Long Island – particularly its whale-tail shaped East End – is merely an infant in its status as a world-class wine region, but the twin forks – a veritable locavore heaven on Earth – are a constant spring of interesting news on the culinary and oenological front.
Take, for example, the North Fork’s small hamlet of Mattituck, which contains the bulk of the nearly 200 planted acres belonging to Macari Vineyards.
Macari – the second largest vineyard on Long Island – was recently named New York State’s “Winery of the Year” by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation’s annual “Food and Wine Classic” competition, but neither its size nor prowess is the reason for my penning this piece.
Enter award-winning Austrian winemaker Helmut Gangl, a consulting winemaker for Macari Vineyards.
This week, Mr. Gangl is visiting from his native Austria to check in on production of his Block E dessert wine, a decadent delight that has been served at the White House for events under both the Bush and Obama administrations, though you needn’t be a presidential guest nor a wine connoisseur to enjoy this ice wine.
In fact, incoming international superstar Marco Pelligrini – who recently moved to Long Island from Umbria to be executive chef of Southold’s new Italian eatery, Caci’s North Fork – is now hand-making gelato using Mr. Gangl’s Block E ice wine.
Only 20 cases currently remain of the 2010 vintage of Block E – made primarily from an estimated seven-acre block of both chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grapes – which Mr. Gangl said has a “tropical” characteristic in taste softening to that of “spring flowers and honey” in the 2011 vintage.
Mr. Gangl is as passionate about sweet wines as he is a perfectionist in their production and on the chilly day of Jan. 14, the visiting Austrian winemaker excitedly took me to where the grapes for Block E’s 2014 vintage – which he said won’t hit the market for three years – is currently being pressed into the sweetest fruit juice I’ve ever tasted.
“This juice is far too valuable” to be marketed in its unfermented state, according to Mr. Gangl, making
my tasting of Block E’s fresh-pressed grape juice as rare a treat as the sight of Mr. Gangl collecting the juice dripping from an enormous steel press outside the “Bergen Road” winery is priceless.
Handing me a crystal wine glass of to-be Block, Helmut Gangl gave me the sincerest of smiles, announcing matter-of-factly that his refined ability to craft sweet wines is not something he “learned at university,” something he shares openly with those who visit his website, http://ganglwines.at
That honor belongs to father Gulius Gangl, whom Helmut gives the glory of being his oenological instructor from childhood.
“I learned all this from my father growing up in Austria,” Helmut said of learning his craft as we finished our glasses of fresh grape juice. “And from this juice comes all those complex flavors you find in the wine.”