Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

photo (32)

The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

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Ten Venues for Outdoor Wining

Memorial Day Weekend means summer really is beginning, so I thought this would be the right time to tell you about my favorite places for outdoor sipping on the North Fork.  There is something very civilized about sitting in the sun (or under an umbrella), sipping a lovely chilled white or rosé, or even a well-rounded red, enjoying the warm breezes, possibly snacking on some bread and cheese.  If that experience includes a pretty view over farm fields and vineyards, so much the better.

Almost all of the tasting rooms augment their indoor seating with outdoor areas in the summer, from Jamesport’s capacious lawn to Waters Crest’s two umbrella tables in the parking lot, but some are pleasanter than others.  Following this you will find a list of my favorites, starting with a few I particularly enjoy, and then others in no real order.  I also mention a wine or two I particularly recommend for sipping, but in a few cases it has been a year or more since I went there, so you may not find the same vintages on offer.  Note that some places encourage you to bring your own picnic, while others discourage or forbid it, so I suggest you check the web sites before you go.  The ones which don’t allow you to bring your own snacks generally sell their own.  If you’re putting together a bread and cheese picnic, you won’t do better than Love Lane Cheese Shop in Mattituck, which carries a wide variety of excellent cheeses and baguettes from Tom Cat bakery.  Stop at Harbes for some berries or Wickham for peaches and you’re set.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

1)       Croteaux

This is absolutely my favorite outdoor tasting area, plus all the wines are perfect for summer sipping.  You go through the tiny tasting room into a tree and flower-filled patio area, with comfortable Adirondack chairs and shady nooks.  Two of my favorite rosés are the Merlot 314 and the Violet, but any of them would work.  I also recommend their snack of goat cheese and baguette.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux's yard.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux’s yard.

2)      Old Field

If you like a rustic setting, this is the place!  Calico cloths on the tables plus chickens and ducks roaming around the old barns on the property really make you feel you are far from city life.  Though I don’t think any Long Island rosés are better than Croteaux’s, the Cacklin Rosé 09 (probably will be a new vintage by now) was lovely.

3)      Mattebella

Picnic tables and umbrella-shaded tables dot an expansive patio area looking out over the grape vines.  We liked the ‘08 Chardonnay and the ‘08 Old World Blend.  The last time we were there, small snacks accompanied some of the wines on the tasting menu.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

4)      Jamesport

Jamesport is the perfect place to come if your group includes children who would like some space to roam around, or even dogs (as long as they are on the leash).  Their large backyard lawn, with a variety of seating or picnic areas, some in shade and others in the sun, is perfect, and they sell thin crust pizzas made in an outdoor stone oven and freshly opened oysters, among other treats.  Their Sauvignon Blanc goes particularly well with oysters.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

5)      Pellegrini

Here the outdoor seating varies from pleasant spots out on the lawn or the interior courtyard to a few tables overlooking the vineyard.  What makes this a good place for an outdoor tasting (rather than just a glass of wine) is that they will give you your entire tasting on a tray, carefully labeled, so you can sit and sample at your leisure.  If you’re going for just a glass, we really like their Petit Verdot, which would pair well with brie and baguette.

6)      Paumanok

Paumanok is another place that often features oysters, though not as reliably as Jamesport.  They have a pleasant porch out back of the tasting room which looks out over the vines and fields.  The 2011 Festival Chardonnay was a good match for the oysters, though they may have a new vintage by now.

The deck at One Woman

The deck at One Woman

7)      One Woman

This is a small winery with a small porch which wraps around the tiny tasting room.  You are surrounded by the vines and a large field of grass as you sit and taste.  We found the One Woman Tribute ’11 to be a good sipping wine, and we are in love with the 2012 Grüner Veltliner.

8)      Comtesse Thérèse

This is another winery with a bit of a French accent, and outdoor tastings are in the charmingly disheveled intimate garden behind the Comtesse Thérèse Bistro.  Though the setting is pleasant, we found the service a bit lackluster our last time in the garden, though that could certainly have changed.  The 2011 Chardonnay was a super sipper.

9)      Shinn

Although it was too chilly to sit outdoors on the day we went there, we did admire Shinn’s remodeled outdoor seating area, with comfortable-looking chairs and a nice little snack menu. I’d recommend First Fruit for a sipping wine.

Outdoor area at Shinn

Outdoor area at Shinn

10)   Pugliese

With a pretty little pond and trellis-shaded picnic tables, Pugliese has created a very attractive outdoor seating area.  If it’s not overrun with limo groups, I’d recommend you go there with some cheese and crackers and get the Bella Domenica, a summery red.

Pretty pond at Pugliese

Pretty pond at Pugliese

P.S.  Just visited Mattebella for the first time in two years and their improved outdoor area means they should be added to this post!  (See review for details.)

 

Shinn Estate Vineyards: For Earth Lovers April 26, 2014

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

The Farmhouse at Shinn

The Farmhouse at Shinn

Hidden away on Oregon Road, Shinn includes both a lovely rustic tasting room and their own inn, called the Farmhouse.  Considering that the owners also own the restaurant Home in New York City, I’ll bet the food is good there!  However, we had come for a tasting after our disappointing attempt to visit Vineyard 48.  As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed a huge windmill, and I remembered that I read that they powered the winery using solar and wind power only.  The outside area has been attractively redone, with rustic benches and natural stone walls, but it was too chilly to stay outside, so in we went, where we found a warm welcome, a happy crowd, and Panda, the resident black and white dog.  Rocks anchor the menus to the bar, inspirational words painted on weathered wood line the walls, and a blackboard notes that they are now open until 8 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Windmill

Windmill

Outdoor area

Outdoor area

A tasting is $10 for any four wines, chosen from an interesting menu that includes six whites and five reds, plus Wickham’s pear cider, their own “sherry,” eau de vie, and grappa.  We decide to share two tastings, three whites, four reds, and the “sherry.”  (They also sell their own vinegar and granola, and have a small snack menu outside.)  One of the servers gives us detailed information about each wine, while the other does not, but the menu gives some guidance.

Dog in residence

Dog in residence

1)      2013 Coalescence            $16

We have liked and bought this blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling in the past, so we opted to start with it.  Aromas of pear and fresh cut grass and tastes of baked pear and citrus, maybe lemon grass, with some tangerine at the end, was how we described this to each other.  Though not for sipping, it would be okay with seafood in a cream sauce.  However, we don’t like it as much as we did in the past, which shows the importance of tasting new vintages before you buy.

2)      2013 First Fruit                   $22

This is a lovely wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, with faint honeysuckle and orange aromas and lots of fruit, a bit petillant on the tongue.  The initial sweetness of the taste could be off putting to some, but overall it is not too sweet, especially at the end.  I could see sipping this on the porch if summer ever comes!

3)      2012 Pinot Blanc              $35

An unfiltered barrel-aged (11 months) wine, you can see the cloudiness in the glass.  They serve it at room temperature so you can savor the taste.  Wow. Interesting.  This has a very full mouth feel, almost as if you could chew it.  I don’t know that I’d want it with food, but it would be fun to include it in a tasting and see what people thought of it.  We smell pine or forest floor and taste some vanilla.

Clouds!

Clouds!

Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass!

Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass!

4)      Red Blend           $16

One of the servers cleaned up the glass that was to be used for our red tasting, so our server rinses our glass with some of the bottle of water they give each group.  As the name indicates, this is a blend, of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  Though it was made using grapes from 2011 and 2012, it is not a vintage wine, and the menu describes it as “medium bodied.”  I would agree:  this is an ordinary wine, with lots of tannins, a bit on the thin and bitter side, with tastes of berries and sour apple.

5)      2010 Estate Merlot          $26

This is a fairly typical Long Island Merlot, with a sweet berry aroma and taste.  My husband says “baked sweet potatoes.”  Maybe.  Good.

6)      2010 Wild Boar Doe                         $32

Again, this is a blend of all five of their estate grown reds, with a pleasant aroma of fresh hay and berries and a delicious taste that is reminiscent of a French Bordeaux (no surprise, given the name!).  This is a very appealing wine and would be good for a special occasion, with steak or lamb or pasta with a red sauce. photo (52) 7)      2010 Cabernet Franc                       $38

A bit of a barnyard odor and tastes of berry but also some burnt toast with honey.  It doesn’t bowl me over, but my husband likes it more than I do.

8)      2009 Veil “Sherry”            $48 for a 375 ml bottle

Made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon late-harvest grapes, this is a sweet and herbal sherry-like drink with notes of honey and a bit of goldenrod scent.  Pleasant, though we prefer Spanish sherries; it would make a nice before-dinner cocktail, maybe on ice or mixed with something else.

Some of the more exotic items on the tasting menu.

Some of the more exotic items on the tasting menu.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room in the midst of scenic farm fields; the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe; the chance to taste some other types of drinks like their sherry (we’ll have to return to try the eau de vie and the grappa!); the chance to support a vineyard that cares about the Earth as well as the earth. photo (46)     9)

A Food and Drink Miscellany

A bad cold has put me hors de combat for tasting wine, so instead here are some random notes on food and drink on the North Fork.

photo (8)

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company

http://www.harborbrewing.com/

In preparation for our annual junk food feast during the Super Bowl (which I watch for the commercials), we decided to get a growler of Greenport Harbor beer.  But which one to get?  We had to do a tasting of them all, since there were several new ones on the menu.  Oh, what a burden. The new ones were Antifreeze, a great name for a winter ale; Spring Turning, a Belgian style saison; and Gobsmacked IPA, an English style IPA. We also, in the interest of completeness, sampled  Harbor Ale,  Black Duck Porter,  Otherside IPA and  Leafpile Ale.  We liked them all, but finally decided that Antifreeze would go best with our Mexican-style snacks of nachos, guacamole, and bison chili. And so it did.  (P.S.  I was amused by the Free Beer Tomorrow sign, which reminded me of a line in Alice in Wonderland about jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.)

Riverhead Farmers Market

As it turned out, we were not the only ones excited at the thought of a winter farmers market in Riverhead, since when we got there just at 11, when it was scheduled to open, there was already a crowd inside.  We could barely find a parking spot in the large lot behind the stores on Main Street.  We bought scallops which had just been opened that morning, bread from Blue Duck bakery, fresh pasta, and locally grown oyster mushrooms for dinner, plus eggs from Browder’s Birds for breakfast.  We could also have bought wine from a couple of wineries, beer from a local brewery, cheeses, and various desserts and other prepared foods, such as empanadas and spanakopita.  Wow.  We’ll be back.  We heard that everything was basically sold out by 2, so it pays to come early.

The raw ingredients for dinner from the Riverhead Farmers Market.

The raw ingredients for dinner from the Riverhead Farmers Market.

And the finished product, with a glass of Comtesse Therese Chardonnay.

And the finished product, with a glass of Comtesse Therese Chardonnay.

Village Cheese Shop on Love Lane

http://www.thevillagecheeseshop.com/ 

If you like good cheeses, this is the place to come.  They not only have a large selection of excellent cheese, they are quite good at giving advice.  “I’d like a creamy blue,” I said, and they knew just which of the many blues to steer me towards.  “And how about a cheese for someone who is lactose intolerant but loves good cheese?”  They had that one, too—a lactose-free well-aged cheese.  In addition to cheeses from around the world they also carry local cheeses, such as Catapano’s goat cheeses and Mecox Dairy’s excellent cheeses, plus patés, olives, and great baguettes.  In addition, they carry a small but select stock of gourmet groceries and also serve fondue and a few other cheese-based dishes for lunch.  I’ve been here frequently and never had a bad cheese.  If you want to add bread and cheese to a wine country picnic, stop in here.

Wayside Market

http://waysidemarketsouthold.com/ 

Now let’s say you want to barbeque some meat that is better than what you can get in the supermarket.  Where to go?  Wayside carries a small but top quality selection of steaks, etc., and, though their prices are not cheap, their meats are good.  I once ordered a butterflied leg of lamb from them which I then marinated.  My husband grilled it and our guests devoured it.   They also carry really good sausages, plus various interesting grocery items.  Whenever we are there, we see people coming in to get sandwiches made at their deli counter, but we haven’t tried those yet.

Okay, time for another cup of hot tea with honey and lemon.  Maybe by next week I’ll be ready to visit another winery!

Which Wineries to Visit: A Summary

After several recent requests for specific guidance as to which winery to visit, I realized that, while my blog does detail my week-by-week impressions, I had given no summary of recommendations.  So, here are some suggestions:

If you are going East with a group, and you are interested in a party atmosphere, with a likelihood of live music (though many places now feature live performers, some are more likely to than others—check their web sites), two good choices would be Peconic and Vineyard 48.  Both have some good wines and both are often quite crowded on the weekends, with a number of vans and buses in the parking lot.  The last time we were at Peconic (in February of 2011) we liked the La Barrique Chardonnay 07 and the 08 Merlot.  We also visited Vineyard 48 that February, and liked the Sauvignon Blanc and the 05 Merlot Reserve.  We tend to visit these crowded places in the winter, as you may deduce.

If you will have children with you, Martha Clara is probably your best bet, as they do quite a bit of agritainment and they have a farm with interesting animals—llamas!—you may visit.  We haven’t been there in a few years, so I can’t really recommend any wine in particular, though I do remember being favorably impressed with their sparkling wines.  Pellegrini would also be okay, if it is nice weather, as you may take your tray of tastes outside and the children can play on the lawn.  A few wineries, such as Diliberto’s, specifically say no children.

If it is a beautiful day and you would like to relax in a pretty courtyard setting—and you like rosés (though if you’re not, Croteaux may make a rosé convert of you)—Croteaux is a lovely place to spend some time.  French music plays in the background, and it has comfortable Adirondack chairs and a laid-back atmosphere.  Another good outdoors spot is Old Field, with its mis-matched calico tablecloths and country farm background, though seating is not as comfy.

On the other hand, if what you are interested in is possibly chatting with the winery owner or a server who is very knowledgeable about the wines, and you like a small intimate setting, there are several wineries we like very much.  One is Diliberto’s, which we have been to frequently, though not recently.  It is just down Manor Lane from an apple orchard, so you can combine apple-picking (or just buying a bag of apples and a pie) with your winery visit.  On occasional Sundays, “Grandma” (a.k.a. Sal Diliberto himself) does cooking demos, making pizza or pasta, tastes of which he then distributes. He also sometimes has a singer and/or musician in. The room is small, painted in trompe l’oeil fashion to resemble the town square of a little Italian town, and we tend to like his reds.  Water’s Crest, which I have reviewed in the blog, is also a small intimate space, as are One Woman, McCall’s, Sannino Bella Vita, and Mattebella.  Though we’ve never encountered an owner at Shinn’s, it also has a cozy tasting room a bit off the main roads, though we only liked a couple of their wines.

Jamesport has some nice whites, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc, and often sells local oysters to consume with them.  We have been there on nice days when it feels like a big family party, with children playing on the lawn and musicians performing under a tent.  One time we were there and the guitarist played Blues Sonata, one of my favorite jazz pieces.

There are a couple of wineries I do NOT recommend (lest you think I like everything).  One is Duck Walk, which despite multiple tasting rooms on both the North and South Forks and the presence of crowds every weekend, had several wines we actively disliked, and a rather coldly commercial atmosphere.  The other is Raphael, which has a beautiful tasting room they often rent out for weddings and other parties, but which again had wines we did not particularly care for.  However, they do have a nice selection of wine-related gifts.  Baiting Hollow, also not one of our favorites, sells real food and lots of gift items, if that is what you are looking for.

Finally, there is one rather all-purpose winery which is probably our favorite:  Pellegrini.  We like most of their wines, and they tend to do a rather better job with reds than many North Fork wineries.  In addition, you can either stand at the bar and talk with the servers (especially Judy, who is quite passionate about the wines and knows everything about them) or take your carefully arranged tray of tastes to an inside or outside table.

To me, an ideal fall day on the North Fork would start with breakfast at Erik’s, go on to pumpkin or apple picking at Harbes or another farm and/or a stroll on a beach (Even if you’re not a resident, you can now park since it is after Labor Day. Head south on Cox Neck Road, go towards Cooper’s Farm stand—best eggs ever—and on to Breakfront Beach for a good walking beach.), then lunch at Love Lane Kitchen, a visit to a winery such as Diliberto’s, a walk around Greenport to check out the galleries and antique stores, and then another winery stop at Pellegrini’s or Old Field before stopping at Briermere to buy a pie and then heading home—or to Riverhead for dinner at Tweed’s.

Well, there’s much this leaves out, but you get the idea!  Enjoy.