If you’re a small, independent wine producer in a region awash with labels, how do you get noticed? It’s not so much an issue in Long Island Wine Country itself, where every winery attracts some of the million-plus tourists that visit each year. But off the wine trail, it’s a different story. The big distributers that supply wine stores aren’t interested in anyone who produces less than a certain volume. And many producers aren’t at all interested in the distributors, either.
But it’s a hard sell, going it alone. Producers typically have to drag samples all over the place, from wine shop to restaurant, trying to get a foot in the door — and if they make a sale, they deliver the cases, too.
As for restaurants, even a reasonably knowledgeable sommelier is likely to not know a little labels exist. Many wines are competing for a place on any restaurant’s wine list, so, usually, personal contact is required to get any attention.
Naturally, it makes sense for a bunch of independent producers to get together and invite trade-only folks — wine store buyers, restaurant wine buyers, hospitality education/industry and press — to taste their wines and meet the producers. This spring a group of regional producers have put together the Long Island Regional Trade Tasting, a targeted, business-focused approach in contrast to open-to-the-public promotional events organized by the Long Island Wine Council, the Long Island Merlot Alliance and other entities.
Right now, 12 producers involved: Sparkling Pointe, Coffee Pot Cellars, Waters Crest Winery, Jamesport Vineyards, The Lenz Winery, Castello di Borghese, McCall Ranch, Sannino Bella Vita, Anthony Nappa Wines, Brooklyn Oenology, Influence Wines and Saltbird Cellars, a new venture from Robin Epperson McCarthy.
Essentially, there’s a need to showcase local small production, self-distributed vineyards to accounts on the Long Island, New York and the rest of the boroughs,” says Laura Trunz, regional sales manager at Sparkling Pointe and one of the main organizers of the event. “We’re excited to start a series of these events and will be inviting more small production, self-distributed vineyards in the future.” There’s been a great response so far, she adds, and the group is planning to do another event this year, perhaps on the South Fork. “In the future, this trade show could help anyone who decides to launch a small, independent label and will need an outlet to showcase their wines.”
There’s another aspect to this. Long Island wines are all, with a few minor exceptions, made from local grapes. People appreciate locally made, small-producer wines and food, even if “local” is not their immediate region. In fact, because there are few farms and wineries in urban areas, people’s introduction and access to such products is almost exclusively through retail. So this trade show can ultimately help bring consumers more choice, which is always a good thing.
The event takes place Tuesday, March 24, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the New York Yankees Steak House, at 7 West 51st Street. There is no charge, but guests will be required to show a business card with their industry affiliation. Here’s the link to the invite and more information.