Wine is not tasted in a vacuum.
Yes, elegant yet rustic architecture and friendly, professional service will enhance your visit to the East End. But what really pairs well with a trip to Long Island Wine Country is the backdrop of the land on which the grapes were grown.
From manicured gardens, to sloping acres of vines, to the dazzling sight of the Long Island Sound at sunset, many outdoor tasting spots on the North Fork offer relaxing and impressive settings for a tasting flight.
Here are five of our favorites.
Perched on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound, the grassy field behind Kontokosta Winery in Greenport offers what might be the best winery view on Long Island. There is no flight service for patrons looking to take in the view, but you are more than welcome to grab a glass of wine at the indoor tasting room and take a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables or Adirondack chairs.
“It’s a very unique experience,” said owner Michael Kontokosta. “We’re very thankful and lucky to have a spot that grows grapes so well, but allows people to have such fun.”
The area is open year-round, but is at its most popular from April through December, he said.
“We’ve actually had people go out there during snowstorms,” Kontokosta said.
On Saturday nights, the tasting room remains open until sunset so guests can take in the breathtaking view.
Red or white flights are available and each of the 11 wines in the Kontokosta portfolio is available by the glass. The maximum group size is 10. The winery also recently instituted a no buses or limos policy.
Moving through the Bedell Cellars tasting room and out onto the expansive covered outdoor pavilion, one could be forgiven for forgetting that the biggest city in the country is just 90 miles to the west.
“We want people to be transported when they come here,” said Molly Deegan, the Cutchogue winery’s senior vice president of marketing and sales development and its wine club director.
And that is certainly what happens when one takes in the view of 30 acres of pristine vines. Landscaped gardens of hydrangeas and crape myrtle, a stainless steel bar and mahogany floors all make for an elegant afternoon of sipping vino and learning about growing wine on Long Island.
“When you come into Bedell, we treat you as a VIP. We try to give you that one-on-one interaction and service so that you not only learn about wine, but you understand about our terroir and our sustainable wine-growing practices,” Deegan said. “It’s a very natural, peaceful setting and we can accommodate all different group sizes on the deck.”
Bedell, which is one of the region’s larger producers, offers 17 wines in its portfolio.
The pavilion is staffed from May 1 through Oct. 1, but guests can enjoy the outdoor space on warmer days in between.
Reservations are required for groups of eight to 10 and the space can be rented for private events, including weddings.
It’s hard to say which is better: Tasting in Croteaux Vineyard’s open-sided lounge, with a wall of wind chimes made from wine bottles, or relaxing under a weeping cherry tree in the vineyard’s pebbled tasting garden.
Yes, the nation’s only all-rosé winery offers what might be the North Fork’s most beautiful spot to sip everyone’s favorite pink drink.
“It’s a historic farm and the buildings that were already here formed a natural courtyard,” said co-owner Michael Croteau.
The walkway in the tasting garden is unpaved — and that’s by design. Croteau wanted the area to be reminiscent of the south of France, where, if you were to stay at an inn, you’d likely see staffers raking rocky walkways and driveways into order every morning.
“It’s a kind of a calming experience,” he said. “And it makes it a little more friendly and not hard-edged.”
Croteau also built much of the furniture himself, using recycled lumber from the farm. The wind chime wall is his doing as well.
In addition to the enchanting garden, you can also pick up a bottle from “Rosé on the Run,” a restored pastel green Citroen H van that can usually be found parked on the property.
At presstime, Croteaux was serving two sparkling rosés and four still rosés. However, the winery usually sells out its stock by early October.
Croteaux remains open until it runs out its current vintage and will likely close in early fall. It will open again next spring with the release of the 2016 vintage. It does not take reservations, and a maximum group size of eight is suggested.
THE OLD FIELD VINEYARDS
The Old Field Vineyards offers one of the most rustic and unique tasting experiences on the North Fork. Pull into the shaded parking lot, then walk along a path of wood chips to what was once the carriage house of the old Park Hotel. Out back is a deck overlooking the vines. There you might see some old chicken coops, a rooster strutting along or a band of ducks wading in a kiddie pool. You can also walk outside to the property’s pond and enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables. (Old Field is one of the few local vineyards that still allows outside food.)
“It’s definitely an al fresco wine tasting,” said co-owner Rosamond Phelps Baiz.
But what is surely a standout Long Island Wine Country experience are tastings with the winemaker alongside Peconic Bay, which the property abuts.
The vineyard has offered these special, intimate events by appointment only for the past two summers and will likely do so again next year.
“As well as enjoying the beautiful views while we are down there, we try to be a quiet spot,” Baiz said. “We try to be welcoming and personal with people.”
Old Field usually offers eight or nine different wines in the tasting room, ranging from sparkling varieties to rosé to merlot to chardonnay. Reservations are required for parties of six or more.
Above the lounge area at Mattebella Vineyards in Southold is a faded sign that will remind you of the pleasures of sipping Old World-style vino while surrounded by 250 rose bushes and vines as far as the eye can see.
It reads: “The Good Life.”
At Mattebella, patrons can sit in the tasting cottage, patio or fig garden and enjoy table service while learning about the vineyard’s offerings.
“Even when we’re packed, we try to maintain a very intimate tasting experience in a quaint atmosphere,” said co-owner Chris Tobin.
The winery’s mix of rustic and contemporary furniture gives the space an eclectic feel and its food-friendly wines pair well with Mattebella’s balsamic jam or bacon jam served on a baguette.
Mattebella is open until New Year’s and then reopens in the spring. Reservations are required for groups of six or more.
This story was originally published in the 2016 edition of the Long Island Wine Press