Tag Archives: Channing Daughters Winery

Viniculture in LI, Part III: Corwith Vineyards

Interviews with David Corwith

Corwith VineyardCorwith Vineyards, in Watermill on the South Fork of Long Island, is a very new wine operation that was started with idea that it would be run as a sustainable operation from the beginning, and it became the first vineyard to begin operation as an already-certified member of the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing organization.

Dave Corwith, its owner and vineyard manager, has proven to be an iconoclast in his field from the outset, beginning with his choices of wine grape varieties to plant. He’d been a farmer for years, so I asked him, “Well, what motivated you to start a vineyard?”

He replied, “I’d done some nursery stock. I just didn’t have the interest in it. My heart wasn’t in it, and I started looking. . . . I’ve always wanted to do grapes. I wanted to do them with my brother twenty years ago and he said, ‘No. You can’t do it, Dave. Our season’s two weeks shorter than the season on the North Shore. It won’t work,’ and I sort of took his word for it [then], but I’ve always had it in the back of my mind and I said, ‘I’m going to give it a go.’ We went to Channing Daughters and Wölffer [Estate], [and if they] can do it, why can’t I?”

Dave started with a first planting of 300 vines on about half an acre three years ago. So far, he says, they’re doing well, promising to provide a small yield at this point. He deliberately began with varieties that are a bit easier to grow and have earlier seasons: Austrian varieties such as Lemberger, Blaufränkisch, and 100 vines of Dornfelder, a pretty popular red variety: it produces a light red wine, and the vine is very vigorous. Dornfelder was planted at Channing Daughters, where it does very well, and Dave says there’s also some on the North Fork, and that they’re pleased with it there too.

Though these are hardly run-of-the-mill varieties, so far only Channing Daughters has planted them in Long Island, along with a number of other German and Italian vines rarely seen in other vineyards in New York. However, over the years the viability of these varieties has been proven by Channing, and the popularity of the varietals made from them is proof enough.

Dave went on to explain, “I’m starting out. I was advised, and this is what I want to do, I want to start small . . . . Then again, there’s a learning curve, José. So I’ve got to learn how everything works. I’m not new to farming because I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. I’m new to grapes and all the idiosyncrasies that come along with it.”

“I’m about, I don’t know, three or four miles [west] from Channing Daughters. Channing Daughters probably [has] about the closest profile to what mine is as far as weather conditions, microclimates, etcetera. They’ve got thirty acres of good grapes over there and they really do the later varieties I was advised to stay away from, such as Cab Sauvignon and the fluffy Pinot Noir. So I’m not taking those on. You can grow Cab Sauv on the South Shore, but it’s going to be a little bit on the green side when it comes up and it will make a rosé, but you’re not going to make a first quality Cab Sauv that you can put away for a while. You will one in ten seasons, okay? But those other nine seasons you’re going to be making rosé, which is okay . . . . I chose not to go after the later [ripening] varieties, at least not until I get to know everything.

“I have two acres [planted] now. Lemberger, Dornfelder, those are two reds.  Grüner Veltliner (‘green velvet’ in German). One Woman Vineyards has it on the North Shore. [Claudia Purita and her daughter] Gabrielle are the only ones I know of that have it. I was just over there last weekend and we got a couple of bottles. So I put in 300 plants of the variety . . . .

“Then last year, José, I was up at the Rochester Convention. Once every three years they do a viticulture convention in the Northeast, and they named two grapes that Cornell’s been working on for probably 15 years plus, called Arandell and Aromella. Arandell is the red variety, which is highly disease resistant and it makes a really good grape. It has a Pinot Noir parentage and a complex parentage with it, as well as the interbreeding there; they made it a disease-resistant variety that still makes a good fruit. So I was very pleased with what I saw and I ordered a couple hundred plants of Arandell. ([Arándano] means ‘blueberry’ in Spanish, and Ell is [for] Cornell.) They had a naming contest last year in Rochester, and that’s the name that won for this grape. It has a blueberry nose to it, apparently. They gave us some at the conference. It was pretty good, so I put in 200 plants of that last year, and I’m excited, really eager to see how that’s going to play out.”

There is more information about Arandell and Aromella in Cornell’s Issue 13, March 2013, of the Viticulture and Enology Newsletter. They’re referred to as the 55th and 56th grape varieties named by the Agriculture Experiments Station in Geneva run by Cornell.  Dave’s information was particularly interesting, even newsworthy, because hybrid varieties have barely made a dent in LI viniculture, except for at Pindar. This is probably the first time that a new hybrid, Arandell, has been introduced to the LI wine region in years. Furthermore, Dave is one of the early adopters of Arandell and unique in planting a hybrid variety in Long Island when hybrids have mostly been eschewed entirely by other growers.

Dave went on to say: “I have 300 plants [of Arandell] this year. I’m very pleased with the growth and the disease resistance. It’s noticeably better disease resistant, and I’m just an amateur at this, and I can tell. Huge difference. So from a sustainable standpoint, . . . I’m very much involved with Long Island Sustainable Wine Council. Everyone [else who joined was already] established. I’m . . . the first guy to kind of take the Long Island Sustainable program from scratch. So one of the things that we don’t really talk too much about because everybody’s got theirs planted already is new planting. A good approach is to put in a disease-resistant variety that still makes a good wine. Those are hard to come by. This is where I’m sort of hedging my bet a little bit with the Arandell.

“What I’m learning in my research is that when you go either upstate, mid-west, Minnesota, and you get into these slightly colder climates, they really look hard at the cold hardiness of a specific variety as one of their key things that they have to pay attention to. We are not so much that way. We don’t pull up our grapes here on Long Island. It’s mild enough … I don’t even really worry about that at all when I’m trying to decide on a variety. But they have to. Vinifera, the European grapes, don’t do so well with the colder climates.

I replied that while his remark about vinifera varieties is largely true, there is considerable success in the Finger Lakes with Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and, of course, Riesling, which is most definitely a cool-climate grape. To which Dave said: “Right. So they made it work. They figured out how to make it work up there and I applaud them for being able to do that. Down here, on Long Island, I’ve had people tell me, ‘You can pretty much grow any variety you want.’ I’m sort of taking that advice, but carefully.

I pointed out that it’s absolutely astonishing how many varieties there are growing on Long Island. In a database about Long Island vineyards that I maintain I have listed so far thirty-seven: twenty whites and seventeen reds; add Arandell into the mix and that would make it eighteen red varieties.

Dave then popped another German variety to me:   “Well, here’s another one for you that I’m working with too. You probably have this on your list: Zweigelt.”

I replied, “Well, I think Zweigelt is being grown at Channing Daughters right now.”

He remarked, “They may have some. I don’t know. I know that Research Station has a little bit. I got a couple hundred plants of Zweigelt too. They’re babies. Here’s a story for you. Zweigelt and Lemberger, Blaufränkisch, are cousins.    They have the same parentage. Zweigelt is just a little bit spicier and it’s a little bit earlier maturing variety than Lemberger. So that’s another reason why in my research in trying to find a variety of grapes, when I came across Zweigelt I jumped on that. I think that would be a really cool one to have out here.”

To which I said, “Well, it looks like you’re trying to make your mark with varieties that are not typically grown in Long Island other than somebody like Channing Daughters, which loves to experiment.”

Dave replied, “Right. Part of my approach was, there’s fifteen hundred acres of Merlot on the north shore. Why am I going to put in more Merlot and compete? It’s a little bit of a ‘I’m a new kid on the block approach.’  I’m sort of going after some of the varieties that are not as commonly grown. That’s the marketing technique, the approach that I’m using. Because . . . initially I won’t have the high volume.”

At this point I asked him if he was growing grapes with the intention of selling them to other producers or have them made for you by another winery or a crush facility like Premier Wine.

Corwith Vineyards, garageDave pointed out that “Actually, I’m a do-it-yourself. I’m making the wine myself right now. The last two years I got some fruit from the north shore, Merlot and some Chardonnay, and we made up a nice batch last year. We made a rose, an orange, a Chardonnay, and a Merlot. You learn exponentially when you get your hands dirty and get in there and do it. I’m working out a garage right now . . . and I’m making small batches, okay? I have 100 to 150 gallons of wine. That’s all I have. A couple [of] barrels.”

I told Dave that it struck me that he was another garagiste, like Le Pin, the great, small winery in Pomerol.  He must be farming other crops in the meantime to derive some cash flow.

He said, “Yes. I put in about an acre or so of vegetables right now. I just put my tomatoes in today, this morning. I’m doing that and I take the organic approach to the maximum extent that I can, within reason. Without the onerous oversight of the federal government, which is difficult to sustain.”

This led to a discussion of organic farming in Long Island. At this point I feel that quoting the interview verbatim is useful, as the exchange between us was especially interesting (I should, however, point out that I don’t exactly agree with Dave about some of his ideas about the genealogy of some grape varieties, but they’re interesting in their own right):

JM-L:   Well, you know, Rex Farr, of course.

DC:     I know Rex.  Yep.  He’s taking the organic approach. He’s the only game in town, I think, [though] Barbara [Shinn’s] pretty close.

JM-L:   Barbara’s close, but not quite there. Rex, of course, has been farming other crops organically for years. I think he only started growing grapes in 2005. The fruit is excellent from what I understand and this other startup in the North Fork, Southold Farm and Cellar, is buying its fruit from Rex Farr.

DC:     Where my farm is there’s a forty-acre parcel that I share. I can expand if necessary, and I have farmland on another piece that I can work with. That’s not as good for potatoes; it would be better for grapes. So I got to look at that, but it’s presenting some challenges when I split the operation a mile away and you’ve got to have the earth cracks, you’ve got to have water, and you have to be able to get over there. When I retire from my full-time job and this becomes my full-time job, down the road, I’ll put in five or ten acres over there of something else I really like.

JM-L:   Of course. So tell me something. To whom did you turn for advice on how to prepare your fields and plant your vines?

DC:     Okay. A couple of things. I started with learning extensively about organic farming in general via dynamic approach, as well as the Soil Foodweb approach, which is Dr. Elaine Ingham. Look her up or Google Soil Foodweb. She’s the mother of compost teas. So I’ve been working a lot with compost teas the last several years for all of my crops.

Not just the grapes. I’ve had good results with it, but it’s something I would really like to see more testing done with. Compost teas are really good … They’re, basically if you take compost and you mix it with water and you mix it all up and you bubble it or you fish bubble it for 24 hours, you can culture the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes. Then once you culture that and you grow those, remember from your science class bacteria splits every four hours, so same thing. If you can grow the fungi and the bacteria, that’s really what we’re after. Then you spray that on the plants as a foliar spray. The theory is you will push out [the good] from the bad guys. If you cover the leaf with beneficial bacteria and fungi, when the bad guys try to show up to eat the leaf, they get kicked out.

JM-L:   So this is Biodynamics?

DC:     Well, it’s a cousin to Biodynamics, [which] is taking compost, particularly what they call barrel compost, that’s been buried in the ground over the winter, put it in cow horns and it’s a dairy-based, or cow-based, manure compost, which is excellent. Then they spray that on. With compost tea, you take, particularly, a fungal dominated compost that you have made from a real thick compost pile. So you have to make compost correctly. You can’t just make dirt. You get a good quality compost, particularly one that has worm cavities in it, which is about as good as it gets, and then you put that in a teabag and you boil it … Well, you don’t boil it. You just bubble it in a barrel of water for 24 hours and you can take that and spray it out around your plants as a foliar nutrient spray, if you will. So I’ve been working with that, and that’s very, very similar to what the Biodynamics people are doing. Biodynamics takes it to the next level and they add a celestial component to it. What’s the phase of the moon when we’re doing all this?

JM-L:   Well, this, of course, is where Biodynamics becomes controversial.

DC:     I guess when people are . . . . When I try to explain Biodynamics to people, the simplest way, as I said, ‘Well, does the full moon change the tides on the Earth,’ and most of us know the answer is yes. Sure. It changes the high tide, low tide effect. So if the moon can change the high and low tides, why can’t the moon change the effect of way the plant is growing on a full or new moon. Then add that in and now Biodynamics goes five levels more than that, you know? Get in all the planets as well. That’s where it gets, like you said, controversial.

So I started with biodynamic and compost teas, learning how to work with those . . . . when it came time to look at grapes, I went over to talk to Alice Wise, kind of got to feel her out, and I went over and talked to Steve Mudd who’s put in probably half the grapes on the north shore. Talked to Steve about things and he was very helpful. Then I sort of got involved with the Long Island Sustainable program last year, and that’s been a tremendous benefit for me, a new guy learning how all this stuff works because they’re really promoting the educational side. Some of the speakers they brought [in] are really, really good.

The workbook that we use is excellent. It’s based on the Vine Balance Workbook, which is excellent with regard to how we’re farming it and … It looks at the big picture, which is good.

JM-L:   Actually, what’s interesting is that when the Vine Balance program was first developed by Cornell up in Geneva. They developed it for use statewide but they never took into consideration the proliferation of Vinifera grapes and, of course, at the time that they first came out with Vine Balance, there were no grapes being grown on Long Island. They had to modify it for the Long Island growers.

DC:     Okay. Well, then that sort of became the Long Island Sustainable [program], which they just started and that’s done very, very well. So that’s sort of how I got into it, and I very carefully researched for a couple of years different varieties and decided to go with earlier[-ripening] varieties. I ran them by some of the vineyard managers and they said, ‘Yeah. Those will all work for you.’

JM-L:   That’s fabulous. Now what, by the way, is your vine spacing?

DC:     I’m using nine by four and a half to five; nine feet on the rows and then five on the plants, four and a half to five. The first group I put in, I actually put them in about eight by three but that was too tight. It was too close.

JM-L:   Okay. Are you using machinery in the rows?

DC:     I use a mechanical weeder. I don’t use any herbicides. José, one of the things that came about with the Soil Foodweb model … I’m going to back up just a little bit here. The Soil Foodweb model talks about the fungi in the soil. It’s really … Dr. Ingham, for 30 years, she studied, “Well, what does the plant look like underground? What’s going on in the root system of the plant?” That’s what she studied. Okay? One of the things that she talks a lot about is what’s called mycorrhizal fungi. It’s a type of fungi that … I don’t know if you’re familiar or not, but I’ll give it to you. It’s root extensions. If you add extensions on the spiderweb of fungi that go out and get the nutrients for the plant. Dr. Ingham talks about this fungi going down, not feet, but higher than feet, they can connect. You can have fungi in the soil that can connect for even up to miles, distances. So it’s this fascinating web of fungi underground. With herbicides we kill the mycorrhizal fungi, so when I put my plants in, I gave them a shot of mycorrhizal fungi in with the soil mantis that I was using with the roots. I gave them a shot of that. Now they say you get another 20/25 percent growth if you put in mycorrhizal fungi.  I talked to Larry [Perrine of Channing Daughters] a little bit about it. Richie Pisacano over at Wölffer’s has been very helpful too.

JM-L:   Rich is fabulous. Rich is called the Grape Whisperer, you know?

DC:     I talked to him about Pinot Noir the other day. I said, “Richie, can I grow Pinot Noir here?” and he goes, “It’s a tough grape to grow.” It’s really tough. Although I talked to a guy that I order my grapes from upstate, and he has a clone that he said would work for me, what I’m trying to do. Pinot Noir 19, I think it is. That’s not what Ritchie’s got over at Wölffer. They put in Pinot 20 years ago and they make a rosé out of it, or they make a champagne out of it. They don’t make a [red wine].

Again, Dave began talking about other alternative wine-grape varieties, some of which have not been seen in Long Island before this:

I got a couple of out-of-the-box ideas for you for varieties that I’m sort of researching. I’ve got mixed emotions about all of them. Cabernet Sauvignon can’t do it. What about its sister grape? There’s Cabernet Dorsa, which is a cross of Cab Sauvignon and Dornfelder, earlier, that you can’t plant. You’ve got Franc, which is its own variety. Then there’s another one, Cabernet Mitos, which is a cross of Cab Sauvignon and Lemberger. These are varieties that I’m growing now, so I thought, ‘Well, okay. Maybe that’s how I can bring a Cabernet into the picture.’ Cabernet Mitos, I wasn’t able to find it . . . . I haven’t even tried it yet. There’s only 750 hectares worldwide, and it’s all in Germany. It’s a German-developed variety, so I’ve got to see what it can do. I’m looking at those and then the other ones that I think Chris and Larry are doing is Tempranillo, [which] is a sister to Grenache. Yes, and Grenache, they think, was originated in Sardinia and they called it Cannonau. At least that’s what they say, but it’s only grown in Sardinia.   And a sister to that is Tempranillo. I think Tempranillo would be a cool grape to try to grow around here. A good blender, you know what I mean? Also, Albariño.

JM-L:   Albariño! Well, you know, there are two people who are growing Albariño now. One is Miguel Martin at Palmer and Rich Olsen-Harbich has planted some at Bedell.

DC:     I put in 200 plants; that’s an experiment too. I got mine from upstate, The Grapevine, which is up by Geneva. They, I’m almost sure, grafted it for me. They put it on 3309 and Sl4 [rootstocks].

JM-L:   Miguel has been making a splendid Albariño himself. You should try it if you haven’t.

DC:     Yeah. I have. I’ve been over there. Miguel helped us make our Chardonnay this year. He is . . . terrific. Good people. You know, I want to say something, José. I kind of got into the grape thing, predominant over on the North Shore, but as I get to know people over these last three or four years, what I’ve discovered is it’s a small fraternity of wonderful people that all want to help each other out, and a rising tide lifts all boats. So I haven’t found anyone who has not been willing to help as I, have gone along the way. They’ve been very, very nice.

Corwith Vineyards, sign

JM-L:  Well, Dave, thank you very much. I think we’ve had a very interesting and instructive interview.  What you’re doing is exciting, and I want to continue to follow your progress.

This interview took place on May 20, 2014; a visit followed on November 17, 2015.

A trip to the Hamptons to visit my daughter was an opportune time to also see Dave at his farm.  The result was a delightful time in his garage winery and seeing the handmade and used equipment that he was using for his winemaking.  It’s pretty basic, and some would be familiar to any home winemaker.  Here are some pictures of the equipment, rudimentary and inventively-designed as it is:

Corwith Vineyards, pressThe basket wine press was purchased used and needed extensive repairs, which were done by Dave’s father.  It is very small–it has barely 50 gallons capacity–and not at all efficient, but it adequate for the small batches of wine that he’s currently producing.  This is a far cry from the much more advanced pneumatic presses that are used in most of the LI wineries, which have much larger capacity and press fruit with greater precision and control.

 

 

Corwith Vineyards, 1This is a handmade crusher-destemmer, again of very small capacity, so it requires considerable patience to work with it, but it works just as well as the much larger industrial versions and, after all, it is only being used for very small batches of fruit.  The crusher is at the upper left, and the fruit then drops into the perforated basket below, where the rotating wooden destemmer (with plastic tips removed from the posts) separates the stems, which are pushed out of the basket and fall on the ground while the crushed grapes pour through the perforations into a trough that flows the juice into a bin.

Corwith Vineyards, 6The must to be fermented is then placed in a metal or oak barrel, which in Corwith’s case are small and few in number.  Dave buys his oak barrels from a cooperage, East Coast Wine Barrels in Medford, a Long Island town.Their barrels are meticulously made from Romanian oak.  Dave has them medium-toasted to somewhat abate the oakiness that could be imparted to the wine.

Corwith Vineyards, 4When the wine is ready to be bottled, the bottles themselves first need to be properly sterilized by a dose of sulfur gas followed by a whiff of nitrogen to expel the sulfur so that it will not add flavor to the wine.  This is an entirely handmade device which has perforated wood bars allowing up to 12 bottles at a time to be treated.  Beneath the inverted bottle necks are nozzles that inject the gases into the bottles.  Rough-hewn as it is, it works perfectly well, even if it’s no match for industrial sterilizers that can handle far more bottles at a time with much less manual labor per bottle.

 

 

Corwith Vineyards, 5The final stage, of course, is filling the bottles with wine.  Yet another hand-crafted gizmo is brought to bear on this all-important function.  In this case only four bottles at a time can be filled, but it goes fairly quickly, especially if there are only small batches of wine.  However, each label has to be affixed to each bottle by hand and for now the contents are written by hand as well.  A completely automated device to do everything from filling the bottles to inserting the corks and adding the neck capsule, and finally applying the pre-printed labels costs many thousands of dollars and Corwith may never be able to afford one, but a larger rig like the one in the picture would certainly be called for once Corwith goes into commercial production.

Corwith Vineyards, DaveOf course a barrel-tasting was in order, and Dave very happily obliged.

The first wine was a “poor man’s” Bordeaux-style blend made of equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cab Sauvignon 2014 from North Fork vineyards, aged in Romanian oak.  It will continue aging in barrel for some more months, but it already is showing promise, with good fruit, lively acidity, and form tannins.

A Chardonnay from Lenz Vineyards fruit of 2015 is just weeks in stainless steel but the wine is from good, clean fruit and also shows good promise.

Also in steel is  a Grüner Veltliner from 2015 grapes of Corwith’s own vineyards.  Promising as well, but still too young to say much more.

An Arandell wine comes across as a tad foxy, but then it is a Cornell hybrid.  Dave plans to treat it like a Syrah or Petit Verdot but it will certainly have to be blended with a red vinifera to bring the foxiness under control.

All of this is the achievement of a “newbie garagiste.”  Not bad, not at all bad.

Corwith Vineyards LogoMailing Address:

Corwith Vineyards LLC
851 Head of Pond Rd
Water Mill, NY 11976

Email:

info@CorwithVineyards.com

Please note that at this time Corwith Vineyards is not open to visitors and its website is new and under development.

 

 

 

Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing: The Road to Certification

The Challenge to be Sustainable

LISW logo“Green”  is a global movement to promote sustainable practices in all walks of life, from recycling waste to reducing one’s dependence on materials that cannot be reused, as well as improving automobile fuel economy, minimizing energy consumption (reducing one’s ‘carbon footprint’), and promoting safer, cleaner means of producing energy, primarily by the use of renewable sources such as wind and solar power.  It also means promoting and using sustainable practices in agriculture, whether in the raising of farm animals and produce, or in viticulture (the growing of table and wine grapes)—itself a type of agriculture.  Green—a synonym for “sustainable”—is now a mantra for the ecologically-aware and sensitive consumer and it demands to be taken seriously by those who produce food, wine, and care for the land on which it is raised.

A big push towards sustainable practices in viticulture in New York State recently has been made by Walmart, which joined the Sustainability Consortium in 2009, and wants to sell grape juice with an “ecolabel” displayed on the containers, showing that it has been sustainably produced. Given that Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, its demand has forced winegrowers throughout the state, whether producing juice grapes or wine grapes, to respond to it.  What follows is about the response to the challenge on the part of Long Island winegrowers.

In a presentation by Barbara Shinn, of Shinn Estate Vineyards, and Richard Olsen-Harbich, of Bedell Cellars, given at the 31st Annual Long Island Agricultural Forum, held on January 13, 2012, attended by most of the vineyard managers in the region—all were invited to attend—an outline of the process by which vineyards could become certified for practicing sustainable viticulture gave clear form to what is involved in achieving that goal, with the objective of minimizing environmental impact and as a means of responding to the needs of the community at large.

The VineBalance Program

What follows is a précis of the presentation along with relevant commentary by the participants who together form the Core Group in the certification project:  Barbara Shinn, Richard Olsen-Harbich (the presenters), Jim Thompson of Martha Clara Vineyards, and Larry Perrine of Channing Daughters.  In addition, Alice Wise, who is the Viticulturalist and Education Specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, at the Long Island Horticultural Research & Extension Center in Riverhead, provided some background for this article on the initial sustainable viticulture program for New York State, VineBalance:

“In 1992, I received a grant to create a Long Island sustainable viticulture program. Working with a group of growers, we created a set of vineyard management guidelines that emphasized good stewardship practices. Established programs such as Oregon LIVE, Lodi Rules, and AEM (Agricultural Environmental Management) were very helpful to us. A number of individuals associated with those programs provided guidance as well. Our efforts drew attention from both upstate wine growers and the upstate Concord industry. Starting in 2006, a group from Cornell and from the industry received a series of grants to create statewide guidelines, now called VineBalance.

“Growers participated in the process of creating the guidelines so additional review has not been necessary. That said, VineBalance was written to be inclusive of all grape industries in NY. There are certain things in it that do not apply to Long Island. Also, vineyard management is not a static thing, it evolves each season as we learn how to best manage our vineyards. Consequently, Long Island growers decided to further refine VineBalance to more closely reflect the current management of Long Island vineyards.

“VineBalance will continue to serve as the framework for any sustainable viticulture programs in NY. The creation of additional, region-specific guidelines is great, it shows that growers are analyzing their practices and are genuinely interested in the process. All regions should do this.”

Why Certification?

However, while VineBalance provides a pathway to self-certification, that does not carry the same weight as certification by a recognized third-party certification authority, and is therefore not really meaningful in the marketplace or wine industry.  Certification by an outside authority has many advantages, such as:

  • Validation of a claim of sustainable farming practices
  • Promotion of on-farm accountability
  • Provision of a pro-active response to local needs and concerns
  • Acting as another tool with which to respond to global competition
  • Improving the strength and viability of the Long Island wine brand

The concept of sustainability as laid out in virtually every certification program in the U.S. boils down to three concerns[1]:

  1. Environmental soundness
  2. Economic viability
  3. Worker & Community care

Certification Program Models

There are, already, a number of third-party certification authorities with national or global recognition, based on the strength of their guidelines and regulation, such as:

  • Certified California Sustainable Wine (CCSW)
  • Lodi Rules
  • Napa Green—Napa Valley Vineyards (NVV)
  • Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (OCSW)
  • Oregon LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology)
  • Sustainability in Practice (SIP)

Serra presentation to LI Winegrowers

Each of these, as well as the internationally-recognized authority, Sustainable Wine New Zealand (SWNZ), is directed at specific ecological systems, which is why Long Island needs its own authority, but these at least provide models for the project to be known as Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers (LISW).  In December of 2011, Chris Serra, of Oregon’s LIVE certification program, was invited to give a presentation to the East End vineyard managers.  The expenses for his trip were paid for by Martha Clara, Bedell, Shinn Estate, and Channing Daughters, the four vineyards whose managers form the Core Group.[2]

Whatever certification authority Long Island wine growers create must have credibility and address not only agricultural standards of sustainability but must also deal with ethical issues; for example, a certifier representative must not be involved with the vineyards being visited in the capacity of consultant or have any other ties to them.

How Certification Works

Certification is a seasonal program that would involve:

  • Use of the VineBalance Workbook (the full title is The New York Guide to Sustainable Viticulture Practices Grower Self-assessment Workbook)
  • Core Criteria based on the Workbook
  • Winegrower’s Pledge that is signed in the spring prior to the growing season.

One of the challenges regarding sustainability and certification is the issue of participation.  The larger the body of participants, the more viable and reputable the certifying authority will be.  Jim Thompson, a thoughtful Midwesterner with long experience in agriculture, says that “sustainability [in Long Island] is achievable.”  Furthermore, a Sustainable Certification will help the local industry survive by giving it stronger bona fides.  Thus, he believes that certification should be made accessible to all vineyard managers.  However, as Olsen-Harbich pointed out, “One of the issues that the certification project needs to address is that of offering ‘inclusivity’ versus ‘teeth.’  In other words, the lower the bar for certification, the more people will join, but once standards for certification have real ‘teeth’ and make real demands on those who want certification, the likelihood is that fewer will seek it.”[3]

Participation in a third-party certification program means that:

  • Members get a visit from a certifier representative in the first and second years of the track to certification and every third year thereafter.
  • A visit means a walk through the vineyard and a view of the records kept by the vineyard
  • A review of practices in the VineBalance Workbook
  • A review of vineyard inputs (i.e., chemicals used to control disease and fertilizers applied to the fields)
  • The report by the representative is then sent to the Core Group of the certification authority

For example, Shinn Estate is currently seeking to be certified by both Demeter (the Biodynamic® Certification body) as well as the National Organic Program (N.O.P.), each of which applies standards for general agriculture, but not specifically viticulture.  As is the case with all certification agencies, the record keeping is fully standardized though the standards are not particular to viticulture.  For Shinn, there is one visit per year every year, which comes at the end of the season, often right after harvest.  It involves a two-to-three hour visit consisting of a walk through the vineyard followed by a sit-down session in which the vineyard records are reviewed.  The advantage of a late-season visit is that it allows the certifier to see the condition of the vineyard after a full season’s farming, such as the ground cover, and allows for a full review of the entire season’s inputs.  For Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers, after the first two years, there is one visit every three years.  “It isn’t very demanding,” says Shinn, “provided you’ve kept good records.”

Scouting the Vineyard

Let us consider one aspect—a very important one—of a vineyard manager’s responsibilities, for it bears directly on the issue of sustainable practices.  It begins with the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  An authoritative viticultural specialist and qualified soil scientist, Larry Perrine explains:  “IPM originally and primarily has to do with the control of insects.  It requires knowledge of the life-cycle of each of the insect pests, thus to know when they are most vulnerable to pest-control applications.  Insect infestations don’t behave like fungal ones—fungal control requires foliar application before an infestation develops, whereas insect pests can be tolerated up to a certain level of insect damage.  Therefore, scouting in the vineyard is necessary to determine when or if the insects are reaching the point at which insecticide application is necessary.  Scouting means that the vineyard manager needs to check a block of vines and calculate the density of pests present on, say, 50 leaves.  For example, Grape Berry Moths overwinter in trees that may border a vineyard.  Vineyard rows bordering those trees are most vulnerable to GBM attack.  They can best be controlled by strategic use of insecticides, after scouting—for minimum environmental impact.  The use of pheromone lures on twist ties, which confuse the moths during their mating season, can be helpful.”

Shinn Estate, 08Barbara Shinn, who has long been deeply committed to certification, elaborates, “I might go out to a particular block of vines and check the vine leaves for the presence of mites.  If, say, I find that out of forty rows of vines, ten of the middle rows of vines have significant mite populations whereas the rest only had one or two mites, then I would have to consider applying the appropriate insecticide for the mites in the infected rows only—the more specific the target that the insecticide is designed for the better, as there is less collateral damage.  Of course, each grower has to set his or her own limits—there is no set number.  All growers have a list of acceptable inputs for sustainable, or organic, or Biodynamic practices.  One selects from the list starting with the inputs with the lowest impact to the environment to those with the highest.”

What Certification Means

There are real potential benefits that come with sustainability and certification, and Long Island’s third-party certification will be carefully watched by wineries elsewhere in the Eastern United States, including Virginia, South Carolina, and New Jersey.  What LISW does will certainly influence them in the development of certification authorities for their regions.

The Web site for LISW will include:

  • The VineBalance Workbook
  • Downloadable forms
  • Weather Data
  • A list of participants in the Certification Program

Olsen-Harbich, an articulate, acknowledged expert in both the vineyard and the winery, pointed out that, “Sustainability is a pathway which is ongoing and is not an ideology.  It must be, and is, based on peer-reviewed science.  It is the most viable form of safe agriculture.”  Nevertheless, vineyard managers and all other farmers, whether sustainably farming or not, often use three products that are not naturally-made:

  • Stylet oil, a highly-effective, biologically-degradable foliar input used to control fungal diseases such as Downy mildew, but which is itself a highly-refined petroleum product
  • Sulfur, while a natural element, is another highly-effective foliar input used to control diseases and is usually a by-product of petroleum refining
  • Copper sulfate is also a widely-used industrial product that is used in agriculture primarily as a fungicide.

In addition, he points out, “Chemical companies have their ears open to what is going on in agriculture, and as a major player in the production of agricultural inputs (herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, etc.), they are always ready to come up with new products.  These, in turn, often push the boundaries between natural/sustainable/synthetic inputs.  They need to be considered, but with great care, when addressing the issue of sustainability.”  Perrine cautions that, “There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ pesticide.  Both traditional materials such as copper or sulfur, as well as the most recently developed hydrocarbon-based pesticides need to be considered for environmental impact, therefore sustainability.”

Olsen-Harbich goes on to say, “There is also the matter of synthetic nitrogen vs. compost nitrogen—which is the preferred product to use in a sustainable program?  Fish products, which are natural, are often used in the form of compost and fertilization material, but the very practice of commercial fishing is itself not sustainable.”  To which Perrine adds, “Synthetic nitrogen accounts for more than 50% of the nitrogen used to grow plants around the world.  To maintain a food production to feed the world, requires more than the organic sources of nitrogen that are available.  The 100,000,000 tons of synthetic nitrogen produced around the world consumes only 1.5% of the world’s annual fossil fuel consumption.  Indeed fish fertilizer is not sustainable, while synthetic N is

Weighing in on the nitrogen issue, Barbara Shinn has this to say:

“Here is where even amongst a group of ecologically-based farmers opinion differs. I prefer to take a byproduct from the fishing industry and make it useful by regenerating my soil with it – along with seaweed, whey (from the cheese making industry) and compost (made on-farm with our winemaking musts, bedding from the local horse-boarding industry and wood chips from the local tree trimming industry). The reuse and recycling of materials helps close a cycle that otherwise could be viewed as unhealthy for our planet and does not originate from a fossil fuel. I prefer to use materials on my soil that are connected to an originally living material. This type of soil work has been proven in peer reviewed papers to produce more minerally complexed food, and of course wine is an agricultural product so wine is food. In my opinion synthetic nitrogen dumbs down the soil, skipping over the all-important step of feeding the microbial life and in essence ignoring the natural lifecycle of our soil. In this respect, synthetic nitrogen is not sustainable. This difference in opinion is what makes our LISW group dynamic and, in the end, a viable springboard for fascinating discussions.”

Furthermore, “As ecologically practicing farmers it is important to retain our brotherhood. Whether we practice Sustainable, Organic, Permaculturalist, Biodynamic, or any other restorative-based farming, our  root issues are the same. As a whole group banded together our concerns for the future of this planet have a huge voice, much louder than if we were separated by difference of opinions.”[4]

For the LISW, there are potential partnerships with environmental entities such as:

  • The CCE (Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment), which is committed to encouraging citizens’ involvement in promoting strong environmental policy at the state and local levels
  • Sustainable Long Island, which promotes community revitalization
  • Peconic Land Trust, “which is dedicated to conserving Long Island’s working farms and natural lands.”

According to the CCE, “Long Island has been designated as a sole-source aquifer region by the U.S. EPA. This means that 100% of our drinking water supply comes from underground. The almost 3 million residents on our island are completely dependent on groundwater as our fresh water supply. The Lloyd aquifer is the deepest and cleanest source of drinking water on Long Island.”  Larry Perrine says, quite bluntly, that with respect to agriculture, “there is, of course, the question of where the line gets drawn, especially with respect to a community’s sole-source water supply—as is the case in Long Island—the protection of which is of pre-eminent concern.”

Further to that, Perrine pointed out, “The Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing program will include on its Web site materials to help the public better understand what sustainable farming is and how it helps protect the community and its drinking water.  The reason this must be done is that too many people come to conclusions based on the easiest and most available informational sources, which often are not reliable, fact-checked, or accurate, but often sensationalize the news.  Such sources include TV, the Web, and newspapers.  We wish to provide science-based and factual information that can be readily understood by the concerned public.”

Sustainability and the Community

To the question of how a vineyard relates to its community, Barbara Shinn, made the following points:

  1. “Farming practices, as mentioned above, such that they should not have a negative effect on the community at large; choice of sustainable inputs is an important part of this.
  2. “Land conservation, which means how the vineyard property seeks to maintain and protect animal and plant species and their variety that naturally appear and exist on the property, apart from pests that need to be controlled
  3. “Public education about vineyard practices and objectives, particular to both viticulture and to farming practices generally.  This can include information offered to visitors to the winery as well as the publication of books and articles for the general public (such as this one).”

Jim Thompson, 02Jim Thompson, observed that the issue of sustainability carries with it legal, environmental, and personal concerns.  On a legal basis, certification would mean that a vineyard’s neighbors—often private homes or other, non-farm businesses, could rest assured that nothing dangerous is going into the ground or being wafted into the air that could affect a person’s health or neighborhood.  On an environmental level, it would mean, for instance, that ground water would be protected, hence the community drinking water would be safe.  “On a personal level,” he went on to say, “it means a safer environment in which to work, with the satisfaction of knowing that vineyard workers would be not exposed to the potential toxicity that is present in many of the [possible] input applications used in the vineyard.”

Larry Perrine summarized the situation well when he said:  “It should be kept in mind that the natural world is in most cases self-healing over time.  Farming itself is not natural, for it represents a massive intervention in nature.  The goal of sustainability is to mitigate the impact of that intervention.  The farmer is therefore in a compromised position, for in agriculture there is no perfection—he is always striving for something at which we can never arrive.  Still, we want to leave a proper legacy for our children.”

3 Spheres of Sustainability

The Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers program became a reality in April 2012.  With its debut, Long Island is be the Eastern US leader in Sustainable Certification.  (It has 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status.)

 According to Perrine:  “LISW expects about 10 wineries to sign up initially.  Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude.  It may take a few years for them to join.  Not all of the initial members will effect a complete change-over to the sustainable practices advocated by LISW in the first year.  It is, after all, only a pathway and not in itself the goal.”  [One of the first to join apart from the core group was Wölffer Estate.]

Trent Pressler, CEO of Bedell Cellars, addressing the LISW audience.

On 6 June 2013 Bedell Cellars hosted the First Anniversary celebration of the founding of the LISW.  As of September 2015 the LISW now has nineteen members, with sixteen of them already having achieved full certification:

  1. Bedell Cellars (founding member)
  2. Channing Daughters (founding member)
  3. Corwith Vineyards (certified)
  4. Duckwalk Vineyards (in transition)
  5. Harbes Family Farm & Vineyard (certified)
  6. Kontokosta Winery (in transition)
  7. Martha Clara (founding member)
  8. Mattebella Vineyards (certified)
  9. McCall Wines (certified)
  10. Mudd Vineyards
  11. One Woman Vineyards (certified)
  12. Palmer Vineyards (certified)
  13. Paumanok Vineyards (certified)
  14. Pindar Vineyards (in transition)
  15. Roanoke Vineyards (certified)
  16. Sannino Bella Vita Vineyards (certified)
  17. Shinn Estate (founding member)
  18. Sparkling Pointe (certified)
  19. Surrey Lane Vineyards
  20. Wölffer Estate (certified)

Paumanok Vineyards and Sparkling Pointe are  the latest to achieve certification as of November 2015, bringing the total to 20 members.  So the majority are already certified, each having put nearly 200 elements of sustainable practice into operation for a year or longer with two left in transition to certification.  This represents very fast growth for a new certification authority, as it already has nearly a third of all the vineyards on the island.  Such rapid growth can be explained in part by the fact that many of the vineyards already were practicing the guidelines of Cornell’s VineBalance program, which is the underpinning of LISW approach.  There are still some that are taking a wait-and-see position, such as Osprey’s Dominion (“we’re already farming sustainably, but we need to be sure of the benefits of joining”) and Lenz (Sam McCullough told Wine Spectator [May 2012 issue]:

“The number one reason we’re not participating is that I typically buy my pesticides for the coming season at the end of the year [to save money], so I had already committed to purchase things that they don’t allow in the program,” said Sam McCullough, vineyard manager for the Lenz Winery. While he cited fungus control as his big concern in Long Island’s humid climate, he felt the sustainability program provides enough options to deal with any problems that might arise and didn’t think the required changes would be onerous.”  Still, McCullough has yet to decide about participating next year. “I think it’s a fine idea, but I don’t know that there are really that many genuinely harmful practices out here. We’re all pretty responsible. I see it mainly as a perception issue and a public relations act rather than changing the way we take care of the environment, but anything that helps market our product is a good thing.”

Furthermore, the Spectator pointed out that “smaller wineries are concerned about the cost and whether consumers are willing to spend more to offset the extra expenses. Right now, [Roz] Baiz [of The Old Field Vineyard] said, she’d rather use the combined $800 in membership and inspection fees to purchase some new needed equipment.”

But twenty have joined so far, such as Mudd’s Vineyard, which says that “It’s the right thing to do.”

For wineries that are certified, the LISW logo can be included on the wine labels, thus showing that the wines are made from grapes raised with a conscience.  This, it is hoped, will also help promote Long Island wines among those consumers who care about this, and the number who do are steadily growing.

Certification is accomplished by the expertise of LISW’s independent third-party inspector:  Allan Connell, the former District Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), using the New York VineBalance Grower Workbook as a roadmap for evaluation of the sustainable viticultural practices of Long Island vineyards.

More information about sustainable farming is available upon request from LISW at lisustainablewine.org, facebook.com/sustainablewinegrowing, and twitter.com/liswinegrowing.

As of Feb. 27, 2014, a new post was published on the Bedell blog by Richard Olsen-Harbich: “Seal of Approval,” pursuant to a visit last December by one of the world’s leading experts in the field of sustainable viticulture – Dr. Cliff Ohmart.  Pursuant to that visit, on March 17, 2014, Wine Spectator published a blog post by its Managing Editor, Dana Nigro:  How Serious Is Long Island About Sustainable Wine? with the subtitle, “Region’s new program gets green thumbs-up from outside expert.”

From Lodi, we have this interesting piece in :  Sustainable Winegrowing Certification: Why Do Growers Participate?  The most recent article, as of September 2014, is available online at the Wine Industry Advisor Website:  “Demand for Sustainability Resonates . . .

Further to that, a February 6, 2016 NY Times article, “Cover Crops: A Farming Revolution with Roots in the Past” finds that all kinds of agriculturalists all over the country are finding out that cover crops are good for their crops!

NOTES:

[1] Interview with Larry Perrine, 10 February 2012, at Channing Daughters

[2] Interview with Jim Thompson, 4 February 2012, at Martha Clara

[3] For example, Oregon LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), which was established as a sustainable viticulture certification program in 1997, has about an 80% participation rate.

[4] E-mail from Barbara Shinn, 1 March 2012.

Correspondence by e-mail with Alice Wise was from January 29 to February 7, 2012.


Viniculture in LI, Part II: background.

In exploring vinicultural practices in Long Island, I intend to particularly examine the practice of sustainable farming, which includes organic and Biodynamic® agriculture.  My original, first posting on 15 June 2010, Can 100% Organic Grapes be Grown in Long Island?, provoked some interesting and even useful responses.  I have since renamed it The Challenge of Growing Certified Organic Grapes in Long Island,  given the developments at Shinn Estate and The Farrm that have taken place since that 2010 posting.  The series now continues with this posting (now updated to April 2015 to include new developments and information, particularly with the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing [LISW] program established in 2012). 

This Part II post serves as an introduction to the Part III articles devoted to the individual vineyards and wineries of Long Island.

NY Wine Regions Map 1To put things in perspective, one should bear in mind that New York State is the 3rd-largest producer of grapes by volume in the United States, after California and Washington.  Admittedly, most NY vineyards grow table grapes, but as of 2014 there were, according to the NY Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF), 373 wineries in the State, of which of which one in six are in Long Island.  Of all the wine regions of the State, Long Island is the one that is most committed to growing Vitis vinifera varieties, with very little planting of French-American hybrid vines and no Native American grapes at all.

I want to point out some factors that I believe appertain to most of the vineyards that I’ll be writing about—which is to say, all of the ones in Long Island, of which there are sixty-six bonded wineries, all but a handful of which are on the North Fork, as well as seven vineyards that sell their fruit to others.  They comprise, by my own calculation, about 2,565 acres of planted vines (the NYGWF calculates 2,041 acres.)

Geology & Soils

Geologically, Long Island is extensively formed by two glacial moraine spines, with a large, sandy outwash plain extending south to the Atlantic Ocean.  These moraines consist largely of gravel and loose rock that would become part of the island’s soils during the two most recent extensions of Wisconsin glaciation during the Ice Age some 21,000 years ago (19,000 BCE).  The northern, or Harbor Hill, moraine, directly runs along the North Shore of Long Island at points.  The more southerly moraine, called the Ronkonkoma moraine, forms the “backbone” of Long Island; it runs primarily through the very center of Long Island.  The land to the south of the Ronkonkoma, running to the South Shore, is the outwash plain of the last glacier. When the glaciers melted and receded northward around 11,000 BCE, their moraines and outwash produced the differences between the North Shore and the South Shore soils and beaches.

A General Soil Map (below), devised by the USDA Soil Conservation Service and the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station in 1972, shows the different kinds of soils that dominate the East End of Suffolk County, the part of Long Island that is home to most of the vineyards there.

East End, General Soil Map

The soil associations (or types) for Suffolk County as listed in the General Soil Map (and relevant to viniculture) are as follows:

  1. “Carver-Plymouth-Riverhead association [N. shore of the North Fork, extending across the Fork at Mattituck and then running East along the S. shore of Great Peconic Bay to Southold]:  Deep, rolling, excessively drained and well-drained, coarse-textured and moderately coarse-textured soils on moraines
  2. “Haven-Riverhead association [running from Brookhaven along the southern edge of 1 (above).  With an interruption at Mattituck, then extending as far as Orient Point; this is the dominant soil of the North Fork]:  Deep, nearly level to gently sloping, well-drained, medium-textured and moderately coarse-textured soils on outwash plains
  3. “Plymouth-Carver association [runs across the middle of the West-East axis of the county, encompassing Riverhead just south of 2.  It then extends into the Hamptons or South Fork as far as East Hampton but at no point touches the south shore.]  rolling and hilly:  Deep, excessively-drained, coarse-textured soils on moraines [the Ronkonkoma Moraine].
  4. “Bridgehampton-Haven association [actually runs immediately adjacent to, and south of, 3.]: Deep, nearly level to gently sloping, well-drained to moderately well-drained, medium-textured soils on outwash plains”

“Textures refer to surface layer in major soils of each association.”  [A caveat regarding the use of the map says,] “The map is . . . meant for general planning rather than a basis for decisions on the use of specific tracts.”

(There are ten soil types shown on the map, but we list only the four that form part of the terroir of the vineyards of the East End.)

With respect to the soil types in the North Fork and Hamptons AVAs, Louisa Thomas Hargrave wrote an article, “The Dirt Below Our Feet,” in the Spring 2011 issue of Edible East End, in which she made some important observations:

Every discussion of a wine region’s quality begins with the soil.  Going back to ancient Roman times, around ad 50, Lucius Columella advised, in his treatise on viticulture, De Re Rustica (“On Agriculture”), “Before you plant a piece of ground with vines, you should examine what sort of flavor it has; for it will give the wine a similar taste. The flavor can be ascertained…if you soak the earth in water and taste the water when the earth has [g]one to the bottom.  Sandy soil under which there is sweet moisture is the most suitable for vines…any soil which is split during the summer is useless for vines and trees.”

The “useless” soil that splits is clay, a colloidal suspension of particles similar to Jell-O. Clay retains too much moisture when it rains, making the tender roots of wine grapevines rot; it withholds nutrients from the vine when the weather is dry.

There is little clay on the East End of Long Island, except in specific and easily identified veins. We have remarkably uniform sandy soils here that vary in available topsoil (loamy organic matter), but all contain the same fundamental yet complex mixture of minerals.  These soils are ranked by the U.S. Soils Conservation Service as “1-1,” the most auspicious rating for agriculture. Any single handful of Long Island soil will show the reflective glint of mica; the dull gray of granite; the mellow pink, salmon and white of quartz; the red and ochre of sandstone; and black bits of volcanic matter. To describe them simply as “sandy loam” fails to acknowledge the profound effect that having this mixture of minerals must have on the vibrancy and dynamic quality of Long Island’s wines.

Richard Olsen-Harbich, the author of the two AVA applications for the Hamptons and the North Fork, published a two-part series on the soils of Long Island for Bedell Cellars, where he is winemaker:  the first, The Soil of Long Island. Part 1 – Ice Age: The Meltdown, published on April 12, 2011, and the second, more recent piece, The Soil of Long Island. Part 2 – There’s No Place Like Loam, published Sept. 6, 2013, which are useful and lucid explanations of how the glaciers of the Ice Age left Long Island with the soils that grow the vines today.

It should also be pointed out that Long Island soil, regardless of its composition, tends to have a rather low pH, which is to say too acidic for Vitis vinifera vines to grow well as it weakens the vines’ ability to assimilate nutrients from the soil.  The vines need the addition of lime to balance the pH and is something that nearly every vineyard must do to get itself established for vinifera.  It can take years—Paumanok Vineyards was adding lime to its vineyards every year for twenty years before it was able to relax the practice.  It nevertheless has to be done again every few years when the pH gets too low again, as it appears that the added lime may get leached out of the soil over time.

Climate

Overall, Long Island displays a cool maritime climate.  The brutal summer heat seen in the Iberian Peninsula, which is at the same latitude, is tempered in the Hamptons AVA by the Labrador Current which moves up the eastern Atlantic Ocean.  Summer temperatures are also moderated by Little Peconic Bay to its north.  The North Fork enjoys the moderating influences of Long Island Sound.  These same bodies of water help to temper the effects of the Canadian air masses that move in during the winter.  The influence of these waters helps prevent late spring frosts which can kill young grape buds.  The cumulative effect is a lengthening of the growing season to approximately 210-220 days.  Wine-grape varieties can thrive here, as they can grow better and ripen further than just about anywhere in the U.S. outside of California.  The North Fork is such a narrow band of farmland, situated between the bay and the sound that virtually all of the vineyards or near or on the water.  According to the Appellation American Website:

Despite being next door to each other, there are notable differences between the South Fork and the warmer North Fork. The South Fork is more exposed to onshore Atlantic breezes, delaying bud-break by as much as three weeks. Even after bud-break, the area is frequently foggy, keeping early season temperatures and sunshine hours lower than on the North Fork. By the end of the growing season, the seemingly subtle weather differences between the Forks add up to quite different overall climates. The Hamptons are generally very cold to moderately cool, while the North Fork is moderately cool to relatively warm. The damper silt and loam soils of The Hamptons, along with climactic differences, create a unique style, with wines from The Hamptons generally being more restrained and less fruit-forward than wines from the North Fork.

Wineries & Vineyards

By my own count, as of March 2015, there are a total of 76 wine production entities in Long Island, of which:

  • 21 are wineries with vineyards, though they may also buy fruit from others
  • 3 are wineries without vineyards that buy their fruit from growers
  • 11 are wine producers that have neither a winery nor a vineyard, but outsource their production, having their wine made to their specifications from purchased grapes
  • 33 are vineyards without a winery, but use an outside facility to make wine to their specifications  from their grapes
  • 1 is a crush facility that makes wine from fruit, provided by others, to the providers’ specifications
  • 7 are vineyards that sell their fruit to wine producers
  • In all, there are 58 tasting rooms in Long Island

Vinicultural Practices

Regardless of the different terroirs of either Fork, the first point that I’d like to make is that, based on my visits, so far–to Wölffer Estate and Channing Daughters in the Hamptons AVA, and to Bedell Cellars, Castello Borghese, Diliberty, Gramercy, Jamesport, Lieb, Lenz, Macari, Martha Clara, McCalls, Mudd Vineyard, The Old Field Vineyards, Osprey’s Dominion, Palmer, Paumanok, Peconic Bay, Raphael, Kontakosta Winery, Sherwood House, and Shinn Estate in the North Fork AVA–the standards of vineyard management are of a very high order.  The neatness of the rows of vines, their careful pruning and training (most, if not all, are using Double Cordon trained on two wires with Vertical Shoot Positioning, or VSP, and cane pruning), the use of cover crops between rows, and much else besides, attest to the high standards and sustainable practices to which the vineyard managers aspire. 

A handful of vineyards are endeavoring to farm organically and/or Biodynamically, though only a single vineyard, Shinn Estate, is actually working to obtain actual certification for both.  Then there is The Farrm, in Calverton, run by fruit and vegetable grower Rex Farr, who obtained full organic certification in 1990 and planted vinifera vines in 2005–thus harvesting the first certified-organic grapes on LI in 2012.  It is expected that the first wine to be made from its fruit will be produced in 2013 by a newly-established winery on the North Fork.  None of this is to say that a vineyard that does not seek to grow organic or Biodynamic grapes is the lesser for it, though all should seek to farm sustainably.  Excellent, even great wines have been and shall continue to be produced whether farmed organically or not.  Indeed, as I pointed out at the beginning of my first post, there is no proven correlation of quality of a wine because it is made with organic or Biodynamic grapes.  (A case in point is the famous and incredibly expensive wine of the Domaine de la Romanée Conti, in Burgundy.  It has been long acknowledged as the source of some of the greatest red and white wines of all of France, and this was the case before it was converted to Biodynamic farming, and continues to be the case today.)  Part of what makes it so difficult to quantify the quality of a wine made by either method is that fact that there is vintage variation every year, due primarily to factors of weather and climate.  Thus, there is no objective way of being sure that viticultural practice was the dominant reason for the quality of a particular vintage, rather than the weather of a particular season.  Nevertheless, those who practice organic/Biodynamic viniculture do aver that it is reflected in the wine and there are consumers who do think that they can detect the difference.

By now virtually all of the vineyards on the two forks are attempting some form of sustainable farming, though the kind of sustainable work can vary considerably across the gamut of over sixty vineyards.   Along these lines, an important development took place when a new accreditation authority was created in May 2012:  Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, Inc., with the intent of setting out the guidelines for sustainable viticultural practices for all wineries in the region.  Membership is voluntary, but already, as of April 2015, there are sixteen vineyards that have joined, with thirteen already certified and three in transition.  Others are giving membership serious consideration.  A post devoted to the LI Sustainable Winegrowing authority was published on this blog in April 2012 (since updated as of 21 June 2013).

Another important factor to keep in mind is the role of clone selection for the vineyards.  A very useful article about the significance of clones was posted by Richard Olsen-Harbich of Bedell Cellars on March 19, 2013:  Revenge of the Clones.  The piece is well worth reading in its entirety, but there are two salient paragraphs that are worth quoting:

Over the past 10 years, grapevine clones have shown themselves to be of increasing importance in our vineyards. Simply put, clones are a genetic variant of a particular variety. The Chardonnay grown on Long Island decades ago is not the same vine we have today. Plantings since that time – especially in the past 10-15 years, have benefited from a wider selection of available plant material. Back in 1990, if you wanted to plant Chardonnay, you had one choice. Today there are more than 70 registered clones of this noble white grape being grown throughout the world and they all have their particular nuances and characteristics. Many of these clones are already in existence in Long Island vineyards – from the tropical and aromatic Musqué to the classic and alluring Dijon clones from Burgundy. Although these are all Chardonnays, each exhibits their own distinctive character.

This fact is also true of grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Franc, where profound differences in wine quality can be seen between clones grown in the same vineyard, on the same soils. Over 50 clones of Merlot have been identified in Bordeaux. Pomerol alone has over 35 clones of Cabernet Franc. Newer French clones, long kept overseas as tightly held trade secrets, are finding their way into the United States. In most cases these new clones are better suited to our maritime climate. Often these clones will ripen earlier than the older selections we used to have. Some are more resistant to disease. The ultimate result is higher quality wines. I’ve seen clones so different from each other that you would think the wines were made from another variety entirely.

In other words, when the first vinifera vines were planted in the 70s and 80s most of the clones came from California.  Many of these clones had been developed at the University of California at Davis (UCD) but of course were created with California vineyards in mind.  This meant that the clones were less suitable for the very different, maritime climate of Long Island.  For example, the Sauvignon Blanc clone 1 (the ‘Wente clone’) was very vigorous and produced large clusters but it was also very susceptible to rot in LI.  Only in the 90s were new clones planted to replace clone 1, and all of these came not from California but France (primarily from Bordeaux, in the case of the Sauvignon Blanc.)  This process was true for several other varieties.  In other words, the new clones are part of what makes Long Island the most ‘European’ of the wine-growing regions of the United States.

As a matter of fact, the Long Island Wine Region, which includes both the North Fork and the Hamptons AVAs, in 2010 became signatory to the Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin that was first enacted in 2005 in Napa (it is also known as the Napa Declaration on Place).  The original signers included not only the Napa AVA but also Washington and Oregon State AVAs, and Champagne, Jerez/Sherry, and Oporto/Port in the EU, among others. (The point of this, of course, is to control the use of place names and prevent the misuse of the name ‘Champagne’ for example, on any sparkling wine that is not from there.  Chablis, Port, and Burgundy were also place names that were widely abused around the world.)

There is no intention whatsoever in my series to judge a vineyard because it does or does not grow or intend to grow organically or Biodynamically.  (Indeed, wineries that are technically organic can still choose not to be certified.  Among the many reasons for this, for example, are that a winery may not want the added costs and the bureaucracy entailed in registering, or a winery may disagree with the government standards.  Whatever the case, such wineries are not allowed to use the term organic on their labels.)

In any event, the point of this series is to understand the reasons for choosing a particular approach to grape production over another.  We want to understand why Long Island vineyards do what they do before we go on to explore their methods of vinification, for between what is done in the vineyard and what happens in the winery is what determines the quality of the wine that is produced.  The wines from Long Island have long been improving since those first, tentative years going back to 1973 (when the Hargraves planted the first vinifera vines in LI) and in recent years are receiving their due recognition in the form of positive reviews, awards, and high scores for individual bottlings.

Important Terms Defined

  • AVA or American Viticultural Area: An area defined by a unique geology and climate that is distinctive from other vine-growing areas and hence that produces wines of a distinctive overall character.  There are none of the restrictions as to varieties planted, vine density, allowable harvest per acre, or any of the other limitations that exist in European appellations, such as the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC).  Long Island has three AVAs, all applied for to the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) which administers the program, in the mid-1980s: The Hamptons (South Fork), the North Fork AVA, and the Long Island AVA.
  • Biodynamic®, or Demeter USA, certification; also, Demeter USA, FAQ, Biodynamic wine (PDF file).  Also, see an excellent discussion in a 5-part series beginning with New York Cork Report, Biodynamics, Part I, by Tom Mansell, along with the ensuing debate in the comments that follow each of the postings.  There is also a controversial series against Biodynamics by Stuart Smith, a winemaker in California, called Biodynamics is a Hoax, a polemic that is worth reading, along with the comments in response.
  • Bordeaux Mix:  A widely-used type of fungicide that mixes copper sulfate and lime, first used in Bordeaux in the 1880s; see Univ. of Calif., Davis, Pesticide notes
  • Compost Tea:  A type of natural compost mixed with water for distribution in liquid form (it may be seen as agricultural homeopathy); see National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Compost Tea Notes
  • Copper Sulfate:  A widely-used industrial pesticide, allowed in both organic and Biodynamic farming within specified limits: see  Cornell Extension Toxicology Network (ExToxNet), Pesticide Information Profile, copper sulfate
  • Cover crops: Vegetation that is either deliberately planted between vineyard rows (e.g., clover, to replenish nitrogen in the soil) or weeds that are naturally allowed to grow between and into rows (the Biodynamic approach); see UC Davis, Cover Crop Selection and Management for Vineyards
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM):  A major component of sustainable agriculture, it is labor-intensive but effectively reduces the need for certain kinds of pesticides; pheronome ties are a typical method of disrupting the reproduction cycle of some insect; see EPA, Factsheet on IPM
  • Macroclimate:  The climate of a large area or region, such as that of all of Long Island, or perhaps just the East End of LI.
  • Mesoclimate:  The distinct climate of a smaller area, such as that of a single vineyard or a parcel thereof.
  • Microclimate:  The climate of a very small area; it could be as small as a single vine or a distinctive climate of a tiny part of a vineyard, such as a depression in a row of vines.  (NOTE:  These terms are often used interchangeably, but most often microclimate may be used to refer to the mesoclimate of a vineyard.)
  • Organic Certification:  USDA, National Organic Program, Organic Certification
  • Regalia:  A biologically-based pesticide; see Marrone Bio-Innovations, Products, Regalia
  • Serenade: A biologically-based pesticide; see PAN Pesticide Database, Products–Serenade
  • Stylet oil:  defined in the industry as a Technical Grade White Mineral Oil, it is used as a biodegradable fungicide and insecticide in integrated pest management programs.  It also serves as as a substitute for sulfur, reducing or eliminating the need for that application, according to Steve Mudd, a LI vineyard owner and consultant.
  • Sustainable agriculture:  according to Mary V. Gold, on the USDA Website, “Some terms defy definition. ‘Sustainable agriculture’ has become one of them. In such a quickly changing world, can anything be sustainable? What do we want to sustain? How can we implement such a nebulous goal? . . . If nothing else, the term ‘sustainable agriculture’ has provided talking points, a sense of direction, and an urgency, that has sparked much excitement and innovative thinking in the agricultural world.”  Follow this interesting, full explanation of the term at USDA, Sustainable Agriculture definition.  Another excellent source for information about sustainable agriculture is to be found on the NY State VineBalance Program website, which is dedicated to sustainable practices in NY State vineyards, and as mentioned above, the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing certification program, with sixteen vineyards already committed to its regulations and guidelines.
  • Variety vs. Varietal:  not to be pedantic (though I can be), Variety is the term applied to a particular kind of vine and its grape; e.g., Cabernet Franc or Riesling; Varietal is the wine made from a variety or a blend of different varieties.  The terms are often used interchangeably but shouldn’t be.
  • Vertical Shoot Positioning:  is a training system used with single or double Guyot, cane-pruned training, or with a Cordon, spur-pruned system.  VSP is very common in cool and/or humid climate regions with low to moderate vigorous growth, as it encourages better air flow through the vine.  This is accomplished by making all the shoots grow vertically, with no vegetative vine growth allowed below the cordon/cane.  The increase in air flow helps prevent problems associated with disease and also allows the fruit to dry out more quickly after it rains.

      Both cluster thinning and harvesting are generally made easier using VSP, given that there is better access to the fruit.  The objective is to train the shoots so as to create a narrow layer that provides good sunlight exposure and air flow in the fruiting zone of the canopy.  Each shoot is thus trained to grow vertically by attaching it to movable catch wires.  The shoot’s length can easily be controlled by pruning any growth above the top catch wire.  The fruiting zone is generally kept at waist height, which makes it more convenient for the vineyard workers, given that the vineyard rows are worked throughout the season.)

For a full explanation of VSP, see Cornell Univ. Agriculture Extension, Training, and Trellising Vinifera Vines.

Viticulture vs. Viniculture:  again my pedantic side will out–Viticulture is the general term for the growing of any kind of grape vine, whether intended for the table or for wine; Viniculture refers to the raising of wine grapes in particular.

_________________________

The vineyards that I intend to write about are listed below in alphabetical order (those wineries that have no vineyard but purchase their grapes from others will not be part of the vinicultural survey– these are shown in gray; the ones that have already had articles posted on this blog are shown in purple; those that have been ‘indirectly interviewed’ are shown in light purple.  If the vineyard has been certified by the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing Group (LISW), that is indicated:

  • Ackerly Ponds, North Fork AVA (85 acres) is now part of Sannino’s Bella Vita Vineyards (which see)
  • Anthony Nappa (no vineyard) posted 6/14
  • Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, North Fork AVA (11 acres)
  • Bedell Cellars, North Fork AVA (78 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); Rich Olsen-Harbich interviewed on May 12, 2011; posted June 2, 2011
  • Bouké Wines (no vineyard)
  • Castello di Borghese Vineyard & Winery [formerly Hargrave Vineyard], North Fork AVA (85 acres); Giovanni & Allegra Borghese interviewed on Nov. 18, 2014 and Mar. 27, 2015, to be posted
  • Channing Daughters Winery, Hamptons AVA (25 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); Larry Perrine interviewed on April 30 & May 21, 2012; posted January 22, 2013
  • Clovis Point, North Fork AVA (20 acres); see Bill Ackerman interview
  • Coffee Pot Cellars (no vineyard)
  • Corey Creek Vineyards, North Fork AVA (30 acres, LISW sustainable-certified), owned by Bedell Cellars; posted June 2, 2011
  • Corwith Vineyards, Hamptons AVA (3 acres; LISW sustainable-certified); Dave Corwith interviewed May 20, 2014 and Nov. 16, 2015; posted Oct. 15, 2014, updated Nov. 19, 2015.
  • Croteaux Vineyards, North Fork AVA (10.5 acres); see Steve Mudd interview
  • Deseo de Michael, North Fork AVA (.3 acres)
  • Diliberto Winery, North Fork AVA (4 acres); Sal Diliberto interviewed Mar. 28, 2015, to be posted
  • Duck Walk Vineyards, Hamptons AVA, and Duck Walk Vineyards North, North Fork AVA (130 acres; LISW candidate); Ed Lovaas, winemaker, on Nov. 16, 2015.  to be posted.
  • Gramercy Vineyards, North Fork AVA (3.5 acres); Carol Sullivan, owner, interviewed October 2, 2012; posted; as of June 2015 the vineyard is leased out; no longer making wine
  • The Grapes of Roth (no vineyard)
  • Harbes Family Farm & Vineyard, North Fork AVA (5 acres, LISW sustainable-certified)
  • Harmony Vineyards, LI AVA (7 acres); see Steve Mudd interview
  • Influence Wines (no vineyard); Erik Bilka interviewed 6/15; to be posted
  • Jamesport Vineyards, North Fork AVA (60 acres); Ron Goerler, Jr. interviewed on April 14, 2014; posted Sept. 9, 2014.
  • Jason’s Vineyard, North Fork AVA (20 acres)
  • Kings Mile, North Fork AVA (leased vineyard); Rob Hansult interviewed on Sept. 26, 2013; posted same day
  • Kontokosta Winery (23 acres, LISW sustainable-in transition); Michael K. interviewed Nov. 18, 2014, Gilles Martin interviewed Mar. 28, 2015; to be posted
  • Laurel Lake Vineyards, North Fork AVA (21 acres); Juan Sepúlveda interviewed Sep. 26, 2015
  • Lenz Winery, North Fork AVA (65 acres); Sam McCullough interviewed April 20 & 27, 2011; posted May 16, 2011; Eric Fry interviewed Mar. 27, 2015, to be added to original Lenz post
  • Leo Family Wines; John Leo interviewed for PWG on October 3, 2012; posted February 11, 2013
  • Lieb Family Cellars, North Fork AVA (50 acres, LISW sustainable-in transition); Logan Kingston, Sarah Kane, & Jildo Vázquez interviewed June 6, 2013; posted October 4, 2013
  • Loughlin Vineyards, Long Island AVA (6 acres)
  • Macari Vineyards & Winery, North Fork AVA (200 acres); Joe Macari, Jr. interviewed July 9, 2009 & June 17 2010; posted June 30, 2010
  • Martha Clara Vineyards, North Fork AVA  (101 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); Jim Thompson & Juan Micieli-Diaz interviewed Feb. 3 & March 27, 2012; posted May 3, 2012
  • Mattebella Vineyards, North Fork AVA (22 acres, LISW sustainable-in transition)
  • McCall Vineyards, North Fork AVA (22 acres); see Steve Mudd interview
  • Mudd Vineyards, North Fork AVA (50 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); Steve Mudd interviewed; posted September 18, 2012
  • The Old Field Vineyards, North Fork AVA (12 acres); Ros & Christian Baiz & Perry Weiss interviewed on May 12, 2011; posted on June 7, 2011
  • Onabay Vineyard, North Fork AVA (180 acres total, not all with vines): see Bill Ackerman interview
  • One Woman Vineyards, North Fork AVA (12 acres, LISW sustainable-certified)
  • Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards, North Fork AVA (90 acres); Adam Suprenant interviewed April 23 & May 8, 2012; posted February 3, 2013
  • Palmer Vineyards, North Fork AVA (100 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); Miguel Martín interviewed October 12 & 22, 2010; posted November 13, 2010
  • Paumanok Vineyards, North Fork AVA (72 acres planted, LISW sustanble-certified); Kareem Massoud interviewed May 3, 2011; posted May 23, 2011
  • Peconic Bay Winery, North Fork AVA (58 acres); Jim Silver & Charles Hargrave interviewed; posted May 9, 2011;  winery is now closed but see interviews with Steve Mudd & Bill Ackerman, since Peconic Bay’s vineyards have been turned over to Lieb Cellars as of January 2013
  • Pellegrini Vineyards, North Fork AVA (72 acres); see Steve Mudd interview
  • Pindar Vineyards, North Fork AVA (500 acres; LISW candidate); Pindar Damianos interviewed Sept. 26, Ed Lovaas on Nov. 16, 2015.  to be posted.
  • Pugliese Vineyards, North Fork AVA (45 acres); Pat Pugliese interviewed Jan. 19, 2015
  • Raphael, North Fork AVA (55 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); Leslie Howard & Steve Mudd interviewed May 21 & June 13; posted September 17, 2012; Anthony Nappa interviewed
  • Roanoke Vineyards, North Fork AVA (10 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); interviewed Richard Pisacano, owner; posted July 10, 2013
  • Sannino’s Bella Vita Vineyard (5.25 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); interviewed Jan. 30, 2015; to be posted
  • Sherwood House Vineyards, North Fork AVA (36 acres); interviewed Bill Ackerman on September 26, 2012; posted
  • Shinn Estate Vineyard, North Fork AVA (20 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); Barbara Shinn & David Paige interviewed June 18, 2010; posted July 12, 2010
  • Southold Farm+Cellar, North Fork AVA (9 acres; as of Sept. 2014 just entering production); Regan Meador interviewed Jan. 30 & Nov. 16, 2015; to be posted
  • Sparkling Pointe (29 acres, LISW sustainable-certified)
  • Suhru Wines (no vineyard); Russell Hearn, owner, interviewed for PWG on October 3, 2012
  • Surrey Lane Vineyards, North Fork AVA (25 acres, LISW sustainable-in transition); see Steve Mudd interview
  • T’Jara Vineyard, North Fork AVA (14 acres); Russell Hearn , owner, interviewed for PWG
  • Vineyard 48, North Fork AVA (28 acres planted)
  • Waters Crest Winery (no vineyard); interviewed Nov. 17, 2014, to be posted
  • Whisper Vineyards, Long Island AVA (17 acres); interviewed Steve Gallagher on Mar. 27, 2015, to be posted.
  • Wölffer Estate, Hamptons AVA (174 acres, LISW sustainable-certified); interviewed Roman Roth & Rich Pisacano on April 30, 2012 & June 20, 2013, updated and posted on July 10, 2013

Three very useful links that serve as portals to most of these vineyards are 1) Long Island Wine Country which lists only those wineries and vineyards that are members of the LI Wine Council; 2) Uncork New York! (aka the New York Wine and Grape Foundation) which provides links to all wineries and wine vineyards in New York State.  Also indispensable for New York State wines is the New York Cork Report by Lenn Thompson, with its many interviews, coverage of wine tastings, reviews, and more.

A framable 24 by 36-inch map of the wineries and vineyards of the East End of Long Island, by Steve De Long, can be purchased on Amazon:

LI Wine Map

 

Viniculture in LI, Part III: Bedell Cellars

Bedell Cellars was established by Kip Bedell in 1980, making it one of the oldest vineyards on the East End and only one of ten that have vines that are 30 years old or more.  Bedell was eventually sold in 2000 to Michael Lynne, executive producer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a former head of New Line Cinema.  Lynne, who already had just purchased Corey Creek Vineyards, brought both great enthusiasm and deep pockets to Bedell, has turned the winery and its tasting room into an elegant and modern space to make and display some of the most distinctive wines on the North Fork, as well as a collection of fine Contemporary Art.

Rich Olsen-HarbichBedell’s winemaker, Richard Olsen-Harbich, is himself a 34-year veteran of the wine trade in Long Island, both as a vineyard manager and winemaker, first working at Mudd Vineyards, and then worked at Bridgehampton Winery in both capacities.  It was while he was at Bridgehampton that he drew up the applications for the Hamptons AVA and then one for the North Fork, and finally one for Long Island.   It was at there that Rich saw the effects of bad vineyard siting, when the vines collapsed during a hard winter, due to cold spots and poor drainage.   Nevertheless, he managed to produce a number of award-winning wines at Bridgehampton, in the end working with purchased fruit.  He then went on to work at Hargrave Vineyard—the pioneer vineyard that had started viticulture on the island—and later helped establish Raphael with Steve Mudd, a well-known grower and vineyard consultant.  He remained at Raphael until 2010, when he moved to Bedell.  With a degree in agronomy from Cornell and his years of experience in the business, Rich has among the strongest credentials of anyone in the East End wine business.

David Thompson is Bedell’s vineyard manager and is responsible for, among other things, helping to write the Long Island sustainability guidelines for Cornell University’s Vine Balance Initiative, a ‘best practices’ handbook for sustainable grape growing in New York State.  So it’s clear that Bedell has a very strong team in the two men.  I unfortunately did not an opportunity to meet David and so conducted my interview with Rich alone.

Rich has been with Bedell Cellars for three years, and he has a complete grasp of what goes on in Bedell’s vineyards.  As pointed out by Jay McInerney, wine writer for the Wall Stret Journal, in his wine column of Sept. 6, 2013, “The Other Bordeaux Lies Closer to Home,” “The arrival of Richard Olsen-Harbich in 2010 seems to have marked a turning point. . . . [and he] has taken Bedell Cellars to new heights since he arrived at the winery.”  

With respect to the vineyards and the cultivation of the vines, he says that:

“When we plant a new field we start a liming program early on; our aim is to bring the pH up to 6.2 to 6.4.  Thereafter we only need to replenish the soil with lime once or twice in every ten years. We use a water tank to irrigate new vines when there’s a dry spell.

“Our preferred vine spacing varies, according to the plot of vines: it can range from 9’ by 7’ or 8’, 8’ by 3’ for Syrah vines, and even 8’ by 4’.  I’d say that the average spacing works out to about 9’ by 5’. We typically harvest about two tons an acre and we prefer to pick the grapes manually.”

“Practicing sustainable agriculture means that you have to have a system that pays attention to both ecology and economy.  You need low-impact strategies because, after all, our vineyards are near towns and we have an obligation to be good neighbors.  So, we hire local people, do not foul our own nests, and we have social obligations as well.  For example, in order to preserve the vineyards as farmland forever, we have sold our development rights to the Peconic Land Trust. “We make our own compost, using the natural by-products of grape pressing and fermentation and returning these to the vineyard soil.  In my opinion, using fish fertilizer is not sustainable, as it means devastating wild fish populations, so I consider that to be ‘dirty’; it’s better and cleaner to use commercial nitrogen fertilizer made from peanut byproducts.” The Website adds that “We avoid or minimize the use of synthetic fertilizers, instead encouraging responsible natural stewardship of soil health, fertility, and stability.”

Bedell has long participated in the Cornell University VineBalance program, and both Dave and Rich sit on the advisory committee that provides recommendations for the ongoing research.  The winery is also a founding member of the North Fork Sustainable Winegrowing certification program, itself an outgrowth of VineBalance.

With respect to organic farming, Rich says that he believes that the science of organics is flawed and that much more work needs to be done before we can say that we really understand what organics add to sustainability.  In this respect he points out that both copper and sulfur of the kind that is used in farming are industrial products, so neither can be considered ‘natural’ or ‘organic,’ and copper, while highly toxic and with long persistence in the soil, is permitted in organic agriculture.  Both sulfur and copper are insuperable fungicides and are difficult to replace when humid conditions may prevail, as is often the case in Long Island.

Bedell’s excellent Website adds the following information:

There are several other ways we have worked for the public interest through a sustainability-minded vineyard program:

  • We participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program and Conservation Security Program, which rewards good land stewardship through nutrient, pest and cropland management, natural windbreaks, and non-planted wildlife buffer areas.
  • We established a dense cover crop of grasses, fescues, and clovers between the rows of grapevines to maintain high biological species diversity in the vineyard.  These row-middle cover crops also reduce soil erosion and promote symbiotic relationships between plants and beneficial insects.
  • We minimize off-farm inputs such as agricultural chemicals to protect the farmer, the environment, and society at large.
  •  If we have to spray a fungicide to control a specific grapevine pathogen such as powdery mildew, we use one with the lowest possible environmental impact.
  • We avoid or minimize agricultural chemicals that do not biodegrade and might build-up in the soil over time.
  • We scout the vineyard for insects using Integrated Pest Management principles and economic threshold evaluation to eliminate or minimize insecticide use.
  • We encourage a natural flow of ecosystem elements through the presence of Bluebird houses, honey bee hives, and deer migration corridors. At Bedell, we employ sustainable, ecological viticulture to ensure the highest quality fruit without unnecessary, high-risk practices.  We grow grapes for our own unique environmental conditions – the first step toward a pure expression of local terroir in our wines.

Bedell’s conviction about terroir is found, vividly expressed, in the cave of the winery, Bedell Soil Cross-sectionwhere a plexiglass box hanging on the wall displays a cross-section of vineyard soil (though compressed vertically many times over) showing how loam, sand, clay, and gravel are layered.  (The image also holds the reflection of wine barrels, appropriately perhaps.)  It helps explain how stratification can account for such factors as drainage and/or retention of water in the soil—which is important in understanding how vines respond to the terroir in which they grow, along with the effects of slope, aspect to the sun, etc.  (See “Olson-Harbich’s Obsession with Soil . . . ” on the New York Cork Report blog, June 2, 2011.)

Furthermore, it goes on to say, “We maintain viticultural practices that produce the highest quality fruit possible, while also being sensitive to the environment and financially viable over time. . . . Each of our three unique vineyard sites is a holistic ecological system,” and together total approximately 80 planted acres: Bedell Home Vineyard on the Main Road in Cutchogue, behind the winery and tasting room; Corey Creek Vineyards on Main Road in Southold, adjacent to the Corey Creek tasting room; and Wells Road Vineyard on Main Road in Peconic.  According to Rich, there are five sections planted to Merlot, its most important variety, for a total of 32 acres in 50 separate plots, as can be seen on the maps below.  The other varieties planted at the sites include Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Syrah.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedell’s viticultural philosophy is presented very clearly on its Website (about the vineyards); indeed, I find it is the fullest, yet pithiest exposition of its viticultural practices of any of the Island vineyards, and the only one to offer plot maps.  Rich’s blog posts on the Website are especially worth reading-for example, his assessment of the 2013 vintage: Lucky 13.  (Shinn Estate discusses organic and Biodynamic viticulture (along with its harvest reports, wine releases, dinners, and so on) in its “Shinn Digs” blog, which is updated weekly with posts by both Barbara Shinn and her husband, David Page, and Channing Daughters, via its blog with posts by James Christopher Tracy, from his “Winemaker’s Wonderings” column in Edible East End, a quarterly journal devoted to food and wine of the region.)

As a vintner dedicated to making ‘natural’ or ‘minimalist’ wines, he points out, first of all, that “we try to stay away from late season fungicide applications in order to preserve the wild yeasts tBedell wild yeast brewhat are used for fermentation.”  Indeed, one of Bedell’s hallmark’s is its commitment to the use of indigenous yeasts, thanks to Rich, who, in fact has inaugurated what has become a new ritual at Bedell–the care and feeding of the  yeast in preparation for the fermentation of the new harvest.  It’s a bit of a witch’s brew, minus the eye of newt and leg of toad–perhaps it should be called a ‘fairies’ brew,’ given the addition of wildflowers, freshly-picked local fruit, including apple, pear, and a white peach.  (A post on Facebook about this provoked an article in October 2013 by Louisa Hargrave, The Yeasty Beasties, which is well-worth reading.)  In fact, Eric Fry has an amusing anecdote about Rich’s commitment to wild yeast:

That’s his thing and he does it… he’s been doing it for years and he seems to have it figured out, and cool, that’s good fine, yeah, good for him, good for him. It’s really funny because when Rich moved from Raphael to Bedell, he showed up at Bedell and he’s looking around, he’s rummaging around, and seeing what’s there and everything like that, and he came over [to see me at Lenz] and said “I’ve got like six or eight boxes of yeast here, do you want them?”

I said “OK, I’ll take them.” Because [Rich] says “I don’t want them.”

As with all of the top vineyards that I’ve visited on the East End, Bedell’s wines begin in the vineyard and the results are telling.  For example, it’s Bordeaux-style blend (with some Syrah), Musée, was awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator for the 2007 vintage—the highest score by that publication for a red wine yet attained by any East End winery.  The sample I tasted was already rich in flavor, with good acidity and tannins to give it backbone, but it was still a bit closed.  (Musée is also very expensive, but I bought two bottles that I plan to lay down for several years.)  Bedell claims that it can keep for up to 15-20 years.  Any wine that can develop for that long has to be exceptional, so to drink it now would be to commit infanticide.  I also bought a few bottles of Corey Creek’s Gewürztraminer, which I found to be among the best of that variety of any North American ones that I’ve tasted.  Irresistible. 

This is a vineyard and winery that commands high respect and praise.  I recommend visiting winery and its elegant tasting room, festooned with a collection of contemporary art including works by Barbara Kruger, Chuck Close, and others.  If you cannot get there soon, at least visit the Bedell Website.

Based on an interview with Richard Olsen-Harbich on 12 May 2011, with additions from the Bedell Website            updated 13 Sept. 2013 and 30 Dec 2014

The Challenge of Growing Certified Organic Grapes in Long Island.

Virtually every wine grape vineyardist in Long Island wants to work his fields as organically as possible, though very few ever actually intend to become fully organic or certified organic.  Most of them farm sustainably, and about twenty vineyards are practicing Certified Sustainable Winegrowers.  Shinn Estate in September 2010, succeeded when it harvested its first entirely organic grapes, 2.6 acres of Sauvignon Blanc, but it has been a struggle to maintain organic practices from season to seaason, given the disease pressures on Long Island.  a year later the first certified-organic grapes were harvested by a little-known farm with a vineyard in Calverton.  The Farrm, owned by Rex Farr, has been organically-certified since 1990, growing various vegetable crops such as heirloom tomatoes, leeks, and lettuce.  Its first vinifera grapes were planted in 2005 though its first successful grape harvest took place in October of 2011.  On August 28, 2013, Southold Farm announced on its Website that it plans to produce the first Long Island wine made from certified organic grapes purchased from The Farrm’s 2013 harvest.[1]

The challenge has been met, but as Ron Goerler, Jr., former president of the Long Island Wine Council has said, “it’s extremely challenging” and other farmers have tried and failed at it.  Nevertheless, several East End gardeners and farmers of other crops have been using organic and biodynamic methods with some success for years now.  An excellent article, “Farming to a Different Beat” by Geraldine Pluenneke, published in April 2011, [2] discusses in a very fair-minded way the issues of biodynamic farming and viniculture in Long Island.  It points out the success that some of the practitioners have had, such as Amy Pink, a backyard vegetable gardener, or K.K. Haspel, who grows “legendary tomato seedlings,”  or Mary Wolz, a beekeeper in Southold who maintains a hundred hives on both forks of the island.

Kareem Massoud, of Paumanok Vineyards, is cited in Pluenneke’s article as saying that “Whatever viticultural methodology allows me to achieve the healthiest, ripest grapes possible is the course that I shall pursue, regardless of whether that method is known as conventional, IPM, sustainable, practicing organic, organic, biodynamic or any other name.”  In a separate interview that I had with Louisa Hargrave a years ago, the doyen of Long Island wine vineyards made clear that if she had to do it all over again, she’d consider using Biodynamic® practices.

There is a series of posts in this blog that deals with the individual vineyards and takes off from this piece (now updated to April 2014).  So far, twenty of the vineyards of the East End have been written about in Wine, Seriously.

Both the sustainable and organic/Biodynamic®  movements in winegrowing are among the most important developments in the wine world in recent years.  Whether or not it results in superior wines is difficult to say with any certainty, but that is a separate argument that will not be pursued here.  Rather, the focus is on the challenge not only to produce organic wine in Long Island, which represents a special challenge, but also to look at the issue of sustainability in viticulture as a whole.

Let us begin by looking at two excellent wineries:  Channing Daughters Winery and Wölffer Estate Vineyards, both in the Hamptons Long Island AVA, which is to say the South Fork of the island, which has fields of Bridgehampton loam—sandy and well-drained—and a Bordeaux-like maritime climate, with Atlantic breezes that ward off frost until late in the harvest season.  The two forks, or East End–as they are collectively known, also enjoy the most days of sunshine and longest growing season of all of New York State, though the South Fork has a slightly later onset of spring and a somewhat longer season than the North, as well as a less windy clime.  All of the East End has high humidity and, potentially, a great deal of rain right into harvest time.

In discussions with Larry Perrine of Channing Daughters and Richard Pisacano of Wölffer’s, I learned that both had decided against seeking organic certification, though they do practice sustainable viticulture as far as is possible.[3] Their primary reason for rejecting the organic certification route was that the climate conditions—cool and very humid—seriously militates against organic farming.  As Perrine pointed out:  “Organic is virtually impossible in rainy climates like Bordeaux, Friuli, and LI; downy mildew and black rot cannot be contained by using organic methods.”  In Pisacano’s view, “organic certification is too demanding and expensive, apart from the fact that the level of humidity in the area is just too high to allow for organic practices for preventing the control of diseases and molds like powdery mildew and botrytis.”[4] Both want to be able to use conventional pesticides as a fallback if needed, and they also find that added sulfites are needed in the wineries, and these are precluded by USDA Organic Certification;[5] nevertheless, both vineyards do participate in the New York Sustainable Viticulture Program, or VineBalance, as well as in the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers program, which is itself based on VineBalance and provides a different kind of certification for sustainable (not organic) practices.[6]  But all of this was said back in 2009.

The North Fork Long Island AVA shares much of the same terroir as the Hamptons AVA, but it is affected more by its proximity to Long Island Sound than to the Atlantic, and it suffers from similar issues.  Only one of its fifty-six vineyards are yet organically certified (The Farrm, as mentioned above), although a number of them, such as Macari Vineyards and Palmer Vineyard work their land as organically and sustainably as possible, as do other vineyards, such as Peconic Bay.[7] In 2009 Joe Macari told me that he no longer believed that 100% organic viticulture is possible in the North Fork, though he practices sustainable farming to the extent possible, using only organic fertilizers and soil work, for example.  Back then Jim Silver of Peconic Bay Winery had said flatly that any idea of producing organic grapes in Long Island is simply impossible—the stuff of dreams.[8]

On the other hand, Shinn Estate has been working on conversion to full organic USDA certification and Demeter certification for the last thirteen years.  It is now 100% organic in soil work and pest control, and as noted above, has harvested the first (albeit not certified) organic/Biodynamic® grapes in Long Island.  If Shinn could have grown 100% organic/ Biodynamic® grapes for three successive years, the Estate would then have become certified, and that would be a major achievement for the East End.[9] Unfortunately despite continued and dedicate effort, disease pressure due to high humidity was such that it did not happen.  Instead, Shinn has chosen to join the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers program, established in 2012 and based on Cornell’s VineBalance.  This is a far more viable approach for most if not all vineyards on the Island.  (The sole exception has been Rex Farr, who has been growing certified organic produce since 1990 (certification came through the Northeast Organic Farming Association or NOFA).  His vines were planted in 2005, with the first harvest taking place in October 2011.  Farr sells his fruit to wine producers.)

The discussions mentioned above have taken place over a period of six years and it is clear that the perceptions and ideas about organic/sustainable viniculture in Long Island are still evolving.

What is it that makes it so challenging to grow certified organic wine grapes in Long Island?

Let us then look at what is required to produce certified organic grapes:  of first importance is how the chosen method will affect the quality of the wine made from organic grapes, along with the cost of the conversion to a new viticultural regimen, as well as the long-term operating costs—a determining factor with respect to profit.  Much literature has been devoted to the advantages of organic or sustainable viticulture, despite the significant obstacles that need to be overcome.

In the United States, the various forms of sustainable grape-growing are:[10]

  1. Organic (certified, which is to say, 100% organic as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, [USDA] and its National Organic Program [NOP])
  2. Organic (but not USDA certified, falling under categories 2,3, and 4, listed further below)
  3. Biodynamic® (a special category of organic, but following the tenets of Demeter; not recognized by the USDA)
  4. Sustainable or natural (incorporating organic viticulture, but not completely)

Organic farming is defined by the USDA, as explained by the Organic Consumers Association Web page: [11]

[In 1990] . . . along came the National Organic Program (NOP), also part of the USDA.  The NOP’s goal has been to set guidelines for the processing and labeling of organic products and to maintain the “National List” of allowed and prohibited substances.  According to the NOP and the ATF . . . there are four categories that organic products can claim:

  1. 100% Organic
  2. Organic [95%+]
  3. Made With Organic Ingredients [70-95%]
  4. Some Organic Ingredients; i.e., less than 70%.[12]

As can be seen, the range of choices is wide, the ramifications of any particular approach daunting.  Time and cost are important considerations in the process of converting from conventional to organic/sustainable practice, and these vary according to the chosen option.  In the case of the USDA organic certification, at least 3 years is required to convert a vineyard for certification;[13] if Biodynamic®, the transition is the same as for USDA certification and, in fact, overlaps it.[14]

A comparative study performed by Gerald B. White, of Cornell University, ca 1995, broke out the costs of conventional vs. organic viticulture, and provides a basis for projecting those to be sustained after conversion.[15] The study concluded that the costs of organic farming could be considerably higher than it would be for conventional, but it was conducted in 1995 at a vineyard in the Finger Lakes, using very different varieties (one labrusca & two hybrids) from the vinifera ones grown in Long Island.[16] However, the fact that the three varieties in the experiment each had different issues, results, and costs, suggests that the same may be true with different vinifera varieties.[17] An article in the October 2007 issue of Wines & Vines Magazine, tells of wineries that have had some success with the transition to organic viticulture, including Shinn Estate.  Though more an anecdote than a scientific study, it captures much of what has changed since the 1995 Cornell study.[18]

Nevertheless, the choices remain dauntingly complex, for the issue is not merely to choose between USDA-certified organic or non-certified, or between Demeter certification or ACA-only certification[19], but there are different degrees or types of sustainable farming that go beyond standard certification (“natural” winemaking vs. conventional [or interventionist] winemaking as well as socially-responsible viticulture are two matters beyond the purview of this essay, as they are not directly concerned with viticulture proper[20]).

Clearly, a three-year transition period is really a minimum period, as was the case with Shinn Estate, where the process took much more time, before they finally decided to not try to be certified.[21] For certification, the transition needs considerable preparation, including establishing a USDA-mandated buffer zone of at least 25 feet (8 meters) to separate organic transition fields from those farmed conventionally.[22] The conversion also entails some significant adjustments:  there can be no chemical sprays, herbicides, and pesticides, or use artificial fertilizer for the vineyard plot, replacing them instead with natural pesticides and herbicides, foliate sprays, and organic manure or compost, which are all more expensive than the industrial versions.[23] On the other hand, fixed costs should not change, nor wage levels, but more manual field work would be necessary, especially if machine harvesting were not used, which would be the case a vineyard went the “natural” route.[24]

As pointed out by Kingley Tobin, “The three main areas of vineyard management to focus on are Weeds, Disease, and Pests.”[25] For weed control, using ground cover is a good sustainable practice, and helps reduce the use of glyphosate-based herbicides that tend to shut down the main precursor to plant phenolics; the improved phenolic content of the grapes should result in a better product.[26]

For disease, as the soil returns to a more natural state and the vines are no longer exposed to industrial products that diminish their ability to resist bacterial and fungal infections, they should, over time, develop Systemic Acquired Resistance (SAR).[27] Foliate inputs can be made organic by switching to highly-effective silicate applications such as the Demeter 500-series preparations (e.g., 501 horn-silica) or even horsetail tea, which has been used successfully upstate.[28] Periodic applications of chemical sprays may be needed until SAR has been induced, but the use of tunnel spraying apparatus should keep such sprays from entering the soil.  Even this may be avoidable if one applies safe, organic sprays such as sulphur for powdery mildew, while liquid seaweed, fatty acids, compost sprays can all be applied against botrytis.  Given the high humidity of the Long Island region, more frequent applications may make up for their general lack of toxicity as compared to industrial ones.

For pest control, properly-selected ground cover, such as clover, will attract bees and other beneficial insects.  Ladybugs can be purchased in quantity and released after flowering to prey on aphids, eggs, larvae, scale, and other parasites. [29] Pyrethrums (made from flowers) work naturally to deter wasps and yellow jackets that are attracted to the fruit.[30] Soil-borne pathogens that feed on the root damage caused by phylloxera may be controlled by measured use of hydrogen peroxide, as well as by application of harpins (e.g., Messenger®) on the grapes, while BTH can be used to help increase resistance to Botrytis.[31] All this means much more attention must be paid to the condition of the vineyard throughout the season, compared to a conventional approach.  This is essentially the practice of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).[32]

This can all be accomplished over time, though much experimentation as well as trial-and-error will usually be necessary, as every vineyard will have unique issues of its own.  The bottom line is that organic viticulture is more labor-intensive, but with potentially lower supply-and-materials costs, so that the fruit that results should be of higher quality, entirely free of industrial residue or traces, safer for consumption, and better for the land.  The question:  can 100% certified organic grapes, as stipulated in the USDA guidelines, be grown long-term in the Long Island AVAs, or is sustainable viticulture the best that can be hoped for?  The Farrm has been raising organically-certified fruit and vegetables since 1990, and vinifera grapes since 2005.  He has achieved this in part because he has been willing to accept smaller crops when the disease pressure is very strong, and that depends on the weather from year to year.

___________________________________

Endnotes

[2] Geraldine Pluenneke, “On Good Land: Farming to a Different Beat,” Edible East End, Spring 2011.

[3] Telephone interviews with Richard Pisacano of Wölffer Estate and Larry Perrine of Channing Daughters, both on 17 April 2009

[4] Ibid.

[5] United States Department of Agriculture, National Organic Program, “Labeling: Regulatory Text,” § 205.303 (5).  (Henceforth referred to as USDA, NOP, Labeling:)

[6] New York Guide to Sustainable Viticulture Practices: Grower Self-Assessment Workbook, “[the Program] . . . is designed to encourage practices with low environmental impact that maintain or improve soil.”  Also see Channing Daughters Winery, “A Vineyard With a Purpose” Web page.

[7] Interviews with Alejandra Macari and Barbara Shinn, 20 April 2009, with Jim Silver at Peconic Bay Winery, 7 July 2009, and with Miguel Martín of Palmer Vineyards, 12 October 2010.

[8] Interview with Jim Silver, 7 July 2009.

[9] Despite Shinn’s involvement with VineBalance, she does take issue with the term “sustainable,” holding that it can mean anything that a practitioner wants it to, and prefers to speak of “natural viticulture.”

[10] The five categories are my summation of several sources:  USDA, NOP, Labeling: § 205.301; Monty Waldin, “organic viticulture” The Oxford Companion to Wine, p. 498; Jon Bonné, “A fresh take on sustainable winemaking”; also, Sustainability in Practice (SIP) ™ Vineyard Certification Program, FAQ PDF.

[11] Organic Consumers Association, “Clearing up the confusion about Organic Wine,” introduction.  Also see the USDA, NOP, and Labeling: § 205.301a-d, the source for the list.  Only the first two items on the list (a & b) are of concern to us.

[12] USDA, NOP, Labeling: § 205.301-304 passim.

[13] Vincent Russo and Merritt Taylor.  “Yield and Quality of Vegetable Crops in Conventional and Organic Production Systems,” USDA Agricultural Research Service, n.p.

[14] Demeter USA, “Get Certified.”

[15] Gerald B. White, “The Economics of Growing Grapes Organically,” 19white.pdf.  This and other studies to be found at the http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/hort/faculty/pool/ website were all part of a project funded by the federal Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension program (SARE) from 1991-95.

[16] White.

[17] White.

[18] Suzanne Gannon, “Extreme Viticulture: How Northeast growers farm vinifera organically and sustainably,” Wine & Vines Magazine, online, sections on Shinn Estate Vineyards (Long Island) and Cornell’s Program (n.p.)

[19] The need for certifying agents is mentioned in passing in the USDA, NOP, Labeling: § 205.303 (5).  For a discussion of Accredited Certifying Agents (ACA) see Renée L. Robin, “Defining Organic Practices for Wines and Grapes,” in Wine Business Monthly online, section on “Getting Certified: What Rules Apply?”:

These ACAs can be private, public or non-profit entities that have received authorization to certify from the USDA. As of January 2006, there are 53 domestic ACAs and 40 foreign-based ACAs. Currently 11 of these ACAs are located in California.

[20] Joe Dressner, “Natural Wine,” The Wine Importer, speaks of the “French Natural Wine Movement,” whose members refer to themselves, “. . .  as the sans soufistres” because they refuse to add sulfur to their wine when vinifying.  The movement to make wine without sulfites has spread to the United States and has, indeed, been incorporated into the USDA certification standard for 100% organic (USDA, NOP, Labeling: § 205.302).  The issue of what actually constitutes “natural” winemaking is open to debate, as pointed out in Pameladevi Govinda’s “Natural Progression: The Real Dirt on Natural Wine,” Imbibe Magazine online.

[21] Actually, practically speaking, it is more like ten to fifteen years, according to my interview with Barbara Shinn.

[22] See Russo and Taylor’s “Yield and Quality of Vegetable Crops . . .” Technical Abstract, which set up such a 70-meter buffer zone for their experiment.

[23] According to an article by Renée L. Robin, “Defining Organic Practices for Wines and Grapes,” in Wine Business Monthly online, production cost increases can be “as much as 5 to 10 percent” during the period of transition, after which such costs should be about the same or even less that conventional methods.

[24] Jancou, Pierre.  MoreThanOrganic.com:  French Natural Wine, “As it is picked, the fruit must be collected into small containers, to avoid being crushed under its own weight, and taken to the winery as quickly as possible.”

[25] Kingsley Tobin, “Organic Viticulture & Winemaking: Changing New Zealand Grapegrowing and Winemaking to an Organic Philosophy,” section on Solution to Problems, n.p.

[26] Don Lotter, “Wine quality, organic viticulture and vine systemic acquired resistance to pests,” section on “Vine systemic acquired resistance and wine phenolics” (n.p.).  Lotter states that “SAR is induced by low to moderate levels of insect and pathogen attack, the ability of plants, particularly organically managed plants, to induce a type of situation-responsive immunity to attack by diseases and pests is known as systemic acquired resistance (SAR), in which defensive compounds, mostly phenolics, are produced.”

[27] Lotter.

[28] Lotter.

[29] GardenInsects.com, “Natural Pest Control with Ladybugs,” Web page.  (Ladybugs are also called Ladybird beetles.)

[30] Lisa Anderson, “Organic Winemaking, Northwest Style,” under heading, “Challenges of Organic Viticulture,” from WineSquire.com.

[31] Lotter.

[32] United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Web site, “Integrated Pest Management (IPM)  Principles.”

[33] Barbara Shinn e-mail to me, 7 June 2010.  She further asserts that “This is a huge success for the region and a big tipping point. Hopefully the region will take comfort that it can indeed be done and done well.”

References

Anderson, Lisa.  “Organic Winemaking, Northwest Style,” WineSquire.com, at http://winesquire.com/articles/2001/wnw0107.htm, accessed 25 March 2009.

Asimov, Eric. “The Pour: Natural Wines Redux,” New York Times, 16 March 2007.

Bonné, Jon.  “A fresh take on sustainable winemaking,” 5 April 2009, SFGate.com, at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/05/FD0H16NPIS.DTL&hw=wine&sn=003&sc=628

Brix, Samantha, “Calverton farmer boasts Long Island’s first crop of certified organic grapes,” Suffolk Times, 7 October 2011, at http://suffolktimes.timesreview.com/2011/10/21449/calverton-farmer-boasts-long-islands-first-crop-of-certified-organic-grapes/

Channing Daughters, “A Vineyard With a Purpose”: http://www.channingdaughters.com/

Cox, Jeff. “Organic Winegrowing Goes Mainstream,” Wine News Magazine, Aug/Sep 2000

Demeter-International e. V., International Certification Office.  List of Fees, Lizenz-&- Gebührenordnung.PDF, as at January 1st 2006 [in English], at http://demeter.net/certification/ce_procedures_fees.pdf?languagechoice=en&languageadmin=0

Demeter, USA.  “Get Certified,” Demeter-USA.org, at http://demeter-usa.org/get-certified/, accessed 8 April 2009.

Dressner, Joe.  “Natural Wines,” from the wine importer blog, 28 April 2007. from http://www.datamantic.com/joedressner/?2331.

Gahagan, Richard M.  “Use of Term ‘Organic’ on Wine Labels,” New York Agricultural Extension Program at Cornell University, at http://nysaes.cals.cornell.edu/research-extension/grapes-and-wine, accessed 8 April 2009.

Gannon, Suzanne.  “Extreme Viticulture: Now Northeast growers farm vinifera organically and sustainably,” Wines & Vines Magazine, October 2007.

Govinda, Pameladevi.  “Natural Progression,” Imbibe Magazine, Sept/Oct 2008.

Jancou, Pierre.  MoreThanOrganic.com:  “French Natural Wine” at http://www.morethanorganic.com/definition-of-natural-wine, accessed 21 April 2009.

Kolpan, Steven.  “Biodynamic Wines: Beyond Organic,” Steven Kolpan on Wine, November 2008, at http://stevenkolpanonwine.blogspot.com/2008/11/biodynamic-wines-beyond-organic.html.

Lotter, Don, Ph.D.  “Wine quality, organic viticulture and vine systemic acquired resistance to pests,” Organic Wine Journal, 11 November 2008, at http://www.organicwinejournal.com/index.php/2008/11/wine-quality-organic-viticulture-and-vine-systemic-acquired-resistance-to-pests/

Macari, Alexandra, of Macari Vineyard, telephone interview conducted on 20 April 2009.

Natural Process Alliance Home Page, The.  http://www.naturalprocessalliance.us/home, accessed 8 April 2009.

Organic Consumers Association, “Clearing up the Confusion about Organic Wines,” from http://www.organicconsumers.org/Organic/OrganicWine.cfm, accessed 6 April 2009

Organic Viticulture, “Organic and Biodynamic Viticulture,” Tuscany-in-a-Bottle.com, from http://www.tuscany-in-a-bottle.com/organic.htm, accessed 25 March 2009

Organic Wine Company. “Organic Wines,” EcoWine.com, at http://ecowine.com/organic.html, accessed 25 March 2009.

Peterson, Walter.  “Marketing Organic Wines in New York,” New York Agricultural Extension Program at Cornell University, at http://nysaes.cals.cornell.edu/research-extension/grapes-and-wine, accessed 8 April 2009.

Pluenneke, Geraldine.  “On Good Land: Farming to a Different Beat,” Edible East End, Spring 2011; published online on 25 April 2001 at:  http://www.edibleeastend.com/online_magazine/farming-to-a-different-beat/

Railey, Raven J.  “Wine with a conscience:  How three local wineries go green,” San Luis Obispo’s website, 4 April 2009, at http://www.sanluisobispo.com/183/story/674260.html

Robin, Renée L.  “Defining Organic Practices for Wine and Grapes,” Wine Business Monthly, 15 April 2006.

Robinson, Jancis, MW, editor.  The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd edition.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2006

Robinson, Jancis, MW, “More French Wineries go Biodynamic,” SFGate.com, home of The San Francisco Chronicle, 2 February 2006.

Russo, Vincent and Merritt Taylor.  “Yield and Quality of Vegetable Crops in Conventional and Organic Production Systems,” USDA Agricultural Research Service, at http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/Publications.htm?seq_no_115=194264, 1 December 2006; last modified 14 April 2009.  [NOTE: this is an interpretive summary and technical abstract of a 2006 article: “Soil amendments in transition to organic vegetable production with comparison to conventional methods: Yields and economics.”  HortScience, 41(7):1576-1583.]

Shinn, Barbara, Vineyard Manager, Shinn Estate, telephone interview conducted on 20 April 2009.

Sustainability in Practice (SIP) ™ Vineyard Certification Program, “Frequently Asked Questions” [FAQ], PDF file downloaded from http://www.vineyardteam.org, accessed 8 April 8, 2009.

Tobin, Kinsley. “Organic Viticulture & Winemaking: Changing New Zealand Grapegrowing and Winemaking to an Organic Philosophy”, at http://organicnz.vibrantplanet.com/page/2020-18, accessed 25 March 2009.

United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] Web site, “Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Principles.”  From http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/factsheets/ipm.htm, accessed 21 April 2009.

United StatesDepartment of Agriculture, National Organic Program, “Labeling: Regulatory Text,” PDF file available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3003511, accessed 7 April 2009

VineBalance, New York Guide to Sustainable Viticulture Practices: Grower Self-Assessment Workbook. PDF file, at http://www.vinebalance.com/pdf/intro.pdf

White, Gerald B.  “The Economics of Growing Grapes Organically,” Department of Agriculture, Resource, and Managerial Economics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, at http://nysaes.cals.cornell.edu/research-extension/grapes-and-wine, accessed 8 April 2009.

Wölffer Estate Vineyard, “Vineyards and Winemaking” Web page, at http://www.wolffer.com/store/

 

2013 Assessment of Long Island Winery Websites

As of July 2016, despite a much-needed reassessment, as so many of the sites have been significantly updated and improved, I have had no time to do a full re-evaluation.  My book, The Wines of Long Island, 3rd edition, has just been turned in to my publisher, SUNY Press. After  a period of decompression, I shall revisit all the Websites and update this post.

In an article published in Wines & Vines, “What Visitors Want from Wine Sites” (June 2011), Kent Benson explained what information he thought serious visitors to wine sites (specifically winery and vineyard ones) should provide.  I thought that his ideas were worth serious consideration and decided to try and apply those criteria to the websites of the region that I am most familiar with:  Long Island.  Benson’s original article is accessible at Wines & Vines 6/11.

The Criteria

In order to assess the quality of the Long Island winery/vineyard websites, I have chosen to evaluate them on the basis of both the historical and technical information that they provide.  Below is my adaptation (mostly a reorganization) of Kent Bensons’ wish list for wine websites:

  1. Identify type of operation up front:  Winery &/or Vineyard &/or Tasting Room
  2. History: frank and honest, including founder, subsequent owners and corporate owners: (don’t pretend you’re a “family” winery when you’re not)
  3. Winemaker, vineyard manager, and owner: names, pictures and bios
    1. Technical information (viniculture)
      1. Vineyard information:  acreage, vine density, vinicultural practices, yields, maps
      2. Wine grape source locations, soil types, vine ages
      3. List of all grape varieties in the vineyard with acreage
      4. Vintage report
      5. Technical information (vinification)
        1. Forthright, step-by-step, detailed description of the winemaking process: (tell all); e.g., details of aging regimen:  proportion aged in wood, proportions of French & American oak, proportions of new, one-year, two-year, etc., oak alternatives employed

        b.   Technical data: degrees Brix at harvest, actual ABV, TA, pH, RS, dry extract, disgorgement date: (for sparkling wine) [this set data is for wine geeks; most others may not care]

        1. Estimated drinkability range from vintage date
        2. Purchase information (Online/Wine Club)
          1. Available current releases and at least two previous vintages
          2. Pairing and serving temperature suggestions
          3. Bottle and label shots: (keep them current, show front & back labels)
          4. Pictures of estate or controlled vineyards and of winery

    In addition, I would like to see Winery websites that are easy to navigate and do not require that a visitor need dig for information or other data.  All features should be easily accessible, which means that navigation options should not be embedded more than a level or two down from the main menu or home page.Blogs are very nice to have and can be extremely informative: Bedell Cellars, Channing Daughters, and Shinn Estate have particularly useful ones.  However, they are not scored for this assessment, as most sites have no blogs.

    Events and event calendars are an essential part of nearly any retail winery, but these are not scored individually in the assessments that follow, as they are mostly about entertainment and social matters, and information on winegrowing and winemaking is our real concern.

  4. Consequently, I have also added a new criterion, for ‘general’ features.  These are scored by the number of features listed above that appear on the Website, thus 10 ‘yes’ answers (features present) is complete. If a feature is not applicable (n/a) the score is not reduced.  Furthermore, if a newsletter is available, I score the newsletter for quality of its information—if no newsletter is offered, it is not scored.

    About the Assessments

    NOTE:  The assessments on the following pages are based on my version of Benson’s wish list.  They are my own, and therefore subjective.  Poor scores may sometimes reflect a deliberate desire on the part of the winery not to provide the kind of information that is being looked for here, possibly due to the time and cost of including it on the Web.  In no case do these scores reflect on the wines offered on these sites.

    The purpose of this assessment is both informational for visitors and, hopefully, a prod to the web designers and the site owners to add or improve features, if possible.  Naturally, many of the wineries are very small and may not have the wherewithal to spend money on a better website than they already have.  Some don’t appear to have the means to keep their sites up-to-date, or at least certain features such as blogs, which are time-consuming to maintain.  It would be helpful if all sites provided a ‘last time updated’ on their home pages.

    It shall be updated from time-to-time as enough changes to the websites so warrant. Assigning scores to the websites

    Listed alphabetically, the assessments of the websites carry no imputations regarding a winery’s products.  Major features are graded on a scale of 1 to 5:

    1 = inadequate/little or no information
    2 = fair/some information, albeit cursory
    3 = adequate/basic relevant information, but lacking depth
    4 = very good/most relevant information
    5 = excellent/all relevant information
    n/a = not applicable (e.g., no viniculture information because no vineyard)

    The highest score possible for a website is 5.0 points out of 5. Nominally, the lowest score should be 1.0 point out of 5, but there is one site that has a blog about money and dogs and nothing about wine—an aberration, to be sure, but listed nevertheless for the sake of completeness.

    The Sixty-two Websites (as of 11 June 2013)

NOTE:  In May 2012 there were fifty-five Websites that were evaluated.  As of July 2016 there are over seventy sites to be assessed.

Anthony Nappa Wines / Winemakers Studio: (3.9 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: No; no grape source info either
  • Winery: No (uses Raphael facilities)
  • Winemaker: Anthony Nappa
  • Tasting Room: The Winemaker Studio, Peconic (see Web assessment below)
  • History / background: (4/5) Very good
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Excellent bios on both sites
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) No notes, but adequate descriptions with food pairing suggestions on both sites
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5) No; brief descriptions of wines, but purchase can only be made by phone at Winemakers Studio; there is also a resellers listing
  • Wine Club: Anthony Nappa: No; The Winemaker Studio: Yes, but the membership form must be printed and mailed in—a tad inconvenient.
  • Contact: phone, snail mail, or e-mail for both Nappa & the Studio
  • Directions: Yes, for Winemaker Studio, with map
  • News/reviews link: Yes, and up to date.
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: n/a
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (4/5) Elegant, easy to navigate, but link to The Winemaker Studio takes you to a very different style and layout (see assessment below)
  • General feature set:  5 out of 10 (2.5/5)
  • Additional features: Resellers option; link to Anthony Nappa Wine’s Facebook page.
  • Up-to-date: Nappa: Mostly, but there is no mention of Anthony’s hire by Raphael to be its winemaker; Studio: OK.

Anthony Nappa Wines

Comment:  Two linked websites, one for Anthony Nappa Wines, another for the tasting room at The Winemaker Studio; information about the vineyards that source the grapes would be very welcome (and so interesting to the geeks among us).

NOTE: The Winemaker Studio features and sells wines by Anthony Nappa, Roman Roth (Grapes of Roth), Russell Hearn (Suhru Wines & T’Jara Vineyards), Erik Bilka (Influence Wines), John Leo (Leo Family Wines), and Adam Suprenant (Coffeepot Wines)

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards: (3.6 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No (PWG)
  • Winemaker:  Tom Drozd using PWG facilities
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Personal, family focused
  • About / Biographies: (4/5) Personal, no staff biographies
  • Vineyard /viniculture information: (3/5) Succinct, no maps, no mention of terroir; focus on sustainability, but few specifics
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) very good, but not all wines are fully commented
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5) Many choices, brief descriptions, food pairing suggestions; gift baskets
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact:  e-mail & phone
  • Directions: Yes, with map
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes; focus on Rock & Roll and Bluegrass performances; weddings
  • Tours: Virtual (online)
  • Photo gallery: Yes, and video of horses and games as well
  • Website design: (4/5) Attractive if a bit busy-looking, with many options
  • General feature set:  7 of 10 (3.5/5)
  • Additional features: Virtual tour, rescue-horse farm & pony rides, corporate ideas, entertainment schedule
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard

Comment:  Greeted by a picture of a child with a horse, one knows immediately that this is a family-oriented; the vineyard and its wines itself needs more attention.  The BHFV Horse Rescue operation, by the way, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation, devoted to the rescue of horses.

Bedell Cellars: (5.0 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  •  Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Richard Harbich-Olsen
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (5/5) Excellent account of sustainability & its practice
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Excellent, full biographies of all staff
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (5/5) Excellent, full description and parcel maps, discussion of  terroir, sustainable practices (member of Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers [henceforth LISW])
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Excellent, complete notes: (PDFs)
  • Technical wine data: Yes, in PDFs
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Very good descriptions, many choices, including sets
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact:  e-mail, phone & fax
  • Directions: Yes, with map
  • News/reviews link: Yes, many links to reviews in NYT
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: (5/5) Yes, by far the most informative and interesting newsletter of all, with keen and thoughtful observations about wine, viniculture, terroir, and so on.  Issued from time to time.
  • Wine Blog: Yes, highly informative with both wit and humor.
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Yes, by prior arrangement
  • Photo gallery: Yes, and video as well
  • Website design / usability: (5/5) Excellent, elegant design (by Cro2), art is featured
  • General feature set:  10 of 10 (5/5)
  • Additional features: Excellent explanation of sustainable farming; art gallery; various wedding options
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Bedell Cellars

Comment:  An elegant site, easy to navigate, many useful options, thoughtful design, exceptionally informative and complete. A plausible standard for winery websites with respect to the content that they could provide.  Elegant design helps too, of course.  The newsletter is a model as well—every issue is worth reading (though they do come out irregularly).

Bouké Wines: (4.2 4.6 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: No; purchases fruit from N. Fork & Finger Lakes vineyards
  • Winery: No (PWG)
  • Winemaker: No; Gilles Martin, consultant
  • Tasting Room: Tasting Room, Peconic
  • History / background: (5/5) Full & complete, well-organized
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Excellent bios
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Excellent, good technical info, PDFs
  • Technical wine data: Yes
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Good, brief descriptions, but dig down for full wine notes
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact:  e-mail & phone
  • Directions: No
  • News/reviews link: Yes, including a list of awards
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: Yes, via a small icon at the bottom of the page
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: n/a
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (5/5) Attractive, clean design, unusual navigation in places
  • General feature set:  4 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: Links to responsible drinking sites (AIM & Century); Jazz recommended listening; boutique for wine accessories; the blog is really just a series of links; blogroll is a set of links to blogs by others
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Bouké Wines

Comment:  Attractive and easy to use, it reflects well on the products offered; much improved design  with excellent navigation; it could mention the vineyards sourcing the grapes; the list of NYC retailers selling the wines is confined to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Oenology (3.7 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: No
  • Winery: No; PWG makes the wine
  • Winemaker: Yes, Alie Shaper
  • Tasting Room: Yes, offers BOE wines and a selection of other LI and Finger Lakes wines
  • History / background: (5/5) Complete
  • About / Biographies: (1/5) None
  • Vineyard/viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Succinct but complete and clearly presented
  • Technical wine data: Spotty
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Yes, now BOE’s own online system
  •  Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Yes
  • News/reviews link: Eventually
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: Yes, but the last post was in Sept. 2012
  • Events / calendar: Yes; but no functional links to some events that could use them
  • Tours: n/a
  • Photo gallery: Mostly of the artist labels; art an emphasis of site
  • Website design: (4/5) Slick, sophisticated, but home page is rather busy in consequence
  • General feature set:  6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: Artists’ labels a focus
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Brooklyn Oenology

Comment: Site functions like a work in progress; the wine links don’t work properly if you select, for example, White Wines, as it takes you to an empty page.  You must select a particular white wine, but it means that making comparisons a bit more difficult.

Brooklyn Winery (4.2 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: No
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes; Conor McCormack
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Complete
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Interesting and amusing
  • Vineyard/viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Complete and clearly presented
  • Technical wine data: Yes
  • Purchase online: (n/a) Online sales are apparently pending; for now, purchase at retail or at the winery
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Yes
  • News/reviews link: Presently there are no complete reviews; PDFs are awkward to use
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: Yes
  • Events / calendar: Yes; but no links to some events that could use them
  • Tours: n/a
  • Photo gallery: Mostly of the artist labels; art an emphasis of site
  • Website design: (4/5) Slick, sophisticated
  • General feature set: 8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Artists’ labels a focus
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Brooklyn Winery

Comment: Site may still be a work in progress, given that though it shows a shopping cart and checkout, in fact online purchases cannot be made.

 Castello di Borghese: (2.2 2.6 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Erik Bilka
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (3/5) Adequate, but one has to read the press releases to learn that this was originally Hargrave Vineyard, the first on LI, which the Borgheses purchased in 1999.
  • About / Biographies: (3/5) ) Adequate, with emphasis on aristocratic Italian heritage, but if one digs deeply there is a press article that provides some
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (1/5) Inadequate, with nothing about viniculture
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (2/5) Adequate, praiseful adjectives
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5) Good, but too much navigation is required
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact:  by phone, snail mail, and email via info@castellodiborghese.com
  • Directions: Yes, text.
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: (1/5) Yes; the newsletter, issued regularly, is largely confined to events at the winery and various links; there is no news about winemaking or viniculture
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Yes, including a vineyard tour
  • Photo gallery:  Yes
  • Website design /usability: (3/5) busy-looking, keeps viewer jumping around, awkward navigation in places
  • General feature set:  8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Olive oil for sale; local beer on offer; Tour: ‘Winemaker’s Walk’ by appointment
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Castello di Borghese

Comment: Web focus is on winery’s prestige and social events as well as its wine; no staff bios, not even of the owners, unless you find the press releases—so the info is available, albeit in a desultory way.

Channing Daughters: (4.8 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Christopher Tracy
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (5/5) Excellent, especially with regard to its philosophy
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Excellent, with full biographies
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (4/5) Excellent, lacking only parcel maps, sustainable practices (member LISW)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Excellent: detailed and complete
  • Technical wine data: Embedded in the description/notes
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent, wines are full described
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Yes
  • News/reviews link:  Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: Yes, articles posted on East End by Christopher Tracy (not updated since 9/2011).
  • Events / calendar: Yes, but no entertainment or weddings, but rather for tasting classes.
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery:  Yes
  • Website design /usability: (5/5) Excellent, elegant, easy to use (by Cro2)
  • General feature set: 8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Art gallery featuring Walter Channing’s wood sculpture
  • Up-to-date: Yes, ‘Where to buy’ option shows the wines are offered in many states and are available in some of the best restaurants in the country, including Daniel in NYC, The French Laundry in Napa, as well as eateries in Montreal and Quebec City.

Channing Daughters

Comment: Elegant and very well-designed, easy to navigate; unusual range of wines, a Website by a very serious winery

Clovis Point: (3.2 3.7 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: Yes; John Leo at PWG
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Very good
  • About / Biographies: (1/5) Just names and contact info
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (1/5) practically none
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) Very good: detailed
  • Technical wine data: Not much
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Very good, abbreviated tasting notes accompany the wine list
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact:  phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, with map option
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes, for entertainment events
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes, of the tasting room for those interested in holding a party there
  • Website design /usability: (5/5) Excellent, easy to use (by EG Creative Group)
  • General feature set:  8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Vintage notes for 2004-2011, by John Leo.  Book a party
  • Up-to-date: Yes; last vintage notes are for 2011, latest vintage for sale, 2011.

Clovis Point Wines

Comment: Lacks staff bio details, offers nothing about the vineyard or its vinicultural practices, but the vintage notes shine.

 Coffee Pot Cellars: (4.2 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: No, but sources are identified
  • Winery: No; uses Osprey’s Dominion facilities
  • Winemaker: Yes, Adam Suprenant
  • Tasting Room: Yes, just opened in 2013
  • History / background: (4/5) Succinct and to the point
  • About / Biographies: (4/5) part of History / background, more can be found under Press
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (n/a) Sam McCullough supplies the fruit from his premium vineyard
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) Provides the most vital information
  • Technical wine data: Some
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Easy to use, with complete descriptions available under “Read more . . .”
  • Wine Club: Yes, with 3 categories
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, to the new tasting room (as of 2013)
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Not yet functional
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: n/a
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design /usability: (5/5) Simple, direct, easy to use (by Janet Esquirol)
  • General feature set:  6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: No
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Coffee Pot Cellars

Comment: Straightforward website, no frills, it’s all about the wine.

Croteaux Rosé Vineyards (3.0 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: No; consulting winemaker is Gilles Martin, using PWG facilities
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (2/5) Barely adequate
  • About / Biographies: (0/5) No information
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (4/5) Good but brief; includes aerial photo; no mention of sustainable practices
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) A very good explanation of winegrowing Rosé wines; good descriptions
  • Technical wine data: Some
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent, wines are well-described for purchaser
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact:  phone, e-mail, snail-mail
  • Directions: text & map
  • Photo gallery: No
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar:  No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design /usability: (5/5) Excellent, very clean design, but limited options
  • General feature set:  4 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: Farmhouse Kitchen, a linked website, offers cooking lessons
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Croteaux Vineyards

Comment: Attractive and easy to use, but lacks Background and About info, no bios

Diliberto Winery: (2.3 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: Sal Diliberto
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Very good, on the personal side, but must read reviews by others to get most of the information
  • About / Biographies: (3/5) Good, focus on Italian background; for fuller info one needs to go to the Newsroom option and read an interview in the LI Wine Press link
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (n/a) No info about outsourced vineyard
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (2/5) Adequate
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (0/5) Nothing; though not indicated, wines can be purchased by e-mail or by phone or at the tasting room.
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail-mail
  • Directions: text & Google map
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design /usability: (3/5) Good, easy to use, but must “dig” for some info
  • General feature set:  4 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: Weddings; tasting menu (in lieu of a wine list); winery apartment on offer
  • Up-to-date: Press info up to Jan. 2012; most recent wine listed is 2009.

Diliberto Winery

Comment: A very basic website; no online purchasing

Duckwalk Vineyards / Duckwalk North: (3.4 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes
  • Tasting Room: Yes, at both sites
  • History / background: (4/5) Very good
  • About / Biographies: (4/5) Very good, focus on Italian background
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (2/5) Sustainable practices claimed, but little detail
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) Good, but little about vinification
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Good, but prices don’t show with wine choices
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Phone, fax, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: No, just the address
  • News/reviews link: Not yet
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes, devoted to entertainment
  • Tours: Yes, according to LI Wine Country, but it doesn’t appear to be the case according to the winery Website
  • Photo gallery: No, but a slide show of ten images includes one of goldfish (?).  A picture of a duck would make more sense for Duckwalk, one would think.
  • Website design /usability: (4/5) Very easy to use; home page is dominated by pictures of its scheduled entertainers
  • General feature set:  5 of 10 (2.5/5)
  • Additional features: About Duck Walk’s supported causes; there used to be an option to choose any of four languages other than English:  French German, Italian, and Spanish, but that appears to have been removed since the site was reviewed last year (2012)
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Duck Walk

Comment: What?  No directions on how to get there?  No newsletter?  A rather basic site, it could also use more information about viniculture, especially given the claim to sustainable practices, and more about the wines, as well.

Grapes of Roth by Wölffer Estate: (4.4 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: No; grape sources are identified—incidentally—in a review
  • Winery: No, uses Wölffer’s facilities, as he’s its winemaker
  • Winemaker: Yes, Roman Roth
  • Tasting Room:  Wölffer Estate and The Winemaker Studio, Peconic
  • History / background: (4/5) Very good
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Excellent:  full biography, in chapters
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) Good, about outsourced vineyard
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Excellent: detailed and complete
  • Technical wine data: Yes, very detailed and complete
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent, wines are full described
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: in small print at bottom of Home page: e-mail, snail mail, and phone
  • Directions: n/a
  • News/reviews link: Yes, but it isn’t up-to-date.
  • Newsletter / Mailing List:  No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: External events are listed and are up-to-date, but no calendar
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes, in connection with Roth’s bio in chapters
  • Website design /usability: (5/5) Elegant and straightforward design (in a glass), very easy to navigate (by ZGDG)
  • General feature set:  6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: No, but you may need to get used to the puns.
  • Up-to-date: Events, yes, but the reviews page has nothing later than 2010

The Grapes of Roth

Comment: Elegant design, if a tad idiosyncratic, very complete info about wines and Roth.

NOTE:  Now that Roth has been named a partner in Wölffer Estate, where he has been winemaker for over 20 years, Grapes of Roth will be part of the Wölffer brand.

Harbes Farm & Vineyard: (3.2 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: Edward Harbes IV
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / Background: (2/5) Adequate, focused on family & farm
  • About / Biographies: (2/5) Adequate, but no biographies
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) Good, though brief; sustainable practices (member LISW)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) brief, offers food pairing suggestions
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5) Easy to use, wine descriptions brief but to the point
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: phone, fax, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: text and map
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, but it appears not to be functional as of 5/16/12
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design / usability: (4/5) Newly redesigned, attractive, easy to navigate
  • General feature set:  7 of 10 (3.5/5)
  • Additional features: Other farms, Farm Market, Family fun, Maze adventures, Groups & Parties, Weddings
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Harbes Farm & Vineyard

Comment:  A wine website with a split personality:  fun & games for kids; wine for adults, even a farm market; there are three different farms, only the one in Mattituck has a vineyard

Harmony Vineyards (1.8 2.2 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: No; uses Eric Fry of Lenz
  • Tasting Room: No
  • History / background: (1/5)
  • About / Biographies: (1/5)
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: ( 2/5) little is said in text, but some pictures are worth a few more words
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (2/5) actually, all wines are commented on by quoting reviews, but there are further notes when one goes to purchase online.
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5) easy to use, adequate wine notes
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: address and map
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (3/5) Attractive and straightforward
  • General feature set:  5 of 10 (2.5/5)
  • Additional features: Art gallery (text, no images!), We Support (list of causes & charities); video of house moved to new site, accompanied by music; promotions
  • Up-to-date:  wines of the 2010 vintage are on offer

Harmony Vineyards

Comment: Very limited options, focus is on worthy causes and charities

Influence Wines (4.3 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: No
  • Winery: PWG
  • Winemaker: Eric Bilka at PWG
  • Tasting Room: No
  • History / background: (5/5)
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Minimal
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (5/5) Excellent
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Excellent, very complete
  • Technical wine data: Yes
  • Purchase online: No
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: n/a
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Photo gallery:  No
  • Website design: (5/5) Minimalist; though not slick or pretty, it is clean, clear, and easy to navigate
  • General feature set:  2 of 5 (1/5)
  • Additional features: None
  • Up-to-date: 2010 is last vintage mentioned

Influence Wines

Comment: Production winemaker at PWG makes but one wine:  Riesling, sourced from the Finger Lakes.  As straightforward a website as one can find

Jamesport Vineyards (4.3 4.6 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Dean Barbiar
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (5/5) Excellent, very thorough
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Excellent, though the biographies could be given more flesh
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (4/5) Good description; sustainable claims, but lacks detail
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description (4/5) Very good, little about vinification
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent; labels, full wine description, easy to use
  • Wine Club / Subscription:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone/fax, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Google map
  • News/reviews link: List of awards, but no links to articles or reviews
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar:  Yes
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: A combination photo gallery  and video with musical accompaniment which provides some interesting and useful information
  • Website design: (5/5) Excellent, attractive, easy to navigate (by Cro2)
  • General feature set:  8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Wine bottles recycling rewards program; Wholesale inquiries; Futures purchases
  • Up-to-date: Events, Retail & restaurants list needs updating

Jamesport-Vineyards

Comment:  An informative and attractive website that needs a real News/Reviews link; it supports the Southold Project in Aquaculture Training (SPAT), for sustainable fishing.

Jason’s Vineyard (2.8 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: Yes, Jason Damianos
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (3/5)
  • About / Biographies: (4/5)
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (2/5) Just adequate, but little about sustainability
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (2/5) Adequate, but barely
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (n/a) Wines are listed and briefly described, but cannot be purchased online.
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes
  • News/reviews link:  No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: TBA, according to the Website
  • Tours:  No
  • Photo gallery: Yes, but limited
  • Website design: (4/5) Pleasant design with a Greek theme, easy to navigate and use.
  • General feature set:  3 of 10 (1.5/5)
  • Additional features: No
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Jason’s Vineyard

Comment: A basic website.

 Kontokosta Winery (under construction)

Laurel Lake Vineyard: (3.0 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Juan Sepúlveda
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / Background: (2/5) Very brief
  • About / Biographies: (1/5) Inadequate, no biographies
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) Succinct
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) Very good for some wines, but spotty
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone, fax, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, with Google map
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design / usability: (5/5) Excellent
  • General feature set:  8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: No
  • Up-to-date: Yes for the wines, but reviews only go up to 2007.

Laurel Lake Wines

Comment: An attractive site lacking important information, including bios

Lenz Winery: (3.3 3.4 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Eric Fry
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / Background / About / Biographies: (2/5) Adequate, no bios
  • About / Biographies: (1/5) Inadequate, no biographies
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) Succinct; no parcel maps
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) Complete description, no notes
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent
  • Wine Club:  Yes; 3-level club program
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, address and map
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes, and not just parties, but serious tastings of wines from around the world; Weddings (however, as of May 2013 the link to the events page is broken).
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design / usability: (5/5) Sophisticated, minimalist look and functionality
  • General feature set:  7 of 10 (3.5)
  • Additional features: Tours; “Petrus tasting” notes to emphasize quality by comparison to  French equivalents; prior tasting results yet to be posted; Lenz cottage stays available for wine club subscribers
  • Up-to-date: hard to tell; latest wines offered date to 2009; the latest reviews were in 2006

Lenz Winery

Comment: An attractive, useful, and interesting site lacking some basic information, including bios

Lieb Cellars / Bridge Lane Wines: (4.0 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No, uses PWG
  • Winemaker: Yes, Russell Hearn is an owner and a winemaker/owner at Premium Wine Group
  • Tasting Room: Yes, at PWG
  • History / Background (4/5) Good, found under the rubric Our Vineyard.
  • About / Biographies: (3/5) Good, limited bio about owners
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) Good, but incidental to the overall story; no maps; sustainable practices (member LISW)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) Very good; inconsistent from wine to wine
  • Technical wine data:  Though indicated as available, trying to open the wine spec sheets and tasting note PDFs produces a “Error 404 Page not found.”
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, from different directions and a map to boot
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design / usability: (5/5) Excellent and very attractively designed.
  • General feature set:  6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: Featured restaurants that offer Lieb Cellars wine, particularly a link to Craft Restaurant, given that Lieb makes a sparkling wine for Craft’s private label as well as a link for Lieb’s Summer Rosé for Park Ave. Restaurant’s private label.  (Both restaurants are in NYC.)
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Lieb Cellars

Comment:  An attractive and largely well-designed site that is mostly easy to get around; though there are two separate labels—Lieb Cellars and Bridge Lane, the distinction between them is not made clear.  The inability for users of opening the wine tasting notes and spec sheets is frustrating; apart from the error message, clicking on the Continue button simply takes one back to the wines page—in other words, a circular routing.

Macari Vineyards: (4.0 4.4 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Kelly Urbanik, also Helmut Gangl, consultant
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Sufficient history & background
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Excellent, especially on the backgrounds of the winemakers
  • Vineyard / viniculture information 4/5: Useful information about vinicultural practices; no parcel maps
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description 4/5: Professionally-written descriptions, no notes
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Easy to use
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Addresses with maps
  • News/reviews link: Yes, including many recent reviews for 2013
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Virtual (online), tells much of the story of the winery and vineyards
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (5/5) Very attractive and easy to navigate
  • General feature set: 9 of 10 (4.5/5)
  • Additional features:  Weddings, Private parties
  • Up-to-date: Yes, includes 2012 wines on offer and up-to-date reviews

Macari Wines

Comment: The virtual tour that I so highly recommended in 2012 is, alas, no more.

Martha Clara Vineyards (3.5 3.9 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No, uses Premium Wine Group
  • Winemaker: Yes, Juan Micieli-Martinez uses  PWG
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (3/5) Brief, focuses on family
  •  About / Biographies: (5/5) Full bios of owners & winemaker/manager
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (1/5) Virtually no information, but uses sustainable practices (member LISW)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description (5/5) Full, rich descriptions; click on bottle illustration for more information, including . . .
  • Technical wine data: Yes, also via downloadable PDF.
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Store is a catchall for wine, gifts, and events; minimal descriptions of wines with food-pairing notes; full wine information is found under ‘Wines’
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: phone & e-mail.  Also Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and BlogSpot.
  • Directions: Yes, text and Google map.
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No, it has been eliminated.
  • Tours: Yes
  • Events / calendar: Yes; encourages large parties, weddings, meetings, etc.  Calendar shows upcoming events through Sept. 2013, including concerts, dinners, other.  Does not mention special viniculture class led by vineyard manager, Jim Thompson, held once a year.
  • Photo gallery: Ample, nicely presented; videos offered, but apparently disabled as of 4/9/2012
  • Website design: (4/5) Front page busy & unattractive, the rest of the pages use a minimalist design & are easy on the eyes; navigation is mostly straightforward; home page uses functional Table of Contents (with fake page numbers—a tad confusing)
  • General feature set: 8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Strong emphasis on community involvement & charity support; also offers horse & carriage rides.  Videos offered, but no longer accessible.  Small zoo for children.Up-to-date: Yes

Martha Clara Vineyards

Comment:  Other than the opening page, an attractive site; however, to read about the wines involves using a display of pictures of wine bottles—to select click on the image to read about the wine; the media feature is, quirkily, not quotations or links from the press or reviewers, but rather, videos that are no longer accessible.

Mattebella Vineyards (3.3 3.6 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No, PWG
  • Winemaker: No, PWG
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (1/5) No real information
  • About / Biographies: (2/5)  Just adequate
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (5/5) Good, with emphasis on sustainability (member LISW)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description (5/5) Good, clear expression of philosophy
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent, with adequate wine descriptions and an interesting variety of purchase option
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail
  • Directions: Option is not functional as of 5/4/13
  • News/reviews link: Yes, but usually cited without dates
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: Yes, but not updated since 2009
  • Events / calendar: No, you can request information via a Gmail link.
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes, with many family pictures in all categories; e.g., Vineyard
  • Website design: (4/5) Attractive and easy to navigate, but a few too many mouse clicks needed here and there; some features are not yet active, such as a list of retailers and restaurants that offer the wines
  • General feature set: 6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: You can view the front & back labels of the wines, the only site that provides this
  • Up-to-date: The blog and some other sections seem to be spottily up to date.

Mattebella Vineyards

Comment:  In most respects a good winery site, but lack of detail, particularly the About and Background features, frustrates

McCall Vineyards (3.7 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: No: Gilles Martin for Merlot @ PWG; Millbrook Winery for Pinot Noir
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (5/5) Complete
  • About / Biographies: (4/5) Bios are limited to McCall family members, no staff
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) No parcel maps; general, brief notes on sustainability
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) Tasting notes
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Simple, direct, with tasting notes
  • Wine Club: Yes, 3 levels
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Yes
  • News/reviews links: Yes; not all links work but otherwise it is up to date.
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes; embedded in the page headers and then streamed
  • Website design: (4/5) Simple, attractive, easy to navigate
  • General feature set: 6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: Ranch: Charolais cattle; Conservation
  • Up-to-date: Yes

McCall Wines

Comment:  A very attractive site to visit, but it could offer more information

Medolla Vineyards (2.0 2.2 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No, use Lenz
  • Winemaker: Yes, John Medolla with Eric Fry at Lenz
  • Tasting Room: No; Winemakers Studio; Empire State Cellars
  • History / background: (3/5) Family history, little else
  • About / Biographies: (1/5) Practically nothing
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (1/5) Insignificant about either
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (2/5) Minimal
  • Technical wine data: None
  • Purchase online: (n/a)
  • Wine Club: No
  • News/reviews link:  Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List:  No
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: No
  • News/reviews links: Yes; best source for further background on Medolla, but the most recent reviews date to
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (3/5) Basic, clean pages, little offered, the home page greets one with mandolin music
  • General feature set: 6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Up-to-date: Unclear; was the 2007 the last wine Medolla made?
  • Additional features: None

Medolla Vineyards

Comment: Very basic website

Old Field Vineyards (2.5 2.8 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No, use Lenz Winery
  • Winemaker: Roz  Baiz, with Eric Fry at Lenz Winery
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Quite a bit of family/farm history
  • About / Biographies: (1/5) Very general information
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (1/5) No details; though sustainable practices are used, no information is given
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) No notes, but decent descriptions
  • Technical wine data: None
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Easy to use, notes are interesting but could provide more information
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes; can use Google or Yahoo! maps
  • Newsletter / Mailing List:  Yes, but last newsletter dates to October 2010
  • News/reviews link: Yes, includes a few videos
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes, as part of each option; especially large for weddings section
  • Website design: (4/5) Attractive, easy to navigate
  • General feature set: 8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Weddings; Newsletter (2005-2010)
  • Up-to-date: Yes

The Old Field

Comment: An attractively-designed site that could use more information about the vineyard and the winemaking; fuller biographies would be welcome too.

Onabay Vineyards (3.5 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: No; consulting winemaker John Leo at PWG
  • Tasting Room: No
  • History / background: (3/5)
  • About / Biographies: (2/5) Some information, no biographies
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) no vinicultural info; aerial photo
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description (5/5) Very useful and complete
  • Technical wine data: Yes, can be downloaded
  • Purchase online: n/a; the wines are available from restaurants and retailers, for which there is a list
  • Wine Club / Subscription: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail via Gmail, snail mail
  • Directions: No, without a street address either
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes to both, though I’ve not received a newsletter since I signed up months ago
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (5/5) Elegant, easy to use, conveys the seriousness of the owners
  • General feature set: 4 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: None
  • Up-to-date: Yes, but a reverence to Steve Mudd as vineyard manager is no long valid; since 2012 it has been Bill Ackerman

Onabay Vineyards

Comment:  Beautiful website, needs to provide more information

One Woman’s Wines: (2.0 2.1 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Claudia Purita
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (2/5) Some personal background.
  • About / Biographies: (2/5) Some personal background
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (1/5) passing mention
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description (3/5) Adequate description, no notes
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Yes, but one must first create an online account.
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Text
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, the newsletter is limited to visitor’s information and upcoming events
  • News/reviews link: Yes, but no dates are shown with the links; however, the most recent review was published in 2011
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes, but limited info
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (4/5) Attractive and straightforward; navigation is easy.
  • General feature set: 4 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: No
  • Up-to-date: probably, but not entirely clear if it is.

One Woman’s Wines

Comment: Basic website, but then, Claudia is a one-woman operation (plus her daughter who works in the office).

Osprey’s Dominion: (1.8/5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Adam Suprenant
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (0/5) Completely ignored.
  • About / Biographies: (0/5) Completely ignored
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (0/5) none
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description 2/5 Sometimes uses quotations from critics, but no notes
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent, the site’s major focus, to the detriment of other options
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, with map
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, but I’ve received nothing since signing up a year ago
  • News/reviews link: Yes, as part of the blog, Fishhawk News
  • Wine Blog: Yes, but little about viniculture or winemaking, not updated since April 2012
  • Events / calendar: Yes, focused on entertainment at the winery
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (3/5) Good, functional but not attractive; navigation is OK. (by Cro2)
  • General feature set: 5 of 10 (2.5/5)
  • Additional features: List of wine competition awards
  • Up-to-date: Up to 2012.

Ospreys Dominion

Comment: It’s apparent that this website was designed for other than informational purposes.

Palmer Vineyards: (3.0 1.0 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Miguel Martín
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (0/5) No longer, though it used to tell about the founder, Bob Palmer
  • About / Biographies: (0/5) No staff bios, but pictures of the staff
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (0/5) Nothing
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description 5/5 Excellent; some notes very complete
  • Technical wine data:  For some wines
  • Purchase online: (4/5) With the new makeover it is not presently functional (but it had been very good, easy to use, brief descriptions of wines).  Let’s hope that it will be as good as the former version (212)
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, via MapQuest
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes; also a video promo
  • Website design: (3/5) OK, easy to use and navigate, but many useful features and options have been eliminated [the site was created using Vistaprint, a do-it-yourself Website application; previously it had been done by Cro2, a professional site designer
  • General feature set: 5 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: None
  • Up-to-date: Apparently, given that it’s a new design, but there is no datable information, though this should be corrected once the online-purchase feature is enabled.

Palmer Vineyards

Comment:  A brand-new look and feel, with the home page emphasizing “Live Music Every Weekend”; the site that feels incomplete and lacks the most basic information on the winery, vineyard, or staff.  A shame, but the site will be regularly revisited to see what it will become once completed.

 Paumanok Vineyards: (4.6 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Kareem Massoud
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Very good
  • About / Biographies: (4/5) Very Good, no complete bios
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (5/5) Excellent
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description 5/5 Excellent; complete notes
  • Technical wine data: Yes, but only for their top red wines
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Excellent, full wine notes and reviews are quoted
  • Wine Club:  Yes
  • Contact:  phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, with GPS coordinates & MapQuest
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, issued regularly to announce wine dinners, reviews of their wines, and the occasional entertainment event
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Wine Blog: Yes, many interesting posts and links to articles, and it’s up to date.
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (5/5) An attractive and well-organized site, easy to use (by Cro2)
  • General feature set: 9 of 10 (4.5/5)
  • Additional features: Quotes Walt Whitman on Paumanok’s name; lists all the restaurants and wine stores at which their wines can be found, as well as a full selection of lodgings in the East End, plus a helpful list of related wine Web sites
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Paumanok

Comment: An excellent site that needs just a little improvement in the History & About sections, including staff bios

Pellegrini Vineyards (4.2 4.3 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes
  • Tasting Room: Yes, Zander Hargrave
  • History / background: (5/5)
  • About / Biographies: (3/5) Lacks biographical information
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (5/5) Full description of the vineyards; no parcel maps; useful notes on viniculture
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Adequate on the Tasting Notes option, but much more complete if one goes to the Trade Support option (2001 through 2008)
  • Technical wine data: Yes, but one has to use the Trade Support option to get to them.
  • Purchase online: (4/5) No wine descriptions accompany purchase options, so one has to go the Tasting Notes option to read them
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Text & map
  • News/reviews link: Yes, excerpts only
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, but since signing up 13 months ago, I’ve not received a single newsletter
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (5/5) Very attractive, straightforward to use, though one has to dig through some options; Tasting Notes aren’t also viewable in Purchase section; full wine notes are accessible through Trade Support option
  • General feature set:6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: In Trade Support there are images of both the front and back labels of the wines.
  • Up-to-date: Yes, for events and tasting notes (up to the 2011 vintage); Trade Support info only goes up to the 2008 vintage, as was the case when the Web site was reviewed in May 2012.  There is no mention of the fact that Russell Hearn, the winemaker, recently left the winery.

Pellegrini Vineyards

Comment: An attractive and interesting site to use, but lack of biographies and unusual options can frustrate

Pindar Vineyards (3.2 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes, Edward Lovaas
  • Winemaker: Yes
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) No history about the site pre-Pindar
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Includes biographies of all staff, including the dog
  • Vineyard information: (1/5) Very little other than the background history
  • Viniculture: (3/5) Info included in the Green section, including sustainable practices; general, not just about the vineyard
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) No notes, just description
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Many choices besides wine; no additional wine descriptions
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Yes
  • News/reviews link: Yes, but media all dates to 2005-2007; no updates since.
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (3/5) Attractive, but retrieving info can be complicated by unusual options, can require some digging around
  • General feature set:5 of 10 (2.5/5)
  • Additional features: Green, Making Wine with Wind, Pindar Giving
  • Up-to-date: Yes, but not news/reviews; Mother’s Day notice still up on 5/18/12

Pindar.net

Comment:  Excellent background and history, but could use more information about viniculture and winemaking philosophies.

Pugliese Vineyards (1.7 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Peter Pugliese
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (1/5) Almost no information
  • About / Biographies: (1/5) Almost no information
  • Vineyard information: (1/5) Virtually no information
  • Viniculture: (0/5) No information
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (2/5) Brief descriptions, food-pairing suggestions
  • Technical wine data: None
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Straightforward, suggests food pairings
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: No
  • News/reviews link: Awards list only
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (4/5) Easy to use but limited features
  • General feature set:2 of 10 (1/5)
  • Additional features: Painted glassware
  • Up-to-date: Recent wines are listed up to 2011, but awards listed date back to 2001-2002

Pugliese Vineyards

Comment: The site is strictly devoted to selling the wine; otherwise there is little or no info.

Queens County Farm Museum Vineyard (1.8 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No, PWG makes their wines
  • Winemaker: No, Russell Hearn @ PWG
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (3) A long history, briefly dispatched; no mention of vineyard
  • About / Biographies: (3) No bios
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (0) Nothing at all.
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (0) Nada.
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (n/a)
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Yes, text only
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Tours: Yes
  • Events / calendar: Yes, up-to-date and covers 2013-14
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (3) Easy navigation but run-of-the-mill.
  • General feature set:4 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: map of farm PDF, but vineyard is not apparent from the layout.
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Queens County Vineyard

Comment: Vines and wines are an afterthought on the website of this museum-farm operation.

Raphael Wine (4.1 out of 5 points)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Anthony Nappa
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5)
  • About / Biographies: (3/5) No bios
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (3/5) Minimal on vineyard, no maps; viniculture is mentioned under several options
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Complete with vintage information for each wine, though the comments are a bit self-promoting
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Easy to use, full information on each wine by clicking its label
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes
  • Directions: Yes
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar:  Yes
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (5/5) Elegant, easy to use and navigate
  • General feature set:7 of 10 (3.5/5)
  • Additional features: None noted
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Raphael Wine

Comment:  A nice, clean design featuring an elevation drawing of the façade of the Raphael winery, it is notable in part for what it doesn’t have as well as what it does:  No quotations or links from the news media or reviewers.  It also lacks any biographical information on staff, and tells a visitor little about the vineyard.  One the other hand, it offers excellent wine notes.

 Red Fern Cellars (1.8 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: No
  • Winery:  Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Aaron Munk
  • Tasting Room: No
  • History / background: (0/5) No
  • About / Biographies: (0/5) No
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) No notes, ample descriptions
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (n/a) e-mail or phone orders only
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact:  only by snail mail or e-mail; no phone listed
  • Directions: No; visits must be arranged in advance
  • News/reviews link: ; link to WineLoversPage.com; Jewish Week (2008, though it reviews 2005 wines)
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (3/5) Adequate and straightforward, but few options
  • General feature set:4 of 10 (2/5)
  • Additional features: LI Wine links; option for custom labeling
  • Up-to-date: No; it doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2008; latest wines listed are 2005; it hasn’t changed since last year’s assessment (2012)

Red Fern Cellars

Comment: Functional, but with minimal information; is it even up-to-date?

Red Hook Winery (1.4 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: No
  • Winery:  Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Abe Schoener, Robert Foley
  • Tasting Room:Yes
  • History / background: (1/5) Bare minimum to be useful
  • About / Biographies: (0/5) Minimal info, no bios
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (n/a) buy grapes from many sources
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (0/5) No notes, descriptions
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5) OK, but no information on the wines
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact:  by phone, snail mail or e-mail
  • Directions: Address only
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (3/5) Adequate and straightforward, but few options
  • General feature set:1 of 10 (0.5/5)
  • Additional features: None
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Red Hook Winery

Comment: Functional, but with minimal information

Roanoke Vineyard (4.4 out of 5) [updated 11-16-13]

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: Roman Roth at Wölffer Estate
  • Tasting Room: Yes, both at the vineyard and on Love Lane in Mattituck
  • History / background: (5/5)
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Good info and full bios of all staff
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (3/5) Little vineyard info or maps; though an adequate, brief note on viniculture (strange, given that the Owner, Rich Pisacano is a “vineyardist” and his father, Gabby, is the vineyard manager.)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) Brief, sometimes more complete, often less, and just a tad tongue-in-cheek in the self-promoting phrases; e.g., a ‘wild fermentation’ Chardonnay “Quite simply . . . leaps out of your glass!”’
  • Technical wine data: Yes, but some more, some less
  • Purchase online: (n/a) Order by phone, then arrange for pickup or delivery on one’s own.
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Yes, phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, uses Google Maps
  • News/reviews link: Yes, via the option, ‘Judgment of Riverhead’
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, they are mostly about wines and tastings, often in cahoots with restaurants, some with themes, such as “how to be a Wine Snob”; issued weekly
  • Wine Blog: Of sorts (‘Judgment of Riverhead’ again) but informative, amusing, and well worth reading.
  • Events / calendar: Yes, and it’s all about wine, like the Smackdown tastings
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Not as such, but many pages are well-illustrated
  • Website design: (4/5) The opening page looks crowded but as a whole the site is easy to use and very functional.  Some features require a bit of clicking around.
  • General feature set:9 of 10 (4.5/5)
  • Additional features: Wine library, Winemakers’ Smackdowns
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Roanoke Vineyards

Comment:  A website that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but provides a good deal of serious information in a sometimes light-hearted way.  It is, in its way, rather endearing.  However, it’s a vineyard, so why is there not more information about the vineyard proper?

Sannino-Bella Vita Vineyard (2.5 3.4 out of 5 points)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Anthony Sannino; also with his vine-to-wine students
  • Tasting Room: Yes, at Ackerly Pond’s barn
  • History / background: (3/5) Adequate
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Full bios
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (2/5) Little information, as a member of the LISW, it practices sustainable viniculture, but a nice video of the vineyard with pleasant musical accompaniment
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) Descriptions with food-pairing suggestions
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5) Yes, with brief wine descriptions
  • Wine Club: Yes, through vine-to-wine program
  • Contact: Yes, phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, with map
  • News/reviews link: Yes, this is where one can find more information about the wines.
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, but I’ve received none since I signed up a year ago
  • Wine Blog: Option is not functional
  • Events / calendar: Yes, including music, tours, and classes
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: Yes, several that are thematically based
  • Website design: (3/5) Not unattractive but busy yet functional, though to find the video one needs to select the B&B option
  • General feature set: 9 of 10 (4.5/5)
  • Additional features: Bed-and-Breakfast (reservations can be made online); Vine-to-Wine experience; virtual tour of the vineyard and slide presentation of the Tuscan Suite guest house.
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Sannino Vineyard/Bella-Vita-Vineyard

Comment: website with focus on the Vine-to-Wine program; several interesting options but little about the vineyard; considerably improved over the version assessed last year.

Scarola Vineyards (3.6 3.9 points out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: No; uses Roman Roth at Wölffer Estate
  • Tasting Room: No, planned but not yet open to public
  • History / background: (5/5) Complete
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Complete, with brief bio sketches of all the staff
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (1/5)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Full notes and description at Trade option
  • Technical wine data: Yes, via For the Trade option
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Limited wine descriptions, with no direct link to the Trade option; order by phone, e-mail, or online
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: No, only the street address
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (4/5) Attractive enough, but there are some navigational challenges
  • General feature set:6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: link to Cedar House on Sound B&B, owned by Scarola family
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Scarola Vineyards

Comment: Strongly family-oriented and emphatically Italian.  Given that the Scarolas have a vineyard and no winery, it is frustrating to find that the site scrimps on vinicultural information yet has plenty to say about its wines (made Roman Roth).

Sherwood House Vineyards (3.6 points out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: No; Gilles Martin is the contract winemaker
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (5/5)
  • About / Biographies: (5/5), full biographies of the owners and Gilles Martin
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (1/5) Very little mentioned
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5)  no notes, pairing suggestions
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (4/5) Very easy to use, but limited wine information; wines sold online are available in a minimum of 2-bottle lots (or 4, 6, or 12)
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, with MapQuest to the vineyards, tasting stand, and tasting room
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, sent monthly
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes, and up to date.
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (4/5) Elegant, very easy to navigate
  • General feature set:7 of 10 (3.5/5)
  • Additional features: Private events information
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Sherwood House Vineyards

Comment:  Very attractive site that tells too little about the vineyard or viniculture

Shinn Estate: (3.7 4.1 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Patrick Caserta
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (4/5) Yes, and blog fills some gaps
  • About / Biographies: (4/5) Bios of the owners
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (4/5) Very good, but no maps, block info
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5) Adequate description with food-pairing suggestions
  • Technical wine data:  No
  • Purchase online: (4/5)  Yes, good wine descriptions, easy to use
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, and a Google photo map
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: Yes, fun and informative, regularly updated
  • Events / calendar: Yes; mostly about wine, but also features palm readings on Friday; dinners on occasional Saturdays
  • Tours: Yes
  • Photo gallery: Yes
  • Website design: (5/5) Excellent, very easy to navigate and use.
  • General feature set: 8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: B&B, Distillery
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Shinn Estate Vineyards

Comment: Newly redesigned website, much improved and easier to navigate than the old one; much useful information but short on tasting notes, which used to be much more complete and included technical notes as well.  That’s a loss.

Southold Farm + Cellar:

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: uses Raphael Winery facilities
  • Winemaker: not yet
  • Tasting Room: not yet
  • History / background: (2/5)  At present a brief story, with much hope for the future
  • About / Biographies: (2/5) owners don’t even mention their surnames
  • Vineyard / viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (n/a)
  • Technical wine data:  n/a
  • Purchase online: (n/a)
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: No
  • News/reviews link: No
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, but a newsletter may be a while off
  • Wine Blog: n/a
  • Events / calendar: n/a
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (n/a) Under development.
  • Additional features: No
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Southold Farm + Cellar

Comment: Brand-new site still under development., but it does tell the story of the renovation the farm building that will become its tasting room

Sparkling Pointe: Méthode Champenoise (3.7 3.9 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No
  • Winemaker: No; Gilles Martin is the exclusive contract winemaker
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (5/5) told as a charming story
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) bios for owners and winemaker
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (1/5)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Excellent
  • Technical wine data: Yes
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Well-designed, with direct access to wine info
  • Wine Club: Yes, but how to join is not clear as it is not available as an option
  • Contact: Phone, snail mail (can’t find e-mail option)
  • Directions: Yes, and a Google photo map
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, issued weekly
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: Yes, but virtual tour feature doesn’t work
  • Photo gallery: Virtual tour of the VIP space isn’t functional
  • Website design: (3/5) Home page is rather busy; but generally is easy to navigate. Somewhat improved over version of 2012
  • General feature set: 8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Weddings
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Sparkling Pointe

Comment: I find the design too forward and distracting.  Still, it has its good points: detailed information about important things such as its history, the biographies, notes; bad point: almost nothing about the vineyard or viniculture.

Suhru Wines (4.6 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: No
  • Winery: No; uses PWG, of which owner Russell Hearn is a partner
  • Winemaker: Yes, Russell Hearn
  • Tasting Room: Winemakers Studio
  • History / background: (5/5) Excellent
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Bios of the owners and the sales manager
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5)
  • Technical wine data: Yes, if one clicks on the Wine for the Trade option
  • Purchase online: (4/5) with full descriptions, but one must go to the Trade option to see the notes & tech information before purchasing
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail via Gmail, snail mail
  • Directions: n/a
  • News/reviews link: Yes, though not up to date
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes, sent monthly
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: n/a
  • Tours: n/a
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (4/5) Well-designed and attractive, if rather busy, but mostly easy to navigate
  • General feature set: 5 of 7 (4/5)
  • Additional features: None
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Suhru Wines

Comment:  A really serious website. The focus is entirely on the wine.  Premises are not open to the public.

T’Jara Vineyards (4.1 out of 5)

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: No; uses PWG, of which owner Russell Hearn is a partner
  • Winemaker: Yes, Russell Hearn in cahoots with Jed Beitler, co-owner
  • Tasting Room: Winemakers Studio
  • History / background: (5/5) Excellent, via a 12-page PDF
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Very complete with a curious omission:  the owner’s last names aren’t mentioned, but they can be found in the contact information.
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (2/5)  Some excellent description, including a parcel map, but no mention of practices
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5)
  • Technical wine data: Yes
  • Purchase online: (4/5) It would be nice if it would allow one to click and see the notes & tech information before purchasing; 3-bottle minimum
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: No, but there is an address
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: No
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: No
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (5/5) Well-designed and attractive, easy to navigate
  • General feature set: 5 of 10 (2.5/5)
  • Additional features: None
  • Up-to-date: Yes, for the wines, but the last news entry dates to 2012

T’Jara Vineyards

Comment:  A serious but engaging website. The focus is on the history and the wine.  Premises are not open to the public.

Vineyard 48

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (1/5)
  • About / Biographies: (1/5)
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (1/5)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (3/5)
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (3/5)
  • Wine Club: No
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • News/reviews link: Yes
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes, all music
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (2/5) Some navigation choices are in very small text at the bottom of the page; not intuitive or easy to figure out
  • Additional features: Row of Vines Dedication, Weddings and Private parties
  • Up-to-date:

Vineyard 48

Comment: There are links for reviews if one does a search for it.  (It had been a minimalist approach to providing access—the focus was strongly centered on purchases and events.  Little information, even about the wine.)  NOTE:  online reviews tend to trash the place as a party venue out of control; other reviews extoll it as a party venue

Waters Crest (2.0 points out of 5)

  • Vineyard: No
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Jim Waters
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (2/5) No history, a little background in About section
  • About / Biographies: (3/5) Good overview, but no bios per se
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (n/a)
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (4/5) Good description but no notes
  • Technical wine data: No
  • Purchase online: (1/5) Apparently not, but perhaps through wine club; not clear; one has to fill out a PDF application and send it in
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Phone, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Only the street address
  • News/reviews link: Yes, but very limited
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: follow on Facebook
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: No
  • Photo gallery: No
  • Website design: (4/5) Attractive, mostly straightforward to use.
  • General feature set: 6 of 10 (3/5)
  • Additional features: Link to LI Wine Country Places to eat & stay.
  • Up-to-date: Yes, clearly indicated on each page.

Waters Crest Winery

Comment:  In some ways its functions can be frustrating, but this is the only website in this survey that gives a page’s most recent update

Winemakers Studio

Comment: see Anthony Nappa Wines, for they share a Website.

Wölffer Estate (4.7 4.9 out of 5)

As of January 2016 it has been substantially updated, but not yet reassessed.

  • Vineyard: Yes
  • Winery: Yes
  • Winemaker: Yes, Roman Roth
  • Tasting Room: Yes
  • History / background: (5/5)
  • About / Biographies: (5/5) Good biographies of all the staff
  • Vineyard / Viniculture information: (5/5) Mostly general observations, with focus on terroir; for viniculture info one needs to dig into the News feature, but as of 2013 there is now a link to the LISW Web site, which details the sustainable practices followed by Wölffer.
  • Winemaker’s notes / wine description: (5/5) Very complete and full
  • Technical wine data: Yes, very complete, one could not ask for more
  • Purchase online: (5/5) Full notes and descriptions immediately accessible to buyer, but not all wines are provided with notes &/or descriptions—an odd inconsistency; they also offer verjus and vinegar
  • Wine Club: Yes
  • Contact: Phone, fax, e-mail, snail mail
  • Directions: Yes, text with a painted map (not Google or MapQuest)
  • News/reviews link: Yes, though a 2013 review by Howard G. Goldberg has no link.
  • Newsletter / Mailing List: Yes
  • Wine Blog: No
  • Events / calendar: Yes
  • Tours: None appear to be offered
  • Photo gallery: Yes, on Flcker
  • Website design: (5/5) Newly updated, clean and attractive, mostly straightforward navigation, but why should one have to dig for the vinicultural information?
  • General feature set: 8 of 10 (4/5)
  • Additional features: Weddings & Private events, Wölffer Estate Stables
  • Up-to-date: Yes

Wölffer

Comment: One needs to dig a bit for some features.  Very complete information in many areas, but strangely lacking in details about the vineyard—no map, mention of acreage, etc.; read Wine & Vineyard and you then have a link to another page, The Vineyard & Winemaking, where one can find out about viniculture.  Some inconsistencies with regard to wine notes (very full for some wines, no information at all for others).

 

 

Viniculture in LI, Part III: Channing Daughters Winery

Channing Daughters, entranceChanning Daughters Winery, in Bridgehampton, founded in 1996 by Larry Perrine—soil scientist and oenologist—and Walter Channing—venture capital executive and gifted wood carver—is one of three Hamptons AVA wineries; the others are Wölffer Estate, in Sagaponack and Duckwalk Vineyards in Watermill.   In 2012 Channing Daughters was one of the four founding vineyards of Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, Inc. (LISW), offering the first independently-assessed certificate for sustainable viniculture in the East.  As of 2016 it has grown to 17 members.

There are a total of 73 producers and wine brands in Long Island, most of them located on the North Fork, a separate Long Island AVA.  Of all of them, Channing stands apart from all the rest by its choice to produce wine from varieties that almost no one else on Long Island, let alone the United States, have planted or made into wine.  These include Muscat Ottonel, Malvasia, and Tocai Friulano among the white varieties, and Blaufränkisch, Dornfelder, Refosco, Teroldego, and Lagrein among the reds.  There are, of course the more usual grapes—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, often sourced from other properties, particularly Mudd Vineyards.  Its wines may bear The Hamptons, Long Island, North Fork of Long Island or Long Island AVA.  French, American, Hungarian, and Slovenian oak barrels are used to age many of their wines, while many see only stainless steel.   In other words, there is nothing standard about what they do at this winery.  From all of this one can divine that Channing Daughters is fond of experimentation.  Thus, in the very capable—let’s say gifted—hands of winemaker Christopher Tracy, Channing Daughters makes unique blends and varietal bottlings, a total of thirty in all.

Larry Perrine (rhymes with terrine), was a consultant when he and Walter Channing founded the winery. He became its founding winemaker and partner with Walter Channing, and is now CEO of the enterprise.  He heads the team that actively runs the winery.  These include not only winemaker/partner Christopher Tracy, but also partner/general manager Allison Dubin, vineyard manager Abel Lopez, Jacqui Perrine, Anthony Persico and Debbie Huneken.

Larry, born in 1951, grew up in Southern California, but by the time he graduated from high school he was ready to peregrinate.  While still in California he earned a BA in English and thought to teach, but it turned out that the California school system at the time was retiring teachers faster than it was hiring them.  In the meantime he took jobs in wine shops and took to gardening, which he liked so much that he decided that it would be very nice to make money doing it.  Hence his decision to go back to college and major in soil science at California State Polytechnic University.  Studying soil science wasn’t exactly the same thing as earning an agronomy degree, which is really about how to farm.  Soil science involves hard-core chemistry courses and two years of Calculus, among other things.  He did so well that his professors urged him to go on to graduate school.  Three schools offered him positions, including the University of California at Davis, Cornell University, and the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.  As Minnesota was the only agricultural school located in an urban setting and Larry had always wanted the experience of living in a city, he chose Minnesota.  It was a good choice for him, as it turned out.  He studied advanced soil science and microbiology.  As part of his studies he worked on soybeans and their nitrogen-fixing capacity (a trait shared with other legumes and even the locust tree).

While living in Minnesota in the late 1970s, Larry came upon a small Minnesota winery that was pioneering cold-climate viticulture and worked a few harvests with them.  Another grower, Elmer Swenson, was busy breeding his own cold-hardy grape varieties, setting the stage for what would become a formal University of Minnesota grape-breeding program.   Eventually it developed into today’s well-respected grape-breeding, viticulture and winemaking program for new hybrids able to withstand the very cold Midwestern winters.

Early in Larry’s life, while still in California, his partner at the time (she later became his wife) turned him on to wine in a serious way, as a result of trips to Europe.  Nevertheless, his work in soybeans and agricultural development led him to involvement with local food cooperatives which in turn resulted in his becoming engaged in politics—food politics, with all that that entailed, including working on political campaigns, raising money, and helping to elect progressive politicians.  He did this for three years, after which he wanted to return to work in agriculture.

It was a New York Times article published around 1980 about the rise of quality wines in the Finger Lakes that persuaded Larry that he should move to upstate New York to return to agriculture.  So began Larry’s stint at a Finger Lakes winery and vineyard on Keuka Lake with a grand stone house in Greek Revival style that was, sadly, in very run-down condition.  It turned out that the wine operation was in the same shape.  There was no wine lab, despite the fact that all the equipment for one had been purchased years before and was left lying around.  It was, in Larry’s words, “a macabre operation.”  He was hired to install the lab with the available equipment—a job for which he was well-suited, given his work as a research scientist.  Dana Keeler, a protégé of Hermann Wiemer, had been recently hired as a winemaking consultant and he and Larry went through the cellar to determine which wines were salvageable and which were not.  It was a good way to learn about wine faults.

In 1983 Larry was admitted to the Food Science and Technology graduate program at Cornell’s New York State Agriculture Experiment Station at Geneva in the Finger Lakes.  He did his Masters program from 1983-85, working on viticulture issues on Long Island.  After Cornell, Larry moved to Long Island and worked for the Mudd family, viticulture pioneers on Long Island, during 1985-86.  This led to his getting a job at the Long Island Horticulture Research and Extension Center in Riverhead as a Research Associate in viticulture, working with the viticulture team at the NYSAES/Geneva, which included Robert Pool, Tom Burr, Roger Pearson, Bruce Reisch and Alan Lakso.  Larry worked as a viticulture researcher for three years focusing on bird control and Botrytis bunch rot management.  His tenure as a Cornell viticulture researcher overlapped with the arrival of Alice Wise, the new Fruit Extension agent (which, of course, included grapes).  When Larry left Cornell in 1988, Alice Wise took over a newly-consolidated viticulture position working for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County as the grape research and extension specialist, a position she still holds today.

He then went on to work at Gristina Vineyards in the fall of 1988, so that he participated in its first vintage.  He stayed with Gristina as winemaker and general manager for six years, but left in early 1994 to pursue his expanding viticulture consulting career.  Larry became a consultant to more than twenty wineries and vineyards in New York State (including Long Island), Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Michigan, for five years.

In 1995 he met Walter Channing, who was looking for a consultant to advise him on improving his vineyard property he’d started planting in 1982.  Tom Drozd, then winemaker at Palmer Vineyards, told Larry about Channing’s search and put them in touch.  So, in 1995, Larry—who had an attorney friend staying with him at the time—went with his friend to meet Walter at his farm.  Walter and Larry immediately connected with one another.  The lawyer then suggested that they formalize a contractual relationship between them.  Within the span of a year Larry went from being a consultant to helping Walter found Channing Daughters Winery in 1996 (a reference to his four daughters), becoming its winemaker and a business partner.

Walter started with a one-acre vineyard planting on his farm in 1982, planted 3 acres of Merlot in 1987, and an additional eight acres of Chardonnay vines in 1991.  There is now a total of 28 acres planted to wine grapes.  About 60 acres of farmland (including the vineyards) are permanently protected through a conservation easement held by the Peconic Land Trust.  Channing Daughters Winery has grown into a 12,000 case winery from 1996 to the present.

About Vineyards

Channing Daughters vines & trellisThe cover crops between rows include a mix of fescue, clover, and rye, and during the growing season these are always kept mowed.

The first wine grapes of the modern era were planted on the east end of Long Island in 1973, and the industry is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.  Basic planting decisions include vine spacing.  Vine spacing on Long Island is various, but most of the earliest plantings from the 1970s-1980s were planted 9’ X 8’ (9 feet between rows and 8 feet between vines within a row).  That was the initial recommendation coming from Cornell and was the typical Concord vine spacing.  Over the last 20 years, most new planting are spaced more closely—commonly 8’ between rows and 4-5’ between vines within a row.

As an academic in the 1980s, Larry used to wake up at night pondering the prevailing theories of “vine competition” and the notion that close vine spacing stresses vines, leading to better fruit quality.  Did vines really compete with each other, thereby reducing vine vigor and promoting fruit ripening?  In Bordeaux, for example, vines have traditionally been planted as close as 1 meter by 1 meter, producing modest-sized vines, good yields and ripe fruit (depending on the vintage).  The traditional popular notion, even in Bordeaux, at the time was that the close spacing produced smaller vines and riper fruit.

It even reached the New World.  Opus One, the famous collaboration between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, planted its vines according to the spacing that was used at Mouton-Rothschild in Paulliac, a commune of Bordeaux—1 meter by 2 meters.  The result in the fertile and fairly deep Bale Loam soils (up to 48” rooting depth) was a jungle in the Napa vineyard.  Too much vigor, thus too much growth.  The close spacing that is de rigueur in Bordeaux is not as practical in the flatter and richer soils of parts of Napa Valley.

Busting a Myth: The Theory of Vine Spacing and Competition

When visiting Bordeaux Larry once asked Gerard Seguin, a soil scientist who worked at the INRA (Institut National de Recherche Agricole) about the question of planting density in the region and he replied that the vines were planted closely in order to fill the trellis due to the rather low vigor soils in much of Bordeaux.  Not to devigorate the vines.  In other words, high vine density has less to do with stressing the vines to improve the resulting fruit.  It has more to do with filling the trellis and keeping yields up on less vigorous soils.  So the theory of vine competition appears to be a myth, though a very-well entrenched one.  Another point to bear in mind is that in Bordeaux as well as in other traditional vine regions in France as well as much of the rest of Europe, close planting also reflects the fact that when vineyards were first planted centuries ago there were no machines, which require wider rows; a person, a horse, an ox, could easily pass along closely-spaced rows.

Larry also explained something about vine canes.  A cane is a series of buds on a hardened off shoot that grew last year.   These buds produce new shoots upon budbreak.  In wide vine spacing (8’ between vines) if there is a four-foot cane (fairly long), for example, you’d find that the vine will, physiologically, provide more nourishment to the proximal and distal buds on the canes, leaving the middle ones less nourished and less likely to produce fruitful shoots.  In this case it would be better, then, to have a second two-foot cane and let them  overlap the center of a 4 ft cane from the same vine, so that one has a double cane for a short distance and the entire length of the trellis is filled.  With two-foot canes one has, in effect, eliminated the middle buds.  As Larry points out, overlapping canes is a growers’ technique that is not found in textbooks.  However, with closer spacing between vines, this issue is mitigated.

Early Variety/Clone and Rootstock Work on Long Island

In 1977 a non-replicated varietal grape planting was installed at the LIHREC in Riverhead.  That planting was subsequently replaced in 1982 by a replicated wine grape varietal/rootstock experiment known as the Dyson Trial .   The focus was on Riesling and Chardonnay, two vinifera varieties that had been grafted to six separate American rootstocks.  Additional varieties were also included.  The Dyson Trial was also undertaken in three other viticultural areas of the State—the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie.  Over a lifetime of at least a decade, these trials singled out specific rootstocks as preferred because they produced smaller vines and promoted earlier fruit ripening.

According to Larry, “In the early 1990s, there emerged an interest in evaluating the performance of different ‘clones’ or sub-types of commercially important wine grape varieties on Long Island.  This led to the planting of a new experimental vineyard at the Riverhead station by Alice Wise and Libby Tarleton. The focus was primarily on Chardonnay and Merlot, but also included numerous other varieties.  This clonal and varietal evaluation trial is still yielding results as it gradually evolves to eliminate some varieties.

“This ongoing trial on Long Island is an outgrowth of work done in Burgundy in the 1950s and ‘60s by Raymond Bernard, a research viticulturist in Dijon, Burgundy.   His group discovered then that there were many types and subtypes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Burgundy.  These different ‘clones’ produced different aromatics, cluster sizes, levels of acidity, and amount of fruit sugar.

“New grape vines are produced by selecting dormant cuttings or ‘budwood’ from a known planting of a specific grape variety.  New vines are ‘cloned’ from ‘mother vines’ to keep the genes identical and the varieties ‘true’.  Seeds are not saved as they, if planted, would not produce the same grape variety.

“Traditionally, vineyard managers used mass selection (an arbitrary harvest of budwood from of a varietal planting) of cuttings to produce new, baby vines.  These cutting were then grafted to resistant rootstock.

“However, Raymond Bernard, who was asked by his industry to determine why the region’s vineyards were in long-term decline (it turned out to be caused by grape viruses), saw differences in the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines that had been newly planted.   He not only helped ‘clean-up’ Burgundy’s new vine supply system, he also began identifying and selecting what he saw as clear subtypes or ‘clones’ with the most desirable wine characteristics for different conditions and terroirs.  (Some clones, for example, were unsuitable for Burgundy but would fare well in Champagne—a much cooler region with a shorter growing season, thus needing the right amount of acidity at harvest.)

“Finally, in the 1980s, New World viticulturists became interested in these sparingly available Old World clones.   Initial imports of the clonal cuttings ended up spending years in quarantine upon arrival in the United States until they could be certified virus-free and safe to plant in American soil by the UC Davis Plant Material Services program.  Over time agreements were made that facilitated the import of the clones and by the mid-‘80s, numerically identified clones of were being offered for sale by American vine nurseries.

“For example, Channing Daughters has a block of 8 ½ acres planted to ten different Chardonnay clones, including Burgundy clones 95, 96, and 76.   One of the advantages of using many clones is genetic diversity and potential wine complexity.  The clones that are in the field have been selected for their wine quality, and include not only the three Burgundy clones, but clones identified in California (e.g., at UC Davis), and there is also a Muscat clone of Chardonnay with distinctive flavors and quite aromatic.  Chardonnay Daughters makes a field blend out of the mixed clonal plantings and calls it Clones.”

[End of Perrine interviews]

Christopher Tracy, the winemaker, is proudly non-ideological in his approach, and will make some wines with wild yeasts, others with inoculated ones. Some wines are filtered, others not. Everything depends on what he perceives to be the best way to work with a particular batch of juice. Varieties can differ widely in what kinds of treatment they will best respond to. In consequence of making so many different wines—often only differentiated on the label by a vineyard name—it’s very evident that the philosophy of this winery is strongly terroir-oriented. It also means that all the wines are made in relatively small batches. Since production of each wine is small, there is a likelihood that they will sell out sooner than later.

On the other hand, Christopher is very firm about his preference for corks over screwcaps. It has to do with a strong romantic streak in him—a love of the process of extracting the cork and hearing that satisfying ‘pop’ as the cork comes out. He’s convinced that cork taint has been largely—though not entirely—vanquished, thanks to new technology and treatment of raw cork, which one must remember is the product of the bark of a living tree.

The winery website describes Clones as:

“a barrel-fermented chardonnay with a skin-fermented twist! Clones is an exotic white blend that is based primarily on ten distinct clones of Chardonnay and also includes three other grape varieties.  The 2010 version is composed of 89% Chardonnay, 8% Gewürztraminer, 2% Tocai Friulano and 1% Pinot Grigio.  The wine was fermented and raised in Slovenian and French oak (7 hogsheads and 3 barrels) of which 11% were new and 89% were neutral (17 months in barrel). All of the wine was fermented with ambient/wild yeast and went through a ‘natural’ secondary or malo-lactic fermentation.”

  Some Other Channing Daughters Wines

A selection of some other interesting wines in the Channing portfolio includes the following (with the descriptions taken from their Website):

Channing Daughters Due Uve bottle2010 Due Uve  “Due Uve from 2010 which is just a fabulous red wine vintage to boot. Here is a new vintage, a new blend (more Syrah), and a new experience. Our 2010 Due Uve (two grapes) is a blend of 84% Syrah and 16% Merlot. The Syrah comes from the Mudd West vineyard in Hallocksville and the Merlot comes from Sam’s Vineyard in Aquebogue. All the fruit was hand-harvested, de-stemmed into one ton bins, stomped on by foot, punched down by hand and fermented with naturally occurring wild yeast. After primary fermentation the wine was racked to all old neutral barrels, where it spent sixteen months before being gravity bottled without fining or filtration.”

 

Channing Daughters Mudd 2007 bottle2007 MUDD  “The 2007 Vintage, along with 2005 and now 2010, is considered one of the best growing seasons for ripening red grapes on the East End of Long Island, ever. We believe our 2007 MUDD is a scrumptious reflection of that great 2007 vintage. Not only is it delicious now, but because it is just a baby, it will improve in the bottle for at least six to eight years and drink well for a solid dozen! Our 2007 MUDD is composed of 60% Merlot, 21% Syrah, 9% Dornfelder, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Blaufränkisch. All the fruit was hand-harvested on the North Fork and de-stemmed into small one ton bins where it was stomped on by foot and punched down by hand. After primary fermentation, the wine was racked to a variety of barrels, hogsheads and puncheons (42% new oak, 23% 1yr old, 16% 2yr old, 16% 3yr old and 3% 4yr old) where it spent twenty-three months before being bottled by gravity without fining or filtration on September 22nd 2009.”

2010 Mosaico “Mosaico is an exotic field blend that comes from a complanted block in our Sylvanus vineyard on our estate in Bridgehampton. Our 2010 Mosaico was fermented with naturally occurring ambient yeast and is composed of 32% Pinot Grigio, 29% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Muscat Ottonel, 7% Tocai Friulano and 8% Gewürztraminer. This is a dry white wine where all the varieties were grown, harvested, pressed and fermented together in a stainless steel tank (86%) and a new French oak puncheon (14%). All the fruit was hand-picked and whole cluster-pressed, except for the Muscat and Gewürztraminer which were fermented on their skins and blended back in. . . . All the fruit was hand-picked and whole cluster-pressed, except for the Muscat and Gewürztraminer which were fermented on their skins and blended back in. . . .  The 2010 Mosaico spent a year on its lees and was bottled by gravity on September 13, 2011. . . .”

As one can see from the description above, each wine, including the single-varietals, has some judicious blending to add complexity and balance, making the wines even more interesting.  (The notes are very technical, testifying to the seriousness of the winery.)  Channing also makes eight different rosés, each distinguished by choice of varieties and vineyards—for Channing believes in terroir and seek to express it in each of their wines.  There are no wines made like this anywhere else—but then, it could be argued that each and every winemaker and every winery take pride in making wines distinct from all others.  That, of course, is what making wine is about.  And that leaves us, the consumer, with thousands of choices, thirty of which come from Channing Daughters.

There is one other thing that distinguishes Channing Daughters winery from all others, and that is the charming and witty sculpture by Walter that is seeded in the vineyard and public spaces.  To wit (pun intended):

Channing Daughters, sculptures, 2 This carving, made from a tree stump, adorns the area around the winery.

 

 

 

 

 

Channing Daughters, sculptures, 4And this one greets a visitor to the tasting room.  How can one not like a winery like this?

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, Walter Channing shall carve no more, for he died on March 12, 2015, after a long illness.

Channing Daughters LogoChanning Daughters contact strip

Viniculture in LI, Part III: Mudd Vineyards

Based on interviews with Steve Mudd as well as online sources

Steve Mudd is a man whose light-hearted demeanor masks a serious character and a professional viticulturalist of deep knowledge and long experience.  Steve has been involved with wine agriculture since he and his father, David, then an airline pilot, started their vineyard in 1974, in Southold, on the North Fork, planting a single acre to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc just a year after Hargrave Vineyards was established as the first winery in Long Island.  (In fact, Dave Mudd, who then raised hay, had already been thinking of planting a vinifera plot even before the Hargraves had arrived.)

Steve and his father had planted some ungrafted Cabernet in their new vineyard.  When Nelson Shaulis, the eminent professor of viticulture at Cornell (who developed the Geneva Double-Curtain trellis system used worldwide today), visited to see what was going in the vineyards of Eastern Long Island and when he saw the vines, he argued that own-rooted Cabernet Sauvignon could not survive more than a few years.  (Dr. Shaulis, long an advocate of French-American hybrids and hybridizer of Cornell varieties, had long ago turned a blind eye to vinifera, due in part perhaps to his deep antipathy to Konstantin Frank–who had aggressively advocated for vinifera–and to rip out hybrids.)  After 3 years he came back and saw that the same vines were still doing well.  He announced that within a few years they’d be gone.  Several years later he paid another visit and was astonished to see that the vines were still productive and healthy.  He was so impressed that he decided to take a root cutting back to Cornell to see what there was about it that made it so resistant to Phylloxera—it took him three hours to surgically remove a complete vine.  39 years later the same own-rooted vines are alive and well; sadly, however, Dr. Shaulis is no longer with us to bear witness to it.

The vineyard also has the oldest Merlot vines on the Island, planted over 40 years ago.

David Mudd, by NorthFork Patch

Today, Mudd Vineyards, the business started by David Mudd 42 years ago and now run by his son, Steven, is the leading vineyard management and services company on Long Island and one of the most in demand on the East Coast.  Mudd has since been involved in planting more than 1,500 acres of vineyards (nearly half) in the East End—including Palmer Vineyards and what is now Pellegrini Vineyards—which amounts to almost half of all the vines in Long Island.  Today the business continues to manage numerous farms and sells grapes from its own vineyard to wineries that either have no vineyard of their own, or that use designated parcels of the Mudd vineyards, such as is the case with Channing Daughters, which produces several wines that are identified as coming from Mudd or Mudd West vineyards.  (The Channing Daughters website states that “The soil in the Mudd Vineyard is mostly Haven Loam with some portions being Riverhead Sandy Loam,” with “some of the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines on Long Island which were planted in 1975,”  while “The Mudd West Vineyard is in Hallockville (Aquebogue) and is a warm, dry site. The soil is predominately Riverhead Sandy Loam. The Mudd West Vineyard was planted in 2005 making the vines 7 years old.”)  The wines, such as the 2007 Mudd illustrated here, are in homage to David Mudd, who was Larry Perrine’s (Channing Daughters’ CEO) first employer in Long Island and who helped expand and plant the Channing Daughters vineyard.

Over the years the Mudds acquired more land and now have a 50-acre vineyard, the grapes of which are sold to other wineries.   They make no wine of their own.  David Mudd once said in an interview that “Wine-making is laboratory work and that’s not for me.”  The same is true of Steve, but it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t understand winemaking, and he certainly understands the importance of delivering quality fruit to a winery.

Together father and son developed the largest vineyard management company in the East that also has its own vinifera vineyard.  Not only did they consult for but even helped establish a number of Long Island vineyards, beginning with Lenz in 1984, as well as Palmer, Paumanok, Peconic Bay, Pellegrini, and Pindar in the North Fork, and Channing Daughters in the Hamptons AVA.  Mudd was deeply involved with the creation of Raphael Winery, including the layout and design of the winery itself, the purchase of equipment, and also helped obtain the expertise of Paul Pontallier, general manager at Châteaux Margaux, one of the great First-Growth wineries of Bordeaux, with the objective of making wines inspired by the style of Bordeaux wines such as those of Margaux.  Today, Steve Mudd continues as the vineyard manager for Raphael and also has a close relationship with other LI wineries, such as Channing Daughters, but he now runs the company alone, as his father died one year ago.  He’s so busy that “the only way I know it’s Sunday is when the church is full.”

Mudd Vineyard Management Company is now a nationally-recognized VMC firm that has consulted in other regions beyond Long Island or even New York State, but along much of the East Coast as well.  Such was the case with the Upper Shore Regional Council in Maryland, where over sixty landowners met with Steve to discuss establishing vineyards in that region of the state.  For them he produced a “Prospective Vineyard Owner’s Handbook:  A Three-Year Estimate For Establishing Your Own Vineyard Utilizing A Vineyard Management Company.”  Included in the document, which can be downloaded from the Web, was a table of projected investment costs and returns for a new vineyard.  In addition, there were recommendations by Steve bearing on such matters as:

  • Maryland tax laws that affect vineyard operations and profitability (they need to be changed to be more favorable to on-site sales of wine to consumers and directly to restaurants)
  • Vineyard worker psychology as affected by the nature of the work expected or demanded, such as reduced performance due to boredom from repeating the same work over and over again.
  • Vineyard row length should be no more than 600’ to 800’—longer rows result in lost time when workers are called in for breaks or reassignment to other locations.
  • Row widths should be adequate to allow for drying of grapes from morning dew—he recommended 10’ width with vines at 6’ (10’ x 6’ = 726 vines per acre).  Greater densities increase costs per acre.
  • To encourage Agricultural Land Preservation a special sales transfer tax could be used to fund the purchase of land to be preserved.
  • Use clean pruning to keep dead cordon spurs from becoming harbors for vine infections and disease.
  • Growers should not push the vines too hard, so balanced pruning is essential to the plants’ health—by neither under- or over-pruning.
  • Vine trunks should be as straight as possible to reduce damage to them by tractors and equipment.
  • Water-retention capabilities of the soil can be enhanced by the addition of organic matter and irrigation when needed is encouraged.
  • To reduce wire tension problems in the rows, Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP), as used in Long Island, is recommended.  This results in a band of fruit that leads to better sun exposure, spray coverage, and easier harvesting.
  • Leaf-pulling by hand should be done around the fruit zone to improve exposure to the sun.

From his years of experience, Steve can impart all kinds of wisdom for the viticultural neophyte.  For example:

  • “It’s necessary to rotate old vine trunks as they are given to splitting, developing crown gall, and the like.”
  • “The main reason to plant grafted vines is to get higher yields.”
  • “Longer hang time will lead to some dehydration of grapes—Cabernet Sauvignon can be dehydrated by as much as 10-15% before being harvested late in the season.”
  • “Organic inputs require more eradicants than protectants—which can be nasty to human consumption.”

Furthermore, Steve goes on (you can’t stop a good man once he gets going):

  • “There are more recovery sprayers in LI than in the rest of the US.”
  • “Long Island vineyards started with the Umbrella Kniffin trellis system, but converted to VSP after about ten years to create a band of fruit rather than scattered fruit.”
  • “In the 1970s the vines on the East End were sprayed about five times a year, but now it’s necessary to spray as often as fifteen times due to the introduction of inoculum that was the result of the planting of over 3000 acres of vines.”
  • “2010 was a unique vintage in LI, given that there was early bud break and, given the nearly-perfect weather, an early harvest.  It was perhaps the best ever for LI wine.”
  • “2011 had downy mildew all over the vineyards—it was an unbelievable outbreak.”
  • “2012, so far [in mid-June], has had too much rain and too little sun and the plants look like crap.  The disease pressure is phenomenal . . . .  But, at this point [in mid-September] the vintage has the potential to be a really good vintage.”
  • The sun’s arc flattens after August 15.
  • Steve likes to refer to the process of green harvesting as “Fussy Viticulture”—that was the topic of Steve’s talk in Maryland and is now the general practice in Long Island (among many other wine-growing regions).
  • “Ripe rot is a problem especially  in wine-growing regions like Virginia, where the weather is frequently wet and warm”

Plus a touch of viticultural history:  In 1982 it was discovered that vines identified as Pinot Chardonnay were actually Pinot Blanc, but it took a few years for the newly-planted vines to produce fully-developed leaves, which allowed Lucy Morton—a viticulturalist who translated Pierre Galet’s book, A Practical Ampelography: Grapevine Identification, from French to English—to correctly identify the vines as Pinot Blanc by the shape of the vine leaves.  (Incidentally, what was called Pinot Chardonnay—on the assumption that Chardonnay is a member of the Pinot family—is now called just Chardonnay.

Today Mudd Vineyards produces about 100 tons of grapes from its 50 acres of vines–a mere 2 tons an acre, proof of rigorous “fussy viticulture.”  The quality of the fruit is therefore very high, and Mudd supplies its fruit not only to wineries on the East End such as Channing Daughters and Raphael, but also as far away as New Paltz, NY, in the Hudson Valley (Robibero Winery) and even Arrowhead Spring in the Niagara Escarpment AVA.

Long Island with its three AVAs may be one of the newest important wine regions in the United States, but over a period of nearly forty years its vine growers have learned much about growing vinifera grapes in challenging terroir, and people like Steve Mudd  and others from there clearly have a great deal of knowledge and expertise to share and impart to others.  Perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind is how such a young region has gained so much respect in so brief a time.  It is people like Steve and his late father Dave, and the other vineyard managers, the winemakers, and the wines themselves that speak of a major, if small, region that produces premium wines.  Quality fruit is where it all begins.

—13 June & 17 Sept 2012 (update April 2016)

Mudd’s Vineyard Ltd

39005 County Rd 48, Southold, NY

(631) 765-1248

It does not encourage visitors as it only sells fruit to the wine industry.

A Conversation with Louisa Thomas Hargrave

Louisa Thomas Hargrave is the doyenne of the Long Island wine business, having established the very first wine vineyard, Hargrave Vineyard, in 1973 with her (then) husband, Alex Hargrave.  They were true pioneers, determined to plant vinifera grapes where they had never successfully grown before, even in the face of well-meant advice against taking on such a risky venture.  Neither of them had ever farmed until they planted the vineyard.

At the time she was a recent college graduate, having gone to Harvard, earning her BA in Government at Smith, and thence to Simmons College to earn a MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching).  But she and Alex had caught the wine bug, and became seriously interested in starting a vineyard and winery of their own, with the idea of producing quality wine from V. vinifera grapes in the styles of Bordeaux and Burgundy.  Consequently, Louisa next went to the University of Rochester to study Calculus and Chemistry, and further studied the latter at Stony Brook University with the idea that she could apply what she had learned to the making of wine.

Louisa & Alex Hargrave, 1975

Louisa & Alex Hargrave, 1975

After planting vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc in the original 17-acre field of the old potato farm that had become Hargrave Vineyard, Louisa went to the Cornell Cooperative Extension program to earn a Certificate in Land Use Planning in 1974, an ongoing interest of hers as Suffolk County and New York State developed new laws and regulations that had an impact on her ability to farm.  By 1998 Louisa had been awarded a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, from Dowling College, in recognition of her contributions to viticulture in Long Island.

Between the very solid academic credentials that Louisa has earned over the years and the deep and long experience of establishing and maintaining a vineyard for twenty-six years, as well as making wine and running a successful winery, Louisa has perhaps the most sound credentials of anyone in the Long Island wine world.  Furthermore, after selling Hargrave Vineyard in 1999, when she and her husband agreed to separate, she went on to establish Winewise LLC, a consulting firm for the wine industry. She was director of the Stony Brook University Center for Wine, Food, and Culture from 2004 to 2009, and is continuing to work as a writer on the subject of wine, viticulture, and winemaking for various publications, including her own blog, www.vinglorious.com.

Louisa has also written a well-received memoir, The Vineyard: The Pleasures and Perils of Creating an American Family Winery (Viking/Penguin, 2003), about the joys and challenges of running a family winery and vineyard.  Earlier, in 1986, she had contributed an essay, “The History of Wine Grapes on Long Island,” to the Long Island Historical Journal.  Most recently she wrote about the terroir of Long Island in an article for Edible East End, “The Dirt Below our Feet.”

Louisa with wineGiven those credentials and that experience, I cannot think of a better-qualified person to speak to about some of the issues bearing on the viniculture of Long Island.  To meet Louisa is to encounter someone who is direct, forthcoming, very well-informed, and definitely opinionated.  She is petite, bespectacled, and wears her silver hair long.  She has no pretensions or airs, but she does not suffer fools.  Given her high profile in Long Island, she frequently has requests from schoolchildren or their parents for an interview so that they can write a paper for school.  Her response is simple:  “When you’ve read my book, The Vineyard, get back to me and we can talk.”  So far there have been no takers.

Fortunately for me, I had read The Vineyard, so that made getting my interview with Louisa that much easier.

Louisa initiated the conversation by making the point that there are two types of wineries in Long Island:  those that cater to the tourist trade and those that focus on making quality wines.  (Several do both, but most emphasize one or the other). Of the top quality wineries, she cited Bedell Cellars, Channing Daughters, Lenz Winery, Paumanok Vineyards, and Peconic Bay Vineyards.  Given that all of the Long Island wineries depend on retail sales for a major part of their income and nearly all have tasting rooms for the wine tourists who are a significant part of their business, I inferred from what she said that some of these wineries seek to attract tourists and tourist groups with large tasting rooms, provide access for buses, and offer space for parties, weddings, and so on.  While some of these are serious about their wines, such as McCall, The Old Field Vineyards, and Pellegrini, a handful is really focused on the tourist trade, perhaps to the detriment of the wines they make—good enough for the tourists, but certainly not world-class.

One way to judge a winery is by looking at their containers—the smaller the container, such as an oak cask (typically of 225 liters, the size of Bordeaux casks) the more serious is the winemaking, as it costs more time and work to manage.  Large containers tend to be used for large-scale production and do not allow for the blending of batches for refining the way the wine tastes and smells the way that small ones do.

She also made clear that there is a fundamental difference between vineyards that seek to grow the highest quality fruit possible by practicing ‘green harvesting,’ which means removing bunches of fruit in the middle of the growing season—sometimes as much as third to a half of the developing crop, in order to improve the quality of the fruit that remains.  The result, of course, is a smaller crop, but wines made from such fruit will be richer, more flavorful, more interesting.  This will not be true of vineyards that primarily grow and sell their wine grapes to wineries.  These vineyards seek to maximize their grape production, as they sell grapes by the ton and they would receive nearly the same price regardless of whether or not they practiced ‘green’ harvesting.  In this case, quantity trumps quality.

I had a few prepared questions for Louisa, to wit:

  • When you started your vineyard there was no concept of ‘sustainable’ viticulture, although ‘organic’ and Biodynamic agriculture was already being practiced in some places.  Was there a point at which you and Alex decided to move towards sustainable viniculture, and if so, how did you go about it?

“Ecology was very much a part of the vocabulary when we planted our vineyard, and we had stayed at an organic farm some years before.  Still, it was fungicides that made it possible for us to plant V. vinifera vines in our vineyard. Historically, those who had attempted to grow these European wine grapes had failed because they had no tools to combat the fungi and other pests indigenous to North America. We recognized that techniques like grafting and amendments like copper sulfate and other fungicides developed after 1870 now made it possible to successfully grow these plants that previously had not survived here. We also perceived that cold-sensitive vinifera might survive on the North Fork of Long Island, due to the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream and Peconic Bay, when they had failed to survive in the more continental climates of other parts of the east coast.

“We even planted some Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc on their own roots, because the sandy soils of Long Island made it difficult for root pests (like Phylloxera) to establish themselves.  Nevertheless, we really didn’t want to use sprays except to the extent necessary.  Although we did use herbicides at times, when weeds became excessive, we always tried to control them mechanically (which usually meant hand-hoeing and weed pulling in areas that the side-hoe on the tractor could not reach). Late sprays before harvest can affect fermentation, so we did not use fungicides after mid-August.  The fact of the matter is that wrestling wine to the ground is very, very complex.

“We embraced the estate approach from the very beginning—in other words, our wines would be made only from the grapes that came from our vineyard, as is the case with Bordeaux chateau. In later years, we did purchase some fruit for our second label, Chardonette, in order to be able to offer a less-expensive, entry-level wine.

“Our wines were made with no residual sugars; malolactic fermentation was complete in all our wines, and we applied minimum sulfites—none at crush time—because we did not want to destroy the indigenous microflora.  The natural acid in wine, at a pH lower than 4.0, makes it impossible for bacteria harmful to people to survive, but some sulfites were needed during aging to protect the wines from yeast or bacteria that harm wine by creating vinegar or off-odors, especially after the malolactic fermentation, when the pH would rise to a less protective level, as high as 3.7 in Pinot Noir especially.

“I am interested in biodynamic techniques but have never practiced them. There are pros and cons to every agricultural practice. Recently, I visited a biodynamically-farmed vineyard in Champagne that was using horses to work the fields.  The idea was to avoid the hardpan that can develop after running a tractor over the vineyards many times and compacting the soil, as the hardpan that results is virtually impenetrable and can harm the nourishment of the vines.  However, the vintner who showed me the horses commented that, while using horses was good for the soil, it was not good for the horses—the soils were so dry that the horse could go lame. That, then, is not really a good option for sustainability.

“With respect to Biodynamic sprays I should point out that these need DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] approval, as does anything that is applied to crops.  All must have a seal of approval and licensing from the DEC. DEC guidelines are not always clear and are subject to change without notice.  Because the DEC is funded by fines levied against farmers in violation of their guidelines, it behooves its inspectors to find violations and levy what can be very heavy fines.  It’s a real problem, and it has to be fixed by providing financing for it by New York State. In my memoir, I describe an untoward incident we had with the DEC that illustrates how this agency has, in the course of implementing laws intended to protect the environment, veered off course in a way that persecutes unwitting and well-intentioned farmers like ourselves.”

  • Looking back on how you went about establishing Hargrave Vineyards in 1973, how would you start up differently as a pioneer, given what you know now?  For example, would you plant Pinot Noir again, or something else?  What about preparation of the soil?

First, Louisa said, “I’d start with a south-facing slope, and then I’d use compost with biodynamic elements to maintain the vineyard.”  “You said ‘biodynamic’ but did you mean ‘organic?’”  “No, I said ‘biodynamic,’ meaning that the soil amendments would reflect the concept of the farm as a unified system of life forces, cycling between times of birth, growth, fruition, decay, and rebirth.”

We had discussed Biodynamics at some length, and Louisa said that she agreed with other viniculturalists, like Sam McCullough and Kareem Massoud, who think that some aspects of Biodynamics may actually work, though it may not need all the mystical components to be effective.  While she does believe that there can be something that could be called “energy” in wine, perhaps due to the level of acidity—it has to do with what makes the wine appealing, or exciting, or perhaps there’s something else to which people respond when they drink it.  Whether or not there is some kind of cosmic energy that comes from the planets and the stars, or that has to do with affinities between horns and earth or anything like that.  It may very well be that the biota that is in the compost teas is really healthy for the vines.  [As an aside, I would like to note that that this has not been borne out in any scientific tests that I know of, but it’s clear that even viticulturalists who would not seek to enter the Demeter program for Biodynamic Certification are open to the possibility that the compost teas have some efficacious attributes.]

Louisa further remarked that, “although growing and making wine from Pinot Noir proved to be most challenging, I would do it again.  I learned more from my efforts to ripen this “heartbreak grape” and to tame its hard tannins than from any other variety. Success with it is not assured, but when it comes, it makes extraordinarily wonderful wine on Long Island.

  • Do you think that the Cornell VineBalance program has made a real difference in the vinicultural practices in LI?  It doesn’t have many actual members—about six, I believe.

“The VineBalance program only has a few members because participation requires detailed record-keeping and a lot of paperwork, which are time-consuming and costly.  This doesn’t mean that VineBalance isn’t important to the rest of the vineyards.  It provides all kinds of guidance. Vineyard managers can and do take courses on sustainable viniculture, including pesticide use, which requires certification.  Cornell provides many seminars and brings experts from other regions here to discuss many aspects of viticulture, including organic interventions and sustainable practices.  So VineBalance, under the direction of Alice Wise at the Cornell Agricultural Extension station in Riverhead, does play a significant role in the viniculture of Long Island.”

Louisa concluded our conversation by saying, “Agriculture in Long Island must be kept alive, even if eventually grapes may have to give way to cabbages.  That’s fine, as long as the farms remain.”

With that remark, Louisa speaks in a way that is characteristic of her and her deep commitment not only to growing wine, but sustaining agriculture.  The East End is a beautiful area, and the North Fork still retains a quality of the bucolic and rural thanks to its working farms and vineyards.  The Hargraves sold development rights to their vineyard to the Suffolk County Land Trust years ago.  That is also part of her commitment.  Long Island owes her many thanks for all that she’s done and continues to do.