Grapevine

A North Fork Bicycle Tour: 2 Days, 60 Miles and 3 Vineyards

Because I’m a teacher, summer is my playtime. I’m free to dream up trips and imagine. It’s society’s gift to me for 10 months of looking after its kids.

Looking at Google Maps, I saw an elegant bike route hiding in the Hamptons: from East Hampton to Greenport—taking two ferries in between—and then from Greenport back to East Hampton, camping for one night in Riverhead.

I saw the trip as a challenge to bike 80 miles. I saw the trip as an excuse to visit some of the more than 50 wineries that operate on the East End. Mostly though, I saw the trip as an opportunity for an unforgettable experience on the North Fork.

I convinced my friend Andrew to join me. Our ride began auspiciously. Somewhere down the road we felt our packs dig into our shoulders. We hadn’t gone far, less than two miles, when we realized this would be difficult. It took time to adapt to our bikes. We persisted, though, and were rewarded with a beautiful view of Sag Harbor Bay as we rode on Route 114 to the Shelter Island Ferry.

“This is it,” Andrew said, as we looked at the tall, white sheets of majestic sailboats.

The ferries to Shelter Island and Greenport gave us time to hydrate, relax and snack. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived in Greenport. Our first stop was Croteaux Vineyards in Southold, which specializes in rosés. There, Paula Croteau set us up with a tasting at the bar with a knowledgeable bartender who talked us through the menu. The bar and backyard were charming, with pebbles on the ground and tables with umbrellas positioned near an exposed barn and a view of the vineyard.

Andrew and I tasted the lightly colored rosés and agreed that the Jolie was our favorite, although the popular vineyard had already sold out of this wine. Croteaux closes for the season on Labor Day and expects to sell out of all of their wines before next year. Visit soon—the shelf life of the wines mirrors the quote on the menu, “Rosé is meant to be enjoyed fresh and young.”

Our other stop on the first day was Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue. This vineyard is a must-visit. We got the opportunity to speak with Bedell’s winemaker, Richard Olsen-Harbich, who is an advocate for environmentally conscientious wine. Olsen-Harbich talked us through Bedell’s sustainable practices, such as composting, and explained the science of wine growing. To compliment his presentation, Olsen-Harbich showed us a display case that he created that features soil conditions and other environmental factors that impact vineyards.

Andrew and I were treated to an impressive menu of wines that included award winners and history makers, such as the 2009 Merlot, which was served at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. We bought a bottle of the 2012 vintage, thinking that if it was good enough for Obama, it’s good enough for us.

Time got away from us after visiting Bedell and we had to hurry down to Indian Island in Riverhead to set up camp. Exhausted from the day’s riding, we slept soundly.

The following day we had a delicious breakfast at Lolly’s Hut in Riverhead, which gave us a nice boost. Still, our energy was low and the thought of biking another 40 miles was oppressive. We gathered what little energy we had left to visit Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard in Calverton. On another day, we would have enjoyed the location more, with its live band and horse rescue stables, but we were drained. We held our heads relatively high as we rode back to Riverhead to catch the S-92 bus. In all, we still rode 60 miles and toured three vineyards.

As this experience taught us, for the able-bodied and spirited, this trip is a must. It is tough but memorable. Along the way we learned about the homes that wines live in. They are destinations worth visiting on trips best shared with friends.

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