Our son goes to university on Long Island, and for 4 years, I've been telling my husband, 'we've gotta visit some of the vineyards before he graduates!' Well, senior year is here and we finally did some research, got a map and started our treasure hunt.
Just pick a fair weather weekend-- it doesn't have to be fall or warm, and discover some new vintages.. In general, we found the NYT reviews reliable, but at the end of the day, it depends on what you are looking for. Some vineyards go for groups, limos & DJ's [perhaps to offset the mediocre wine], whereas others - notably the VERY understated Waters Crest in a tiny strip mall [Cutchogue] not only has several 'best in class' wines, but sells to the St. Regis [NYC] - outstanding!
Some vineyards have the most lovely interiors, high beamed ceilings, natural wood western-style construction [Martha Clara] selling all manner of wine-related products. This vineyard has a wide selection of wines of moderate quality.
Lenz Winery [Peconic] is worth a look - beautiful setting and relaxing environment.
We were disappointed in Vineyard 48, but perhaps the media hype ramped our expectations unfairly.
Shinn Estate [Mattituck], on the other hand, has a gorgeous fermenting room with huge brushed metal vats and long tables where you can taste amongst the equipment looking out onto the regimented rows of grapevines. Shinn has several delightful wines across the spectrum - Red, Rose & White. Their most unique offering is 'Coalescence' , a white wine made of red grapes. It is delightful not only as a cold, crisp summer wine, but also as an aperitif - not very sweet, but crisp and slightly soft at the same time.
Perhaps the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of scale of operation and geography is One Woman Winery [Southold] not far from the Orient Pt Ferry. Tastings are held in a simple [kind of intimate] red cabin, and in fine weather under a scrap of a canopy or out on the lawn. Charming and rustic, but not a huge selection. Go for the reds, and try to pay cash as the wireless coverage is spotty at best.
We spent about 45 -90 min at each vineyard and had no trouble hitting six places in one day!
If you're looking to give someone a unique holiday gift, take them for a weekend ride to a few of the Long Island Vineyards. There are a couple on the South Fork that looked interesting, but we ran out of time - and the designated driver was getting woozy....
If you can't make the trip visit them online and assemble a special selection of wines for a family member or friend and you will be the toast of the party!
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