In his latest piece for Edible East En Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich discusses the unsung heroes of Long Island Wine Country - our expertly skilled and passionate Latino workers.
There’s no doubt wine and music work very well together. Sharing a glass of wine while listening to music over a romantic dinner can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. As a winemaker, music in the cellar soothes my mind, inspires creativity and energizes the workday. Wine and music are there to celebrate life’s most important moments and our greatest achievements. It’s the perfect pairing. But we now know the relationship between wine and music may go even deeper than we thought.
As a student of viticulture, I've been studying soils for a long time. They're not described with the same romantic language as, say, the wines produced from them, but they are profoundly important. To me, soil is the most influential factor in defining a wine region's terroir.
I’ve often said that there are no two vintages alike on the East End – but this year truly takes the cake. After more than three decades producing wine on Long Island I thought there was little that could surprise me. What I saw in 2014 proved me wrong.
The year started off like so many others, with cool temperatures and rainy days. It’s something we see every year and its part of our typical North Fork Spring. Yet by early June it was clear something else was happening. It never seemed to warm up and we weren’t getting that much rain.
By July we were in a full-fledged dry spell. The vines loved it and vineyard managers across the Fork were cautiously optimistic as diseases and insects were non-existent. By the end of August we were in a legitimate drought. The sun was constant, but it never got very warm. One day hit 90 degrees F with many evenings dropping into the 60’s and 50’s. Bad winter predictions were already starting to circulate.
One thing however, was plentiful throughout the entire summer – clear, penetrating sunshine. We had weeks of dry and brilliantly sunny days and our vines loved every second of it. Sunlight is the engine of photosynthesis and the combination of strong UV light and drought conditions throughout July and August powered the vines to new levels of ripeness.
Then, Mother Nature turned on the afterburners as September became one of the warmest on record, pushing the fruit across the finish line. Our crop was plentiful and as harvest began, we saw beautiful sugar and acid balance on all our whites and darkly colored, rich reds. As October progressed, a little rain finally arrived but the story of the vintage was already written. We brought in all of our fruit in pristine condition with extraordinary color and flavor. Cooler nighttime temperatures also led to high aromatic tones and low pH levels, ensuring that the wines would remain very healthy in the cellar.
Making wine on the North Fork is like jazz. Every time you play a song, it’s different than the time before. There’s no question in my mind that 2014 will go down as another great vintage for Long Island wines. As I write this, flavors from the fermenting tanks remind me of what I tasted in 2010 – now largely accepted as the best local vintage in history. Our cellar is filled with delicious jewels.
The factors contributing to a great wine vintage are complex but for 2014 one facet is clear – the lack of rainfall and bountiful sunshine produced some of the best wines I’ve ever seen on the North Fork. I think this vintage - the third great North Fork vintage in a row - continues to validate our region as world-class star in American winemaking. The North Fork is truly a wonderful world.
Since its creation in 2012, I’ve been getting many questions about the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing (LISW) program and what it really means. The good news is sustainability is really quite simple. Agriculturally, sustainability means growing a crop using methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources, ensuring the viability of that crop for a long time.
Ever wonder why dogs like to hang their heads out of car windows? It’s not because they like the view—it’s all about the smell. They’re rapidly processing aromas as the air rushes through their nostrils. It’s how they sense the world, and nothing else gives them as much of a thrill in so little time.
First published in the High Summer 2014 edition of Edible East End
The terms “Old World” and “New World” have been part of the wine lexicon for decades. Old World wines, defined as the product of terroir and tradition, are grown in less than perfect conditions and yield wines of elegance and balance. New World wines, commonly grown in warmer climates, are dark with inky extraction, high alcohol and overtly ripe fruit. This holds true for the most part, except when it comes to a certain atypical member of the New World: Long Island.
There’s no denying the importance of Merlot and Chardonnay in the success of Long Island wine. But in the last few years, no grape has garnered more interest and attention on the North Fork than Cabernet Franc. Merlot may be the most widely planted red grape on Long Island but to me, the most intriguing red variety is Cabernet Franc.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
This past December, Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing (LISW) sponsored a very special visit by one of the world’s leading experts in the field of sustainable viticulture - Dr. Cliff Ohmart.
From what I’m tasting in the tanks and barrels, 2013 will go down as one of the finest vintages the North Fork has ever seen – ranking right up there with 2007 and 2010. It was truly a magical run and we will be enjoying these wines for many years to come. From whites to reds, all the wines are singing out and showing their full colors. In fact, it reminds me of a song…
As a student of agriculture and viticulture, I’ve been studying the topic of soils for a very long time. They’re usually not described with the same romantic language as say, the wines that are produced from them, but they carry a profound importance. To me, soil is the most influential factor in defining a wine region’s terroir; however their influence greatly transcends wine.
When it comes to things such as music, cars, sports, food or even clothes, Americans are adamant about their likes and dislikes. Why is it when it comes to the subject of wine, so many Americans act like a deer in the headlights? How often have you heard someone say, as you pour them a glass of wine – “I’m not connoisseur” as if the need to have a specially accrued knowledge was necessary.
Back when the first vineyards were planted on Long Island, many people “in the know” didn’t believe our region could successfully grow European wine grape varieties like Chardonnay and Merlot. After all, before Long Island, all of the wine produced in New York was in the upstate districts of the Finger Lakes and the Hudson Valley – places that had trouble growing European varieties in the past. Forty years later, we have proved the critics wrong many times over.
It's hard to believe tomorrow is the first day of March and we have already enjoyed so much excitement this year. Earlier in January, we were honored and humbled when our 2009 Merlot was poured at the Presidential Inaugural Luncheon in the U.S. Capitol, making it the first New York wine in history to be featured at an Inauguration of the President of the United States. The overwhelming response resulted in intense media coverage in print, web, television, and radio, including major publications like The New York Times, Huffington Post, Wine Spectator, The Washington Post, Fox News, and more. Owner Michael Lynne, CEO Trent Preszler and Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich were all interviewed on national news.
Harvest 2012 is over and what a year it was! A year that started early and ended early with ripeness levels not seen since the great vintage of 2010. All varieties came in extremely ripe and flavorful – from the Chardonnay to the Petit Verdot - we have bold and beautiful melodies coming from every tank. With the exception of a few blocks of late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, most all of the fruit on the North Fork has been harvested.
Long Islanders have been leading the way for the rest of the country for a very long time. Whether in politics, science, entertainment or most recently, fine wine - mainland America’s largest island is filled with a consummate record of achievement. As a native Long Islander, I’m extremely proud of where I come from. But I also know that many of our most extraordinary stories get lost in the strident sounds of today’s media. This space is usually reserved to talk about wine but I think it’s important to remember the place where we make it and understand the framework in which we live –