The New York Times

Long Island Wine | East End Festival

First the Respect, Now the Toast

Published: September 17, 2010

ROMAN ROTH recalled that when he joined Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack as its first winemaker in 1992, “you would call up a three-star restaurant in Manhattan and say, ‘Long Island wine’ and they would throw the phone down. Literally, clunk.

Gordon M. Grant for The New York Times

Trent Preszler, left, of Bedell Cellars, Gerry Hayden of the North Fork Table and Inn restaurant and Keith Luce of Luce & Hawkins restaurant at Wölffer.

Gordon M. Grant for The New York Times

Libby Tarleton, left, research assistant, and Alice Wise, viticulturalist, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

“Back then, people didn’t care about Long Island wines,” he said. “Now, people are proud of them.”

To date, 26 Long Island wines, both red and white, have earned scores of 90 to 94 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale, indicating an outstanding wine of superior character and style, said Thomas Matthews, executive editor of Wine Spectator magazine.

To Mr. Roth’s way of thinking, “a great wine region needs a great wine festival.” So on Sept. 24 and 25, Mr. Roth and Wölffer will host the first Harvest: Wine Auction and Celebration of Long Island’s East End, organized by the Long Island Merlot Alliance and Long Island Wine Council, and presented by Wine Spectator. The event will benefit East End Hospice and Peconic Land Trust, which are also involved in planning and running it.

The schedule of events includes nearly a dozen 10-Mile Dinners (with ingredients sourced within that distance) in private homes, a Wine Salon series of educational programs, a festival tasting of local food and wines with a silent auction, and a gala dinner and live wine auction (sold out).

The festival, to be held annually, was originally planned to be “slightly ahead of the actual grape harvest,” said Donnell Brown, the event’s director and the executive director of the Long Island Merlot Alliance. But the abundant sunshine of this growing season has ripened the grapes several weeks ahead of schedule, she said. The harvesting has already begun and is likely to provide a picturesque backdrop during the festival.

“I think a lot of people are going to get a nice behind-the-scenes peek this year, being out here that weekend,” said Amy Finno, senior vice president of Bedell Cellars and Corey Creek Vineyards. “This could be shaping up to be the best year in a long, long time.”

Programming has been planned for novices and connoisseurs alike. Sixteen wine salons, running around an hour each, will include seminars at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue on how a wine glass affects a wine’s aroma and taste; a tasting of international grape varieties conducted by Alice Wise, viticulturist, and Libby Tarleton, research assistant, for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, at the Long Island Horticultural Research Center in Riverhead; and a primer on Long Island vintages at Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue.

Louisa Hargrave, who established Long Island’s first commercial vineyard in 1973 with her husband at the time, Alex, will lead a seminar and tasting at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck and a discussion of how to describe what you smell and taste. “I love introducing people to wine,” she said. “Anyone can learn to look for balance, sugar, alcohol, aroma and how to think about wine.”

Tom Schaudel, the chef-owner of A Mano in Mattituck and CoolFish in Syosset, will give a cooking demonstration at his seminar and discuss the locavore precept that “what grows together goes together.” He plans to prepare a fettuccine carbonara with smoked duck, black pepper and Taleggio cheese using a Borghese Chardonnay. Substituting duck for the classic bacon is an effort to “North Fork it up a little,” he said.

Mr. Schaudel’s smoked duck (this time paired with peaches, micro greens and pickled watermelon radish) will make an appearance at the Saturday afternoon festival tasting at Wölffer, as well. There, 27 wineries and 14 restaurants will be offering wine pourings and food tastings that highlight the local bounty. Participating restaurants include Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck, Noah’s in Greenport, Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor. Some of the dishes that are scheduled to be on the menu include Pipes Cove oysters; succotash of roasted corn and seasonal vegetables; chartreuse of seasonal vegetables with Mecox Bay Dairy cheese; and mackerel sashimi with marinated tomatoes.

Many of the salad greens and herbs served throughout the weekend will have been harvested at Satur Farms in Cutchogue, owned by Paulette Satur and her husband, Eberhard Müller. Mr. Müller, formerly chef at Le Bernardin, Lutèce and Bayard’s in Manhattan, has long since turned in his toque for the life of a farmer, but will return to the kitchen to cook a 10-Mile Dinner for 14 people at the Cutchogue home of Princess Ann Marie and Prince Marco Borghese of the Castello di Borghese winery.

The festival will conclude with a gala dinner and wine auction, where several half-barrels of prerelease 2008 merlot will be available for bid, at Wölffer on Saturday night. Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming, chef-owners of the North Fork Table and Inn in Southold, and Keith Luce, chef-proprietor of Luce & Hawkins in Jamesport, will prepare a three-course dinner with wine.

All three are Long Island natives who earned culinary acclaim in Manhattan and elsewhere before settling down on the North Fork in recent years. “We’re using the local produce, and that is the driving force for our food,” Mr. Hayden said.

Mr. Luce grew up on a family farm three miles from his current restaurant in Jamesport, picking beans, corn and pumpkins as a child. “I’ve lived in California and France and Italy, and I’d put the produce and the seafood that comes right out of our backyard up against any of those places,” he said. “There are some world-class wines being made here now, and they are perfect for food and wine pairings.”

For tickets to Harvest: Wine Auction and Celebration of Long Island’s East End on Sept. 24 and 25: or through East End Hospice at (631) 288-7080.

Events on Sept. 25 include the Wine Salon from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ($25 a person per program) and the Festival Tasting of Long Island’s Bounty and Silent Auction from 4 to 7 p.m. ($125).

Several of the 10-Mile Dinners on Sept. 24 (single ticket, $350) are sold out; so is the Gala Dinner and Wine Auction on Sept. 25.

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