Chateau Fuisse has a North Fork connection
“There are no coincidences in life, Oprah Winfrey once said to me, Everything happens for a reason. (She actually said that while sitting next to me in a car in Italy- but that, as they say, is another story for another day.) But it’s a good lead into what I’m going to write about now: a man that I met at a Burgundy dinner I attended in New York- though I think it applies to a lot of what has happened to me since I moved to the North Fork.
I was seated between two Burgundy producers, one who spoke English well and one who did not. As one who studied French for years to very little avail or verbal distinction, I spent most of my time talking to the dapper English speaker, Antoine Vincent, who also happened to be the scion of the Chateau Fuisse family of Burgundy.(Chateau Fuisse) that produces one of the top Pouilly Fuisses in Burgundy and whose old vine bottling (Vielles Vignes) is a truly complex and ageworthy wine. We made the usual small talk about New York. Do you live in the city? Vincent asked politely. I told him I’d moved far east of the city to “wine country” aka the North Fork. Vincent nodded; he knew it well. How was that possible? “I was an intern at Hargrave Vineyards in 1995,” he said. Louisa Hargrave is a friend of mine! I exclaimed. I couldn’t wait to tell her. “Please say hello to her for me,” Vincent replied. “She is a very nice woman.” Yes, she is, I agreed and for a moment we sat in silent appreciation of our newfound bond. You should really come out to the North Fork sometime, I said. A lot has changed since 1995. There are a lot of good wineries now and some very good food. Vincent nodded. Perhaps sometime he would, he replied. A remarkable connection- and coincidence – to life on the North Fork.
Snow on the shoreline
They’re calling for 12 inches of snow starting tonight or to be more precise, “blizzard conditions.” Why are they hedging their bets? Why not come right out and call it a blizzard? It’s so much more dramatic that way- and drama seems to be most of meteorology anyway.
But enough about weather- at least for now. I want to talk about eggs- specifically the organic eggs sold at KK’s farmstand in Southold, which I had for the first time recently. I was walking my dog Rudy this weekend and a man stopped his car and rolled down his window. Rudy approached, thinking he was due a compliment or better yet, a biscuit, but the man addressed me instead. “Are you the one who wrote that article for the Edible magazine?” he said. I was, I admitted. (Edible East End actually though I love the idea of an actually edible publication.) “I’m the caretaker for the farm down the road,” he said. “You wrote about KK’s farmstand in that article. Have you ever had their eggs?” I admitted I hadn’t. “Well, I supply KK’s eggs. Here, have some,” the man said, and reached over to the passenger seat for a cartoon of brilliantly-colored eggs -pale greens, pale pinks and pale browns. That is so nice of you! I managed to say, before he drove away.
The bounty of the North Fork can be found in the most unexpected moments- and the most wonderful ways.
By the time Ulrich and I reached Paumanok, Charles and Ursula were waiting for us in the tasting room. Ursula greeted him in German; I asked her to have Ulrich to spell the name and his family’s winery- never mind he’d been speaking perfectly good English to me for the past hour. (I’d ascertained- somewhere between the dump and Paumanok that Ulrich and his brother ran a small winery in southern Germany called Weingut Gehrihof.) The two of them produce an enormous ranges of wines, including sparkling Riesling, Pinot Gris which Ulrich called “Pinot Grigio,” and Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Riesling and Blaufrankisch and about seven other grapes I can’t remember. And they did all this on only seven hectares of land- or around 15 acres. “That’s a lot of grapes,” I gaped. Alas, I couldn’t taste any of them. Weingut Gehrihof didn’t export. “We only sell locally,” Ulrich said. “But you should come visit us.” Ulrich had also told me he’d been much impressed by Lenz wines and thought Eric was a very good winemaker (I didn’t ask what he thought of Eric’s politics.) He’d liked the Riesling of Raphael but hadn’t gotten to spend as much time with Rich – and neither Roman Roth or Chris Tracy were in town, alas.
When I waved goodbye to Ulrich at Paumanok, he was standing between Ursula and Charles, looking as if he’d known them forever. I felt sad about meeting- and leaving -him so abruptly but there weren’t two people I’d be happier to serve as his last impression of the North Fork.
Postscript: Charles and Ursula both wrote to tell me they’d enjoyed their time and tasting with Ulrich and that he was a very interesting young man. But Charles made a very good point. There has been a lot of talk lately from the MTA about suspending rail service out to the North Fork until the late summer and then only on weekends. Never mind that the region pays millions in taxes and the region’s commuters would be left largely stranded. If there are no longer going to be any trains, how could the next German winemaker- or any lover of wine- find their way out to the North Fork next time?
The Ongoing Story of the Lost German Winemaker with the Large Backpack (see Part One below)
I dropped Ulrich, the wandering German winemaker, off at Lenz Winery and winemaker Eric Fry promised to give him a “complete tour” and I arranged to pick him up within the hour, when I was driving west towards New York. I’d drop him off for a meeting with Charles Massoud at Paumanok and, well, if anything came up between now and then, Eric was in charge.
Eric called me an hour later to report he’d passed Ulrich to Rich Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Raphael Winery (just across the street from Lenz). I could pick him up there. I found Ulrich in the barrel room; they were about to taste Rich’s Riesling. “I didn’t know you made Riesling,” I said to Rich- who I hadn’t seen in a while. But we didn’t have time to chat. I needed to get Ulrich to the Massouds before they left for the city.
But first, we had to stop at the dump. “This is what people do in the country,” I explained to Ulrich, who merely nodded, as if the events as they were unfolding, didn’t surprise him at all. “There is no garbage pick up around here; you have to do it yourself,” I nattered on. Ulrich was impassive. “Don’t worry you don’t have to help.” I said, dragging out my garbage, my bottles, my newspapers. I waved to the Man in Charge who waved back. I was a Dump Regular after all. “Of course I will,” said Ulrich. And then we were on our way to Paumanok. Although it was almost two o’clock, Ulrich had yet to have lunch. He was a bit hungry, Ulrich confessed. What was in that giant backpack of his if not a sandwich or five, I wondered – but I didn’t ask. “Don’t worry. Ursula is one of the world’s great cooks,” I told Ulrich. “No one has ever left her house or her winery hungry.”
(To be continued)
The best place to find a winemaker?
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).
Snow Would be better than this Bitter Cold
This is the time of year when the talk on the Fork turns almost exclusively to weather- at least among the people I know. And ‘brutal’ is the term I hear most commonly employed. “The cold is brutal,” we’ll say to one another, as if the outside temperature (currently a steady sixteen degrees) wasn’t just weather but a terrible, boorish presence bent on ruining the substance of our days. And, I suppose, in many ways, that it truly has – save for the hardiest souls like my friend Louisa, who will (still) go walking on the beach, admiring the water, exclaiming at the beauty – to nobody’s ears but her own.
Or at least I’m assuming that Louisa, won’t have much company out on the beach. Instead, others have told me, thanks to the cold, all the things that they can no longer do: including bike to the post office, go for a walk or even, in some extreme cases, get out of bed.(My friend who told me this said she has dedicated this period of intense cold to watching the Food Channel instead.) Of course I also have friends who have used the weather as a reason to get out of town, to places that are either warmer and colder. (Yes, the latter really is true.) I’m staying put- for now- and having dinner parties with friends. Like the dinner I’ll be attending this evening- I’ll bring the wine (as I almost always do) – probably a bottle of Samling, a Slovenian wine I discovered in the course of writing a story for The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. Even though my friends are in the wine business too, they’re likely to all be cooking- they’re very good cooks. That is, of course, something else can be done in the cold. Cooking. Or baking. I could bake cookies or bread- though I will probably go buy some instead. Baking is just too much effort – in brutish times such as these.
A few months ago, I decided to form a wine tasting group, the East End Wine Lovers. It was partly personal- I wanted to meet my new neighbors – and partly civic-minded- I wanted to bring the region’s wine lovers together. Its success (so far) has a lot to do with the enthusiasm and energy of the group’s 65 members, not to mention Carolyn Iannone, general manager of Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck, who I’m convinced knows Everyone Worth Knowing On the North Fork.
There have been two meetings, er, meetups, so far of the East End Wine Lovers. They’ve both been BYOB and both have taken place at Love Lane Kitchen. The first one was a general “bring a wine that you love” and the meetup this past Monday night was dedicated to the wines of Northeast Italy. That seemed to cover a pretty broad range of possible wines that people could bring and that would also pair well with the pastas that Love Lane Kitchen’s chef had prepared.
A stormed churned through just hours before we due to meet (up), with fifty mile an hour winds and rain that slanted sideways (i.e., typical East End weather) but almost forty people showed up. They sported Barolos and Barbarescos, Gavis and several Dolcettos, including a delicious 2007 Prunotto. But the wine of the night wasn’t from Piedmont but the Veneto: The Allegrini Palazzo della Torre- a ripe, robust red made mostly from Corvina (the main grape of Amarone) with a little Rondinella and Sangiovese thrown in for good measure. Four people had chosen to bring it along- making Corvina clearly the new favored grape of the North Fork – and as Allegrini bottling proved, at $20 a bottle, a very good buy.
Maybe someone should tell Chris Tracy, who makes terrific wine from Italian varietals like Tocai and Lagrein on the South Fork (Channing Daughters winery) how much we North Forkers are loving Corvina …