Fringed by sandy beaches and bustling fishing villages, rolling farmland and forest sanctuaries, Long Island wine country is unlike any region in America. The North and South Forks of the island, collectively known as the East End, extend into the Atlantic Ocean like a two-tined fork, with picturesque Shelter Island wedged between the spears. Just a two-hour drive from Manhattan, it’s a unique amalgam of metropolitan influences against a core of hearty, agricultural tradition. Family-owned farms, artisanal food producers and small-production winemakers mingle amongst tony Hamptonites, sharing the wealth of the region’s land, sea and vines.
Where to Dine
Conceived by four veterans from some of Manhattan’s most lauded restaurants (Aureole and Gramercy Tavern, among others), The North Fork Table & Inn in Southold combines a farm-to-table philosophy with a menu that’s innovative and impeccably executed. Noah’s in Greenport is casual yet elegant, offering a variety of small plates and squeaky-fresh clams, oysters and scallops delivered daily from local waters. While in Greenport, stop at Aldo’s for freshly baked biscotti and espresso from artisan roaster Aldo Maiorana.
Where to Stay
Shinn Estate Farmhouse in Mattituck offers an unparalleled winery experience, complete with vineyard views, captivating wines and gourmet breakfasts prepared by multitalented owner/chef/winemaker David Page. The Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport offers the ultimate in Victorian luxury and on-site access to the renowned Luce & Hawkins restaurant. For a downtown vibe and harbor views, the Harborfront Inn at Greenport will place you within steps of restaurants, nightlife and the North Ferry, which connects to Shelter Island.
Where to Taste
With the bulk of the region’s 50-plus wineries situated in the North Fork along Route 25 (Main Street) and Route 48, winery hopping is a breeze. Top producers like Paumanok Vineyards, Macari Vineyards, Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse, Lenz, Bedell and Sparkling Pointe are all located on the North Fork, each with unique tasting rooms open to the public. In Peconic, The Winemaker Studio by Anthony Nappa Wines is a cooperative tasting room offering an unusual collection of private-label selections from local winemakers like its owner, Anthony Nappa. It also features limited-production and library choices from area wineries. The South Fork is home to only three wineries, but with outstanding producers like Wölffer Estate Vineyard and Channing Daughters, it’s well worth a day trip.
When to Go
Summer is glorious, but autumn is also prime; farm stands and fish markets are brimming with local offerings.
Encouraged by similarities in maritime climate and northerly latitude with Bordeaux, Long Island used to be predominantly Merlot country. Indeed, there is an abundance of well-crafted Merlot here. In recent years, Cabernet Franc has shown great promise, delivering aromatic wines with brambly red-cherry and violet notes. A number of standout Chardonnays shows balance and complexity, as does a handful of high-quality Sauvignon Blancs and traditional method sparkling wines. There’s even a Chenin Blanc of note.
Dine alfresco on the beach, or at one of the many wineries offering picnic areas to enjoy wines, with local cheeses and charcuterie from The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck.
Kareem Massoud, winemaker at Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue: “[Enjoy] sailing out of Greenport, Sag Harbor [or] Montauk and fishing in and around Peconic Bay…Shelter Island and Gardiners Island. It is a seafood lover’s delight out here for sport fishermen—for clams, oysters and crabs… Peconic Bay scallop season starts the first Monday in November—a true delicacy of the region.”
To travel between the North and South Forks by ferry, it’s necessary to drive through Shelter Island, a sleepy islet occupied by the Mashomack Preserve, hiking trails and beaches. During the summer, Crescent Beach transforms dramatically into a bass-thumping, miniature St. Tropez, thanks to hotelier André Balazs’s beachside bar and boutique hotel, Sunset Beach.