The growing season on Eastern Long Island is typically short due to the threat of fall storms (Hurricane Sandy a perfect example of this hazard), and as a result the region favors early ripening varietals. Merlot is the favored red. Cabernet is grown, but success is not guaranteed.
In addition to Barbara, we met with two others who are deeply involved with LISW: Alice Wise of the Cornell University Agricultural Extension in Riverhead, and Trent Preszler, CEO of Bedell Cellars. Alice acted as an adviser to the project and the vintners built on earlier work that she had done for a statewide program. Alice also acknowledges a debt to the program’s Lodi rules and Oregon LIVE. Alice related that one of the best things was that the growers debated the issues among themselves and had to agree on a common set of standards. These standards are not just about working toward being organic but also procedures regarding habitat and social responsibility. One of the frustrating realities of farming on Eastern Long Island is the presence of Downey Mildew and Black Rot for which no known organic fungicides are available. Alice mentioned that copper (which is “organic”) has been used in France, but then suspended when overly high levels remained present in the soil. It is clear that this inability to be fully organic rankles people who are so committed to farming in a sustainable manner, but as Alice said it is not realistic to gamble with an entire year’s crop. Another issue is the management of animals and birds who decimate unprotected vines. This requires deer fences and bird netting. Alice observed that once the agricultural experimentation stations’ neighbor put up deer fencing, they had to as well.