A History of Wine on the North Fork

A History of Wine on the North Fork

Modern winemaking began on Long Island in 1973 when Louisa and Alex Hargrave planted their first grapes. They hoped the climate was right for Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir grapes and they were.  Their dream became the region's first commercially successful vineyard. The 1980s and 1990s saw the wine industry begin to expand.  During the early 21st century, the winemaking landscape changed with several takeovers and more substantial investments. Now, as New York's wineries close in on the 50-year mark, it's hard to remember when wine wasn't a part of Long Island.

The Grapes

According to Wines & Vines, wine grape production on Long Island is concentrated on the North Fork. The area is a narrow strip of land 25 miles long and two to five miles wide, surrounded by the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay.  Approximately 2,000 acres of grapes support the North Fork wine industry. With its maritime climate and sandy soil, the terroir is perfect for Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

The Vintners

When the second wave of vintners came in the late 1980s and early 1990s, everyone's focus was on Napa Valley and California wines. There was little information on growing grapes on the North Fork. Its maritime climate was a far cry from the hot, dry climate of Napa Valley.  Much of today's knowledge came from the trial and error of the early entrepreneurs like Paumanok and Pellegrini.  With time, the vintners learned how to capitalize on the unique growing conditions which drew others such as the Macari family and the Osprey's Dominion winery to the region.  

The purchase of the Hargrave vineyard in 1999 by the Borghese marked the next phase in the history of New York wineries.  The Borghese family used growing conditions that mimic the Bordeaux region of France to produce some of the best French varietal grapes.  The 21st century has seen the rise of boutique wineries that produce unique wines on a small scale.

The Wines

North Fork wines have come a long way from those early days when New York wines were labeled as "not very good."  Today, the region relies on Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with white varietals such as Chardonnay and Riesling to produce its awarding-winning wines.  Although the region continues to produce wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, many vintners are moving to blends. 

Single-grape wines must contain at least 75% of one grape; blends do not have that restriction.  Blends give vintners more freedom to create unique wines. Maiden + Liberty (M+L) uses North Fork grapes as well as grapes from the Languedoc region in the south of France to create their innovative French-American blends.  Here at M+L, we are the only North Fork winery that uses grapes from The South of France.

  • M+L French-American white blend.  The white blend is primarily Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of Vermentino, making a light and refreshing blend.

  • M+L French-American red blend.  The red blend relies on the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for its base and combines Syrah and Grenache for a powerful red.

Try an M+L French-American blend and taste history in the making.