By Lisa Penza
Summer is a season of travel, and the best destinations can sometimes be right around the corner. While taking off work for a week isn’t always possible in these times, a quick weekend jaunt can be just as relaxing and rejuvenating. When looking into weekend excursions from the hustle and bustle of NYC, Long Island Wine Country offers the best of all options: close to the beaches, relaxing rural surroundings, and of course, WINE!
When planning a trip to here, there are many vineyards to choose from. And while the bigger vineyards like Pindar and Martha Clara offer tastings and entertainment, it’s sometimes fun to go off the beaten path and find those gems along the North Fork.
In my explorations, I found a wonderful and fun adventure in wine tasting called “Pass the Cork.” Participating vineyards give you a cork to pass on to the next vineyard, which will give you an extra tasting or other freebie, then refer you to another vineyard to discover. It’s an exciting way to learn about those charming little places that a drive up and down Route 25 may not uncover.
I started my “cork passing” where the tradition began, at Sherwood House Vineyard in Jamesport. Sherwood owner Barbara Smithen this custom began simply as a way to both recycle old corks and market the vineyards that don’t get so much exposure. Bring a cork from any of the other participating vineyards to Sherwood’s Jamesport location, or their outdoor Mattituck location and have a free tasting of one of their French Oak aged wines, such as the buttery, light Burgundy style 2008 Chardonnay or the smooth, clean stainless steel aged Chardonnay, the only wine aged in a manner other than the French Oak. If you lean more toward the reds, try the 2005 Merlot, which hits you first with a fruity taste and then a slightly peppery finish.
Along with the homey ambiance of the Jamesport location, Sherwood has live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in the summer. Personally, I’d recommend hitting up the Mattituck location for the fun of having your tasting IN the vineyard on a sunny day. Of course, once you’ve tasted your favorites here, don’t forget the cork!
I took my cork right around the corner from Sherwood’s smallest tasting room to Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck. There, my cork gave me the opportunity to have an extra sampling of one of their top class wines, such as the refreshing, citrusy white mix Coalescence, or their peppery, fragrant and witty red Wild Boar Doe. Shinn offers the opportunity to create your own flight, based on how many wines you would like to partake of. I highly recommend the light, fresh and fruity First Fruit Sauvignon Blanc. The perfect pairing for a hot summer day! Finishing up in the charming tasting room, I grabbed my cork and head out for more adventure. My next stop could be any one of the many participating vineyards; Ackerly Pond, Sparkling Pointe, Crouteax, Macari, and many many more. Create your own adventure, grab that first cork, and head east this weekend!
Learn more about Sherwood House and Shinn Estate Vineyards at their respective websites http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/ and http://shinnestatevineyards.com/. Be sure to call ahead if you plan to visit with groups of 4 or more.