The Transformation Christine Molnar Word count 606 The air was warm, but there was the hint of a cool breeze wafting in. The sky was a deep blue with the occasional soft cottony cloud lazily floating by. It was the kind of day that East enders enjoy as they grasp the last vestiges of summer, while anticipating the onset of the vibrance of fall. The month was September and the year 1980. My husband and I rode along the scenic North Fork, stopping at Lewin’s farm stand for end of season tomatoes, a weekend craft fair for local artistry and the occasional flower stand to buy mums for the garden. We were headed to The Seafood Barge in Southold for sumptuous seafood lunch when we happened upon a sign, “Winery Tastings.” We stopped, mystified by the kind of scene expected in California or upstate New York‘s Hudson Valley, but never on here on Long Island. There were rows and rows of grape vines! Curiosity got the better of us and we followed the sign and parked in the lot. Enthusiasm began to build as we braced ourselves to learn about this vintner’s odyssey right here in our own back yard. A tall slender gentleman by the name of Alex was propped on a huge aluminum tank and asked if we would like a tour. With a bemused expression and a shrug of the shoulders, we followed, eager to hear how this business more suited to the climates of France, Italy and Napa valley was expected to thrive on our island. The gentleman explained each step from the planting of the grape vines, to the harvest, to the fermentation and bottling of what we were learning was a labor of love for he and his family. It was very obvious that this winery had become part of his very being. We were ushered into a lovely room and asked if we would like to taste the finished product. The pleasant young woman behind the counter, who introduced herself to us as Louisa, poured us several varieties of the wine while answering any questions we may have had. To our surprise and delight, the wine was quite enjoyable and we purchased several bottles. We bid the young couple, who had shared their time, their story and the fruits of their labor with us a goodbye with the promise that we would be back. On the ride back home, we wondered if this “wine business” had any place on Long Island. As the seasons past and the years flew by, trips on the North Fork of Long Island were ever changing as one winery after another appeared like a field of wildflowers, growing, spreading and changing the landscape of our island for ever. It is now over thirty years later and Long Island is flush with a multitude of wineries showcasing expertly tended grape vines and exquisitly decorated tasting rooms. The vintner heart has spread to the south shore as well. “Local wines” (as I like to refer to any Long Island variety), are now competing and winning awards on an international level. Sadly, we don’t see the welcoming wooden Hargrave Winery in Cutchogue anymore, it has been sold and the new owners continue the dedication to produce a quality product, but every time I drive by, I smile at the thought of having been witness to the transformation of our island from the vast expanse of potato fields to the romance and beauty of wine country. I can only imagine the pride and sense of accomplishment that the Hargrave family experience when they see what their true pioneering spirit started right here on our island!