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Pioneer of Long Island wine industry reflects on 40 years

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Louisa Hargrave is one of the pioneers in the Long Island wine industry. 40 years ago she and her husband opened up the very first winery on the North Fork. She was just 24 years old.

"We started out alone," she said. "People thought we were kind of crazy but we didn't care."

They spent long days and nights planting and harvesting grapes, figuring out how to make great wine until one day they did it.

"All of a sudden in my barrel, in my glass was the wine I had dreamed of making," she said.

For years the Hargraves had the only winery on the North Fork. Now more than 60 vineyards are spread over thousands of acres. More than a million people visit the region every year.

They sold the winery in 1999. She wrote a book called "The Vineyard" and also consults for many of the wineries on Long Island. One of Hargrave's favorites is at the McCall Ranch.

"The reason we planted Merlot here is there's clay in the soil," Russ McCall said. He opened the tasting room four years ago after buying 110 acres of farmland in the 1990s.

"People commonly call this living the dream," he said.

Hargrave said she is thrilled that she helped to put the North Fork on the map as a great place for wine lovers.

"For me the excitement is carried on in seeing other people still doing it and succeeding with wonderful wines," she said.

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