Tradition is important. It give us structure, purpose, and a way to define the world around us. Sometimes traditions are personal, while other times they are broad and cultural. The wine Industry is uniquely positioned between the dusty halls of a rich tradition, and the blinding lights of innovation. It’s a world that requires constant change, while also holding lovingly onto the past.
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In 2004 a little indie film came out that would change the wine industry forever. Featuring a star making turn by Paul Giamatti, Sideways told the tale of two friends in the throes of a midlife crises, all seen through the lens of a sunny Californian wine trip. Despite several Oscar nominations and one win, Sideways real lasting legacy remains a little more dubious.
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I believe the way to make great wine is to do it as naturally as possible. I’ve practiced this philosophy before the term “natural winemaking” became a thing. Utilizing sustainable and organic growing techniques, allowing indigenous yeasts to flourish and pursuing a path of minimal intervention are all part of seducing the best out of nature, encouraging terroir to express itself. However, the fact remains that winemaking is inherently interventionist – wine cannot make itself out of grapes any more than bread can make itself out of grain. Natural products both, they only exist through the action of human hands.
I have always loved the idea of pairing wine with life. We know wine pairs wells with food, but our memories of that wine often have as much to do with the event or occasion. Wine is experienced with all of your senses. It’s the color in the glass, the taste on your tongue, the candle flickering on the table across from someone you love, the cozy atmosphere and the quiet chatter of voices with your favorite band in the background. Or, how about the big game on TV. Its football playoff season and although most people think of Football and Beer. Why not Football and Merlot!
The region of Long Island has long been an area rich in natural beauty and resources. Before the colonial era, native peoples were hunter-gatherers, feeding off the land that provided an almost unlimited bounty of fish, game and shellfish. It was only after contact with early colonists that they too developed their own form of local agriculture.
Sometimes it feels like the wine world has become overrun with information. Online wine “experts” are now omnipresent, providing information that is often inaccurate. Certified “sommeliers” are coming out of the woodwork, trying to tell you what you should like and when you should drink it. As a winemaker, I thought I’d try and add some clarity to what has become a confusing discussion. There is a better way – it starts with you and your inherent ability to taste and think for yourself. After all, who knows better about what you like than you?
First and foremost, tasting wine and drinking wine are two very different things. Drinking, of course, is something most of us know how to do. Tasting, on the other hand, is something many people believe they know how to do—but, well, don’t.
Since 1973 many people have left their mark on our local wine region and helped to make it what it is today. With only a 43-year history, our present wine-growing district is only an infant compared to most other regions in the world; the result is that many of the early pioneers are still with us. Some stayed for only a short time while others have had a long-lasting impact. All helped to make up the historical terroir of the East End.
In “No Women, No Wine,” I wrote about the roles women are playing in today’s wine industry. There’s a great deal to write about this topic, but I thought it would be best to hear from some of the people that I’m writing about – the women that I work with every day. I’m proud to say that Bedell Cellars has many great women working in important positions throughout the company – from vineyard management and winemaking to sales and administration. Presently, women make up 60% of the overall management personnel at the estate. With such a large pool of talented women working alongside me, I thought it would be best to ask them their feelings about working in the wine industry. Here is what they told me:
The past year has seen women making great strides. For the first time in our nation’s history, we have a woman running for president. If the trends hold, women will make up the majority of voters in 2016. The fact is, without women, no candidate of either party can win the U.S. presidency. It’s also becoming more apparent that without women, the wine industry would be in very big trouble.
It’s rare when a day goes by without another story about the possible consequences of climate change. Many world leaders have called it the greatest challenge of our time. The CIA predicts climate change will be the greatest destabilizing factor affecting U.S. security. Here on the East End, many of us would just like to know what climate change will mean for us and our way of life. As a winemaker, I understand climate and soil are the two most important factors in a wine region’s terroir. So what kind of changes can we expect?
Like a true New Yorker, cab franc is charming yet edgy; it’s resilient and brawny in the vineyard yet needs lots of sensitivity and a gentle touch in the cellar.
By Richard Olsen-Harbich Photos by Illustrator Leslie WangMarch 30, 2016
This article originally appeared in April-May 2016: Issue No. 12 of Edible Long Island.
You’ve heard the stories about terroir. It’s true. All of it.
An ancient grape makes itself comfortable on Long Island.
By Richard Olsen-Harbich Photos by Rebecca ClarkeNovember 18, 2015
This article originally appeared in Holiday 2015: Issue No. 53 of Edible East End.
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.