that’s a lot. I think with this move, there will be more traffic to go around to the other local vineyards and will bring loyal Peconic Bay wine drinkers to Tanger,” he said.  “It’s going to be a bit more quiet around here in Cutchogue, but we’re going to keep ourselves just as busy and I don’t think it will end up having too much of an impact.”

Mr. Silver said North Forkers who truly love the Cutchogue location should join the wine club.

“Wine club members come in all the time to pick up their shipments and hundreds of them will show up,” he said. “We’re going to have eight wine club weekends in Cutchogue, so wine club members can have the place all to themselves.”

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11/22/12 5:00pm
11/22/2012 5:00 PM
Long Island Wine Country, North Fork, Hard Cider

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bob Gammon in the Woodside Orchard barn’s hard cider tasting room in Aquebogue.

First came locally produced wine.

Then came vodka, beer and whisky. And given the number of East End fruit farms it seems only natural that list of alcoholic beverages bottled, brewed or distilled here would grow to include hard cider.

In October, Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue was the site of the area’s first “Pour the Core” hard cider festival, attended by an estimated 800 people.

Since the winery began making the area’s first hard ciders two and a half years ago, said owner Jim Silver, “hard cider has blown up across North America, including Canada.”

Others following this trend include Shinn Estate Vineyards and local winemaker Anthony Nappa.

Most recently, Aquebogue-based Woodside Orchard began its own foray into the world of hard ciders, currently offering two varieties of the sweet and tart autumn-through-winter beverage. Both are 6 percent alcohol, according to Bob Gammon Jr., one of the owners.

Woodside is a family business that’s had the Jamesport orchard since the mid-1980s, and the Gammons began selling hard cider at the Aquebogue location almost a month ago. First, though, came two years of wading through paperwork to get their farm winery license.

“One cider is a little drier because we used different yeasts with the same juice and one left more residual sugar than the other,” said Mr. Gammon.

The two varieties, he said, are made from a blend of eight different kinds of apples.

“We have a third variety we’ll release in another week and a half, just before Thanksgiving, that has cinnamon and other spices,” he said, adding that will also have 6 percent alcohol.

On Saturday, Peconic Bay Winery also released 600 bottles of a Thanksgiving-themed cider, called “Turkey Tom.” It is available for purchase at the winery and Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

Mr. Gammon estimated that Woodside Orchard should have enough hard cider to keep the Aquebogue location open until Christmas, and will reopen in May.

He added that the family is considering showcasing their ciders during a spring “apple blossom festival.”

Woodside Orchard currently grow 27 varieties of apples on 4,000 trees and offers pick-your-own apples in addition to prepacked bags of roughly 11 pounds and baked goods like pies and apple breads.

With hard cider now added to the list they are also in the process of developing another product — apple wine — and are currently waiting for label approval of their Woodside Orchard Apple Wine.

Mr. Gammon said that aromatically, the wine’s nose is reflective of the fruit it’s made from, though it is similar in taste to other white wine. “It fits in with other wines quite nicely,” he said. “It doesn’t stand out one way or another.”

The decision to make apple-holic beverages began with a suggestion by a local winemaker Mr. Gammon said wishes to remain unnamed, who has been a key consultant and a tremendous help in the operation.

“The process of making hard cider is not really that difficult, just time-consuming,” he said. “We press the juice at our Jamesport farm and then we bring it to Aquebogue to ferment in our tanks. It’s about a six-week process from start to finish.”

Mr. Gammon estimates that his business has already produced about 1,000 gallons of hard cider. Once another 250-gallon tank arrives in Aquebogue, the orchard will be able to ferment 1,500 gallons of the stuff at a time.

Hard cider is already for sale at Woodside Orchard’s Main Road location in Aquebogue.

In addition to tastings, $15 glass growlers can be purchased there and returned for refills.

“We’re hoping this could help bring our family business to the next level,” Mr. Gammon said. “It’s being received very well so far. Hard cider has its own niche following and we’re already getting return customers.”

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10/14/12 6:25pm
10/14/2012 6:25 PM

Corky Laing and the Memory Thieves joined fellow local musicians Memphis Crawl to play a NOFO Rock and Folk Fest show at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue Sunday afternoon.

The Memory Thieves feature Corky Laing, a Greenport resident and drummer for the classic rock band Mountain. The band also features singer Josh Horton, the former Southold Town Supervisor.

08/19/12 10:00am
08/19/2012 10:00 AM

Local music lovers will gather at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue between 2 and 7 p.m. today to kick-off the 2012 NOFO Rock & Folk Fest concert series and pay tribute to Levon Helm, a musician whose influence has left an indelible fingerprint in the fabric of American music as the voice of The Band.

The Dirt Farmer band, comprised of core members of the Levon Helm Band, will headline the music festival, which will also include performances by Long Island band Miles to Dayton and the North Fork folk duo The Second Hands.

“Levon, for all of us, stood for good music made for all the right reasons,” musician Larry Campbell said of his former bandmate. “I think there’s so much going on in music now that has the wrong motivation; that’s just out there for riches and for fame and the music is secondary. For Levon, and for all of us involved in this thing, those rewards are secondary because the music is the reward. Money and fame goes away but the joy of making great music never does. That’s success right there.”

Mr. Helm’s daughter, Amy, also played and sang with the Levon Helm Band before her father’s death in April and performs with The Dirt Farmer Band this afternoon in order to “keep it going” in his memory.

“We’re certainly paying tribute to him and carrying on what we were all about as a unit with his influence,” Mr. Campbell said. “That’s what we want to keep going, because it’s been a profound one for all of us, including him. He told me more than once that this was the best band he’d ever played with.”

Mr. Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s, resulting in damaged vocal cords that initially left one of American music’s most distinctive voices speechless. He would slowly reinvent himself as a vocalist, singing more and more at the musical gatherings he often held at his Woodstock home.

“The first time I heard Levon sing again was at B.B. King’s in New York and it was like finding out the Beatles had gotten back together,” Mr. Campbell said of Mr. Helm’s vocal comeback.

Tickets to today’s event are $25 for anyone 17 and over and is free for all those under 16. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the continuation of the iconic musical gatherings Mr. Helms founded, The Midnight Rambles.

For more of our interview with Larry Campbell, pick up this week’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

07/27/12 11:00am
07/27/2012 11:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO |  The NOFO Rock & Folk Fest at Peconic Bay Winery was one attempt to bring live music to the North Fork.

At the risk of stirring up some of those old “Troy has South Fork envy” complaints that arose many years ago when I compared downtown Greenport unfavorably to downtown Sag Harbor, this week I wish to discuss the distinct differences between Long Island’s two forks when it comes to presenting live music.

At its most elemental level, it comes down to this: How come the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is so vital but Riverhead’s Suffolk Theatre remains stuck in neutral several decades after it was first proposed as a performing arts center?

Or why does East Hampton’s Stephen Talkhouse nightclub consistently attract nationally acclaimed performers while North Fork venues present mostly local talent.

Call me negative, but when I think of live music here I think mostly of what might have been. Like the several hundred hearty souls who attended the East End Arts Council’s Delbert McClinton concert at the Talmage farm on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

Or the disappointing turnouts (to me, at least) at the first two NOFO Music Festivals at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue — although festival organizer Josh Horton has a more upbeat interpretation of that experience, as expressed in his comments below. Or the suspension for one year of the Riverhead Blues Festival, followed by a 2012 resumption that left the sponsor, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, thousands of dollars in the red.

There have been some limited successes, of course. Like the short-lived rock and roll shows promoter Preston Powell once brought to the movie theater in Greenport. Or the generally low-key musical performances that have become standard at North Fork vineyards. (Said one wag I surveyed on this question: “It’s just that those bands all work for less than $200.”)

Or the live music offerings of The Arts in Southold Town — although even that volunteer-based organization was forced to disband in part because of the rigors of presenting.

Also on the plus side of the ledger, says East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder, is “the success of Winterfest Jazz on the Vine, which drew an estimated 7,500 people to the North Fork in the dead of winter. Even though vineyards were not built for performance,” she continues, “we make the best of it (along with a really good glass of wine) and enjoy world-class music. Last winter we had at least six Grammy-winning or -nominated musicians. The audience came from well beyond the Suffolk County borders. I believe it’s a matter of knowing who we are as an area and leveraging those qualities.”

What it comes down to — most of the people I’ve spoken to seem to agree — is geography and demographics.

Geographically speaking, Westhampton is much more accessible to the hundreds of thousands of potential customers who live in Brookhaven and Southampton towns. What’s more, as another friend points out, somewhat defensively, “While North Forkers will readily go to the South Side for stuff, those people often feel like they’re taking their lives in their own hands to come north.”

Demographically speaking, there’s significantly more wealth and a younger audience on the South Fork. The kind of wealth, in the form of corporate sponsorships and individual donations, that can help underwrite operating losses at the performing arts center in Westhampton.

And the kind of audience that most likely will sell out upcoming shows for such big name acts as Rufus Wainwright, Joe Walsh, Pat Metheny and k.d. lang. And with ticket prices ranging from just under $100 to just under $150!

Price resistance is definitely a factor here on the North Fork. One-day passes to the NOFO Fest approached $50, and even at that comparatively low level there appeared to be resistance. That’s one of the reasons why NOFO will be reconstituted this summer as a concert series instead of a multiple-day festival.

Still, organizer Josh Horton chooses to place a more upbeat spin on the change of plans, saying it’s “not grounded in the difficulty of producing live music initiatives.” Nor was he discouraged by the response to the first two festivals.

Instead, he says, “There’s a tremendous opportunity and demand for quality live music. That’s what we experienced with the first two NOFO festivals in 2010 and ’11. But this year, we’re taking a slightly different approach. Instead of being all things to all people over the course of two days,” he said, NOFO will become a concert series that presents national acts in a “more intimate setting.” And at a significantly reduced price.

Case in point: the just-announced tribute to Levon Helm, the recently departed founding member of The Band, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, on the main lawn at Peconic Bay Winery. It will feature Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm, and the Dirt Farmer Band, which backed up Levon Helm on two award-winning albums. And tickets will be priced at just $20 in advance, $25 at the gate.

So instead of needing to sell 1,000 tickets, as they did with the larger festival, Josh said, they’ll need to sell 200 to 300.

“We want to make sure the focus is on the music,” he said, noting how the “time and focus spent on vendors and additional activities became a large part of the festival and diminished the focus on the music.”

So, North Fork music fans, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Let’s start small, with the purchase of a ticket or two for the Levon Helm show. And if that works out, we can start to think bigger, say the purchase and remodeling of the old Greenport Auditorium into a live contemporary music venue that makes the ghost of Stephen Talkhouse wish his Native American tribe had relocated to the North Fork.

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