An Over the Barrel Tour of Long Island Wineries

After a night of sipping Long Island Wines at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, many of you may be inspired to head out to one of the local wineries.

At least once a week, I receive an email from someone who planning a trip to the East End who wants to know which wineries he or she should visit during their stay. Sometimes it’s a mom bringing her husband and kids. Sometimes it’s a winemaker from the west coast, or even overseas. Sometimes it’s a wine buyer for a restaurant in Manhattan or elsewhere.

It would be easy for me to have a set itinerary that I could just copy and paste in reply to these sorts of email—but that’s not my style. I want to make sure that, regardless of their situation, they have a good experience in the region, so I take the time to understand their likes and dislikes, what sort of experience they are looking for and the like. If they have two young kids, I’m not going to send them to a winery with owners who don’t really like kids in their tasting room. Similarly, if spending $50 on a bottle of merlot isn’t something they’d ever do, I’m not going to send them to one of our high-end boutique rooms.

But over several years of happily putting these itineraries together, a core group of go-to wineries has emerged. This is that list and why.

As a quick aside, I recently spotted a “company” on Facebook selling North Fork itineraries very similar to this. Don’t waste your money. That’s just silly. If you don’t know where to go, ask someone in or around the industry.

Anyway, here are some of the wineries that always find their way onto my “where to taste” lists. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list and is in alphabetical order, rather than ranked.

Lieb Cellars. A while back, I visited their somewhat new tasting room on Oregon Road and it was easy to picture myself sitting there after a day on the trail, sipping a glass of sparkling (or still pinot blanc), enjoying some live music and watching the sun go down. The 2012 Rosé is one of the best I’ve tasted this spring and the Reserve Merlot is always one of the better values in classically styled local merlot.

Macari Vineyards. The Mattituck tasting room can get a bit busy on Saturday afternoons, but otherwise, this winery often makes the list. Hot summer day? Try the 2012 “Early Wine” Chardonnay or 2012 “Katherine’s Field” Sauvignon Blanc. Cool fall afternoon with burgers on the grill? Try the 2008 Estate Merlot or NV Sette. And if you’re eating a steak, the 2007 Merlot Reserve delivers a lot for its $36 price tag. Plus the tasting room staff and Macari family are among the most hospitable and welcoming around.

Paumanok Vineyards. It’s easy to recommend Paumanok to most anyone. They have something for everyone with consistent quality across the board. Their under-$20 “Festival” wines are great values. Their chenin blanc is an iconic Long Island wine. And their “Grand Vintage” and vineyard-designated reds are among the best wines on the East Coast. That’d be enough, but the Massoud family has nurtured a tasting room and deck area that are family friendly and offer a casual, relaxed setting to taste wines—one free of the carnival atmosphere some offer.

Shinn Estate Vineyards. A short drive off of Route 48/Sound Avenue, Shinn Estate offers a bucolic—and delicious—taste of the North Fork. A diverse, unique portfolio that includes pear cider and estate-distilled spirits alongside more traditional Long Island grapes like sauvignon blanc, merlot and chardonnay is another that will please a variety of palates. A new tasting patio and small plates menu makes Shinn and even more attractive place to spend an afternoon relaxing.

The Winemaker Studio. Though not technically a winery, I recommend the Studio to people because it offers the opportunity to taste wine from a variety of cellars all in one place. From Anthony Nappa Wine’s popular white pinot noir “Anomaly” and Bordeaux-style blend “Dieci” to Leo Family 2007 Red to Suhru Wines 2009 Shiraz to T’Jara 2007 Merlot and Coffee Pot Cellars 2008 Meritage, the lineup is always delicious and filled with wines you can’t taste anywhere else.

BACK TO food and wine