Anniversary of first buying trip to Long Island! Part 1
15 July 2011
Today is the first anniversary of my maiden buying trip to Long Island. Today I’m actually on a train heading down to the Scilly Isles via helicopter!
One year on: the website is virtually live – watch this space! The Inaugural Launch Tasting is behind us (see Blog 4!) and the wine is being well received by both the press and private clients; hotels and restaurants keen to list, magazine features in the pipeline, first shipment of wine esconsed in our bonded warehouse in Weybridge and deliveries winging their way out!
Visiting Long Island in a business capacity for the first time, having only been there for pleasure in the past, was exhilarating! It was like finding my Element, especially as I managed to sneak in some triathlon training in the sea and a 28 mile cycling route, and some early morning runs in the beautiful sunshine (helped by my disturbed circadian rhythms and a great antidote to jet lag!). The farm stands were bursting with fruit already.
My hosts – as relaxing as ever – Karen Karp and Dick Batten from Karp Resources. Their home had hosted my family (Karen is my son’s godmother!) for several holidays and they were the very reason I was visiting the Long Island wine region in the first place! Karen had been trying to persuade me for ten years to import Long Island wines and introduced me to some of the wineries. It was SO exciting for both of us that I was finally here to research which wineries to represent, taste their wines and forge long-standing working relationships.
Freaky – my train has just stopped at Bodmin Parkway station – where I came with Karen Karp last October to celebrate her birthday, attending Rick Stein Fish cookery school and staying three delicious nights at the Seafood Restaurant & Hotel – stunning experience – great food and invaluable skills learnt. Surprisingly good value including gorgeous dinners, copious wine and good company. Anyway back to the wine and Long Island…
First stop – Eric Fry at The Lenz Winery – recommended by Margaret Shakespeare – a Long Island wine writer and friend of Rosemary George – the acclaimed English wine writer (she wrote the Chablis book!).
He is a great teddy bear of a chap, absolutely passionate about what he does, and allowed a great deal of freedom by the English owner, Peter Carroll, who trusts his judgement for keeping wines in their treasure trove of a wine cellar until Eric deems them mature enough to hit the market. Our current vintage of their Estate Merlot is the sublime 2002, but stocks of this mellow claret-like wine are dwindling so hurry.
Their wines are sublime – very reminiscent of Burgundy and Bordeaux, deliciously complex and structured – unsurprisingly as Eric spent some of his formative years training in Burgundy! It was a great treat going down into his cellar and marveling at all the barrels and his intimate knowledge of each one! His sparkling was superb – one day I’ll persuade them to release some to the UK!! So my nickname for these guys is "The Traditionalists" - no fining or filtering here!
Second stop Paumanok. I managed to get a 20 minute appointment with Kareem Massoud, the winemaker, at short notice. 3 hours later I emerged from his Tasting Room, having met many of his family (Mother, Father, his brother from a distance, as well as his nephew – see below – they start them young!!). I tasted a fantastic range of many of their wines – stunning reds and an amazingly classic kerosene toned Riesling 2008, the likes of which I have rarely tasted outside Germany & Alsace! Also parker-rated rich reds - both single varietal and Bordeaux blends. My nickname for these guys - "The Family".
Running horribly late now, I drove off 10 minutes up the road in Cutchogue and Russ McCall at McCall Wines. Poor man had been waiting for me, and had finally gone home! Fortunately a quick phone call and he was just down the road, so he came back with his partner and grandson! I tasted their delicious Merlot in the newly completed Tasting Barn. I was too late to try their Rosé and Pinot Noir, it was all sold already by June, a good sign! These guys were promptly nicknamed "The Resurrection Specialists" - 200 year old land, producing new wine, specialising in two grape varieties only!
It was the end of the first day – 3 out of 3 – looks like we’re on: Operation Long Island is underway!