When it comes to wine pairings, try something new: pairing wineries. Indulge in an interesting, informative and tasty afternoon that highlights everything that is special about the North Fork wine industry.
Vineyard 48 is a family place, co-owned by the Metz, Bartone, and Lamana families. Its 33 acres were first planted in 1980 as Bidwell Winery. The large casual tasting room has a down-home welcoming southwestern feel, and is big enough for a wedding party or a class reunion. There are long wooden tables and huge canvas tents. They’ve got music on the weekends and plenty of open space for dancing. Bring your friends, your cousins, your sorority sisters. Wear jeans!
Bedell Cellars, owned by Michael and Nina Lynne, is the second-oldest vineyard on the North Fork. Michael Lynne is an attorney and one of the founders of New Line Cinema. They bought the vineyard in 2000 from Kip and Susan Bedell and have created a stunning venue for weddings, special occasions or an intimate rendezvous. The original barn, built in 1919, has been renovated and is an elegant place, beautifully designed with polished woods and stacks of sparkling bottles. A huge window, the backdrop for a cushy bride’s tasting/waiting area, faces the working wine cellar where one can actually watch the harvest come in while imbibing the last one. Bring your fiancé’s parents…or your boss. Dress up!
Both Michael Lynne and the Metz family are hands-on owners who taste every wine before it is presented to the public. Trent Preszler, Bedell’s CEO just completed his PhD in viticulture at Cornell University, but founder Kip Bidell was a young, amateur wine maker from Long Island. He was a local guy who was always fascinated by wines. “He was best known for his merlot,” says Riva Packard, who has been with Bedell for three years as the weekend tasting room manager. “Wine Spectator named him Mr. Merlot in the 90’s, and that is what we are best known for.”
Vineyard 48’s winemaker is Matt Berenz, also a local guy. Originally from Patchogue, he now lives in Riverhead. “I kind of stumbled into winemaking,” he says. “I was looking for a career change in 1998 and saw an ad in the local paper for an entry level position at Pindar. I was hired the next day…I started in the cellar and worked my way up.” When the Metz family was looking for a winemaker with experience in 2004, a friend recommended Berenz, who learned his craft the old-fashioned way. “I have developed my palate over the years…Now it is the most important thing I have. I depend on it and trust it!”
Berenz is particularly proud of their riesling. “It won a gold medal at the New York Wine and Food Classic. It has a sweet, fresh flavor and is one of our best sellers,” he says.
Packard says Bedell is “particularly well known for our blending. It really is a very good testament to our winemaker that we have made so many good blends. We just came out with a malbec, a very limited release. It defies words!”
Vineyard 48’s first vintage was in 2004 and they now grow six varietals. “The climate on Long Island is perfect for Bordeaux varietals,” says Berenz. “The cabernet franc has an earthier flavor.”
Bedell grows their grapes on 80 acres, which include Corey Creek Winery, known for its gewurztraminer, a white that originates in Alsace and translates to “spiced wine.” As one of the biggest wineries on the North Fork they distribute about 12,000 cases up and down the eastern seaboard. Their wines can be found in some of the best area restaurants including the North Fork Table and Inn, Luce + Hawkins
Celebrated in both big and small ways, both wineries have much to offer. Vineyard 48 was honored this year when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani came in with his wife. “They went through all the wines and bought a few cases,” says Berenz. “It was really exciting. If Rudy Giuliani is drinking my wine somewhere, it is very gratifying!…I think everyone should come and enjoy. Wine is a celebration.”