Expanding the Long Island Wine Market

Long Island wines are growing up. It’s been 40 years since the planting of the first grapes among the potato fields and though the number of vineyards remains small the quality of the wine has improved dramatically as has the popularity of the wine.

The number of New York farm-based businesses producing wine, beer, spirits and cider exploded in the past four years, increasing by 100 percent since 2011. Wine Enthusiast magazine even recognized New York as the 2014 Wine Region. But while popularity and respect have surged one thing hasn’t. Lovers of Long Island wines often have a hard time finding the bottles the further they get from the vineyard. The majority of Long Island wines are sold at the winery.

Bob Mate and Dave Ball are trying to change that. The two former marketing and media executives acquired the North Fork Wine club during the summer of 2014 and have re-launched it as the Hamptons Wine Club.

It’s Netflix for Long Island wines. Members can sign up to get 1 to 4 bottles a month, choosing the varieties of reds and whites they want with a cost of $29.99 to $89.99 a month About half of the 48 vineyards operating on Long Island are participating in the club Mate said. You can even gift a subscription.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity for us to take advantage of something we understand and love,” Mate said.

Each month Mate and Ball pick the favorite wines they’ve tasted from the varietals Long Island vineyards produce. These include whites: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Riesling, pinot blanc, gewürztraminer, chenin blanc and semillon, reds: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, pinot noir as sangiovese, syrah and carménère, and sometimes sparkling wines and rosés, which some vineyards produce in limited amounts. Members receive the chosen wines along with a winemaker’s tasting notes and detailed information about each wine.

It’s their way of trying to expand the Long Island market, which remains relatively unknown outside of the New York metropolitan area. And while membership in the club is limited to 1,000 people they will ship anywhere.