In Events & Adventures, Farmers & Friends

   Last month’s newsletter highlighted the Gracie’s staff trip to Long Island wine country. Participating staff members were asked to share their experience on our blog. Click here to read all about it.

Anat Sagi – Front Server

   I used to think that the best wines (those worth serving with a great meal and sharing with friends) are produced by passionate winemakers in far away lands beyond my scope. Then I met Long Island… 

   During this visit, I came to realize that passionate winemakers are everywhere, and have been producing fantastic wines here on the East Coast for over 40 years. Although each winemaker has their own story and style, all were down to earth, authentic, and committed to quality within their craft.

   At One Woman Winery, a very rustic and quaint vineyard, it is only Claudia Purita herself, and one full-time assistant who work to make the wine. It appears that her connection to the land is innate as she draws on her childhood experiences, growing up on the family farm in Italy, to now cultivate the land and to grow grapevines.  All the wines she produces are from grapes grown on her vineyard; some are even hand picked with tweezers! These wines are a true labor of love.

   Another such example is Anthony Nappa at the Winemaker’s Studio. I really appreciate Anthony’s avant-garde methods of creating wines. While playing around with different grapes—perhaps treating white grapes like red grapes, producing an orangey deliciousness such as “Giallo” made from 100% semillon grape—or making a white pinot noir from red grapes, he takes into account the terroir first. The grapes he uses are all from local vineyards. His wines have no additives, so picking the grapes at the proper place and precise time is imperative so that no adjustments have to be made.  In this method, it is just a matter of how long the grapes will ferment and what type of barrel to use as a “seasoning.” While making wines for the Winemaker’s Studio, it’s all about quality over quantity.

   Visiting Shinn Estate Vineyards and meeting both Barbara and David, the winemakers, was a true highlight. I had the pleasure of tasting their Merlot at Gracie’s and knew that they used biodynamic farming methods, I was intrigued from the start.  As you enter, a very tall windmill captivates; moving into the greeting area, the walls are garnished with different painted wood plaques reading such things as “star guided,” “wild,” and “love struck.” As both David and Barbara spoke to us, it became clearer to me why the Golden Rules of the Vineyard are so intricate, beginning with “The vineyard is sacred. It is a place of beauty. It is to be honored and respected.”

   When the couple bought the land and turned a potato farm into a vineyard, they chose to do so in a way that works with the land in accordance with natural instinct. Among their practices is to use “good bugs,” and allow beneficial animals such as rabbits and different birds to live on their land. This system assists in providing natural soil nutrients.

   Their continued practice of developing the land has resulted in being mostly self-sufficient, thereby creating a vineyard that meets its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself. At Shinn, they believe in minimal handling of grapes. They use naturally occurring yeasts from their vineyards to ferment the wines, creating a product that demonstrates who they are from start to finish.

   When we tasted the Shinn Merlot a few months back, we described it as “a warm hug.” Now I understand why!

Kristi Dukoff – Bar Manager

   The best way to sum up my main takeaway from this memorable trip would be “uniqueness.” I was completely blown away by how diverse each of these vineyards’ and winemakers’ outlook on their craft is.

   The towns are charming and beautiful, as was the gem we stumbled across before starting our vineyard tours. The warm, inviting atmosphere of North Fork Roasting Co. was the perfect way to enjoy breakfast and kick off our trip after the drive to and ferry ride from New London.

   Our first stop on the vineyard list was One Woman Winery. This winery has so much character. I recommend seeing it in person to really capture its charm. The tasting room is set up in a shed in the middle of the vineyard. I couldn’t help but take a memory from this majestic and unforgettable venture in the form of a  handmade sign made from an old red wine barrel. It reads: “When it rains, we pour,” and is now displayed in my dining room.

   Shinn Estate Vineyard was warm and welcoming. Their quaint wooden tasting room displays handpainted barrel signs covering the walls. These signs are painted with words that define their winemaking mantra. They encouraged us to pick a word that best described ourselves and take a photo with it. Even now, I get a rush of calmness as I relive this moment. This created a connection between my outlook on life and that of the winemakers. They believe everything is from a bigger belief and that nature will take care of its own.

   Although there were many stops, these were the main highlights of our vineyard tours. However, my one true love in life is cheese! On Love Lane, the cute, welcoming Village Cheese Shop hosted us to the fullest as we tasted and purchased many delights. They had a fantastic selection of local jams and cheeses from all over the world. The shop and cafe was another big highlight on our trip! Memories of beautiful vineyards, ocean views, charming shops, and passionate people who source locally to show off all the colors that the North Fork of Long Island wine country has to offer!

Liz Smith – Front Server

   Even though I grew up in New York, I had never been anywhere near Long Island, nor did I know anything about wine. When I learned about the Long Island wine region in school, all of my teachers spoke about how beautiful the area was and how great the wines were, as well. When I started working at Gracie’s, I was excited to see a few different Long Island wines on the wine list. I was thrilled when given the opportunity to go on this trip because I’ve always wanted to visit the region and it was an amazing opportunity to see where the wines we serve come from.

   I was not disappointed one bit. Everything was beautiful! I am a lover of all things bubbly, so visiting Sparkling Pointe and drinking some delicious bubbles that could compete with those from Champagne was awesome.

   However, I have to say my favorite vineyard was Shinn Estates. The owners, Barbara and David, who work with winemaker Patrick Caserta to produce their phenomenal wines, are both so knowledgeable and down to earth. Learning more about how a biodynamic vineyard works was definitely a highlight for me. I’ve heard and read plenty about biodynamics, but to actually be able to talk to someone who practices it everyday was really special. The way they make wine is similar to how we view food at Gracie’s.

   To them, it was more important what they weren’t doing to the vines as opposed to what they were doing. Through experimenting, they had discovered the best temperature with which to ferment their sauvignon blanc, which is different than that which other winemakers would ferment their sauvignon blanc. They use only French oak barrels because American oak barrels just didn’t go well with their grapes. Learning those things out from trial and error is amazing to me. I also love that they are just about making wine that really expresses their vineyard and the terroir of Long Island.

   The highlight of my entire trip was 100% getting to meet and eat dinner with Regan Meador from Southold cellars. His wines are all so different and out there. Getting to meet and talk to the man behind it was special. Regan brought with him some of his newest releases. One of those was a sparkling lagrein. I asked him how he decided that this native grape to Northern Italy would do well in Long Island. He simply told me that the he felt the climates were similar. The way the island had its different elevations and cooling winds from the ocean reminded him of the valleys in Northern Italy. I find that so amazing to go out and plant a grape that is rarely found outside of remote regions of Northern Italy and say “yeah, I’m gonna plant this in Long Island.” Of course I asked him why he made it into a sparkling and he very casually said, “why not? I just thought it would be delicious that way.” My favorite thing he said was how the wine made sommeliers in New York angry because it was different and they’re so used to having classic styles that they just can’t figure out what do with it. I love that because it was like he was sticking it to the man.

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