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Long Island AVAs

by Staff Writer - A. Heinzman | January 28, 2012

New York State of the United States of America may not be a region an average person would consider for winemaking. When viewing the winemaking industry of the United States, New York State is dwarfed by other states such as California. This however does not mean that areas outside of California are ill suited for winemaking. The fact that New York State is the third largest producer of grapes within the United States and that its wineries have won numerous awards demonstrates the potential of New York wines.

Winemaking in New York got its start shortly after the first settlers arrived, with the first vineyards being developed in the Downstate area. In the mid 1650s vineyards could be found in the general Manhattan area. Small vineyards were also developed on Long Island about the same time. As time passed vineyards in these Downstate areas gave way to civic development. Vines could be found in the Manhattan area in the mid 1840s, but urban development eventually spelled the vines demise. It is important to remember that all early New York winemaking efforts were on a non-commercial basis. It certainly seemed like the future of the wine industry of New York State would be found Upstate.

With the damaging effects of Prohibition and the subsequent Repeal legislation introduced by the pro-temperance New York governing body, New York's winemaking industry was slow to recover from Prohibition. The areas that were first to recover were the Upstate vineyards that had been in business before Prohibition was enacted. Further development of vineyards was restricted to larger vineyards due to the pro-temperance influenced legislation. This was accomplished through unreasonably high licensing and filing fees that only the large wineries could afford. Change would not be seen until the successful Finger Lakes cultivation of Vitis vinifera in the late 1950s as well as the passage of the Farm Winery Act of 1976.

By the mid 1970s, grape growers has successfully pressured the New York State government into adopting winery friendly legislation. This was ultimately seen in the Farm Winery Act of 1976. After the Farm Winery Act of 1976 was adopted into law, winery growth exploded across New York State. Many individuals looked to the more traditional areas of New York State when establishing their farm wineries. Some individuals however looked to other areas of New York State for wine grape production. One such area was Long Island.

Wine production within Long Island is interesting to say the least. No vineyards of any significance existed on Long Island before the early 1970s. Thirty-five years later, the Long Island AVA contains 2,428 acres of vineyards and 50 bonded wineries. These numbers put Long Island as the third largest wine-producing region in New York State, with the Erie and Finger Lakes regions being larger. The dramatic build-up of Long Island wineries can be attributed to several key events.

One of the first modern Long Island vinifera plantings can be attributed to Alexander Hargrave and his wife Louisa. Alexander and Louisa Hargrave had met during their years studying as undergraduates and had continued with higher education. Looking for a means of support, the Hargraves considered entering the wine business as Alexander was familiar with the industry. An added benefit was the fact that winter would provide free time for continuing their education. With this goal set, the next logical step for the Hargraves was to select a site for their business. One of the factors in the Hargraves site selection was that they wanted to grow vinifera varieties. With Dr. Konstantin Frank's success in the Finger Lakes region, the Hargraves realized that New York would work for vinifera. However the Hargraves also felt that the Finger Lakes region was too harsh for the successful cultivation of red vinifera varietals. With greater temperature moderation and a longer growing season, the Hargraves developed a 46-acre vineyard on the north fork of Long Island in 1973. The successful work of the Hargraves did not go unnoticed and with the passage of the Farm Winery Act of 1976, additional wineries were developed. In 1979 three additional wineries--Bridgehampton Winery, Lenz Vineyards and Pindar Vineyards--began operations in the Long Island area. From this point the local industry expanded with additional wineries and additional AVA classifications.

Originally the Long Island region of New York had two non-overlapping AVAs, The Hamptons, Long Island AVA and the North Fork of Long Island AVA. Both The Hamptons, Long Island and the North Fork of Long Island AVAs were established in the mid 1980s. In 2001 a new AVA was established that contained The Hamptons, Long Island AVA and the North Fork of Long Island AVA. This new AVA is known as Long Island AVA and was established for the benefit of regional blending. The Long Island AVA also benefits some wineries that are just outside the perimeter of The Hamptons, Long Island and the North Fork of Long Island AVAs.

The Hamptons, Long Island AVA is located on the Southern Fork of Eastern Long Island and encompasses 136,448 acres of land with 100 of these acres being planted with vineyards. With the presence of the Atlantic Ocean and Peconic Bay, The Hamptons, Long Island AVA has a unique Terroir. Fall winds are warmed by the Atlantic Ocean while spring breezes are warmed by the landmass of Long Island. The result is a longer growing season when compared to other areas of New York State. The soils found within The Hamptons, Long Island AVA are of silt loam and fine sandy loam. This particular soil composition is excellent for agricultural endeavors. Taking into account the various characteristics of The Hamptons, Long Island AVA, it is not surprising that The Hamptons is considered one of the best areas in New York State for the growth of vinifera red wine varieties.

The North Fork of Long Island AVA is slightly smaller in size that The Hamptons, Long Island AVA, but contains approximately 10 times more planted vineyards that The Hamptons, Long Island AVA. The North Fork of Long Island AVA is surrounded by three bodies of water--Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay and the Atlantic Ocean--and as such can be described as a peninsula. While the North Fork of Long Island AVA has similar temperature moderation to that of The Hamptons, Long Island AVA, soil compositions are somewhat different. Soil breakdowns of the North Fork of Long Island AVA show fewer percentages of silt and loam. The end result of the soil breakdown is that the vineyards of the North Fork of Long Island AVA require more rainfall. Irrigation systems are thus installed to provide irrigation when needed. Like The Hamptons, Long Island AVA, old world vinifera varietals grow well in this environment.

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