Tag Archives: American Viticultural Area

Book Review: Wines of Eastern North America, by Hudson Cattell.

Hudson Cattell’s Wines of Eastern North America:  From Prohibition to the Present, A History and Desk Reference (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2014), is an important new book on the history of the wine industry in the East, covering both Canada and the United States in equal measure.  It is a scholarly work and is meant for a fairly narrow audience:  wine professionals, others in the wine trade, and really serious wine lovers.

Its title brings to mind Lucie T. Morton’s Winegrowing in Eastern United States (Cornell, 1985), the first major scholarly book to cover both the history and viniculture of the region east of the Rockies.  Comparisons are inevitable, but a quick overview of each book also brings out the differences (which are significant) and the similarities.  Apart from the fact that Cattell’s work is twenty-nine years later, it shouldn’t be regarded as an update of Morton’s book.  For one thing, Cattell covers the history of winegrowing in the East principally from the Prohibition era to the present (2013).  Morton covers the period from Colonial times up to 1985 more evenly, though she doesn’t have as much to say about the consequences of Prohibition as does Cattell.  However, Morton is largely focused on the viniculture, whereas Cattell’s is primarily about the industry as a whole.  Morton touches on Canada briefly, Cattell gives Canada its full due relative to the United States.  Essentially, one book supplements the other, and any serious student of the region should have both.  (N.B.–Morton’s book is out of print, but can be found online, so still available.)

Cattell (born in 1931), has been covering the wine industry east of the Rockies since 1976 had has published numerous books and articles over the years, covering not only the Eastern United States but Eastern Canada as well.  In those 37 years he has traveled throughout this vast region and met nearly everybody who mattered in the wine trade.  He clearly has a profound knowledge of the region, the people, the soils, the varieties, the wines, the laws, and the controversies about almost everything bearing on the vines and wines of Eastern North America.  In 2012 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the first Eastern Winery Exposition held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA 2007 article in the Cornell University Library Website, “Noted Wine Journalist Speaks at the Lee Library, Geneva” (http://www.library.cornell.edu/insidecul/200705/#noted) mentions that “Cattell learned on the job. On his first visit to a winery in Pennsylvania he drove right by the winery’s vineyard. ‘I knew absolutely nothing about grapes and wine,’ he said. ‘In fact, I didn’t even realize they were grapevines.’”  A portion of his education came from Liberty Hyde Bailey’s The Evolution of Our Native Fruits.

His knowledge and expertise show on every page of the book under review.  The chapters are arranged both chronologically and thematically.  The first chapter provides the historical background of the wine industry in the United States and Canada from pre-Prohibition days through Prohibition and its devastating effect on the industry to its still-lingering effects after the passage of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment.  State and provincial retail monopolies such as those in Pennsylvania and Ontario come out of this, as does the three-tier system that defines wine and liquor sales throughout the United States.

At the conclusion of the chapter is an interesting bit about Charles Fournier, the French-born winemaker at Gold Seal Vineyards.  He was from Champagne and had succeeded his uncle as winemaker at Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.  Personal tragedy was a factor in his decision to come to the States.  One of his early projects had to do with the legalization of the use of the term “champagne,” which by Federal statute of 1934 had to be “a type of sparkling white wine which derives its effervescence solely from the second fermentation of the wine within glass containers of not more than one gallon capacity, and which possess the taste, aroma, and other characteristics attributed to champagne as made in the Champagne district of France.”  In 1970 Fournier would write of how proud he was “of the success of the New York State champagne industry.”  Yet, he was using American and French-hybrid varieties such as Catawba, Delaware, Dutchess, Elvira, and so on.  By the ’90s, of course, EU laws would ban the use of the term “champagne” for any sparking wine not made in the eponymous region, but firms using that term before the EU law was passed had “grandfathered” the right to continue to use it, so today we still have older sparkling wine producers using the word “champagne”–note the use of the lower case.

Chapter Two is devoted to  Philip Wagner and the arrival of French hybrids in the United States.  Wagner, a newspaper reporter and editor, would prove to be one of the most important and influential individuals in the Eastern wine industry.  From his struggles as a tyro winegrower in the early thirties, by 1933 he had published the first book in America on winemaking:  American Wines and How to Make Them.  Having limited success with vinifera varieties, he began experimenting with hybrids.  In 1939 he imported Baco No. 1  cuttings from France via Frank Schoonmaker–the legendary wine guru of the post-Prohibition era–and from that shipment were to come all future Baco Noir vines in the United States.  In fact, it was the first importation of hybrids from France, and by 1951 Wagner and Boordy Vineyards (which he founded in 1945) was the major disseminator of these varieties, among them:  Seibel 6339, Seibel 1XX, Seibel 1000 (Rosette).

And so it goes for thirteen chapters illustrated in black & white images with the occasional table–ample text loaded with facts, data, anecdotes, and stories of individuals, such as the Hargraves and Lucie T. Morton, wineries like Taylor Wine or Wollersheim Winery of Wisconsin, as well as organizations such as the Vintners Quality Association of Canada (VQA) or the Pennsylvania Premium Wine Group.  No one and nothing seems to have been overlooked.

With respect to Canada and its wine industry , Cattell marks Sept. 21, 1945 as “one of the key dates in eastern wine history.”  Philip Wagner, visiting from Maryland, Adhemar de Chaunac, winemaker at Brights in Ontario, and others from New York, including Nelson Shaulis from the Geneva research station, participated in a tasting of thirty-two New York wines.  Wagner had added some of his French hybrid wines.  “There was total silence–Wagner later recalled . . . — as it was generally realized for the first time that good wines could be made from French hybrid grapes.”

The result was that de Chaunac went back to Brights and soon had some twenty French hybrids and a few vinifera varieties ordered from France.  Commercial plantings began with 40,000 vines in 1948.  In addition, thanks to advances made at Brights with regard to controlling downy mildew with sulfur on a regular schedule rather after it first appeared in the vineyard meant that the imported vines had a much better chance of survival.  In fact, by 1955 Brights had produced the first commercial vinifera wine in the East:  a Pinot “Champagne”.  The following year Brights brought out a Pinot Chardonnay table wine (as the variety was then called).

Catell goes on to write about the arrival of the first hybrids in the Finger Lakes, as a result of the same tasting that had so impressed de Chaunac.  The first hybrid planted in the Finger Lakes was Seibel 1000 (Rossette), going back to 30s (though apparently no attempt was made to make commercial wine from it).  In 1946 Charles Fournier of Gold Seal ordered a minimum of 1,000 vines of both Baco Noir and Rossette.  Two years later Wagner tasted the results of wine made from these varieties and was astonished by the progress.  Eventually, other Finger Lakes producers began planting them–Widmer’s Wine Cellars, even, reluctantly at first, Taylor Wine Company, which until then was heavily invested in American varieties like Catawba.  Indeed, it was Greyton Taylor who wrote in 1954 that “. . . we happen to believe that since wine comes from grapes, wine should taste as though it did.”

In the next chapter Cattell tells the well-known story of Dr. Konstantin Frank and his crusade to plant vinifera grapes in the Finger Lakes.  He also recounts the controversial oenologist’s “Pro-Vinifera Crusade,” the “toxic scare” that was spread in the 60s claiming that wine made from hybrids was toxic, and the “vinifera-hybrid controversy.”

So Cattell provides not only a clear and well-organized tale of the wine industry in the East, but leavens it well with interesting, even fascinating, anecdote.  At the same time, it can make for very dry reading.  For example, in Chapter Four (Vineyards and Wineries Before Farm Winery Legislation), in writing about French Hybrids in Ohio, he writes:

Ohio is a good example of how a state got started on a wine grape program based on the French hybrids.  The first French hybrids to arrive in Ohio were cuttings of Seibel 1000 (Rosette) obtained by Mantey Vineyards in Sandusky and sent to Foster Nursery in Fredonia, New York, to be grafted on Couderc 3309 rootstock.  In 1954, Meier’s Wine Cellars in Silverton, ten miles from Cincinatti, planted Baco No. 1 (Baco Noir), Seibel 5898 (Rougeon), Seibel 1096, and Seibel 4643 on North Bass Island (Isle of St. George) in Lake Erie.

But then, it must be realized that this is most emphatically a History and Desk Reference.  The book is amply annotated and has an extensive bibliography.  It is not only suitable as a reference but is, thanks to its wealth of anecdote, readable and enjoyable as well.  How can one not be delighted by an anecdote like this one, on p. 125, “Grapevines from Canada were exempt from quarantine, and some of the earliest plantings of the French hybrids in the Finger Lakes took place in the 1950s when truckloads of cuttings crossed the border after pruning was completed in Canadian vineyards.”  Who would have guessed the source of French hybrids in the Finger Lakes?

Here and there are some minor errors.  For example, on p. 117, on the history of the beginning of appellations of origin, he cites 1905 in France as the onset of AOCs, but overlooks the earlier history of designated regions in the Port region of Portugal in the Eighteenth Century.  Another minor mistake:  “Sugar and water were added to the pomace [should be must] to make the wine potable.”  But I quibble.  After all, as a proper work of reference Cattell has this to offer:  The first petition for an American Viticultural Area designation was for Augusta in Missouri, applied for on Oct. 12, 1978 and granted June 20, 1980 as AVA #1; AVA #2 was Napa Valley, granted on Jan 28, 1981.  He goes on to explain that the with the establishment of the Augusta Wine Board in 1979, standards were to be based on those in use in Europe—in fact, four of the five designated board members were also members of the Commanderie de Bordeaux.

Again, in writing about the Canadian wine industry, he refers to the Horticultural Experiment Station, in Vineland.  There, he tells us, Ralph F. Crowther developed the Crowther-Truscott submerged-culture flor sherry-making method for making Spanish fino-type sherry, “a process that completely changed sherry-making in both Canada and the U.S.”  Also, Tibor Fuleki created the Vineland Flavour Index for screening seedlings for the labrusca flavor by measuring methyl anthranilate and volatile esters.  “Seedlings with an index over 14 were likely to have a discernible labrusca flavor component; vinifera and French hybrids averaged an index under 8. Conversely, Concord averaged 416.”

With respect to marketing, Cattell discusses how cooperative marketing began with the establishment of the first wine trails.  The very first was created informally in Pennsylvania in April 1979.  The first formal wine trail was later established in New York State in 1983 with the Cayuga Wine Trail.  With funding from the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the Keuka Lake Wine Trail was created on June 18, 1986, so that by 1996 there were six wine trails in New York State.  Benefits of the wine trails included extending the tourist season from Columbus Day to end of the year, the establishment of new restaurants and B&Bs, and the rise of all manner of special events.

Another interesting factoid:  “The success of the VQA in Canada was a factor in the decision to set up the New Jersey Quality Wine Alliance (QWA).”  The program was inaugurated in 2000 in conjunction with the NJ Commercial Wine Competition.

Towards the conclusion of the book Cattell identifies three major trends that have helped the eastern wine trade get to where it is today:  “First is increasing wine quality; next is the improved business-oriented perspective of the winery owners, such as marketing initiatives; third, the increased ability of the producers to cooperate on legislative matters at both the state and federal levels.”

And then there are the Appendices, loaded with all manner of significant information and data.  Appendix A (The Origins of Eastern Wine Grapes), for example, has three pages of summarizing text and eight tables:

Table A.1.  Grape species most important for eastern North American wine production

Table A.2.  Vitis vinifera:  lists the 36 vinifera varieties most planted in Eastern N.A.

Table A.3.  American varieties: lists 23 varieties with their names, parentage, and source; e.g., Norton, Seedling (labrusca, aestivalis, vinifera), Introduced 1830

Table A.4.  French hybrid varieties: lists these varieties by name, with original name or number, and parentage; e.g., Baco Noir, Baco 24-23; later Baco #1, Folle Blanche ₓ riparia

Table A.5.  North American breeding programs: lists varieties by variety, number, cross, date introduced, and date crossed.   The list of varieties are arranged according to the program that developed them; e.g., NY State Agricultural Experiment Station breeding program.

Table A.6.  Independent breeding programs; e.g., Elmer Swensen and his varieties.

Table A.7.  Foreign breeding program:  Germany [focused on cold-climate varieties]

Table A.8.  Vitis amarensis varieties

Appendix B contains a quite interesting exploration, in brief, of how numbered hybrids like Seibel 5279—developed by Albert Seibel in France, was given the commercial name “l’Aurore”–because it was very early-ripening.  There are two tables.

Appendix E (Early Wine History, State by State), contains brief histories of the wine industry in each of the states covered in this book (in alphabetical order):

Alabama, Arkansas (one page), Connecticut (one page), Delaware (one short paragraph), Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana (one page), Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts (one page), Michigan, Missouri (one page), Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey (one page), New York (over three pages:  The Finger Lakes, Hudson River Valley, Lake Erie, and Philip Wagner, Boordy, and Seneca Foods; curiously, with no section devoted to Long Island or a word about the Niagara Escarpment), North Carolina, Ohio (almost two pages), Pennsylvania (nearly two pages), Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia (a page and a half), West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

It ends at Appendix G, lists, by state, the American Viticultural Areas in the East.

Thirty-seven years of experience studying and writing about the wine trade in the East were necessary to write a book of this scope and completeness.  It could not have otherwise been written.

Wines of Eastern North America cover

Wines of Eastern North America:  From Prohibition to the Present, A History and Desk Reference

by Hudson Cattell.  Ithaca:  Cornell U. Press, 2014.

235 pages of text with b/w illustrations, 7 maps; 7 appendices (A-G) taking up 75 pages, including tables; and 36 pages of extensive endnotes.

Viniculture in LI, Part II: background.

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

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

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

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

Geology & Soils

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

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

East End, General Soil Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Wineries & Vineyards

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

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

Vinicultural Practices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Terms Defined

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

LI Wine Map