By Meryl Pearlstein
It’s a beautiful time to be outdoors, and the vineyards of The North Fork and the Hamptons in New York offer the perfect opportunity for socially distant enjoyment. The vineyards are open for tastings, some by reservation only, and some still offering outdoor seating. The selection of whites, reds and rosés varies, and each has some limited-edition wines on offer. If you discover a new favorite, I advise you to buy some bottles to take home.
The North Fork
For a touch of romance, Croteaux will transport you to Provence in an instant. Off the main drag, away from the other vineyards lining the route from Riverhead to Greenport, Croteaux is a smaller oasis with beautiful grounds and a very private setting for enjoying rosés and nibbles. Rosé is all they produce here, and you can get a flight ranging from white rosé to sparkling that will open your eyes and taste buds to more rosé nuances than you might have known. Tables in the romantic garden are set next to small open-air salon-like rooms and the Tasting Barn.
The North Fork’s only waterfront vineyard and one of the area’s most exclusive sits a ways off the main Wine Trail as well. Requiring reservations and an initial booking fee, Kontakosta is in its own league when it comes to vineyards. At the moment, no tastings are available so you’ll need to purchase a bottle, which, together with the price of a glass, can be rather pricy. But, as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. Kontakosta’s white Anemometer is a crisp blend of viognier and chardonnay that’s perfect with the area’s seafood and befits its maritime location. The setting is gorgeous, you’ll be socially distanced, and where else can you sip your wine and have a view of the bluffs of Long Island Sound?
The Rivero González family and winemaker Lilia Perez of RGNY have their birth roots in Mexico but their winemaking firmly planted in the North Fork. Set in Riverhead on an expansive plot of land, RGNY offers an exciting option for those looking to expand their wine knowledge. Wines include white merlot, cabernet franc, pinot noir and viognier. But here you’ll find that the tastes and textures might be a bit different from what you know. The pinot noir and cabernet franc, for instance, are unfiltered, creating a nose, color and body that isn’t the expected. Live music is presented outdoors in warmer weather and provides a lively accompaniment for enjoying the vineyard’s artisanal charcuterie and cheese plates. Look for new vintages to come as Perez takes her Bordeaux training and Mexican heritage and mixes it with the terroir of the North Fork to create orange wines in amphora and more.
Now in its 40th year, Pindar Vineyards is quite an entity with acres of vineyards and a tasting room and outdoor area as expansive as you’ll find on the North Fork. Long Island’s most well-known wine producer, Pindar is family-owned and overseen by Barbara and Pindar Damianos, keeping alive the vision and traditions begun by Barbara’s husband Dan Damianos. As with Duck Walk, labels on Pindar vintages are works of art, and you should spend some time perusing the bottles and cans (yes, they have wine in cans!) as you decide what to sample. The knowledgeable servers will arrange a tasting for you with a range of the vineyard’s whites, reds and rosés. Ask for recommendations — Pindar grows 17 varieties of grapes, producing some 23 varietals and proprietary blends. On warm weekends, live music will entertain you and there is often an outdoor stand with oysters on the half. A third part of the Pindar empire, Jason’s Vineyard, a few miles away, offers a more intimate setting.
Bedell has matured over its 40 years into a lovely setting for enjoying its red, white and rosé wines. The well-orchestrated vineyard allows small pets so you can bring the extended family to enjoy the gorgeous outdoor setting with live music on select weekends. Popular features are the vineyard’s First Crush wines made with young vines, contrasting with older vintages like the prized oak-aged Musée 2014 (with a label by Chuck Close) and the 2018 petit verdot. Bedell’s albariño pairs perfectly with their charcuterie and cheese plates. In cooler times, the vineyard’s expansive deck is a welcoming space for tastings and small bites.
The premier vineyard on the South Fork, Wölffer Estate Vineyard is a formal affair overseen by winemaker Roman Roth. Thanks to its gorgeous estate, terrace and acres of vineyards, you might think you’ve arrived under the Tuscan sun. The vineyard produces whites, reds, and rosés from its vineyards just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Tastings are offered outdoors, weather permitting, with reservations. A drive-through rosé truck sells the Wolffer’s pretty Summer in a Bottle and is also located at the vineyard’s casual Wine Stand. You can schedule private tours of the vineyards through the Wine Stand with a small-bite and wine tasting included. Adding to its repertoire, Wölffer also makes ciders and a surprising gin.
With an unobstructed view of the Parrish Museum, Duck Walk Vineyards’ Water Mill location offers a serene alternative to its busier North Fork counterpart. The smaller vineyard is an intimate setting for taking in the beautiful artwork on the labels and the gorgeous landscape while enjoying a tasting of reds, whites and rosés. The family-owned winery is part of the Pindar group. If you time it right, an outdoor seat will let you hear the rehearsals for the Parrish’s Friday night jazz. In warmer months, Duck Walk Hampton and Duck Walk North both present live music, too, on weekends.
All photos are courtesy of Meryl Pearlstein.