A Toastworthy Benefit For Locals

There’s lots of glamour about wine. But it is, in the end, a lot of work. Just try to get a winemaker or vineyard manager or worker on the phone this time of year. They’re not sitting down sipping their finished product and wondering what to pair with it.

No, right about now, if you’re reading this after dinner, they’re probably still in the winery, waiting for the juice to slowly flow out of a press so they can pump it into a tank. This is after a day of picking, and can last into the early morning. And it’s often solitary work.

But an event like HARVEST East End, which was held in September, reminds all those in the wine business on Long Island that they are part of a community.

In its second year, HARVEST has turned into more than a wine auction and fund-raiser for three local charities—Peconic Land Trust, Group for the East End and East End Hospice—and more than an opportunity to introduce the wines of Long Island to a greater audience. It has become a required annual gathering that helps galvanize the region’s wine producers in a way that’s a lot more fun than a wine council meeting.

HARVEST is organized by the Long Island Merlot Alliance, in conjunction with the Long Island Wine Council, and takes place over three weekends, starting with wine salons where chefs, winemakers, writers and sommeliers shared their knowledge. At night, local chefs and winemakers teamed up to host 10-mile dinners in private homes, where all the ingredients came from that radius. As just one example, chef Noah Schwartz of Noah’s in Greenport dished up McCall Ranch beef tartare with Lazy Dog Farms fresh egg yolk, along with Shinn Estate Vineyards 2008 Wild Boar Doe, and a whole bunch of other memorable fare at a private party on Shelter Island. That’s easy; out here we have fish, locally raised chickens and now beef, not to mention the produce.

Then on September 17, everyone—winemakers and vineyard managers, chefs and farmers, and about 600 eager eaters—got together under a tent at the breathtaking Ludlow Farm on the edge of Mecox Bay in Bridgehampton for a walk-around tasting where producers showed off barrel samples as well as current releases, and a couple of dozen South and North Fork restaurants served small bites of their menus, each trying to one-up the other with a variation on local crudo or a lobster-and-corn combo or some other delicious fleeting flavor. Next came a sit-down dinner with plenty of already-open wine and courses prepared by William Holden of West End Café in Carle Place (Long Island), Tom Schaudel of A Lure and A Mano in Southold, and Noah Schwartz of Noah’s in Greenport.

The auction raised $31,000; attendance was up 40 percent from last year, and everyone was happy to see each other in a relaxed yet formal atmosphere. Because soon enough jackets and jewelry would be exchanged for rubber boots and refractometers as the next phase of winegrowing entered its season.