This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being invited to Taste Camp East, which Lenn Thompson, the creator of Lenndevours, put together. We did a whirlwind tour of what seemed like 10 wineries in a day and a half. In reality, it was probably only 6, but it felt like more. I thought I would go over some of the highlights of the trip, for those of you that are interested in heading out to Long Island Wine country.
For the most part, my take on the wines of Long Island is that they are made in an earthier french style, sometimes featuring lots of new oak, and sometimes a moderate amount. Most of the wines are good solid table wine reds that would appeal to people who don't like the fruit forward style of California, but who don't mind some oak in their wines. The main problem I have with the area is that the prices these wines are selling for are completely off the charts. Probably because of the swanky surroundings of the Hamptons, these wines have developed a certain cachet, and small quantities sell out completely every year. The wineries have reacted to this demand by raising their prices to levels that rival Napa Valley. So for the most part, I have a hard time recommending very many wines for people to purchase. Most of the time, you can just get better quality wine from somewhere else for a lot less money.
As far as visiting the wineries, there are a few places that I think stand out above the rest. The wineries I woudn't miss are Channing Daughters and Shinn Estate. Both of these wineries are doing their best to make sustainable, naturally made wines, and are not afraid to experiment in the vineyard. They haven't gone quite as far as being fully biodynamic, but they're getting as close as they can. The great thing about spending time at these two wineries, is that the experimentation and artistic passion really come across. You leave these two wineries with a feeling like you've been allowed to tour around inside an artist's studio, rather than just walking through a factory.
So, if you're heading out to the Island, and only want to spend a little bit of time going to cp,, don't miss those two places! As far as wines, there's really one one bottle I can recommend as a great value. This is the Channing Daughters 2007 Scuttlehole Chardonnay, which retails at just $16 a bottle. It's unoaked, crisp and refreshing with lots of minerality and a delicious yeasty quality that reminded me of a really good Muscadet, or a nice bottle aged Champagne. That's not to say that I didn't taste plenty of other very tasty wines out on the Island, but they are almost all way overpriced for how good they are.