Sun, Sea, Soil, Wine

Winemaking on the North Fork of Long Island

By Richard Olsen-Harbich

Subjects: New York/regional, General Interest, Science
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438495521, 276 pages, January 2024

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Table of contents


Part 1. The Region


The Land

The Soil

The Sea

The Sun

The Aquifer

Climate and Weather

Growing Degree Days

The North Fork vs. the Hamptons




American Viticulture Areas (AVAs)


Balance and Style

Native Yeast

Natural Wine and Biodynamics

Organic Winegrowing




Zen and the Art of Winemaking

Part 2. Spontaneous Fermentation

Climate Change

It Takes a Vineyard

No Women, No Wine

The Local Revolution

The French Connection

Wines of Mass Vinification

Wine and Beer

Our Sea-Washed, Sunset Gates


Fashionably Wine

Take Me Out to the Vineyard

The Wild Oenophiles

Wine Ratings


Tasting Notes

Wine Futures


Long Island's longest-tenured winemaker weighs in on what makes the North Fork so unique for fine wine production.


Growing up a stone's throw away from New York City in a small house on suburban Long Island, Richard Olsen-Harbich always dreamed of being a farmer. After graduating from Cornell with a degree in viticulture, he found himself back on the Island at the heart of an emerging wine region that was struggling to find itself. Starting from the ground up with little information or experience, Olsen-Harbich began a lifelong quest to master the art and science of growing wine grapes less than 90 miles from Manhattan.

In the last half-century, the North Fork's bucolic seaside towns and humble potato farms were transformed into one of this country's most compelling agricultural success stories, garnering praise from wine critics around the world. Olsen-Harbich charts the meteoric rise of North Fork winemaking from the historic failures of colonial times to the modern triumph of becoming one of the most important wine-producing districts on the East Coast. Through a poetic interweaving of personal anecdotes with scientific reporting about climate, soils, geology, and botany, Olsen-Harbich drills deep into the topic, giving the world a new language for talking about wine. In doing so, he redefines what it means to make wine in the New World.

Richard Olsen-Harbich is a winemaker, viticulturalist, writer, and artist. He has won many awards, including the 2008 Edible Hero Award, Edible Communities; 2013 Unity Award, New York Wine and Grape Foundation; and the 2022 Best North Fork Winemaker, Northforker Magazine.


"…a supremely well-edited compendium of the history, tradition, science, climate, varietals, and skills needed to produce wine on Long Island … There is a lot to learn in this book." — East Hampton Star

"Richard Olsen-Harbich is perhaps one of the most important wine icons on the east coast, and one of its best winemakers. The book is a mixture of scholarly erudition and an artist's love of his materials and the art form itself. Part natural history, part poetry, part social consciousness. A passionate homage to wine and the land it comes from. Outstanding." — Carlo DeVito, Birchenall Award Winner and author of Drink the Northeast

"For the twenty years I've written about East Coast wines, no one has taught me more about them than Rich Olsen-Harbich has. It's not surprising that in distilling his forty-plus years of grape growing and winemaking experience into Sun, Sea, Soil, he has delivered the most important and comprehensive book ever written about Long Island wine. In it, he examines the district literally from the ground up, exploring its history, meteorology, hydrology, pedology, viticulture, and enology but really, this book is a love letter to the wine region and community where he's made it his life's work to define the unique style of Long Island wine." — Lenn Thompson, owner, Cork Report Media

"I had the good fortune of entering the New York wine industry at the same time as Rich Olsen-Harbich, and of witnessing the winegrowing revolution on Long Island, thanks largely to his passion, leadership, and collaboration. To the book's title I would only suggest adding the word 'Soul' because so much of this inspiring tale chronicles the vital role of people—women, Latinos, true believers in Long Island's future—in transforming a landscape of potato fields into a world-class wine region. Cheers!" — Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica and former president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation

"An extraordinary tour de force that should be required reading for anyone interested in wine—and its humanity. Simply the most rigorously conceived book ever written about the modern American wine industry, by one of its most esteemed winemakers and intellectuals. Richard Olsen-Harbich has crafted an elegant meditation on the complexities of wine and its relationship to American culture. He tells rich stories of place while ignoring the borders dividing genres, deftly weaving together vibrant personal experiences with revelatory facts of science and history. His efforts to situate the beauty, oddity, and hedonism that distinguish wine from all other forms of agriculture are both critical and compelling." —Trent Preszler, CEO of Bedell Cellars and Professor of Practice at Cornell University