‘Tis the Season for East End Vineyard Tours and Wine Tastings

ripe cabernet grapes ready for harvest
Photo: iStock

While there may be many different ways to stay warm when the weather starts cooling on the East End, not many of them are quite as much fun as cracking open a bottle of great East End wine and sipping it by the fire. Let the cold winds blow their hardest—we have the perfect antidote: throw another log on the fire and uncork a few more bottles.

Of course, sometimes you might have to venture out into the autumnal breezes—to get more wine! And if you’re going out anyway, why not plan your courageous foray around a vineyard tour?

’Tis the season for…barrel tastings! Over at Paumanok Vineyards on the Main Road in Aquebogue, November is time to sample the 2017-vintage reds and barrel fermented chardonnay. “It’s one of our most anticipated times of the year,” Kareem Massoud of Paumanok says of their barrel tasting season. Participants join owner and winemaker Charles Massoud in Paumanok’s barrel cellar and sample 2017 wines—before those wines have even seen the inside of a bottle. The tastings are accompanied by fine cheeses, breads and pâté. Attendees will then be given the chance to purchase 2017 vintage futures—so if you taste something you think is going to be outrageously good, you can snap some up right then and there and you’ll get it when it’s all bottled up. The barrel tastings run on a schedule, and space is limited. Go to paumanok.com to view the schedule and to make a reservation.

If November is about vintage futures at Paumanok, then December and January will be about a vintage past at Macari Vineyards on Bergen Avenue in Mattituck. On December 8 and January 12, Macari will host The Bold Reds of 2010. As Gabriella Macari explains about the special 2010 vintage, “In the 20 years that we’ve been making wine, this vintage has been touted as one of the best in the history of Long Island.” A sidebar is in order: Those of us who are old hands at this understand that the quality of a wine will depend on an enormous number of variables, many of which are beyond the control of the winemaker. As it happened, 2010 on the North Fork featured abundant spring rains followed by a warm, dry summer, which helped produce ideal fruit for making concentrated red wines. Then, in the skilled hands of the Macari family and winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch, this fruit became incredible red wines that swept national and international awards.

Red wine and grape with vine leaves on a old wooden table.Copy space.
Photo: iStock

But surely such fabulous wines have all sold out by now. Well yes, but Macari still has some. “Luckily for you, we’ve tucked away some of these long-gone reds to revisit just in time for the winter months,” says Macari. The events on December 8 and January 12 will give red wine lovers a chance to taste these coveted offerings and, yes, purchase some to bring home to keep you warm. Go to macariwines.com for more information and to make a reservation.

Of course, you don’t need a reservation to visit most vineyards on the East End. A more casually planned outing for small groups can be had at either Paumanok or Macari, and while you’re on the road you can always duck into Duck Walk Vineyards’ North Fork tasting room in Peconic. Recent releases from Duck Walk include some very tasty reds. Check out the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a concentrated wine with strong dark cherry notes and nice complexity leading to a long finish. While you’re at it, sample the 2015 Malbec, a rare example of a true Malbec made on Long Island. This is a wine that Duck Walk releases only when they feel the quality allows the Malbec to stand on its own.

Now it might not seem like the season for chilled white wines, but new white releases still abound on the East End. Over at Channing Daughters on Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton they’ve just released their 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay, an un-oaked chard that presents a straightforward picture of the South Fork terroir.

More unusual are Channing’s so-called orange wines, two of which have just come out. These are wines that are made with white grapes that are juiced but then are left on the skins for a period (in the manner of red wines), which imparts an orange hue and unique flavor to the final product. The 2015 Ramano, for example, is made with pinot grigio juice left on the skins for a while, then aged in Slovenian oak. Meanwhile the 2013 Envelope, made from a blend of white grapes, is also left on the skins for a while, and then aged for over 2 years in oak. Unsurprisingly, both of these orange wines seem ideally suited to enjoy with poultry. Hmm, isn’t there a holiday approaching that involves cooking birds?

In other news on the vine, Sannino Vineyard recently began construction on a new tasting room on Alvah’s Lane in Cutchogue.

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