In Food + Drink

An Introduction To New York’s Lesser-Known Wine Region

Just over two hours outside the madness of New York City is an entirely different setting. Vineyards stretch for acres, horses graze on open farmland, and cottages line the quiet streets. Welcome to Long Island’s wine region.

“You’ll see as you’re leaving New York, it just becomes more and more rural. It’s just so pretty,” says Gabriella Macari of Macari Vineyards, a popular winery in the area.

Though Long Island is quite a young wine region with production taking off in the late 80s, early 90s, its East Coast cool climate has allowed for some “really balanced, elegant and age-worthy wines,” says Macari.

“What that means is that there’s this really beautiful, natural acidity in a lot of our wines. It’s kind of like the Adelaide Hills, actually.

“We’re very well-known for our Sauvignon Blanc and our Cabernet Franc and we also make, in very good years, Bordeaux-style blends,” she says.

Wolffer-Estate-Vineyard-2

Expect delicate berry flavours in Long Island wine reds. Image: Wölffer Estate Vineyard / supplied

In terms of flavour, expect elegant raspberry and cherry in reds; fresh citrus in whites. “You don’t get those ripe peach and orchard fruit [flavours]. You’re pretty much on the line of that zippy, high acid, but citrus flavours tend to dominate,” says Macari.

She suggests pairing the wine with the seafood and fresh produce the region is known for.

“We always say, ‘what grows together, goes together’ so we tend to recommend a lot of seafood. Lobster rolls and rosé, or Sauvignon Blanc and oysters. And then with a lot of vegetable-based dishes, some of our light-bodied reds are awesome,” she says.

May through to September is the prime to visit, she says. The spring and summer months are when “the fruit is on the vine,” and a charming setting is promised for first-timers.

“You start seeing fruit in June, July. Then August and September are some of the most beautiful times to visit because that’s when veraison happens – so that’s when the fruit starts to turn deep purple, and it’s absolutely stunning.

“There’s a lot going on. There are beaches you can visit. There’s an incredible local food movement happening,” she says.

Interested in exploring Long Island’s wine region? Here are some of the best vineyards in the area:

Macari Vineyards

Macari Vineyards was once a potato farm, but is now a popular spot to taste Long Island wine. Image: Macari Vineyards / supplied

What started as a potato farm purchased by Gabriella Macari’s grandfather in the ’60s has since grown into a wine business that has been producing tasty varietals since 1997.

Macari Vineyards grabbed the attention of the masses after winning a spot in a New York Times’ write up on 10 of the best rosés in the USA. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Dos Aguas blend (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon) are also particularly tasty.

Hungry? Order a wood-fired pizza from their family-run mobile kitchen Avelino, which is often stationed on site.

150 Bergen Ave, Mattituck, NY

Martha Clara

A 200-acre property, Martha Clara is a bustling spot on a weekend, filled with groups of friends sampling wines around cheese boards and listening to live music.

The business has just changed hands, so expect some exciting transformations soon – both structurally and on the wine list. Rest assured that the strongest varietals will continue to be bottled.

When visiting, be sure to taste the Viognier and Cabernet Franc.

6025 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, NY

Wölffer Estate Vineyard

Wölffer is a sustainable wine producer with over 30 years of history in the South Fork of Long Island – within the Hamptons area.

Wölffer Estate Vineyard mainly grows Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon but has garnered a reputation for its summery rosé products. The range includes widely-lauded rosé wines along with rosé cider, rosé gin and non-alcoholic rosé verjus (a juice made of pressed, unripened grapes).

139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack, NY

Lenz Winery

Lenz Winery was one of the first wineries to be established in the area, with its history running back to 1978. The vineyard began producing wine in 1983, and today is seen as one of the region’s prime locations.

The Lenz 2010 Old Vines Merlot, in particular, has turned heads after gaining a 94-point Wine Advocate rating.

Call ahead and the team can help you organise a picnic for your group on arrival.

Rte 25, Main Road, Peconic, NY

Paumanok

Paumanok is a family-run business offering an intimate wine tasting experience. Image: Paumanok / supplied

One of the smaller vineyards in the region, Paumanok is a family-run business that promises an intimate experience.

At this winery, named after the Native American word for Long Island, tradition is key. The family produces wines using only estate-grown grapes. According to the vineyard’s website, this commitment to quality means “production is limited to fewer than 12,000 cases”.

1074 Main Rd, Aquebogue, NY

(Lead image: Wölffer Estate Vineyard / supplied) 

Published 23 April, 2019