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Story - Food

Jun 29, 2018 3:49 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

France-Grown Wines Evoke The East End

Jun 29, 2018 3:49 PM

If you’re wondering what the wine trend of summer 2018 is, well, yes, it does have to do with rosé. But it may not be the type of rosé you expected.

In years past, pink wine was popular on the East End if it came in an onionskin shade particular to Provence. Langudeoc wines? They didn’t sell. Wines from the North Fork? Not so much. Wölffer Estate Vineyards, which has grown in production from 3,100 cases of rosé 30 seasons ago to 78,000 cases this year, is a notable exception.

Now, it seems, the trend is to drink where you beach, and two companies have capitalized on the caché of the East End in their rosé marketing plans.

Out East Rosé, the first of the two, is the pet project of founder and president Patrick Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell, whose 15-year marketing career culminated in the company he founded in 2013, Monarch, found himself inspired by the Hamptons lifestyle. “The idea was conceived drinking rosé poolside in Bridgehampton,” he said. “Out East means something. It’s an experience of relaxed luxury. Our intention was to bottle that and share it with the world.”

But Out East wasn’t grown or bottled out east. “The wine itself is from a vineyard in Côtes de Provence, in the heart of where the best rosé in the world comes from,” Mr. Mitchell said. The 60-40 blend of traditional Provençal rosé grapes—grenache and cinsaut—produces a dry, crisp wine with hints of peach, wild berries, and citrus zest. The wine is made in the traditional style (lean, stainless steel) and is bottled in April. The 2017 is the winery’s inaugural wine, for which they produced 1,500 cases. The limited-run bottling is available both in New York City and the Hamptons, although the company hopes to expand the run to as many as 100,000 cases to become a “household brand.”

“The idea,” Mr. Mitchell said, “is to build a brand around Out East Rosé as a destination rosé, not just for the Hamptons, but for anywhere you might be. Rosé is growing. This is anticipated to be sustained for some time. We think there’s a good opportunity to grow our brand.”

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but would a rosé? Marketing, it turns out, is a big part of the appeal of wines like Out East, which capitalize on vacation branding, or wishful thinking, or a combination of the two. “We wanted our rosé to be from Provence because we do believe that’s where the best climate is, the best grapes,” Mr. Mitchell said. “It really is the best destination for global rosé. We liked the idea of marrying the South of France story with the Hamptons. People understand the reference. There is kind of this ideal of the Hamptons life: wonderful beaches, wonderful restaurants. … It’s a lifestyle that resonated with us.”

Mr. Mitchell was not alone. Kevin Mehra collaborated with Brett Vankoski and Terry Lozoff to create Places Wines. Mr. Mehra’s project—he is CEO and founder—produces limited-release wines recalling East Coast beach destinations. The larger company into which Places falls is 90+ Cellars, a Boston-based wine company launched in 2009 that operates as a modern-day négociant.

“Being a Northeast wine company, we’re pretty unique,” said Terry Lozoff, the vice president of marketing. “We decided that we really wanted to root our flag in the sand of the Northeast and create some limited-edition favorite wines that celebrated some of our favorite places on the Northeast. We wanted to do a wine in these destinations that people are drinking the most, which is rosé.” The Places series includes the Long Island-centric MTK Rosé, a wine made in Provence that is, according to Mr. Lozoff, “an homage to the place.” The inaugural vintage yielded about 500 cases of a grenache, cinsaut and syrah blend, a dry wine with no oak contact and a traditional pale pink color.

Each of the Places wines gives back to a local charity. In the case of the MTK Rosé, one dollar from each bottle goes to the Kids’ Clubhouse of Suffolk County. “We’ve focused on giving back to youth in these communities,” Mr. Lozoff said. Out East also hopes to give back to the community with their wine. “We’re becoming quite involved in the charity circuit this summer,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Our brand should be a great ambassador for the community.”

The Out East Rosé and the MTK Rosé share a common dream: to provide Long Islanders with good rosé that caters both to their palates and to their senses of place.

Will this be a sustainable trend, moving forward, or will the pendulum swing in the other direction, toward wines produced on Long Island? Only time will tell.

Out East Rosé can be found at Park Place Wines, Herbert & Rist, Churchill Wine & Spirits, Highway Restaurant & Bar, the Surf Lodge and Bay Kitchen Bar. MTK Rosé is available at Sag Harbor Wine & Spirits, Shelter Island Wine & Spirits, Vintage Wine & Spirits, Hamptons Wine Shoppe, Springs Liquor and White’s Liquor.

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