When one thinks of the great wine regions, Long Island is rarely the first response one hears. But why not? Although still in its relative infancy after rising from the farms and potato fields on the Twin Forks of Long Island the region’s wine industry has now passed its fortieth anniversary and is in the midst of a run of spectacular vintages. None of the amazing appeal and growth of Long Island’s wine region would have been possible had it not been for those who dared to try it, or those who push the envelope today.
In her new book, Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Long Island Wine (Cider Mill Press), Eileen Duffy looks at some of those mavericks from then and now, and offers a balanced, robust, very readable discourse on some of the history of the region, and a series of in-depth looks and some of the more memorable wines and vintages with their stories told by the winemakers themselves.
Duffy, the editor of Edible East End and Edible Long Island, begins her story with The Pioneers of LI wine with Louisa Hargrave, who started the ball rolling in 1973 when she and her husband Alex converted a potato field into a vineyard. The 1993 Cabernet Franc that is the focus of the chapter begins the journey of discovery of winemakers and their conversations about their wines, and the difficulties they faced. Subsequent chapters explore wines with other winemakers and show the influence of the 1992 Mount Pinatubo eruption and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, and Duffy neatly weaves them into the narrative as the potential disasters they were and the resilience of the region in overcoming those adversities.
Along the way we are treated to glimpses of the thought processes of each winemaker, whether a pioneer, a craftsman, a visionary in sustainability, or a newcomer looking at the future of winemaking on Long Island. Duffy has taken the elements, blended them, and, like the wines themselves, let them develop into a smooth, enjoyable tale that is a must read for wine aficionados everywhere and all those interested in Long Island wines, where they came from, and why they should be in that conversation of world-class wines.