Back in November, I took a trip out to the North Fork with some friends to go to Laurel Lake Vineyards.
When we arrived at the pleasant vineyard—smaller than some of its neighbors, but infinitely friendlier—I was surprised to spot a familiar car in the parking lot. My suspicions were piqued when my mother and father came scurrying out of the building, waving to me as if running into them on the wine trail was an everyday occurrence. As it turns out, my parents had just purchased a wine club membership and a bottle of sparkling moscato for me as a holiday gift.
Laurel Lake has always appealed to me more than a lot of the other stops on the North Fork, but it’s not just the good wine that keeps me coming back. Perhaps it’s the unique “culture” of the Long Island wine scene. Most 20-something adults go to wineries every once in a while for parties or tours, but I have an appreciation for wine—white, specifically—and the younger people that work there share a knowledge and love for the product.
Going to a winery/vineyard is a lot different than hitting up a local bar for beer and billiards. There’s nothing wrong with those things, of course; my friends and I are fans of bars, too. But wineries tend to be more relaxed, with a quieter atmosphere and low-key patrons who aren’t just there to get drunk (most of the time). With a friendly staff that remembers and recognizes us, we always feel welcome.
It’s early in the year, but my membership has already been put to good use. Members get three complimentary tastings/glasses per visit, which is great when bringing friends and family. There are also various discounts and deals throughout the year, in addition to the eight bottles of wine that are released during private events seasonally. They recently held their winter wine release party, where members received their rosé and meritage. A blend of different reds, the meritage was strong and flavorful but easy on the palate. Owner and winemaker Juan Sepulveda gave tours of the facility to members and their guests, giving barrel tastings along the way. Sepulveda is very informative and approachable and makes sure he gets to know each and every member.
As for their wines, I would recommend the chardonnay reserve from the white wine collection and the merlot from the reds. For fans of very sweet wines, try their golden harvest, which was made with grapes that were frozen on the vine. But my personal favorite is their sparkling moscato; its lush, fruity sweetness is perfect for after dinner, by itself or paired with cheeses and dessert.
During the warmer months, it’s nice to sit outside on the deck that overlooks the grapevines. There’s usually a local band or musician performing, and when the deck gets crowded there’s a beautiful grassy area to lounge around on, complete with an outside bar. North Fork businesses will often set up shop here, such as North Fork Chocolate Company, Crumb Delites and others. The staff is also really informative and the bartenders and sommeliers know a lot about the offerings. They’re happy to go into as much or as little detail as you like about each wine during tastings.
It may be the dead of winter right now, but Laurel Lake Vineyards remains open and ready to warm you up with their delicious wines. Relax in the bright, atmospheric tasting room, try some wines and soak in the North Fork. Maybe you’ll see my friends and me enjoying the fruits of wine club membership.
Laurel Lake Vineyards is at 3165 Main Road, Laurel. For more information, call 631-298-1420 or go to llwines.com.