Comtesse Thérèse Owner & Winemaker and lawyer Theresa ("Tree") Dilworth is now a contributing author to North Fork Patch (northforkpatch.com), the online website and newsletter featuring news, sports, events, businesses and deals - everything east on Riverhead on the North Fork. See below for links to her articles:
- Christmas Recipe: Nuts For Nutcrackers, Dec. 25, 2010
- Recipe: Roasted Goose with Local Apple Wood Smoked Bacon Stuffing, Dec. 18, 2010
- 'Tis the Stollen Season, Dec. 11, 2010
- Creative and Free Holiday Ideas for Kids, Dec. 5, 2010
- How to Cook with Local Venison, Part Deux, Dec, 5, 2010
- Recipes for an International Cocktail Party, Nov. 29, 2010
- How to Hunt and Cook North Fork Rabbit, Nov. 21, 2010
- Local Expert: Brining a Turkey, Too Important to Ignore, November 19, 2010
- Maximize North Fork Herbs in Your Cooking, November 16, 2010
Other articles from North Fork Patch:
Aquebogue Bistro Lends its Walls to Art
Comtesse Therese Bistro Opening Only Days Away
News Articles: (click title to view full article, or scroll down)
For articles from 2007, click here
For articles from 2006, click here
For articles from 2005, click here
For articles from 2004, click here
For articles from 2003 and earlier, click here.
- NEWSDAY,"Pairing Wine & Cheese," Lauren Harrison, Dec. 17, 2010
- Fox Business Network, live video, "Room for Wine During Recession", Dec. 3, 2010
- Fox Business, "Can't Keep This Winer Down", Tracy Byrnes, Dec. 3, 2010
- Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide, December 15, 2010
- Wines NY.com, 94 score for 2007 Russian Oak Chardonnay, www.nylocalwine.com
- WinesNY.com, 95 score for 2006 Russian Oak Chardonnay, 90 score for 2004 Hungarian Oak Merlot, 92 for 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon,
- "Wine industry Types: Tips for Doing Peconic Bay Scalllops Right," North Fork Patch, Henry Powderly, Nov. 3, 2010
- Comtesse Thérèse North Fork Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - 2003 - James Meléndez/ James the Wine Guy
- "Comtesse Thérèse 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot: A wine with a story partly about wood", Eileen M. Duffy, EDIBLE EAST END , No. 24, Spring 2010
- "Table for two? That'll be five years" Tangled in red tape since 2005, plans for Aquebogue bistro get the OK, Tim Gannon, RIVERHEAD NEWS-REVIEW, February 11, 2010
- "I, Locavore: Comtesse Terese Merlot," Sarah DiGregorio, Village Voice blog, Tuesday, Aug. 18 2009
- Lenndevours, "Comtesse Therese 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot", Lenn Thompson, January 15, 2009
- The New Napa Valley (in Long Island!), THE NEW YORK POST, Page Six Magazine, November 30, 2008
- "Market for Local Wines Overseas: Local Wineries Enjoy Small but Growing Export Business," THE SUFFOLK TIMES, John Henry, October 30, 2008
- "Meet the Owner: Theresa Dilworth of Comtesse Thérèse, WINE PRESS, Julie Lane, Summer 2008
- "LI wineries say harvest is best in years", NEWSDAY, Mark Harrington, October 15, 2007
Owner Tree Dilworth's live interview on Fox Business Network. Dec. 3, 2010 "Room for Wine During Recession"
Pairing wine and cheese
Originally published: December 15, 2010 2:38 PM
Updated: December 16, 2010 11:29 AM
By LAUREN R. HARRISON email@example.com
Pairing wine and cheese creates another layer of entertainment for guests who may debate which combinations work best, says Dianne Delaney, sommelier and bistro manager at Comtesse Thérèse Winery & Bistro in Aquebogue.
Not all wines work with all cheeses. "The white wines tend to complement the creamier cheeses and, for the red wines, the complex, full-bodied bold wines, need an equally complex, hard, firm cheese," Delaney says.
WHAT TO BUY
Generally, people have three glasses of wine during an evening, but it can vary per person, Delaney says. Since one wine bottle yields 4 to 6 glasses, she suggests buying a mixed case (12 bottles) for a party of 20.While olives and sliced sausage may be perfect accompaniments to the cheeses, Delaney says hosts can certainly keep it simple with a few good baguettes or other simple, crusty bread."No crackers!" she says.
HOW TO SERVE
"When you serve red wine, room temperature is not room temperature." Delaney prefers to serve reds at cellar temperature, about 64 degrees. Keep the whites refrigerated, she says.Having enough clean glasses on hand is important. Delaney suggests at least one white wine glass and one red wine glass per person. "If you want to get really technical, you could have a glass for each of the wines," she says.Cheese should be served at room temperature - let it sit out at least 30 minutes - and Delaney prefers to have a knife with each cheese. "I arrange the cheese from creamy to semi-firm to firm to aged and ending with blue," she says.
WINE AND CHEESE PAIRING
Cabernet sauvignon and Roquefort cheese.
Cabernet sauvignon is "a big, bold grape flavor" with deep cherry color. The grape is from the Bordeaux region, Delaney says, aged in oak barrels according to the traditional style. Look for complex flavors of berries, spice and leather. "A cabernet should be very round and supple on the palate," she says. "It should have a beautiful, long finish with velvety tannins."Roquefort (French) is a blue cheese made from raw sheep's milk, which Delaney described as "big and bold, salty and sweet." Other blue cheeses, such as Gorgonzola from Italy or domestics like Maytag Blue, also work with cabernet sauvignon.
WHY THEY WORK "They brought out both of the best characteristics of the wine and the cheese," Delaney says. "Beautiful, upfront blackberry notes followed by the cheese: big, bold, salty and sweet.
"WINE AND CHEESE PAIRING
Sauvignon blanc and Catapano Chevre
Sauvignon blanc is characteristically marked by notes of citrus with sharp acidity. The wine is generally fermented in stainless-steel tanks, Delaney says. "It is a ripe, refreshing white wine."Catapano Chevre (Long Island) is a fresh, goat's milk cheese from Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic, sold at the Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck as well as many local cheese counters - and at the dairy itself. " a fresh, local goat's milk cheese. It was just soft, white and creamy and very mild," Delaney says. Coach Farm is another widely available brand of fresh goat's cheese from the Hudson Valley
WHY THEY WORK "The mildness of the cheese and sharpness of the acidity of the sauvignon blanc complement each other," Delaney says.
WINE AND CHEESE PAIRING
Comtesse Thérèse's 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot and Comté (France)
Cherry in color, most merlots are aged in oak barrels, reflecting the Bordeaux style, says Dianne Delaney, sommelier and bistro manager at Comtesse Thérèse Winery & Bistro in Aquebogue. If you can't find Comtesse Thérèse's merlot, Delaney suggested a wine with "a nice forward fruit of berries," meaning the wine's first impression is fruit versus acid. "You want this wine to be round and smooth with nice acidity and a nice spiciness of black pepper and cinnamon."The Comté is a raw cow's milk cheese that Delaney described as "smooth and nutty." Another comparable cheese is Gruyére, a Swissversion of Comté.
WHY THEY WORK "The merlot brought out the flavors of the nuttiness of this particular cheese. The cheese became almost sweet in its finish," says Delaney. "It was a beautiful combination."
INFO Comtesse Thérèse Winery & Bistro, 739 Main Rd., Aquebogue, 631-779-2800, comtessetherese.com
Can't Keep This 'Winer' Down
By Tracy Byrnes
Published December 03, 2010 | FOXBusiness
Theresa Dilworth, owner of the Comtesse Thérèse vineyards, came down from the upstairs office of her new bistro with a cane and a bandaged foot because the ladder fell while she was putting up Christmas lighting. A week earlier, she had fallen off the roof while trying to fix something -- herself.
An international tax attorney by day and owner of a 42-acre vineyard by, well, weekend, Theresa (or Tree, as her friends call her) clearly is not afraid to be challenged – or get hurt.
During the week, she handles global tax transactions for a multinational company in Purchase, N.Y. Then, every Friday night she drives 1.5 hours out to Aquebogue on the North Fork of Long Island to spend the weekend planting grapes, decorating her new bistro, making candles, or whatever else this closet-Laura Ingalls feels must get done.
But that’s the two sides of Tree. She and her husband bought an uncultivated piece of property out on Long Island as a New York City getaway back in late 90s. Every weekend, they’d leave their Manhattan high-rise apartment and sleep in tents – yes, tents -- on the property, fixing it up until the actual home was complete.
Back then, Tree had no interest in growing grapes or making wine.
But thanks to the encouragement and financial interest of a friend, she found herself buying another 40 acres that again needed to be cultivated. This time, for grapes.
We sat in the tasting room of her new Comtesse Thérèse French bistro, a converted home from the 1800s, as she told me her story. It didn’t take long for me to feel like a slacker.
But we did have something in common. Tree is an Ernst & Young alum, like myself. I actually met Tree back in 2005 at a tasting bar in downtown Manhattan. The bar, since closed, only served wines produced in New York. Tree was there, personally pouring her own. And I remember thinking back then how cool it was that this corporate attorney was making wine on the weekend, for kicks. (Come to think of it, she made me feel like a slacker back then, too.)
But, clearly, wine-producing is for more than just kicks. Obviously, it can be quite painful -- and expensive. Tree has dumped all of her own money into the place. She uses her own blood and sweat to plant, grow and produce the wine, and, like most wise small business owners, she’s recruited her family. Her husband has since made a drastic career change, leaving the executive suite of the steel industry to become the in-house sommelier. And her parents come out Monday through Friday to work the property.
In the first year the land was ready, she only planted one acre of grapes to learn the process. The following year, she increased to five acres. Today, 42 acres are covered with all types of grapes from Sauvignon Blanc to Malbec to Syrah (the last two due in 2011).
But the problem with grapes? They take years to grow and Tree needed that property to start making money ASAP. So in 2001, she bought grapes from a local vineyard and started making some wine.
My Wine Lesson
I mentioned in my first column that the weather, the grapes and the oak used in the barrels can all change the taste of your wine.
Interestingly enough, European countries like Italy, France and Germany have strict rules on the kind of oak you must use. Not in the U.S., though. Feel free to pick your oak.
So in an effort to differentiate herself, she did. She started tinkering with different oaks and has since created top notch wines in oak barrels from Russia and Hungary. And she is currently producing one with Canadian oak, which she says will be the first truly all North American wine available.
Now, in accordance to the column, I asked her to pick her favorite wine, but asking a vintner to pick her favorite wine is much like asking a mother to pick her favorite kid.
Instead she picked her customers’ favorite: The Comtesse Therese 2007 Russian Oak Chardonnay, which retails for about $20.
I stuck my nose in the glass and was able to smell pepper. She got that as well as nutmeg and clove, and pointed out that oak, not the grapes, was influencing the smell.
Now I don’t often drink chardonnay, but as I swished it around my mouth, that Russian oak offered a cinnamon taste to me.
Certainly not the chardonnay I’ve had in the past.
Chef Arie Pavlou sent out escargots and a brie en croute, which was brie, wild mushrooms and their home-grown sage in a flaky pastry crust. And with that, we moved on to her 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot.
I asked her if she had plans to leave corporate America and do this wine stuff full-time.
"I’m not giving up my day job. I love my job," she said emphatically.
This women spends the work week buried in the tax code and then gets on her hands and knees and plants grape seeds on the weekends just to keep paying the bills.
Yet we have close to 2 million people in this country collecting 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and asking for more.
But not people like Tree. They just keep moving forward. The deals keep coming on the international tax front, and she’s planning to open a Comtesse Thérèse bed and breakfast in her wine world.
"I'm having fun," she says, even with the bandage on her foot and her cane lying against her chair.
Clearly, it’s all hard work, and she obviously occasionally gets knocked down.
What sets her apart, though, is that she keeps getting back up.
Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide, December 15, 2010
Comtesse Thérèse 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot (North Fork of Long Island); $20. Judicious use of darkly toasted Hungarian oak results in a surprisingly sexy, supple wine that’s dripping with vanilla and spicy dark plum flavors. There’s a slight green twinge to the black cherry flavors on the palate, but this is a smooth, easy-drinking Merlot with a long, earthy, espresso finish. —A.I.
Comtesse Thérèse 2005 Traditional Merlot (North Fork of Long Island); $18. Wonderfully rich with lush dark chocolate and espresso notes, this is another lovely, highly drinkable Merlot from Comtesse Thérèse. There’s a good amount of charred oak, but it’s integrated seamlessly with concentrated black plum and berry flavors. The finish is long, and accented by pleasant astringency of walnut skins and tobacco. —A.I.
Comtesse Thérèse 2004 Château Reserve Merlot (North Fork of Long Island); $30. Layers of char, black pepper and briar patch help to build complexity in this dense, concentrated black plum Merlot. There’s a touch of green leaf and tomato throughout, but overall, it’s a fruit-driven, luscious wine accented with spice and smooth, supple tannins. Aged 24 months in new French oak. —A.I.
Comtesse Thérèse 2005 First Harvest Merlot (North Fork of Long Island); $18. After the scent of char blows off a bit, this first harvest Merlot opens sweetly to aromas of vanilla, cinnamon spice and plush, red plums. There’s a hint of green stalks and leaves detectable on the palate amidst underripe black cherry and plum flavors, but bright acidity gives this wine a fresh character and the spiced plum finish is pleasant. —A.I.
Comtesse Thérèse 2006 Aquebogue Estate Merlot (North Fork of Long Island); $18. The nose offers plenty of cooked plum preserves, warm spice and toasted, nutty oak. There’s a nice, lush texture and body, and bright red cherry and plums flavors on the palate. The fruit flavors may be slightly lacking in concentration, but supple tannins make for smooth, easy sipping. —A.I.
Reviews from www.nywines.com
Russian Oak Chardonnay 2007, North Fork, price $20, score 94
Comtesse Therese’s Russian Oak Chardonnay 2007 is a medium gold in the glass. Demonstrates a classic reserve style bouquet of aromas of vanilla, toast, butterscotch, lemon crèmes, band aids, and backed apples; rich, fun, and ripe. Palate displays a good fruit balance of baked apples, mango, and cantaloupe with emerging winter spices and some nutty themes of walnut and almonds. Shows excellent complexity. This medium bodied Chardonnay has a smooth and creamy mouthfeel; ripe and rich with a velvety glycerin texture. The wine demonstrates enough acid to keep from getting fat. It show a good balance between cellar flavors and fruit and avoids getting heavy or overstated. Comtesse Therese continues to experiment with unusual Eastern European oak with some definitive success. The Chardonnay takes on very different characters based on her oak choices. Interesting finish is moderate with the walnut and almond themes presenting over fruit and a touch of white pepper. Good as an aperitif for those who don’t mind some oak on their wine. Pair with pastas with cream and cheese sauces or cheese plate with fresh fruit. Very well priced.
Russian Oak Chardonnay 2006, North Fork, Price $18, Score: 95
Medium golden with a hint of green hue in the glass. Bouquet is rich with lemon, vanilla, butterscotch, shows tropical notes of nutmeg, eucalyptus, and mango. Baked apples, cantaloupe, and ripe pears open developing lemon chiffon, Creme Brulee and cinnamon on the mid pallet. Texture is creamy but not overly so. Flavors are fruit forward, round, full, and opulent. Pepper and spice jump up on the finish with an undertone of light acid to keep the wine open and provide counterpoint to fruit themes. Fascinating and beautifully crafted wine. Unusual oak aging provides interest and complexity over a classical Burgundy style Chardonnay. Fruit is balanced nicely by the work in the cellar. Good as an aperitif or pair with sharp cheeses, mollusks, or grilled fish. Excellent value.
Hungarian Oak Merlot 2004, North Fork, Price $20, score: 90
Wonderful nose, cherries, blackberries, sassafras, and peppers. Cherries and stone fruit forward balanced with pepper and spices from the oak. The Hungarian oak imparts a different experience from French or American varieties. Medium tart finish contrasts with the fruit. A well structured wine. It is apparent that a lot of thought went into the building of this wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, North Fork, Price $25, Score: 92
The Comtesse demonstrates her talents as the master of oak on the North Fork with the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. The wine shows dark garnet colors thinning slightly to the rim. Big aromas of thistle, currants, vanilla, and spice on the nose. Peppery and earthy flavors enlivened with fruit notes forward. Leather, tar, spice and a hint of mint on the palate with layers of smoke and toast underneath. Grippy tannins and acids on this full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon provide interest. Wine grumbles and make you pay attention. Finish is solid and assertive. Too big to be good as an aperitif. Pair with grilled or broiled aged red meats.
Hungarian Oak 2005, North Fork, Price $18, Score: 86
Comtesse Therese 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot shows a medium garnet and brick to the rim. Bouquet is strikingly rich showing ripe black currants and plums and some violet notes. Displays an opulent jammy character. Aromas of vanilla, band-aids, butterscotch, and a hint of cigar box adds character and demonstrates the cellar focus of the wine. Palate opens with a marked cellar and earth focus of minerals, cracked black pepper, with dried oregano and basil herbal tones. Smooth texture of lanolin soften strident tannins and acid punch. Not quite as well assembled as the 2004 but none the less the does 2005 shows potential. The wine is still coming together and should take a few more years to integrate the tannins and develop more complexity as nascent but present secondary flavors emerge. Finish shows cracked pepper and minerals with black olives and herbal notes, good length. Pair with grilled aged well marbled steak. Good priced for an interesting and well crafted wine.
Traditional Merlot 2004, North Fork . Price $18. Score: 81
Medium garnet and ruby thinning on the rim. Vanilla, cassis, blackberries and a hint of smoke on the nose. Blackberries and Bing cherries with vanilla overtones. Develops characteristic pepper with pimento and thistle; interesting earth tones with rising minerals. Finish gets a bit thin, tannins are light and offer a little grip. Probably best as an aperitif but could pair with Sicilian pasta dishes or medium to heavy cheeses. Drink now.
© www.winesny.com 2008
"Wine industry Types: Tips for Doing Peconic Bay Scalllops Right," North Fork Patch, Henry Powderly, Nov. 3, 2010
Either simply broiled, or sauced and served over linguine, the local delicacy has some of the region's best palates salivating.
On Monday, Peconic Bay Scallop season opened in the cold waters between the North and South Forks, sending shellfish lovers to local fishmongers and restaurants in droves in search of these bite-sized delicacies.That includes the local wine industry types, who more often than not are foodies of the highest order.So to help you decide how you'd like to feed your scallop craving, we've compiled a few suggestions from Long Island Wine Country notables on how best to cook or enjoy them.
Juan Miceli-Martinez, Winemaker, Martha Clara Vineyards Miceli-Martinez said he holds to the adage that you really don't have to do a lot to a good ingredient. But for him, they're best done with pasta, often pan seared and served over spaghetti."That way you make a meal out of it," he said."I actually had them last night in a lemon butter cream sauce served over linguine."
Adam Ehmer, Tasting Room Manager, Roanoke Vineyards Scallops Meuniere is actually Ehmer's favorite preparation."Dredge the scallops in flour, salt, and pepper. Melt some butter in a cast iron pan and add fresh lemon juice (and/or a white wine like sauvignon blanc) and chopped parsley. Reserve most of this liquid for a sauce to cover the scallops at the end and leave enough in the pan to sauté the scallops."Since the scallops are so small they don't take long to cook, he added. And it's best to finish them under a broiler to create a crisp crust."Then move them quickly to a dish and top with the reserved sauce. Pair with a local sauvignon blanc or chardonnay with subtle influence of oak."
Rich Olsen-Harbich, Winemaker, Bedell Cellars For Olsen-Harbich, the bare-bones preparation is best."Butter, broil, done," he said.Though he agreed with Ehmer that pairing with chardonnay would best complement the subtle sweetness of the scallops.
Jim Silver, General Manager, Peconic Bay Winery Silver starts out with a word of caution: Don't ruin them."Don't ruin them with strong flavors," he said. "They have such a delicate, sweet, and haunting flavor all their own. These scallops have terroir."Silver said you should rinse with cold water and dry very well. He also recommended lightly dusting them with flour – emphasis on 'light.'"Heat a large pat of butter in a pan, medium hot. Toss in scallops in a single layer and brown them. Add a dash of good sea salt, and a small grind of pepper. Sometimes a touch of paprika. Turn to brown other side after about 1 minute."Two minutes is all it takes to cook them, he said.
Greg Gove, Winemaker, Peconic Bay Winery Gove also thinks simple is better."Lightly saute scallops in butter and shallots," he said. "Remove scallops and add verjus, reduce. Add a touch of heavy cream. Pour over scallops and serve with a dry Riesling."Of course, the verjus and Riesling he's talking about are Peconic Bay's.
Barbara Shinn and David Page, Owners, Shinn Estate Vineyards People who know Shinn and Page know this couple can throw a tasty dinner party. Shinn said they plan on cooking the local scallops tomorrow, in fact, doing them two ways."First, we'll eat them still quivering right out of the shells with just a squeeze of lime juice," said Page.But for a more complicated preparation, Page said they plan to make scallop pizzas, which they said is like a white clam pizza only with scallops substituted for clams."Just a touch of garlic, finely chopped cooked home-cured bacon and snipped chives from the garden. I have the advantage of owning a wood burning oven, so this should be a real treat," he said.The owners said they plan to pair it with Shinn Estate's 2009 Haven, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Lenn Thompson, Founder, New York Cork Report Thompson might be the hero of the group, because this local wine buff doesn't let his shellfish allergy stop him from serving these up for friends and family."Every September, my wife Nena starts asking when the Peconic Bay Scallop season kicks off. And once it does, I prepare them for her quite a bit," he said.Thompson said his wife's favorite preparation is to lightly pan sear them and toss with fresh herbs."But my favorite way to prepare them is crudo-meets-ceviche style. I slice them into coins, raw, and add a squirt of citrus juice, a drizzle of good olive oil, some good salt and maybe a few thinly sliced Thai bird chiles."He also serves them with a local sauvignon blanc, which he hears goes well together.
Theresa Dillworth, Owner, Comtesse Therese Winery and Bistro Dillworth offers an easy preparation that has some great presentation value as well."I put the little ones into scallop shells with a little white wine, olive oil and garlic, and broil," she said.Sometimes, she adds a few little shrimps to pretty it up some more.
Richard Pisacano, Owner, Roanoke Vineyards But if all else fails, the propane runs out or your refrigerator is empty, Pisacano says you don't need to worry.
"Mmmmm...yes...raw... but naked," he posted on Facebook., adding that any local white wine you can get your hands on won't disappoint as a pairing option.
Comtesse Thérèse North Fork Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - 2003
James Meléndez/ James the Wine Guy, www.jamesthewineguy.com/
A sophisticated and elegant wine; focused notes of dark bramble, cassis, Chanterelle mushroom, dark chocolate mint, scent of Marjoram and suede.
"Comtesse Thérèse 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot
A wine with a story partly about wood., by Eileen M. Duffy, Edible East End, No. 24, Spring 2010
Photograph: Randee Daddona
There are wines whose labels advertise the grapes inside the bottle. We all know them: merlot, cabernet, chardonnay. And there are wines that advertise where the grapes are from: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Neusiedlersee. But it's not very often, rare in fact, that labels tell where the grapes spent their time while being made into wine.
Not too long ago, labels trumpeted that oak barrels were involved, producing the rich, creamy, "oaky" chardonnay from "barrel-fermented" grapes. California adopted this method with gusto, and soon there was a backlash. Across the world in New Zealand, producers started bottling "unoaked" chardonnay, and putting it prominently on the label.
Wine was marketed with one loving eye cast on barrel-fermented chardonnay, and the other on chardonnay fermented and stored entirely in stainless steel.
So what gives? Is oak good or bad, and is all oak the same anyway?
Theresa Dilworth of Comtesse Thérèse in Aquebogue knows the answer.
Oak and stainless steel are most decidedly not the same. Not that one's good and the other's bad, it just goes toward a style. Winemakers and coopers alike believe that, as with the variety of grape, environmental factors such as where the tree is grown, in what soil, in what climate, and where on the side of a hill figure into the influence the taste an oak barrel will have on finished wine.
American oak is known for giving a vanilla or coconut taste, and some wineries swear by it. None other than one of the more successful California wineries, Ridge, uses nothing but. Others won't touch it with a 10-foot pole, saying that, at half the price of French or Eastern European-Hungarian-barrels, you're getting what you pay for. But, still, some winemakers will use a little American oak to save money and blend it with wines from French oak barrels. All are readily available in the marketplace.
When she started making wine in 2001, Dilworth watched other winemakers at Premium Wine Group, the custom-crush facility in Cutchogue, use different kinds of oaks and then blend them together. One particular type caught her eye (and palate)-Hungarian oak or Quercus robur; the same species that predominates in French barrel making, but it was, just ... different.
"It's spicier," says Dilworth, "like cinnamon. People can't put their finger on it."
Her mind was made up. She'd produce a merlot made entirely in Hungarian oak.
The effect has been to start conversations. Dilworth says in the tasting room people ask her all the time if she's Hungarian (no). Or if the wine is from Hungary (again, no). And right there is an opening to tell the customer a little bit more about how wine is made and this wine in particular. And, says Dilworth, she just likes the way it tastes.
The use of Hungarian oak has been on the rise worldwide due to changes in the way it's being forested since the demise of the Soviet Union. The trees are now grown sustainably, with many being planted for each harvested. And the world has taken notice; French companies are setting up shop in Hungary and local coopers are being trained.
2005 was a tricky year for red wines on the East End. It started raining just before harvest and then kept going for more than a week. Some winegrowers got their grapes in early, before the forecasted deluge. Some watched as the ground beneath their grapes soaked, and waited for them to dry out to pick. The Hungarian oak merlot was picked after the rain, says Dilworth, who adds she lost nearly 30 percent of her crop from swollen berries that had split.
In the glass, the fruit flavors and aromas of this wine predominate. It's not too tannic; it's more like the wines Dilworth says she herself likes: pleasant and drinkable. And the Hungarian oak is fit for that. It is said Hungarian oak lets fruit flavors come through while adding a light oakiness.
The single varietal oak wine is now a solid category in the lineup at Comtesse Thérèse. A Russian oak chardonnay is already in bottle. And just as the global wine market stretches our sense of where wine can be made well, Dilworth has her eye on some Canadian oak. She's thinking of putting some dessert wine into it, as the Canadians do.
© EDIBLE EAST END 2010
"Table for two? That'll be five years" Tangled in red tape since 2005, plans for Aquebogue bistro get the OK, Tim Gannon, RIVERHEAD NEWS-REVIEW, February 11, 2010
Photo by BarbarEllen Koch. Owner Therese Dilworth and executive chef Arie Pavlou in front of the historic house in Aquebogue that Ms. Dilworth has long planned to turn into a bistro. She just received approvals from Town Hall to move forward on the project.
'I had no idea it would take this long.' Theresa Dilworth
Five years after it was initially proposed, the 28-seat Comtesse Thérese Bistro in Aquebogue finally received site plan approval from the Riverhead Town Planning Board last Thursday, and its owners -- Theresa Dilworth and her husband, Mineo Shimura -- hope for a late spring opening.
"I had no idea it would take this long," Ms. Dilworth said. "Now we're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel." She said they almost had given up on the proposal several times.
Ms. Dilworth is an owner of a vineyard in Aquebogue and a tasting room in Peconic, She and her husband first proposed the bistro in 2005. It will occupy a 170-year-old, two-story house on the south side of Main Road in Aquebogue, the former Jamesport Saddlery building.
Ms. Dilworth is also an international tax attorney. Mr. Shimura, who manages the vineyard, is a former steel company executive.
"It will be kind of a classic bistro, with some French influence," Ms. Dilworth said. They've hired a chef, Arie Pavlou, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Paris, a former co-owner of Coeur de Vignes restaurant in Southold, and an instructor at the Culinary Institute at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead.
The wines served at the bistro will be local, Ms. Dilworth said, and so will the food.
A smaller version of the proposal won site plan approval in June but, after starting work on it in July, the couple decided they needed to enlarge the building, making a new site plan review necessary. Ms. Dilworth's expanded plan still calls for 28 seats but also a 426-foot addition for a second public bathroom and an indoor walk-in refrigerator.
The project required a special permit from the Town Board, along with approvals from the state Department of Transportation, the county health department and other agencies. Overflow parking on a neighboring property also required town approval. All those permits were granted last year and remain in effect for the larger structure.
But variances from the town Zoning Board of Appeals were necessary because the proposed extension pushed the building into required setbacks. The ZBA approval came on Jan. 25, with the Planning Board's nod for the new site plan the next week.
So how does a tax attorney become a winemaker and restaurant owner?
Ms. Dilworth said it actually started when she was in high school. "My brother got into beer-making and we would drink our own beers together," she said. That later led her to making wines.
Ms. Dilworth said she's always felt that what's missing from wine tasting rooms is food. "I've always wanted to have food and wine together," she said.
© TIMES REVIEW NEWSPAPERS 2010
I, Locavore: Comtesse Terese Merlot
By Sarah DiGregorio, Tuesday, Aug. 18 2009 @ 11:47AM
Zaytoon's, on Smith Street, is BYOB, and a good, local wine to tote along is Comtesse Terese's First Harvest Merlot, a simple, light-bodied, tannic Merlot that tastes of red berries. It might be too astringent on its own, but it's excellent with food, especially lamb, and the homemade za'atar bread. (The restaurant makes its own pita breads, so that they arrive hot, pliant and puffy, right out of the oven.) This is Comtesse Terese's first Merlot grown entirely on the estate vineyard, Le Clos Therese, in Aquebogue.
Comtesse Terese is Theresa Dilworth--owner, winemaker, fourth-generation Long Islander, and also an international tax attorney for MasterCard. (And that, friends, is how one ends up being able to buy a vineyard.) Dilworth has also hired a consultant winemaker from the south of France. She's known for aging her wines in oak from unusual places, like Russia and Hungary.
You can buy Comtesse Terese's wines on her website, or from The Tasting Room.
Lenndevours website, "Comtesse Therese 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot", Lenn Thompson, January 15, 2009
I know that the oak debate, among winemakers and wine geeks, usually centers American vs. French oak, with everyone arguing passionately in favor or their preferred barrel. But, as much as I tend to prefer the more expensive French cooperage, I really enjoy what a third type of oak, Hungarian oak, brings to the table as well.
That spice, and more understated raw oak flavors are on display in Comtesse Therese 2005 Hungarian Oak Merlot ($18), an extremely approachable, enjoyable red.
The nose is playful and spicy, blending bright red berries -- cherries and raspberries -- with violets, black pepper and subtle brown spices.
The berry flavors are a bit darker on the juicy palate, with blackberry joining the party. That Hungarian oak brings layers of black pepper and spice, and also imparts hints of toasty oak and vanilla. There is plenty of fruit here to balance the oak.
The tannins are super-ripe tannins and just a little grippy. A bit more grip would be nice, but for drinking today and over the next couple of years, there's enough.
At $18, this one is well priced too.
"Market for Local Wines Overseas: Local Wineries Enjoy Small but Growing Export Business," THE SUFFOLK TIMES, John Henry, October 30, 2008
You just never know where you'll find wine from the North Fork.
It might be Copenhagen or Singapore or even Tokyo, some 14 time zones and 6,800 miles away. Those are markets where Long Island wineries have managed to gain a foothold in recent years, adding prestige -- if not much profit -- for their respective brands.
"It shows we're competing on an international playing field," says Richard Olsen-Harbich, the managing director of Raphael Vineyard in Peconic, which has sent two shipments to Japan in as many years. "Our wines are competing across the board from a quality standpoint with anything produced in the world."
Several other North Fork wineries have the same idea.
Bedell Cellars of Cutchogue and Comtesse Thérèse in Aquebogue have both exported wine to Japan in the last two years, and Peconic-based Lenz Winery hopes to line up an importer there. (Lenz has been shipping for the last five years to Singapore and for more than 20 years to Denmark, where Pellegrini Vineyards, another Cutchogue firm, started exporting about two years ago.)
While wineries may be preparing for a prolonged downturn in their business overall because of the rapidly deteriorating economic climate, Lenz's marketing director, Tom Morgan, believes exports could be "one of the bright spots" for his company. "Japan hasn't been affected too much," he says, "and Denmark is doing very well."
Echoing counterparts at other wineries, he says exports are only a small part of the business -- less than 5 percent of sales at Lenz. Moreover, though sales overseas, where customers pay the wholesale price, contribute welcome cash flow, he says retail sales in the company's tasting room in Peconic are "where the profit is."
Nonetheless, he says, Lenz is trying hard to land an account in Sweden that, coupled with the possible start of shipments to Japan, could generate enough volume for the winery's export sales to double this year. That would be "a significant amount of our total production," he says.
Also eyeing export opportunities is Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, which would like to get its wines into the Scandinavian and Canadian markets. "I would call it more a symbolic part of our business rather than a strategic part," concedes the company's president, Charles Massoud. "It's nice to be able to brag about."
The small but apparently growing volume of exports has its ironies. "Sometimes, things don't go in the order that you want," says Mr. Olsen-Harbich of Raphael Vineyard, noting that while his company has a distributor in Japan, it still lacks one in Connecticut.
For its presence in Japan, Raphael can thank Andrew Balmuth, who visited the Peconic vineyard a few years back and liked what he tasted. A former New Yorker now living in Tokyo, Mr. Balmuth runs an importing business specializing in food and beverages from New York State. "I thought that Japanese people love New York," he says, "so they would be naturally interested to discover new and exciting" products like New York wines.
He says many "New World" wines overpower Japanese food, whereas New York chardonnays, Rieslings and merlots aren't too sweet, are lower in alcohol and are medium bodied in the red wine category, making them an "elegant match" for the local cuisine.
In the last two years Mr. Balmuth has taken delivery of two containers' worth (more than 1,100 cases) of New York wine produced by Raphael, Comtesse Therese, Wolffer Estate Vineyards on the South Fork and an upstate vintner. "It's been a very, very successful relationship for us," says Mr. Olsen-Harbich.
While the weak dollar has helped lift U.S. exports of manufactured goods this year, New York wines are still extremely expensive in Japan because of high shipping costs and that country's multi-layered distribution system, according to Theresa Dilworth, one of Comtesse Thérèse's owners. "A bottle that would be $20 here would be $60 there," she says. "It's really out of the reach of the average person."
In Denmark, wines from Lenz, Pellegrini and Wolffer are imported by a businessman/chef named Per Brun, who operates 21 shops and restaurants throughout the country and runs annually in the New York City Marathon. Through annual visits to Long Island that he makes after the marathon, he became acquainted with East End wineries -- and impressed. So, too, he says, are his patrons.
"Customers are surprised about the wines and their quality," he says. "They all think" Long Island is too far north to make wine, "and I surprise them by telling them we are dealing with temperatures like Rome and Bordeaux and that we are talking of a wine production history of only 20 to 40 years."
One market local wineries would love to crack is Canada, whose close proximity makes it a particularly attractive for export since shipments can be trucked there. But dealing with provincial government alcohol boards, which sell the wine themselves, can be so daunting as to discourage efforts to tap the market. Just ask Herodotus "Dan" Damianos, owner of Pindar Vineyards in Peconic.
When Pindar exported to Canada, he says, its experience with provincial boards was "awful, awful." The company was paid only as the wine was sold, and it wasn't promoted. One time, Pindar received two unsold cases c.o.d. from a provincial board, and the winery had to pay several hundred dollars to get its merchandise back.
"I'll never go back there," vows Dr. Damianos.
© TIMES REVIEW NEWSPAPERS 2008
The New Napa Valley (in Long Island!), THE NEW YORK POST, Page Six Magazine, November 30, 2008
"My blood pressure drops as soon as the Jitney gets to the other side of Riverhead," says Juliette Pope, the beverage director at the Gramercy Tavern—and an avid fan of the East End of Long Island. "There is an unspoiled quality to the landscape there—quaint towns, farm stands and pick-your-own fields along the way."
In the past three years, Juliette's lost some of her closest friends from the Big Apple to the burgeoning wine and food scene on Long Island (53 vineyards and counting). Take star pastry chef Claudia Fleming, who moved to Southold with her husband, Gerry Haden, in 2005 to open The North Fork Table & Inn, a restaurant and four-room hotel.
Claudia, an ex-Gramercy Tavern dessert-maker, admits she misses the high energy of Manhattan, but it doesn't compare with living just miles from the produce that inspires her dishes. "Being surrounded by the raw product and having a relationship with winemakers, farmers and fishermen is a chef's dream," Claudia explains. "And we're realizing it. I found a berry grower in [nearby] Orient. The raspberries are beyond any others I have ever tasted. Now, I use the red, white and pink raspberries in a meringue sandwich with raspberry sorbet."
Barbara Shinn of Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck agrees. "There is nowhere else in the U.S. that has fish, shellfish, produce and wine within such a small area like here in Long Island wine country," she says.
Now a growing number of tourists are falling for the allure of Long Island wine country—even in winter. Just 90 miles east of Gotham, a quick two-hour drive will get you to the North Fork. Once there, driving from one end to the other takes just 30 minutes and a ferry can shuttle you to the South Fork, meaning you can easily cover more than 4,000 acres of vineyards, interspersed with farmlands and beaches, spread across Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. No wonder celebrity chef Rachael Ray is a regular—she's often seen at favorite wineries Paumanok near Riverhead and Lenz in Peconic. Senator Hillary Clinton spoke at the Long Island Farm Bureau dance fundraiser at Martha Clara Vineyards this July. And the annual Jazz on the Vine festival—six weekends of more than 60 free jazz performances at wineries and restaurants that takes place February 14 to March 22 next year—doubles the number of visits to wineries by boldfacers and regular folk alike.
Vintner Roman Roth was one of the pioneers of the Long Island wine wave—the Germany native has been in charge of Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack on the South Fork, one of the area's established wineries, for 20 years. High-profile fans such as hotelier André Balazs and Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander have recently commissioned the winemaker to create private bottlings for them. For Roman, the recent changes have been "dramatic. The wineries are producing much higher-quality wines; the vineyards are more balanced, and, like the winemakers, they are older, which has pushed the bar higher."
As established wineries like Wölffer, Lenz, Bedell and Pellegrini make the most of their growing popularity, new boutique vineyards are popping up around them. Half a dozen newcomers, including Bouké, Sparkling Pointe and Diliberto, have popped up on the scene in the last two years, and each has a unique story to tell. Vintner Tom Rosicki wound up on the North Fork thanks to a girl. "I met Cynthia Senko at a debutante ball at the Waldorf-Astoria 21 years ago," explains Tom, co-owner of Sparkling Pointe, in Southold. "She was the 'uptown' girl, and me being the 'downtown' guy, I asked the waiter for a bottle of cheap white wine. After that night, I could see that I would have to do better. On our first date, I ordered my very first bottle of champagne. She agreed to marry me nine weeks later." Six years ago, he and Cynthia bought a sparkling-focused vineyard (the couple also owns a law firm together). This summer they released the first bottles from the winery (the only "bubbly" one on Long Island) and in October the pair signed a contract with the Waldorf, which will soon serve Sparkling Pointe wines at its restaurant Peacock Alley.
Experts say now is the perfect time to visit, even though it's chilly. "December, January and February are cold, but can be brilliantly sunny and exhilarating," says Louisa Thomas Hargrave, a 35-year resident of the area and the director of the Stony Brook University Center for Wine, Food and Culture. An added bonus is that the restaurants and shops are quieter once the Hamptons' summer crowds leave. "And if there is a particular winery you want to visit, call ahead. That way, you will usually get extra attention," Louisa advises. All we can say is, cheers to that.
A Winter Wine Weekend HOW TO EAT, DRINK, SHOP AND RELAX OVER TWO DAYS IN LONG ISLAND WINE COUNTRY.
Head west to Cutchogue for the state-of-the-art winemaking facilities at Bedell Cellars—owned by former New Line Cinema co-CEO Michael Lynne—for a wine tasting and gallery visit. While there, try top-of-the-line red wine Musée (its label is designed by artist Chuck Close) in the renovated 19o0s potato barn, while taking in contemporary works on display by renowned photographers Cindy Sherman and Uta Barth.
Spend half a day at South Fork wineries Wölffer Estate Vineyard and Channing Daughters.
Christopher Tracey, partner at Channing Daughters, is producing wines served at popular restaurants like Le Bernardin in Manhattan. Wölffer in Sagaponack is often host to celebrity bashes attended by Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin and Elle Macpherson, and the James Beard Foundation hosts its annual Chefs & Champagne fundraiser here every summer. This year's guest-of-honor, Wolfgang Puck, attracted a big crowd, including Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall, photographer Bruce Weber and Le Cirque owner Sirio Maccioni. And if you need a break from wine tasting, you can always schedule a private horseback riding lesson ($135 for a one-hour class; 631-537-2879).
Choose five to six wineries to visit over two days. Don't miss new kid on the block Croteaux Vineyards in Southold, near the ocean, where there are three different styles of rosé to taste—from dry to fruity to full-bodied. "I could not make any other wine," confesses co-owner Michael Croteaux. "We live on the beach; I windsurf—it's great. The North Fork is a wine region that has an affluent, vibrant vacation population, and it's one of the only beachfront wine regions in the country."
Greenport, a seaport village near the eastern tip of the North Fork, is the hub of the area now being touted as the new Napa Valley. Start your visit here. Stop by the shops that line Main Street, including the nautical-themed Preston's (No. 102; 1-800-836-1165) and, a few doors down, hip design shop Verbena (No. 123; 631-477-4080).
To taste some of the up-and-coming boutique wines in one stop, drop in to the Tasting Room in Peconic. A must-try is Schneider Vineyards' cabernet franc, made from the red Bordeaux grapes that wine critics have declared best-suited for Long Island.
© THE NEW YORK POST 2008
"Meet the Owner: Theresa Dilworth of Comtesse Thérèse", WINE PRESS, Julie Lane, Summer 2008
That Theresa Dilworth is a high-powered corporate tax attorney, owner of Comtesse Thérèse vineyard, operator of the The Tasting Room in Peconic and planning to open a restaurant in Aquebogue might lead you to assume she’s a driven woman. You’d be wrong
The woman whose father once suggested to her that she was a dilettante prone to flit from one new interest to another instead has channeled her significant energy and talent toward a combination of related interests.
“It’s not just jumping in all at once; it’s an evolution,” she says, admitting she has no doubt that had she not merged her interests in business, good food and good wine, she might indeed have ended up a dilettante. Instead, she started small, kept her focus and succeeded in building her business while attending to the demands of her day job as an international tax attorney for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.
“I always wanted to be an artist, but I’m too practical,” Ms. Dilworth says. Does she yearn to retire from her day job and spend all her time on the North Fork? No.
“That’s my full-time job and that is my first priority,” she says. She loves the international aspect of her work, loves being the “architect” of a project and seeing it through to fruition. But she’s still drawn to the vineyard that gives balance to her life.
As a 4-year-old, she began working side-by-side with her dad on their land in the Huntington-Lloyd Harbor area, where they planted large gardens. She considers her vineyard a natural extension of that childhood interest, but admits her friends at work “look at me like I’m crazy” when she tells them about it. They’re so proud of planting shadow boxes for their apartment windows, she says; they can’t understand planting and caring for acres of vines.
Some tease her about being a “Martha Stewart” clone, a suggestion she rejects.
“I have been like me since I was four, and I’m not a perfectionist,” she says. “There is room for error,” and that’s something she thinks Ms. Stewart wouldn’t allow. “You have to know every detail and plan every detail [but] you can’t control 100 percent of what’s going on,” she says. “In the beginning you think you can’t do it, but you can.”
Seven years ago, backed by two friends from Japan, the one-time home winemaker bought 40 acres of land in Aquebogue and planted a single acre of pinot noir. Her partners, who together own 25 percent of the operation, provided encouragement and money, but trusted Ms. Dilworth to develop and run the operation. “I feel very accountable to them,” Ms. Dilworth says. “But they know it’s for the long term and they have complete trust in me,” she says.
“I was very naive,” she says of her start in the business, but she gradually acquired the equipment and skills needed to work her land. If a tractor once seemed intimidating, today she rides one with ease, working the vineyard with her husband, Sammy Shimura, and her parents.
What started as a small planting on the northwest corner of her land was moved to the southwest the next year, and later to the southeast after extensive soil testing. Eventually, she sold 25 acres unsuitable for grapes to a neighbor and bought 26 plantable acres next to her original plot.
“I learned; I made mistakes; it’s a lot of work,” she says. “It’s a very, very slow process.” With 10 acres beginning to provide grapes for her cabernet sauvignon and merlot, she’s buying less fruit from other vineyards than she used to.
Her vines are more closely spaced than some others in the region, and she is the only local winemaker using Hungarian oak barrels rather than French or American. She also plans to begin using some Canadian oak barrels. “I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing; I don’t mind not following the crowd,” Ms. Dilworth says.
She describes Premium Wine Group, the Mattituck custom-crush facility where she makes her wines, as “like manna from heaven.” Instead of having to invest in expensive equipment, “all I have to do is bring my grapes over there,” she says. “It’s such a relief not to have to make an investment in capital equipment.” At Premium, she feels can count on high standards of sanitation and quality control.
Comtesse Thérèse started out producing 500-800 cases a year, a quantity she calls “peanuts in this industry.” In 2007, she was up to 1,100 cases, and was using some of her own grapes by 2005. She hopes to become totally independent of other vineyards, which will increase her profit.
Ms. Dilworth is still assessing the strengths and weaknesses of her grapes. “You work with what you have,” but you can make certain corrections as you get to know your own grapes, she says.
Given that most of her week is spent in New York City, a lot of the day-to-day tending of the vines falls to her parents and husband, who was a steel company executive who left that field when his company was sold. If he was indifferent at first, Mr. Shimura has now become as passionate about the vineyard as his wife is, she says.
Ms. Dilworth says the restaurant idea was an extension of her love for fine food and wine. She bought a run-down house on Main Road in Aquebogue in 2004 and has gradually restored it. “I like carpentry,” she says simply.
Tapping her legal skills, she has obtained approvals for zoning and site plan and dealt with health department regulations. Now she’s making her way through a particular licensing process that, by licensing the premises as a winery, will allow her to operate a restaurant, she says. She plans to install a small winery in a basement room that can be locked, as required by law, and there will even be a “miniature” vineyard. She hopes to open by next winter.
“I love food and I love cooking, and I want to have a place that I would want to go to,” she says. “Can I make it work? I think I can, but it’s kind of scary,” she admits.
© TIMES REVIEW NEWSPAPERS 2008