Sunday, January 13, 2013

NY Times: Howard G. Goldberg Talks About 40 Years of Wine in Long Island

For the 40th Year, Diversity
New York Times
Published: December 28, 2012

As the Long Island wine industry enters its 40th year in 2013, the conventional notion that merlot is its defining specialty continues to be strongly challenged.
Although producers with big investments in merlot plantings want the idea of merlot dominance to prevail, a more persuasive image has emerged: diversity.

Additions to wineries’ portfolios listed by the Long Island Wine Council, a trade association, show an expanding range of single-grape and blended reds and whites, a proliferation of rosés and an increasing number of sparkling wines.

Subtle cabernet francs like those from Bedell Cellars regularly seem more interesting than the general run of lush, naturally simpler merlots. Vineyard and cellar experimentation in taming syrah, petit verdot, malbec, pinot noir and blaufränkisch, an Austrian grape used at Channing Daughters, appears likely to enhance the region’s résumé of reds.

Whites excite me most: albariño at Palmer Vineyards, chenin blanc at Paumanok Vineyards, gewürztraminer at Lenz Winery, and a general tilt toward zippy, unoaked seafood-oriented chardonnays.
Quality is not an issue. Learning to adjust to their maritime zone’s growing-season variations, the Island’s more than 50 producers generate impressive blue-chip and everyday wines that compare favorably with counterparts from other young, maturing American regions.

Prices remain an issue. Long Island has not been able to shake a perception that its wines are too expensive compared with lower-cost competitors from veteran appellations in France and in California.
Since the wineries are privately owned, I am not privy to balance sheets. But a broad picture that emerges from conversations is that land and production costs, influenced by the East End’s proximity to New York City, are high and profit margins typically small.

In the big picture, Long Island’s reputation is linked partly to the rising fortunes of the New York wine industry, America’s fourth-largest as measured by the number of producers, 328. New York is being taken seriously as a wine-producing state in a way that was not the case even five years ago.
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