Long Island Wineries are up and coming, and although you may not yet have heard of them, names like Jamesport, Macari and Martha Clara will soon be household names like their Californian cousins.
For a Norwegian from rural Norway, wine was not served during dinner nor quaffed at a party. Beer and spirits, however, were commonplace. If in Norway, listen for the sounds of a six-pack of beers clinking: follow the sound and you will end up seeing something Norwegian. Perhaps similar to many East Coasters, wine was not part of how we ate or drank, because it was not a local product for us. My only relation to wine growing up was to the infamous locally produced sparkling wine “Golden Power” - a concoction of fruits, including rhubarb, and alcohol, of course. End stage: berserk.
Moving to New York city and hearing about the local Long Island wine, I imagined Long Island’s wine to be as drinkable as my own childhood’s Golden Power – in big gulps, towards a bigger goal of drunkenness.
Visiting the Long Island vineyards in October changed my mind. If you like wine and some interesting tastes, I suggest you read on.
Out trip was organized by ILoveNY! in cooperation with Hampton Jitney, the Long Island bus operator. The team organizes wine tours among many other things and is a great way to see New York state. As we left the city behind and pushed passed suburbia, I did not really know what to expect.
Our first stop on the journey was Jamesport Winery overseen by the watchful eyes of its proprietor Ronald B. Goerler, second generation winemaker. One of the unique features of Mr. Goerler’s Jamesport vineyard is that they serve food on the premises provided by Chef Noah Scwartz of Noah’s, using fresh products. The illustrious chef’s food with wine pairing was delightful and gave answer to a Norwegian question that we up in the north ponder. Why is it that Mediterraneans developed culture while Norwegians were busy getting drunk on fermented birch sap? The answer is of course the cultivation of grapes that become wine and good quality products that turn into delicious dishes.
Of the many excellent wines Jamesport serves, their excellent Cabernet Franc 2007 is an especially well balanced wine with an aroma of cherries and cloves ending in a rich and smoky finish. This is a quality wine that would work well with game, even a Norwegian moose. Speaking of Norwegian moose, one of the most delightful and scary moments in Norwegian fauna are moose drunk on fermented apples. Youtube it.
Merlot, 2007-2012 at Macari
Moving on, our next stop on the tour was Macari Vineyard, located on Bergen Avenue. Bergen of course being a Norwegian city - a proud reminder of the lingering cultural dominance we Scandinavians have had in the US (think lutefisk). We were met by Manager Alexandra Macari and led through the production facility. Macari Winery hosts several workers from around the world every year, and the vineyard has a female wine master – Kelly Urbanik – one of the few in the country. It is impossible to decipher if a female’s touch in any way changes the wine for the better or worse. What is easier to conclude is that Kelly Urbanik has made some memorable wines. Macari serves up a varied selection of wines, but the Chardonnay Reserve 2012 was truly memorable. Fermented on French Oak, stored 15 months, the wine has well developed undertones of pear and vanilla without being sweet. A creamy palate with a fresh finish, this wine is beautiful.
As our trip drew to an end, our last stop was Martha Clara Winery, owned by the cake baking family of the Entenmanns. Wine Maker Juan E. Micieli-Martinez seemed scientific as he led us through the geological changes that has taken place on Long Island that may explain why Long Island is one of the few places on the East Coast whose soil and climate can produce quality wine. One of my favorite wines out of many is the Pinot Noir, 2012. Dark berries and some historical echoes of licorice makes this wine very interesting and would potentially surprise a wine connoisseur or two.
One of the things we never learned in Norway is that drinking can be healthy. The slogan of our locally produced champion Golden Power was “Teeth in the Tapestry and Your Feet up in the Air, when you Taste Golden Power.” Although fermented rhubarb wine can provide the most fun you will ever have in your life, wine is culture and culture saves people. As the US starts to get acquainted more with Long Island wine, the fun should not disappear, but a more mature relationship with New York wine will develop. A relationship where the consumer will be able to taste and purchase this quality wine easily and organize a kitchen where his own local wine is an essential part of his cooking, palate and future.