History, Research

Long Island Viticulture

If you enjoy wine then you probably have taken a trip out to the East End of Long Island for the wineries. Surprisingly, these wineries are a fairly recent development to the region. Commercial viticulture stretches far back into antiquity, but here on Long Island it was something that wasn’t familiar until the 1970’s.

Wine-making was something that was associated with regions in California, and France and Germany. The information and technology used wasn’t acclimated to a Long Island environment, and the first viticulturists had to develop their product through trial-and-error. As the region developed, their wine-making practices evolved, from the netting used to protect the grapes to cooling the tanks during fermentation using well water to the actual seeds and soil they are planted in. The local climate benefits from the moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, and Peconic Bay.

There have been several waves of vignerons that have invested themselves in the Long Island wine region. Starting from what are deemed the “pioneers” in the 1970’s including Louisa and Alex Hargrave who decided to plant the first commercial vineyard and winery located in Cutchogue in 1973. A second wave came in the late 1980’s with names like Wölffer, Macari, and Osprey’s Dominion. The third wave in the late 1990’s saw the founding Hargrave vineyard being bought out as well as other takeovers and investments. The fourth wave came in the 2000’s and consisted of small, boutique brands like Roanoke, Grapes of Roth, and Waters Crest.

The Long Island wine region is the largest producer of European wine grapes on the East Coast. Some wines you can find produced in local vineyards include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, Merlot, and Sauvignon blanc. The region boasts of over 90 combined vineyards and wineries with most being located on the North Fork.

Whether you are a oenophile (knowledgeable wine-lover) looking to broaden your palette or a casual drinker looking to have a good time with friends, Long Island wine country provides a satisfactory environment to indulge. Most of the wineries in operation offer wine tours and tastings that can make for a fun weekend for any occasion. Speaking from personal experience, the sights, company, and refreshments make it a trip worth taking to the East End.

Check out these resources on Long Island viticulture and wine in general:

Long Island Wine Country: Award-winning Vineyards of the North Fork and the Hamptons by Jane Taylor Starwood

From Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes & Making Your Own Wine by Jeff Cox

Wine Folly: The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette

Wine Isn’t Rocket Science by Ophélie Neiman


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