Grist for the Mill

In the modern history of the East End, it’s hard to overestimate the influence of grapevines. First planted just four decades ago, wine grapes have now colonized as much acreage as once-dominant potatoes.

Winery tasting rooms rival farm stands in many towns.

And wine growers are a rejuvenating keystone in our agricultural community—buying seed and compost at the 110-year-old Long Island Cauliflower Association, guiding policy at the 100-year-old Long Island Farm Bureau, and giving mom-and-pop wine shops, like A Grape Pear in Eastport, and jellymakers like Sam Lester of Pantigo Farm Company, a home region to celebrate and embrace.

Or consider the once-dismal Best Western hotel in Riverhead that has been reborn as the Hotel Indigo East End, a mecca for vino-seeking travelers. At the Riverhead Project, his new restaurant in a defunct Riverhead bank building, Dennis McDermott will ply both locals and wine-sipping weekend warriors with weekly wine dinners at a communal table.  Our cutting-edge wine community is pushing East End farm products into New York City and beyond. Precocious wineries are teasing out the strengths of our cool climate, treating white grapes like red ones and yielding orange wines that blow wide open our region’s flavor palette. Wineries like Mattebella, whose founding was sparked in part by a 1993 wine from Lenz, are getting praise not just for its Old World–style wines, but also a new blend that evokes “Long Island typicity.”

Long Island wineries are putting wine in kegs (which reduces use of glass, cardboard and other materials), planting cover crops to reduce the need for herbicides and installing arrays of solar panels. At McCall Wines in Cutchogue, a wind turbine turns above the pinot noir and merlot, while a herd of Charolais cattle graze below. And, while East End farmers and gardeners have been experimenting with biodynamic farming practices since the 1970s, Shinn Estate Vineyards is applying to become the first winery on the East Coast with biodynamic certification.

We are honored to be able to chronicle our wine community, and are grateful for this stalwart base of supporters. In fact, the first major event our magazine hosted in New York City was Brooklyn Uncorked, a joint effort with the Long Island Wine Council. This May 10 we’ll celebrate the 5th annual Brooklyn Uncorked (can you believe it?), still held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and, more than ever, the place where chefs, sommeliers, wine writers and thirsty novices go to taste the state of Long Island winemaking.

Let this wine-focused issue be a thank you not only to the Long Island wine industry, but to all our advertisers, sponsors and readers that form our very Edible community.

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Brian is the editor in chief of Edible East End, Edible Long Island, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. He writes from his home in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family tend a home garden and oysters. He is also obsessed with ducks, donuts and dumplings.