One of the best excursions I can recommenced is a wine tasting tour of the North Fork of Long Island. The North Fork is home to more than forty vineyards, producing everything from Chardonnay to Cabernat Franc and Sparkling Wine. Almost all of the vineyards have tasting rooms and on the weekends a number of them feature music and food along with their wine tasting. There are some really nice wines being made on Long Island. The following are a few favorites, some well known, some out of the way. Use them as a trusty starting guide then feel free to experience others. The worst thing that will happen is that you have some okay wine with friends in a beautiful setting.
In addition to the vineyards, you will find fantastic farm stands brimming with local produce, good restaurants and some of the prettiest countryside you will see. If you have spent any time on the South Fork and wondered what East Hampton or South Hampton looked like before the mansions, money and celebrities rolled in, the North Fork will give you a sense. It will send you back in time. It has that kind of magic.
Shinn Estate Vineyards
Shinn Estate Vineyards, one of the most well known and well regarded of the North Fork Vineyards, was started By Barbara Shinn and David Page in 1998. The couple had found success in New York City with their restaurant Home when they decided to buy twenty acres and an historic homestead in Mattituck. Not content to just try their hand at making wine, they wanted to use sustainable farming practices to do it. Today the vineyard is certified sustainable and is completely powered by solar and wind. But make no mistake, the wine making comes first.
Shinn Estate has a lovely patio and tasting room. Tastings are available by the glass or in flights. Small snacks, like a nice cheese plate, are available as well. In addition to their wines, Shinn makes an eau de vie, alembic brandy, grappa and grape vodka.
|Shinn Estate 2013 Coalescence, 2013 Rose & 2010 Cabernet Franc. This was not taken at the Vineyard.|
Of the wines I have tried my three stand outs are: the 2013 Coalescence, a light and drinkable blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling, the 2013 Rose, dry and light with nice character and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is one of the best Long Island reds I have had and begs for a grilled steak
In addition to the vineyard and distillery, Barbara and David run The Farmhouse, an Inn on the grounds of the vineyard in the historic homestead. If all this is not enough to entice you there is one more thing. Shinn Estate Vineyards sits at one end of Oregon Road, perhaps the loveliest stretch on the North Fork, which runs past farms, vineyards, old houses and some of the last potato trucks on the East End. You will be hard pressed not to find the beauty of the North Fork here.
Shinn Estate Vineyards - 2000 Oregon Road, Mattituck, NY, 11952 - http://shinnestatevineyards.com/
The Old Field
The Old Field is aptly named. It sits on land that was farmed for hundreds of years by Native Americans before European settlers bartered for it in 1640. The Baiz family has been farming the land since 1918. In 1974 Christian Baiz, the fourth generation to farm the land, decided to plant the first grapevines and transition the land into vineyards. Today The Old Field produces ten wines, all available to taste at the vineyard. This is a family affair, with the fifth generation joining their parents in running the vineyard. This family dynamic makes The Old Field one of the most welcoming vineyards you will ever visit.
The setting of The Old Field feels more like a family friendly farm than serious vineyard. The grounds are dotted with picnic tables that play host to big family gatherings. Small children run around, playing games and chasing the chickens that call the vineyard home. The tasting room is in one of the several picturesque old barns. It is as comfortable and bucolic a setting for tasting some wine that you will find.
|Meandering toward the Tasting Room|
Tastings are done by flight. Each person can choose the wines in their flight so if you come with a few people and you are willing to share you can taste all the wines The Old Field has on offer.
My favorites are the 2010 Cabernet Franc, The 2011 Chardonnay and the 2007 Blanc De Noir, a sparkling wine made with the Pinot Noir grape.
|Ask about the history of these cages in the tasting barn.|
Sip some wine, meander down the farm road and take in land that has been cultivated since before Columbus completely missed the East Coast. These are the pleasures of The Old Field.
The Old Field - 59600 Main Road, Southold, NY, 11971 - http://www.theoldfield.com/
One Woman Wines
The one woman in question is Claudia Purita, a native of Calabria, Italy and a veteran of Long Island Kitchens. She started tending 16 acres of land in 2004 and her first vintage was 2007. The operation is small, with just a few hands helping Ms. Purita. The tasting room is the size of a chicken coop. A few picnic tables sit out front.
|One Woman's tasting room.|
One Woman's size allows Ms. Purita to be as hands on as possible and to focus on her wines. The proof is in the glass. One Woman produces, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot, but the reasons I keep coming back are her two wines with Austrian roots, Gruner Veltliner and Gewurztraminer.
One Woman is the only producer of Gruner Veltliner on Long Island and one of the few making Gewurztraminer. She has two vintages of each, the younger 2013s, which are light and drinkable, and the 2012s, which have more depth and character and are excellent. The Gewurztraminers are crisp with floral and herbal notes. The Gruner Veltliners are dry with tastes of fruit and citrus. In fact, they are my two favorite whites from the North Fork. If you are unfamiliar with these grapes One Woman's wines are an perfect place to start. They would be welcomed in any restaurant in Austria and Germany. For proof I give you my mother, a native of Germany, who visited One Woman with me and walked out with half a case. Mom knows best.
|One Woman 2012 Grüner Veltliner, 2012 Gewürztraminer, Dessert Wine. Again, photo not taken at the vineyard.|
One Woman also makes a delicious dessert wine from their Gewurztraminer grapes. Definitely try it while you are there. Tastings are by the glass or in flights. There is a standard flight and a reserve flight. In a nice touch, and one more vineyards should offer, tastings are free with the purchase of two or more bottles of wine. You will buy at least two bottles, I promise. One Woman also hosts tastings "Under the Stars" on Saturday Nights from Memorial Day to Columbus, with a free family friendly movie, bonfires and s'mores. One Woman is more proof that good things come in small packages (or parcels).
One Woman Wines and Vineyards - 5195 Old North Road, Southold, NY, 11971
The Winemaker Studio
Tucked in an old house on a small lane in Peconic is The Winemaker Studio. The Winemaker Studio is a cooperative tasting room started by Anthony Nappa, the winemaker for Raphael Vinetards. The studio focuses on private label wines by local winemakers. Mr. Nappa's Anthony Nappa Wines are featured but wines by other local winemakers like Russell Hearn of Lieb Cellars, John Leo of Clovis Point and Erik Bilka of Castello di Borghese are represented as well. . The Winemaker Studio gives you the chance to experience personal expression from some of the top local winemakers in a single, cozy setting. What's not to like?
In addition to the private label wines The Winemaker Studio also focuses on local, small production wines and unusual wine styles. It even offers a few local spirits and beers. If you are a wine geek, The Winemaker Studio is for you.
Mr Nappa and his wife Sarah, a chef, recently opened Provisions & Ingredients in the adjoining building. The store is stocked with gourmet food from New York and Italy and offers a small menu of tapas, plates and pressed sandwiches that are can be eaten in The Winemakers Studio. This is one stop shopping and the perfect place to relax for an hour with friends.
The Winemaker Studio - 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic - http://www.winemaker-studio.com/tws_home.html
A man's gotta eat, especially if that man (or woman) keeps tasting wine. There are a lot of good spots on the North Fork but, if you are like me, and you are this close to the water, you want seafood. Luckily for you, Southold has one of the best seafood spots around.
Southold Fish Market
Formerly housed in the Port Of Egypt marina, Southold Fish Market, which has relocated to new digs just down the street, is a seafood store and restaurant in one. The market features fresh, locally caught fish and shellfish. If you are spending time in the neighborhood and are planning on grilling, this is your place. If you are just spending the day, or a weekend, this is also your place. The restaurant features all that great seafood on their vast menu. All the fried seafood staples, like fish and chips and fried clams are available as well as healthier but no less tasty items like grilled tuna sandwiches and fish tacos.
|The front counter.|
An appetizer of crab bites, fried mini crab cake balls with a house made remoulade are not to be missed.
If you are a lobster roll fan, Southold Fish Market's over sized roll, stuffed with lobster meat, is a must.
Did I mention the bacon wrapped scallop quesadilla? Daily specials are available, based on what is fresh and what creative spark comes to mind in the kitchen. In a nut shell, they know their way around seafood.
Southold Fish Market is the summer fish shack we all wish we lived near, but with even higher aspirations. It will not disappoint.
Southold Fish Market - 64755 Route 25, Southold
I have just scratched the surface of the joys that can be found on the North Fork. For beer fans, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company has two tasting rooms. The original nestled in the heart of beautiful Greenport and their new, larger brewery, is conveniently located right on Route 25 in Southold, right in the heart of the wine trail.
There are hikes, historic sites, apple and pumpkin picking and much more. The starting point for the North Fork, Riverhead, is only 75 miles from Manhattan. As you make your way along Route 25 through Jamesport and Mattituck, on through Southold and Greenport and all the way to Orient Point you will feel like you are a world away. Here are a couple of good resources for your trip:
So go and discover the bounty the North Fork has to offer. You will be hooked quicker than a hungry bluefish.