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Announcing my new book: The Wines of Long Island, 3rd edition

I’ve been working on my book, The Wines of Long Island, for over four years now. I submitted it to two different New York academic publishers, but they looked at it and decided that it was too expensive to produce to make a profit. Well, it’s too expensive for me to produce, but I’m going ahead anyway, self-publishing under the imprint Rivers Run By Press. I now have a design for the book cover. The book layout is now being worked on and I intend to have the book printed and for sale this coming summer, perhaps as early as June.

The Wines of Long Island was originally published in 1987 and a second, revised edition was issued in 2000.  19 years later, it remains the best and most complete single volume on the history, geography, viniculture, winemaking, and the wineries of Long Island.  It was carefully researched and quite well written by Ed Beltrami and Phil Palmedo. Ed is a professor of applied mathematics at Stony Brook, and Phil is a physicist and art historian.  Their love of wine and the growth of the industry in the East End led them to write their book. Alas, today it is also seriously out of date.  In the 19 intervening years a very great deal of change has taken place in the wine industry of the region.

In 2000 there were 25 wineries and vineyards, about half of which are no longer in business; in 2018 there are about 70, including several wine brands that have no winery or vineyard as such.  A handful of the wineries are not even in the East End, but are elsewhere in Suffolk County and two are in Brooklyn.

Back then there was no facility for producers that had no winery facilities; today there is a custom crush facility, Premium Wine Group, which makes wine for about 20 clients that provide fruit to be made into wine.

In 2000 the issue of sustainability was scarcely on the radar; today, sustainable winegrowing is a major issue worldwide, and a new entity, the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers association, is providing independent certification for members. The first wine made from organically-certified grapes was produced last year.

Long Island wine country has become a major tourist destination, counting about 1.3 million visitors a year, and most wineries provide not only wine-tasting facilities, but also weekend entertainment during the high season.  Many of them also host events, dinners, and weddings.

The next edition of The Wines of Long Island needs to provide all this new information as well as updates to the history of the region in a new edition.  This extensively revised and updated edition would become the principal reference and guide for the wines of Long Island.  It could be sold in local Long Island bookstores, wine retailers, tasting rooms, hotels, inns, and B&Bs, and at the wineries themselves, not to speak of availability on Amazon.com and the Barnes & Noble’s Website.

The 2nd edition ran to 133 pages, many of them with black-and-white illustrations, plus 16 pages of full-color images.  It included a Preface, 4 Chapters, Bibliography, Index, and Map.  The book that I propose would run about 240 pages, with, generally, the same organization as the 2nd edition except for the addition of a separate Introduction, a foreword by Louisa Hargrave, and an expanded section on terroir.  Most of the 127 illustrations will be in color.

At present, only a handful of books are currently available on Amazon that focus on the Long Island wine world:

  • This book’s 2nd edition is still available occasionally, used, in print format on Amazon.com.
  • Louisa Thomas Hargrave, The Vineyard: The Pleasures and Perils of Creating an American Family Winery, Viking, 2003.
  • John Ross, The Story of North Fork Wine: Historic Profiles and Wine Country Recipes, Maple Hill Press, 2009
  • Jane Taylor Starwood, Long Island Wine Country: Award-Winning Vineyards of The North Fork And The Hamptons, Globe Pequot Press, 2009.
  • Eileen Duffy, ed., Time to Toast: Wines that capture 40 years of Long Island Wine Country, Kindle edition only, Jan. 2014.
  • Eileen Duffy, Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island, Cider Mill Press, April 2015.

None of the books listed above attempts to cover the wine world of Long Island as comprehensively as does the new, revised edition, particularly given its thorough coverage of the history, geography, viniculture and sustainability, the last of which is a matter of major importance in LI, as it has a single-source aquifer.  Sustainability is also of major interest to wine drinkers around the world, as people now look for wines that are certified as produced from sustainable, organic, or even biodynamically-grown grapes.

Guide books to Long Island that mention wineries as part of an itinerary:

  • Jason Rich, Insider’s Guide to Long Island, 2010, with 12 pages devoted to the wineries and tasting rooms of LI.
  • Steven Howell, Great Escapes: Long Island, 2010, with 8 pages on LI wine.
  • Silvia Lehrer, Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End, 2011, includes brief pieces on 12 selected wineries and their wines.

Other books that cover wineries on the East Coast, but where LI is not the sole focus:

  • Carlo de Vito, East Coast Wines: A Complete Guide from Maine to Virginia, Rutgers University Press, 2004
  • Marguerite Thomas, Touring East Coast Wine Country: A Guide to the Finest Wineries, Berkshire House Publishers, 1996 (last printed in 2002)
  • Richard Figiel, Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wines, Excelsior Editions, 2014
  • Food & Wine’s Wine Guide: America’s 500 Best Wine Producers, 2015 cites ten LI wineries.

And there you have the back story.

Long Island Wines Score Serious Attention

Anyone who has been enjoying wines from Long Island over the years knows that the quality of the wine has been improving to the point that most of the last several vintages have resulted in many superb wines. Occasionally a few wines here and there have received excellent review and high scores, such as from Wine Enthusiast, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator.  Oz Clarke has long been a fan. Still, the mainstream press has largely ignored the breadth of the achievement.

Finally, there is a level of recognition of the quality of Long Island wine that should leave no one in doubt, given two sets of tasting notes published this past June and October.   In the June 30, 2015 issue of the Wine Advocate eMag, Mark Squires has rated the wines of 26 producers and given scores of 90 to 94 points to 78 of nearly 200 that were tasted, along with some detailed tasting notes. In the October 30 issue, he reviewed some 2013 new releases that weren’t available at the time of his prior review, and six producers not included earlier:   Brooklyn Oenology, Suhru, Mattebella, Pindar, Duck Walk, and Diliberto.  In all, 26 wines out of 78 scored 90 to 93 points,  while Paumanok had the best results with 10 of its 12 wines scoring over 90.  What this means that of nearly 280 wines that have been tasted for the two reviews, over 100 had high scores, but as usual, read the tasting notes to understand the scores.

90-plus scores are what catch the attention of readers, but the details are in the notes, which should be read carefully to better understand the reason for the points that have been awarded. These reviews are the opinion of one man, but he is a seasoned wine professional and really knows his stuff. His essay about the Long Island wine industry is well worth reading, but one needs a subscription to the Wine Advocate in order to do so. (I obtained the article by subscribing for a month–$20).

Some salient points made by him:

  • “There is plenty of evidence that the region has arrived and is on the cusp of maturity, no longer an outlier, but increasingly reliable in good vintage years. More improvements are likely, to be sure, but overall there is a lot to admire.”
  • “They also care about making wines to age. The top wines here typically demand cellaring and reward it.”
  • “The array of sauvignon blancs that I saw fit in well here and they were extremely successful. This region may be underrated for its sauvignons right now.”

What is particularly notable about Squires’ reviews is that none of the wines scored less than 82 points and that so many (nearly 36%) scored 90 points or higher. Until now, no wines from the region had ever received more than 92 points, but this time 24 wines had that score or more. But again, it must be emphasized that the tasting notes are the thing to read. The scores should be used as pointers.

32 producers reviewed out of 53 that make commercial wines is just two-thirds of the total in Long Island (including two in Brooklyn). Squires points out that he will be returning to the region from time to time so it is to be hoped that he’ll get around to reviewing the rest, for there are some significant brands that have been left out of the first two sets of reviews, such as Castello di Borghese, Laurel Lake, Palmer, and T’Jara.

Squires’ article has also been thoughtfully commented on by Eileen Duffy in her byline on Edible East End.  Notably, she has also provided links to the tasting notes for each winery.  Furthermore, for those who do not subscribe to Wine Advocate, she’s done a great service by making these notes available to all.