Long Island wines have never been better, taken as a whole, than they are today. Wines from top producers have gotten even better over the past five years and the wines being made on the other end of the quality spectrum have risen too. From $10-15 everyday wines to $100+ prestige cuvees, with a wide array of grapes and styles being used, there is a wine for everyone.
Visit other wine regions in the world – from Bordeaux to Napa to South Africa to Spain and beyond – and more often than not local wines are served at the restaurants. A friend of mine recently had dinner in Barbaresco and the wine list was so focused on local wines that you couldn’t even get Barolo. If you were drinking Nebbiolo, it was Barbarresco. That’s like a restaurant in the Hamptons only selling wines from the South Fork because the North Fork is too far away.
I’m not suggesting that local restaurants adopt this stance. Nor am I suggesting that they only sell local wines, but having one or two Long Island wines, too often of marginal quality, does not count. It’s not enough.
Now, I know that restaurants need to be able to sell the wines that they have on their lists – I get that. I’ve heard some local owners and chefs say that they cannot sell local wines and that their customers just don’t want them. That is probably true, for a small percentage of their customers. Some people are perfectly happy drinking jug chardonnay made thousands of miles away to pair with their chicken fingers and fries. But, why not find a local chardonnay that tastes at least as good and doesn’t cost much more?
Whether it’s laziness or just lack of interest on the part of restaurants, there are many who simply say, “Local wines don’t work” for them.
There are some restaurants that do support the local wine industry. Restaurants like Southfork Kitchen, North Fork Table, Comtesse Therese, Amarelle, Luce + Hawkins and others have substantial local offerings. Most importantly, they pour local wines by the glass – making local wines easily accessible for diners. These are some of the area’s best, most successful, and in some cases most expensive restaurants. If it can work for these restaurants, it can work for any restaurant.
One reason it works for them is a simple one: the local wineries support the restaurants that support them. Not only do winery owners and employees eat at the restaurants with local wines on the list, but when someone comes into the tasting room asking for dinner recommendations, what restaurant are they going to suggest – the one pouring local wines, or the one without?