Just 50 years ago, some of the only things growing on Long Island’s North Fork were potatoes. But now this area just north of the Hamptons and only an-hour-and-a-half east of New York City is home to more than 40 wineries, some producing very high-quality wines. We especially like the earthy Cab Francs with red cherry flavors and the fruit-forward, spicy Merlots. Here’s the Winederlust look at our current favorite – and least favorite – North Fork wineries to visit:
Winederlust’s Favorite North Fork Wineries:
One of the most sophisticated wineries on the North Fork with an urban black and white design scheme, Bedell (and its sister winery, Corey Creek) produces rich, smooth reds (as well as Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer) that are easy to drink. We were particularly enamored of the 2008 Cabernet Franc ($30/bottle), with its well-balanced tastes of earth and chocolate; the 2007 Musee, a big and juicy blend of 73 percent Merlot, 11 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 percent Petit Verdot, and 5 percent Syrah (at a big price — $75/bottle); and the 2009 Corey Creek Rosé ($18/bottle), a light Provencal-style blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and Merlot with notes of cherry.
One of the newest vineyards in the North Fork, Croteaux released its first vintage in 2008 with a mission to produce only one type of wine: Rosé. Lucky for them, Rosé is very fashionable right now, and they produce it well, so most of Croteaux’s six types of Rosé sold out immediately. As a result, we were only able to taste the Cuvee Sparkle Rosé ($24/bottle), a blend of three Merlots aged in stainless steel, which to us tasted too much like peaches, and the barrel-fermented Merlot 3 Rosé ($18/bottle), made in more of the Tavel-style with a deeper color and richer taste. We bought their last bottle of Merlot 3, and made a note to visit their cute country winery earlier next year so we can try even more of their interesting Rosés.
We’ve been fans of Macari for years because of their consistently good wines. (Their basic red has been a party gift standby for us for years.) They also aim to use biodynamic and organic production. This year was no exception, with the rich and complex Dos Aguas 2007 (a blend of 45 percent Cab Sauv, 36 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cab Franc, and 4 percent Malbec; $27/bottle) and the 2007 Cab Franc ($35/bottle) as the standouts.
This was our first time visiting these family-run vineyards (their tasting room just opened in the spring) that have the largest Pinot Noir plantings on Long Island — 10 acres — plus 10 acres of Merlot. It’s also one of the first North Fork wineries, along with Shinn, to install a wind turbine. It’s a nice change from some of the other large wineries, since the owner Russell McCall personally pours wines in the tiny tasting room. We especially enjoyed the Rosé, made of 100 percent Pinot Noir, and the juicy 2007 Merlot ($24/bottle).
Though they now also have a second location near Jamesport, the original site in Mattituck is full of charm. It’s the only winery where you can sit outside at picnic tables or in worn sofas and be served your wine tastings, paired with cheeses and crostini if you’d like. The wines are good, too, particularly the Merlots. We especially enjoyed the 2001 Merlot ($35/bottle), with somewhat of an ashy quality and a long chocolately finish, and the 2002 Merlot ($30/bottle), a smoother wine with notes of cherry and vanilla.
One of the only organic and sustainable wineries on the North Fork, Shinn offers a highly informative 1:30pm weekend walk around the vineyards conducted by owner Barbara Shinn where she explains the chemical-free growing process. The Shinn wines are some of the most balanced on the Island, and our favorites right now are the rich, fruity 2007 Wild Boar Doe, a blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cab Franc ($30/bottle), and the spicy, complex 2007 Cabernet Franc ($39/bottle). We also love the B&B they have in their adjacent farmhouse, with modern rooms and delicious breakfasts (and a 5 percent discount on the wines).
Winederlust’s Least Favorite North Fork Wineries:
This winery has a great story behind it – it’s the labor of one woman who purchased land in honor of her Italian grandfather. Unfortunately, the wines we tasted were not particularly pleasing. None were very well balanced, with the 2007 Chardonnay ($30/bottle) in particular too skunky and the 2007 Estate Reserve Chardonnay ($40/bottle) over-oaked.
We found this winery bizarre, with a strange Brazilian theme and pictures of the Rio Carnival on the walls. (An employee told us the lawyer owners have a bit of an obsession with Brazil, even though they are Polish.) As indicated by the name, all the wines produced here are sparkling – and, unfortunately, we didn’t find any of them very appealing.
The McDonald’s of North Fork wineries, crowded with visitors straight off the tour buses and with very unrefined, messy wines.
Started by the son of Pindar’s owner (which, I swear, I didn’t know until I started writing this blog post!), the wines here all tasted overdone to us – too big, too sweet, and too oaky. The kitch nautical theme also didn’t help the wines either.