Eastern Long Island, known for its beautiful beaches is also home to wine country. With its maritime climate, warm summers, cool breezes, unique soils, and long growing season, it has 3,000 acres of vineyards, 51 wine producing. The North Fork has 47, while the South Fork has four. Here is just a sampling.
Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, founded in 1980 by Kip and Susan Bedell, has three vineyard sites with 80 acres planted in vines. In 2000, film executive and art collector, Michael Lynne, purchased Bedell Cellars, where his art collection is displayed. Winemaker, 30-year veteran Richard Olsen-Harbich, wrote the region into existence in 1986. Featured varietals are Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Viognier, among others. Events include wine tastings, vineyard walks, weddings, and live music. Among their awards, “Corey Creek Gewürztraminer” won Best in New York State at the New York Wine & Food Classic, four times in the past decade. www.bedellcellars.com
In 1978, Robert Entenmann purchased Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead, naming it after his mother. By 1998, 102 of 200 acres were planted in vines. His daughter Jacqueline helps run the farm. General manager and winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez, joined the vineyard in 2007. Over 20 different wines are made from the varietals Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Merlot, among others. Events include concerts, festivals, horse and carriage rides, and free live music. In 2011 their Rieslings won the Governor’s Cup (Best Wine in New York State) and the Jefferson Trophy (Best Wine on the East Coast). www.marthaclaravineyards.com
Theresa “Tree” Dilworth, owner and winemaker of Comtesse Thérèse Winery and Bistro in Aquebogue, purchased the first female-owned vineyard with friends in 2001. Twenty of 42 acres are planted in vines. In 2010, she opened the French-American Bistro, the only Long Island vineyard restaurant. Aristodemos “Arie” Pavlou, classically trained at L’École Cordon Bleu in Paris is the chef. Unique wines are Russian Oak Chardonnay, Hungarian Oak Merlot and Canadian Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. Theresa says “Long Island wines are food friendly, not overpowering.” Complimenting her delicate wines are local produce, fish, duck, and cheese. Hungarian Oak Merlot won “Best Merlot in New York” in 2004. www.comtessetherese.com
Ron Goerler Sr. purchased a Cutchogue farm in 1981. In 1986, he purchased a winery in Jamesport, now Jamesport Vineyards. His son Ron Jr. is the vineyard manager, owner, and winemaker. Forty of 60 acres are planted in vines. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the main varieties. In the summer, live music is performed on the back lawn. As the first vineyard to shuck raw oysters, they feature an oyster bar at the winery and a Wine, Beer and Oysterfest from June to October. Among their awards, the 2007 Sidor Reserve won Gold at the 2011 New York State Wine & Food Classic. www.jamesportwines.com
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Wölffer Estate Vineyard & Stables in Sagaponack, founded in 1988 by Christia Wölffer, who died in 2008. Co-owned by his son Marc and daughter Joey, 175 acres include 65 planted in vines and the 100-acre Wölffer Estate Stables. In 1992, Roman Roth became partner and winemaker, creating his signature wine “The Grapes of Roth.” Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the main varieties. Events include live music in the Tasting Room on Twilight Thursdays and at the Wine Stand on Sunset Fridays. Their 2010 Diosa Late Harvest Chardonnay won Platinum for Best Dessert Wine in the 2012 San Diego International Wine Competition. www.wolffer.com
Sculptor, Walter Channing purchased a Bridgehampton farm in 1979 and planted his first vines in 1982. In 1997 he founded Channing Daughters Winery, named after his four daughters, with 28 acres planted in vines. Channing’s sculptures can be found throughout the Sculpture Garden Vineyard. In 2002, Allison Dubin, became the general manager and partner. Her husband Christopher Tracy, also a partner, is the winemaker. Specializing in Chardonnay, Merlot and Rosé, it is an education-focused winery with wine classes taught by Tracy. www.channingdaughters.com
The East End’s bountiful vineyards offer plenty of events to enjoy. From wine tastings to live music, festivals, horse and carriage rides, modern art, a sculpture garden, a bistro, and wine classes, there is much more to sample than just a glass of wine!
Ruth Thomas, a freelance writer on the East End enjoys history, music, literature, art, nature, the beach, and her cute dachshund, Clancy. She can be contacted at [email protected]