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January 08, 2007


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Lenn: Thoughtful and comprehensive response to a provocative editorial. Yes, it is good to stir up some controversy--an opportunity for people in the industry to engage in self-examination.

I, too, think that Ms.Granik shortchanges the Long Island wine industry. Even with minimal contact, one knows that there is an encouraging amount of experimentation underway. Syrah is being produced with positive results. Channing Daughters has done wonders with off the beaten path whites and Shinn and Paumanok are serious about red grapes that we rarely see bottled on their own.

What bothers me the most, however, is the author's suggestion that the vintners should be content to be minor players in a minor scene. If they weren't ambitious dreamers in the first place they would not be Long Island grape growers. So they should now turn into the vinous equivalent of journeymen athletes?

If Ms. Granik does accept your offer for tasting, I suggest that you make Paumanok your first stop. I am sure the Massouds would be happy to let her sample the 2005 reds. If she is unmoved by those powerful wines, I would call it a day.

Ray Ormand

Well done Lenn and Ray. You both have pretty well covered my thoughts and I will not add comments on Ms. Granick's piece. My questions are to the NY Times.

- This is not a letter to the editor where the writer is responsible for his/her own thought and does not reflect the newspaper's. As an OpEd piece it is subjected to some scrutiny. It is somewhat puzzling and disappointing that the NYT did not see fit to do some fact checking and to not seek a companion piece that would have weighed on the issues brought up in the piece.

- Ms. Granick, whom we have always considered a friend, is, reportedly, currently employed by a large wine distributor with a wine portfolio of wines including from California and Australia. Is it appropriate for the NYT to give her such a forum when, in theory at least, she could personally benefit from beating down her competition?

- Did the NY Times do any fact checking with its own Eric Asimov and Howard Goldberg, both of whom have enthusiastically reported on our wines? Their comments in the NYT contradict the most negative comments of Ms. Granick.

The least the NYT can do is to publish a responsible rebuttal to this flawed piece.

Charles Massoud
Proprietor, Paumanok Vineyards, North Fork of Long Island (Proudly so!)

Lenn hopefully the NY Times will just print your letter as a rebuttal. Oh and I looking into planting some Gruner Veltliner experiments upstate so send me any info you have and don't give anyone else that idea, lol. Cheers!

And luckily there are people who love to drink wine, like myself, and whose financial situation demands that we think about what we buy, not just pay for wine because it's from Bordeaux, for example. I continue to be impressed with LI Wines the more I taste, and my wife and I had a wonderful time when visiting the North Fork last summer. The wines are great with food and they're local, which matters to me. I am having a blind tasting soon with some wine friends and wines from LI will be tasting alongside wines from Bordeaux and California, all wines not older than 2000. I can't wait to see the results!

I stopped reading the New York Times about a year ago. That's perhaps much easier to do in Syracuse, where we are 250 miles removed from metropolitan New York, but I highly recommend such a move. I find most of the paper, minus a couple of features, really irritating.

Good response, Lenn. Thank goodness for the internet.

I think Lisa Granik hit the mark in her final sentence "Without a new focus on wine quality, the East End will be overrun not just by the developers, but also by the competition." However many of her other ideas are a little simplistic. Is it worthy of a master's thesis to posit that growing varieties that people want to buy at a fair price and then selling a lot of them will bring economic success? Dang it, maybe I'll have to revamp my doctoral essay!
Also I think her view that the number of wineries/vineyards for sale reflects a problem is really not accurate. A like number of properties have been sold in the past few years, with the owners realizing fairly substantial profits. Since most of the land associated with those sales has the development rights sold, the value has been added by the fact that they are vineyards. Why shouldn't other owners see if they can collect some of that value increase as well?

Thanks for presenting this Lenn and thanks for your reply. I completely agree with Charles. I'm not quite sure why Ms. Granik was allowed to represent herself as an authority on the subject as her essay is flawed from the beginning. First, she presents a spurious hypothesis that there is a problem in the Long Island wine industry and that it needs to be corrected. This argument is presented after one of the most successful years ever for Long Island wine - from top reviews in the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, record sales in winery tasting rooms and to a record number of placements on Manhattan's best wine lists. Excuse me, what planet has this woman been living on?

Are we as precocious as we could be? Probably not, but as those of us in the wine industry know (and as MW Granik should know as well) these things take time. It took California and Australia (clearly Ms. Granik's model for fine wines) well over 100 years to finally get the acclaim they deserved - so it might take us a few more years as well. It took temperate Europe much longer. Perhaps Ms. Granik could have done a closer examination of our terroir to understand that it was not just the temperate conditions of the Island that caused us to identify with Western France, but actual climate and soil data. Also, Long Island producers have historically aligned themselves with the Old World - not because its who we want to be - but because of the characteristics of our grapes and the subsequent bearing of our wines. It is who we are - and our only and best response to a market obsessed with the "consistently styled" high alcohol "fruit bombs" of the left coast. Thankfully we will never make wines in the "West Coast" or Australian style. Of course we don't want to compare ourselves too much to the old world, what with their "dubious business model" of winemaking being only 800 years old and all...;-)

No doubt there are some truths to be found in her dissertation. Yes, not all wineries are completely committed to quality wine production. I'll be the first to admit we still have a lot more work to do with the varieties we already have in the ground. Yes our research program has been woefully under-funded. As a long-term member of the Cornell research lab advisory committee one of our main functions over the years has been to try and develop new and creative ways to fund wine and grape research. We continue to work hard in this regard.

I could go on here forever but honestly most of the article doesn't even warrant this much of a response. It's a disappointing treatise coming from an MW and in particular from the usually discerning New York Times. Though I'm sure Ms. Granik worked hard on her dissertation and learned a great deal about the subject of wine in her studies, she needs to understand that the growing and making of fine wine has never been a craft that can be accomplished solely through book learning.

You go Lenn. As always, to the point, eloquent and kind.

Nice job, Lenn, and everyone else.

I missed the original posting so I am truly thankful that you have commented in a brilliant and civiled manner.

I just hope nobody on LI ever gives Ms. Granik a job.

civil or civilized, take your pick

Amazingly well presented reply Lenn. I've been behind in my reading, has the Times printed any portion of your response?

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