Sunday, May 3, 2009

Back from TasteCamp East

Barrel tasting at PaumanokWe just got home from the first TasteCamp East organized by Lenn Thompson and this is the first chance I've had all weekend to post something. Actually, I'm totally wiped from a marathon tasting Saturday of over one hundred wines and five separate wineries (and several more represented) so, this is going to be brief. I just want to put up a few pics and impressions from the weekend.

Before this weekend we'd tried less than five Long Island wines. I was impressed by the overall level of quality of the wines tried this weekend but more so, I was impressed by how attuned the wine makers seem to be with the land. The weekend's featured wineries may not represent the whole of Long Island winemaking but, the philosophy was echoed often enough to indicate an obvious trend in Long Island toward sustainable and bio-dynamic farming practices. Anyone can make wine in a test-tube but it takes a certain commitment and zeal to make it in the vineyard.

David Page of Shinn EstateMacari and Shinn seem to be well on their way to organic certification. The area has it's difficulties which has made it a particular challenge to move away from chemical pesticides and fungicides. The practices at Shinn and Macari are even informing Cornell's organic viticulture experiment which nearly "failed" but has ultimately achieved some success thanks to Barbara Shinn's coaxing. They are changing the vineyard management paradigm over there.

John and Megan at the Bedell tasting barThere was such a number of tremendous wines (plenty so-so wine too) that I don't even know where to start. My tasting notes fizzled after Roanoke where they had the foresight to seat us at a table (note-taking surface) and bring the wine to us (kudos Roanoke). I will say that as an outsider, I think the biggest challenge for Long Island wines is their price to quality ratio. Yes, they are making some kick-ass wines but a lot of them are priced beyond their peers in other regions. Most (emphasis on the most) are staying true to the region and not trying to mimic another style, so perhaps with time the QPR will improve.

shinn vineHaving said that, I think Shinn will be able to fetch a tidy sum for their 2007 Cab Franc once it's released. This is a wine that goes deep. At the end of the day, we found the best QPR for our money at Lenz. Eric Fry wine maker and all-around character*, seems to be on a mission at Lenz. When you visit Eric's tasting room, he will not impose his preconceptions (or your own for that matter) on you by doing anything so covertly influencing as announcing the varietal being poured. That would be mind control and Eric doesn't do that. But wait, there's more: He is a die-hard protagonist against the evil Astrigent Tannins. He has also taken it upon himself to age his wines for consumers (because if he doesn't do it, chances are nobody will). All of this adds up to some mighty fine juice (depending on the vintage). He likes it. We kinda did too.

* Sorry, we were too distracted to capture any photos of Eric Fry


Lenn Thompson | said...

Thanks for coming down to Long Island for the event. It was great seeing you again, B and great meeting you, A.

There are two things that need to be remembered when we talk about the price of Long Island wines (we being the TasteCampers):

1. Wineries pulled out their 'big guns' for us, which tend to be the higher priced stuff. Many make wines at lower prices that we simply didn't taste.

2. We didn't do any blind tasting. No matter how openminded you are, LI wines had a reputation of poor QPR to most people before they got here. Perhaps next time we need to do something a little different!

Taster B said...

Good points Lenn. I saw one or two $15 wines but not having tasted them, I didn't purchase them.

I totally agree with the blind tasting concept too! The thought had occurred to me that you could be the Spurrier of Long Island with a Paris tasting against LI wines...or even a Napa tasting for that matter. :)