Serving Local: Recognizing Wine Country Restaurants That Truly Support Local Wine

Posted January 24, 2013 by Lenn Thompson in Features
The wine list at Bonnie Jean's in Southold, NY

The wine list at Bonnie Jean’s in Southold, NY

After spending the late morning in Greenport on Sunday — riding the carousel and getting our son Jackson out onto the ice for the first time — my family and I stopped at Bonnie Jean’s in Southold for lunch. Bonnie Jean’s might seem like little more than another Long Island diner, but it is a new favorite for its affordability, its family-friendliness and for the homemade flourishes across the menu.

The restaurant now has a beer and wine license after operating for a time as a BYOB. It would have been easy for owner Jennilee Morris to offer cheap, not-very-good wines chosen by a local sales rep, but that’s not what she’s done. She’s gone local, serving local libations in a way very few Long Island restaurants do. Three beers are offered on draught, and all three local — one from Long Ireland Beer Company and two from Greenport Harbor Beer Co. The wine is 13 wines long and every wine is local. Every. Single. One.

These aren’t Long Island’s top wines, mind you, but it is a well-curated list of food-friendly, delicious wines that are being offered and fair prices. I’d happy drink any of these and there is enough variety to cover just about any savory dish you can think of.

Why isn’t this type of affordable, local wine list more common on Long Island — particularly in wine country? I can only think of a small handful of other restaurants that come close to this level of “serving local.” Many restaurants that benefit from the tourism created by New York wine. Those restaurants should help the local wineries succeed too.

In coming weeks, we’re going to formalize some “Serving Local” guidelines and build out a section of this site where we will recognize restaurants across New York that we think “serve local” in a real and meaningful way.

One guideline I’ve finalized already is this: If you’re a restaurant within a wine region, at least 50% of your wine list — including by-the-glass — should be locally produced. 

Think about your favorite wine country restaurants for a moment, how many would consistently meet that mark? If so, please let us know so we can be sure to review their list and include them.