Thomas Spotteck, the head winemaker at Lenz Winery, is happy to be back at his home base on the North Fork, and has plenty of favorites to share, including farm stands, pizza slices and Shelter Island oysters paired with sparkling wine.
“My family is from Shelter Island, but my dad was in the Navy so I grew up as a military brat. We moved around a lot and lived everywhere you can possibly imagine, but Shelter was always where we’d spend summers and holidays,” said Lenz Winery winemaker Thomas Spotteck. After graduating from high school, he served in the Marine Corps, and along the way, picked up the hobby of fermenting — making beer, wine and mead. “I didn’t realize that winemaking could be a career path, to be honest. It was a hobby I was passionate about and wanted to perfect.” When he got out of the military, Spotteck earned a degree in viticulture and oenology (the study of grape cultivation and winemaking) at Washington State University, went to South Africa to work with a famous vintner, and eventually ended up coming back to the North Fork to work with head winemaker Eric Fry at Lenz Winery in Peconic. When Fry retired, Spotteck took the helm in 2018.
“My goal was always to move back to the North Fork and make wine. The wine industry here is so genuinely friendly and supportive. If I have a question or need a piece of equipment, I can ask another local winemaker. We all want to see each other succeed, which is a rare attitude,” said Spotteck, who lives on Shelter Island with his wife. (They’re expecting twins this summer.) “I’ve lived in a lot of different places around the world, and the people, the atmosphere and the whole vibe of the North Fork is everything I ever really wanted. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere else, and it’s the only place I want to raise my family.” Talk about coming full circle.
THESE ARE THOMAS’S FAVORITE NORTH FORK THINGS AS TOLD TO GINA WAY:
FAVORITE LUNCH (OR AFTER-WORK COCKTAIL) SPOT PORT Waterfront Bar & Grill in Greenport is right at the ferry slip, so you can sit outside and watch the ferries come and go. It’s one of my go-to lunch spots, with excellent fish tacos and lobster mac and cheese. It’s also a fun place to get a spicy margarita at sunset.
FAVORITE SUNRISE VIEW My favorite place to watch the sun come up over the water is Menhaden Lane Beach on the eastern side of Shelter Island, looking out at Gardiners Bay. It is the quietest, most zen time and place — the best way to start the day.
FAVORITE SUNSET PICNIC In the summertime, there’s nothing better than getting takeout fried chicken and fried shrimp at Commander Cody’s and heading to Crescent Beach to watch the sunset. Commander Cody’s Seafood is a hidden gem that has the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. It’s been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. For every summer family event, we’d get Commander Cody’s and picnic on the beach.
FAVORITE BREWERY (AND LUNCH) Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. makes excellent artisanal beers, and I’m a fan of their seasonal IPAs and lagers. Their original Greenport location, which is in an old 1860s firehouse, has a place in my heart. But I’m a regular at the Peconic location for lunch because it’s a couple of doors down from Lenz, and they serve up really delicious food.
FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT Our go-to, year round dinner spot is Vine Street Café on Shelter Island which is close to our house. The food is simple but always amazing. I can’t ever go there without ordering the spicy tuna tartare tacos, and the crispy duck and the country-fried chicken over grits are both unbelievable too.
FAVORITE SUMMER WEDNESDAY On Wednesday evenings in the summer, it’s fun to watch the sailboat races at sunset and have dinner at Fortino’s Tavern in Greenport which is right on Preston’s Dock. It’s my favorite atmosphere and food combination, and the menu changes constantly depending on what’s in season. The fresh fish and the lobster rolls are incredible.
FAVORITE PLACE TO PADDLEBOARD AND KAYAK The Mashomack Preserve is run by the Nature Conservancy and takes up one-third of Shelter Island. There are so many hiking trails, creeks, great fishing spots and little hidden beaches in there. I park at a public beach nearby, and then kayak or paddleboard into the preserve from the water, and then go around the entire coastline.
FAVORITE FARM STANDS I love driving around to various stands and farms to get ingredients for dinner. For instance, Wowak Farm has the best sweet corn, North Fork Grass Fed (by appointment via Facebook) always has amazing cuts of beef and Deep Roots Farm in Southold has really good pork. Lil’ Farm Stand usually pops up in June, and they have the best tomatoes and peppers — every variety you could imagine. They also sell fresh-cut flowers, and when they have bouquets out front, I always stop and get one for my wife.
FAVORITE PIZZA SLICES I’m a pizza addict, and I think Michelangelo’s in Southold has one of the best tomato and cheese slices anywhere. I also love to grab of slice of spinach artichoke pizza at La Capricciosa Brick Oven Pizza in Greenport near the ferry slip. Both are excellent.
FAVORITE SUMMER PAIRING I’ll often pick up a dozen fresh oysters from Eel Town Oysters on Shelter Island and shuck them myself. They pair so well with sparkling wine, preferably Lenz’s Cuvée that’s crisp, bright, and fresh.
FAVORITE SUMMER EVENING HANGOUT
I partnered with landscape designer Kristian Clark of White Oak Farm & Garden in Shelter Island to open up White Oak Wine Garden — an outdoor garden and tasting room that we do on summer evenings. We want to bring the NoFo wine scene to Shelter Island, so we showcase local wines and winemakers. There’s live music on the weekends, and the King Andrew Cheese carriage pulls up to serve cheese and charcuterie.