Yes, you read the title correctly; there is such a thing as the east coast wine country. Its location? Long Island. You never would have guessed that, huh? Well it’s there, and you’ll find it on the island’s North Fork.
In contrast to the South Fork (which to be fair also has wineries but is mainly known for the uber posh Hamptons), the North Fork is home to laid back seaside villages, rustic farms, and over 35 vineyards. Plus, it’s just two hours by car from Manhattan.
So grab a few friends, because this fall you’re headed east for a crisp day of fresh air and delicious wines.
To get you going, here’s a look at my three favorite spots.
1) THE OLD FIELD
The Old Field, with its many outdoor tables and places to spread out a blanket on the lawn, is a perfect spot to post up with a picnic and take in the natural beauty of this picturesque vineyard. If it’s nice and sunny out, go for the Cacklin Rose (yes, real men drink Rose) and for those brisk fall days, grab a bottle of the Cabernet Franc.
Insider Tip: For those of you that can’t sit still, bring a fews frisbees and hit The Old Field Frisbee Golf Links. Ask for the course layout card when you purchase your tasting or bottle.
2) MCCALL WINES
McCall Wines, winner of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation’s 2013 NY Winery of the Year, with their quaint and rustic tasting room (once a horse stable and barn for potato storage), boasts the largest vineyard of Pinot Noir on the North Fork.
After speaking with the owner Russ McCall, you’ll be feeling well informed and want to try the 2010 Pinot Noir or the 2007 Merlot. Next, you’ll start drooling over how nice that wine would go with one of Russ’s organic grass-fed cows which roam freely at his ranch next door.
Insider Info: In 2010, McCall Wines became the first wind-powered farm on Long Island.
3) SHINN ESTATE VINEYARDS
Now is the perfect time to get lost in the vines on a self guided tour, stopping along the way at signs which will teach you everything you need to know. If you’re extra inquisitive, Shinn also offers a guided vineyard walking tour and a winery and barrel cellar tour (each costs $20 and includes a wine tasting).
Insider Fact: Shinn Estate Farmhouse is the only inn on a vineyard in Long Island. So if you’re looking for a place to stay, look no more.
HOW TO GET THERE
1) Take your car. If you have a car, you’re all set. Just take the Long Island Expressway all the way until it ends, then take Highway 25 out onto the North Fork. Draw straws for who gets to be the designated driver.
2) Take a ZipCar. If you’re carless in the city, you probably know the drill.
3) Take the Hampton Jitney. This luxury bus leaves from Manhattan and can take you to a variety of stops on the North Fork. Get off at Southold. Since you’ll now be carless, this option goes best with a guided wine tour of the area. Many wine tour providers will pick up guests from local Jitney stops (of course, double check with your provider first).
To extend your day, take the Jitney all the way to Greenport, a picturesque bayside village with great restaurants. Your wine tour provider will likely be able to pick you up from Greenport, but double check with them first.
4) Take the train. Take the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Southhold or Greenport. See #3 for arranging a wine tour and pick up.
Photo Credits: The Old Field: Courtesy of The Old Field. McCall Wines: Courtesy of McCall Wines (top right by Nadria Vlaun). Shinn Estate Vineyards: Courtesy of Shinn Estate Vineyards.