Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Long Island Wineries

I love wine. I still enjoy an occasional cocktail. but my drink of choice to lift the spirits and soften life's cares is wine, especially red wine. We're not connoisseurs by any means, but our tastes have evolved somewhat. My wife Jasmine and I started out many years ago searching the "sale bins" and found a number of reds ranging from drinkable to surprisingly good. California reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sirrah were high on our list. Then we discovered good wines from Australia and South Africa, especially Shiraz, that found their way to our table. My son Matt, after several trips to Italy, has us turned on to Italian wines like Chianti and the Super Tuscans...even wines like Aglianico that are made around Basilicata, the region in southern Italy that my family came from.

On our own recent trip to Italy we sampled a number of good wines, in fact, I don't recall ever ordering a bottle that disappointed. We drank mostly Chiantis since we were near the region in Tuscany where it is produced. We took a full day tour of the area that is marked by hills covered in vines. We learned about the strict standards under which Chianti wine is produced if it is to earn the distinction of displaying the black rooster icon on the label at the neck of the bottle. There are growers associations that visit local wineries to ensure the standards are being conformed to in order to protect the integrity and quality of Chianti made in the region. Of course we sampled wines from local wineries, making for a very pleasant afternoon.

Yesterday, with friends, we made our annual pilgrimage to the wineries on the north fork of Long Island. Where the Long Island Expressway ends and Route 25A begins, a winding trail takes you through a countryside whose climate and sandy, rocky soil make it a perfect place to grow wine grapes. There are about 40 wineries here, most of which have tastings daily, and who sell some pretty good quality wines. It was a simple business many years ago when we started going, but many of the wineries have grown, and the tasting rooms have become elaborate, high-ceilinged structures that are beautiful in themselves. Typically they open out into the vineyards where tables have been set up for picnicking by visitors. On weekends, entertainment is often available, and the wineries have also become popular wedding venues.

A little further out on 25A, near the ferry to Orient Point, is the picture postcard town of Greenport. This little seaside village is dotted with shops and restaurants, and is very pleasant to walk around in the summer time. In the harbor are boats ranging from Mom and Pop skiffs up to magnificent, million-dollar yachts. All along 25A are antique stores, ice cream shops, farm stands that sell flowers and produce, and some lovely older homes. In the early fall the town sponsors a fair with street vendors and a local parade. It's like the town that time forgot...I would highly recommend a day trip, whether or not you're a wine lover.

We lucked out yesterday and caught a gorgeous sunny November day in the sixties for our annual visit. The trip is special for us because it is made with close friends we have known for over 40 years, since we were all young and poor starting our families in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn. We ended the day with my car trunk (and our stomachs) full of wine from respected wineries like Pindar, Osprey Dominion and Corey Creek. A good Italian dinner at Aunt Suzie's in Brooklyn was the finale...what better way to spend a day. Cheers.


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The Whiner said...

I can't think of a better way to spend the day!

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

Man, I am sooo, jealous. That had to be a great day, but you could have stopped by at exit 61 of the LIE!

Jim Pantaleno said...

By the time we were done, I'm lucky I could find the LIE much less exit 61.