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September 26, 2011

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so great! wine is now always at the kitchen. the foods makes added flavors because of wine.

As a resident, this concerns me. I have no problems with music and food that complement the wines...but if you have dance music and excessive consumption, I begin to worry.

I’d tend to agree - after all the time LI wineries have put into focusing on the quality of their wines and developing our region’s reputation, I would hate to see such a reputation squandered by directing the focus elsewhere, or by making the wine tasting experience less enjoyable for those of us who are there for that purpose - wine tasting. Sure, special events taking place at wineries need food, music, entertainment, etc., and of course wineries are free to decide how they’d like to generate business and cash flow, but perhaps they’d want to consider the downside to focusing on entertainment as opposed to the integrity of tasting rooms and the purpose of a tasting room. And I do understand everyone’s entitled to their own opinion on this matter.

This is probably all mostly because of the original LIWC "Jazz on the Vine" series (which in concept, is great). If more people show up for the days with music, clearly some wineries are looking to profit off this more than others. I'm guessing it's mostly the ones who have always had the "bring them in by the bus load" atmosphere. So has anything really changed?

When we visit, which isn't often enough, my husband and I tend to go to the "quieter" wineries like Paumanok or Old Field. We do enjoy Macari's wines, however, and we will try and hit them on a Friday vs a Saturday to avoid the party buses.

I agree Len. I love supporting local LI wine as a member in various wineclubs. However, if they turn too heavily into the "winentertainment" business, I'll unfortunately also seriously consider cancelling them as needed.

Its a good question Lenn, but as you allude to there is not necessarily a correct answer. Is it important to lure the crowds?...or is it just distracting from the wine? I happen to think its the former. As you mention, wine and music go together. But then again, if places are choosing "dance music", (which I personally have not experienced), then that might not really be a good thing.

Obviously this is not just an issue on LI but an many wine regions. We tend to look for quieter tasting experiences and avoid the crowds. I can't imagine the winemakers will compromise what they produce but the experience may be lessoned for many of us.

Lenn, great post. We have the same set of issues here in Virginia (although so far, no beer trucks). Like NY, there are wineries at each end of the spectrum and some in the middle attempting to strike a balance. Kudos especially to Jim Silver for being honest about the pitfalls of too much wine tourism - that takes guts!

As with wine itself, the subject matter reflects choices of taste and balance -- or lack thereof.

I personally don't feel that there is any inherent synergy between wine and music. My wife and I and our friends seek out the tasting rooms where the focus is entirely on the wines and the natural beauty and sounds of our blessed North Fork. We are grateful for the serious winemakers and we express our gratitude with our patronage. As for the personal rights of the vineyards to choose the degree of their winertainment: in a word, yes. But this has to be weighed against the cumulative impression such a circus atmosphere would make for our region. I think that the image of the North Fork as a wine region is at stake, and we all have a stake in that image.

There is some undue deference here to those members of the industry endorsing this kind of environment. Is it the live and let live attitude of american winemaking (v. the more patrimonial and delineated european ideal) that is allowing these sort of concessions? Fear of further regulations and oversight? Over-empowered business and financial arms?
There is obviously more depth to this issue than i am familiar with and i feel the wine community would be better served by industry members who choose not to be mum or backhanded about the whole thing.

Three regions I am familiar with all began wine production approximately 40 years ago. All have cool region climates; Sta. Rita Hills/Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, Willamette Valley in Oregon and Long Island. All have had visionary pioneer wine producers, impassioned winemakers, dedicated proprietors and supportive agricultural communities. The distinct difference is unlike in Long Island neither the California nor Oregon regions have a business model that made retail sales at the winery the key to their success. As such the West Coast wineries have had tasting rooms as a means to promote interest in their wines and in the region, not as the primary point of sale for their wines. Their financial bottom line is based on wholesale sales, distribution and marketing, and then national and international sales and the ancillary critical review. That process has resulted in continuing improvements in quality, rationalization of types of wines offered for sale and eventually international recognition. Both regions now have sustainable wine tourism based upon visitors that are primarily wine enthusiasts. Yes, they do have wine festivals and wine promotions, but most are off-site and in cooperation with other vineyards and wineries, leaving the wineries and tasting rooms to be places that one can discuss the wines with educated hosts and winemaking professionals. The Long Island wineries business model requires tasting rooms and wine club sales for retail sales, as most Long Island wines currently cannot be purchased at retail beyond New York City area. Therefore customer volume in the tasting rooms is directly related to revenues. Winentertainment is a consequence of this business model, particularly in difficult economic times.

As you write, there are serious winemakers and proprietors at both the winentertainmnet establishments and the classic wineries. While there may be no right or wrong approach, as long as Long Island wine is almost exclusively sold locally rather than being distributed, sold and tested in the national and international marketplace, there will always be a cloud over its claim to be world class.

FYI: J.Silver has nothing to do about the music at Peconic Bay Winery, I started the trend of having music every weekend and I am the one that created the NOFO music fest. We also make sure that if you don't want to listen to music you could stay inside where it is quiet and about the wine. There are a lot of wineries here and everyone can find what kind of entertainment they are looking for.
I am sick and tired hearing lies from this lazy moron (J.Silver) at PBW, every one out here knows the truth.
Pascal Zugmeyer
Z Wine Guy

Len: I think you're spot on with your assessment. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.

Pascal: I'd like to point you to our long-established comment policy: http://www.lenndevours.com/comments-policy.html Under that policy, I could delete your comment, but I'd hate to do that. However, I'd ask that in the future you please refrain from personal attacks against other members of our community.

Sorry Lenn, I won't do it again.

Well said, Anon: "undue deference" provoked my thinking about the root causes of persistent mediocrity on the North Fork. In a region that has always had everything going for it in both natural and human resources, it is only very recently that great wine, food and hospitality have emerged. One could argue that it took a decisive demographic shift to encourage this, but in my personal experience it has been through the will of passionate people with the intelligence and vision to make great wines, great food and resist the easy bucks. The fact remains that I have never read a negative review of a North Fork restaurant or wine in a local paper in my life, despite some very bad meals and bottles, indeed. It's protectionism, pure and simple, in a small place where everyone knows everybody else, and although this may have its charm, this attitude prevents any commercial incentive to improve. It does harm in that consumers, tourist and local alike, aren't spared bad experiences that cumulatively will hurt the image of our North Fork.

Lenn,
For a region to be taken seriously as a fine wine region IMO the majority of its players need to focus on the quality not the quantity nor entertainment value. Is it possible to have it both ways, maybe. Unfortunately many wineries are not distributed the way they are in California. So the only way to have a successful business model is to figure out how to get people to your door. Winertainment is one of them as well as wine clubs as a source of continued sales. To sustain the region and compete for the dollars of those visiting, more and more will see the bottom line slipping and possibly cave into the winertainment model. It’s easy to do, but if the core philosophy changes to making wine that is just good enough the region as a whole will take a hit. Having just spent 3 days there over the last weekend and talking and visiting with some of the folks you quote, I see the dilemma the region faces. I chose to stay away from the music and crowds and focused on the more perceived quality producers. I was very pleased at the quality I found.
We read the LI wine guide calendar of events while there and could not believe some of the events being put on. I think that the competition for wine sales is driving events such as smores and wine over a campfire, all of the dog events and such.
The limo/party crowd will detract from visitors who want a wine experience as opposed to a party. These folks will potentially stop coming out there (also the ones most likely are willing to part with their dollars for higher quality wines). Those who are making just good enough wine will hurt the entire community in a way and limit the development of the East end as a fine wine region. It’s hard enough to get taken seriously as opposed to the west coast let alone adopting the winertainment approach.
Full disclosure, I have worked in the retail side at a winery where festivals and music events were/are a core element of our business model in trying to get people to our door where we now sell 85 % of our wine. We tried the outside sales force approach beating on retailers and restaurant doors as well as having a large distributor, but found it such an effort to penetrate the market due to being an East coast winery regardless of quality. We try to balance the event side with serious wine education that gives us a sense that we are not just about winertertainment.
Is it possible to be taken seriously as a quality producer while having all these events? The answer is yes but a balance must be found. LI needs to find that balance.

As a winery with two tasting rooms, we strive to balance a comfortable tasting environment with a fun atmosphere. Although we steer away from "winetertainment", we do accommodate large groups by appointment with allotted space for walk-in customers. We have compensated for this with our tasting room layout which now includes three separate tasting areas at the Mattituck winery. This allows us to help large groups of tasters from all different types of tours and organizations that are looking for a unique and relaxed tasting experience just like the rest of us. Just because a winery is busy should not dissuade a couple oenophiles looking for an informative and educational tasting. At Macari, we pride ourselves on customer service/appreciation and strive to provide this for each and every person that comes through our doors. The fact that a business accepts large buses and limos without this winetertainment is a testament to the quality and diversity of its wine portfolio. I think a balance can be reached and that each individual winery on the North Fork should take its own approach to getting people in the doors. It would be extremely mundane if every tasting room out here offered the exact same format for tasting/entertainment(i.e. a quiet library like environment). It might appeal to a wine professional; but that isn't for everyone. These inherent differences in a winery's approach is what makes us a fun "destination" to begin with. We wish each and every partner in our small community nothing but success in whichever direction it chooses.

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