Every proper Long Island wine tour includes a stop at Bedell Cellars, Paumanok, Pindar, Duck Walk or Wölffer Estate. If you’ve ever traveled through the East End and its many vineyard-lined streets, chances are you’ve at least heard of one of them. Grand in size, quality and popularity, these top Long Island wineries have each played a part in shaping the island’s wine industry and vineyard experience.
36225 Main Road, Cutchogue, N.Y.
Bedell Cellars is known for making some of the finest wines on the East Coast of Long Island. As one of the most well-established Long Island wineries, they have received much critical acclaim and recognition, including having their wine served at the 2013 U.S. Presidential Inauguration.
When you’re going on a trip, sometimes the best thing to do is to follow your stomach. In recent years, food tourism has become more and more popular.
Pioneers in the Long Island wine industry, Kip and Susan Bedell planted their grapes on the North Fork in 1980, only several years after Hargrave Vineyards (now Castello di Borghese) launched the wine industry in the area. Kip, a self-taught winemaker, focused on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, eventually earning a name for the winery as one of the top red wine producers in the region and himself the nickname of “Mr. Merlot” by Wine Spectator magazine.
In 2000, Kip sold the winery to film executive Michael Lynne, president of New Line Cinema, but the focus remains on quality. Bedell Cellers continues to hand-craft their wines in small batches as they have always done and are certified sustainable by Long Island Sustainable Winemaking.
The tasting room rests within a refurbished historic barn that was built in 1919. While you are there you must try their famous Merlot for a taste of some of Long Island’s best, although all of their varieties are well-received by critics. If you like bubbles, pop a bottle of Blanc de Blancs. And be sure to take note of their artist series bottles, which feature works of renowned contemporary artists.
1074 Main Road, Aquebogue, N.Y.
Fittingly named for the Native American word used to describe Long Island, Paumanok wines are an excellent representation of the quality that the land is capable of producing. In fact, their wines have been representing the region quiet prominently, recently earning them the distinction of “Winery of the Year” at the 2015 New York Wine & Food Classic; it is the second time they have won the honor.
Charles and Ursula Massoud founded Paumanok Vineyards in 1983. The 127-acre former potato farm is entirely owned and managed by the couple and their three sons. Only state-grown grapes are used to make their wines, which are grown using traditional dense planting, resulting in more concentrated fruit. The quality grown in the vineyard is maintained in the bottle by limiting production to fewer than 12,000 cases a year.
Try a glass or two during a visit to their winery and tasting room in Aquebogue. Summer and fall are great times to enjoy the scenic vineyard view out on the deck.
37645 Main Road (Route 25), Peconic, N.Y.
Late Pindar founder Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos was a big player among those who helped to form Long Island wine country into what it is today. From the early 1980’s he worked with his family to make Pindar one of the largest and most recognizable wine labels on Long Island. With over 500 acres of land, Pindar produces 70,000 cases a year of about 23 different varietals and blends.
Over the years, the Damianos name has made its mark on the East End at Pindar and beyond. Dr. Dan’s sons Alexander and Jason own and operate nearby Duck Walk Vineyards (more on that below) and Jason’s Vineyard respectively, while his son Pindar manages the vines at the vineyard of his namesake.
Inside the Pindar tasting room, artwork and Tiffany-style lamps surround a tasting bar where the wine is always flowing. During the warmer months, the covered deck out back is an ideal spot to take in the view and live music (weekends). U-pick sunflowers are also available while in season.
During your visit, be sure to try the Sunflower Field and Peacock Chardonnays, one of their popular sparkling wines, or the palate-pleasing red blend, Pythagoras, named “Best U.S. Red Blend” by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago. For a quieter experience, visit Pindar’s Port Jefferson Wine Store, which also has a full tasting bar.
Duck Walk North: 44535 Main Road, Southold, N.Y. / 631-765-3500
Duck Walk South: 231 Montauk Highway (Route 27), Water Mill, N.Y. / 631-726-7555 x4
Pindar’s cousin winery, Duck Walk was founded by Dr. Dan Damianos and his son Alexander in 1994. Like Pindar, it has become one of the best-known Long Island wineries. Altogether, their vineyard encompasses 140 acres and produces about 35,000 cases of wine a year.
Duck Walk has two beautiful locations. In addition to their impressive flagship winery, housed within a Normandy Chateau-style building in Southampton, they claimed their spot along the wine trail on the North Fork in 2007, which quickly rose in popularity. Designed to accommodate large groups, both tasting rooms are large and airy with scenic outdoor areas to enjoy live music and wine and cheese pairings. Leashed dogs are also welcome.
Duck Walk wines are consistently recognized in national competitions. Tastings not to be missed include the Vidal Ice Wine dessert wine, made from grapes frozen on the vine, and Blueberry Port, made from wild Maine blueberries (served with a piece of chocolate).
Wölffer Estate Vineyard
139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack, N.Y.
The stylish Wölffer Estate Vineyard is a European escape in the Hamptons. Once a potato farm, the beautiful South Fork winery was the vision of late Hamburg-born businessman Christian Wölffer, who transformed the land and founded the vineyard in 1987. It also doubles as an equestrian center with the largest indoor riding ring on the East Coast.
Visiting the tasting room at Wölffer Estate is like going to a friend’s home who loves to entertain (and has a really nice house). The elevated Tuscan-style building offers pristine views of the vines and features old-world European accents including a hand-crafted bar made from reclaimed wood, stained glass doors and a stone terrace. It is the heart of the vineyard’s many events such as their Twilight Thursdays in the spring and fall and Candlelight Fridays in the winter, both of which feature live music and wines by the glass. Their nearby wine stand is also a hot spot for tastings and Sunset Fridays and Saturdays in the summer.
Winemaker and partner Roman Roth produces a diverse array of wines with food pairing and longevity in mind. All of the wines are made from estate grown and sustainably farmed grapes from Wölffer’s 55 acre vineyard and from locally-sourced fruit. They are certified sustainable by Long Island Sustainable Winemaking.
Must-taste wines: Grapes of Roth Merlot and Riesling; Summer in a Bottle rosé and white, which exactly as the name implies, are fruity sippers that capture the spirit of Long Island in the summer; and their dry white and rosé ciders, made exclusively from New York State apples. Try them at the tasting room or with dinner at Wölffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor or Amagansett, the first winery-owned restaurant in the Hamptons.
Have you been to any of these Long Island wineries? Tell us in the comments.