Perhaps it was the I Love New York bus traveling around New York City, with a wrap advertising adventures that can be found in a city-dweller’s backyard, that helped the Taste North Fork festival gain momentum and double attendance in its second year.
“I saw a bus that said ‘I Love New York’ and Googled it and saw wine,” said 28-year-old Manny Kwo, who lives on the Upper East Side and was en route to visit Pugliese Vineyards in Cutchogue on Sunday. “The [Hampton] Jitney (which operates the tour) made it convenient. It’s a fun little getaway.”
Kwo, who rallied a group of 10 winery-goers from Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, arrived for his first North Fork excursion via the bus for the second annual Taste North Fork weekend on Sunday.
The sun was shining throughout the two-day event and more than 115 area merchants, restaurants and vineyards offered special deals and tastings. Sponsored by the Long Island Wine Council and the East End Tourism Alliance, the event provided free shuttle service to various locations, giving visitors access to destinations from Orient to Baiting Hollow.
The number of people like Kwo and his friends, who came from out of town and hopped aboard free shuttles around Long Island Wine Country for the festival weekend, doubled when compared to the previous year, according to numbers provided by event organizers.
This year more than 2,300 shuttle riders used the service. Last year, said Long Island Wine Council president Steven Bate, about 1,000 people participated.
“We doubled our ridership compared to last year, so it is certainly moving in the right direction,” he said. “It is great.”
Improvements this year included more participating businesses, more frequent shuttles and three tour loops instead of two.
While the event certainly drew many to the region, others took advantage only after they were already here.
Sam Schaffer, 36, of Montclair, N.J. and his wife Maribel visited the North Fork this weekend unaware of the festival. But the pair was pleasantly surprised to learn they didn’t need to designate a driver.
“It’s great. We love it out here. We want to come out here more often,” he said while enjoying a pint at Greenport Harbor Brewing. Co. in Peconic on Sunday. “We drive, so this made it a lot easier.”
Business owners were reportedly pleased with the bigger crowds.
“It’s a different year, compared to last year,” said Ron Goerler Jr., the winemaker and general manager at Jamesport Vineyards, one of the stops on the tour. “The buses were filled with people coming and going. I’m happy to see all using the service.”
Taste North Fork is made possible by a portion of an “I Love NY” grant aimed at helping to promote agritourism on the East End. The Wine Council hopes to use the data collected this past weekend to pursue a grant to run the service more frequently.
“I really think that’s the next phase on the North Fork,” Goerler said.
With Cyndi Murray