Tag Archive | "South Fork"

Great Grapes! East End Vineyards Have Another Banner Year

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Grape harvesting at Wolffer Estate Vinyards on Tuesday, 10/13/14

Grape harvesting at Wölffer Estate Vineyard on Tuesday, October 14. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

East End oenophiles were elated last year when the 2013 Long Island grape harvest was lauded as the best ever vintage. According to local winemakers, celebrations are in order again, as 2014 is proving to be another banner year for South Fork vineyards.

“The harvest is coming along fabulous,” said Roman Roth, the winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, in a phone interview on Monday morning.

Mr. Roth became the vineyard’s first winemaker in 1992. Beforehand, he worked in the industry in Germany, California and Australia before settling in Sag Harbor.

“2012 was an amazing vintage, ’13 was the best vintage in history—Long Island history—and then now ’14 is looking very close. We had a couple of rains, but it’s still a great, great vintage,” he said.

“We had three great years in a row. That’s really spectacular,” Mr. Roth added. The year 2011 was difficult, he said, but 2010 had been great as well. “Out of the last five years we had four banner years,” he said.

Christopher Tracy, winemaker at Bridgehampton’s Channing Daughters Winery, also praised the quality of the harvest thus far. “It’s been awesome, it’s been fantastic, it’s been a great growing season,” he said on Wednesday morning.

Both winemakers attribute the seemingly excellent crop to the dry, warm growing season, which according to Mr. Tracy, was “perfect” up until the rain that hit on September 30. Nevertheless, “the quality’s been fantastic and the quantity has been great as well,” he said.

Mr. Tracy was not prepared to qualify the best vintages of the past decade, and said he is “hesitant” to discuss the actual wine until it is ready for consumption. He added “there really aren’t bad vintages anymore.” He attributed this to the advance of viniculture and improvements in vineyards.

“There are warmer and dryer vintages that promote different styles of wine,” he said, but there are very few definitively bad vintages these days.

This vintage is being lauded, he said, because “it’s just easy.”

“It’s an easy harvest and pick,” Mr. Tracy said. “There’s no mess, there’s no rot, it just makes life quite easy in terms of the harvest.”

So far, Mr. Roth said the grapes have not been affected by any diseases or disease-pressure but will make “healthy, great tasting wine.”

East End vineyards typically begin their harvests in mid-September, when they start picking the grapes for the lightest white wines.

“The grapes for the lighter, crisper, fresher, more elegant wines are picked first,” Mr. Roth explained. On September 15, grape pickers at Wölffer began picking pinot noir grapes for sparkling wines and the other crisper white wines. “The hallmark of Long Island wines, and Wölffer wines, is to make 11.5 to 12 volume percent,” Mr. Roth said. “Now these elegant wines, with a little bit of acidity, are very fashionable and that’s what our region can produce.”

As of this week, Mr. Roth estimated Wölffer had completed approximately 60 percent of the harvest and the vineyard is now harvesting grapes for its chardonnay and their heavier white wines. The busy pickers at Wölffer have picked all of the grapes for the rosé, which debuted this summer and, according to Mr. Roth, was a “major hit.” “Rosé will be back,” he said.

Mr. Roth added this year’s aromatic whites are all in and described them as “very fruity, very clean, very pure.”

The harvest at Channing Daughters began on September 11 and has been “pretty much nonstop since then,” Mr. Tracy said. As of Tuesday, October 14, the harvesters at Channing Daughters had picked 217 tons of grapes. Mr. Tracy said they look to finish at approximately 260 tons.

At Channing Daughters, the first grapes to be picked are for the light Muscat and pinot grigio.  The last white to be picked, Mr. Tracy said, is their ribolla gialla. The grape-picking season typically comes to a close with the harvest for the cabernet sauvignon, which typically takes place either in late October or early November.

Mr. Roth said there have been some years the harvest went on as late as November 7. He explained as long as there is a good canopy late into the year, the richest red wines will remain elegant and “won’t become cough syrup,” he said.

“The only thing we’re praying for now is that we get to keep sunshine and there’s no more rain,” Mr. Roth said. He explained he looks for extra concentration and dehydration for his red wines, in order to have a higher skin-to-juice ratio he said.

“You know when you have a berry, there’s so much skin and so much juice and when there’s dehydration the ratio changes.  Then there’s more skin and less juice which gets you more color, more flavor, more tannins, more of everything,” Mr. Roth said. “And so now we just hope for a little bit of an Indian summer,” he said.

“For the reds we need two weeks of sunshine, and that’ll do it,” he added.

As Long Island vineyards continue to gain repute in the eyes of wine drinkers worldwide, Mr. Roth said the bar continues to be set higher and higher.

“You just can’t make bad wine anymore, not that I ever made bad wine, but certainly the pressure is there, which is good. It makes you focus; you fight on all fronts. You make sure everything is clean and you work harder,” he said.

After the huge success of Wölffer’s rosé this summer, Mr. Roth said the winery is slated to make “a little brother or a sister of that,” which will be a white blend that will debut in the spring.

Mr. Tracy wouldn’t divulge the specifics of any upcoming projects but said a couple of new projects will launch in the spring. “There’s always something new and exciting happening here,” he said.

PSEG Gets an Earful in East Hampton

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Heller_PSEG Public Meeting 8-26-14_4568_LR

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach, Jr., and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell listened to a presentation by Mike Voltz of PSEG and a public hearing at the East Hampton Emergency Services Building on Tuesday, August 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

There was hardly a spare seat in the house on Tuesday, August 26, for an informational session and public hearing hosted by the State Department of Public Services on PSEG Long Island’s Utility 2.0 Long-Range Plan.

PSEG Long Island, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based PSEG, submitted the plan to the DPS on July 1, and almost immediately came under fire for failing to provide specifics about it as well as its decision to install 50-to-65-foot utility poles through portions of East Hampton Village last winter.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. wrote a joint letter to PSEG, asking that it hold a public meeting in East Hampton because the utility targeted the East End for major upgrades in the plan.

“We believe the Utility 2.0 Long Range Plan needs clarification, detail and public discussion, and we urge a public dialogue for this plan for the Town and Village of East Hampton,” they wrote.

“This is a time my office can hear you, your concerns and take it all into account,” said Julia Bovey, director the New York State Department of Public Services, who hosted the meeting.

And hear from people she did, with many people lining up to once again voice their objections to the installation of the poles.

“They’re an assault on our very core,” said town resident Elena Prohaska Glynn.  “We cannot afford to despoil the landscape. Remove them; bury those lines,” she said to much applause from the audience on Tuesday night.

The new poles have resulted in the creation of two organizations—Save East Hampton and Long Island Businesses For Renewable Energy, a stop-work order issued by the town and even a lawsuit.

Some wore bright orange Save East Hampton t-shirts with “Bury The Lines” written on the back. Many of the orange shirt wearers spoke not about the new plan, but about what they feel to be a more pressing issue: the danger and unsightliness of the new, taller poles in the village.

“It’s not only a matter of aesthetics, it’s a matter of life and death,” said Helen Mendez. “Be the company that you say you are, help us have green solutions. Do what’s safe, do what’s right and bury the lines.”

All three elected officials who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting also called for the new lines to be buried, including State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

“They have been willing over and over again to tax themselves to protect the quality of life here,” he said of his constituents.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell also called for the lines to be buried, to thunderous applause.

Jeremy Samuelson, president of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, gave DPS and PSEG Long Island some “history.” He explained that the public meeting process prior to the installation of the taller poles left much to be desired. The process lacked any transparency or community engagement from the utility company, he said.

“You come back a year later, and you have to eat some crow,” he said to the representatives from the DPS and PSEG. “You guys got it wrong, so that’s the history.”

“The question is,” he continued, “are you going to be our partners in fixing this mess? This thing is an atrocity; I won’t sugarcoat it for you. So the question is: LIPA isn’t in charge anymore. Are you going to help us find the somewhere between $20 million and $30 million to fix this mess?” he asked.

Elected officials and environmentalists also seemed unsatisfied by the lack of consideration for the town’s existing policy. “With regard to the presentation: that is something we would like to see more of, alternatives to fossil fuels,” Mr. Thiele said.

“The town has adopted a very important and ambitious goal,” Mr. Cantwell said of East Hampton’s decision to power all of its community-wide electricity needs with renewable energy by the year 2020. “I would urge that the power sources on the South Fork be met with renewable energy sources,” he said.

Gordian Raacke, president of Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI) criticized the shortsightedness of the plan. “I know you will make sure that while PSEG may not be in the room anymore, they will hear our comments,” he said to Ms. Bovey—about 20 minutes prior to that, it had become apparent that Mike Voltz, the director of energy efficiency and renewables for PSEG Long Island, who gave an overview of the plan, had left the meeting in the middle of the hearing.

“The plan is not a 2.0 plan. At best it’s a utility 1.1. It’s more business as usual and fails to provide a vision for utility or the future,” he said. “Work with the Town of East Hampton, work with us to build a sustainable energy future and we’ll work with you.”

PSEG needs “to be a collaborator, not an opponent,” he added. “You need to propose a better plan.

The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Mr. Voltz, who tried to shed some light on the plan and presented a series of slides and bullet points.

Mr. Voltz discussed items on the five-year plan, including a call to spend approximately $60 million on energy saving steps over the next five years, including providing programmable thermostats to upward of 60,000 residential customers.

The plan also includes a four-year-long educational campaign, at a cost of $8 million, an energy efficiency expansion in the Rockaways, which was explained in great detail as well and a $15 million initiative that would aim to install 6,000 new advanced meters in hard-to-reach locations.

The information on South Fork improvements left much to be desired, according to some of those who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting. In that section of Mr. Voltz’s presentation, he discussed plans to use solar energy, battery storage and programmable thermostats, and also discussed the need for new generators to boost electricity output during periods of peak usage in Montauk, and other places. “They’re very old,” Mr. Voltz said of the generators, “they’re getting worn out.”

South Fork Gas Prices Drop

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.  announced late last week his most recent survey of gasoline prices. According to that survey, South Fork prices have declined $0.08 since the last survey late in October.

Long Island prices have increased by $0.09 cents during the same period. South Fork prices are now $0.03 cents above the state and Long Island average. South Fork gas prices were $0.20 cents higher than the Long Island average in October. That differential has decreased by $0.17 cents since October when it was $0.20 cents.

The Automobile Association of America (AAA) provides for a regional survey on New York State gasoline prices. However, there is no survey solely for the South Fork. Thiele’s survey also includes prices in western Southampton along Montauk Highway.

“The average price for East Hampton and Southampton along Montauk Highway excluding Amagansett and Montauk is now $3.69,” said Thiele.  “The average price for Amagansett and Montauk is $4.09. A gallon of gas on the North Fork is now about $3.59. The LI average is $3.66 and the State average is $3.66.”