Hamptons Epicure: Day Drinking at the South Fork Wineries

Wölffer wines
Wölffer wines. Photo: Barbara Lassen

The North Fork of Long Island is home to more than 60 wineries, about 50 of which include tasting rooms. The South Fork, with its “big three” wineries, is no slouch in Long Island Wine Country. My husband and I recently conducted an “in-depth survey.”

Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Sagaponack
139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack and 3312 Montauk Highway, Sagaponack. wolffer.com
Wölffer’s Tuscan-style winery on Sagg Road was closed for a function, so we dropped by the Wölffer Wine Stand on Montauk Highway for a bottle of Grapes of Roth riesling and to snack on cheese and bread as we gazed out over fellow pleasure-seekers and rows of grape vines heavy with fruit. Grapes of Roth is Wölffer’s longtime winemaker and partner, Roman Roth’s, label. Like the winery’s late founder, Christian Wölffer, Roth is German.

Somehow in the summer rush we’d missed the release of Wölffer’s Cuvée Cider, so we picked up a bottle of that as well. Fingers crossed, it might be just the thing to pair with lobster pie.

This 55-acre vineyard was founded in 1988 and remains in the Wölffer family. It’s part of a 175-acre estate that features boarding stables, 39 paddocks, an indoor jumping ring and a Grand Prix field.

Many of the wines are named after beloved show horses.

Channing Daughters, Bridgehampton
1927 Scuttlehole Road, Bridgehampton. channingdaughters.com
The first vines—Chardonnay—were planted by late founder Walter Channing in 1982 and, yes, there are Channing daughters—four of them.

Channing offers some great wines—whites, reds, pinks, oranges, vermouth, sparklers and more. Now they also carry Sagaponika Vodka from their potato-growing neighbors to the south. At $40 a bottle that was a must-have.

Award-winning winemaker, and partner, Christopher Tracy hails from California and is an enthusiastic experimenter. It’s very exciting to explore the possibilities of Long Island terroir, since no one yet knows all that this relatively new wine region is capable of producing.

There is some outdoor seating, but we stayed in the tasting room peppering staffer Carl with questions between sips and bites of cracker.

We were quite taken with the Lagrein 2014, which was made from…wait for it…100% Lagrein grapes. Channing is the only East End winery growing this black grape, which is popular in Northeastern Italy. This wine is deep but mild, lightly spicy, smooth. We bought a bottle for sipping at home.

Duck Walk, Water Mill
231 Montauk Highway, Water Mill. duckwalk.com
In addition to several acres around the Parrish Art Museum, this vineyard maintains over 130 acres on the North Fork. It enjoys a sisterly relationship with Pindar, Long Island’s largest vineyard. Both wineries’ wines are available at their Port Jefferson location, where they have a full tasting bar and wine shop. The Duck Walk winery and vineyard was first established in 1986 under another name and owner. Since 1994, it has been owned and run by the Damianos family.

In 2007 Duck Walk added a location in Southold, on the North Fork, surrounded by 30 beautiful acres of Sauvignon Blanc vines.

Our server Elaine suggested we try some whites and reds before moving on to their dessert wines, such as Aphrodite, a late harvest Gewürztraminer. We tried their first-ever riesling, the 2014. Sweet, with floral overtones, this is right in the middle (from dry to super-sweet) of what a riesling can be. We found the Southampton White undemanding and infinitely quaffable. Maybe not “infinitely,” but a person could drink a lot of this stuff. It’s dry and versatile. We bought a 750 ml bottle.

The gift shop offers everything you could need for a picnic, even if you’re only going as far as the patio next to Duck Walk’s koi pond. We were strong and didn’t buy a bottle of their delicious and popular Blueberry Port…this time.

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