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Winery

All of Pindar’s grapes are grown on its 500-acre property and are pressed in its on-site winemaking and bottling facility. Photo by Alex Petroski

It seems in today’s world that any venue meant for social gathering has two hard and fast rules in common with all of the others — no outside food is allowed in, and what’s offered on hand will cost an arm and a leg. It is a truism for concerts, beaches, baseball games and even most vineyards. Pindar Vineyards is a delightful exception to the rule.

Known for its extensive variety of wines, both types and styles, the 37-year-old family-owned vineyard allows visitors to bring in outside food to accompany a day of wine tasting and sightseeing on Pindar’s 500-acre property. It might not seem like a defining feature, but it is a characteristic that paints a broader picture of warmth, accommodation and overall customer service that has been a staple of the vineyard since Dan Damianos founded Pindar in 1979.

Pindar Vineyards is located on Route 25 in Peconic and is accommodating to groups large and small. Photo by Alex Petroski
Pindar Vineyards is located on Route 25 in Peconic and is accommodating to groups large and small. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We’re kind of known as that friendly vineyard,” Melissa Martin, who handles public relations for the vineyard, said in an interview in Pindar’s tasting room in Peconic last week.

“Wine is fun. We take it seriously as well,” Martin said. “We take the winemaking seriously. However, we understand people coming out here to visit, we want them to be more relaxed and enjoy it. I like to educate people on the notes that are in the wine. No one should feel uptight about it or afraid to ask questions.”

Damianos passed away in 2014, though his children remain a major part of the vineyard’s day-to-day operations and continue to foster a welcoming atmosphere.

“Dr. Damianos, that was his thing,” Martin said of his friendly demeanor and lifelong dedication to making customers feel like part of the family. “He was always here and talking to everyone and very personable, so we really want to carry that on.”

Pindar’s wines are also known for their approachability. The vineyard offers more than 20 selections currently, with an emphasis on appealing to wine drinkers of varied experience levels. Edward Lovaas is preparing for his sixth harvest as Pindar’s winemaker.

“We have everything from wines on the sweeter side, wines on the dryer side, sparkling, red wines, dessert wines — so I think it’s pretty easy to say someone coming here for the first time, we make it easy for them to select the tasting they want and find a favorite,” Martin said.

The sheer size of Pindar’s tasting room and outdoor seating areas add to its ability to accommodate groups large and small. Martin said they are welcoming to bridal parties making a stop in a limo to a couple walking in just hoping to try something new, and everything in between.

Pindar Vineyards has expansive seating areas both inside and out that allow for groups of any size to enjoy their favorite wine, food and beautiful sights all at once at the Peconic Vineyard. Photo by Alex Petroski
Pindar Vineyards has expansive seating areas both inside and out that allow for groups of any size to enjoy their favorite wine, food and beautiful sights all at once at the Peconic Vineyard. Photo by Alex Petroski

Martin described what she envisions as a perfect day at Pindar.

“The perfect day at Pindar is doing a tasting, finding your favorite wine, getting bottles and then finding a spot on the deck or on the pavilion or on the grass,” and that’s where allowing outside food, picnic style, sets Pindar apart, she said.

For Martin the wine of choice on said perfect day would be either Pindar Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier for a white or Syrah in a red. Martin added she has a personal passion for finding the perfect pairing of food to go with each wine Pindar has to offer.

The vineyard frequently hosts events from live music, to visits from food trucks if picnicking isn’t appealing, to an upcoming event that will feature a raw bar and seafood for wine club members. In its wine shop location on Main Street in Port Jefferson, Martin has spearheaded a cupcake and wine-pairing event. Tours are also offered on select dates of the vineyards grounds and bottling facility for those interested in the science of wine.

The end of July is the best time to visit Pindar, according to Martin. Every year its sunflower fields bloom around that time, and this year a professional photo booth will be on hand to snap and print keepsakes for the popular annual attraction.

North Shore residents looking for a relaxing, accommodating wine and food experience should keep Pindar Vineyards in mind, for the sights, tastes and feeling.

Pindar Vineyards offers more than 20 different types of wines with nearly every imaginable style accounted for. Photo by Alex Petroski
Pindar Vineyards offers more than 20 different types of wines with nearly every imaginable style accounted for. Photo by Alex Petroski

Palmer Vineyards is located on scenic Sound Avenue in Riverhead. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Palmer Vineyards is rebranding.

Fans of the vineyard, which opened its doors in 1983, should expect the same approachable feel to both the wines and the atmosphere at Palmer. The vineyard is maintaining many of the features that make it one of the best on Long Island, like being certified sustainable, but some upgrades and new features are on the way and should be completed in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to Director of Operations Ken Cereola.

Palmer Vineyards
5120 Sound Ave.,
Riverhead
631-722-9463
Open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“People feel really, really welcome when they come here,” Cereola said in an interview on Palmer’s grounds last week, stressing their rebranding plan won’t compromise their comfortable feel. “We’re not standoffish, we’re not too pretentious.”

Palmer’s rebranding efforts include new labels on the bottles, some expanded outdoor seating areas outside of the tasting room, a brick oven on site for fresh made pizzas, a food truck and events geared toward education for inquiring wine minds. Chef Anna Aracri from Oceans 5 Seafood Market and Eatery in Shoreham handles food at the winery.

One such event, called the Plant. Pick. Pour. Wine Series 2016 is a three-part series in an intimate, interactive setting where participants can learn about the entire wine-making process over the course of three landmark dates that a vineyard incurs in a given year.

Palmer wines are aged in oak barrels in their barrel rooms for months at a time before they are ready to be bottled. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer wines are aged in oak barrels in their barrel rooms for months at a time before they are ready to be bottled. Photo by Alex Petroski

On June 11 the focus will be on Palmer’s unique grape varietals, why they work so well in Long Island’s climate and what makes its vineyard so versatile. On Sept. 10, it will be time to start preparing for the 2017 vintage’s harvest. Finally, on Dec. 3 guests will have the opportunity to taste the unreleased 2017 wines before they go on sale. All three events will feature wine tasting, food pairing and information from Palmer’s knowledgeable and well-traveled winemaker Miguel Martin.

Tasting room manager Evan Ducz is particularly excited for the series and said the response has been great in anticipation of the first event on June 11. Despite the educational feel, he reiterated Cereola’s assessment that the goal is to be informative without intimidating wine enthusiasts of varying experience.

“From the staff to the management, I think we make people feel really comfortable,” he said. “Comfortable about wine, which can be intimidating at times, and I think we also give off a really relaxed vibe, a very inviting atmosphere.”

Palmer Vineyards is undergoing a rebranding effort that includes changes to their labels. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards is undergoing a rebranding effort that includes changes to their labels. Photo by Alex Petroski

Some other events at Palmer include Yoga in the Vines every Sunday, which is followed by brunch featuring breakfast pizza from their brick oven; a yearly kick-off to a fall harvest festival featuring live music, food and of course—wine; extended hours to 9 p.m. on Friday nights to start the weekend; and by-appointment winemaker tours.

Martin will have been at Palmer as its winemaker for a decade in the fall. Martin is from Spain and as Cereola puts it, has made wines all over the world. His diverse and substantial experience and knowledge gives Palmer a unique element not widely found on Long Island. He blends with grapes more commonly associated with other regions and also bottles an Albariño, a dry yet fruity white that usually comes from Spain.

“He’s a hell of a winemaker, but he’s an even better person,” Cereola said of Martin. “He’s a great guy to be around. He definitely doesn’t just make his wine and then go home. He’s a part of every aspect here.”

Ducz echoed Cereola’s comments about Martin. “As far as just being a tasting room manager the thing that I most appreciate about him is that you can go to him with any question,” Ducz said.

Palmer Vineyards now features an on-site brick oven for fresh pizzas made by Chef Anna Aracri. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards now features an on-site brick oven for fresh pizzas made by Chef Anna Aracri. Photo by Alex Petroski

For those who can’t make it out to Riverhead to visit Palmer, some of the wines worth trying from a local wine store include its Rosé of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Old Roots Merlot, according to Cereola and Ducz. I also recommend the Chardonnay.

The combination of Palmer’s team, products, atmosphere and events should place the vineyard toward the top of any list of must-visit North Shore destinations for Long Island residents.

Palmer Vineyards’ tasting room has a comfortable, approachable feel which makes wine-tasters of all experience levels feel welcome. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards’ tasting room has a comfortable, approachable feel which makes wine-tasters of all experience levels feel welcome. Photo by Alex Petroski

Pairing the perfect wine with a delicious meal is something of a family business. For almost 10 years I sold wine, and my father and grandfather did the same (for much longer), which allowed me to amass a decent knowledge of everything from the basics to some slightly more advanced, winemaking process related facts.

I’m not a sommelier, but I’m an enthusiastic wine consumer and I love finding the perfect pairing of wine and food. My experience and the important standing wine has always held in my extended and immediate family has taken me to many of the great wineries Long Island has to offer, and I’ve sampled wines from many of the places I haven’t visited. With that, I thought I would offer a list of my three favorite Long Island wineries, in no particular order, that can be used as a guideline for any fellow Long Islander interested in trying great food and wine in a beautiful setting this spring and summer.

wine-bottlewPalmer Vineyards, 5120 Sound Avenue, Riverhead

The draw to Palmer Vineyards is amazing quality wines, maybe as good as it gets on Long Island. Winemaker Miguel Martin is renowned for his buttery, oaky chardonnay; full-bodied, robust cabernet franc; and other lighter summery selections like his refreshing Sunrise Sunset Blush. Experienced wine drinkers with serious palates would be satisfied with their hearty reds and dryer whites, while beginners will find enjoyment in selections like Palmer Rosé of Merlot, or their Lighthouse Red and Lighthouse White blends, which are easy and approachable.

Palmer’s vineyard experience is fitting of its great wines. Martin conducts winemaker tours regularly where he leads guests through their vast barrel rooms and gets in-depth about his winemaking process. He even offers tastes directly from barrels. When the tour is over, there is outdoor and indoor seating space to occupy while enjoying samples.

Must try: Palmer Cabernet Franc 2012

Vineyard 48, 18910 Route 48, Cutchogue

If you enjoy wine and you are looking for a party atmosphere on a Saturday or Sunday, then Vineyard 48 should be your destination. Their wines and tasting room scream “summer.” The tasting room has a dance floor, large windows that let in sunlight and a live DJ on weekends. Vineyard 48 caters to limos and buses that drop off large parties. They offer the obligatory traditional wine selections like a fruit-forward merlot, and an acidic yet crisp sauvignon blanc, but the atmosphere pairs perfectly with their NOFO Peach wine or their NOFO Sangria, which come chilled and quench the thirst after some intense dancing.

Must try: Vineyard 48 NOFO Peach

Martha Clara Vineyards, 6025 Sound Ave, Riverhead

Martha Clara has become the event destination of the North Fork. They have a special event for almost every day of the week featuring some or all of food trucks, live music, wine classes, multi-course winemaker dinners, dog-walking events and many more over the course of the summer. Their wines range from easy-drinking like their Glaciers End series of red, white and rose to steak-dinner-worthy like their Northville red blend, which holds up to the heartiest of meals. Martha Clara wines have become some of the most popular selections in Long Island wines during their history, which dates back to the 1970s. They are owned by the same family that owns Entenmann’s baked goods, though the experience at Martha Clara can’t be contained to a case at the end of the aisle.

Must try: Martha Clara Estate Reserve Gewurztraminer 2014

Like many other vineyards on Long Island and across the world, winemaking is part of the family heritage for the Massouds and Paumanok Vineyards. Located at 1074 Main Road (Route 25A) in Aquebogue on the North Fork, Ursula and Charles Massoud founded the vineyard on the 127-acre estate in 1983. The couple, along with their three sons, still own and operate the vineyard to this day.

Kareem Massoud, Paumanok’s winemaker, called their vineyard a perfect blend of old world and new world style. With so much competition now on the North Fork, most vineyards seem to do what they can to develop a distinguished niche. “I think our niche is that we’re dedicated and committed to producing the most delicious wine possible,” Kareem said. “We’re really like a wine lovers winery. If someone’s really interested in wine, they should come visit.”

He added that Paumanok tends to stay away from the party atmosphere and focuses instead on their award-winning wines and the delicious oysters and cheeses that are also sold at the winery and pare wonderfully with the estate-bottled wines. Paumanok was named Winery of the Year for 2015 at the New York Wine & Food Classic. The competition was judged based on a cumulative score of at least seven submitted wines to a panel of 21 judges. Paumanok won the award one other time in 2004.

Their tasting room is a quaint old barn, with large windows that let in sunlight and provide beautiful views of their rows and rows of vines. The tasting room lets out to a deck around the back of the barn, with wooden tables and chairs for comfortable spring and summer days.

Paumanok wines are estate bottled, meaning that the producer of the grapes has control of the entire growing, harvesting, fermenting and bottling process. Everything in a bottle of Paumanok wine was grown on their property (with some minor exceptions). This distinction, along with the fact that Ursula was born and raised in Germany while Charles comes from Lebanon, gives the vineyard a nice dash of old world, according to Kareem.

Kareem said that Paumanok is one of the oldest wineries on Long Island that is still owned and operated by the original founders. The family has been making wine and building their brand since 1990.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Kareem said in an interview Monday. He reminisced about the days between 1983 and 1990 when the family was growing grapes, but no wine was being produced or sold yet. Kareem said that he and his brothers did quite a bit of lawn mowing between their family home in Connecticut and the massive land at the winery in Aquebogue during his teenage years.

Today, however, the winery has a dash of new world, state-of-the-art technology that has made winemaking a more — forgive the pun — fruitful endeavor. Kareem said last year Paumanok invested in a new mechanical harvesting machine with onboard sorting technology. It is useful for removing M.O.G., or matter other than grapes, when it’s time to harvest the grapes. It even includes a de-stemmer.

Kareem said that his wines are all like his children, so picking a favorite was very difficult. For a white, he chose Paumanok Chenin Blanc. Its current vintage is 2014. “I like to call that our ‘Sour Patch’ wine,” Massoud said, referencing the sweet and sour candy. He said that the citrus and grapefruit notes, paired with a refreshing, thirst-quenching characteristic, make it well balanced and provide a nice contrast.

The red Kareem is most proud of is their Assemblage, which is a French word meaning blend. He only makes the Assemblage in grand vintage years, or years with the best quality harvest of grapes. Recently, their 2013 Assemblage received the highest rating of any red wine on the East Coast from a popular wine magazine.

Kareem also added that the 2014 and 2015 vintages of Paumanok Riesling received awards as New York State’s best Riesling. That is not a small feat, as New York is one of the most popular Riesling producing areas in the world.

Paumanok Vineyards is open for self-guided or winemaker-lead tours during the spring and summer for small groups, or by reservation for large groups. They are also preparing for two marquee events: a Mediterranean cruise in June hosted by Ursula and Charles that features Paumanok wines and makes stops over a seven-day span from Portugal to the Bordeaux region in France and their sixth annual lamb roast dinner at the winery in August.

For more information about their events, or to plan a trip, visit www.paumanok.com.

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In 1982, Bob and Joyce Pellegrini had a vision. They wanted to own a quality winery with gorgeous views and a tasting room fit for their superior products. Bob Pellegrini passed away in early 2015, but his vision lives on with his wife and their professional and talented staff who are committed to the vision that the couple had over three decades ago.

Despite growth in the Long Island wine industry and booming demand for “party bus tours” and events built around entertainment first and great wine second, Pellegrini Vineyards has managed to stay true to who they are. Tasting room manager John Larsen and winemaker Zander Hargrave both stressed that desire to remain aligned with the Pellegrini’s mission.

Pellegrini is for serious wine drinkers. That was the overwhelming message from Larsen and Hargrave when I visited the vineyard on the first whisper of a spring day last week. That is not to say that those lacking a substantial base of knowledge in anything winemaking or drinking related should be intimidated by the experience at the Cutchogue vineyard. All that you need to bring through the door is a desire for knowledge and an appreciation for the delicate art that is winemaking.

“If you were looking for a party with your friends, this might be your perfect first stop,” Larsen said in Pellegrini’s Vintner’s Room, a second-floor sitting area with a massive window overlooking rows upon rows of vines growing the business’s cash crop. “Come and hang out, see what we’re all about, then go see music somewhere else later in the afternoon if you want the full experience of the North Fork,” Larsen added.

The team at Pellegrini Vineyards would prefer for their outstanding wine, customer service and breathtaking views to speak for themselves. Neither Larsen nor Hargrave seemed to begrudge any of the many vineyards that choose to be “event centers” as Larsen referred to them. However, neither has any desire to jump on that train. At least not right now.

“This is a true winery,” Larsen said. “We focus on the wine, and the customer service that goes along with it.”

Pellegrini Vineyards offers a wine club, which gets members exclusive wine releases, access to special dinners, luncheons, self-guided winery tours and other events. Both Hargrave and Larsen suggested that membership in the club is the ideal way to enjoy everything that Pellegrini has to offer.

Winemaking is in Hargrave’s blood. He has been at Pellegrini since the fall of 2014, though his roots in the Long Island wine industry date back to the very beginning. His parents, Louisa and Alex Hargrave, were the brave entrepreneurs who first decided that the North Fork of Long Island was being wasted by only growing potatoes.

Zander grew up at Hargrave Vineyards. He has essentially spent a lifetime in the wine community along the North Fork, save for a few hiatuses to pursue a teaching career, managing a vegetable farm and selling advertisements for a newspaper.

“I grew up with it,” Hargrave said about his youth around winemaking, which clearly has shaped the way that he hopes people enjoying his wine use it to craft memorable experiences. “It’s about the people. It was always about the people. The wine is sort of a conduit to relationships with people. When I look back on my life growing up in the vineyard, it was ‘who’s coming by?’ It was the excitement of the harvest, guests at our home, having dinner with really interesting people. That, to me, stands out more than anything. And of course as I got into the work and got older I gained an appreciation for wine itself. That’s not what I really think about growing up. It was all about the people.”

Hargrave raved about the state-of-the-art equipment that he has at his disposal, which makes the vineyard’s old world mentality of fine winemaking much easier to pull off. “I would say probably the most unique feature of the Pellegrini winery is we have six, ten-ton open fermenters that we do most of our reds in,” he said. The giant fermenters feature a pneumatic punch-down system that, without getting too technical, serves the same purpose as the old method of grape stomping. The tanks have a long arm that gently stirs the contents to submerge the flavor-packed grape skins that tend to rise to the top.

I asked Hargrave what he would bring home if he were grilling steaks for dinner. “You got to go with the Encore,” he said immediately. “That’s our Bordeaux blend. It’s only released in the very best vintages. The current vintage is 2010, which was one of the best vintages ever on Long Island. I did make a ‘13 that will be released down the line once it gets some bottle age. You can’t go wrong.”

Hargrave suggested his sauvignon blanc if seafood is on the menu. He also beamed with pride when describing Pellegrini’s chardonnay, which he touted as special and unique. He also called their merlot “world class.”

Sticking to their guns has been challenging at times, but it is easy to see why Pellegrini has been able to keep their focus on quality wine above all else. The passion that all of their employees have for great wine and the great experience that is learning about new wine through tasting and conversation is the lasting memory of a couple of hours spent there.

The roughly 30 acres of rolling hills, a feature that Larsen said is unique to Pellegrini on a mostly flat North Fork, could make relaxing in their outdoor courtyard with a glass in hand feel like a European getaway. An hour by car might seem like a rigorous day trip, but it’s nothing compared to a six-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean. The experience might not be the same, but at Pellegrini it would be just as enjoyable.

Pellegrini Vineyards is located at 23005 Main Road, Cutchogue. For more information call 631-734-4111 or visit www.pellegrinivineyards.com.

Test results show grounds are sound

David Badanes speaks at a Northport-East Northport school board meeting. File Photo by Eric Santiago

By Eric Santiago

The soil at Norwood Avenue Elementary School is safe for children, an environmental engineer told the Northport-East Northport school board last week.

“I would expect concentrations in my own backyard would be very similar to what we found on the school property,” said Paul Lageraaen, the environmental services department manager for H2M architects + engineers.

Last month, the school board tasked Lageraaen’s firm with analyzing the school grounds to determine if the area had been contaminated with hazardous chemicals out of “an abundance of caution, and in response to low levels of contaminants found in the soil of a neighboring farming property proposed to be developed into a winery,” according to a statement from Superintendent Robert Banzer. Dust from a property that is proposed to be developed into a vineyard next to the school may have fallen on school grounds while the land was being cleared out, officials said. Lageraaen presented the firm’s findings at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

Of the dozens of herbicides, metals and pesticides tested, only one was discovered at noteworthy concentrations. Arsenic, a common ingredient in pesticides before it was banned in 1991, was found at moderate levels in the northwest corner of the school. The proposed vineyard property is along the school’s eastern border.

This was not a great concern to Lageraaen.

H2M tested its soil samples against New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation Regulations Part 375. According to these regulations, residential areas should have a maximum arsenic concentration of 16 parts per million (PPM). The sample from that corner of the school was analyzed at 17 PPM. This was one of 16 samples taken from across the school grounds. The rest all tested below this level.

Lageraaen pointed out that regulations are not an actual limit.

“It’s defined as an objective,” he said. “It’s not a hard and fast action level.” This is because there isn’t a definitive consensus for what that level should be. For example, New Jersey regulations say that 19 PPM should be the maximum concentration for residential areas.

But the key finding Lageraaen cited was that were was no sign that soil around the school had been moved, disturbed or contaminated by a dangerous chemical.

“The soils that are at Norwood school are the same soils that have been there for 60 years,” he said. “If I found an area where suddenly arsenic or some other compound was at 100 PPM and everything else was at 15 PPM, then you have to be concerned.”

Once the presentation was finished, David Badanes, vice president of the school board, asked the central question for the board.

“I guess the bottom line question is this: Are the children that are going to play at Norwood safe?”

“Yes,” said Lageraaen, who also coaches community soccer at the Northport fields. “I have no qualms about returning there to coach or my kids playing on those fields.”

In closing out the discussion, board President Andrew Rapiejko said that the board has been in contact with the town about the proposed vineyard, and encouraged concerned community members to do the same.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Fred Giachetti, who owns the property and wants to develop it into a vineyard, stressed that he has contacted local officials and experts to ensure the property is managed responsibly.

“I have never been irresponsible and reckless in my whole life,” he said. “I’m a graduate of Northport High School. My wife and I have been trying to do something that is bringing back the agrarian traditions of our community because we have a great interest in it and a family history. We think it’s a wonderful idea — instead of building more McMansions or condos or townhomes, we could try and bring something back to the community that we’ve lost.”

Musican Bryan Gallo performs for winery-goers. Photo by Chris Mellides

By Chris Mellides

Beyond a gravel-strewn parking lot, a weathervane perched atop a rustic old potato barn stands tall and shines in the warmth of the weekend sun at Clovis Point winery and vineyard.

The neatly trimmed lawn below is home to a number of red tables and chairs that are occupied by families whose children play on the green grass beside the expansive grapevines that stretch for yards.

With the sunlight gleaming on high, I wipe the sweat from my forehead and casually pull down the brim of my hat to allow my eyes to adjust to the brightness of the outdoors. A gray oak barrel once used to age red wine now serves as a makeshift table and a temporary resting place for my camera equipment.

I pull a barstool close to the aged barrel and wait patiently to meet Kelly Bruer, Clovis Point’s general manager, for a chat and a tour of the facilities.

Kelly Bruer, Clovis Point’s general manager. Photo by Chris Mellides
Kelly Bruer, Clovis Point’s general manager. Photo by Chris Mellides

Bruer makes his way from the tasting room nestled inside the 150-year-old building. As I stand to face him, he greets me with a smile and a firm handshake. He asks me if I’m a wine enthusiast, but to his surprise, I tell him that I’d much rather prefer a stout beer or a frothy IPA.

“Sit down, sit down. Be relaxed, it’s a winery,” says Bruer. “Do you want some wine?”

“No, thank you, but I appreciate the offer.”

“Are you sure?” he asks. “I’ve got a nice, light wine that’s good to introduce beer drinkers to.”

After some more convincing I finally accept, and Bruer arranges for a glass of white wine to be brought to the table. At first sip, the effervescent blend tastes crisp with clean fruity notes, rounding out an overall full-bodied flavor.

“The wine that you’re having there is fermented and then it goes to the bottle and it rests a bit; it’s kind of a seasonal wine and we do it every year,” says Bruer. “It’s crisp and it’s light and it’s chardonnay, and if I didn’t tell you it was chardonnay you probably wouldn’t know it.”

A high-ranking vineyard and winery located on the North Fork of Long Island, Clovis Point first opened its tasting room in 2007. Much of the walls and beams of the tasting room and surrounding property remain unchanged since the 1920s and were preserved during the eventual repurposing of the structure.

Long Island’s long, warm summers and cooling breezes permeating from the neighboring Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean make for the perfect maritime climate. And the glacial soils unique to the East End have allowed vineyards like Clovis Point and the other 56 Long Island winemakers to be the largest producers of European grapes in the Northeast, according to the Official Website of the Long Island Wine Council, www.liwines.com.

“It can be a difficult balance for the musician and I do respect that, because I know it’s not just a matter of walking in the door and putting a guitar over your shoulder…these guys practice and
put time into it and that’s an important part for people to realize.” — Kelly Bruer, Clovis Point’s general manager

While the well-versed general manager of Clovis Point has held many titles in the past, including working as a journalist, a sous chef and a commercial lender, he admits to having always been drawn to the North Fork and its vineyards.

“I grew up here on the North Fork, and when I was 12 years old I started working at vineyards over the course of a few summers,” said Bruer. “I never thought I’d come back, but it’s exciting. I wake up in the morning and come to work, and I work in a beautiful vineyard.”

When he took the job as general manager in January of 2011, Bruer was thrust into taking on multiple roles, including a position in operations and in event planning.

Sharing similar responsibilities is Alicia Ekeler, the tasting room director at Lieb Cellars, another North Fork winery with a tasting room located on the estate. Like Bruer, the duties she undertakes can be tiring, but Ekeler believes those duties are rife with their own rewards.

“Three days of my workweek are spent planning all the tasting room events, managing the ongoing music schedule, staffing and scheduling,” says Ekeler. “On the weekends, I am in the tasting room making sure everything is operating smoothly and that our guests are leaving happy.”

And when her guests leave happy, Ekeler is happy. She says that she’s been in this role for just more than a year, but that she’s been with Lieb Cellars for almost two.

The crowd lines up at the counter of Clovis Point winery and vineyard. Photo by Chris Mellides
The crowd lines up at the counter of Clovis Point winery and vineyard. Photo by Chris Mellides

Something else that Bruer and Ekeler share  outside of their study of the culinary arts is their enthusiasm towards working with local musicians and affording them the opportunity to perform at their respective vineyards.

When selecting artists to feature at Clovis Point’s tasting room events, Bruer says that while originality and playing skill are important, it is vital for scheduled performers to understand that their live music should only add to the warm atmosphere rather than become the main focus of the day’s event.

“Explaining the wine and introducing people to the wine, that’s the more important thing,” says Bruer. “It can be a difficult balance for the musician and I do respect that, because I know it’s not just a matter of walking in the door and putting a guitar over your shoulder … these guys practice and put time into it and that’s an important part for people to realize.”

No stranger to Long Island’s winery scene, local musician Bryan Gallo shuffles into Clovis Point’s tasting room patio and examines his playing space. While sipping wine from a tulip-shaped glass he turns to face his audience.

Donned in black horn-rimmed glasses and a plaid button-down shirt, Gallo cheerily greets the crowd at Clovis Point. The Suffolk County native has performed at the vineyard several times over the last three years, so for many of the vineyard’s guests, this wasn’t the first time they’ve been introduced to Gallo and his music.
After tuning his jet-black acoustic guitar, he begins to play original song selections from his 2014 full-length album titled “Party Guest.” Gallo’s playing style combines alternative country-rock with wistful pop music elements.

As he strums his guitar, he’ll occasionally pepper in a bluesy harmonica to accent some of his songs. A sheet music stand faces Gallo and just beyond it are CD copies of his first major album release, along with a mailing list and tip jar that rest on the floor by his feet.

Friends and family joined together to share in Sunday’s performance at Clovis Point. Among those in attendance were vineyard club member and Setauket resident Steven Krinsky.

“We’ve been members of Clovis Point for the past seven or eight years, and we love the wine, we love the owners, and we love the staff. It’s a perfect trifecta,” says Krinsky. “The live music just adds another dimension [and] I think Bryan’s music goes perfectly with the wine and the whole experience of being at a vineyard.”

“It’s a very artistic feel in that you have the chance to spread your wings and do what you need to do and the people at the wineries are incredibly responsive to it.” — Bryan Gallo, Musician

At Lieb Cellars, live performances were first introduced in the winter of 2012 with the launching of the Friday Night Music Series. The series sticks to a rotating schedule featuring local musicians preforming a range of diverse genres from folk rock to opera sung in duet, according to Ekeler.

“We launched it as something for locals to do in the off-season; a chance for them to enjoy the space when it is not bursting at the seams as it tends to be in the high season,” says Ekeler. “We really try to explore different genres so that there is something for everyone every month, and it does not get repetitive.”

Like Clovis Point, Lieb Cellars receives many requests from musicians who are interested in performing at the winery, but those that are booked to play are often chosen because their playing styles are quieter and more relaxed to better suit the tasting room atmosphere.

For active musicians like Gallo, wineries are the perfect venue to learn how to engage with different kinds of audiences, while maintaining authenticity as an artist and receiving deserved compensation for live performances.

“I’ll always reach out to the wineries. Whether the [guests] plan on me being here or not, I feel like it’s always a really good synergistic relationship,” says Gallo. “People have picked up albums of mine because they’re interested, and they ask me ‘Well, when are you playing at Clovis again, or when are you playing at any of the wineries again?’ There’s a relationship there that just works.”

The unique relationship struck between musicians and the vineyards that embrace them is one that remains strong, and one that Gallo believes will endure well into the future.

“We don’t live in a small place, [Long Island] is a hundred plus miles back and forth from either end, so you can play a show out east and go out west the next day and you’re covering brand new ground,” says Gallo. “But out here, it’s just good. It’s a very artistic feel in that you have the chance to spread your wings and do what you need to do and the people at the wineries are incredibly responsive to it.”

Vineyard would be Huntington Town’s first

The property is located on Norwood Avenue. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

A Northport property is one step closer to becoming Huntington Town’s very first winery.

The Huntington Town Planning Board granted the owner of a Norwood Avenue parcel conditional site plan approval on June 17 to grow grapes on the approximately 10-acre property. The board also added a condition requiring a second site plan approval if the owners want to build a winery.

Landowner Frederick Giachetti already has approval to subdivide the residentially-zoned property into seven homes, but decided to take the property down a different direction, his attorney Anthony Guardino told the board at last week’s meeting. Plans for a winery still have to be finalized, but the applicant said he wants to go forward with planting eight acres of sterile corn crop to nourish the soil for the planting of vines later on.

Planning Board Chairman Paul Mandelik prompted Guardino to talk about the vineyard plans. Guardino said Steve Mudd, a North Fork viticulturist, who is credited with pioneering Long Island’s wine industry, would be a partner in the business. Guardino also tossed around some ideas for the winery.

The applicant said he envisions a small tasting room on the property, along with wine-making on premises that would occur in a building that would need to be built. Patrons would be able to come in, taste the wine and be able to purchase it, and the business would also sell local honey, and perhaps some cheeses, jams and jelly. He likened it to Whisper Vineyards on Edgewood Avenue in St. James and said the operation would be “very, very small.”

“I don’t want people to think there’s a catering facility,” he said. “That is not something that is being contemplated now or in the future.”

The scale of the operation was a concern some residents brought up in comments to the board, as well as concerns about the operation’s proximity to Norwood Avenue Elementary School. One woman said she wanted to know whether there was potential soil contamination on the land. Out of the approximately dozen individuals who spoke, many were in favor of the proposal.

“This is a unique opportunity in my mind to preserve open space,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said, noting that there is not much more land left in Huntington Town. He urged the board to move quickly in approving it.

One Northport resident expressed concern about being able to manage the popularity of such a business.

Todd Gardella said he works across from White Post Farms in Melville and has witnessed overflow parking in the area.

“My concern is that this might become something that we cannot foresee at this point in time,” Gardella said.
Alexander Lotz, 20, of Northport, said he’s loved agriculture his whole life and is heartened to see the winery proposal, because it shows younger generations that farming can be done.

“To have someone like Fred present something that’s so unrepresented in our area is inspiring,” he said. “And I appreciate him doing this more than anything.”

Mudd was present at the meeting last week, and spoke to some of the residents’ concerns. He said he’s been on the property and tested the soil, and didn’t see anything concerning with regard to soil contamination. He also committed to staying on the community’s good side.

“We will be right neighborly,” he said. “We will do the right thing.”