After a week in the buzzing New York City, I had to give myself a treat and leave for a quieter and more peaceful surrounding.
The initial plan was to go north to Spring Valley only a 45 mins drive from Manhattan. I wanted to visit the Pfeiffer Center straight away. The Pfeiffer Center is where Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (1899-1961), a close student of Rudolf Steiner(1861-1925) and pioneering biodynamic practitioner, came to live in the mid 1940s until his death in 1961. But you know how it goes … we make plans and at the last minute, plans change. I think plans, in fact, are made to be changed.
With all these meetings in NYC, I had to tidy up all my notes, pictures and update my blog. It is a real job in itself to file up all the documents and addresses one gathers when traveling.
It was quite a surprise to discover that along the way here in North America. When I was traveling and working in Asia from 2006 to 2009, I made sure not to bring any electronics with me, to be as light as possible. As soon as my backpack was too heavy, I used to send a parcel to my home in France. It was quite something to unpack all of that when I came back home three years later. Thirty parcels from all Asia carrying with them the flavour of the country the parcel was sent from.
Most of the wineries I wanted to visit in North America are situated on the West Coast, being mostly in California, Oregon and Washington states.
The only one I knew of before coming here were the Ontario vineyards in eastern Canada. Being in the US now, information about wineries are easier to get and I could collect a few names in the Long Island area (east of New York City) and in the Finger Lakes (north west of New York).
I’m not anymore alone on the road as from now, as Claire from Scotland has joined me in NYC and will travel with me for the next four weeks until we reach California.
Usually, I have to admit I’m more of an independent traveler, but in fact when we think about it, traveling with a partner is going to be more exciting especially when we’ll have to drive through the thousands of kilometers of the middle west. So let’s try that.
Long Island is a bit like La Baule in France or Brighton in England to a certain extent obviously. Wealthy New Yorkers go there during summer time to take a break from the city.
The Hamptons are quite famous on Long Island and if you want to look for the wineries, you have to go to the far end of the island on the South Fork or on the North Fork. Wineries are more spread out on the North Fork because of a warmer microclimate over there. Shinn Vineyards, for example, I’m talking about in the French version of the blog, is on the North Fork. Very few vineyards are on the South Fork as it is much cooler there.
As an island, you can imagine the difficult conditions to grow grapes here as grapes are very mildew sensitive, a cryptogamic illness on the leaves which blocks the photosynthesis process and the normal growing of the plant. Every vinegrower will tell you that downy and powdery mildew are the nightmares of vineyards. In the conventional vineyards, they spray synthetic chemicals 8 to 14 times to get rid of the pressure from this fungi. No need to say that all of these chemicals are to be found in the glass of the consumer thereafter.
Long Island does have approximately 35 wineries on its island among the nearly 300 that you find in the whole state of New York. Channing Daughters Winery was recommended by Pascaline Lepeltier from Rouge Tomate, whom I met the previous week in NYC. The tour of the vineyard was short and intense with the energetic and active character named James Christopher Tracy who is the winemaker and also partner of the winery. A very knowledgeable man, Christopher is preparing the very sought-after Master of Wine Diploma. To give you an idea of the level, there are 279 Masters of Wine (MW) in the whole world today.
One relevant and important thing that he mentioned during our visit is the actual origin of copper and sulfur which is wildly used in organic and biodynamic vineyards. At Channing Daughters, they practice sustainable farming and try to be as environmentally friendly as posssible. It is true that to fight against the downy midlew for example, large quantities of copper are spread on the vineyard. Where does this copper come from …?
The same with the Bordeaux mix, which is made with a copper sulphate base. Same question once again: where is the copper sulphate coming from? Except some volcano in the world where you are able to find natural sulfur in the form you need for your vineyards, usually it has to be mined with heavy machinery and then processed (petrol consumption) to result in the form suitable for your personal use. Large quantities of sulfur and copper are sometimes found in the organic and biodynamic vineyards. These two names (organic and biodynamic) don’t mean the vineyards are clean from any synthetic chemical. The proof is here with the relevant argument made by Christopher.
We finish the visit with a tasting of some of the wines made by him. The choice is huge as they make no less than 29 different wines in a single vintage. A true game of blending indeed. Grape varieties are mostly originated from central Europe and northern Italy. You are able to find here some Blaufrankish, Tocai Friulano, Lagrein, Teroldego Rotaliano, Dornfelder, Sylvaner, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, etc …
The oldest grapes on the estate were planted in 1982. They have 28 acres here in the South Fork and bought 30 acres of land on the North Fork too. This is in order to create more diversity in their wines, which I find already very, very diverse. It is not everywhere on Long Island that you are able to taste a Ripasso or a Solera wine for example. My preference will go to the Sauvigon Blanc Mudd vineyard 2008 made out of 35 year old vines: great citrusy flavours, complexity, refreshing on the palate and fine delicate acidity which is very pleasant.