Throwback Thursday: The Red Ribbon that Binds

merlot grapes on the vine

“If anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving,” says Miles Raymond in the 2004 film Sideways. It’s a line meant to provoke laughter, but all it should prompt among people familiar with the award-winning merlot of the East End is a rather significant serving of pity. The poor guy, as we intimately know, is missing out. And members the Long Island Merlot Alliance know it, too. So this week, with the news that the alliance has hired Deborah Brenner as its new executive director, we’re throwing back to Eileen M. Duffy’s look into the alliance in the Summer of 2012.

“The year 2004 wasn’t the best time to be in the merlot business,” writes Duffy. “Sideways had just come out, and you could never be sure if there were some newly minted merlot snobs in the room. But that was the West Coast—after all, Miles and his buddy were working Santa Barbara wine country. On the East End, however, a group looking to form a quality alliance decided the best way to do it was to focus on merlot as the signature grape of the region. This way, improving the quality of the variety would bring more attention to the region and so on.”

It was a gamble not everyone in the sphere of Long Island wine was eager to make. “When the group first brought the idea to the [Long Island Wine Council] in 2004, they were met with skepticism,” writes Duffy. “Many council members believed the promotion of one grape would be at the expense of others.”

But as the intervening years between the Merlot Alliances’s formation in 2005 and today have shown, that just hasn’t been the case. Instead, our grapes have grown just as Duffy predicted, with consumers coming to understand “that merlot from Long Island is special,” and becoming “more willing to try other wines once that first bottle is empty” as a result.

And that, East Enders, is nothing to wine about. You can read the rest of Eileen M. Duffy’s article here.