In North America, a harvest festival is normally an autumnal feast celebrating the end of the farming cycle and is an opportunity to give thanks for the bountiful crop. On eastern Long Island, the annual Harvest East End is a summer party where the wine and restaurant community of Long Island come together to celebrate the grape harvest of previous years and provide a showcase for the quality and diversity of the food and beverage offerings of Long Island.
Adding to the celebratory atmosphere to this year’s event is the recent critical acclaim that Long Island wines have been receiving in recent months. Most notably was the review of the region by Mark Squires in the June issue of the Wine Advocate, who proclaimed that the Long Island wine region has arrived. In his evaluation of Long Island wine, Mr. Squires gave 90+ scores to over 75 wines. While this news is nothing new (or surprising) to those who frequent the wineries of Long Island on a regular basis, it does mark a turning point in public perception.
This year’s Harvest was once again sponsored by Dan’s Papers (in partnership with the Long Island Wine Council) and was part of their Taste of Summer celebration. This was the 6th annual event and was once again held at the McCall Vineyard and Ranch in Cutchogue. This year’s party was attended by over 1,500 wine and food enthusiasts, with over 40 wineries (stretching from Brooklyn Oenology in Williamsburg to Kontokosta Winery in Orient Point). As for the food, there were over 30 food vendors. In short, it was the biggest celebration yet.
Included in the list of wineries, were those wineries that don’t have tasting rooms. Because this was a rare chance to taste their wines, this was my first priority. At the Onabay Vineyards table, I was able to taste their 2013 Yellow Crown Chardonnay and a pair of Cabernet Francs from 2012. Next was Saltbird Cellars, where winemaker Robin Epperson-McCarthy was serving up her wines at the Brooklyn Oenology table. This was followed by the wines of Russell Hearn, where I tasted a Pinot Grigio from Suhru and a Petit Verdot from T’Jara. And finally, I visited Reilly Cellars, where I chatted with winemaker John Leo, who besides having his own private label, makes the wines for Clovis Point.
This was also an opportunity to get a sneak peak of the 2014 vintage as many wineries brought along barrel samples. Among the many highlights were Merlots from Clovis Point, Harbes, Raphael and Palmer; Cabernet Franc from Kontokosta, and Shinn Estates; Syrah from Macari and Petite Verdot from Waters Crest Winery which was served in a Jeroboam. We all knew that the 2014 vintage was a large one, but based on what I tasted at the Harvest festival it looks like it is also going to be a great one.
And finally, Harvest East End was a chance to chat with some of the winemakers: Juan Micieli-Martinez from Martha Clara, Miguel Martin from Palmer, Gilles Martin from Sparkling Pointe and Dean Babiar from Jamesport. It was also a chance to catch up with old friends whom I seldom see. At the Scarola Vineyards table I was able to have a long chat with Frank Scarola. I’ve known Frank since the inception of Scarola Vineyards, but because he is based in Nassau County (and still has a day job), I only seen him at events like this. And Gabriella Purita, who was always a mainstay at the One Woman tasting room, but now spends the bulk of her time managing the Taste NY store at Grand Central Terminal.
This was the third and final event in Dan’s Taste of Summer series. With great wine, food, music and the camaraderie of fellow revelers, it was a fitting climax to the summer season. It was also a harbinger of the fall harvest, and the promise of great wines to come.