Tag Archives: Martha Clara Vineyards

Viniculture in LI, Part III: Martha Clara Vineyard

In 1978 Robert Entenmann—of the Entenmann’s Bakery family—purchased a potato farm in Riverhead and transformed it into a Thoroughbred horse farm, once breeding up to two hundred mares.  Apparently he was eager to do something new and different after a time, so he converted the farm into what is now Martha Clara Vineyards—named after his mother—in 1995.  The vineyard, comprising 113 contiguous acres out of a total of 205 that compose the Big E farm, is now planted with fourteen varieties of grapes, including Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Semillon, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Malbec.  Because so much was invested in creating a first-class vineyard with its equipment and facilities, a planned winery was never built.   Meanwhile, Clydesdale draft horses for the weekend carriage rides available to visitors still graze in a paddock, and there is a small zoo with Baby-Doll sheep, Scottish Highland cattle, goats, a donkey, a llama, and other farm animals for the entertainment of children.  Martha Clara has a family-oriented visitor’s center, and there is a very spacious tasting room where there are twenty-five wines to choose from, including several quaffable versions, some of them rather sweet.  Because of all this some critics feel that this makes the establishment less serious about wine than are other properties.

However, in April 2018 the property was sold by the Entenmann family for $15 million to the Rivero-González family. This would appear to be a major step in the family’s ambition for international recognition. The property had been on the market since 2014.

The Rivero-González family said in a release that it owns an eponymous winery and vineyard in Parras, Coahuila, Mexico. The family said it has “15 years [of] experience in the Mexican wine industry and is excited about this acquisition, which will help the members of this family expand their interests beyond Mexico.” María Rivero will run the family’s wine operations at Martha Clara. The Vineyard Website says that “the Riveros are willing to work with the local community in order to encourage and enhance the legacy of the former owners of Martha Clara Winery in a successful way.” Further plans have not been announced as yet.

This makes it the second wine-producer on the East End to be owned by Latin-Americans; the other is Laurel Lake, which is in Chilean hands.

At present all the wines are made at Premium Wine Group under the watchful direction of the winemaker, Juan Micieli-Martinez, who is also the general manager of Martha Clara.  Juan (aka ‘Juanmaker’), who was born in Mexico, was raised in Long Island, later earned a degree in biology and psychology, and then worked with Russell Hearn, winemaker at Pellegrini Vineyards, where he was bitten by the wine bug.  After Hearn founded the Premium Wine Group, a custom crush facility, Juan worked there and also went to Australia, where he learned about anaerobic winemaking, especially useful when producing aromatic white wines.  His special passion is the blending of varietals, and enjoys making blends of both white and red wines, which is evident in the wines offered by Martha Clara, as many of them are blends to cater to a wide variety of tastes and levels of connoisseurship, from the quaffables to various fine reserves.  Juan is very serious about his wines.

Jim Thompson came to Martha Clara as Vineyard Manager nine years ago.  In Michigan there was resistance to using sustainable methods of growing grapes due to the very short growing season.  The application of inputs would begin at the end of May and end by about the 1st of September, with time only for six to eight applications in that period.  Long Island, with its longer growing season, requires inputs to be applied from early May right through October, with as many as twelve to eighteen applications during that time.

Steve Mudd told Jim, at the time of his first interview with Martha Clara (2009), that in the North Fork the vineyard will be soaked with moisture every morning, but of course the grapes and vines need to be dry in order to develop healthily.  This is because Long Island vineyards are on very flat land, so that there is no natural circulation of air unless a breeze comes up.  In Michigan, the vineyards were situated on slopes above the lakes that are a major feature of the state.  In those vineyards, with the rows running from the top of the slope down towards the water, a natural convection effect would have air constantly moving through the vines, keeping them dry.

Originally, the vines were planted in rows that were treated with herbicides to such an extent that they were as smooth and clean as a billiard ball, but, since coming on board, both Jim and Juan have prevailed on Mr. Entenmann to reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides (he liked a trim, clean look in his fields) and allow cover crops to grow, such that now even toads have returned to the vineyard—a particularly good sign, given that toads are especially vulnerable to toxins, which they can absorb through the skin.  The cover crops are white clover and low mow grass which is a combination of shorter growing fescues and a combination of the two.

Given the very flat, horizontal terrain of the property, Jim said that 7-foot spacing between rows is too narrow for tall vines that may reach 7 feet in height or more, because it means that when the sun is at its zenith of about 45° in the summertime, a shadow is still cast across the edge of a row immediately adjacent of another row, thus reducing solar exposure under the vines themselves, making it difficult to dry the soil adequately.  It means that there is good sun from, say, 10:00am to 2:00pm, whereas a spacing of 8 feet could mean that the soil could enjoy the effects of the sun from 9:00am to 4:00pm.  Presently, the spacing is 5′ x 7′ except for twenty acres that are 4′ x 7.’

He also remarked that, “It is a very different thing to sustain 15 acres versus 100.  It is one thing to scout 15 acres and another to do so with 14 varieties on 100 acres.  At Martha Clara, each variety is planted in at least two separate, non-contiguous blocks, so with 14 varieties we would have at least 24 blocks to scout, but it is more likely as many as 40.  Clearly, with this many varieties in that many blocks it is difficult to manage.  Scouting is time-consuming and needs to be done on a pretty regular basis to catch infestations before they can spread and do serious damage.”

“Fortunately, he went on, “Martha Clara is well laid-out for a right-brain mentality, with very straight rows which are perfect for mechanical harvesting, which is essential for a vineyard of this size.  After all, it would take 20 to 30 people in the vineyard to pick enough grapes to fill one stainless-steel fermentation tank, whereas the harvester can do so in a matter of an hour or so.”

Martha Clara is “a vineyard in a box” according to Jim, for its 101 acres of planted vines are hemmed in on all sides by neighboring structures.  It is also one of the four properties that forms the core group of the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers certification program.  In preparation for that, Jim says that , “I have narrowed my herbicide strip to 1/3 the total row width or less, I am doing some bud thinning which I anticipate/expect will reduce pesticide requirements. We have hired an intern whom I expect to be scouting for diseases and insects on a regular basis. I am reading related materials and articles.”

It is often difficult to find good vineyard workers to hire, according to Jim.  Not long ago he had an applicant come to him who stood at the door to his office, leaning his right side against the door frame.  Jim asked the man about his qualifications and then inquired about his work experience with the hoe.  “It is not a problem,” averred the applicant.  A day later, when Jim went to see the new crew at work, he found that the new “hoe worker” had no right arm.  It was not a problem because he had gotten others to do the work.

Given all that, there are varieties that are easier to grow and maintain than others.  Some vinifera varieties are especially difficult to deal with in the LI area, including Pinot Noir, Semillon, Syrah, and Viognier.  For Martha Clara, the Pinot Noir is problematic because it can begin well and seem promising, but in the end produces unexciting wine.  Juan remarks, “I feel that–and I know that this is a bold statement—but Pinot Noir, in my experience—is mediocre.  Granted I have not had any of the ‘religious’ Pinot Noirs, but overall there are many better varietals . . . in my opinion.”  Although Semillon, Syrah, and Viognier have promise, Juan points out that “Syrah may come up short on sugar, but flavors are beautiful in our Syrah in warmer years; in cooler years they tend to show more intense notes of black pepper.  As for Viognier, it makes beautiful, well-rounded wines, but Jim [did comment on the] difficulty in handling it in the vineyard.”

The vinifera varieties that do best in this climate are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Riesling.  In fact, Jim would like to expand the Riesling planting, but first would need to research the available clones for their appropriateness in the North Fork soil.  (Clone selection, as a matter of fact, is as vital to the success of a varietal as the choice of terroir for the vineyard, or, to put in another way, it’s vital to select a clone that will thrive in a given terroir.)  He has also added two acres of Malbec (a French variety that often associated with Argentina), using three different clones, and will see how those do here.  The one vinifera variety that Jim would also like to plant, once he knows more about it, is Torrontés (the aromatic grape from Argentina).  Were he to do so, it would be the first planting of that variety in the Eastern US.

However, because vinifera vines are so susceptible to fungal disease in the LI climate—given its high humidity and volatility—Jim and Juan have planted three experimental plots of hybrid varieties:  Marquette (a U. of Minn. red hybrid with Pinot Noir in its sap along with excellent cold hardiness and good disease resistance), La Crescent (another Minn. hybrid), and NY 95.301.01 (also known as “No-spray 301,” a Cornell hybrid that needs minimal inputs against mildews and fungi) to determine if these could handle the climate and terroir better than some of the vinifera vines.  Juan explained that, “this has been done more out of curiosity as we have one row of each vine type.  There is not enough for commercial production.”  It is enough, however, to explore vines with the very traits that are lacking in virtually all vinifera varieties: resistance to cold and mildew—the bête noir of humid-climate vineyards.

A visit to the tasting room with Juan and Jim proved especially interesting, not only because of the range of wines offered, but because Juan is promoting the use of kegs for dispensing wine by the glass.  To Juan, kegs offer several advantages:  1.   they help preserve wine better than do opened bottles; 2.   they eliminate bottles altogether, thus reducing the amount of materials and energy required to make bottles; 3.   they reduce the cost of shipping and storage, which can be expensive in the case of bottles; 4.   they can be reused for up to fifteen to twenty years.  There seems to even be a difference in the character of the wine from the keg compared to that from a bottle.  The Pinot Grigio served from a keg had a tad more fruit than that which was poured from a bottle.  Consequently, Juan would also like to sell wine in kegs to restaurants and tasting bars.

In tasting six of the wines made by Juan (or, more accurately, his surrogates at Premium Wine Group, according to his specifications), it was apparent that his fine wines can be very fine indeed, with a pronounced house style.  His Syrah from the 2009 vintage was nearly mature and manifested the typical traits of a Syrah that had been barrel-aged for thirteen months—black fruit and cigar-box notes with an unusually forward expression of cracked peppercorns.  It had been fermented with 3% Viognier blended in—as is the case in Côte Rotie.  The strong spiciness appears to be the result of a cool vintage, though I suspect terroir and style also played a role here.  In fact, the 2009 Viognier varietal (with its characteristic aromatics of spice and ripe white peaches with floral notes also had a strong spiciness on the palate—pronounced lemongrass, or was it white pepper?  Both wines had a firm acid backbone to give them structure.  I liked them both for their unusual spiciness, which makes them suitable for Indian, Thai, and Mexican cuisine or any well-seasoned food.  The 2009 Cabernet Franc, made from hand-picked fruit, unfined and unfiltered, was also very nice, with herbal & chocolate notes on the nose & palate, integrated tannins and firm acidity, now ready to drink but still to benefit from some cellar aging.  Terrific for accompanying barbecued steak, for example.

In his role as general manager, Juan is now in the process of rebranding Martha Clara’s wines and so is developing a new and very attractive wine label that will be more consistent in appearance and style for the various varieties of wine than the present range of label designs, shown above.  The design of the full label for all the wines is below.

Because Martha Clara had spent so much money on developing its vineyard it was decided not to build a winery, given its enormous cost, and to contract its wine assemblage to Premium Wine Group.  A visit to PWG, where Juan once worked and now has his wines made, allowed an opportunity for some barrel tasting.Several wines were sampled, including the 2011 Viognier—developed on its lees in steel, and the 2010 Syrah—which will be blended with 3% Viognier in the Côte Rotie style—which, tasted from the barrel, showed a more demur peppery flavor given the cooler vintage than that of 2007.  Juan builds his wines by making multiple visits to the facility, tasting them as they develop and working out the mix of blends that he wants for the wines before they are bottled.  He works with Russell Hearn and John Leo, the cellar master at PWG, who then puts the wines together and once Juan has approved the results the wines are either then racked and bottled or allowed more time to age the blends first.  Juan’s seriousness shows in his wines.

based on interviews with Jim Thompson & Juan Micieli-Martínez
3 February & 29 March 2012; updated 30 April 2018
as well as online & printed sources

http://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

6025 sound avenue
riverhead, ny 11901

phone 631.298.0075
fax 631 298 5502
info@marthaclaravineyards.com

 

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.


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).

 

 

Oenology in Long Island: Premium Wine Group–John Leo

Interview with John Leo about PWG (& Leo Family Wines)

on Sept. 27, 2012, updated on Jan. 21 & May 24, 2013

PWG, 01

 From the PWG Website:

Premium Wine Group is a contract winemaking facility designed to allow an economical way to produce wine without the huge investment in equipment and facility. The individual style is driven by each Producer / Client in the production of their wine. PWG is designed with an array of technologically superior equipment which allows our clients complete freedom in producing wine. Our experienced staff of wine production professionals allows our clients the comfort that their wines are being handled in the highest quality practices.

Both “custom-production” and “custom-crush” services are provided to licensed producers and wholesalers of wine. These services are being utilized by many local wineries and wineries in the Northeast that source fruit from the North Fork of Long Island, see our Producers / Clients

Established in 2000, an initial 545 tons were received, we have steadily grown to 1,000 tons with an ultimate capacity of 1,400 tons. Premium Wine Group’s mission is to continually upgrade plant, equipment and services to allow our Producers / Clients the highest quality environment in which to sculpt their individual wines. This is evident with more than 18 Wineries producing over 100 individual wines each vintage.

NOTE:  While Premium Wine Group makes wine for its many outside clients, there are also three employees that work there who are themselves clients:  Russell Hearn, Managing Partner/Director of Winemaking, John Leo, production winemaker, and Erik Bilka, production winemaker.  While this article is, foremost, about Premium, it also includes sections devoted to the wines of these three producers.  (The winegrowing at Lieb Cellars (owned by partner Mark Lieb) and its wines will be the subject of a separate article, as will be the case with Clovis Point, whose wines are made by John Leo.)

It should also be noted that a press release issued on March 28, 2013, states, “Lieb Cellars and Premium Wine Group announced a merger of the two companies. Established in 1992 and 2000 respectively as two separate businesses with Mark Lieb as an investor, the combined companies have received substantial funding through their parent company Southport Lane, a private equity firm focused on growing its portfolio businesses. Southport Lane selected Lieb Cellars and PWG in part for their “custom crush” business, which is the production home of many North Fork wineries and the only one east of the Mississippi. There has been talk of the company going public.”

Because I interviewed John and Russell separately, and the conversations are so extensive, I’m dividing this post into two parts:  The first (this one) is based on my conversation with John, and subsequently my interview with Russell, which also includes discussions of T’Jara Vineyard and SuhRu Wines:  Oenology in LI:  Premium Wine Group–Russell Hearn.

According to the bio of John Leo from Winemakers’ Studio Website, “A native of the Hudson Valley, New York, John graduated with a journalism degree and immediately proceeded to wander slowly around the world. He started working in wine in 1982 and joined the PWG, John LeoEast End wine growing community in the early 1990s, becoming winemaker for Clovis Point, in Jamesport in 2004. John works full-time at Premium Wine Group where he makes the Clovis Point wines as well as Leo Family Red. A journalist by training, traveler by inclination, and grape grower by preference, John believes in honest hard work, natural transformation and the pleasure of sharing a bottle with friends.”

Personally, I found John to be thoughtful, articulate, soft-spoken yet straightforward, as well as clearly professional in outlook and attitude.  It was a pleasure to converse with him.

Interview with John Leo (JL):

JM-L:  I want to begin by asking you about your client list on the PWG website.  I recognize all of the names but on [see below], but there is one that puzzles me, DeSeo de Micheal [sic], but actually that’s Deseo de Michael . . . What’s his full name?

JL:  Michael Smith.  His wife is Puerto Rican, so I think that she anointed the name.

JM-L:  So that explains that mystery.  Well, one of the reasons that I called you was because I’d been in touch with Chiara Anderson Edmands, and she’d said that one of the people that I have to speak to is you.  So the advantage of speaking to you now is that I can now speak to you of your wine, their wine, and possibly Sherwood House, because I will be speaking to Bill Ackerman, the vineyard manager.

JL:  You know, the consulting winemaker for Sherwood is Gilles Martin, so he’ll have more answers about style and things like that, but about the logistics part I can help out with because it all does come in here.

JM-L:  So Gilles and Juan—who used to work here—and other consulting winemakers formulate what they want you to do and how do you work with them?  How do they formulate what they want you to do?

JL:  Well, we sit down to talk about that.  I guess that in a stand-alone winery the winemaker is not only making the decisions but lifting the hoses and doing the work.  But they usually have assistants, especially around harvest time, so they’re making their own plans about how much tonnage to bring in, how to ferment it, etc. etc., and their usually delegating that to their assistants in the cellar.  So in a sense that’s what we are . . . we’re custom production, so the consultant tells us that he will bring in 5 tons of this Merlot, 6 tons of that Merlot, we want you to handle this one way and that another way.  So we’re basically the cellar hands . . . we’re the winemaking service for that . . .

JM-L:  So you are, in effect, the cellar assistants.

JL:  In a sense, yes.

JM-L:  Except that you actually do all the hands-on of making the wine . . .

JL:  And we have all the equipment—that belongs to us, and the facility belongs to us, and they’re being charged, sort of, per finished case. [See below, From the PWG website: Wine Production; which lists all the equipment they own.]

JM-L:  I see.

JL:  So we’re the winery with the labor to get the job done that they want, but in terms of how they formulate things, it’s straightforward, just like in any winery, they decide how they want to handle certain batches, what yeasts to use, what temperature to ferment at, how often to pump over, all those decisions they can make to then communicate them to us and we do the work.

JM-L:  The thing, of course, is that they’re not being hands-on, so what happens when some kind of issue, say a stuck fermentation, takes place (which I’m sure doesn’t happen too often) . . .

JL:  Not too often, no.

JM-L:  or, for example, a temperature issue with the tanks, or you find that the amount of pumping over that they request perhaps is not optimum for the wine as its coming out . . .

JL:  Right.  That last one is a different issue.  I might personally disagree with their protocols, but if that’s their protocol that’s what we do.  Lots of oxidation, no oxidation, no air at all. They can ask for seven pumpovers a day or no pumpovers. They can demand of me whatever they want.  If it seems that out of the ordinary we’ll clarify.  We’ll say, “Are you sure that’s what you’re asking for?  That’s not the norm.”  Maybe we’ll have to charge more for more pumpovers, so we just want to make sure that that’s what you want.”  When they confirm it, it doesn’t matter what I like or think is right or wrong for that batch of wine . . . they’re the boss.  In terms of stuck fermentations or a little bit of sulfide issues or things like that, Andrew’s very attentive [Andrew Rockwell, the Laboratory Director].  We’re testing everything every day, after rackings, every day’s ferment, so Andrew’s sticking his nose in the tank every day, and he’s got a good nose and palate and he’s very sensitive, so he’ll let Russell or I know, or if the consultant’s already sitting in the room he’ll go directly to them, or we’ll call the consultant and say, “Hey, there’s an issue with tank 1956, there’s some sulfite issue, a little bit of a stink coming out of it.”

Also, a lot of our newer clients, for example Deseo de Michael, say, “I want to bring in my grapes this year, 600 pounds . . .

JM-L:  600 pounds.  Well, if you only have a third of an acre . . .

JL:  Exactly.  So the first thing I explain to him if you want us to press it, that we need more than that because our presses aren’t that small, so we can’t press 600 pounds effectively, so you’re going to have buy some Chardonnay to put in with yours to make it.  So he’s so small that it doesn’t make sense to have a consultant, you know, realistically, but the first year I helped him through that and I didn’t charge him anything, and I said, “You know, you can do it this way or you can do it this way.  Here’s the decision points now.  You can taste the juice coming out of the press, do you want to cut it there?  Do you want to keep on pressing harder?  You’ll see the change.”  So we just walked him through it.  So for 2011 he hired Gilles [Martin] to be his winemaker for his one Chardonnay, so now it’s at a more professional level.

JM-L:  Good.  But the vines must be very young . . .

JL:  Sure.  So that’s an extreme example of someone who wants to do things right, is willing to pay commercial charges, but he doesn’t have enough volume to get a full-time consultant . . . so we try to be as helpful as we can.

JM-L:  Of course.

JL:  We have other clients like that, they have a little bit of fruit in their back yard, so we try to avoid it, but when it’s a friend of a friend, we do stuff like that . . .

JM-L:  Sure.

JL:  You know, Juan [Micieli-Martinez, Manager and Winemaking Consultant of Martha Clara Vineyards], Gilles [winemaking consultant to several vineyards], Tom Drozd—who makes the Baiting Hollow wines, and Erik [Bilka, the other PWG production manager] has his own wine, and other clients who know what they’re doing.  So we expect them to make all those decisions, so we’re just backing it up.  We do have some non-Long Island clients, but that is just coincidence.

JM-L:  So who are your non-Long Island clients?

JL:  Well, you know, Silver Springs, up in the Finger Lakes.

JM-L:  All the way up there?  Do they send their fruit down?

JL:  Mmm, no.  When they started five or six years ago, they bought Long Island red, so they make some things up there in the Finger Lakes, and that goes for the white, the hybrid stuff, and they wanted to buy some red, so they approached us and said, “We want to buy a few tons, and how do we get it up to us and what can we do?”  And, I don’t think they actually have a winery, I think all their production is custom, either here or there.  So anyway, that’s how we got started.  And now, every couple of vintages they’ll send some white juice down, and they’ll have us ferment it here because it’s going to be part of a bigger blend or something like that.

JM-L:  I see.  Very interesting.

JL:  So they’re one.  And then there’s Belhurst, Belhurst Castle . . .

JM-L:  Are they also in the Finger Lakes?

JL:  Yes, they are.  They’re basically a hotel, a resort hotel, and again, they might have a little show winery, but I haven’t actually been there.  But we make their wines, sort of for the same reasons, they’re purchasing all their fruit, both red and white, and we’re making the wine for them.

JM-L:  Is PWG unique in New York State?

JL:  Not any more.  We were the first on the East Coast as a custom crush, and I don’t know, but I think that there are one or two in the Finger Lakes now.  I know that East Coast Crush started up and it’s connected to one of the bigger wineries.  I don’t know if it’s the exact same facility or if they have separate business names to bring in more clients, or it’s a whole new facility.  Russell might know that.  And I think that I heard of another place, White Springs was, again, doing their own thing but doing a lot of custom work, I think that just changed ownership and might now be all custom.

JM-L: I see.

JL:  But, anyway, we started people thinking about it as an option, since they save a lot of money and only pay for what they’re bringing in rather than buying equipment that’s going to cost them two million to put in and they’re only going to use it once a year, so . . .

JM-L:  Yes, like Raphael, which spent six million dollars on their own winery . . .

JL:  Yeah, it’s a different interest.  If you have the money to invest and you want that showpiece, you know, that’s . . .

JM-L:  Well, they have that showpiece, there’s no question of that.  Pretty impressive!  So, when you have a really abundant harvest out here, even the wineries that have facilities of their own may find themselves with more fruit than they can handle . . .

JM-L:  So you do take overage, as it were . . .

JL:  Yes.  If we have the space for it, sure, and it happens where we have one particular client, another  winery that knows pretty much that they’re going to have more fruit coming in every year than they have space for themselves, so they’ve been saying fairly consistently that they need a tank of twenty tons, or something, for this overage.  There are other wineries where it’s more vintage-related, most years they’re self-sufficient but some years they’re looking for extra space, so as long as we have the room we’re happy to do that.  We also do pressing and settling; some Connecticut buyers of wineries, are buying local Chardonnay or other varieties and they’re looking for a place to have it destemmed, pressed, cold settled [chilled], and then they’re taking it as juice so that they don’t have to drive [the purchased grapes] all the way around.  So that’s another part of our business that is pretty consistent every year.

JM-L:  So you’re just sending them the must?

JL:  Yes, either the must for reds or the settled juice for, say, Chardonnay.

JM-L:  And then they ferment it.

JL:  Yes, and we have fee schedules—so they don’t have to bring things just to bottle; we have a pressing and settling charge, or you can ferment it here, age it here, and then sell it in bulk, instead of selling it in the bottle, and you’re not paying the full cost . . .  In other words, PWG has a fee schedule for all its varied services that allow a client to decide whether to take a wine all the way to bottle, or to sell it early in the process as juice (before fermentation) or later in the process as bulk wine.

JM-L:  OK.  Well, you and Russell, and who else helped found this?

JL:  Well, I’m not a partner, Russell is.  It’s Russell and Mark Lieb and a fellow called Bernard Sussman—he isn’t located out here.  He lives in New Jersey or may have moved to Florida now.  They’re the three partners.  I’ve been here since it opened.  I was working with Russell at Pellegrini Vineyards when he was planning this, and when 2000 was our first harvest he asked me if, when this was done, I’d like to come with him.

JM-L:  Now, how many clients did you start with?

JL:   Roughly a dozen.

JM-L:  Really?  So in other words, you first determined that there would be a market out there, you determined that there would be people who would bring their fruit in, if you would just set up . . .

JL:  Yes. And, you see, the reason that we knew that—especially Russell—was that Russell, had been the winemaker for Pellegrini Vineyards, at that point, for eight or nine vintages, and people kept approaching him, saying “I have fruit for sale, I’m thinking of starting my own label, do you have room?”  So he was doing custom production at Pellegrini, with whatever excess space he had there, for Erik Bilka and everyone else . . . and, you know, people were looking for space.  He knew that there were more vineyards coming online, he knew that this would be a growth market.  And I think that Russell first approached Mark Lieb—or it might have been vice versa—because Lieb had a forty-acre vineyard and no facility, and he was trying to buy more property so that he could build a winery, and there was some political issue, possibly, and it was taking longer than he expected so they got together and he said, “OK, you build this and I’ll be an investor in it and instead of making it a Lieb winery we’ll make it a custom production winery.  And Russell, you’re going to run it, right?”  And it was very clever and it was the right time to get something started . . .”

JM-L:  Interesting.

JL:  Most of those clients are still with us.  I’d say that the only ones that aren’t were the ones that got sold or closed down.  But Martha Clara was there the first year, Sherwood House was there, so pretty much everyone who was looking for a place and found us in 2000 has stayed.

JM-L:  So Deseo de Michael [aka OR Wine Estate as of 2014] is the just latest . . . ?

JL:  Yes, pretty much.  Around 2010, in terms of having a license and all of that.  But for example, my wine, which is a 2007, and Erik [Bilka], who makes a Riesling from Finger Lakes juice that he brings down, and he started in 2009, and that’s it; it’s not so much new vineyards coming on line anymore, but rather people buying fruit who want to start their own brands.

Leo Family Red:  a History

JM-L:  I see.  So let’s talk about you . . .

JL:  I don’t own my own vineyard; my situation is a little different in that I lease two acres. Well, I have a long-term agreement since 1999, with a particular vineyard to lease the two acres and I bring in my own fruit, with the understanding that I’ll do all the handwork.  I do the pruning, I do the thinning, I do the harvesting.

JM-L:  So you’re not buying fruit, you’re essentially the vineyard manager for a parcel that’s leased to you.  So you have complete control of the fruit.

JL:  Yes.  The things that I didn’t have control over—I started at Martha Clara in 1999–where they controlled the spray schedule, the weed control, anything that had to do with tractor work—I could make suggestions.  So in that respect I didn’t have complete control.  But I was fine with that.  That lasted until 2006, when they decided that they wanted to harvest their own fruit on that plot, so they decided that I was too small to make an exception for . . . so I was all ready to move anyway, and I was fine with that; it was time to move on.  So I continued the same arrangement with Pellegrini Vineyards, in their easternmost vineyard, called South Harbor.  So there were two acres planted with Merlot there as well, same arrangement as before, so I don’t have control of the spraying schedule.   So I worked with the vineyard manager and that worked out nicely.  That was between 2007 through 2010.  In 2010 I started working for Onabay Vineyard as a winegrowing consultant, working out in the vineyard.  So they asked me, would I be interested in leasing a couple of acres with them, and since I was already telling them what to do and hands-on with their whole vineyard it finally meant that it felt like my own vineyard, in that sense.

JM-L:  Oh, that’s very nice.

JL:  So in 2011 I moved to Onabay.  I was very happy with Pellegrini, but at Onabay, where they’ve planted several varieties, I was able to have an acre of Merlot, half-an-acre of Cabernet Franc, and half-an-acre of Petite Verdot.

JM-L:  So you were finally able to make a Meritage.

JL:  Yes.  And I did . . . since 1999 I’ve made wine every year, selling it off  in bulk, but bottling a barrel for myself to have something to drink, and. . .

JM-L: I see.  So now you’re now making wine in your own way—originally you were only making Merlot . . .

JL:  Only growing Merlot.  So the early vintages were 100% Merlot, but I started to go to other sources—Premium, for example, and other clients, to get a little bit of  Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, whatever happened to be available depending upon the year, including Syrah, Malbec, as well.  Working here made it easy for me to know what was out there—the quality, the amounts, whatever was available . . .  2007 was the first wine I bottled and labeled myself; up to 2006 it was a just hobby project, what I kept at home for drinking myself and then to cover costs I’d sell most of the bulk; I sell anywhere from 200 gallons to 1000 gallons a year depending on my harvest yield and my blending needs.

Leo Family Red, bottle [From the Winemaker’s Studio Website, there is this description of the 2007:  “The first and so far, only wine released under the Leo Family label. A blend made of sustainably farmed grapes: 80% Merlot, 7% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon from the North Fork of Long Island. Aged 18 months in French and Hungarian oak, released spring 2011.”]  [NOTE:  I tasted this wine on Feb. 2 at a dinner party where venison was the main course.  It followed a rather funky Spanish Tempranillo, and it showed beautifully.  It was already showing secondary aromas and flavors, including lightly-smoked wood, coffee, lead pencil, and sour cherry.  It was balanced and had an agreeable persistence on the palate and a very clean finish.  I’d describe it as elegant and somewhat austere–rather like a Premier Cru from St-Emilion (Bordeaux).  Its structure suggests several more years of maturation and good longevity.  It was very much appreciated by all the guests at the venison dinner, and was a really fine food & wine pairing.]

Leo Family Red, RL

[The back label—shown at right—tells even more about the wine and how it is made. . . ]

JM-L:  And how much bulk are you selling now?

JL:  Depending on the harvest . . . it was a lot, anywhere from 500 cases to a 1,000, or 200 gallons, some years there wasn’t very much.  The 2007 was a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot . . . it’s not all Merlot.

JM-L:  Which means that it’s more of a Left Bank than Right Bank Bordeaux style of wine.

JL: Yeah, with the Syrah tossed in too.

JM-L:  And with the Syrah, which in the 19th Century, they used in winemaking in Bordeaux.

JL:  Yes, I read that too.  I’m not going to market it as Bordeaux . . . it’s just was the best that I could do.

JM-L:  Of course you’re not going to label it as Bordeaux.  Despite all the claims about how Bordeaux-like your wine is, this is still Long Island, after all . . .

JL:  Exactly.  There’s no French on the label, it’s just Leo Family Red . . .

JM-L:  And where is it available?  Can I buy it, for example, at Empire State Cellars?

JL:  It’s available there; you can also buy it at the Winemakers’ Studio, that’s my biggest outlet . . . Anthony Nappa’s.  They pour it and sell it on a regular basis.  There’s also a small wine shop right here in Mattituck, called J. Shields.  It’s owned by a woman who’s a real oenophile.  She just loves wine; I think she studied the sommelier’s course . . . so she took it in a couple of weeks ago.  So it’s on the shelf there.

JM-L:  What was your aim in making your particular wine?

JL:  Honestly, it’s kind of a cliché.  I wanted to make a wine that I would enjoy drinking.  There are no asterisks.  I wanted it to stand on its own on a commercial level.  I want make it only in good vintages and have it taste better than what people are expecting.  . I wanted to be able say:  Taste it and if you like it, buy it, and if you don’t, well, there are no questions asked.  I made 420 cases, I think I have about 160 left.  If I’m stuck with a hundred cases, fine, I’ll be happy to drink it for the rest of my life.

JM-L:  So you’re really saying that the 2007 has great longevity.

JL:  Yes, I think it does.  Because I released it last year and it’s certainly drinking better this year. It hasn’t shown any signs of fading and improving still.

JM-L:  You think that it has the structure to last another five, ten years?

JL:  Five, ten years from now?  I think so, but I honestly don’t know?  It’s hard to say.  Two to three years to reach its peak, and how long will it hold?

JM-L:  Well, as you know, that’s a sign of good wine and good winemaking.  The very fact that there is so much wine being made in Long Island that is age-worthy is, I think, a stunning testament to the level of the winemaking here, and the quality of the fruit and everything else.  It’s no secret, after all, that for us, that the quality of the wine from Long Island is, frankly, at times sensational—and, well, times that it’s not— but given how good it is I often to prefer it to that of California.

JL:  I’ve come the same way, obviously I’m in the industry and you could say that I’m completely biased, but I’m less and less happy when paying sixty or seventy dollars for a California wine that turns out to be an ordinary red wine, just high in alcohol but without much character.

JM-L: As soon as Robert Parker says “jammy and full of fruit,” I know immediately that that is a wine that I’m not likely to touch.

JL:  Exactly.  They’re making a style.  Good for them.  They’re marketing a style and making it work.  We’re just not that.

JM-L:  The other thing to remember is that everything here is “micro.”  You just do not have the production to take on California, you just can’t make enough for a national market.

JL:  And that should free us up a lot to experimentation, to be able to focus on quality, which more and more of our customers are asking for over the twelve years we’ve been in the business; at first our clients were just happy to get the fruit in, get it at 22 Brix, get the right pH.  It’s got to have flavor.  We’re all working on making higher quality wine, we’re challenging one another, we’re raising the bar.

JM-L:  And what other vintages have you made since the 2007?

JL:  Put into bottle and labeled—just the 2010.

JM-L:  And that was a fabulous vintage.

JL:  It was very good.  At first I didn’t think that it was going to be as good as the 2007, but as I sampled it from the barrel it just got better and better, to the point that I decided to bottle it.  Now I think it may even be better than the 2007.  Leo Family Red will only be made in the best vintages. And now that we have 2012 in barrel I’m optimistic that 2012 could be another Leo
Family vintage.

JM-L:  Well, that’s a good policy.

JL:  Well, it’s nice to have a day job!

JM-L:  John, you’ve been more than generous with your time, and I thank you for it.  I’ll get back to you when I’m ready to write about Clovis Point.

 

Erik Bilka, who was not interviewed, is the other production winemaker at Premium, and also has his own wine label:  Influence—a Riesling made from grapes sourced from Ovid Farm in the Finger Lakes.

From the Influence Wines Website:

“Every vintage a winemaker’s goal is to showcase the best attributes from the fruit he is presented. Fruit intensity, acidity, and sugar balance are all attributes which bring a wine to a harmonious blend of aroma, flavor, and palette impression. The winemakers’ influence determines the quality seen in the glass.

Influence Wine Riesling“Once harvested, Influence Riesling is delivered to White Springs Winery in Geneva, NY on Seneca Lake, where the experienced staff led by Derek Wilber crush, press, and cold settle the juice, which is then shipped to Premium Wine Group on the North Fork of Long Island. Upon arrival, winemaker Erik P. Bilka begins the winemaking process. The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Before completion fermentation is halted in order to maintain the natural residual sugars found in this semi-dry vintage. The refining process which involves separating natural occurring sediment from the final product is done delicately in order to preserve the fruits integrity. This minimalist approach by the winemaker influencing only what the juice requires, allows the fruit to be showcased in the final wine.”

Brix at Harvest – 19.8
Ph – 3.10
Titratable Acid – 7.02
Residual Sugar – 22.00 grams/ liter
Aged – 100% Stainless Steel Tank
Bottled – March 31, 2011

 To me, the commitment by the oenologists who work at PWG simply goes beyond the normal range of expectation and duty.  For each of them is so passionate about wine, and apparently has so much excess energy, that it’s not enough for them to only work full-time at their place of employment, they have a deep need to practice their skills for themselves and their reputations.  One can’t ask for more devotion than that.  It’s also hard to find better winemakers.

Next, Russell Hearn.

From the PWG Website:

Services Provided

Services provided by Premium Wine Group range from grape sourcing, crush/pressing, fermenting, barrel aging, bottling, Methode Champenoise riddling and disgorging, and Compliance Issues. These services are available to “custom production” clients, Alternating Proprietorship and existing wineries. North-East wineries sourcing North Fork of Long Island fruit may wish to ferment rather than move unstable fruit during harvest. Or those that have exceeded their own production capacity might look to utilize our wide variety of equipment.

Contact us for (Fee Schedule or Component Services Fees) and (Standard Procedures for what is included).

The “producer” is to supply at their expense all:

  • Fruit (delivered to PWG)
  • Fermentation supplies (yeast, enzyme and tannin, malo-lactic bacteria)
  • Wooden cooperage or oak additives
  • Packaging supplies (bottles, corks, capsules, labels and related items)
  • Winemaking direction (consultation)

Wine Production

With a highly trained staff operating within a State of the Art facility, all wine production services requested can be performed in a timely and professional manner. Additional specialized equipment allows such processes as:

  • EuroSelect Destemmer-Crusher, the gentlest way of destemming
  • Tube-in-tube Must Chiller capable of dropping must temperature 20° F. downstream from the destemmer-crusher en route to press or fermentation tank
  • Reverse Osmosis System to remove water from grape juice
  • Ozone Machine for barrel sanitization
  • Lees filtration via Crossflow System
  • Crossflow wine filtration via Vaslin Bucher FX 8 System

Methode Champenoise

  • Complete semi-automatic Methode Champenoise bottling, riddling and disgorging equipment
  • Mainguet Crown capping device
  • Oenoconcept – Twin cage (1,000 bottle) automatic riddling machine fully programmable for the most complete riddling
  • Mainguet – Neck freezing
  • Disgorging
  • Mainguet – corking and wire hood application
  • Sick International – external bottle scrubbing/washing and drying unit
  • Sick International – capsule dispensing and eye sensitive/ orientating automatic double station capsule pleating device

Bottling

  • Full in-line 4,000 bottle/hour bottling line.
  • McBrady – cardboard dust evacuating and nitrogen bottle sparging device
  • GAI monoblock twenty (20) spout vacuum/ gravity filler with double (2) nitrogen sparging and triple (3) head vacuum corker
  • GAI single head screw capping machine, capable of applying Stevlin and Stevlin Lux screw caps
  • Automatic capsule dispenser and eight (8) head (reversible) capsule spinner and heat shrink capability
  • Sick Automatic champagne capsule dispenser and pleating device
  • Kosme – triple station (neck, front and back) six (6) turret pressure sensitive servo motor driven labeler
  • Manual inspection and packing station
  • Top and bottom ‘Little David’ case taper
  • Lanxess Velcorin DT 6 S dosing unit

Laboratory

Our facility has a fully-equipped laboratory, with a full-time Lab Director and assistant during the Harvest period. A production software system (Winemaker Database) allows our clients’ bulk inventory to be tracked from the time juice or bulk wine arrives at the winery, every moPWG, 08vement, addition, chemical analysis and process is recorded and tracked. Our clients have full access to this detailed history of their inventory.

  • Mettler Toledo Auto-Titrator, generating pH, TA, and FSO2 automatically for reliable consistency

Analytical

  • Brix
  • Total Acid (Automated Titration)PWG, 03
  • pH
  • Total and Free SO2
  • Alcohol
  • Heat and Cold Stability
  • CO2
  • NH3
  • Enzymatic R.S. and Malate
  • Volatile Acidity
  • Specific Gravity
  • Bottling QA/QC
  • Routine Wine / Lot Maintenance

Crush Pads

PWG, 14We can receive hand harvested fruit in small half-ton bins, or machine harvested in gondolas. The receiving pad consists of a Weightronix truck scale and printer, two 7-ton Membrane presses with s/s dump hopper for whole-cluster pressing. Two destemmer / crushers: Rauch E20 and Euroselect ES, to ensure uninterrupted receiving capacity. Both presses utilize direct to press systems, if requested, to minimize solids and for “dug-out” red fermentations. Our 50-ton Refrigeration system ensures more than sufficient capacity for rapid cooling of juice. Tube-in-tube must-chiller capable of decreasing must temperature 20ºF. Additionally we have a 700 KW generator to ensure uninterrupted electrical service.

Equipment

  • Numerous ‘gentle on wine’ Waukesha (twin lobe) pumps.
  • Pneumatic ‘punch-down’ tool above (18) red fermentation tanks.
  • (2) in-line tank heaters to maintain warm red ferments, correct malo-lactic temperature in tank, pre-bottling temperature control.
  • Crossflow filtration system Vaslin Bucher FX 3 with lees filtration add-on capability plate and frame pad filter as well as membrane cartridge filtration capability.
  • Steam and ozone capability.

Producers / Clients (all of which use only Long Island fruit)

  1. Baiting Hollow Farms Vineyard
  2. Bouké/Bouquet
  3. Brooklyn Oenology
  4. Clovis Point Vineyard
  5. OR Wine Estate (aka Deseo de Michael)
  6. Harbes Vineyard
  7. Lieb Cellars
  8. Martha Clara Vineyard
  9. McCall Wines
  10. Onabay Vineyards
  11. Pumphouse Wines (Scarsdale, NY)
  12. Sherwood House Vineyard
  13. [Leo Family Wines, by John Leo, employee]
  14. [Influence Wines (Finger Lakes fruit) by Erik Bilka, employee]
  15. [Suhru Wines, by Russell Hearn, PWG partner & production manager]
  16. [T’Jara Vineyards, by Russell Hearn]

PWG header Premium Wine Group 35 Cox Neck Rd. Mattituck, NY 11952

info@premiumwinegroup.com
phone 631-298-1900
fax 631-298-3588