If you’re driving along Edwards Avenue in Calverton, you might miss a couple small signs leading you down a narrow road framed with tall corn stalks to a small vineyard.
After the herb farm and after the vegetable stand — if you’re driving slow enough and really paying attention — you’ll see it: The Hidden Vineyard.
You may expect to find a rustic farmhouse beyond the rows of grapevines lining a winding gravel driveway, but standing majestically at the foot of the driveway is actually a large, newly-built colonial.
The vineyard and the house belong to 75-year-old Peter DiBernardi.
“I call it The Hidden Vineyard because nobody can find us,” Mr. DiBernardi said.
And he’s OK with that.
As a boy, Mr. DiBernardi watched his father, whose relatives made their own wine for generations on a small island near Sardinia, Italy, turn grapes into wine in their Brooklyn home. Mr. DiBernardi has been making small batches of wine ever since.
Mr. DiBernardi suffered serious injuries in a car accident in the late 1990s, and received a large settlement shortly after. He purchased a plot of land in Calverton in 2000 and later had a house built there. He started planting grapes in 2002 and now runs, quite literally, a one-man operation.
“I grow the grapes, I make the wine — I do everything here myself,” he said.
And he grows those grapes and makes that wine in the same exact fashion as his father: with no sulfites, no preservatives and no additives.
All of his wine ages in wood barrels and stays there until a customer orders a bottle. He’ll grab a bottle and fill it up right from the barrel with a wine tap.
“My father would never put wine in bottles until you decided you wanted it,” he said. “It stayed in the barrels.”
He makes six wines, three red and three white: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Pino Grigio and Riesling. A tasting flight of three wines is $5, a glass of any wine costs $5 and all bottles sell for $16 each.
Mr. DiBernardo says he sees plenty of customers, despite his “hidden” locale. The Hidden Vineyard is the western-most vineyard on the North Fork and the closest one to the Long Island Expressway. He doesn’t really try to reach new customers, he said they find him.
A retired Grumman Aircraft engineer, Mr. DiBernardo keeps the business going to carry on his family’s winemaking history and to keep alive a recipe that’s been passed down for generations. Securing a healthy bottom line isn’t on his agenda.
“I just enjoy what I do,” he said.
The Hidden Vineyard is closed from October to May and will reopen on May 27, 2012.