By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
Congratulations are due to everyone involved in putting the event together, including the Long Island Wine Council, the Long Island Merlot Alliance (LIMA) and presenting sponsor, Wine Spectator. Pulling so many wineries, restaurants and people together is a challenge — and it was met expertly.
Donnell Brown, executive director of LIMA and event director for HARVEST, told me an email "HARVEST was a success because so many people believed in it, and helped to make it happen. Our two charity beneficiaries worked together beautifully, and were deeply involved in planning. The wineries responded to the idea of HARVEST with enthusiasm, and all put their best foot forward for this landmark event It truly was — and is — an event whose time has come."
I wasn't able to attend any of the Friday night dinners or the Wine Salon events durin the day, but I've heard nothing but great things about them so far. If you attended any of those sessions, I'd love to hear about them, so please do leave a comment below.
I haven't heard exactly how many tickets were sold for the grand tasting, which I did attend, but the tent was packed (as you can see at right) and yet comfortable. Anyone who has been to these types of events will tell you that they can get uncomfortable and overcrowded easily, but the space, set up and flow worked really well.
I didn't get to anywhere near as many tables as I wanted, but several wines stood out for me on the afternoon, including Channing Daughters Winery 2009 Scuttlehole Chardonnay and 2008 Meditazion, Jamesport Vineyards 2007 Petite Verdot, Martha Clara Vineyards 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and 2008 Viognier, Mattebella 2008 Chardonnay, and Roanoke Vineyards 2009 Rhyme & Meter Chardonnay.
As the sun set over the vineyard, we funnelled out of the grand tasting tent and over to two others for the gala and wine auction where we enjoyed a three-course meal cooked by North Fork chefs Keith Luce of Jedediah Hawkins Inn and Gerry Haydena and Claudia Fleming from North Fork Table, while drinking some of the region's top wines, including Bedell Cellars 2007 Musee, Pellegrini Vineyars 2005 Reserve, Throughout the meal, auction lots were presented, bid upon and sold, with some going for $10,000 or more.
A final number is expected this week, but $75,000 was raised during the live auction.
For me though, the best part was seeing so many members of the local industry in one place, drinking wine, eating local food and having a great time — together. For at least one evening they were able to — in the middle of harvest, some having processed fruit all day) — set aside the business aspect of their wineries and celebrate the local bounty as a local wine community.
It was as inspiring as it was fun. Long Island deserves an event like this, but I also think it needs one like this. In describing the importance of this event, Brown said "Its importance to the wine region was mainly in its tone. It was a demonstration that Long Island wines are worthy of a dedicated live auction and a sophisticated classy event."
Planning for HARVEST 2011 begins next week, but in the meantime, the entire region should be proud.