Last year, my wife and I traveled to the North Fork of Long Island to attend wine camp– 3 days of access to some of the best winegrowers in the area.
If you love wine and have never been to a wine growing region- plan a trip, now!
It is enlightening to see how wine grapes are grown. Visiting a winery allows you to appreciate the effort required to produce wine and to enjoy the passion, of everyone involved in the process.
Every glass of wine you drink afterwards will taste better.
What I learned at wine camp:
Wine growing is FARMING. It it is HARD work and a difficult way to earn a living.
Most wineries are not chateaus but rather modest, generally clean environments for producing a reliable, consistent product.
Wine people (producers, owners, tasting room managers) are fun, patient people who LOVE to talk wine and answer questions, so feel free to ask away.
Vintage does Matter
The vintage year (the year listed on the bottle) is ALWAYS the year the grapes were harvested, not when it is released (available on shelves). Therefore it is a snapshot of what happened in the vineyard during that growing season.
The North Fork has a cool, sometimes cold, maritime climate. Similar to Bordeaux it is greatly influenced by dramatic, unpredictable weather shifts. In 2010 when we visited, winemakers were anticipating a fantastic harvest. For the entire spring, temperatures were moderate, they had plenty of sun, and the grapes were ripening very well. Literally the day we left, a hail storm hit and some wineries lost as much as a third of their crops in one day!
Check your grapes! Europeans have spent thousands of years determining what grows best in a certain area. Most have laws that restrict what can be grown, and how it can be grown, to maintain the integrity of a specific region.
We do not have many of these laws in the United States so you will be well served to ask winemakers what grows best in their region, and stick to wines made with those grapes.
The PRODUCER is important (Look at the name of the winery)
A good producer provides quality and consistency. Many factors are out of their control: weather, temperature, hungry birds, etc. But a good producer can make a good wine in a not so good vintage. And a reputable producer won’t even make wine in a poor vintage!
Read on for some of my favorite producers from the trip: Continue reading