The internet is a place of quick judgments and irrational over-reaction. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when the Long Island Wine Council, led by executive director Steve Bate and marketing director Ali Tuthill, met with the Southold Town Board to discuss some recommended changes to how local wineries operate, people lost their minds. Lost. Their. Minds.
Many supposed-longtime wine club members vowed in Facebook posts to never buy another drop of local wine. Others called the plans — which include things like eliminating live music on weekends, one-ounce tasting pours and requiring reservations for groups larger than six — an over-reaction. Some even attacked Tuthill personally, suggesting she “must know absolutely nothing about the Long Island wine industry, what makes it successful or the economics of the North Fork in general,” which is simply ridiculous and untrue. Since her hiring, the industry has made great strides and I expect those to continue.
They have to. If it is to survive long-term, the Long Island wine region must refocus on making the best wine possible instead of making “good enough” wine for the types of tourists who would never buy another bottle of wine from a winery because it limits tasting size to one ounce or because it wouldn’t accommodate a group of 12 without a reservation. Those tourists are the lifeblood of some wineries today, but many — or at least the 15 wineries mentioned at that Town Board meeting — don’t think the old model is sustainable over the long term.
If Bate, Tuthill and the wine council are guilty of anything, it’s of making their plans public the way that they did — or at all.