Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Light-Hearted in Long Island?

There’s so little in the way of good news right now – in wine and in life- that my automatic response is disbelief when I hear something good. Sales are up and profits are solid? What kind of gullible fool do they take me to be? And yet that was the report I kept hearing over and over from the Long Island producers I talked with in the past several days. According to Charles and Ursula Massoud, the ever-congenial proprietors of Paumanok Vineyards (www.paumanok.com) their sales have been strong and their stream of visitors steady. Of course the Massouds happen to make some very good wines, including the finest American Chenin Blanc I’ve ever tasted (the newly-released 2008 vintage is their best ever says Charles) but I still found this news of an upward trajectory hard to conceive.

And yet other Long Island producers that I spoke with said much the same thing. At Lieb Cellars (which produces a fine Pinot Blanc) and Jamesport Vineyard (home to an excellent Sauvignon Blanc) sales are up and winery traffic has been steadily growing. (www.liebcellars.com and www.jamesportwines.com) .

What accounts for this? Could it be that New Yorkers have finally embraced locavore drinking or are they simply opting out of paying the airfare to Napa in favor of a ride on the LIE? (That’s the Long Island Expressway, for the uninitiated). I think it’s due to two things: vineyard proximity and increased wine quality- and while there are a number of wineries producing some top bottles (such as those cited here- as well as a few others) the region is still something of a work-in-progress.

By the way, the good news applies not only to the North Fork but the South Fork as well, where there are two first-rate wineries - Channing Daughters (their Tocai is terrific) and Wolffer Estate (ditto their rosé) – but thanks to their Hamptons location, these two wineries have always enjoyed a steady stream of visitors. (www.channingdaughters.com and www.wolffer.com)

And for those unwilling to brave the two-plus hour drive from the city, there’s about to be even more good news; certain producers like Paumanok, will be selling their wines at greenmarkets around New York, starting the first week of May. (www.liwines.com for more information.)


  1. It's also a matter of the Long Islanders beginning to figure out which varieties work well there; I covered the industry there (such as it was) when I worked in Suffolk County in the early 1990s. Pindar was the big name then. I am a big fan of Chenin blanc; wonder if Paumanock ships?

  2. I agree- and some wineries, like Channing Daughters, are experimenting with some interesting varieties- like Refosco and Tocai etc. I do think Paumanok ships - it's definitely work checking out- their 08 Chenin is terrific!

  3. Ooh - Refosco! Good idea for that climate. I drank a few of those recommended to me by Darrell Corti here in Sacramento; he is a fan of the grape.