I rode my bike to the post office this morning, thereby engendering the usual number of stares (it was about twenty degrees so needless to say few people travel around the North Fork by bike in February- unless they have to). Just as I was about to ride away, a young man with a backpack approached. Did I know where he might find a taxi? He had a pronounced German accent. I did not. In fact, I didn’t know if there was a taxi service in town (there is not.) Why did he want a taxi anyway? “I want to visit wineries,” he said, unfolding a map that I recognized as the work of the Long Island Wine Council. I shook my head. That was going to be difficult. He waited hopefully. Where was he from? “I’m visiting New York with my friends,” he said. He’d taken the train to the North Fork (there are only two – one in the morning and one at night) in hopes of seeing some wineries. Back home, he was studying at Germany’s prestigious Gesenheim Institute, home to one of the best oenological programs in the world. He and his brother had their own winery in southern Germany, not far from Alsace.
First, I called Charles Massoud, at Paumanok Vineyards. Charles is not only a terrific winemaker and a true gentleman but he happens to have a (wonderful) bonafide German wife, Ursula. The Massouds also regularly host students from Geisenheim as their interns. “Bring him over!” Charles said, sounding delighted. I explained to Ulrich (that was his name) my plan: I’d ride my bike home, get my car and take him to meet a few winemakers I knew. “Wait in the library- I’ll be back for you.” I said to Ulrich, who looked a bit dubious. Ulrich just nodded as if it were perfectly normal to be accosted by a woman at a post office and taken about the countryside. “I’m a journalist,” I explained, as if that made it that much more logical somehow.
On my way home I called Eric Fry, the winemaker at Lenz. I told Eric I’d found a German winemaker at the post office. “You have all the luck,” Eric replied. Was he being facetious? Eric promised he would give Ulrich a good tasting. Could I bring Ulrich by in ten minutes? Sure, Eric said. (Eric, in addition to being a very good winemaker, is a very good sport.) Eric said he would also call Roman Roth, the German-born winemaker at Wolffer Estate and maybe a few other winemakers too. Perhaps they’d want to meet Ulrich as well. I ditched my bike and got into my car. I drove back to the library and found Ulrich waiting by the videos. “You have a German car,” Ulrich said, looking relieved. He got in my Audi and we drove away. (To be continued).