Sunday, November 14, 2010

Long Island Wineries

The tasting room at Pindar Vineyards

Growing up on Long Island, we were always aware that it was shaped like a fish and the small town we lived in was located in the lower middle of the belly. The two tails of our 'fish' were colloquially called the 'South Fork' and the 'North Fork' branching out east from the town of Riverhead and they were about as different as any two communities could be. The South Fork popularly known as the Hamptons had great beaches, fabulous restaurants, trendy stores and the fanciest houses we had ever seen. That was back in the 60s and 70s and is even more so today. The north fork was rural, loaded with potato farms and not much else back then.

About 25 years ago, the potato farms began to be replaced with vineyards. It was discovered that the climate, sandwiched between the Long Island Sound to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south (with the Peconic Bay in between), produced  a maritime climate and soil conditions similar to that of the Bordeaux region of France and was ideally suited to the growing of grapes and the production of wines of exceptional quality.

And so the Long Island Wine region was begun slowly and quietly at first but burgeoning into 37 wineries with 35 tasting rooms open to the public. There are 29 wineries on the North Fork and 3 on the South Fork.
It has been said by many that Long Island is one of the country's most exciting wine producing regions today, with great reviews and high praise found in major food and wine publications nationwide. As the awards continue to accumulate, Long Island wines are increasingly sought after in fine restaurants and wine shops from coast to coast.
My husband and I are fans of Long Island wine and of one in particular: Pindar. Pindar Vineyards are located along Route 25 in Peconic and comprise over 500 acres of vines. They produce 70,000 cases of wine each year with 23 varieties and blends. Pindar is a family owned business and we've been going there once or twice a year to do a tasting, and stock up on our favorite Cabernet. We went this weekend with some friends and enjoyed a beautiful, unusually warm November day taking in the late autumn beauty of Long Islands east end.

I'll direct you to some websites at the end of this post but will recommend a couple of places to visit.The town of Greenport is charming and the acclaimed and well-known restaurant Claudio's is a must-do. Another recommended restaurant is the 'Modern Snack Bar'  in Aquebogue, an anomaly since it's anything but modern! However,  the food is great, inexpensive and you can even take home of some of their delicious pies and mashed potatoes. The Modern Snack Bar closes after Thanksgiving and reopens in the spring.

The trip takes about 1.5 hours from New York City to Riverhead and about another 40 minutes or so, depending on traffic, to Greenport. The wineries dot the roadsides from Riverhead to Greenport. Also along the way are local farm stands, nurseries and a charming tea shop on Sound Avenue in Jamesport.


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