The hubs and I are on a car ferry bound from Orient Point, NY to New London, CT. The ship is rocking and with every sway, we hear the gentle squeak, squeak, squeak of Styrofoam rubbing together.
Our vehicle is stuffed to the brim with a week’s worth of vacation gear — beach chairs, towels, sunhats…and not one, not two, but THREE large foam coolers full of wine. You know, all the usual things one brings home from vacation!
Okay, I admit it. This is when we realized we went a little overboard with our Long Island winery purchases. Living in New England, it’s not often we get to visit amazing wine regions within driving distance so when we do, we have to stock up.
If you’re not from the area, you may know Long Island for the South Fork, where billionaires and celebs flock to their mega-mansions in the Hamptons.
But just an hour’s drive away, you’re transported into a different world, with quiet beaches, quaint seaside towns, and acres of vineyards stretching in rows as far as the eye can see.
The North Fork is home to nearly 50 wineries, all within about a half hour’s drive of each other. This makes it an easy wine-tasting destination and a great day trip from the South Fork or New York City.
Here are my picks for some of Long Island’s best wineries for wine lovers and what makes each one unique.
BTW, if you haven’t yet, make sure to grab my free Wine Tasting Planner. It has 20+ wine night theme ideas, including the exact ones I’ve used for my wine tastings. Plus, a timeline, food pairings, games, free printables, worksheets, and more. Get your copy here.
Lenz was founded in 1978 and the current owners, Deborah and Peter Carroll, bought the winery in 1988. This was back when there were less than a dozen wineries on Long Island. Since then, they’ve built a reputation as one of the best North Fork wineries.
They focus on single varietal wines — meaning they are made from one grape vs. blending multiple grapes. Everything is hand-harvested and sorted down to the individual berry. The grapes are fermented in small batches with very little intervention in the winemaking process.
Lenz has a charming courtyard with picnic tables that I’m sure would be a lovely setting for a tasting. Except we arrived to a torrential downpour so we booked it to the indoor area — equally charming in a rustic sort of way.
We ordered one each of the Summer Tasting Flight and the Grand Tasting Flight. Both are a mix of white wines, rosés, and reds, so you get to sample a range. The main difference between the two is that the Grand Tasting includes some of their old vines wines. This brings me to…
Lenz’s Old Vines library wines. Back in the 90s (when a library to me was the place you used the Dewey decimal system), the Carrolls had the forethought to hold onto some cases of the best wines from each vintage. Today, they have an extensive collection of their top wines. Even better, they allow sample these as an add-on to your tasting.
At the time we visited, we did a comparison of the 2002 and 2013 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon. As amazing as the 2002 was, it was a little beyond our price range. Instead, we purchased the 2013 and just need to wait oh about another 8 years and it will be as good as the 2002 for half the price!
Visiting Lenz Winery
Open year-round 7 days a week. Reservations preferred for small groups and required for large groups. They do not allow outside food, but they are dog friendly.
The McCall family’s ties to the North Fork vineyard land date back to 1902 when their ancestor rode his horse and buggy out from Brooklyn to the North Fork looking for a summer home. In the mid-90s, Russell McCall saved the land from condo development, and the first vintage of McCall wine was released in 2007.
All their wines are certified sustainable. Plus, the addition of a wind turbine gives them clean energy. They even have grass-fed cattle that rotate pastures to enrich the soils.
Housed in an old barn on the property, McCall’s tasting room is like stepping back in time. We sat inside, where you can reserve a spot in one of the former horse stalls complete with pitchfork wall décor and sawdust on the floor. On nice days, you can also opt for a picnic table on their lawn.
Our tasting included 3 wines from McCall’s selection of Bordeaux (think Cab, Merlot, and Sauv Blanc) and Burgundian (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) varieties.
If you’re a red wine lover, this is the place for you. Choose from two all-red flight options, the second including their reserve wines. They also offer a flight of whites and rosé if you’re craving something cooler.
Pin for Later!
McCall has one of the largest Pinot Noir vineyards on the East Coast. Their clones (of the grape kind, not the Dolly the sheep kind) come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Pinot Noir is a tough one to grow, and they do it well. You’ll find notes of dark cherry, strawberry, and clove. Check out the Hillside and Reserve versions, plus a Pinot Noir rosé.
Visiting McCall Wines
Open year-round 7 days a week. They allow groups up to 6. Reservations preferred but they do take walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis. They do not allow outside food or drink, but they have a variety of cheeses and charcuterie for purchase.
Bonus Tip: If you can’t visit, you can still try McCall wines and their grass-fed ground beef by ordering directly from their website.
Kip & Susan Bedell planted the first grapes in 1980 and then sold the vineyard to the Lynne family in 2000. Today, Bedell Cellars is owned and run by Ninah Lynne.
The winemaker, Rich, has been with Bedell since 1983. He was actually the one who submitted the application and got the North Fork approved as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1986.
Bedell’s grapes are certified sustainable, and they recycle all the skins, seeds, and prunings back into the vineyard as fertilizer. The yeast used in fermentation is even naturally occurring, cultured from Chardonnay juice and foraged fruits, flowers, and beach stones.
The modern, elegant tasting room was a stark contrast to McCall’s laid-back horse-barn vibe. We were ushered out back to their large, covered deck and sat at a table with breathtaking views of the vineyard.
The tasting included a mix of single varietal wines — Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. They also have the option to add on individual tastes of other wines, including ones they produce with Spanish grape varieties like Albariño and Verdejo. Their artist series labels are beautiful, featuring commissioned works from contemporary artists.
Small-batch wines. These limited-release North Fork wines are unique and surprisingly affordable. Try a white Cabernet Franc, a rosé made from old vine Gewurtztraminer, or a zesty Auxerrois (best known from the Alsace region of France).
Visiting Bedell Cellars
Open year-round 7 days a week. They only take walk-ins and allow groups of up to 14 people. During wedding season, make sure to check their website for dates they’re closed (usually Fridays and Saturdays after 1 or 2pm).
Bonus Tip: If you live in New England, you might find Bedell’s wines in restaurants or stores near you. Check out their website for availability in New York and Massachusetts.
Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery
This list wouldn’t be complete without the first Long Island vineyard. Originally known as Hargrave Vineyard when it was planted in 1973, it was renamed in the late 90s when it was purchased by Ann Marie and Marco Borghese.
Marco grew up in Tuscany and was a wine enthusiast. Taking over the vineyard made his dream a reality, but sadly he and Ann Marie have since passed. Their children stepped in and took over operations in 2014, carrying on their parents’ legacy.
Everything is done by hand at Borghese — from the pruning to the harvesting to the bottling. They even hand-label each of the ~60,000 bottles produced each year. And I thought my days of labeling client holiday cards as a marketing coordinator were rough!
Our tasting took place in their indoor space, which doubles as an art gallery and event venue. The staff was very knowledgeable and helped us select wines based on our palate preferences.
With the Bordeaux-like maritime climate of Long Island’s east end, Borghese focuses on French grape varietals made in an old-world style. If you’re looking to learn about your wine preferences, this is a great place to do comparative tastings. You can try a steel tank vs. a barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Or a rosé made with Pinot Noir vs. one from Merlot.
After our tasting, we enjoyed a glass of delicious wine outside in their Adirondack chairs. The sunshades were a welcome relief from the day’s heat.
Afterglow, their port-style fortified wine made from Cabernet Franc. Having recently visited Douro Valley before this trip, we were excited to see this on the menu. It didn’t disappoint, with flavors of black cherry, dried fig, and warm spices. It got me craving a dark chocolate cake!
Visiting Castello di Borghese
Open 7 days a week. Walk-ins welcome. They allow outside food and picnics are encouraged on their lawn.
Other Great North Fork Long Island Wineries
Owned by the Massoud family, Paumanok’s wines are made in an old-world style from densely planted estate-grown grapes. Flights include four wines with the option to choose all white, all red, or a mix of their Festival wines.
Chenin Blanc is the unique find here, best known from the Loire region in France. We were lucky enough to catch their oyster bar during our visit (usually available on Saturdays and Sundays). The lemony-grapefruity flavors of the Chenin were a perfect pairing with the salty, briny oysters.
Visiting: Paumonak Vineyards is open 7 days a week year-round. Reservations are recommended, but they take walk-ins if space is available. On summer weekends they often have live music. No outside food or beverages.
True to its name, Sparkling Pointe is the place for all you bubbly lovers.
They exclusively make sparkling wines in the traditional method used in the Champagne region (called Méthode Champenoise), where the carbonation comes from a second fermentation in the bottle. They also only use the three grapes found in Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.
Flight options include all-whites and a mix of rosé and white. And if all the bottle popping is making you feel fancy, you can throw in an order of caviar from their food menu.
Visiting: Reservations are recommended for Sparkling Pointe and they allow groups of up to 6. They do take walk-ins if space is available. No outside food, beverages, or dogs.
Founded in 1992, Lieb is certified sustainable and has 3 vineyard sites and 2 tasting rooms. Tasting options include all white, all red, and mixed flights.
Try their Merlot vertical flight to see how age and variations in vintage impact the wine. Their meat and cheese selections are excellent if you are looking for a snack too.
Visiting: Lieb Cellars tasting room is open year-round and allows groups of up to 10 guests.
Joseph T. Macari Sr. was inspired by his grandfather, who made wine in their family’s basement in Queens, New York. In 1995 he started the vineyard with his son and daughter-in-law. A true family business, three generations of the Macari family have now been involved in this vineyard.
The Mattituck tasting room has a standing-room-only wine bar and options for indoor and outdoor seating. They also have private rooms and a barrel cellar experience that can be booked for larger groups.
Our tasting was on their covered deck led by a Macari wine educator, who took the time to go in-depth on each wine. We enjoyed pairing the Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay with bites from the selection of meats, cheeses, and Marcona almonds that came with the experience.
Visiting: Macari Vineyards is open year-round 7 days a week. The wine bar is first come, first served. Reservations required for seated options.
Where to Stay on the North Fork of Long Island, NY
I recommend staying in downtown Greenport. It’s a super cute waterfront village with plenty of good restaurant options. And there are tons of local shops to check out if you need a break from wine tasting.
For hotel reservations, I like to use Booking.com. Just enter “Greenport, New York” and select your dates below to see available options.
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