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September 03, 2008


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Interesting that she raised the question about lack of exposure. When I discovered her site (through your site) I asked her the following:

June 24, 2008 at 10:34 am
I just discovered your site via Lenn’s post and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the Frisky Oyster’s local wine list (and how long you’ve been in charge of it and where you plan on taking it).
I’m from CT and visit the North Fork at least once per year (usually twice) for the last 5+ years. I keep notes of all my wine and food experiences. I last ate at the Frisky Oyster in March 2007 and made the following notes about the wine:
On Saturday night, the entire group of 12 was present and we hit The Frisky Oyster. I’ll knock off the wine first: The list had a lot of unique selections from a variety of locations, but very little from Long Island… and what they did have from Long Island was too expensive to start ordering for a table of 12 (prices often approached 3 times retail). Other than the Lieb Pinot Blanc that they served by the glass as we waited at the bar for our table, we did not have any Long Island selections with dinner.
(I’ll spare you the other 3 paragraphs about my food notes!)
On my last trip I ate at Vine and came away with the following sentiment:
I understand the desire of a “wine bar” to showcase unusual and unheard of varietals or regions, but they also need to understand this isn’t a wine bar in Manhattan or San Fran - - - this is in the heart of LI wine country. A good portion of their business comes from wine visitors and they wouldn’t be as successful without them. Any restaurant in a wine country (whether it is LI, Napa, Barossa, etc) should pay homage to their location. With $60+ wines by the glass, it would be very easy to have 20 – 25 selections from LI and still have 35+ alternate options. And in my opinion, I believe the pricing should be slanted to favor the LI producers. Restaurants should price LI bottles at much less than double retail while non-LI selections could be double+. It’s a give-and-take relationship and the restaurants should realize that much of their business is predicated on winery visitors, so they should do everything possible to repay the favor and feature the local wineries at attractive prices.

Her post back to me a few days later was:

The Frisky wine list, which has under 20 reds and 20 whites, always has two local reds by the bottle and two local whites. Also there’s one local red and one local white by the glass.
As for messing with the way Dennis prices his wine, I’m not going there. He’s got a very successful business with lots of regulars that come year round.
I’ve been buying the wine since November and, since it seems to be working, I’ll stick with the format of wines off the beaten path. The list changes a lot, so that’s the direction it’s gone in and is going.

Too often it seems a problem with LI is that the local scene right on the North Fork hasn’t fully embraced itself. I have been to a few wine regions (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Barossa, McLaren Vale) and I can assure you that their wine shops and restaurants are loaded with the local wines - - and in some cases they were 100% exclusive to their own region. It stands to reason that exposure (and to some extent, respect) will be a hard sell when even the locals aren’t fully onboard. I think part of the issue within Eileen’s question is heightened right where she works.

One thing that's happening at a lot of print newspapers are buyouts, layoffs and early retirements, plus cutting back on payign freelancers. Part of what may be hindering local coverage of North Fork wine is that there aren't people at publications who have the time to cover it. Much of what appears in newspaper arrives by happy accident, not concentrated coordination. 'm a big fan of many North Fork wines, but was told often at my soon-to-be-former employer that there was no "local" angle to write about them.

You know, there really aren't that many LI wineries, and getting covering every other week from the NY Times seems on the excessive side. Four quarterly reports make more sense. Meanwhile, those Finger Lake wineries get next to no coverage in comparison. And what about PA and New England wineries? Ya.

Jack: Finger Lakes wineries actually get quite a bit of coverage up in their neck of the woods. In the NYT? Not so much, but the Finger Lakes versions of Newsday (more or less) cover the regions fairly well.

And I know that you're not comparing the quality of LI wines to those from New England and PA. I've had good wines from each, but the % of awful wines is much much higher.

LI has 40 or so wineries now too...it's not like there are 10 these days.

First, a disclaimer: I'm the editor of the Long Island Wine Press and, as such, an employee of Times/Review Newspapers.
If you're including the L.I. wine industry as a whole, not only the wines, in your complaint about lack of local coverage, I guess you're not reading The Suffolk Times or The News-Review, which cover the North Fork and the Riverhead-eastern North Shore area, respectively. For instance, Louisa Hargrave's column, which appears every other week in both papers, more often than not focuses on on the local wine industry.
In addition, the editors of both papers make every effort to cover significant events in the wine industry. Most recently, as you know, Lenn, I attended the two-day international wine symposium in Southampton. On Aug. 14, a substantial article I wrote on that subject appeared on page 2 of The News-Review and page 6 of The Suffolk Times.
Granted, neither the papers nor the Wine Press critiques wine; that's not the business we're in. And while the papers don't have the staff to devote anyone specifically to the wine industry, they cover it regularly, including free weekly listings of winery events and coverage of business news, such as the top awards at the recent NY State Wine & Food Competition. Every year major stories appear about the grape harvest. In recent months, the papers have covered everything from Paumanok Vineyard's new screw-cap bottling line to regional marketing grants from the NY Wine & Grape Foundation, to sustainable vineyard practices, to the success of the Winterfest jazz concerts.
The wine industry is vitally important to the economy of our region. The publishers and editors of Times/Review Newspapers are fully aware of that fact and take seriously their obligation to cover it as they would any other locally important industry.
I'd also like to add my two cents worth to the comments above about local restaurants. Over and over again I have heard from people who visit other wine regions and come back marveling that many of our restaurants don't enthusiastically support Long Island wines. In this I concur with Foley's message above. The days when L.I. wines could be dismissed out of hand as inferior have long passed, and local restaurants that are out of sync with that fact should wake up and smell the merlot!

Jane: Great meeting you at the conference and thanks for chiming in here.

Are your full publications available online these days? I never see them anywhere that I shop so I'd only be able to read them online.

This post is more about the larger media outlets in the area. I think you'll agree that the publications we're talking about here are tiny compared to Newsday, the NYT, etc.

As you know, I write a weekly column for Dan's Papers out east as well, but I don't think that counts compared to the big papers either.

The major metros in California extensively cover the wine business out there, because it is big business. Grape prices go up, there's a story. Grape prices go down, bigger story. The industry employs a lot of people and brings millions of tourist dollars to the area.
Money-making ventures are interesting. Why do you think we have to hear about box office results every Monday?

Eileen are you suggesting that the wine business out here isn't bringing millions of tourist dollars? You are wrong.

Let's see. The Wine Council's estimates on its website that 1.2 million people visited last year. So if each left a dollar, you're right! That's a million.

The Times Review publications have great, general coverage of what's happening on the ground locally with the wineries and is a great supporter of the industry. There is also a lot of opportunity that the local wine industry might consider in the niche online wine lovers community.

I agree with one of the commenters above, that the media industry is experiencing a lot of change. The LI wine industry trade news just doesn't rate in the general equation. It's fairly tame. Oh look, another delicious release/award (yawn)!

Actually Eileen, we use a formula developed in Napa to estimate the local economic impact (non-wine revenues) generated by our industry, which works out to about $100 per visitor or $120 million, though that now seems pretty conservative given current prices of gas, lodging, food, etc. on the East End.

I agree that the local wine movement needs to begin at the grass roots but we cannot overlook the challenges of doing so. Customers want variety but at a reasonable price. One way for restaurants to offer less expensive wine at a lower price is for for local vineyards to lower their prices. Considering what is costs to run a vineyard in the U.S. not to mention that these vineyards are on some of the most expensive farmland in the world, I don't see how this is possible. One the other hand, the way to provide variety of wines is to offer an extensive by the glass price. The drawback of offering wine by the glass is that you have to buy less volume of more wines and consequently do not receive the discounts from the local vineyards or distributors. Further impacting the price of wine is the cost of serving variety of wines that restaurateurs may carry by the glass vs the bottle-driven model in most Long Island restaurants. Beginning with high rents or mortgages to staffing and payroll taxes, cost of acquiring and maintaining liquor licenses in addition to food costs, utilities and liability insurance; it's almost not a business. As the owner of one of these wine bars serving almost 30 local wines by the glass, I find it unfair to compare the cost of serving a bottle of wine in your house to serving a bottle of wine in a restaurant -- epecially a small restaurant who is paying close to retail for the same bottle of wine you serve at home.
As last but not least, coverage of local wines from local papers is less than desirable but luckily the quality of coverage is lifted by food and local-centric publications like Edibles East, Long Island Pulse, Dan's Papers and others. Long Island News 12 and Plum TV cover local wine and vineyards as well as blogs like this one. So we remain hopeful that New Yorkers and especially Long Islanders will get behind their own wine so that someday the rest of the country recognizes this great wine region.
Deborah Rivera Pittorino
Chef and Owner
la Cuvee Bistro and Wine Bar
at The Greenporter Hotel

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