This weekend’s day trip took us a little further afield than our New England Day trips do. Though it sort of felt like the best of a few worlds, New England and Sonoma, the North Fork of Long Island was a gem all its own, just about three hours from Boston.
We left Boston at 8:00 am and made it to New London, CT, way in advance of our 11:00 ferry to Orient Point, NY. Next time, I would just leave a little earlier and book the 10:00 ferry instead of having to wait at the dock. There’s not much to do. Once you’re aboard the car ferry though, you can relax inside or outside, taking in some TV or the way better option, blue water and beautiful islands.
Once in Orient Point, we drove off of the ferry and started exploring. First stop, obviously Sparkling Pointe, award-winning producer of all things bubbly, and only bubbly.
Sparkling Pointe offers a few options for tasting, outside a large patio and sitting areas right next to the vineyard.
Inside offers a swankier experience with crystal chandeliers, art, and lots of white. We did our tasting outside.
We tasted through the NV Brut, the 2009 Topaz Imperial, the 2007 Blanc de Blancs, the 2002 Brut Seduction, the 2009 Cuvee Carnaval, and the beautiful 2008 Blanc de Noir. Our visit to Sparkling Pointe was only my second time tasting Long Island wine (the first was at Bin 26, I fell in love with Channing Daughters, from the South Fork of LI), and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Not that I was expecting the wine to not be good, but the East Coast doesn’t always get the credit it is due when it comes to wine. These wines could definitely change some of that!
My favorites were our first and last, the NV Brut which was super acidic with green apple and lemon flavors, perfect to cut through a humid day, and the Blanc de Noir, which had toasty notes I love, along with lots of berry flavor. Gorgeous. I could have stayed at Sparkling Pointe all day.
Our itinerary was quite full though, so after a quick stop for provisions at The Village Cheese Shop, we made our way to a winery that came highly recommended from several people, Shinn Estate Vineyards. One of the reasons I wanted to come to Long Island was to taste wines made with Cabernet Franc, a grape that grows well there. Shinn, with its cozy, rustic tasting room, won me over with its dry rosé, a blend of Merlot and Cab Franc. This wine offers bold strawberry flavors without any sweetness. I love Shinn’s description:
Take a bottle of this wine in one hand, a lobster roll in the other and head straight to the beach!
We also tasted through Shinn’s Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Coalescence, all a little too sweet for how I was feeling. I think it was just the heat; I’d love to taste these again on a cooler day.
The other standout for us was Shinn’s Bordeaux blend, Wild Boar Doe. This wine is super peppery, another bold choice, and sitting in our wine fridge for a cool fall Sunday. I am thinking BBQ pulled pork sliders.
After Shinn, we made a visit to Harbes Family Farm and Vineyards, a place that deserves its own post just because it had so many different things to offer. Stay tuned!
Our final wine tasting stop of the day was at Croteaux Vineyards. My party ended up going to see an open house we passed, so I went in and tasted alone. I was excited to visit Croteaux because they make only rosés, 12 in total. I sat at a little tasting bar in the back garden and had a great time chatting to Nick, who poured my wine and shared some great information with me.
I tasted three different rosés, all Merlot, the 181 Rosé, 314 Rosé, and 3 Rosé, all named for the Merlot clone they come from. My obsession with the sea and summer meant that the 181, or summer in a glass, as Nick called it, my favorite. This wine has a slight bit of brininess to it, a kiss of salt on the finish. Since I had awhile to wait for everyone to return, I decided on a glass of Cuvée Sparkle and a wander around the tasting gardens.
Lots of trees, flowers, quaint tables, and Adirondack chairs make this outdoor tasting space a delight, and really relaxed as I sipped my bubbly.
Unfortunately, the end of my experience at Croteaux left a bad taste in my mouth. First, they did not want to let my husband and his sister in to find me. Then, when I was checking out and buying wine, the woman at the counter hastily said that only the payer could stay inside and everyone else could wait outside, basically kicking him out. The store/checkout area at Croteaux is tiny, but my husband was looking at the wines for sale and potentially would have picked up a few bottles based on my recommendation. The attitude was very much, “give us your money and get out”, which is unfortunate because up until then things had been so nice. Croteaux should either invest in a larger checkout area or learn to more graciously ask people to step outside.
Overall, while we really enjoyed the stops we made, other than Nick at Croteaux, we didn’t really encounter anyone who was super friendly or interested in the wines they were pouring. I shouldn’t compare to Napa and Sonoma, but as most of my wine tasting has been done there, I couldn’t help it. My sister-in-law suggested that many of the staff at the Long Island wineries might be seasonal, as opposed to year-round professionals in the Napa and Sonoma tasting rooms, a possibility and explanation for the quick pour and walk away that we experienced.
The winery clientele definitely had a little bit of NYC attitude. The North Fork was lovely , but you couldn’t help feel that bit of the city rushed coldness with the way people drove, didn’t hold doors, talked really loudly like they knew the most about wine ever, etc. (I’m obviously not saying everyone in New York is like this, just observing that there was a definite hasty way about many of the people.) I’d definitely go back; there are dozens of wineries we missed and lots of great restaurants and inns to check out. Plus, I need to visit Channing Daughters!
Did you do anything fun this weekend?