The Stoler Report: Fine Wines & Restaurants on the North Fork of Long Island

Wine, wine and more wine. 42 years they’ve been
making wine in the North Fork. So today with the help
of my executive producer Charles I brought together
people in the wine and the food business in the North
Fork because you can’t have wine unless
you have good food. So my guests today
include Jonathan Lynne, who is the executive vice
president of sales and marketing for the wine, which
I’m holding, Bedell Cellars. Tom Schaudel who is the chef
extraordinare on Long Island, predominantly
in Melville and in North Fork. Russ McCall who is
McCall Vineyards, plus he’s in addition
to McCall Vineyards, he happens to have some cattle
that he raises over there. And last but not
least my buddy, my friend, the man
who’s been in business, the wine business, for 32
years in the North Fork Charles Massoud who is
the principal and the proprietor and the co-wine maker with his
sons at Paumanok Vineyards. Charles would you please
open up the wine too.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: Yes sir.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: So
Charles one of the nice things that
happened this year, you told me and everybody
was saying to me, the three of you plus
certain other North Fork vineyards were recognized
by Robert Parker.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: You know, Robert Parker’s one
advocate is perhaps the most influential wine
reviewer in the business, in this country
and overseas, and they just did a major
feature on the East Coast, the title of which was The
Sun Rises in the East and they reviewed a total of
420 wines and we were very fortunate that they-
I mean like Tom said, they told us what we already
know but it’s nice to have the imprimatur of somebody
like Robert Parker on top of it.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: So how
important is the Robert Parker, let’s say, as we
would say the blessing, the good housekeeping
seal of approval. For Bedell, for
McCall, you know.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: It’s
an additional level you know when you go into a
place where they haven’t heard about you or Long
Island and you need to give them some reference
because a lot of people, if they don’t know
enough about wine, they go by somebody
who they respect and you wouldn’t believe how many
people will buy wine just because Robert Parker gave
it a rating of 91 or 92.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Now that’s
people who are buying wine. How about in
the restaurants?>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: Well I
think that there are some people that follow those
reviews and like Charles said, they’ll come in and
they’ll pick out a wine specifically that they
read about or whatever. You know I mean we try and
you know kind of low key that to some degree
because really the difference between an
89 and 91, what is it?>>>MICHAEL STOLER: To a
good vintage in the 42 year of the wine business.>>>ALL: Cheers.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: To Long
Island and the North Fork.>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: It’s the
greatest untold secret of our time.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: But
you’re the new kid in the block on the wine business
because you were always, you were in the gourmet food
business and, but you went into the wine business in
’96. Now Bedell started when?>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: Kip
Bedell founded the winery in the mid 70’s and our family
became involved in 1999 2000.>>>MICHAEL STOLER:
Right, and you started->>>CHARLES MASSOUD:
We started in ’83.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: So how does, how does, as we’ve
said over the past couple years, the North Fork is coming of
age but now it is of age. It’s the ripe age. OK. And how are people
learning about the North Fork and you know I
can see certain people, the people who go to visit
you know the North Fork for the wine tasting, how
many of those people go to the restaurants in the
North Fork or are they day trippers as we might say?>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: Quite a few. You know I always said
that I have a tremendous amount of customers up the island and
nobody ever says to me, hey when I come out and see you
I’ll go to a winery. They always say, when I go
out to visit the winery’s I’ll come and see you. So the wineries are the
driving force out there. We’re the residual beneficiaries
of that success that’s going on.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: I think
the last few years that’s actually what we’ve seen
that as the wineries have become more sophisticated,
as the hospitality side of our tasting rooms and our
weekend traffic and that business has become
increased we’re finding a lot of the restaurants
have become more sophisticated. They’ve grown and become
far more compelling as the wineries have
become a draw.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Now you
were saying prior to the show that what’s becoming
more interesting is more people in New York City,
besides the fact that Robert Parker and
the other ratings, are that people have a
taste of the wines in the North Fork once in a while
but now they’re seeking the wine that they can
buy from the wine clubs. I assume that the three
of you have wine clubs.>>>ALL: Yes.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD:
But I think Mike what’s happening, a lot of them
have come and visited us over the years and
developed a taste for the kind of wines
we’re producing, which is a cool climate wines that don’t have
very high alcohol but they’re very good with food
and we need to follow them. And one great avenue that
we have discovered jointly is restaurants because
restaurants have found that our wines
number one are well priced, number two they’re very
good and they are very good with food, which is
the most important aspect and therefore New York City all of
the sudden has become a major outlet. It’s a little bit like
when San Francisco became the vehicle
for Napa Valley. So we’re seeing a similar
phenomenon take place where you know five years
ago would have told you might shut down our
wholesale business, today it’s going
the other way. Our retail business is
kind of tapering but our wholesale
business is growing.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: How important
is the retail business? Between the
wholesale and the retail?>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: Well
retail stores per se are not strong, we
particularly like restaurants so a
restaurant business is very important because
like a billboard if a company chooses your wine
to serve by the glass it’s like somebody saying we
found the best value. Trying my pinot
noir. And I say, OK fine. And they try it
and they like it.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: So
now here’s the question. Got to hit the little guy
in the corner over here. How do you make
the decision in your restaurant, you have what two
restaurants in the North Fork?>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: Three.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Three. How do you make the
decision on which wines, because as we heard from
both Charles and everyone else, people select wines
based on what they’re eating, different type of food. How do you determine
who’s wine that you serve?>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: Well
I think it becomes a question of
taste and politics. You know I mean we have
X amount of whites and X amount of reds by the
glass and what I like to do is I like to try and
find value in all those price categories because
there’s value in 25 dollar glass of wines
believe it or not. And you know we look at
that and then we look at you know who’s been on the
list lately and you know we try and rotate the list so
you know everybody gets a shot at it. That’s basically
as simple as that.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: And
it’s a small community. You know it’s not like
we have 300 wineries out there. And for the restaurants I
mean one thing that they have found is if the stock
our wines we’re more likely to refer customers to them than if
they didn’t. So there’s->>>MICHAEL STOLER: Are you
saying that if he doesn’t stock your wine- what is this like the
concierge of New York City? Oh you want to go there? I know
of a very good restaurant->>>CHARLES MASSOUD: No, Michael. If you’re at my tasting
room and you ask me where should I go eat tonight I
said you know which of the wines did you want to eat with your
food tonight? And I’ll tell->>>MICHAEL STOLER:
Oh. A fine diplomat. You know when he came from
Lebanon he learned how to be a diplomat. The fact that you know
there are very few wine manufacturers of vineyards
that you have two winemakers who both
graduated Wharton. Now, one graduate in 1970
one graduated in ’96 but you know, an
interesting vineyard.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: We
can’t reverse the time. We are where we are, but->>>MICHAEL STOLER: So how,
what’s happening today? Are you seeing more people
visiting the vineyards? I mean we’re talking prior,
your place has more weddings because you
have that larger facility. Are you seeing more people
going for the weddings? Are you seeing also the traffic
you know to the vineyards on the weekend or during the
week? What’s happening?>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: Well I
mean certainly you know the weddings for us or
a separate category of revenue and business but
the traffic and especially obviously this time of
year we’re in the meat of the summer just after
the July 4th weekend, I think we’d all agree
traffic is tremendous and you know increasingly
we’re getting people to you know make the trek
from the South Fork, the Hampton Fork over to
the North Fork because obviously that’s where the most condensed
critical mass of wineries is.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: But you
bring up an interesting point about the trek from the
South Fork to the North Fork. There’s only one tasting
room I think on the South Fork.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: No. There
are at present I believe two.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Do you
see it as a question and you know this is an
idea on business, do you see people opening
up tasting rooms from the North Fork on
the South Fork?>>>JONATHAN LYNNE:
We’ve discussed it. I think, in fact we’ve
discussed it amongst a variety of vineyards and
wineries to do something jointly, we’ve considered it and
contemplated it independently. It’s not something we
necessarily feel like we need to do. Frankly there is enough
wine retail on the South Fork that caters to
Long Island wines and in particular in some cases
ours that we have the coverage that we
need in that respect.>>>MICHAEL STOLER:
What about your thoughts?>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: I
think Russell had that idea a couple
of years ago. The difficulty is that you need
an anchor on the South Fork. You need somebody who has
a farm to create a farm stand or you need to rent
space and I don’t think the pressure is so high
because most of us don’t have enough inventory
to satisfy what we get already on the North Fork
but down the road I think it’s->>>MICHAEL STOLER:
But you bring up the interesting
subject of inventory. The amount of wine that’s
made in the North Fork as compared to the Napa
Valley is like 1% of the volume?>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: If that
much. It’s very small. We collectively produce about
half a million cases per year. If you draw a circle, Time
Square being the center, take it out to
Montauk and spin it, that twenty seven million
people in that geography, if 10% of them drink wine
that’s 2.7 million people, we can sell each one of
them two bottles a year. That’s how small we are. So
we really don’t have that much.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: And
also I think over the last couple of years as the
reputation for Long Island wines has grown, as we’ve
gotten more support from wine median, wine
critical world, we don’t necessarily need
a physical presence on the Hampton Fork, let’s say
the->>>MICHAEL STOLER: I think the
only reason for the presence in the Hampton Fork
is it’s a venue to go out to. I don’t think it’s something that
really is going to have any->>>CHARLES MASSOUD:
But also we’re missing a large
portion of the people who only go to the South
Fork where we don’t have visibility but you know we
have colleagues who take advantage of it so they have
exposure to Long Island wines->>>JONATHAN LYNNE: And
in terms of restaurants we all have you know perfectly
substantial coverage in the restaurants on the
South Fork as well.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Now
what Tom was saying before prior to the show is that
unfortunately many of the restaurants in the North
Fork or in the South Fork are really seasonal. You know they have to live
for those twelve weeks, the eight to twelve weeks. I know in West Hampton
everything rolls up, the streets roll up
and there’s nothing over there. How do you pay rent for
twelve months of the year and operate a business? I mean->>>TOM SCHAUDEL: Well, it’s
difficult. I mean it has its challenges. You try and amortize
it over three or four months you know and get
that out of the way.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Are
you closed in the in the winter?>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: I close
one restaurant for a month and the other two I close
one day a week but I’m open pretty much all year.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: And
what about your vineyards? I mean the tasting rooms.>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: We’re
closed. I close four months. Because you know people
that come to the tasting room want experience of
how you make wine and our strategy of making great
wine is in the vineyard, when it’s growing, so we can’t
tell a story in the middle->>>MICHAEL STOLER: You can’t
show them when there’s no one->>>RUSSELL MCCALL: No. They want to see what
happens and you make your best wine in the vineyard
by your farming practices and that’s what we do about
six or eight months a year.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Now
what about what I was bringing up
before the cattle. Do you still->>>RUSSELL MCCALL: We
sell beef. About ten thousand
pounds a year.>>>MICHAEL STOLER:
From the North Fork?>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: From my
farm. Our own Charolaise cattle. They are purebred
Charolaise and they’re grass fed and organically
raised and people love that. They come to taste them, they
buy wine and then they buy beef.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: And
they can only get the cattle at the tasting room?>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: Yes.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: So they
have to buy it that way.>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: Yes.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: And is
it also sold like the wine is sold in wine
clubs, can be shipped?>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: No. No.
It’s just the tasting room.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Do
you sell his cattle?>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: You know,
every once in a while he offers me a horse ankle
or something- the stuff he can’t sell for retail.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE:
And I do want to say, Bedell and I think
Paumanok as well, we stay open twelve months
a year and the truth is I find in the deep
winter months, obviously the
traffic is much slower, but you still have a
dedicated group of people that actually, it’s you
know a nice sort of a snowy Sunday activity for
people to do and obviously sitting around we have
a wonderful loft with a fireplace that people can
sit around and enjoy you know a glass of
Cab Franc and chat.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: Yeah I think
it’s not dead in the winter. It’s slower but it’s not dead.
Especially the weekends. Weekends, people have
cabin fever you know no matter how bad the weather
they don’t want to stay home.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: And
also the North Fork is a far heavier in year
round, well residents too->>>MICHAEL STOLER: What’s
interesting also I think which is promoting the
restaurants of the North Fork and also the
vineyards in North Fork is a number of these
events that I see, the day events and some
of the other food events, how important are
they to the business?>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: I think
they were probably more important in the
years when the region was emerging and these were
real opportunities for us to highlight for a broad
audience for people that weren’t necessarily making
our wineries a destination we would have to go to them. But
they’re still very important. And you know the Hamptons
Film Festival is still a place where we like
to showcase our wines. There are these regionally
specific events whether they are food and wine related
or the horse classic or polo. We do take
advantage of those.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: But I
think those are specific events as opposed to,
I mean there’s nothing wrong, I think these
events are basically you know a exhibition for them
to get advertisers and to get people there.
OK I don’t believe it’s there, I hate to utilize the
discussion of a pay per play. OK you could be the
best wine or the best restaurant but unless
you’re going to be an advertiser you’re not
going to be listed or included in that product,
as opposed to the Hamptons film festival or a
different type of event where they, you
know, it’s not really, it’s not 22 vineyards or 23
restaurants tied into that. In addition many of the restaurants
are not from the North Fork, it’s New York City restaurants
coming out there.>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: Well that’s
always been a little bit of a bone of contention for the
East End restaurants. They always have to bring
out some gun from the North and I get it you
know it drags in people from Manhattan out there
but you know if this is a Long Island event you know
do we need Bobby Flay? I mean nice guy you know
great chef but do we need him out there? There’s nice guys and
great chefs out there already you know? I don’t know.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: You see, we have to be careful as
an industry not to confuse who we are with what we do
and therefore some of us have gone to the extreme
where we create like circus atmosphere
sometimes and I don’t think that’s very good
for the wine business. So I think my thinking
is whatever we do has to support the wine,
in other words, I shouldn’t make an event,
and by the way I sell wine, it shouldn’t be
the other way around, I sell wine and by the
way I have a small event.>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: Right. We’re not in the
travel business right. This is not where you go
to hang out and whatever you do is fine. You
go because you like wine, because you want to find
out about the grapes and you find a producer that you
like. That’s what we’re about.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: I think
one of the nicest things about, and I’ve been to every, but
I’ll be at your event coming up, but you know and when
people take the tour and when I take
people out there, when they want to hear
about it and they see the grapes and you know
they understand and it’s explained about the
soil that is similar to Bordeaux and other situations,
it’s an experience. OK. It’s not going out
there just for the wine. It’s to learn and it’s the
experience and it’s the same thing in the food of the
dining. OK. It’s a different->>>CHARLES MASSOUD:
And that’s at its best. Whereas if we bring palm
readers and do Botox at the winery I think it
dilutes what we’re trying to do.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: And I
think for the most part we’ve, I think collectively
in the region, pretty self controlled in terms
of those sorts of things. You want traffic
and you want people, you want there to be
a certain degree of celebratory festivity to a
weekend at a tasting room but you also don’t
necessarily want people falling down and
having it become a circus.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: Which
was probably something that most of you don’t
like doing is you know the Bachelor, the Bachelorette
parties->>>JONATHAN LYNNE: We tend to
put tight controls on them.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: -Tight
control because those are really you know
drink-a-thon events.>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: They can
be to a degree you know.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: There’s
nothing over there. So you know, as I said
we’re in the 42nd year, how do we see
the next 5years? I mean how do you see
what’s the next phase or the growth in the business?
You’ve been around, as I said, 32 years, you’ve been in
the area for many years because your grandfather,
great grandfather, came over from Brooklyn, you
know, that all the good people grew up here. OK. You
know not Lebanon. You know he went
to school in Paris, France. So the question is where
do you see the evolution with regard to
the restaurants, to the wine business,
let’s say 10 years from today.>>>RUSSELL MCCALL: You
know it’s an untold secret and the secret is going to
be out by then in 5 or 10 years people know that the
qualities is coming now, that the wine makers have
discovered that the mistakes have been made and now it’s
better and better every year.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: The vines
are mature, the winemaking is matured. You know we were
talking about the fact that the New York Times recently
published an article about a producer in Northern
California who is adopting a style that is
more balanced, more subtle, more
fruit forward and lower in alcohol so that these
wines are more compatible with food and as I said
I asked my wine maker to write a letter to the
editor reminding the New York Times that that’s
all well and good for California but we’ve been
aware of this and have been practicing this for
in excess of 30 years.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: That’s
our claim to fame actually. I mean, the
point has been made. What happened over
the last 42 years? We’ve learned a few things we’ve learned
to tune to our environment. We’ve learned to
make better wines. Our vines have
become older. We have developed a
network of accounts. I mean it used to be when
Ursula and I used to go and sell wines they’d go
what, Long Island wine? Get out of here.
They wouldn’t have time for you. She would come
home in tears.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: And they’d
say, Long Island, North Fork restaurant? I wouldn’t go there.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD:
And whereas today, sales rep goes
into a store, it isn’t anymore whether
they’re going to buy it’s which and how many. So there’s been a shift
and I think those of us who have dedicated
ourselves to quality like the two gentlemen
next to us and myself, are doing quite well.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: So
how did people learn- OK, you brought up an
interesting thing that people now with
Robert Parker, with the Wine Spectator
and all the others and the promotion and people know
about you from the ratings and the situation, how did
people find out who are in my viewing area,
which are New York, New York City, Great
Neck you know Greenwich, Rye, Westchester
and that market, how do they find where they can
get wines of the North Fork?>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: All of
us I think on our websites have you know store
locators and you know ways to find, I mean that’s
really the best way is to find a producer you like and find
out where they can be found.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD:
It’s word of mouth.>>>RUSSELL MCCALL:
Yelp. On the Internet.>>>CHARLES MASSOUD:
And word of mouth. We don’t have an
advertising budget.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: But
you know that brings up, when I talk about a
number of my shows, especially the
restaurant shows, you know if I would
have asked Tom years ago, you know, Internet, Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter, he’d say are you
crazy. You know, I’m a chef.>>>TOM SCHAUDEL: Need
those signs Eat at Joe’s.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: I mean
this was not something- how important is social
media today having an effect on your business?>>>CHARLES MASSOUD: It’s
becoming very important. It’s not me, I’m not in
that generation but our sons are very
much into it. But you know, there’s something
else, I was at I.B.M. we used to call about
value added partners and we have value added partners
in the restaurants. We hold hands, we
support one another. I think the restaurant
business is very important for our business as you’ve
heard from the three of us->>>JONATHAN LYNNE: And they’ve
both mature collectively over the last you know->>>MICHAEL STOLER: And you
know I said this to Jonathan, I was in the North Fork
the other on July 3rd, the pouring wine in a
place that you opened when it was great at that time
was the Cabernet Franc. It was a Paumanok. They didn’t have McCall, I’m
sorry, they were wrong. OK. But you know this is
you know at least the restaurants are promoting
this and they’re bringing the wines out over there,
which are for the palate over there and
different situations. How important, and
something that I’d like to explain to the
public is the wine clubs. What is the wine club? What’s
the concept behind the wine club and how much
business->>>CHARLES MASSOUD: It’s a
loyalty program basically where you have people who
have signed up to buy your wine on a quarterly basis
or 6 months whatever frequency. And they want to get
your new releases, you have to create
events that are strictly dedicated to them, maybe
sometimes a wine that is reserved for them and
so you treat them with a certain amount of
privilege against which they sign up for being loyal
to you and they buy from you.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: A
member of that they get this fancy new label?>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: This is
our new white wine first crush white, which is a
Chardonnay Sauvignon blanc Riesling blend with the
latest artist series- Mickalene Thomas who is an
extraordinary contemporary artist among other things
did the official portrait of Michelle Obama but is
a renowned contemporary artist and a great friend.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: You
bring up Michelle Obama you bring up the fact that
I know over the years, you know the Governor’s Award
for you a number of years ago->>>JONATHAN LYNNE: A merlot of
ours was poured at the last
inaugural, yeah.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: -The
inaugural and I think that effect of having the
wines poured in different places, being known
at different places, this is really helping. It’s
truly having the evolution>>>JONATHAN LYNNE: Again I think
it’s promoting the notion that up until recently, nascent
and somewhat misunderstood region of winemaking has
matured and has obviously achieved a status that it
can be proudly supported as a wine that supported
an inaugural luncheon and, you know, among other
things for example if you, I’m sure you’ve noticed
because it’s been played relentlessly the I Love New
York campaign the most recent commercial release of which was
the Danny Meyer commercial->>>MICHAEL STOLER: Danny Meyer
and also Russ. Right I mean they promoted Russ.>>>JONATHAN LYNNE:
Right, and Bedell as well. And so and the
region at large too.>>>MICHAEL STOLER: The
wines business and the food business, the
restaurant business, of North Fork has come of
age. It’s not the coming of age, it has come of age and I’d
like to thank Jonathan, Tom, Russ and of
course Charles, the producer, for bringing everyone and I’ll see you next week. ♪♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪♪

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