Saturday, 16 June 2012

A North Fork album, early May, 2012

We have visited the South Fork of Long Island and wrote it up in this blog in August 2010. New York State wines seem to have fallen not only into three areas but three categories with Finger Lakes emerging recently and decisively as the top region (and Riesling coming out as top variety there), Long Island in the next spot and Hudson River Valley a definite third, not frequently mentioned despite having Americas oldest continuous winery established in the 1830s.

Long Island has the North Fork and the South Fork, but if truth be told, the South Fork is insignificant in terms of the number of wineries there. Only a handful compared to dozens in the North Fork.

So we took a day trip expecting to find beautiful vineyards with lovely sea views. Very soon we understood that is not the North Fork at all. We didn't see the ocean all day despite travelling almost the length and breadth of the Weinstrasse and to be honest, the best real estate and scenery is in the South Fork. An overcast day with the vineyards only just at bud-break didn't help but it was a fascinating experience nonetheless, one well worth having if you're in New York City with a day to spare.

In the past it has been difficult to find New York State wines anywhere. For some years there was a wonderful institution called Vintage New York in Amsterdam Avenue and in Soho, New York City where you could taste wines from all over the state and get the modest cost of your tasting (about $1 per wine if memory serves) deducted from the price of whatever you bought over a modest threshold (was it $20?). Anyway that is where we came to know and in some cases enjoy new York wines so it was mainly to those producers that we gravitated on our tour. Vintage New York closed down and apart from one or two honorable exceptions  there are now even fewer places where you can get a good selection of local wines in New York City.

The big news is that Chambers Street Wines, blessed be they, have overcome their reluctance (on the grounds of quality, what else?) now to stock 4 or 5 New York wines. These include;

2 Rieslings from Finger Lakes; 'Tanzen Dame' from Bloomer Creek and Silver Thread Dry Riesling from Seneca Lake.

Eminence Road Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir from Finger Lakes

Paumanok Cabernet Franc from North Fork, Long Island

So it was Paumanok that we made our first port of call. As we contemplate the following entries in this album of North Fork wineries, mention will be made of the less usual varieties grown. Merlot is the most commonly planted grape here and everyone grows the usual suspects such as Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Chardonnay etc.No one is growing anything obscure but some are a little more adventurous than others.

Paumanok for example is almost unique in growing Chenin Blanc. They also seem to have a little Petit Verdot but one must be careful. Sometimes grapes are said to be specifically estate grown  so perhaps some are bought in. This is one of the older, more established producers. As with most, they are set up not only for tastings and the sale of gifts etc. but also weddings and other revenue-raising functions.

In our album you will see quite a few shots of vineyards and vines. The general standard of vineyard maintanance appears to be very high with barely anything out of place. Relatively few properties make theit own wine. Lieb Family Cellars make wine for about a dozen properties for example. We have included some photos of wine making facilities for Pellegrini and Jamesport below. Others may have such cellars but not ones that were on show to the casual and rather hurried visitor such as us.

Macari Vineyards and Winery at their original vineyard. Macari offer Malbec and Petit Verdot as well as the usual suspects. Macari is just one of a large number of North Fork vineyards and wineries whose name indicates an Italian heritage

Lieb Family Cellars. Famous for their Pinot Blanc which they make sparkling as well as straight. There is also Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Pellegrini. Here they have Gewurztraminer as well as Petit Verdot to mark them out of the ordinary.

Macari Vineyard's other site with a brand new tasting room shortly to be opened to the public

Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery. This is another long-established concern whose wines, particularly the Cabernet Franc we have enjoyed in the past. Now showing their age, the buildings testify to an era which is now being succeeded by newer arrivals such as Bedell (see below). Nothing to do with the nature of the wine produced; just a shift in gear in what concerns facilities.

Pugliese Vineyards. This really did have the atmosphere of the original founders, no doubt from Puglia. Especially the Pergola!

Bedell Cellars (a new one on us but nicely fitted-out). They grow Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Syrah as well as the usual varieties. This was founded 30 years ago but since 2000 has been owned by a successful film producer who has generously invested in the property.

Pindar Vineyards is another long-established institution whose wines always showed well at Vintage New York. Although it has Greek connections (hence the name) we looked in vain for Agiorgitiko or Assyritiko. They do grow Gamay Noir and Pinot Meunier though among others.

Raphael. We can't recall having heard of this one but the imposing facade drew us in. They assem to be unique in growing Semillon in the North Fork. Petit also grown among the rest of varieties typical of the area.

Lenz, Another winery prominent at Vintage New York, apparently now owned by an Englishman. The buildings are very definitely of the older generation. Their less common varieties include Pinot Gris and Malbec.

Duck Walk North where a merry group were tasting hard. We tried their  straight Pinot Meunier which hadn't come out any better than is often the case with this grape in purezza outside Germany where there are some lovely 'Schwarzrieslings' and Western Australia where Best's Great Western is a favourite of ours. They also grow Pinot Grigio.

Jamesport Vineyards was our last stop and only because it is nearest to our Jitney stop at Riverhead. It turned out to be rather interesting with its own winemaking facilities. As with one or two other properties they make Verjus which is interesting. Uncommon varieties include Pinot Blanc, Petit Verdot and Syrah of which they make a sparkling version.

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