McCall Vineyard and Ranch occupies the same North Fork land in Cutchogue where the Corchaug Indians hunted, grew corn and built a nearby fortification to guard their precious wampum.
This was the Native Americans’ “principal place,” and today, it retains that physical and spiritual beauty so honored by them. Saved from development in 1996 by Russell McCall, who grew up exploring its woods, and partnered with the Town of Southold and the Peconic Land Trust to protect it forever, the land now hosts a herd of Charolais beef cattle alongside 21 acres of McCall’s pinot noir and merlot vines.
On August 23, this was the idyllic setting for Harvest East End, the Long Island Wine Council’s most important annual event. Sponsored this year by Dan’s Papers, with the Peconic Land Trust and Long Island Farm Bureau’s Promotion & Education Foundation as beneficiaries, the event attracted more than 1,000 snappy locavores, hungry to sample the culinary creations of more than 30 chefs and purveyors while tippling on 200 wines from 37 Long Island winemakers.
Add the numbers, and that’s quite a challenge for anyone who wanted to taste it all.
I saw some people making the rounds with an organized mission: sample anything fishy first, with white wines, then go around again for meat and reds. But this plan was, invariably, a lost cause when faced with the temptation of fresh oysters right next to seared beef. So much for that.
My favorite wine impresario, Josh Wesson, returned this year as MC for the party. Educated at Hampshire College and the University of Rochester’s Graduate School of Community and Preventive Medicine—with a long history as an award-winning sommelier, author and entrepreneur—Mr. Wesson’s take on food, wine and the world is original, quirky and funny. Laughter is absolutely the best medicine wherever Mr. Wesson goes, though he takes his wine seriously and has helped enlighten many a wine ingénue via the simplified system of wine and food pairings he developed for his pioneering chain of wine shops, Best Cellars. Today, among his other global consulting enterprises, he manages A&P’s entire wine, beer and spirits department.
Harvest East End’s honorees this year were New York Times food columnist Florence Fabricant—known to fans as “FloFab”—and chef/restaurateur Tom Schaudel. Both are movers and shakers of the first order in the wine and food world, and have been advocates for Long Island wine from the beginning. In 1982, Mr. Schaudel put Long Island wines on the list of his first restaurant, the wildly popular Panama Hattie’s in Huntington, and has featured them on every one of his subsequent restaurants, from Cool Fish in Syosset to his latest to open, the Petulant Wino in Aquebogue. Mr. Shaudel has fed more than 2 million people between his 30 restaurants, so he knows his food and wine—and plays a mean electric guitar, too.
Ms. Fabricant’s association with Long Island wine goes back even farther. For a Smith College Club tour of (my own) Hargrave Vineyard in 1977, just weeks after our first wines were released, she wrote a wine- and food-pairing guide for Long Island pinot noir, cabernet and sauvignon blanc. I still love her recipe for chicken “a l’Indienne,” made with apples, fresh ginger, curry and lemon, and paired with sauvignon.
I was happy to see that Long Island Farm Bureau’s longtime director, Joe Gergela, was also honored. He, more than anyone, has worked tirelessly on behalf of active farmers here. He understands what it takes to keep a farm economy going, with a depth of sensitivity to our fragile environment and a willingness to affect compromise that, in today’s political scene, is dearly needed. His looming retirement in December will leave a void difficult, if not impossible, to replace.
The sipping and sniffing partygoers paused briefly to welcome Governor Andrew Cuomo, who swooped in to pay homage to New York’s growers and vintners. Like Mr. Gergela, Mr. Cuomo has provided uncommon leadership toward the sustainability of our farming community. To cheers from the crowd, he announced his ongoing support and backed it up with funding for a new initiative to bring tourists to New York’s growing wine regions. Mr. Cuomo said he is excited about the synergy of our farmers with a newly receptive number of visitors who appreciate the quality “grown in New York,” and also enjoy visiting our farms.
To all who attended, Harvest East End was a rousing success. At the end of the evening, as the sun set over McCall’s vines and guests lingered for one last taste, McCall’s white cattle slumbered peacefully in a green pasture by the silently ripening vines.