New York wine is definitely moving along, and people are becoming more aware of what is now available. The trend is moving upward as wine growers are becoming more experienced.
With the locavore movement in full swing and sommeliers across New York City exalting local vintages, the time is ripe for New York wines. But as the Empire State’s best vintages struggle to find their place on menus (and in consumers’ awareness), it’s hard to understand why New York City isn’t following its traditions of supporting local agriculture and vintners as it does with greenmarkets—and basically all of artisan-driven Brooklyn.
In this “Golden Age” of wine, where New Yorkers have more variety than almost anywhere in the world, New York State wines are far too often overlooked. Luckily, many of the city’s somms love the local juice—even if it’s not an easy sell. Thomas Pastuszak is one of the strongest advocates of Finger Lakes wines, carrying more than 30 Rieslings on his list at The NoMad.
Pastuszak spent eight years in the region while studying at Cornell, working in hospitality, and learning about the area’s wines along the way. It’s a young region, and not all its wine is the greatest, but certain wines are of the highest caliber. By supporting the best of the region on his wine list, he is promoting the area and also taking the opportunity to encourage producers to “step up their game.” Only by consistently producing top quality wines will the region gain renown. Although it may still be a long road.
Long Island has produced wine since the 70s, when such pioneers as Louisa and Alex Hargrave and Charles Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards, replaced potato fields with vineyards. Wölffer Estate made a big splash in 2002 when winemaker Roman Roth sold the first Long Island Merlot priced over $100.
But it’s still a hard sell with global competition. “More people than ever are seeking out Long Island wines,” says Richard Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Bedell Cellars. “I think the better question is why are restaurants that market themselves as sustainable and locavore are less than willing to carry that philosophy into their wine list?”
Wine in its diversity is always evolving. First, consumers had doubts about California wine in comparison to European Old World wines. Now, rightly so, consumers have doubts of any wines outside of California, the New York-New Jersey region being included. That being said, I believe the region has some work to do in order to compete with other regions, but they have come a long way and have been able to produce a number of fantastic awarded winning wines … some of which are worthy of being recognized.
Brooklyn is playing its part in the wine game as well. Using local and imported fruit, Conor McCormack is making exceptional wine right in the heart of Williamsburg at Brooklyn Winery. Alie Shaper is crafting a wide variety of delicious wines, pressing and fermenting in various New York facilities but selling in her tasting room/bar Brooklyn Oenology. Hurricane Sandy took its toll on Red Hook Winery, but it’s back open and one of the city’s favorites. In fact, Brooklyn wine lists are embracing local wine to a far greater extent than Manhattan, we expect the Big Apple to catch up soon.