Every year come August, I make my annual trip to visit friends at their home in Hampton Bays, New York.
I can't tell you how much I love the area. Besides gawking at the typical uber-mansions owned by celebrity A-listers and New York financiers, there are plenty of charming mom-and-pop restaurants and a surprising surfer vibe. If that weren't enough, Eastern Long Island is emerging as one of the top wine regions in the nation, an area called the North Fork.
Along with my boyfriend Joe, we had a few friends flying in from the Cincinnati Area (Shadia and Michael) as well as Atlanta (Marcus) and I wanted to plan a few things in advance that would be memorable for them. Since there were seven of us (Marcus' friend Carolyn joined us for the day), we decided to rent a limo for seven hours that would convey us to various vineyards. To our surprise, we found a rental company, Trawell Inc. that only charged $375 total for the round trip.
See a video Montage of our trip below: (Video Credits: Joe Condit)
As fate would have it, when I actually planned ahead for something memorable, nature tried to upstage me. As all of us were heading to the Hamptons after our short stay in NYC, Hurricane Irene was churning in the Atlantic on a direct path to the Northeast. Instead of canceling our day trip, we thought we would risk our chances and try to get one good day in before all hell broke loose and evacuation became necessary.
After attempting to reassure our worried parents that we would not be swept out to sea by the coming hurricane, we made preparations for the fun day ahead. Elyse and I packed a picnic lunch beforehand of sandwiches, chips, fruit and various cheeses since most vineyards have picnic areas to enjoy an al fresco meal. It's more affordable and convenient to bring your own food and most of them do not provide substantial fare beyond cheese.
Note: It is imperative when planning your trip to call ahead to the wineries. Some can close early for private events, so be sure to check before you make the trip. Additionally, if you are arriving via limo, you must make reservations with the receptionist and inform them of an estimated arrival time.
Please see the Google driving map of our trip from Hampton Bays to all five vineyards here.
The limo arrived at 12:30 to Elyse's home. Our friendly driver Dan explained to us that they provided, at no extra charge, ice, bottled water and various alcoholic beverages inside the vehicle. (Although I wouldn't recommend drinking any of their spirits since they are served in glass bottles with masking tape for a label...creepy.) After snapping a few pictures, we embarked on our journey to Hamptons' wine country. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day; it was hard to believe that a monster storm was just a day away. We listened to some fun dance music on our iPods (hookup provided by the limo service) and we watched the rows of vines and farmers' markets pass by our window.
Stop 1: Bedell Cellars
Bedell, along with Sparkling Pointe, is my absolute favorite spot on the North Fork. My plan was to visit Bedell towards the end, but they were shutting down early for a wedding (good thing we called ahead). By rearranging our trip and stopping there first, we were able to stay in the tasting room. I was slightly disappointed because the veranda where we usually sip wine was being prepared for the wedding. What I love about Bedell is that it is owned by Michael Lynne who was the CEO of New Line Cinema. He was responsible for producing some of my favorite films like the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Dumb and Dumber, Joe's favorite movie, Wag the Dog plus a dozen other famous films. The original owner, Kip Bedell, is still a winemaker at the property after selling his successful winery to Lynne back in 2000. Besides making Bedell a marketing success, Lynne's creative energies have been focused on the labels. Described as a modern art fiend, Lynne has been on the board at MoMA since 2003. He asked personal artist friends to submit some stunning designs. My favorite bottles are the Taste Series done by Contemporary Artist Barbara Kruger.
Stop 2: Vineyard 48
This was a winery I had never been to before, which also has a cigar shop adjacent to the parking lot. The tasting room has a large open space, A little too big in my opinion and I didn't care for the cheesy painted vines on the wall. What makes up for the lack-luster tasting room is the quaint courtyard near the front entrance. We retrieved our picnic baskets from the limo and set up lunch on the cafe tables under a few trees. After a good meal and great conversation, we cleaned up and marched onward.
Stop 3: Pellegrini Vineyards
Pellegrini Vineyards was our third stop along the journey. I adore their 90 point wine tasting which offers selections that received these high ratings from Wine Spectator. The staff handling the tastings were very friendly and the interior decor was quite cozy and bright. After sampling a few of their whites, I meandered through the property, which included a massive courtyard and an abundance of grassy nooks.
Stop 4: Corey Creek
As Bedell's early closing time forced us to reroute our day, the staff suggested we check out their sister vineyard, Corey Creek. I had never been to this place before, but I have to say, the view of the vines rivals that of Bedell. A massive covered rear veranda reveals beautiful panoramic views of the property. It was probably one of our best photo opportunities of the day and we frolicked in the vineyards for a while. I would highly recommend stopping here as well, and I will definitely return for another visit. However, it should be noted that you will taste the same wines that Bedell serves since they share the same vineyards.
Stop 5: Sparkling Pointe
When planning, Elyse and I noticed that most tasting rooms close by five or six at the latest. We did remember that one of our favorite stops, Sparkling Pointe, features a live band on the weekends that plays until at least 7:30 in the evening. (Please call ahead to confirm that a band will be performing) This place just exudes fun by playing off of the bubbly theme; it feels like you've walked directly into a champagne bottle. We ordered the brut sparkling plus the vintage 2005 and walked out to the grassy area. Plenty of umbrellas and stylish outdoor seating awaited us. I was hoping we could freeze this moment in time because it felt so perfect. The boys ventured out to investigate the statue that resembled "Christ the Redeemer," watching over the vines like a scarecrow. A few minutes later, I saw my boyfriend Joe riding on the back of some man's golf cart. Leave it to Joe (who never meets a stranger) to run into the owner of Sparkling Pointe, Tom Rosicki. We walked over to meet the cart and had a few minutes to chat with him. He was extremely friendly and welcoming. We wished we could have stayed longer, but our time with the limo was coming to a close. Gathering our souvenir glasses, we boarded our modern carriage to whisk us back to Hampton Bays.
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