Travel: New York: An island of vine romance

Thirsty travellers beware; there's a lot more to drink in Long Island than Iced Tea. By Anthony Rose

The 118-mile expanse of Long Island juts out into the Atlantic Ocean like a lobster with its rear end facing New York and a pair of bedraggled claws facing out to sea. The two prongs are called the South and North Forks, and are home to Long Island's burgeoning wine industry - New York's version of Napa Valley in miniature.

Only two of the cellars established since 1973, Sagpond and Channing Daughters, are on the cooler, breezier South Fork. The other 18 are dotted along the North Fork, from Paumanok in Aquebogue to Ternhaven Cellars close by the little Greenport ferry.

Like Little Enders and Big Enders, North and South Forkers passionately argue the merits of their own respective patches. The South Fork is the beach-house-and-golf-club playground of wealthy New Yorkers, a weekend extension of the Manhattan social scene. In terms of quality of resort, shopping, sophistication and media personalities, South Forkers turn their noses up at the sod-farmers and turnip-pullers of the north.

But if the South Fork is the place to be seen, the North Fork is the place to come to see. More rural and less self-conscious, the North's farming and fishing heritage and New England charm make it refreshingly green - in all senses. Far enough from New York to discourage commuting, it's not so far as to be inaccessible for tourists and wine-lovers.

Reflecting their English settler origins, the little towns and ports jumble English-sounding place names - New Suffolk, Jamesport, Southold, Bridgehampton - with native American - Cutchogue, Mattituck, Aquebogue. Doll's house clapboard homes are brushed in pale blues, greens and pinks. Toytown white clapboard churches - Hope Church of God, Incarnation Lutheran, First Presbyterian, First Universalist, Baptist and Christian Science - testify to three centuries of righteousness.

The sheltered marine environment of Peconic Bay - with its creeks, islands and beaches - is good for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Indian Island Park and the Orient State Park are the places to bike and hike.

The North Fork is more family-oriented than the South, with plenty of B&Bs in place of fancy hotels and restaurants. Motels are clean and functional rather than aesthetically thrilling or luxurious, but popular enough, especially those with bay views, so you have to book at weekends and in the summer. If you want luxury, try the business-oriented Ramada Inn at Riverhead - or avoid the North Fork.

Ross's, The Seafood Barge and the somewhat pretentious Coeur des Vignes enjoy good reputations, but for good value and informal eating out, the Jamesport Country Kitchen, Legends and O'Donnell's Pub in Greenport are better options. As if made for the North Fork's crisp style of chardonnay, fresh fish abounds - in particular flounders, Peconic Bay scallops and soft-shell crabs, the latter not for the queasy (you eat the whole thing, claws 'n' all).

Tastefully housed as the McDonald's in Mattituck is, I opted one lunchtime for the antique charms of the Cutchogue Diner which nevertheless had fresh fish - flounder and veg - on the menu for a mere $7.50 (about a fiver). By eating at the diner, Michele and Mat Roussan, a professional New York couple, who spend weekends and summers in New Suffolk, were displaying classic North Fork inverse snobbery. They continued in similar vein: "Frankly we're happy there aren't more hotels. It's a narrow strip and we wouldn't want it to turn into the French Riviera. And we'd rather see a new winery than another gas station or mall."

And they are seeing new wineries. Since Alex Hargrave arrived here in the early Seventies, 20 wineries have been established and more are planned. Realising that Long Island benefited from the long growing season he'd been searching for, Hargrave discovered, too, that, compared to the South Fork, the North Fork's bays and sound gave a greater degree of shelter, and lighter and freer-draining soils.

"I followed Virgil," says Hargrave loftily, "and decided to plant four champions," namely cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir, the classic grape varieties of Bordeaux, the Loire and Burgundy. "Once things looked up, they all jumped in," says Hargrave, referring to the second wave of like-minded individuals: Bridgehampton (since closed), Lenz, Bedell, Pellegrini, Paumanok and a handful of others.

"Joe Macari started the third wave in the Nineties and now we're starting to hit the big league."

Since then, some big money has moved in, with investors such as Leslie Alexander, owner of the Houston Rockets, sinking considerable amounts of capital into Long Island's fertile soil.

The Italianate, timber-framed Macari building, which stands on a wooden deck, opened its doors to the public only last year. The $12m investment houses the winery plus a tasting room and an elegant sales room. Macari is keen to gain an international audience for his impressive wines. They are very sleek indeed, with a crisp, unoaked 1997 chardonnay, an oaked version and a voluptuous 1997 merlot. Few wineries are quite as impressively laid out as Macari, but most have eager-to-please staff and welcoming wine shops where you can taste and buy.

Form follows function, Frank Lloyd Wright-style, at Pellegrini, which is elegantly laid out on three sides of a courtyard, with a self-guided tour showing how the wine is made. At Lenz winery, Eric Fry makes winning chardonnay and merlot. And Paumanok looks set to build on its reputation for aromatic dry rieslings.

Although the South Fork's complement of wineries is limited, it's well worth taking the tiny north and south ferries, which ply across the bay via Shelter Island to the old whaling town of Sag Harbor. Sagpond is breathtaking - a yellow-wash modern Gothic, 12,000-square-foot chalet of terracotta tile, stained glass and thick post and beam, complete with vaulted Romanesque cellar and 150 acres of vineyard.

At Channing Daughters, Walter Channing's weird tree-root and tree-trunk sculptures are visible in the vineyard and reappear on the labels of the winemaker Larry Perrine's crisp Italian-style, dry whites; an antidote to the ubiquitous chardonnay.

The only sensible gateway to Long Island is Kennedy airport. Current fares from Heathrow to JFK are about pounds 165-pounds 200 on Air India, American Airlines, British Airways, Kuwait Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic, through discount agents. these are likely to rise substantially in July and August. Anthony Rose hired a Ford Escort for two days for $129 (pounds 80) from Budget (0541 565656 in the UK) and paid $65.40 (pounds 40) to stay at the Silver Sands Motel (001 516 477 0011) in Southold.

To get to the North Fork, take the Long Island Expressway (Route 495) east. To visit the North Fork wineries, go to the last exit, number 73. The Expressway links with County Road 58, which becomes Route 24. Green `Wine Trail' signs guide you to the wineries. Free copies of `Wine Press - a guide to Long Island wine country' - are available from 001 516 298 3200; e-mail: mail@timesreview.com.

Two useful websites for Long Island wineries: www.liwines.com and www.northfork.com/nfpc

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform