The Lenz Winery
Long Island is mostly known outside the US as a holiday destination for the rich and famous escaping the heat of Summer in Manhattan, swapping metropolis for relaxed, beach front summerhouses of The Hamptons, by glorious beaches and endless oceans. The big surprise is that Long Island has a flourishing wine industry that has been producing wine for the past four decades, in its latest incarnation. The first vitis vinifera (bona fide european varieties) vines were actually planted in 1647 by Dutch settlers and the more recent expansion started in the 80’s following Louisa & Alex Hargraves pioneering plantings in 1975 onto land that had been potato fields.
Whilst Long Island is only 85 miles from one of the largest urban wine markets in the world, Long Island has a well-established farming tradition. It has provided much of the fresh produce for New York’s restaurants and population for many years - its farm stands are legendary in the summer!
The area has a rich fertile farming heritage with a climate that suits cultivation for although it is on a shared latitude with Central Italy, the climate is tempered by the Atlantic, the Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay bodies of water allowing the heat to be reduced in the summer and the winters to be milder. Thus Long Island has a much cooler climate and longer ripening season, the same as maritime influenced Bordeaux. Although it still managed to reach 90 degrees fahrenheit at the peak of Summer 2010!
The Atlantic Ocean does not always bring delights though. In 1985 Hurricane Gloria flattened a considerable number of fledgling vineyards and the torrential downpours of autumn 2005 had a disastrous effect on that year’s crop. Even though they are vulnerable, the grapes and the winemakers, are surprisingly resilient and kept returning in the face of flood and economic ruin much the same as the old pioneers who helped found the country.
The soils of Long Island are also very similar to those in Bordeaux - sandy loam, gravel and in the case of McCall Wines a glorious parcel of clay where they grow Merlot just like the special spot in Pétrus!
“One of North America’s most promising wine-growing regions”
- David Schildknecht
To give you some idea, the area under vine in the whole of New York State wine regions is about the same as Washington State on the North West, or Alsace in the “Old World” - 34,000 acres (13,760ha) with only 3,000 acres (1200 ha) planted on Long Island. So the region produces very limited quantities and therefore highly sought after top class wines that regularly sell out, and are highly prized in the top restaurants in Manhattan.
Today’s winemakers are a generation of travelled wine professionals - some still young but no less experienced - having learnt their skills at their parents’ knees. They all have infectious enthusiasm for their beautiful region and the vines in their charge, and a ‘can do’ attitude which positively encourages experimentation with grape varieties and production methods, all in the spirit of excellence. Yet there is an approachable, warmth and welcome underpinning this technical expertise and some serious investment. There is a real sense of community spirit that resonates with Wine Equals Friends - the Annual Harvest Moon Auction creates a buzz in September to celebrate the start of the Harvest. Sue Chambers joined some of our winemakers in Long Island for this event in September 2011. We hope to put this on our Calendar and take Founder Members there annually.
This region is already receiving critical acclaim and has further, enormous potential. Meet the winemakers: Kareem Massoud at Paumanok, Christopher Tracy at Channing Daughters, Roman Röth at Wölffer Estate, Eric Fry at The Lenz Winery and Russ/Brewster McCall at McCall Wines all of whom are making some fine quality wines in diverse styles from Old World type delicate Rieslings (Paumanok) with fine aromatics (Channing Daughters) to sophisticated Rosés (Wolffer Estate & Channing Daughters) to high end collectable Bordeaux style blends & single varietals (Paumanok, Lenz & McCall) and some stunning DWWA award-winning dessert wines (Wölffer Estate & Paumanok).
Wine Equals is really excited to finally bring these five wineries to the UK and share them with you.
“Long Island continues to impress with classically styled Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc as well as Chardonnay to pair with local lobster”
- Oz Clarke
“Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Merlot do particularly well here and have a finesse, natural acidity and delicacy that distinguishes them from most other American wines”
- Jancis Robinson