Conference Preview: Long Island—More than Just Billy Joel, the Hamptons, or Montauk



Today we have a guest post from Kathy Falbo, CSW. Kathy tells us about her love for Long Island Merlot, and gives us a preview of her upcoming conference session!

“In a single generation, Long Island winemakers have proved that applying passion and skill to the natural advantages of soil and climate can produce wines of harmony and finesse. Few other regions of the world have come so far, so fast.” – Thomas Matthews, Wine Spectator Magazine

The Long Island Wine Region is over 40 years in the making, and one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country. Yet, still so many people are unfamiliar with its world class wines. Just 75 miles or so from New York City, you can find yourself amidst the beautiful, tranquil country side with rows of vineyards, wineries, antique shops, bed and breakfast destinations, beautiful beaches, and local farm stands.

As a native long Islander and having grown up in Long Island, I am so proud to have this beautiful wine region in my own back yard. (Ok, well, not exactly in my own back yard, but about an hour’s drive away.)



The history of this island doesn’t go back as far as you may think. In geological terms, Long Island was born yesterday. It’s fish like formation (so appropriate for the island) took place around 11,000 years ago when colliding mountains, shifting sea levels, pounding waves and Titian Canadian glaciers formed a glacial moraine. Long Island is surrounded by an outwash plain produced about 20,000 years ago by Wisconsin Glacier.

The maritime climate, surrounding bodies of water and the well-drained loamy soils are perfect for growing wine grapes.  Especially on the North Fork where the days are sunnier, warmer and longer than on the South Fork. The North Fork is where you will find most Long Islands vineyards, and some of the most amazing sunsets!

Long Island wines can be identified by their distinct, unique, elegant styles and characteristics that distinguish them from wines made anywhere else.

With over 700 acres planted, Merlot is the most widely planted red grape variety in Long Island.  Long Island Merlot is attracting a lot of attention, as it really seems to be emerging. In fact, it is considered by many of the locals as being the best red grape for this area.



Long Island Merlots are often complex with amazing structure and crisp acidity, making them easy to drink on their own, and extremely food friendly. The maritime climate, long days, cool nights, terroir, cool ocean breezes, and well drained soils give way to fully ripened fruit with plenty of minerality, and graphic notes.

Sharing a similar latitude and maritime climate as France, it is not unlikely to hear a Long Island Merlot being compared to right bank Bordeaux. Though we really are a region all of our own, producing unique, award winning wines.

Did Merlot lose some of its popularity in 2004 after the movie “Sideways?” Just ask any wine professional and most will tell you, yes! Being in wine sales for Paumanok Vineyards (the Native American name for Long Island), it is disturbing to me every time I hear, “Merlot isn’t poplar,” or “Merlot doesn’t sell here!”

Despite the decline in popularity, Merlot is still the 4th most popular wine in America and is rapidly regaining the respect it deserves.

It is my mission to not only help people recognize how far we’ve come as a young wine region, but to understand the quality of all wines coming out of Long Island, and raise awareness of the age worthy, elegant, and delicious merlot and merlot blends we are producing.



I hope you can join me at SWE’s upcoming annual conference, on Saturday August 12th as we look further in to what makes Long Island wines so special. We will compare the different profiles and expressions of Merlot from three of the top producers in Long Island, as well as three other regions in the country.

About the Author: Kathy was born and raised in Long Island.  After 37 years in the dental industry, Kathy’s passion (and thirst, if you will) for wine ignited after a trip to Napa in 2010. After returning from that Napa trip, Kathy began taking some novice wine classes in NYC., and headed to Long Islands wine region for wine tasting every chance she got.

Kathy’s wine career took place in 2012 when she applied for a positon with Paumanok Vineyards as a tasting room “pourer.” From there she registered with the Society of Wine Educators in 2013. Kathy went to Napa Wine Academy for their five-day prep course in April 2014, and proudly passed her CSW exam on December 15th 2014. In January of 2015 Paumanok Vineyards offered Kathy the wholesale/wine consultant position she currently holds today, and is one of the top producing representatives for Nassau and western Suffolk counties.





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