Hamptons Late Summer Round-Up
Fiftieth anniversary of the Long Island Wine Region and must-attend charity events.
Long Island Wine Country’s 50th Anniversary
Under a huge white tent decorated inside its interior peaks with ornate chandeliers, the Long Island wine region threw itself a blowout celebration to commemorate its 50 years of existence. The very first winery, Hargrave Vineyard, opened its doors in 1973 in Cutchogue on Long Island’s North Fork. After 27 harvests, pioneers Alex and Louise Hargrave sold their winery in 1999 and it became Castello di Borghese, where next generation winemaker Giovanni Borghese is now at the helm. By the early 2000s Long Island wine country really started flourishing and became the vibrant region it is today with an estimated 60+ wineries, most located along the two roads—Sound Avenue and Main Road—which run east/west along the fork.
Held at Peconic Bay Vineyards on Main Road in Cutchogue, the anniversary gala drew 800 guests for the three-hour event (with an earlier start for the VIP ticket holders). The big tent was arranged with innovatively labeled tasting stations so people could seek out their preferred styles. Big signs hung over seven distinct stations. Near the entrance to the tent was “Long Island Bubbles” with dozens of méthode traditionelle white and rosé sparkling wines. Some excellent choices were Sparkling Pointe 2019 Brut, RGNY Sparkling White and Lieb Cellars 2021 Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc. Right near the two sparkling pouring stations sat Sterling Caviar from California, where guests could have a taste of caviar with various toppings to wash down with their bubbly.
Other stations were marked for their characteristics: “Fresh Fruit” (Sauvignon Blanc, aromatic whites and fruit reds and blends), “Maritime Minerality” (steel fermented Chardonnay and minerally whites), “Shades of Pink” (rosés), and “Fermentation Station” (skin contact and barrel fermented whites, unique bubbly, and pét-nats).
The region is becoming known for its pét-nats (pétillant-naturel wine made in methode ancestrale)—Macari Vineyard 2022 Horses Sparkling Petit Verdot is an exciting example—as well as sparkling from unusual grapes like the Jamesport Vineyards Sparkling Lagrine and RG/NY Scielo Sparkling Riesling. Of course, orange wines are in vogue especially among the 20-somethings and a few of our regions specialists brought out the best of their orange, among them Channing Daughters 2021 Ramato and Wölffer Estate Cellar Series Skin Fermented Sémillon.
The minerally whites (“maritime minerality”) were near the Thatch Island Oysters where Sean O’Brien shucked his Blue Points from his (and Chuck Westfall’s) oyster farm in Great South Bay near Fire Island Inlet. The heaping lobster rolls from Braun’s Kitchen were another favorite of the party. And curiously, so was the chicken pot pie from Cooperage Inn near the rosé station.
Rosés have become ubiquitous in the region—both in the Hamptons and North Fork. Wölffer Estate and Channing Daughters really kicked off the rosé craze in the region and many others followed. Croteaux Vineyards makes exclusively rosés and labels them by their clone; they had Merlot clone 314 at the event. Ev&Em Vineyards brought out their excellent 2021 Classic Rosé. The Laurel Lake Vineyard property was purchased in 2020 by Dan Abrams, legal affairs correspondent for ABC news, and he renamed it Ev&Em after his children.
In total thirty-seven wineries participated in the gala celebration. Wolffer Estate, Channing Daughters and Duck Walk Vineyards came in from the Hamptons AVA, which is one of the region’s three AVAs established in the 1980’s. After sipping bubblies, rosés, and minerally whites, people gravitated towards some of the regions serious red wines in the “Cellar Treasures” station which featured Cabernet Franc, (perhaps the region’s most successful grape), Merlot, (its earlier most successful grape variety), and red varietal wines and blends, now more and more seen in the region. In this treasure department, the in-the-know tasters requested: Wolffer Estate 2019 Caya Cabernet France, The Lenz Winery 2010 Old Vines Merlot, Macari Vineyards 2007 Merlot Reserve, and Paumanok Vineyards 2014 Tuthill’s Land Cabernet Sauvignon.
The final station to explore with the desserts was “Sweet Sips” which included semi-dry styles and late harvest and ice wines. Over the years of writing about the Long Island wine region, I have a few favorites: Paumanok Semi Dry Riesling and Wolffer Estate Vineyards Diosa Late Harvest.
Guild Hall Gala
What a lavish gala it was to showcase the newly renovated Guild Hall, East Hampton’s beloved performing arts center, museum and education center founded in 1931. Three hundred and fifty dinner guests attended, raising an eye-popping $1.1 million dollars for the institution’s year-round interdisciplinary programs.
The evening kicked off with a preview of artist Leo Villareal’s Celestial Garden (2023), a monumental light sculpture with LEDs diffused through a vinyl membrane, The memorizing work, measuring 10 feet by 28 feet, filled the dimly lit gallery space with ever-evolving, colorful abstract patterns. The first of two cocktail receptions was held at Guild Hall’s back courtyard garden where guests arrived to mingle with the artists, among them Julian Schnabel, Ross Bleckner, Renée Cox, and Yvonne and Leo Villareal.
From Guild Hall the crowd then walked a few blocks to Mulford Farm where the second pre-dinner cocktail party took place amidst the farm’s barn structures. Aperol Spritzes were the drink of choice. Copious hors d’oeuvres—jumbo crab cakes, steamed lobster dumplings, spring pea and feta fritters, retro hot dogs in blankets—were served until the bells chimed indicating that the guests should head to the open-air tent nearby which was fronted by a long white runway over the lawns. Over dinner there was a full program of speeches, tributes, and fund raising (40 attendants pledged another $5000 each, part of the capital campaign) as well as bidding on Leo Villareal’s Bloom Nebula, another sequenced light sculpture incorporating LEDs and electronics. The evening ended guests taking to the the dance floor dancing to tunes by DJ MICK.
Guild Hall threw another big fundraiser earlier in the summer, its annual Garden As Art event where guests go on self-guided tours of four magnificent gardens in East Hampton—two of which bordered the Georgica Pond, the prestigious address of the Hamptons. For VIP ticket holders there was a fifth garden to tour followed by a cocktail party with entertainment.
The cocktail was hosted by Cornelia and Ralph Heins on their spectacular estate in Sagaponack with its collection of sculptures dotting their vast garden. With a shellfish-strew raw bar, a separate oyster shucker stand, a tequila bar and flowing rosé, the party was lavish and exciting. Guild Hall’s young artists in residence, The Beatbox House performed. With hip-hop roots, the group has become world champion beatboxers, a musical band without instruments using only their vocals to create percussion and sounds similar to electronically synthesized music.
In one of the most exciting events of the Hamptons season Ferrari fanatics gather annually for the Hamptons biggest car show organized by RAND Luxury, all for a good cause to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation.
The concours is dazzling with the largest line-up of spectacular vintage and new Ferraris, numbering some 80 classic vehicles, with a combined estimated value of over $100 million. Chief Judge Glenn Simon and other celebrity judges inspect the bespoke, handmade Italian automobiles. As if this wasn’t eye-popping enough, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, McLaren, Bentley, and Porsche brought out their new models to tempt the collectors.
After walking through this automobile hall of fame, guests reach the large decorative white tent where luxury wines, spirits, and cigar brands await. Champagne de Telmont, both the Reserve Brut and the Rosé, were flowing on this scorching hot day. Though Telmont is a century-old Champagne house located at 1 Avenue de Champagne in Damery, it recently got a burst of recognition with the endorsement of Leonardo DiCaprio (a minority shareholder). Telmont is made with 100% organic grapes from a biodiverse vineyard. The winery is sustainable and uses only renewable electricity. The French owned spirits giant Rémy Cointreau is a major shareholder in the house of Telmont. Rémy Cointreau also brought out its Rémy Martin and Louis XIII for this occasion.
Oysters were plentiful and perfect to wash down with the Champagne. John Nicholas of East Hampton Shucker Company came with his revolutionary oyster shucker invention, an easier way to split open the oyster shells. He also designed a smart line of oyster paraphernalia, including an oyster tray which allows icy water to drain into a below compartment so that the tray holding the oysters doesn’t fill up with ice melt.
Other premium small batch spirits brands included ONE ROQ vodka and the award-winning Hiatus Tequila as well as Botanist gin from Islay, Scotland. Botanist uses 22 hand-foraged local botanicals from Islay and gained a huge following for its citrusy freshness and its sweet, earthy, floral, and herbal notes.
Grill Hampton Meatfest
The meatiest of Hamptons events is the huge BBQ extravaganza thrown every year in Dan’s Taste of Summer, a series of food and wine events hosted by Dan’s Paper and Schneps Media. Grill Hampton recruits top grill-masters to serve up scrumptious meat-centric dishes from steaks to burgers to lamb chops to chilis. Alex Guarnaschelli—American chef, cookbook author, TV personality and Iron Chef—was the official host and judge with 15 other chefs participating.
Held in East Hampton at The Club House Hamptons on Daniel’s Hole Road, the event found a new home on the club’s large lawn where charming white tents covering the various chef stations formed a giant circle on the grounds. A DJ kept the tunes lively all evening into the afterparty which continued the disco theme. The crowd walked along the circle of tents grabbing bites from the many purveyors, consulting each other on favorites—like Brooklyn’s BBQ Hudson Smokehouse and Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue with slightly longer lines—and sipping Aperol Spritzes and vodka cocktails, courtesy of Aperol and Skyy Vodka.
The event featured all different styles of BBQ and one especially intrigued me. It was from Au Jus restaurant in NYC, which specializes in Oklahoma style BBQ. Owner Patrick Griffin served me a plate of his scrumptious Wagyu Chili made from American Wagyu beef. Delicious. He explained that the Wagyu was the result of crossbreeding traditional beef cattle with purebred Wagyu, giving a taste of the Wagyu’s buttery marbling combined with the American beef’s robust flavor.
Dan’s events, which also include Rosé Soirée, Chefs of the Hamptons, Clambake, and Dan’s Taste X Gurneys, are all ticketed and a portion of the revenues goes to charity. Grill Hampton supports Meals on Wheels of East Hampton. The event was at capacity and 150 VIP ticket holders left with a goodie bag containing Alex Guarnaschelli’s just released book, Cook It Up.
The lineup was extraordinary—1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider Veloce, 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL, 1989 Porsche Speedster, and 1998 Ferrari F355, as well as vintage motorcycles like the 1975 Harley Davidson FLH and the 1980 Honda CBX 1000.
It was a dazzling sight to witness the display of vintage automobiles gleaming under the sun on the great lawn of the headquarters of Southampton Fresh Air Home, a charity serving youth with physical disabilities for 122 years. Three hundred and fifty guests circulated among the displays of cars and motorbikes speaking with the owners, who hoped to secure the guests’ votes for their cars as being best in show. This was the second annual Concours d’Elegance which also featured boutique shopping, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and an art gallery with three female artists (Chellis Baird, ML Kirchner, and Lara Knutson) on display.
The crowd awaited eagerly for the awards to be announced in the late afternoon. “Best in Show” went to the 1948 Tucker Coupe owned by Howard Kroplick. Awards were given in seven fanciful categories like “Cars that Make you Smile”—winner: 1975 Fiat 500 Giardiniara owned by Micheal Grunberg—and “Most Likely to Arrive on Time”—winner: the 2022 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, owned by Laura Lofaro. The event’s founder Rome Arnold was joined by a celebrity NBC TV news anchor Chuck Scarborough, who entered his 1967 Austin Healy into the Concourse.
Summer Gala at the Beach
Situated right on the beach, the Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club was the site of perhaps the summer’s most elegant charity party, a benefit for the Ellen Hermanson Foundation. Guests arrived to sip cocktails and enjoy passed hors d’oeuvres while an electronic violinist serenaded throughout the cocktail reception. From the club’s wrap around terrace deck, they watched a beautiful sunset and a parade of pink fashion. One of the most fashionable dressed in an ornate pink gown, the gala chair Jean Shafiroff greeted the guests before the sit-down dinner.
Still ubiquitous at Hamptons parties, rosé was the drink of choice and at this event the rosé sponsor was Hampton Water, a brand that despite its name is not made in the Hamptons. A blend of French grapes—Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah—Hampton Water is quite a delicious rosé which cleverly advertises itself as “born in France and raised in the Hamptons.” It’s the celebrity brand of Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse, which indeed is born in the South of France through the winemaking talent of the Gérard Bertrand. Considered the king of biodynamic winemaking in the Languedoc region, Bertrand owns or manages thirteen wine estates. He is famous for his rosés and more recently for his orange wines, “born” in his Clos d’Ora estate in Minervois along the Mediterranean.
With cocktails, dinner, dancing, and a beach bonfire costing $800 a person, the benefit raised funds to support the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center in Long Island along with other medical facilities, among them the Bridgehampton childcare medical fund and the Shinnecock Indian Health Center. Under the leadership of Dr. Julie Ratner, cofounder and president of the EHF, the fund has awarded $6 million in grants over the past 27 years.