When Robin McCarthy, senior sommelier and director of education at Roanoke Vineyards, emailed me last month asking if I wanted to join her and some friends Jan. 17 for a walking food tour in Mattituck called “Stroll Down Love Lane,” I was instantly intrigued.
“I’d love to,” I wrote back, not bothering to ask for more details.
Somehow, I knew it was something best left experienced.
A few days later, it was time for the tour. I met Ms. McCarthy at Roanoke Vineyards’ tasting room on Love Lane, where she’s worked as manager for the past year and a half. The sleek space, with an industrial-looking bar, was opened in August 2012 by Richie and Soraya Pisacano, owners of Roanoke Vineyards.
Ms. McCarthy poured me an ounce of sparkling wine and asked what I wanted to know.
“How did this all come about?” I asked, looking over a menu detailing the four stops we’d make and the four foods and four wines we’d try that night.
“This came to be when Roanoke hired me,” said Ms. McCarthy, a Mattituck native who now lives in Riverhead. “As I kind of grew up and matured and my palate matured and I got into the wine industry, this little culinary strip has kind of developed as well.”
Eager to showcase the culinary offerings of the Love Lane area’s restaurants while highlighting local wines, Ms. McCarthy quickly recruited other businesses — like Love Lane Kitchen and The Village Cheese Shop — to participate in her vision of a walking food and wine tour. Two years later, several “strolls,” all of them open to the public but not heavily advertised, are conducted each winter.
On this particular night, 12 other women joined the tour with Ms. McCarthy and me.
“It’s unusual for us to have all women,” Ms. McCarthy said. “Usually we have couples.”
Richie and Soraya Pisacano, she said, “hire people with personalities they like who are professionals about wine and then kind of let us go and do our thing.”
While scanning the room to see who else would be joining the tour, I met Laurie Reilly, a longtime Mattituck resident who recently retired from her job as a clerk at Mattituck-Laurel Library.
“I’ve known Robin forever,” Ms. Reilly said of Ms. McCarthy. “She’s the same age as one of my daughters.”
I learned this was Ms. Reilly’s second Stroll Down Love Lane and asked what had drawn her back.
“We just had so much fun,” she said. “I think part of the draw was also Roman, because he was so much fun.”
Ah, yes: Roman Roth, the winemaker who grew up in southern Germany’s Black Forest region and moved to the United States in 1992. Winemaker and partner at Wölffer Estate Vineyards in Sagaponack and winemaker at Roanoke Vineyards in Riverhead, Mr. Roth established his own wine label, Grapes of Roth, in 2001.
As it turned out, Mr. Roth was to be the only man on our food tour that night.
He walked into Roanoke’s Love Lane tasting room not long after my conversation with Ms. Reilly. I soon found out he had prepared the menu for the evening’s food tour and that we’d be tasting wines from both Wölffer Estate Vineyards and Grapes of Roth.
Our first stop was The Village Cheese Shop, where our group sampled blue cheeses of varying intensity while sipping Wölffer Estate’s 2012 Descencia Botrytis Chardonnay, a sweet wine containing what’s known in the wine world as “the noble rot,” a mold that dehydrates the grape and concentrates its sugars.
Mr. Roth explained that our group was sampling two things that, essentially, originate from fungi.
“They pair quite well together, actually,” he said.
A picky eater by nature, I had to concede he was right.
About 20 minutes later Mr. Roth told us it was time to head out to our second course at The Iron Skillet, a mom-and-pop restaurant just up the road.
“It’s like we’re trick-or-treating,” one woman said with a giggle as we ambled over to the cozy eatery, wine glasses in hand.
Once inside, we were treated to steaming bowls of roasted potato fennel soup. Mr. Roth poured two ounces of his Grapes of Roth 2012 Riesling into each of our glasses and advised we taste the soup and wine separately before trying them together.
The effect was one of balance: The wine’s refreshing mineralogy served as the ideal counterpart to the soup’s hearty taste.
“The wine acts like a squirt of lemon,” Mr. Roth said between tastes of soup, aptly capturing the moment.
Less than a half-hour later, our bellies thoroughly warmed, the 15 of us set out on foot for our main course at a Mano, a chic eatery on nearby Main Road.
There, I took a seat next to Mr. Roth, who poured me a generous glass of his 2006 Merlot.
“I don’t know if it’s because I’m German but I like acidic wine,” he told me before our table dug into a succulent helping of barolo-braised pork osso bucco served atop a creamy mushroom risotto.
My senses were in a state of rapture. I asked Mr. Roth how he chooses the menu for each pairing.
Is it instinctive?
“Practice, practice, practice,” he told me. “It’s like cooking. Either you know how much salt to put in something or you have to weigh two grams of salt. It’s intuitive.”
Our stroll that night eventually ended at Love Lane Kitchen, where we were each given a homemade shortbread cookie and a tiny bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with hot raspberries.
We ate our dessert between sips of Wölffer Estate’s 2011 Diosa Ice Wine, a chilled vino with a texture reminiscent of honey.
Mr. Roth invited us all back to Roanoke’s tasting room for more wine, but it was time for me to head home. I said goodbye to everyone, because we all felt like friends now, and strolled slowly back to my car, my stomach at this point uncomfortably full, but my tastebuds content.
Take a stroll
The next “Stroll Down Love Lane” takes place Friday, Feb. 21. The cost is $95 per person. For more information, call Roanoke Vineyards’ tasting room on Love Lane at 631-298-7677.