Sunday, August 12, 2007

Postcard from Long Island: Wine in the Courtyard

I had the pleasure of attending the largest annual wine tasting event on the east coast last week, Wine in the Courtyard, held at the Vanderbilt estate in Centerport, NY. Spread across the cobblestone courtyard and north estate lawn, the tasting brings local restaurants, bakeries, and wine distributors who bring with them several labels -- not all the wine is native to Long Island, though much of it is.

My two highlights of the tasting were pulled pork and barbecue baked beans from Smoking Sloe’s, a one-year old southern and soul food restaurant, and a Sicilian red wine from Feudo Arancio, a nero d’avola. Even on a hot summer night and in a crowd of about 800 people, Smoking Sloe’s warm, hearty, and meaty plate of pork quenched something needy in me. I tried the pulled pork, which needed no sauce, alongside a helping of sweet and meaty baked beans and collard greens made refreshingly piquant with lots of lemon juice.

After many glasses of familiar Californian wines (I just couldn’t pass up a large pour of hefty Coppola pinot noir), I finally landed upon something a little different, a Sicilian red served at just the right temperature, which on an 85-degree day makes a world of difference. The gentleman pouring the wine first swished my used glass clean with a few tablespoons or so of the wine, then served me a nice 2.5 oz. taste. It was slightly chilled. When another taster asked the man why the red wine was cold, he said, “Wine is made to be served at around 60-65 degrees, an on a hot night like this, anything else is soup!”

I’ve been reading that Sicily, unlike the rest of Italy, lost its international wine presence until only recently. But in the past five years or so, the region has seen something of a Renaissance, and the nero d’avola grape is helping bring it there. Nero d’avola is said to be one of the “new” grape varietals coming from the region, and some compare it to syrah. The wine I tried tasted distinctly like dark cherries and red other heavy red fruits.

The event, run by the Rotary Club of Northport, donates all the net proceeds to charities such as The Gift of Life, The Guide Dog Foundation, Polio Plus, and The Ride for Life. Wine in the Courtyard takes place each year in August and tickets generally sell out in advance for about $100 a pop.

Smoking Sloe’s

847 Fort Salonga Rd.
Northport, NY 11768
631-651-8812
www.smokingsloes.com

Feudo Arancio Nero d’Avola, Sicilia
brought to the event by Port to Port Wines & Spirits
395H Fort Salonga Rd.
Northport, NY 11768
631-754-8282
www.prestigewineimports.com

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