For me, The Taste of Flight Wine Expo is one of the most eagerly anticipated of the annual wine festivals in the New York Metro Area. My reasons have nothing to do with the selection of wine (which is very good) or the food options (which were quite satisfying at this year’s event). And they have nothing to do with the numerous boutiques scattered around the museum or the fact that I was easily able to have a glass of wine at most tables with a minimal wait. It is my personal connection to The Cradle of Aviation Museum, where the expo is held each year, that makes this wine tasting special for me.
The Cradle of Aviation is dedicated to the rich heritage of aerospace on Long Island and is located in Garden City on part of the grounds of what was the Mitchel Air Force Base. Established in 1918 as Hazelhurst Aviation Field #2, it was used as a training ground for pilots during the First World War. During WWII, the renamed Mitchel Field played an important role in the air defense system of New York City. And it was here where my father met my mother. He was stationed at Mitchel in 1943 before being deployed to North Africa and she was working there (along with my aunt) as a member of the American Woman Volunteer Service. (The AWVS was an organization of women who provided essential support services during the war.) It’s also where, as a child, I enjoyed numerous visits to the Officer’s Club in the late 1950’s, while my father was a member of the Air Force Reserve. And while the museum was rather small when it opened in the 1980’s, my father would proudly take visitors on a tour of the museum, pointing out exhibits of interest and identifying the planes. I also have fond memories of a recent visit to the museum with my 90 year old uncle, who was an Air Force pilot during WWII, and hearing all his wonderful recollections of the era as we walked through the museum.
After a few moments to collect my thoughts, I jumped into the tasting and stopped at Lenz Winery, where I was greeted by some familiar faces (and wines). I started with a pair of zesty wines: the Tête-à-Tête, a 50-50 blend of Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer and the White Label Chardonnay. I continued my journey through the North Fork of Long Island with stops at Osprey Dominion, Raphael Winery and Sherwood House. At Osprey I enjoyed a marvelous vertical tasting of Merlots (of which the 2010 was my favorite). At Raphael, I had the 2014 Chardeaux (a stainless steel blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) and the Cabernet (a light style blend of Cabernet Franc & Cabernet Sauvignon). Then the 2007 Sherwood Manor from Sherwood House, a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Moving over to California, I had Fume Sauvignon Blanc from Murhphy Goode and an excellent Chardonnay from Cambria Wines.
Time for a break for some much needed food: An assortment of goodies from Spuntino (a wine bar with Italian tapas) and some Penne Rosa from Noodles & Company. Then back to the wine, were I sampled numerous sparkling wines, including an excellent Prosecco from Bel Mondo and a surprising one from Luxembourg. Surprising because Sparkling Wine isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind when someone mentions Luxembourg! For my last winery, I stopped at Americana Vineyards, the lone representative from the Finger Lakes, where I enjoyed their latest Baco and Lemberger.
I then paused for one last time, reflecting on the history of the place, both public and personal as I sipped my last wine, a Cab Franc from Americana. I savored my memories of past visits and looking at the crowds of wine drinkers milling around I thought back on the crowds of soldiers who passed through Mitchel during WWII. Just like my father, they were garrisoned here before being shipped out for overseas combat duty and then returned to Mitchel after the war, where thousands of soldiers were processed for separation. I silently saluted the men and women of Mitchel and thanked them for their sacrifices. I also smiled, as I thought about my father. Wine, food, merrymaking and a sense of history. He would not only have approved, but he would have enjoyed this event immensely.