A beautiful December snowfall -- which left about a foot of unmarred white powder on eastern Long Island -- and a clear, starry night set the mood last Friday evening. Roughly 100 supporters of the local wine scene filled Raphael winery on the North Fork to attend the seventh annual Cornell Research Wine Tasting Benefit, which raises funds for Cornell Cooperative Extension's grape research program on Long Island.
This year, for the first time, the festivities featured a wine auction. Hosted by Raphael winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich and conducted by Michael Cinque, owner of Amagansett Wine and Spirits, the proceedings featured a silent auction and a 15-lot live auction that raised an estimated $14,000.
Among the more interesting lots was a sampling of Mudd Vineyards wines from the early 1980s -- wines produced by North Fork pioneer David Mudd, but never formally offered for sale. The winning bid was $600.
Also auctioned off, for $800, was an 18-bottle collection of Bedell Cellars Merlots from the 1993, 1994 and 1995 vintages. Bedell winemaker Kip Bedell and winery owner Michael Lynne donated another Merlot lot, a vertical running from 1986 to 1998, which sold for $650.
The highest-priced lot of the evening, bringing in $850, was dinner for six, with wines from Paumanok Vineyards, prepared by Bayard's chef Eberhard Mueller, who owns a farm on Long Island.
Another marquee lot was a collection of Hargrave wines, including a 1982 Collector Series Chardonnay in magnum, that sold for $500. The 1982 label was created and signed by the late Elaine de Kooning, wife of the painter Willem de Kooning and a widely renowned artist in her own right, as well as a longtime resident of Long Island's East End.
Alice Wise, who runs Cornell Extension's grape research program in Riverhead and offered a sampling of her own experimental wines to accompany food donated by 10 local eateries, was pleased with the auction's outcome. "It was really exciting," she said. "And a pleasure to work on it with such a great group of people."
She added, "We hope that our budget won't be cut too much by the state." But she noted that she is optimistic that the auction, along with the yearly wine-tasting benefit, will enable Cornell Extension to continue helping Long Island's winemakers perfect their craft. "It's impossible to fund research through just one source," she said.