On The Island (NOT Staten)

On the most recent unseasonably warm Saturday we’ve had in NYC this “winter” (read: last Saturday), my LI wine journey began–jamming to the random Marley wanna-be’s all over Pandora’s ‘Reggae’ playlist.  From our humble beginnings at the Ronkonkoma LIRR station, we started out,  traveling East in a silver Chevy Malibu destined for greatness, with nothing but Wheat Thins, cameras, and a sense of (mis)adventure. Though our supplies were meager, my trusty former neighbor 3R  and I stumbled upon some of the gems of the island (now known for more than the Hamptons)and loved it.

One afternoon, four vineyards, and 20 varieties later I have more tasting notes than anyone would want to read–as a result Iʼll be chronicling this misadventure for the next week, starting today with the awards we gave to the vineyards we had the pleasure of visiting, with more details to come on each of them as the week drives me to drink inspires me to open my prized souvenir bottles.

Though everyone (at least in the NYC area) loves to tout LI grape-growing, itʼs a relatively new commercial growing area, with the oldest vineyard dating back only to 1973. Since then, their growth went viral faster than Kim Kardashianʼs last engagement/wedding/divorce (though they still make less money per minute than she did off of that union).


Many have compared the islandʼs climate to that of Bordeaux and the Loire valley, since it boasts similarly sandy soil and benefits from cool Atlantic breezes like the French superstars. The 120-mile strip has most of its vineyards concentrated on the East Endʼs North Fork–yes, thatʼs the Great Gatsbyʼs homeland for all you F. Scott lovers–where over 15 varieties flourish and are aged/oaked/blended into award-winning sips.

Our awards are based on the wines we tasted, the service we got (before and after making up stories about running  being modestly involved in the industry), tasting and bottle price, as well as the overall vibe 3R (who’s real name is Dave) and I picked up as we tasted and explored. A quick disclaimer–we definitely didnʼt taste everything LI has to offer, and are going to need several more trips to compile our absolute favorites. The wineries featured here simply reflect our first of many weekend adventures on the North Fork!

  1. 1. Our Favorite/Best Service AwardPaumanok Vineyards! We loved our bubbly hostess, who led us through a great tasting flight. Our favorites were the 2007 Assemblage, a red blend, and their chenin blanc–the only one in NY. (We weresure to take one of these home!)
  2. Best vibeLaurel Lake Vineyard–We really felt at home here. Alex (“Aged to perfection over 36 long years”) was informative and laid back, and we loved how you can bring your own picnic to this cute spot. (We also loved the broken golf cart and mini-Winnebago behind the tasting room…adventure anyone?)
  3. Most CharacterBorghese Vineyard/Winery. Yes, it is owned by the Italian royals of the Borghese name (Ahem, also my name in Italiano), and the oldest vineyard in Long Island. This was our last, and we agreed these wines were some of the best–our favorite was the Fleurette, a wayyyy-better-than-white-zinfandel-rosé.
  4. Snobbiest/Biggest Loser: Jamesport Winery. We waltzed into the cutest, bestsmelling
    tasting room–which even had windows into the winery–but were really put off by the brusque service. In the end, we didnʼt even stay to taste. Maybe they were just having a rough day, but we werenʼt loving it.

LI Wine Uncorked:

Fun Facts: New York is the 3rd largest wine growing region in America

3R is an awesome photographer and film maker (kudos to him for all these pics!)


Borghese Winery was voted Best LI Winery by Long Island Press.


Laura Loves: The names of towns in Long Island–Ronkonkoma? Farmingville?


All the wine tasting events on the island–Jazz on the vine, Harvest & comedy
Festivals–this is a seriously active wine community.

This blog for serious insights on LI soil conditions etc.

Coming up: Paumanok Vineyards–the best service and New Yorkʼs only chenin


  • February 1, 2012
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