As the wine culture has developed on the North Fork of Long Island, so have the opportunities to sip reds, whites, and rosés and soak up the beautiful scenery. Some wineries stay open year-round, others re-open in the spring and close after the fall harvest. Some require reservations, and some offer outdoor seating and live music.
My personal goal is to visit all of the 45 or so vineyards that line the two major routes, Sound Avenue to the north and Route 25 to the south. I’ve chosen nine for you to begin your exploration.
1. Paumanok Vineyards, Aquebogue
Paumanok Vineyards is a superstar when it comes to North Fork Vineyards. Its wines are so popular that they have been served at the White House. Owned and operated by the Massoud family, the Paumanok estate winery has been welcoming visitors since 1983 to enjoy its classic wines.
Paumanok is a stickler when it comes to quality. “There’s no substitute for producing great wine if you don’t use the healthiest, ripest grapes,” is their guiding principle. Paumanok produces the only Chenin blanc grown in New York, a crisp and refreshing vintage. If you prefer reds, Paumanok’s cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot will win you over. The vineyard has an airy tasting room and a beautiful outdoor deck facing 80 acres of vineyards.
Pro Tip: Some of the wines are limited edition. If you find a wine that you love, buy a few bottles (or maybe a case) to take home.
2. Jamesport Vineyards, Jamesport
Strictly sustainable Jamesport Vineyards offers a creative food and wine option on the North Fork Wine Trail. The grounds at the 30-year-old winery are extensive with picnic tables set up for sipping and enjoying the vineyard’s thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas.
I hadn’t really thought about going to a vineyard to have pizza, but now I’m hooked. Jamesport makes you realize that you’ve been combining food and wine all wrong: this is better than having a beer with pizza, or cheese and charcuterie with wine. An unusual orange riesling pairs well with pizza (and the other food choices here). For something earthier, the estate merlot is a bolder choice if you favor mushrooms or pepperoni on your pie. Plan your schedule wisely so you can enjoy a full day of eating and drinking during daylight hours. An added bonus: Jamesport has live “jazz in the vines” on select weekends.
3. RGNY, Riverhead
Taking over the former Martha Clara vineyard, RGNY’s Rivero González family and winemaker Lilia Perez have their birth roots in Mexico, but their winemaking is planted on Long Island. If you’re into trying different kinds of wine, this is your go-to on the North Fork — RGNY makes it a point to expand your wine knowledge.
You may think you know less-common wines like white cabernet franc, viognier, and white merlot — all produced here — but at RGNY, you’ll find interesting twists on tastes and textures. Consider, for instance, the pinot noir and cabernet franc — both are unfiltered, creating a nose, color, and body that will perk up your senses. RGNY’s newest (and limited) wine, the Scielo sparkling riesling, continues the quest for innovation. Maria Rivero Gonzalez comments, “This new wine embodies what we’re trying to achieve at RGNY. It’s unconventional, full of flavor and character, and completely sustainable.“
Create a tasting with multiple varietals and a selection of artisanal charcuterie and cheese plates — ask for help if you’re committed to being adventurous. To further the experience, there’s live music outdoors in warmer months.
Pro Tip: You’ll want to visit and re-visit here, as there’s always something on the winemaker’s drawing board. The good news is that RGNY is open year-round. Look for a wild fermented rosé soon as Perez takes her Bordeaux training and Mexican heritage and mixes it with the terroir of the North Fork to create exciting unfiltered wines.
4. Macari Vineyards & Winery, Mattituck
Macari Vineyards invites you to experience the results of three generations of family-run winemaking in a setting that began as a potato farm. The lovely vineyard, set back from Sound Avenue, is a dream for sampling Macari’s many wines, including the signature sparkling “HORSES,” a distinctive expression of petit verdot with a distinctive label and bottle to match. The wine bar and tasting room offer flights from their selection of cabernet franc, Dos Aguas red blend, sauvignon blanc, and rosé.
Call ahead for seating in the Barrel Cellar where you can sip wines and snack on gourmet cheeses, charcuterie, and local sourdough. The beautiful vineyard is celebrated for its biodynamic approach to winemaking.
Pro Tip: For a special occasion or a larger group, book the Private Macari Tasting Suite for the height of North Fork Wine Trail elegance and comfort. Watch for the reopening of Macari’s private bungalows, too.
5. Croteaux Vineyards, Southold
Do you love rosé? Put Croteaux on your list of must-visit North Fork vineyards. Croteaux, tucked away on a side street shielded by hedges and bordered by extensive farmland, gets my vote for the most romantic vineyard on the North Fork. You’ll need a map to find it, though — it’s off-the-grid and doesn’t always show up on GPS.
Walk through the reception area to the outdoors and you might think you’ve been transported to Provence. The tasting garden is a private oasis in the middle of a farm, with overflow tables set on the farm itself. Rosé is all they produce here — made from estate-grown merlot, cabernet franc, and sauvignon blanc — and you can get a flight ranging from white rosé and pink rosé to sparkling rosés. Tables in the romantic garden are set next to small open-air salon-like rooms and the Tasting Barn.
Pro Tip: Croteaux’s wines sell out by the end of the summer. Buy a bottle to savor for later — the bottle is as beautiful and nuanced as the wine inside.
6. Kontokosta Winery, Greenport
Also removed from the oft-maddening traffic along the Wine Trail, Kontokosta is the North Fork’s most sophisticated vineyard and is in a league of its own. Exclusive with a dramatic waterfront setting overlooking the bluffs of Long Island, Kontokosta is all about sustainability in the production of sauvignon blanc, viognier, riesling, merlot, and cabernet.
I dream about Kontokosta’s pricey but crisp white Anemometer wine, a blend of viognier and chardonnay that was likely grown to match the area’s famed seafood. Sit at one of the outdoor tables, breathe in the maritime air, and choose your wine or wines du jour. Bottles and glasses are available, but, sorry, there are no flights.
Pro Tip: If you have your heart set on visiting Kontokosta, plan ahead and reserve online at Tock. No walk-ins are allowed. The vineyard is closed on Tuesday.
7. Clovis Point Vineyard & Winery, Jamesport
I love Clovis Point for many reasons. In addition to its selection of award-winning reds and whites, the vineyard has live music on weekends with uncrowded seating indoors or outdoors depending on the season. The vineyard produces small-lot artisanal wines in a setting surrounded by cornfields and vines.
The vineyard prides itself on selecting the best grapes to produce the best wines in the area. Proprietor Nasrallah Misk and winemaker John Leo are cognoscenti when it comes to global wines, and their savvy is reflected in the offerings here. Try the vineyard’s bold Archeology red blend paired with a selection of cold snacks and charcuterie.
Adding to its exclusivity, you must have a reservation and large groups are not allowed. The tasting room is open year-round.
Pro Tip: There’s no worry about bachelorette parties or large groups here. No limos or buses are allowed, and reservations can only be made for six or fewer. Music days have two seatings only.
8. Bedell Cellars, Cutchogue
I first encountered Bedell Cellars when it was one of two vineyards on the North Fork. Since then, popular Bedell (as it’s known) has matured into one of the area’s most beautiful and established vineyards with equally mature red, white, and rosé wines. 40 years of trial and refinement have earned Bedell a recognized name for small-batch, sustainable wines from the North Fork.
Plan to spend a day here, sitting on the lawn overlooking the vineyards or on the patio where servers will put together a tasting flight with wines like pinot gris, sparkling rosé, and merlot. Signatures are the vineyard’s First Crush wines made with young vines, contrasting with older vintages like Bedell’s prized oak-aged Musée 2014 with a label by artist Chuck Close. In cooler times, the vineyard’s expansive deck is a welcoming space for tastings and small bites. Wonderful during any season, Bedell’s albariño pairs perfectly with their charcuterie and cheese plates.
Pro Tip: Pets are welcome (not all vineyards on the North Fork are so friendly) and there’s live music on select weekends.
9. Pindar Vineyards, Peconic
One of the most well-known wine producers on the North Fork, Pindar Vineyards is a welcoming entity with more than 500 acres of vineyards, a tasting room, and an outdoor area as expansive as you’ll find on Long Island. The family-owned icon is overseen by mother-and-son team Barbara and Pindar Damianos, keeping alive the vision and traditions begun 40 years ago by Barbara’s husband.
Lines form around the “island” where pourers create a bespoke tasting of whites, reds, and rosés. Spend some time perusing the wine bottles and wine cans as you decide what to sample; the labels are works of art. Pindar grows 17 varieties of grapes, producing more than 23 varietals and proprietary blends. A Pindar signature, Dr. Dan’s Gewürztraminer has won numerous awards.
Pro Tip: Check the live music schedule. As part of the festivities, there is usually a stand selling local oysters.