Pairing the perfect wine with a delicious meal is something of a family business. For almost 10 years I sold wine, and my father and grandfather did the same (for much longer), which allowed me to amass a decent knowledge of everything from the basics to some slightly more advanced, winemaking process related facts.
I’m not a sommelier, but I’m an enthusiastic wine consumer and I love finding the perfect pairing of wine and food. My experience and the important standing wine has always held in my extended and immediate family has taken me to many of the great wineries Long Island has to offer, and I’ve sampled wines from many of the places I haven’t visited. With that, I thought I would offer a list of my three favorite Long Island wineries, in no particular order, that can be used as a guideline for any fellow Long Islander interested in trying great food and wine in a beautiful setting this spring and summer.
Palmer Vineyards, 5120 Sound Avenue, Riverhead
The draw to Palmer Vineyards is amazing quality wines, maybe as good as it gets on Long Island. Winemaker Miguel Martin is renowned for his buttery, oaky chardonnay; full-bodied, robust cabernet franc; and other lighter summery selections like his refreshing Sunrise Sunset Blush. Experienced wine drinkers with serious palates would be satisfied with their hearty reds and dryer whites, while beginners will find enjoyment in selections like Palmer Rosé of Merlot, or their Lighthouse Red and Lighthouse White blends, which are easy and approachable.
Palmer’s vineyard experience is fitting of its great wines. Martin conducts winemaker tours regularly where he leads guests through their vast barrel rooms and gets in-depth about his winemaking process. He even offers tastes directly from barrels. When the tour is over, there is outdoor and indoor seating space to occupy while enjoying samples.
Must try: Palmer Cabernet Franc 2012
Vineyard 48, 18910 Route 48, Cutchogue
If you enjoy wine and you are looking for a party atmosphere on a Saturday or Sunday, then Vineyard 48 should be your destination. Their wines and tasting room scream “summer.” The tasting room has a dance floor, large windows that let in sunlight and a live DJ on weekends. Vineyard 48 caters to limos and buses that drop off large parties. They offer the obligatory traditional wine selections like a fruit-forward merlot, and an acidic yet crisp sauvignon blanc, but the atmosphere pairs perfectly with their NOFO Peach wine or their NOFO Sangria, which come chilled and quench the thirst after some intense dancing.
Must try: Vineyard 48 NOFO Peach
Martha Clara Vineyards, 6025 Sound Ave, Riverhead
Martha Clara has become the event destination of the North Fork. They have a special event for almost every day of the week featuring some or all of food trucks, live music, wine classes, multi-course winemaker dinners, dog-walking events and many more over the course of the summer. Their wines range from easy-drinking like their Glaciers End series of red, white and rose to steak-dinner-worthy like their Northville red blend, which holds up to the heartiest of meals. Martha Clara wines have become some of the most popular selections in Long Island wines during their history, which dates back to the 1970s. They are owned by the same family that owns Entenmann’s baked goods, though the experience at Martha Clara can’t be contained to a case at the end of the aisle.
Must try: Martha Clara Estate Reserve Gewurztraminer 2014