On Long Island, as in most wine regions, the 'stars' are the winemakers, but you rarely hear much about the assistant winemakers and other cellar rats who work hard to produce the wines we enjoy so much.
With that in mind, I decided to get in touch with Kelly Urbanik, assistant winemaker at Bedell Cellars and ask her our usually batch of questions.
What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?
The first wines I remember drinking were the home wines that my Dad and Grandpa made together. My grandpa had a small vineyard, and our whole family helped to make the wine and take care of the vineyard. It was so much fun we didnt realize that it was work!
Besides that, the first bottle of wine I can remember drinking would be the Louis Martini Moscato it was my Grandmas favorite. We would drink it on special family occasions. Even the kids got to taste a little bit, and we loved it because it smelled wonderful and tasted so sweet.
What event/bottle/etc made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
There wasnt really a single event. I grew up in St. Helena, California. I was surrounded by wine and vineyards, so it seemed like a natural step. I had also wanted to go to UC Davis since I was a little kid, and they just happened to have a major where I could study winemaking and viticulture. The decision was easy.
Which of your current wines is your favorite and why?
My favorite wine from Bedell right now is the 2005 Reserve Merlot. This wine exemplifies what we are trying to achieve at Bedell. It is lush, with ripe fruit, layers of complexity, and integrated oak. In other words, it is delicious!
What has surprised you most about being a winemaker on Long Island?
I think that what has surprised me the most is how laid back most of the winemakers are. With the unpredictable weather during the growing season, youd think that everyone would be stressed out all of the time!
Other than your own wines, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?
I usually drink Blue Point Toasted Lager. I'm also a sucker for a good California pinot noir.
Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?
I love wine, and I love cheese, but I think that beer pairs better with cheese than wine does.
Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself.
Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that
would make (or has made) for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.
Probably the ultimate wine-drinking experience that I have had so far would be when I was working in Burgundy in 2003. My internship was sponsored by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. I was invited to one of their dinners at the Chateau de Clos de Vougeot, and it just happened to be on my birthday. We had course after course of traditional Burgundian foods, paired with some amazing local wines. And to top it off, hundreds of people sang happy birthday to me. Slightly embarrassing, but unforgettable!
That being said, I have equally fond memories of dinners with my family and close friends in my parents backyard, eating food off the barbecue and enjoying wine together on a summer night. Nothing can beat that.