Friday, December 25, 2009
Wine region: Upcoming Long Island, New York State
Pictures: The wine regions of New York State, the wineries of Long Island on the North and South Forks and Christian G.E. Schiller in Long Island at Woelffer Estate, 2009
About 35 years ago, there was no meaningful wine industry on Long Island. In little over a quarter of a century, however, the Long Island wine industry has grown from one small vineyard to 3,000 acres of vines and over thirty wineries producing world-class wines. Located in New York State, on the East Coast of the United States, Long Island extends some 120 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The wineries are all located at the East End, on the North and South Forks. The heart of Island’s wine country is the town of Southold, where more than 20 of the 30plus wineries are located.
Wine lovers have come to realize that its maritime climate, geography and soil characteristics provide ideal conditions for producing wines of exceptional quality. People talk a lot about Bordeaux on Long Island and the Bordeaux comparison is not so far fetched. Some attribute it to the fact that the most planted grapes are the Bordeaux varieties Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Others attribute it to the Bordeaux-esque climate on Long Island. Three bodies of Gulf Stream-influenced water surround the two folks at the tip of Long Island. Long Island Sound is to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, and in the middle, splitting the two forks, is Peconic Bay. All three create a very moderate climate and an extended growing season that is over a month longer than at the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
The first winery on Long Island was founded by Louisa and Alex Hargrave in 1973. This is when it all started and the Hargrave couple can be considered as the parents of the wine industry in Long Island. Marco and Ann Marie Borghese bought the vineyards and the winery in 1999 and renamed it Castello de Borghese Vineyard and Winery. See my tasting notes on Borghese wines here.
I have visited the Borghese Estate and the Woelffer Estate.
Marco Borghese comes from the famous Borghese family in Italy, which includes many well known personalities, including Pope Paul V (he was Pope many centuries ago) and Marco’s cousin, well know from the popular TV romance US reality series “The Bachelor: Rome,” in which attractive and sexy women were competing for an eligible, handsome, and presumably rich bachelor, Marco’s cousin.
When the Borgheses bought the property from the Hargraves, they inherited an unenviable tradition of making Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir has become their flagship wine, although many consider Long Island to be a Merlot region. The vineyard has 84 acres under vine and produces around 10,000 cases per year.
The Woelffer Estate is one of the few Long Island wineries that is located in the Hamptons, while most Long Island wineries are cluttered on the North Fork. The rustic, Tuscan-style winery is set on a rise overlooking the vineyards to the east and the gently rolling Hamptons landscape to the west. The Woelffer Wine Estate, one of the top wine estates on Long Island, New York State, would not be what it is today without the two Germans Christian Woelffer, its founder, and Roman Roth, its wine maker. I have written about them in my German Winemakers in the World series.
The leading grape variety is Merlot. In 1990, the first merlot vines were planted in the Hamptons at Channing Daughters and soon thereafter at Woelffer Estate Vineyards. More new growers coming into the region saw and heard of the success of merlot in more established vineyards and committed to further plantings. Today merlot acreage on Long Island is approximately 700 acres, making up 30% of the overall vineyard acreage on Long Island.
Formed in 2005, the Long Island Merlot Alliance (LIMA) strives to develop quality standards in the production of Long Island Merlot and to establish Long Island as the leading region for Merlot in the New World. In 2009, the founding members Raphael, Pellegrini Vineyards, Sherwood House Vineyards and Woelffer Estate Vineyard welcomed Clovis Point, Castello di Borghese and McCall Vineyard to the group. Together, the members co-produce a 100% Merlot wine each year, named Merliance.
Schiller Wine - Related Postings
Wine Tasting Notes: Woelffer Wines from Long Island, New York State - Nov. 23, 2009
Wine Tasting: Castello di Borghese, Long Island, New York State - November 18, 2009
In the glass: 2005 Christian's cuvee, Woelffer Estate Vineyard, Long Island, US - November 11, 2009
German Winemakers in the World: Christian Woelffer and Roman Roth - November 13, 2009
Wine ratings: The 2009 New York State Favorites, Long Island, Finger Lakes, Niagara