Monday, June 30, 2014

Return to Long Island Wine Country

I grew up on Eastern Long Island so I’m always anxious to explore when I have a chance. This time it was a family affair, with my mother, and my daughter and her boyfriend.

You know the saying, “So little time, so many places to see?” That’s me when it comes to Long Island. For this trip I only had one day and decided we’d do the North Fork, which I haven’t been to in a while.

I contacted the Long Island Wine Council for some advice on new and unique wineries that would give me a wide range in a short period of time. They did a good job in choosing.

Our first stop was at Raphael Winery in Peconic. It’s a beautiful winery so it’s no wonder it’s popular for weddings

The winery is family owned and has been around for 13 years. Their selection included a little of everything. I especially liked the 2013 Rose, which is mostly merlot with a bit of pinot noir. It has a strawberry nose and hints of berries in a semi-dry wine. The 2010 La Fontana is a delicious red blend with a complex flavor that highlights licorice and blackberries.

I also recommend the 2013 Riesling. It’s light and fresh, perfect for a summer day. And, you can’t go wrong with their La Tavola White and La Tavola Red, both delicious and $20 and under.

Winemaker Anthony Nappa took me around the winery, which believes in sustainable practices. 

He then led us over to his own place, the Winemaker Studio, which also has Provisions for his chef wife to produce deli sandwiches, cheese plates, and other wine tasting accompaniments.

I enjoyed all of Nappa’s wines. My favorite was definitely the 2013 'Frizzante' Sparkling White Wine, a pinot noir, with some Riesling and gew├╝rztraminer. It’s sold in a beer style bottle and just remembering it has me wondering if I can find a place around here to get some.

Also of note here is their most popular wine, a White Pinot Noir, currently bottled from 2012. It’s an orange colored wine that was produced with no oak and no malolactic acid, keeping it fruity and fresh. And, I can’t forget the 2013 Birdo Cabernet Franc with its chocolate taste.

Truthfully, just bring an extra suitcase and take home (at least) one of everything at the Winemakers Studio.

We took a tasting break to have lunch at one of the most well-known restaurants in the North Fork of Long Island, Claudios. I had heard they made a great Bloody Mary so I started with that. It had a little too much horseradish for me, but it fit the description otherwise.

The four of us shared two appetizers that were both excellent. The Fresh Mozzarella Tour was the Appetizer of the Day and was a fantastic combo of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, pesto, and balsamic vinegar.

Our other choice is always on the menu and a must try. Spinach-Stuffed Brie with a berry compote is a superb mix of flavors.

Claudio’s specializes in seafood and my mother and daughter indulged with a Lobster Roll and a Lobster BLT.

My mom agreed with the reviews that the Lobster Roll was one of the best she had. My daughter really liked the Lobster BLT, but thought it could have been better if they didn’t fry the lobster. Her boyfriend and I went for the burgers.

When I say burger, this was far from an ordinary one. It was topped with arugula, tomato confit, and cheddar.

I wished I could finish it, but a Chocolate Brownie Sundae showed up at our table and I had to make a choice.

After lunch, we drove to Kontokosta Winery in Greenport. This is another place which is popular on the wedding circuit and I can see why. It’s a 62 acre waterfront property. The winery is fully wind-powered.

It is also the eastern most winery on the North Fork, giving them the ability to produce some different grapes with unique flavor.

The winery is fairly new, with the production building not ready until 2012, so they don’t have any old vintages here, but what they have is all worthy of a taste. Their 2013 Riesling is everything a Riesling should be – semi-dry with a fresh apricot nose and a bit of grapefruit and honeysuckle on the tongue.

They also have the best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tasted so far from Long Island, filled with lemon and kiwi, with a slight hint of peach.

I wished we had more time for more tasting and exploring, but it was time to head back and get ready for dinner. The North Fork will definitely stay on my list of Long Island places to return to. 

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