Once fields of potatoes, cauliflower and sod, Long Island wine country has blossomed from a petite single 17-acre vineyard planted in 1973 to over 4000 acres of trellised verdant vineyards with over 40 wineries crafting world class Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Averaging 230-day growing season annually, it's not only ideal for nifty wine, but a fantastic outdoors destination for a romantic getaway.
Located about 75 miles east of New York City, the majority of wineries pepper nearly 20 miles of the North Fork. Surrounded by sparkly waterways and scattered wooded parks, there is great kayaking, kiteboarding and SUPing on the Peconic River. If your date is hell on two-wheels, drop into BethPage Park to spike pheromones on the downhill chutes and single track. To keep it chill head to Stillwell Woods Preserve or Cunningham Park sporting mostly beginner trails and intermediate trails.
While, hiking fans will love on the area's endless miles of coastal and winding trails. The 132-mile Paumanok Path is ideal for a pre-sipping marathon hike or those seeking a spot of Mother Nature before getting down to swirling, sniffing and sipping can start along Route 25. Just past the entrance to Pelligrini Vineyards is a one-mile shady walking trail on the vineyard's 51 acres. Also on Route 25, Laurel Lake Preserve's 495 acres has terrific 2.7 mile "Green Trail." (To get there: head east past Laurel Lake Vineyards, turn left at sign for preserve).
Once you and your cute companion have worked up a thirst, its time to get tasting. Here are a few must stop and sip selections: Let's go!
Lenz Winery Route 25 Main Road,Peconic, NY 11958* 631-734-6010 * www.lenzwine.com With 70 acres of some of the area's oldest vines, winemaker Eric Fry crafts dynamic Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, amongst other varietals grow.
Castello di Borghese Vineyard & Winery, Route 48 (Sound Avenue) and Alvah's Lane, Cutchogue, NY 11935 * 631-734-5111 www.castellodiborghese.com Formerly, Long Island's original winery, Hargrave Vineyard, started by Alex and Louisa Hargrave, it produces terrific Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Macari Vineyards and Winery 150 Bergen Avenue, Mattituck, NY 11952 * 631-298-0100 * www.macariwines.com Established in 1995, the winery's 180 acres of organically and biodynamically farmed vines t sits on the half-century old family-owned sprawling 500 acre waterfront estate.
Pelligrini 23005 Main Road, Cutchogue, NY 11935 * 631-734-4111* www.pellegrinivineyards.com Gets kudos for its barrel fermented Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clovis Point Wines 1935 Main Road, Jamesport, NY 11947 * 631-722-4222 *www.clovispointwines.com. Sip Cabernet Franc in rustic tasting room built in a 1920's potato barn or on the patio overlooking the vineyard.
Bedell Cellars 36225 Main Road, Cutchogue, NY 11935 * 631-734-7537 * www.bedellcellars.com With over 30 years dedicated to sustainable farming and wine producing, the open-air pavilion is a terrific spot to kick back, swirl, sniff and sip and listen to live music on the weekend. Picnic with your sweety on the shady lawn along the vineyards.
Stefani Jackenthal, President of NTS Wine Tasting LLC and author of WANDERLUST WINING, a fun, delicious guide to outdoor activities in wine regions across the USA. She crafts private & corporate wine tastings and teaches wine classes at 92y.org. www.stefjack.com * www.wanderlustwining.com www.facebook.com/wanderlust.wining *Twitter: @stefjackenthal