A State Liquor Authority investigation into Harbes Family Vineyard found “no wine is produced on-site” as required by the farm’s license, a charge the company seeks to settle through an offer proposed $ 10,000.
The charge and investigation followed a neighbor’s complaint about the bustling Harbes family farm on Sound Avenue in Mattituck, which occupies the narrow two-lane North Fork road from spring to fall with visitors and which has aroused the anger of some who complain about the traffic. backups and other issues.
“It’s horrible,” said neighbor Karen Wallace, who lives on a private road adjacent to the farm, where musical hay rides passed by her house. “It’s an invasion of people… and it’s disturbing because there is no limit. There is always a feeling that everything is going on. Next year, who knows what might be next. ? “
In response to a separate request to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to review parts of the Harbes farm, a state official released a finding that although many activities at the Mattituck farm meets the standards of a farming business, some other attractions would “not be considered agricultural in nature.” These included Farmer foosball, duck racing games, spider web climber, Lil Farmers playground, gem mining and giant sandboxes, according to the letter of the l ‘State. It is still unclear, according to the state, whether the Gnome Hedge Maze and the Musical Chicken Show are linked to the sale of farm produce.
The state noted, however, that the findings do not constitute notices of violation and that “some municipalities may allow entertainment or activities, as well as the sale of a higher percentage of non-agricultural products.”
Calls and an email to Harbes were not returned. But Keven Danow, a lawyer for Harbes, said the winery has decided to fully comply with the findings of the State Liquor Authority, which may make a final ruling on the matter this week.
Harbes is not “fighting” the state’s request in the investigation, but is working to resolve it, Danow said. “There was a misunderstanding of what they had to do to comply” with the terms of their license, Danow said. “They changed their operation and they make this wine on the spot.”
As for neighbors’ complaints about noise and traffic, Danow said he understood some neighbors “are complaining about a number of local farms.”
“They are moving into an agricultural area and they don’t like farms around them,” he said. “Well, this is America.” But Harbes is “a wonderful place. It is certainly an active and working farm. It is an educational area.”
This is not how Wallace sees it. “It is literally the blockade,” she said of the conditions created by Operation Harbes in Mattituck, forcing residents to “stay at home for the duration of their weekend.”
In an affidavit with the winery complaint, Edward Harbes III testified that while the grapes grown on the farm in the past had been harvested, crushed and fermented “on the premises of the winery”, the process was altered at some point. given to become “more economical”. arrangement with “another wine estate”.
He said the company “did not intentionally violate” the state’s liquor law and offered the conditional plea and payment of $ 10,000 to settle the case.
But in a letter to the State Liquor Authority, Michael J Giusto, an attorney for Wallace, accused that in its 15 years licensed to practice, the Harbes cellar “failed to meet … the requirement to production of 50 gallons on site “and has” expanded in a way that has become a threat to public safety.
He noted the conclusion of the state agriculture and markets department that the Harbes Barnyard adventure and other activities are “not of an agricultural nature” and “unauthorized” in the agricultural conservation district of the town of Southold.
Southold Town supervisor Scott Russell said he could not directly comment on the “general issues” surrounding Harbes, noting that he had met with the company in the past to attempt to resolve the issues, but Harbes “has retained the services of a lawyer “.
Giusto noted that while Harbes’ original state license application envisioned a wine production building, the building “was never completed” and now houses the Harbes Kitchen. He also noted that in its recent application, Harbes identified its modus operandi as a “restaurant and bar / tavern” and not as a winery.