Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, and summer is officially underway. Skip the Hamptons and head north once you get to Riverhead for a food and wine lover’s paradise that’s got enough going on to last you all the way through Labor Day.
There are some 40 wineries to choose from, with new ones opening each year. The following are some of my favorites, spots which really capture the unique range of tasting rooms that call the North Fork home:
After growing grapes to supply other wineries for 14 years, McCall started bottling its own vintages in 2007. Their tasting room (opened in 2009) is in a converted barn, decorated with McCall's polo gear and horse tack. Their reds are really good, with the pinot noir being a standout – in fact, lot of people say it’s the best pinot noir on the fork.
Shinn Estate (pictured above)
Off the main road, Shinn Estate (which also features a four-room inn) is located in an 1880s farmhouse with a rustic outdoor patio area. Since their first planting in 2000, owners David Page and Barbara Shinn have led the way for sustainable, low-impact farming. A white blend called Coalescence is the perfect accompaniment to light summer meals, while winemaker Anthony Nappa’s white pinot Anomaly is a standout. Bonus: they have a tarot card reader every Friday evening.
This pick has one of the best decks of all the North Fork wineries. Overlooking row upon row of vines, it’s the perfect location to linger over a glass of their award-winning chardonnay or gewürtztraminer and enjoy the area’s one-of-a-kind terroir. Part of the same family as the 30-year-old pioneer Bedell winery, Corey Creek features modern, streamlined interiors and airy architecture.
Champagne may not be the first thing you think of to come out of the East End, but Sparkling Pointe is known for its bubbly. Each is made according to the French style “Méthode Champenoise.” The crystal chandeliered, Samba-themed tasting room is almost as sparkly as the wines themselves.
Famous for a steel barrel fermented chardonnay (rather than oak, this process creates a crisp, clean flavor), Sherwood House boasts one of the most comfortable (and entertaining) tasting rooms. A fireplace, patio and attached home décor store make this one worth a visit (the wines, too, are very good). Have a seat in the front room and flip through the tasting room’s copy of Vineyard Dogs, or peruse the shop for the perfect host gift.
Weather permitting, it doesn’t get much better than relaxing in the sun in one of this winery’s orange Adirondack chairs. I recommend their 2007 White Label Chardonnay and 2008 Blanc de Noir. I was also recently lucky enough to try their 100 percent pinot noir cuvée made according to the traditional French method. Crisp and dry, it would be the ultimate accompaniment to a dozen (local) Blue Point oysters.