This was the summer I decided to become more knowledgeable about the wines from the region where I live – the east coast, more specifically, the northeast. I like to think I have a global view of the world and in my wine education but I also believe in being a locavore whenever I can, and that extends down to my wine drinking. We should all patronize and support our local economy, wherever we live. I’ve been visiting the vineyards around me in New Hampshire, where fruit wines and hybrids still rule, and Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where they are having success with cool climate varieties but have yet to come together as an “industry”, but it is growing. Earlier in the summer I wrote about the Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know a wine region that grows similar varieties to what I am familiar with here at home, and to see that it is thriving and well supported by the tourism and restaurant community.
Last week I spent a few days on Long Island to tour their wine country. When I left New York more than 16 years ago there were little more than a handful of vineyards and wineries and now there are over 65. I tell people in New England the wineries stretch out in a straight line for almost a hundred miles. It’s a beautiful thing. There is so much agriculture on the North Fork of Long Island that it looks as though every other house operates a farm stand in the driveway or on the front lawn. It would be hard to imagine anyone going hungry out there.
According to the Long Island Wine Council, a member organization to promote Long Island as a premium wine growing region there are over 3,000 acres of vines under cultivation. The Wine Council maintains a website and smart phone app. The map below is downloaded from the website.
I was going to do my best to tackle as many wineries as possible in 4 days without getting burnt out. A week later the 33 bottled souvenirs sitting on my dining room table says I did all right.
I’ll break it down by day.
We left home early on Monday morning anticipating rush hour traffic through Boston on our way to New London, CT to catch the Cross Sound Ferry across Long Island Sound. Traffic was a breeze and we even managed to get on an earlier ferry. So there we were out on the North Fork (NOFO if you’re a local) before the first vineyards were even open. We kicked around the smooth rocks that line the shore in Orient Point, where the ferry docks. I took pictures of the stones to use as a background on my computer.
It’s also kind of cool to sit in the rocks and mold yourself a customized seat (ok, maybe that’s just me). Driving west we are first greeted by the familiar Welcome to New York state sign and just beyond was “Welcome to Long Island Wine Country”.
Continuing west we came upon a flower farm. We parked the car on the side of the road and got to see. It looked to me to be a perennials farm. Some areas had multi-colored flowers and others had large swaths of a single color. Later on and several times throughout our trip we saw huge fields of sunflowers. It was awesome!
We rolled up to the first vineyard near the cheap but very clean motel (right on the beach!) we were checking into. I wanted to save my money to buy more wine. The first place we stopped was One Woman Vineyard. At the end of a crushed shell driveway and parking area was this rustic little red shed surrounded by acres of vines. I found the approach charming.
Her sign boasted Long Island’s only Gruner Veltliner. Claudia Purita, originally from Calabria, is the one woman of One Woman Vineyards. Her website says that her vines are hand-planted. We tasted her Reserve Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and her Gruner Veltliner. I liked the Chardonnay and while the Gewürztraminer had a great nose it lost something on the palate. And the best thing I can say about the Gruner Veltliner is that I believe the vines are young and not producing anything exciting yet, but perhaps in a few more years…
We felt suddenly very hungry and stopped in for lunch at a little railroad car diner in Cutchogue. I’m a sucker for old-fashioned diners. Our next winery was Peconic Bay. It was a huge contrast to One Woman. Peconic Bay Winery was opulent by comparison. A long heavily grained, highly polished wood bar stretched the length of the tasting room. Leather bound tasting menu books were stacked at one end and strategically placed every few seats along the bar. There was also ample outdoor seating under umbrellas on a large patio adjacent to the vines. We sat at the bar and studied the various flights offered.
We enjoyed the blanc de blanc and blanc de noir sparklers but went home with the Nautique Rose and Rouge.
Not wanting to be too gung ho on our first day we went back to our motel afterwards and enjoyed a little picnic of breads and cheeses and fruits we had picked up along the way. All that wining and relaxing can wear you out. The sunset from the beach was a great show.
I thought it would be romantic to watch it from the top of the lifeguard chair with my wife but climbing up I realized I don’t like heights when my feet are dangling and I scooted back down to the beach and she teased me.
That was day one.