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May 5, 2008 01:34 PM

North Fork excursion - so many wineries! How to choose?

Hey hounds,

I'm planning a day trip to the North Fork this weekend, and I've scoured the boards looking for winery recommendations. There are obviously WAY too many to do everything in one day, so I'd really like to hit the best of the best (which I realize does not mean the best known). Also, I'll have my parents with me, and they are much more interested in red wine than white, but unfortunately I've been unable to decipher which wineries (if any) are especially good with reds.

Anyway, I've read every post I can find on this site (mostly at least a year old, unfortunately) as well as a bunch of wine blogs, etc, and I have compiled the following list - more stars means more good recommendations! I'm thinking we'll have time for 4-6 places, so we'll probably just do the six at the top of the list if I don't get any further guidance. Let me know if you see any losers, or any obvious winners that have been left out. Thanks!!!!!!!!

****Roanoke Vineyards
*Castello di Borghese
*Osprey's Dominion
*Peconic Bay

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  1. The ones we always enjoyed were Lenz, Bedell, Pellegrini, Palmer and Paumanok. Don't know Roanoke, Lieb or Shinn. We always thought that Osprey's Dominion was strictly for the tourists (the advertise a strawberry wine). Pindar was big and commercial, Castello di Borghese used to be something else and I can't remember what. Peconic Bay and Paumanok were just OK. A newer arrival on the North ROad is Martha Clara, which seemed to be developing some good wines. However, Bedel and Pellegini were always our go-to wineries for a good bottle at a reasonable price. Lenz can get pretty pricy, but they can also have some pretty fabulous wines. Believe it or not, we are just finishing up the rest of our 94s and 95s, which were unbelievable vintages on the North Fork. That will be a long day of tasting! Have fun.

    2 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      "Castello di Borghese used to be something else and I can't remember what."

      It was Hargrave's, the first LI winery, I believe...

      1. re: MacTAC

        Right. Hargrave. Up on the North Road. We liked it & never LOVED it, but wanted to because the Hargraves were such innovators. For about 12 years, we used to spend the whole summer out there, but haven't gone in a couple of years. We're trying to go at the end of the summer for a couple of weeks if we find the right spot, and would love to get the latest on all the wineries. The last time we were out, we noticed that many had gotten very touristy, and where you used to go and sample, you now had to pay for tasting flights. It made us sad to see how it had changed. In 1996, the first summer my son (who is now 12) spent out there as a baby, I have a distinct memory of going to Hargrave, sitting him on the bar and tasting wines. It was empty since that was a summer it rained all summer, thus not such a good vintage. The summer before, when I was pregnant, it was brutally hot, and late in 1996 we got our first taste of the 95 wines and they were great (as had been the 94s). Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

    2. Pellegrini is our favorite winery for reds. They have nice wines in a range of prices. It seems from our experience and that of friends and other posters here that much of your experience at a particular winery will depend on what time of the day you get there and who is working in the tasting rooms that day. For example, we have always had great experiences at Pellegrini-- we've arrived on the early side before the crowds, and the staff has spent loads of time letting us taste just about every wine they had. Someone else on these boards went there during a crowded time and said it had a "tour bus" feel. That has never happened to us there. On the other hand, Shinn was highly recommended to us, but when we got there it was mobbed and pretty unpleasant. Same with Martha Clara the day we went. But if you hit a place that's so packed with people that you feel you won't have a pleasant time tasting, I'd just move on and plan to hit that winery another time.

      The Castello di Borghese reds were nice, but pricey. Roanoke was good, and I agree with roxlet about liking Lenz and Bedell. If you enjoy the wines at any one place, many of the wineries have wine clubs where they'll send you wine a few times a year. It's a nice way to remember your North Fork visit all year long.

      1. In no particular order, the can't-miss spots out here right now are Roanoke Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, Bedell Cellars, Pellegrini and Shinn.

        But, that doesn't mean that most wineries have something going for them. Osprey's Dominion is a prime example. Many of their wines are mediocre, but there are several standouts right now, including a stellar pinot noir.

        Borghese seems to have gone down hill a bit recently because of some winemaker turnover.

        Martha Clara actually isn't new, but they do nave a new winemaker in place (formerly of Pellegrini and Shinn) and I think things are going to improve there.

        Lenz and Lieb are also worth visiting, for their bubblies (and some other wines).

        I hesitate to say you should patently avoid any winery, but I can't recommend places like Pindar and Duck Walk Vineyards. They are, for the most part, making wines for the lowest common denominator. If you're looking for restaurant recos, let me know via email. My blog (not going to plug it with a URL) is probably one that you already found, but I have some good resources there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: LENNDEVOURS

          Thanks LennDevours! I did find your blog - such an amazing resource! I appreciate your "can't miss" list - that makes choosing easy. I would guess we'll have time to do those five plus maybe one other, I guess Lenz or Lieb. Depends on how much time my parents want to spend out there. Would it be worthwhile to hit the Tasting Room to sample some things from vineyards we don't have time for?

          As for food, I've got my heart set on fondue at the Village Cheese Shop for this trip, but I'll be sure to check back again if we head out that way again this summer.

        2. I'd like to recommend two that haven't been listed:

          The Old Field

          Raphael is beautiful. They really paid attention when building the chateau. The reds are really attainable and can be enjoyed on their own or with the properly prepared meal.

          The Old Field is a more homey location. It's our favorite picnic spot. Unpretentious, although their sparkling Blanc de Blanc is $40/bottle even if you buy the whole case. It's really that good.

          1 Reply
          1. Well, we ended up trying Paumanok, Pellegrini and Shinn Estates. My parents didn't have the stamina for much more than that, and I must say I didn't either, after tasting so many mediocre wines. I hate to be negative, and I really wanted to like some of these places, but I was really underwhelmed with nearly everything we tasted. I did enjoy one young Riesling at Paumanok, and bought a bottle, but at $22 I felt it was overpriced. There were also a couple of Merlots at Pellegrini that I liked, but they were $40 a bottle, which I thought was simply outrageous. Shinn was a complete bust - not only did I not like ANYTHING we tasted there, but the proprietor was very rude and condescending. Luckily, lunch at the Village Cheese Shop (2 kinds of fondue, yum) and a quick trip to the Southampton Publick House for a few bottles of their Abbott 12 quadruple made up for it!

            Oddly enough, at dinner tonight (at Aquavit) my mother chose a pinot noir from Jamesport Vineyards that was excellent - far better than anything we tasted while actually on the island. Perhaps we were just unlucky with our selections at the vineyards?

            10 Replies
            1. re: biondanonima

              My feeling is that it is difficult to really get a sense of North Fork wine in just one visit to three wineries. Maybe you have to visit over time to really get a sense of which winery makes which great wine. We used to spend summers there, and over 12 years we developed a good idea of what to try where. Also, the proprietors got to know you and would bring out wines that weren't necessarily on the tasting board. But you're right -- North Fork wines are expensive and for us it was something that we did to support the local growers.

              1. re: roxlet

                any word on wolffer? i hit most of the places listed here last trip but am headed there again this weekend and wolffer estate came up. tia

                  1. re: roxlet

                    I think Wolffer is decent. Good white wines and their stickies ain't bad either. Channing Daughters is pretty good too. Some unusual varietals, can be a bit hit and miss but generally not too bad.

                    1. re: Scotty100

                      thanks. my "sources" also just told me it was $12 for the first 4 "taste" and $16 for a following 4. have they lost their minds?

                      1. re: TBird

                        They have wines that are over $200 bottle so maybe they're giving you something special. They're on the South Fork in Bridgehampton by the way. Very few places do free tastings anymore, and when they do it's just a thimbleful: when you pay you at least get a half glass or so.

                        1. re: coll

                          Generally speaking, I think the quality of the wines all over the north and south forks do not match the prices charged. But they have a captive vacation crowd who will spend for the sake of a good vacation etc. I bought a couple of cases last time I was over there from a variety of wineries...only in the month's to come when tasting side-by-side with some of my other wines did I realize how disappointing most of it was and how much of a fool I was for spending 40 bucks plus on some of the bottles...

                1. re: roxlet

                  Pindar does free tastings. Their wine is OK, better than alot of the other vineyards.

                  If you are going to pay for tasting, I like Palmer. We like to bring a picnic lunch. Sometimes they have a bluegrass band.


                  1. re: Fred19

                    we had a great time and spent most of our time at paumanok. charles and his son took some time(2+ hours!) tasting and explaining his stuff with us.
                    i didn't taste a red worth the effort the whole day but i did come back with a mixed case or two of whites.
                    thanks everyone.

                    1. re: TBird

                      On a whim, I ended up in the north fork on the weekend to taste some reds...did Shinn, Lieb and Bedell. Did not like anything I tasted reds wise...the best was Bedell's top of the line Merlot which was ok but they were charging a whopping 65 bucks a bottle!!! I mean come on!! 65 bucks for average north fork merlot?!! Hello...?!! For that price I can maybe find some 05 Bordeaux...!! I have to laugh at the pricing these wineries have instigated. They are living in a dream world and if it wasn't for the limos packed with bachelorette parties staggering from one winery to the next to get drunk they wouldn't survive...

                      Pretty disappointing all round.