We have a bottle of Schloss-Johannisberg on the counter in the kitchen, waiting for a special occasion. We’ll often sit at the table and discuss France and Italy, but the truth is, while that legendary German Riesling sits on the counter and we dream of far off Burgundy and Piemonte, we are living in suburban Long Island, NY.
For me, my favorite wine itinerary is a simple 60-mile drive to the end of the Long Island Expressway: The North Fork of Long Island. Once you exit the expressway, it is farmland and then more farmland with outlet stores and strip malls to cleanse the palate (or empty the wallet) as you drive along to Route 25.
Nestled between the beaches on the far east of Long Island, our local wine vineyards are producing some good wine. One great thing about tasting locally is that it is so close to home, you aren’t pressed to taste everything produced, you can always “taste seasonally”: Fresh crisp whites in the hot summer months, and rich complex reds on the fall/winter, these vineyards are open year-round with over 20 wineries and vineyards on over 3,000 acres of grapes on the North Fork. For a day trip, or a short overnight, you have endless choices.
Photo courtesy Corey Creek Vineyards/Bedell Cellars
My first stop would be at Pellegrini Vineyards. The tasting room is set against Pellegrini’s 30-acre home vineyard, with rows and rows of grapes right outside the door and a modern tasting room, it is a great way to start a wine tour. A duo of refreshing local whites will ease your tastebuds into the complex tannic goodness of North Shore reds. Pellegrini Vintner’s Pride Chardonnay is an excellent representation of winemaker Russell Hearn. He brings a fresh Australian touch to this locally grown and bottled Chardonnay, then have a taste of their East End Select Rose, an ambitious blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Petit Verdot, with the bright taste of strawberries, and the lightness of the Petit Verdot, this wine will transition you well into having a taste of their Cabernet Franc. I like to choose one pure varietal to compare when I am going to different vineyards, and Cabernet Franc is my go to on the North Fork.
A few miles up Route 25 is Corey Creek Vineyards, under iconic Bedell ownership, I feel like Corey Creek is what Bedell started out as: Rustic, all about being local, and overall, delicious. Some days, they have a high-end pizza truck on the property, hosting local events and showcasing amazing views, Corey Creek is a relative newcomer to the area, and showcases everything beautiful on the North Fork Wine Trail. Spacious Grounds, a bright and airy “Barn”/tasting room and solid, award winning wines. Their Reserve Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer, both won "Best in New York State" in 2006, and their Cabernet Franc is grown on just over five acres right there next to the tasting room. I’d relax, try all three and then start thinking about lunch.
You can back track a few miles to Farm Country Kitchen at 513 Main Street in Riverhead. Find a parking spot, and then make your way to the back patio on the Peconic River. Their Lobster Roll is one of the best on the North Fork, but you also have the option of buying one of their “Wine Country Boxed Lunches” and picnicking at any of the Vineyards that I am writing about. I choose to sit at a table overlooking the river, eat a Lobster Roll and relive the experience of their Espresso Bread Pudding every time I am there. I dream about that bread pudding.
My last vineyard stop would be Lieb Family Cellars. I love their saying “North Fork. Not Napa.” It is a beautiful setting on Cox Neck Road, at the junction of Route 48. The Lieb Family produce their wine at a “Custom Crush” facility that is owned by Premium Wine Group some of the North Fork’s heavy hitters: Russell Hearn, Mark Lieb, and Bernard Sussman. I like to end the day hearing about the business of North Fork Wine, and sipping some of the Lieb Family Cellar’s latest hits: Reserve Pinot Blanc; Bridge Lane Rose, Reserve Cabernet Franc and ending with their own sparkling Blanc de Blancs.
Maybe if we didn’t dawdle too much, we could buy a chilled bottle and make our way to Reeves Beach just off of Park Road in Riverhead to watch the sunset (If you are lucky, the Gazebo will be empty).
The end to a perfect day on the North Fork Wine Trail would be at the Jedadiah Hawkins Inn, an amazing and possibly haunted small, upscale Victorian B&B. Their award-winning (make reservations on Open Table) Luce & Hawkins dining room features North Fork Wine, local produce and a seasonal tasting menu that is top notch: poached lobster with lovage &tarragon and Crescent Farm duckling ragu with ricotta gnocchi, accented with basil, are seasonal items in their five course tasting menu that are, in a word, amazing. Chef Keith Luce grew up on the North Fork of Long Island and after an amazing early career including sous chef in President Clinton’s White House, he came home to champion local agriculture. Dream Global, Drink Local and we’ll toast to the North Fork of Long Island.
Properties mentioned in this article:
Pellegrini Vineyards 23005 Main Road Cutchogue, NY 11935
Corey Creek Vineyard 45470 Route 25 Southold, NY 11971-4673
Farm Country Kitchen W Main St Riverhead, NY 11901
Lieb Cellars Tasting Room 35 Cox Neck Road Mattituck, NY 11952
Reeves Beach off of Park Road, Riverhead, NY 11901
Jedediah Hawkins Inn Luce & Hawkins Restaurant 400 South Jamesport Ave Jamesport, NY 11947
Wine Blog: www.ALBinNYC.blogspot.com