I’m originally from Long Island, and have meant to do a blog post on the North Fork Wine Trail for a while now. Luckily, my best friend Amanda’s recent bachelorette party provided the perfect opportunity. Even before I was 21 the Long Island wineries were regular excursion for me, as along with 50+ wineries (most on the North Fork Wine Trail, a few elsewhere) there are pie shops (don’t miss Briermere Farms!), fruit stands, antique stores and acres of crop fields, tractors and whimsical farmland.
The scenery is gorgeous to say the least, and if you’re staying in NYC it’s a great way to enjoy a slower paced piece of New York. If you like chardonnay, cabernet franc and merlot, Long Island’s maritime climate, glacial soils and moderate rainfall during growing seasons means high quality wines crafted from these grapes, though several winemakers are getting experimental with other varietals, as well.Be Warned: this post will make you want to leave #NYC for the #LongIsland wineries stat! Click To Tweet
Because it was a bachelorette party we did it in a more luxurious fashion than I typically would. We rented a limo from LIVinoTours.com for $1,127 for eight people including lunch, transportation with door-to-door pickup/dropoff, four tastings at each of three Long Island wineries, and tax and tip. It was absolutely fantastic if you’re okay splurging — although if you have 6-8 people it’s not too bad — especially since you can drink in the limo. Pat, our driver, even strayed from the original plan when we decided we wanted to stop at four instead of three wineries.
Note: not all wineries allow limos, so check this before planning your itinerary. You can also ask your limo driver to drop you out front and not park on the property.
If you’re on a budget you can drive yourself, though this is not recommended unless you somehow have a friend who truly just likes to see wineries and not imbibe (you want to be able to drink, after all). Instead, I suggest booking a public tour, like a 10-hour Long Island Wine Tour from Manhattan ($108 per person), which also includes lunch, tastings at three wineries and transport to/from Manhattan.You need to check out #LongIsland Wine Country. Here's why. #travel #newyork Click To Tweet
You typically do not need an appointment to visit the Long Island wineries unless you are in a limo. If you do reserve a limo they will likely organize your reservations for you.
To visit the Long Island wineries from Manhattan you can take a train from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma and then transfer for the train to Mattituck. Just be sure to check the schedule, as the train to Mattituck only runs a few times per day. You can also take the Hampton Jitney on the North Fork Line, with the best stops to get off being Mattituck, Cutchogue and Peconic. The wineries are close together, so you can technically walk from one to the other, although better options would be to take a taxi, bike or car. Your best bet, however, is booking a tour as it will allow you to have a designated driver.
If you’re the type of person who loves wearing floral maxi dresses and giant floppy hats like this one the Long Island wineries offer a great opportunity for that, though I stuck to my normal high-waisted jeans and crop top look. Gotta keep that Brooklyn street style even when in the countryside, right? I’ve gone with friends before who have worn plain jeans and tees, too.
There’s no strict dress code, but the atmosphere definitely calls for some fun, whimsical outdoor dress, bright colors and big shades if you’re that type of person.
Money For Tastings
Our limo price included tastings, but if you’re doing a pay-per-tasting itinerary expect to pay around $10-$20 per 5-tasting flight depending on where you go. It’s also easy to find bottles for $25 or less though, again, some wineries are pricier than others.
Make sure to sign up for the free Long Island Wine Country Passport, which gets you a complimentary tasting when you buy any in-house tasting. To learn more about the passport call 631-722-2220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to verify the dates the passport is good for, as well.
While many wineries offer food, I like to bring my own homemade picnic basket to ward off drunkenness and save money. Cheese, meats, fresh fruit, crudite, chips and crackers are all great suggestions, as is something more substantial like a sandwich. You can typically bring a cooler into the vines with you, or an uber cute picnic basket like this one.Here's how to explore #LongIsland Wine Country on any budget! #wine #travel Click To Tweet
In spring, summer and fall there are often events going on at different wineries, like live music and food pairings. Check the Long Island Wines website to see what’s going on when you’re in town.
Top Winery Picks
Now for the important part: where to go! Every winery has its own offerings and vibe, so it’s definitely not monotonous. For a diverse itinerary I recommend:
1. Lenz Winery. This spot does something unique that’s not common on Long Island, a Gewürztraminer (typically a spicy German grape) done in a drier French style. There are picnic tables and (sometimes) food trucks outside and opportunities for beautiful photos in the vines. There’s also a tunnel outside where you can take fun silhouette shots with backlighting. See below for my Fosse-inspired photo!
2. Harbes Farm. Harbes Farm has many attractions on site: pumpkin picking, hay rides, pony rides, apple picking, a farm market, a homey bakery, corn mazes, gem mining and, of course, wine tasting. This is a fun spot for families, though I’ve gone here with friends and dates and love doing the tastings inside a rustic barn.
3. Sparkling Pointe. This is where I go to pretend I’m the type of person who likes to bathe in money. Just kidding. Well, sort of. Their prices are actually reasonable — prices start at about $29 per bottle — though the experience of sipping bubbly on leather couches literally within the vines feels uber luxurious.
4. Coffee Pot Cellars. This tiny quiet winery is where Amanda got engaged. The owner/wife is a beekeeper and the owner/husband is the winemaker (he also makes wine nearby at Osprey’s Dominion), so you can purchase all-natural beeswax products and learn about the mason bee. When you do a tasting you’ll get a cork to write something on — or put your “vibe” on — as they say. The cork gets put onto the 18 foot long, 7-foot tall Winosaurous cork dinosaur outside. Amanda’s fiancé Mike actually proposed to her by writing “Will you marry me?” on a cork from a bottle of wine they’d sipped on a prior visit.
My friends and I shared a $19.99 bottle of stainless steel fermented sauvignon blanc that was budget-friendly and delicious with notes of honeydew and lemon zest.
5. Bedell Cellars. This is one of the pricier vineyards — their flights are 5 wine tastings for $20; however, I love their reds and feel they produce a higher quality than some of the other producers. There’s also more of a polished, modern feel than some of the other more rustic wineries. I usually don’t like merlot, but theirs is heavenly with notes of blueberries, spice and earth. Fun fact: Bedell’s 2009 merlot was served at the Presidential Inauguration!
6. Osprey’s Dominion. This is a great stop for those who love being active when they drink with lawn games like corn hole, volleyball, bocce and canjam abounding. There’s a definite “American Pride” theme with lots of American flags, a wooden stage with live local music and an American flag backdrop, picnic tables, and a Chill & Grill zone where you can grill your own meats and veggies. Make sure you try their unique and slightly spicy carminere, with tastings ranging from $8 for 3 wines to a 5-tasting Reserve Flight for $15.
7. Baiting Hollow. This stop gets pretty packed on weekends (see video below), but it’s really fun with live music and artisan vendors selling their wares. There’s a very social atmosphere, and their merlot rose is stellar, especially at only $23.99 per bottle. Basic tastings range from $4 for one to $16 for six.
8. Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse. These guys were the first on Long Island to hold a farming distilling license, and you’ll be able to taste wines AND spirits made using biodynamic methods. They also have an Inn if you’d like to stay overnight. They do a really nice cabernet franc, a grape Long Island is known for, with red cherry and spice essences. Their small-batch grappa is also a must!And here's where to find a giant dinosaur made of #wine corks! #quirky #newyork Click To Tweet
Recommended NYC Hotels
If you’re staying in NYC and doing Long Island wine country as a day trip, a few budget-friendly hostels and hotels I recommend include:
- Row NYC Hotel (Times Square)
- Broadway Hotel & Hostel (Upper West Side)
- Hostelling International (Upper West Side)
- The Peninsula New York (Midtown West)
- Aloft Harlem (Harlem)
- The Out NYC Midtown West)
Have you visited the Long Island wineries? Please share your experience in the comments below!
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Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island by Eileen M Duffy [Great Reads]