Wild Sunflowers on Long Island’s North Fork
Long Island’s East End is just a two hour drive from the bustling city of New York, yet it feels like it’s a whole world away. It’s peaceful, more relaxed, agriculturally rich and refreshingly spread out after spending time in The Big Apple.
There are lots of reasons to visit the longest island in the contiguous United States too: it’s beautiful world-renowned beaches, abundant local produce, incredible seafood, and of course the tony Hamptons. While all of those might be tempting, what intrigued me the most are the wineries! Read on to see the best long island wineries we visited along with photos and our top Long Island wine picks!
Wolffer Estate Vineyard - Best Long Island Wineries
Entrance to Wolffer Estate Vineyard
Wolffer Estate Vineyard is located on the South Fork, not far from the famous beaches of the Hamptons and the town of East Hampton Village. It’s location might have something to do with the upscale aesthetic, European flair and beautifully maintained grounds. If the wines were only passable we would have enjoyed the beautiful terrace – but alas they were excellent.
Wolffer Estate Vineyard Tasting Terrace
Founded by talented entrepeneur Christian Wolffer, the original parcel was actually a potato farm when he purchased its 14 acres in 1978. Now, the estate has ballooned to 170 acres with 55 of those representing Wolffer Estate Vineyard.
Wolffer Estate Vineyard Grapes
During our visit we chose the Grand Tasting ($20) which afforded us the opportunity to taste the blanc de blanc sparkler, current release Merlot and two library wines. We tasted:
- Cool As Well Sparling Blanc de Blanc 2010 ($54): Pale gold with sweet juicy green apples finishing cisp and clean. Very simple and refreshing.
- Estate Selection Chardonnay 1998 (from magnum): Honey gold with oak, butter and subdued tropical fruit on the nice. It was full and creamy with a surprisingly lithe mouthfeel that belied its rich buttery nose. Notes of guava, lemon and mineral were very nice.
- Christian Cuvee Merlot 2010 ($125): Their flagship Merlot is composed of 100% Merlot and is aged 20 to 21 months in oak. Dark ruby with earthy red fruit on the nose. The palate is rich with good concentration. Notes of wild lingenberry, prunes, lavender, leather and cedar. My top red wine for the trip!
- Reserve Merlot 2000: Medium ruby with signs of some bricking. The nose was surprisingly vibrant for a 14 year old wine with high toned red fruit including raspberries and more savory cedar and leather. On the palate it was elegant with good acidity supporting the red fruit, cloves and spice.
While we weren’t too impressed with the sparkling wine, the other wines we tasted were excellent. We would certainly return to taste through more of their wines and perhaps enjoy a bottle of wine from their extensive selection while relaxing on their gorgeous terrace!
Paumanok Vineyards - Best Long Island Wineries
As we head away from The Hamptons and begin moving up the North Fork we reach Paumanok Vineyards just off Route 25, or Main Rd. They produce just under 9,000 cases a year from entirely estate grown fruit on their 103 acre estate. The winery is a charming, renovated barn with a great patio area overlooking the estate’s vineyards.
As we made our way to the tasting bar we were presented with several tasting options. We decided to try the classic Paumanok Flight ($9) because we felt it covered the most based whereas the others focused on white wine, red wines or Loire varietals for example. We tasted:
- Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($24): Soft with subtle creamy tropical notes. It starts out crisp and then rounds out on the palate.
- Dry Riesling 2013 ($22): The nose suggested it would be sweet but it was quite the opposite when we tasted it. The palate is refreshingly tart and crisp with a good bit of lime. This was my pick of what we tasted and I could have easily sipped this on their patio.
- Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($24): This reminded me more of Pinot Noir than Cabernet. The nose was fruit forward with a soft medium body. More understated notes of soft red fruit, ginger and spice emerged.
The patio at Paumanok Vineyards
If you make it to Paumanok Vineyards make sure to ask if they have any of the Chenin Blanc in stock. They are known for producing the best Chenin Blanc on Long Island. We were unfortunately unable to taste it as they had already sold out of it.
Shinn Estate Vineyards – Best Long Island Wineries
As we head away further North and up the North Fork you will find Shinn Estate Vineyards tucked away just off the beaten path while many wineries are visible from the Main Road (Route 25). Shinn Estate has been named a top wine destination in the US by several notable publications including Gayot, Fodors and Food and Wine to name a few. Founded by Barbara Shinn and David Page, it is the first East Coast winery to be completely powered by Solar and Wind Power!
After quickly finding the perfect table to accommodate our party of four we were given the opportunity to taste 3 wines for $12, or 6 wines for $15. Any additional wines could be tasted for $3 more and we could taste their flagship wines Grace and Clarity for $7 per taste. With so many decisions we finally decided on:
- Sparkling Brut 2009 ($35): Creamy apple and pear with a touch of sweetness finishing with a zest of lemon.
- Nine Barrels 2010 ($42): A 9 barrel blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Very dark with wonderful aromatics and nice red fruit on the nose. Its medium body reveals raspberries, dusty cocoa, rose petal, and baking spice with a smooth velvety texture. Quite good, this was my favorite wine here.
- Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($40): Much softer than the nine barrels. Medium bodied with notes of dried herbs, balsamic and cherry liquor. This was slightly fruity.
- Petit Verdot 2010 ($35): The alcohol was very perceptible, giving the impression of ‘heat’ on the nose and a slightly unbalanced wine. There was some subtle red and black fruit but it was mostly overpowered. Finished with cocoa.
- Clarity 2007 ($100): A 3 barrel reserve blend of Cabernet and Merlot. It appears dark with some bricking and visible sediment. This is big and rich and structured with scorched earth, cocoa dusted cherries, leather and earth. This has a liqueur-like quality to it with some perceptible. Not as balanced as the Nine Barrels but could certainly improve with time as the structure is here.
Part of the Shinn Estate winery visible from the tasting area
Roanoke Vineyards – Best Long Island Wineries
Don’t let the quaint, unassuming appearance of Roanoke Vineyards’ winery fool you. They are producing some of the top red wines on Long Island, and as our taster explained to us, that is what they focus most of their energies on. It is all the more difficult to produce a great red wine here because it isn’t as hot or as dry as say Napa Valley. Couple those challenges with the extra efforts of sustainable farming practices as Roanoke does and it makes you really appreciate how much effort is being made here.
We decided on the The Red Flight ($12):
- Bond 2012 ($19) : Full of strawberries and black cherries, it is medium bodied with good acidity. At this price this nicely balanced Bordeaux blend was a good value.
- Cabernet Franc 2011 ($34): Nicely aromatic, there are black cherries and nutmeg evolving on the palate. It’s medium bodied with very good length and a nice spicy finish.
- Merlot 2010 ($45): This has a darker appearance and a bit more depth to it. It boasts plum, cocoa and dark red fruit with cedar and a toasty, spicy finish.
- Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($45): A nice deep ruby color, this has good concentration and a nice mouthfeel with just the right amount of polished tannin supporting notes of cassis, cedar and dark cherry. From a great vintage for Long Island and it shows.
I would certainly return in the future to spend more time with their wines and to sample more from their portfolio.
Sparkling Pointe Winery – Best Long Island Wineries
Entrance to Sparkling Point Winery
As the name suggests, Sparkling Point Winery produces only sparkling wine from its vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island. Founded by Tom and Cynthia Rosicki, they share a mutual love for the wines of Champagne and sought to create their own sparkling wines of distinction on Long Island. It was here that I tasted my favorite sparkling wine of the trip, and ironically it tasted the most like a true Champagne out of all of the sparklers on the trip.
We chose the Grand Tasting Flight ($17) which allowed us to taste four sparkling wines. While all of them were good I enjoyed these two the most:
Sparkling Point Tasting Menu
- Brut 2011($29): All orchard fruits with green apples and pears. Uncomplicated yet enjoyable.
- Brut Seduction 2005 ($60): Aged 7 years on the lees this tasted quite like an actual Champagne. It was yeasty with notes of lemon, brioche and almond. Very good but expensive.
The expansive terrace at Sparkling Point Winery
Worth Mentioning: My tasting notes were derived from small samples which gave me only an initial impression of the wine and its potential. With a larger sample and more time for the wine to breathe and develop, other complexity and nuance would likely be revealed. Other Top Long Island Wineries I wanted to visit but was unable to due to time restraints: Bedell Cellars, Lenz Winery, Channing Daughters and Macari Vineyards.
A nice end to a day of Long Island wine tasting