While the North Fork and its vineyards are already a popular tourist attraction, the process of building the region into a year-round, world-class food and wine destination is an ongoing evolution.
Recently members of the Long Island Wine Council gathered for their annual spring portfolio tasting that included local community members, such as restaurants, merchants, and media. Part of the objective being to engage more local businesses into showing support for local wines and help winemakers increase their local wholesale portfolio.
Wine Council President and Wolffer Estate Vineyard winemaker Roman Roth headed a panel discussion on the topic that included local and city restaurateurs, wine merchants, and journalists.
The panelists agreed that while Long Island wines are still comparatively young, they have evolved and improved, and are ready to take it to the next level.
“We’re building a wine region on Long Island,” Roth said. “We’re very proud of what we have achieved over the past 43 years, now it’s time to do more outreach to the community.”
Calling out Long Island “farm to table” restaurants that don’t stock local wines, Long Island restaurateur Tom Schaudel—of Jewel, aLure, and aMano—said you can’t support local vineyards if you don’t stock their wines.
“We do about 450 cases of Long Island wine a year,” Mr. Schaudel explained. “We have a very strong wine by the glass program because that’s something that people are really open to.”
Another that concurred was Hamptons restaurateur David Loewenberg—of The Bell & Anchor and Fresno. “Wine by the glass is a really soft way for people to taste some incredible wines,” Mr. Loewenberg said. “At the Bell & Anchor, we have wines on tap and a lot of vineyards have started putting wine into kegs.”
But for New York City restaurateurs and wine merchants, a knowledgeable staff, and bridging the distance are also crucial issues they must deal with.
“The first thing is staff training,” said Manhattan restaurateur Chad Walsh, of Agern. “Every Sunday night we do tastings with the staff. Having a staff that knows wine broadly and is capable of suggesting wines is really important to having regional success.”
“Have a presence in city stores,” said Aimee Lasseigne, assistant manager at Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit, located in the Flatiron district. “I know it’s a distance, but the more you do it, the more helpful it is. People are very cautious to invest in a bottle that’s over $25 if they haven’t tried it before.”
Everyone accepted the challenge to help promote Long Island wines, but as Mr. Schaudel suggested, perhaps the most simplistic answer would be to just continue making good wine.
“You would never go to a Napa Valley restaurant and not find a Napa Valley wine,” Mr. Schaudel said. “You should be able to appreciate what’s coming out of our waters, what’s coming out of our farms, what’s coming out of the vineyards and that’s consistently growing.”