Memorial Day Weekend means summer really is beginning, so I thought this would be the right time to tell you about my favorite places for outdoor sipping on the North Fork. There is something very civilized about sitting in the sun (or under an umbrella), sipping a lovely chilled white or rosé, or even a well-rounded red, enjoying the warm breezes, possibly snacking on some bread and cheese. If that experience includes a pretty view over farm fields and vineyards, so much the better.
Almost all of the tasting rooms augment their indoor seating with outdoor areas in the summer, from Jamesport’s capacious lawn to Waters Crest’s two umbrella tables in the parking lot, but some are pleasanter than others. Following this you will find a list of my favorites, starting with a few I particularly enjoy, and then others in no real order. I also mention a wine or two I particularly recommend for sipping, but in a few cases it has been a year or more since I went there, so you may not find the same vintages on offer. Note that some places encourage you to bring your own picnic, while others discourage or forbid it, so I suggest you check the web sites before you go. The ones which don’t allow you to bring your own snacks generally sell their own. If you’re putting together a bread and cheese picnic, you won’t do better than Love Lane Cheese Shop in Mattituck, which carries a wide variety of excellent cheeses and baguettes from Tom Cat bakery. Stop at Harbes for some berries or Wickham for peaches and you’re set.
This is absolutely my favorite outdoor tasting area, plus all the wines are perfect for summer sipping. You go through the tiny tasting room into a tree and flower-filled patio area, with comfortable Adirondack chairs and shady nooks. Two of my favorite rosés are the Merlot 314 and the Violet, but any of them would work. I also recommend their snack of goat cheese and baguette.
2) Old Field
If you like a rustic setting, this is the place! Calico cloths on the tables plus chickens and ducks roaming around the old barns on the property really make you feel you are far from city life. Though I don’t think any Long Island rosés are better than Croteaux’s, the Cacklin Rosé 09 (probably will be a new vintage by now) was lovely.
Picnic tables and umbrella-shaded tables dot an expansive patio area looking out over the grape vines. We liked the ‘08 Chardonnay and the ‘08 Old World Blend. The last time we were there, small snacks accompanied some of the wines on the tasting menu.
Jamesport is the perfect place to come if your group includes children who would like some space to roam around, or even dogs (as long as they are on the leash). Their large backyard lawn, with a variety of seating or picnic areas, some in shade and others in the sun, is perfect, and they sell thin crust pizzas made in an outdoor stone oven and freshly opened oysters, among other treats. Their Sauvignon Blanc goes particularly well with oysters.
Here the outdoor seating varies from pleasant spots out on the lawn or the interior courtyard to a few tables overlooking the vineyard. What makes this a good place for an outdoor tasting (rather than just a glass of wine) is that they will give you your entire tasting on a tray, carefully labeled, so you can sit and sample at your leisure. If you’re going for just a glass, we really like their Petit Verdot, which would pair well with brie and baguette.
Paumanok is another place that often features oysters, though not as reliably as Jamesport. They have a pleasant porch out back of the tasting room which looks out over the vines and fields. The 2011 Festival Chardonnay was a good match for the oysters, though they may have a new vintage by now.
7) One Woman
This is a small winery with a small porch which wraps around the tiny tasting room. You are surrounded by the vines and a large field of grass as you sit and taste. We found the One Woman Tribute ’11 to be a good sipping wine, and we are in love with the 2012 Grüner Veltliner.
8) Comtesse Thérèse
This is another winery with a bit of a French accent, and outdoor tastings are in the charmingly disheveled intimate garden behind the Comtesse Thérèse Bistro. Though the setting is pleasant, we found the service a bit lackluster our last time in the garden, though that could certainly have changed. The 2011 Chardonnay was a super sipper.
Although it was too chilly to sit outdoors on the day we went there, we did admire Shinn’s remodeled outdoor seating area, with comfortable-looking chairs and a nice little snack menu. I’d recommend First Fruit for a sipping wine.
With a pretty little pond and trellis-shaded picnic tables, Pugliese has created a very attractive outdoor seating area. If it’s not overrun with limo groups, I’d recommend you go there with some cheese and crackers and get the Bella Domenica, a summery red.
P.S. Just visited Mattebella for the first time in two years and their improved outdoor area means they should be added to this post! (See review for details.)