The best of Long Island Wine Country
There are 57 wineries located in the North and South Forks of New York’s east end of Long Island.
Surprised? I was too.
I am not a wine expert, far from it. In fact, I would be hard pressed to distinguish one grape varietal from the next other than to state the obvious, red or white. However, that has not stopped me from visiting wineries on my travels—quite the opposite. Wineries are a great source of wine education, especially for someone like me who knows little about winemaking. Also, wineries and wine country are home to some of the world’s finest chefs. As the saying goes, “What grows together, goes together.”
Both reds and whites thrive on the island, with the primary grapes being cabernet franc, merlot, and sauvignon blanc. There is much talk about the Long Island’s unique terroir (climate, soil, terrain) and how it affects the taste of the wine; but for me, it is simply a beautiful landscape with tasty wine. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with that. I venture to guess that there are more people like me, who know little about wine beyond how much they enjoy it.
So, selecting wineries for me are about the overall experience. I want to touch all five senses—hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. And, Long Island can do this seamlessly. I’m lulled by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, awed by the graceful green fields, refreshed by the smell of salt air, enchanted by the soft damp soil beneath my bare feet, and delighted with fabulous wine paired perfectly with a local farm-to-table fare.
Here are my suggestions for making the most of your Long Island “best of” Wine Country adventure.
Long Island Wine Country is a vibrant four-season vacation destination with its wineries open for tastings year-round. Each season, though, offers a different experience; from the basking in the sun at one of the areas many sun-kissed beaches in the summer to Winterfest, a 5-week festival of music, art and wine that spans February and March.
There is a multitude of lodging options from chain hotels and vacation rentals to five-star bed and breakfasts.
My pick for outstanding accommodations goes to Stirling House B and B on the harbor in Greenport. They had me at bread. All of their baked goods—baguettes, croissants, challah, cinnamon rolls, macaroons, and cookies—are made fresh from scratch. They use local, seasonal fruits, berries, vegetables, and get herbs from their garden. The breakfast is a three-course gourmet spread. Their bed linens are luxe, imported from France, and the towels and robes are lush Egyptian cotton. Did I mention they serve complimentary wine? It is within walking distance to Greenport Village where you can shop, peruse local art galleries, get an ice-cream or dine in restaurants and pubs. Book the Vine Time package that includes a gourmet lunch in the vineyard and an all day tour of some of the finest Long Island Wine Country wineries and vineyards.
Viewfinder Tip: Consider flying into Long Island’s MacArthur Airport, which is just minutes from wine country.
It is always difficult to decide which wineries to visit, and if time doesn’t permit you to visit all 57 during your stay, here are a few to get you started.
The Old Field
The only mother-daughter winery/vineyard team on Long Island crafting premium red, white and sparkling wines from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir wine grapes.
Winery: Duck Walk Vineyards
Location: Flagship winery in Southampton, 2nd location Duck Walk North on the North Fork
Duck Walk’s founder helped to create Long Island’s winemaking industry in the early 1980s. Today they have 140 acres producing 35,000 cases of wine annually. Wines include: Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Reisling, Pinot Grigio, Vidal Ice Wine, Blueberry Port and Pinot Meunier.
127-acre estate owned and managed by Ursula and Charles Massoud and their three sons. Wines include: Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Vin Rose
Bedell Cellars is a pioneering, family-owned winery and their wine was served at the 2013 U.S. Presidential Inauguration. Wines include Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay.
Low yield, quality-driven wines. They have the largest Pinot Noir vineyard on Longs Island. Wines include: Bordeaux Blend, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Rose
Find yourself in Manhattan and yearning for a day of Long Island wine tasting? Expedia’s Things to Do offers a day trip from Manhattan to three North Fork wineries; Raphael, where you can try European varietals, the Lenz Winery, which boasts some of the most mature vineyards in the country and Osprey’s Dominion, where 90 acres of Vinifera grapes produce some unique flavors. You’ll also savor a gourmet picnic lunch while you relish the lush greenery that makes the North Fork home to some of the only prime wine country in the Northeast.
If you like wine, or even if you don’t, eastern Long Island is a perfect blend of small town charm and a stone’s throw from big city life for a well-balanced, full-bodied vacation.
What are your favorite things to do on Long Island?