"The prefix is 516, the top of the dial…"

by Katie Pizzuto on July 27, 2009

in Long Island Wine,Meritage

mapLIIt’s unfortunate that “Long Island” aren’t words that trip off people’s tongues when the conversation turns to Bordeaux-style wines. The only US area that has managed to get itself into repeated pissing contests with the famed French wine region, in fact, is California. It’s the stuff of contests, books and Hollywood movies, and nowhere do you hear anybody name dropping “North Fork”, which is a sin that does a disservice not only to the wine makers in this region, but to US wine drinkers that are looking for great local wine. And with a growing season that’s about as similar to California’s as it is to Mexico’s, it’s a shame more wine drinkers don’t know that they can get US-made, Bordeaux-style blended wines that aren’t over extracted, over oaked or high octane.

Meritage wines (rhymes with heritage, not with pinotage so don’t mispronounce it or the wine police come and spank you) are the US equivalent of Bordeaux blends, which usually contain a combo of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petite verdot and/or malbec. Plenty of states in the US make meritage wines, but the big Kahuna is, of course, California. After that, most people think of Washington state, but what most don’t know is that there are just as many wineries in Washington that are part of the Meritage Association as there are in New York and even in Virginia. We can thank a combination of problems for this, including the fact that you just don’t find many New York wines on restaurant wine lists, and the fact that they don’t exactly line store shelves, either. Having to play Cinderella to the all-powerful step sister known as California just plain sucks, and if ever a wine region was deserving of a fairy godmother and a wand, it’s Long Island.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to taste through a ton of Long Island wine at Brooklyn Uncorked. There were plenty of crisp chardonnays, boatloads of earthy cab francs and endless offerings of the ubiquitous merlot, but I went there with a singular focus—meritage wines. Why? Because US wine drinkers tend to gaze at the Pacific coast hypnotically, and someone needs to smack them out of there revelry and spin them in a 180. I adore smacking.

Long Island wines are the Rodney Dangerfields of the wine world—no respect—despite the fact that they tend to be better food partners than their west coast rivals…leaner, lower in alcohol and higher in acidity. The meritages are no exception, and their capacity to age is what really woke me up. Most clear cut example? Osprey’s Dominion. Tasting through several vintages of their “Flight” meritage made me understand just how much aging capacity there was for these wines. Are they delicious now? Sure. Will they be better in another 4-5 years? My money’s on that horse. I tasted back to their 2000 bottling and not only was it still kicking, it had plenty more leg room. Some vintages were fruitier, others earthier or floral, but all were in it for the long haul, and that fact is what many American wine drinkers are missing, though it’s not entirely their fault.

While wineries like Osprey’s Dominion, Macari Vineyards, Bedell Cellars and others are cranking out quality Bordeaux-style wines, the Long Island Wine Council seems to be sleeping on the job. People won’t ever start demanding LI wines if they don’t know how good they are, and how the hell will they ever know how good they are if marketing and PR for the region are inept? Will it take someone like Osprey challenging CA wine makers to a taste off? And even if they did, to what end would it be if the hallowed pages of WS and WE don’t talk about it? Every year I watch tourists wash over the streets of Manhattan to go visit the Empire State Building, MoMA, Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, and the overwhelming majority don’t think to include winery tours in their scheduled merriment…Not because they aren’t wine geeks, but because they have no idea there’s anything worth tasting east of the Mississippi.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linsey July 28, 2009

Cant really comment on the majority of this – not being a drinker

but the tourists not ever including the winerys in their schedule … well from what i have seen buying wine for others in supermarkets i dont think i have ever seen an American wine that isnt Californian in the Brit supermarkets.

if the rest of the worl is like that – then its not a suprise that they dont include the wineries

maybe north eastern USA need to promote their wine much more in foreign countries a bit more.

btw MoMA? whats that and is it something to put on my list for christmas? lol


2 Katie Pizzuto July 29, 2009

Ah, but you DID comment on it, Lin, by saying that all the American wine you see in the UK is Californian! Long Island needs to promote their wine much more, that’s for sure, but before they can do that overseas, they need to get their act together in their own backyard!

MoMA is the Museum of Modern Art, and we’d LOVE to take you when you come out to visit!!


3 Linsey July 29, 2009

Hopefully I will have a bit more time this year to see more – especially Central Park again – didnt really get the chance other than to drive through it last time … no parking spaces.

MoMA will be cool to go to … I want to see more ty … dont worry I wont ask to go up the Empire state again lol

Back to the theme though – maybe NY wineries have the same problem as English wine – most people dont realise it exists!


4 Katie Pizzuto July 29, 2009

Yes, well, we’re going to remedy the little-known English wine situation soon, aren’t we? LOL!


5 Linsey July 29, 2009



6 Anthony July 30, 2009

Yes Long island needs to promote more! What about Ny State? Like along the Hudson.
I love some of those winery along there. I went to this wine shop in Nyack, NY that buys from this region. I have to say some good stuff.


7 Katie July 30, 2009

Yup, those would be the “Hudson Valley” wineries. Finger Lakes are doing a lot to bring attention to the region, but I think Long Island could be doing much more. Hudson Valley is doing a big festival in September. Hoping to go:



8 Anthony July 30, 2009

Let me know when, I would like to go as well


9 Linsey July 30, 2009

Anthony and I trawled several British wine shops for British wine – it wasnt easy to find them. Actually except for looking up one on the internet the ones we found were dumb luck!! lol

Seems that the more ‘unusual’ areas for growing wine doesnt seem to do a great job promoting itself in their own countries let alone world wide.

We went into wine shop that was in a very well off area in East Anglia. The locals are very rich, but the woman working there said she didnt stock British wines because they were too expensive … a ridiculous excuse because there were some very expensive wines on the shelves that were being bought …????


10 Katie Pizzuto July 31, 2009

You’ve actually hit on a similar complaint of Long Island wines. Many people say they’re expensive as well, but it’s usually warranted. Higher costs per acre, tough growing season, often times limited production, etc. But everybody knows that the Brits are Francophiles when it comes to wine 🙂


11 Linsey July 31, 2009

I dunno, there was a lot of promotion of wines from other countries in the uk about 20 years ago – Oz Clarke (who you know) and Gilly Goolden (sic) were very well known for promoting wines from around the world

the British tastebuds changed from french, german and ‘Blue Nun’ wines to more far fetched – south american, australian and south african wine seem to be very popular now

the wine section of the supermarkets are massive now to what they used to be with worldwide stock … mind u as i said earlier, not British or Eastern USA

Maybe the stereotypes are changing… but having said that every year thousands of Brits head over to the continent to the wine warehouses in France just to buy cheaper wines … so maybe not changed that much lol


12 Lenn Thompson July 31, 2009

Katie: If I can ever get you out to Long Island Wine Country in person, we’ll find many interesting things for you to taste — no doubt.

It was Brooklyn Uncorked, btw.


13 Katie Pizzuto July 31, 2009

Oy, thanks for the catch Lenn…it’s fixed! And yeah, definitely gotta drag the hubby out to LI one weekend!


14 George November 4, 2009

There are some good values on North Fork wines. There are 30 wineries and if you go on a guided tour with North Fork Wine Tours(.com) you will find quality wines at about $12 a bottle and sales as low as $7. You will also avoid the need to drink and drive


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