America’s Best-Kept Secret: Long Island Wines!
If you have never had the opportunity to try the wines of Long Island you are missing out on something very special. The Wine Enthusiast, a highly respected wine publication, recently named Long Island and New York the “Wine Region of the Year”. In addition, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (perhaps the leading wine reviewer and rater in the world) recently rated nearly 100 of Long Island’s wines and the results were off the charts. In fact, several wines received scores in the mid-90s (out of a possible “perfect” score of 100), ranking them with the best wines from around the world.
Long Island insiders have known about the high quality of these wines for years. The rich and famous who vacation and reside on the East End have been enjoying these wines for a long time. Their wine cellars are chock full of goodies from the vineyards on the North and South Forks.
A lot has changed in the 40 years since grapes were first planted on the east end of Long Island. Back then a few intrepid souls had the vision to plant grapes among the potato fields that dominated the region. Today there are nearly 50 wineries – albeit small, family-owned operations — between the North and South Forks of Long Island. And the quality of the wine being produced has also greatly improved to the point where Wine Enthusiast magazine recognized the region (along with the rest of New York State) as the 2014 Wine Region of the Year, besting France, Italy and even California.
Long Island’s wines are perhaps not as well known outside of the New York metropolitan area but their reputation is growing exponentially. There just isn’t enough wine being produced to compete with the more well-known areas in the United States much less the rest of the world. Slightly more than 3,000 acres of land are devoted to growing grapes. That translates in 500,000 or so cases of wine being produced each year. That compares to over 200 million cases of wine produced in California annually. (Napa Valley in California has over 19,000 acres of land devoted to growing just cabernet sauvignon.) Therefore Long Island’s winemakers can give more care to each of the bottles produced. This care translates into high quality but approachable wines produced at each of the wineries.
So, if you are not familiar with Long Island wines, you are not alone. Many people do not realize that Long Island is directly west of Bordeaux, France. That led the first winemakers to believe that the same grapes that grow well in Bordeaux (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot for reds, Chardonnay for whites) would also flourish on the East End. And they were right. Merlot is one of the mainstays of the Long Island wine scene. There are also some excellent examples of cabernet franc and chardonnay being produced.
Even though the amount of wine being produced is small, you can find a surprising variety of styles, even at individual wineries. And there are an impressive number of varietals being produced: whites include chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Riesling, pinot blanc, gewürztraminer, chenin blanc and semillion; reds range from standbys like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir to lesser-known varietal such as sangiovese, syrah and Carmenere. A number of wineries make a limited amount of sparkling wines and rosés with one winery dedicated to only making sparkling wines and another only producing rosés.
Our goal at The Hamptons Wine Club is to introduce our members to the best of all of these wines. We get to know the winemakers and taste their wines on a regular basis so we can bring you wines that you will surprise and delight you each month. Long Island wines will not be a secret much longer. But for the time being, let’s enjoy them together.