Fall is one of the most exciting -- and hectic -- times on the East End of Long Island. The grapes have undergone veraison — the green grapes have changed color and started to ripen — and harvest season has begun (for sparkling wine) and will continue well into November.
The ever-popular pumpkins and mums are also coming in, so the crowds will be flooding their favorite farm stands and nurseries. They bring a lot of energy to the region -- but they make it harder for me to get to the wineries because of the traffic.
As with any wine region, this time of year is also jam-packed with harvest festivals and other winery events.
Last Saturday, I attended the Lenz Merlot Classic — a walk-around tasting of some of Long Island's best merlots as well as those from the West Coast, Argentina, Italy and Australia. The Italian wines were interesting, but the real stars were the 2001 Grand Vintage Merlot ($36) from Paumanok Vineyards and 2001 Old Vines Merlot ($55) from Lenz — oh, and the great cheeses from the Artisanal Cheese Center in Manhattan. Overall the other, non-LI, wines were disappointingly bad. Maybe the point was to make LI wines shine, and they certainly did.
The next day, I was lucky enough to attend a BBQ at Roanoke Vineyards (pictured right) where they previewed their 2004 vintage reds. There were almost 100 people there, but it had the feel of a family reunion — with much better wines. 2004 wasn't one of Long Islands best, but Rich Pisacano's grapes and consulting winemaker Roman Roth's winemaking talents have combined yet again to make some terrific, age-worthy wines. Of the four, the Blend 2 is the most ready to drink now, with the merlot a close second. I think, though, that their Blend 1 Meritage and the cabernet sauvignon will be the real stars down the road.
When Long Island's best reds are discussed, Roanoke isn't often mentioned — but it should be. I may start referring to Rich as The Cabernet King.
Over the next two months there are endless opportunities for you to enjoy the harvest bounty, but these are some of the most interesting ones:
This Saturday night, Lieb Family Cellars is playing host to the North Fork Film Festival, showing "World Cinema" a program of nine short films from around the world. Tickets are $40 and include wine before the movies, during intermission and after. Call Lieb 631.525.8100 to reserve your seat.
The two following weekends, Paumanok Vineyards presents "Oysters & Vin Blanc." Enjoy an afternoon of Paumanok's seafood-friendly white wines and the freshest local oysters bought from local vendors. Visit www.paumanok.com to learn more.
On October 8, Wolffer Estate Vineyards will be throwing its annual Harvest Party. Tickets are $65 for adults and $25 for children. Along with lunch, you'll listen to live music, the chance to pick and stomp grapes, take part in barrel-rolling races, enjoy pony and hay rides, and, of course Wolffer's wines. Visit www.wolffer.com or call 537-5106 for more information.
For four days and three nights in October (October 23-26) you can live the Long Island wine life at Wine Camp. For $749 (double occupancy) you'll work the fields, learn tasting technique, blend wines along side some of the best local winemakers and explore food and wine pairing. The package also includes three nights at one of four B&Bs, breakfast each morning, lunch in the vineyards, dinner at a local restaurant the first night, and a multi-course food and wine pairing dinner event to round out the festivities. To learn more, visit www.winecamp.org.
If you'd rather learn about wine while you're drinking it, Grand Cru Classes is offering classes every weekend in September and October and Stony Brook University's Center for Food, Wine And Culture is offering food and wine events at its Stony Brook and Manhattan locations.