snaps episode 04: long island, new york
My boss and I took a little field trip out to Long Island this past weekend, to do some research for work. Our client is involved in the wine industry, so naturally, our research consisted of visiting wineries and drinking a lot of wine. Prior to winning this client, I didn't know that New York had such an intense wine scene, but actually it's the third-largest wine-producing region in America, after California and Oregon, because of its rich agricultural history. I also now know more about the winemaking process than I ever expected to know.
God, I love the French people for the invention of charcuterie. It's just...a plate of excellently-seasoned meat. Absolutely divine.
Winemaking is really interesting because the wines are named for the varietal of grape (Chardonnay, Merlot, Champagne, Cabernet) that they're made from. I don't know why this was such a surprise to me. But it's amazing that so many factors affect the taste, quality, and color. The people here describe Long Island as a “mediterranean climate,” because it's surrounded by three bodies of salt water that moderate the air temperature. One of the wineries told us that they only use French oak barrels to age their wine, because American oak imparted too aggressive a flavor. Winemaking is all about those small nuances that make a difference; an “earthy” or “jammy” taste, a thicker mouthfeel, having light undertones of blackberry or notes of chocolate. I was also surprised by how unpretentious it was. Every winemaker said the same thing: the best wine is the one you like.
This was an especially beautiful winery, and it was the perfect day to visit—vineyards warmed by the summer sun, deep blue skies with clouds idling by.
The house we stayed in, which was nicer than my actual house.
I've never seen such perfect-looking grapes. We were allowed to try them, plucking them right off the vine; round, plump, and sweet. Nothing like grocery store grapes.
This was right at the coast of the Peconic Bay. You know those places that you feel like you just belong? Where the air feels pure and sweet and envelops you like a warm hug, your hair tangles with the salt, and the breeze just slips past you. You can just feel the pulse of the earth and the coolness of the sand as you bury your toes in it, you can smell the salt, see the pink-hued clouds like paint smudges across the horizon, hear the whispers of the cerulean waves reaching up the shore and retreating. Losing yourself with all five senses. Feeling completely tied to one particular spot on earth, feeling like you're exactly where you're supposed to be.
This was one of those places.
Another winery we visited, another gorgeous stretch of green vineyards under a perfect blue sky. This one was built on bluffs overlooking the sea, with smoky mountains in the backdrop and a natural pond where geese flocked. The best of all worlds.
It had a pizza truck roaming around out back, equipped with giant glass panels and a working wood-fired oven. The pizza was unreal. I'm probably going to be hunted for this, but the pizza was better than 90% of the pizza I've had in the city, without question. Perfectly creamy cheese, stretchy salted crust, topped with fresh basil and smoked sausage. Amazing.
This is the Long Island Sound, a “tidal estuary” leading out to sea. It reminded me of my favorite place back home in San Diego, the Torrey Pines Gliderport. I love watching the water roll in, a continuous motion under a soft gradient sky. The word that always comes to mind is “bliss.”
I had no personal interest in wine before this project, but what I loved was meeting people so passionate about their craft, so inspired by the land and everything it has to offer and proud of the fruits of their hard work (sorry). People that could talk for hours about grape varietals and subtle flavor notes in their wine that they've spent years perfecting, and find it endlessly fascinating. Passion is contagious, all-consuming. I'll be lucky if one day I'm that passionate about something.