Long Island Wine Escape

New York’s hot, muggy weather required some quick thinking to escape the heat. The obvious suggestion was a trip to Long Island’s wine country. Never mind that it wasn’t cooler upon arrival, but sipping cold whites somehow made the weather more tolerable.

Long Island’s wine region is split into North and South Forks, with the South Fork better known as the Hamptons. Since we would most likely be drunk if we visited both forks in one day, we chose the South Fork. Not because I was curious about the Hamptons, but because research implied there were great winemakers there….and….ok, I was curious about the Hamptons.

Driving the ribbon of highway closest to the ocean, it was surprising to see mile after mile of white, sandy beaches open to the public. Did I imagine the coast to be rugged, or unsightly? Probably never thought about it until then, but realized what a nice respite it must be for New Yorkers escaping the city, and for Long Islanders as well. There was plenty of beach for all. Well done, New York.

Looking for a quick treat, we stopped at Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, home to their celebrated chocolate chip cookie. Everything about this cute cottage was irresistible, and their reputation for baked goods is known nationwide. However….as with wine, cookie appreciation is subjective! Personally, it’s tough to beat Lavain Bakery in NYC and their delectable chocolate chip cookie. Words fail me.

Long Island wines have received greater accolades over the past few years, and can now be found in dozens of upscale NYC restaurants. The pioneer winemakers who believed they could produce great wines, are now being celebrated not only for quality but for diversity as well. Known for their whites - Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay -some red wines have done well here – including Lagrein, Merlot and Blaufrankisch.

Rose is all the rage now, and that fits nicely into Long Island’s hands. They’ve become top producers of Rose wines, with most being “dry” Rose, unlike the too sweet Rose wines of the past. A visit to Channing Daughters Winery found eight Rose wines made from a variety of grapes. The winery offers an eclectic array of wine, and intriguing grape blending. It begs the question to winemaker, Christopher Tracy….when do you sleep? Channing Daughters not only has beautiful wines, but to visit the winery is a pleasure. The girls at the front (Erin and Debbie) were not only professional, versed on every aspect of the wines, but genuinely friendly and inviting. Since I usually lean toward red, we bought the 2009 Channing Daughters Blaufrankisch to take home…..absolutely amazing!

Another winery we wanted to visit was Wolffer Estate Vineyard, only a few minutes down the road. This Tuscan style winery is magnificent, and if we had more time it would have been lovely to sit on the outside deck and sip wine until dusk. Wolffer is also known for a range of quality wines and winemaker, Roman Roth, has pushed the envelope to make his vision for superb Long Island wines a reality. Their largest production is of Rose, and yet they traditionally sell out by the end of summer.

To truly appreciate Long Island’s wine country, it would be wise to spend a weekend. The Hamptons are beautiful, and that rustic, elegant feel pervades throughout. I didn’t find anyone with their ponies and riding habits, so a photo of a wall hanging at Duckwalk Vineyards (at top) will have to do. The gentleman behind the bar was short on personality, so instead of buying a tasting we took the photo instead. :) Next up will be a visit to the North Fork of Long Island. Cheers!



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