As mentioned in my previous post, Jim and I spent last Saturday touring the vineyards of the North Fork, cruising around Routes 25 and 48 in the midday sunshine. While Long Island wines have traditionally struggled for prestige, their quality has slowly improved over the years due to renewed interest and investment in the area’s natural resources. We set out to see what the excitement was all about.
Shinn Estate Vineyards, located on Oregon Road in Mattituck, was our wine find of the day. Owned by Barbara Shinn and David Page (who also own the popular restaurant Home in Manhattan), this charming vineyard and its friendly staff immediately put us at ease while simultaneously impressing us with their wines. During our tasting, Barbara Shinn was also manning the counter of the airy tasting room, chatting with customers, pouring tastings, and offering driving and biking directions to weekend tourists. Talk about making people feel at home!
Jim and I shared a flight of three wines for $6.50 (believe me, with a few tastings already behind us, sharing a flight was the way to go). We had heard about Shinn’s 2006 “first fruit” Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon from the friendly folks at Sherwood House Vineyards around the corner, and were floored by its crisp taste of chilled grapefruit; it really woke up our drowsy palettes. The 2006 Rosè evoked flavors of not-too-sweet strawberries for us, and the 2005 “wild boar doe,” both smooth and spicy, amused us with its clever name.
Other memorable stops of the day included Macari Vineyards, where we prefered their Chardonnay and dessert wines, and Bedell Cellars, whose outdoor patio had the atmosphere of a busy Manhattan bar instead of a low-key stop on the Long Island Wine Trail. In addition to enjoying their gorgeous outdoor space, we liked their Main Road Red vintage as well.
Besides sampling these wines on our tour, we also learned about the differences between steel versus oak fermentation, the benefits of American versus French oak (everyone seems to have an opinion about which is better for the wine, and many do not agree), and at Bedell, how new saplings are grafted onto pre-existing vines. Finally exhausted from tasting and learning, we broke for lunch at the classic Cutchogue Diner, and indulged our hungry stomachs. After a morning of refined wine tastings, my grilled cheese and fries never tasted so good.
Shinn Estate Vineyards (pictured), 2000 Oregon Road, Mattituck 631-804-0367
Sherwood House Vineyards, 2600 Oregon Road, Mattituck 631-298-1396
Macari Vineyards, 150 Bergen Avenue, Mattituck 631-298-0100
Bedell Cellars, 36225 Main Road, Cutchogue 631-734-7537
The Cutchogue Diner, Main Road, Cutchogue 631-734-9056