Depending on the nature of the tour you have arranged, and how many people are travelling at the time with you, you could be travelling in a limousine or a bus, or if it’s just a small party, you could travel in a car. Comfort and safety are the primary considerations on this Long Island vineyard tour.
If you have not been out to the North Fork of Long Island before, it’s 80 miles from Manhattan east to Riverhead, where Long Island splits into the North and South Forks. From Riverhead to Greenport (one of the easternmost towns) on the North Fork is another 20 miles, and it’s on this stretch of Route 25 toward Greenport that the wineries, quaint hotels, and restaurants are situated.
The time of the drive should be about an hour and a half to Riverhead, but more than likely you will be travelling on the Long Island Expressway (495) which can be a possessive ogre at times, refusing to budge from its obsessive crawl. And then there are patches of road where you’ll zoom along only to slow to ten miles an hour 20 minutes later. Figure a 90-minute ride on a weekend morning. During the week, with commercial traffic and construction (there’s always construction) add another 30 minutes to Riverhead. So, if you’re leaving 10am, the recommendation here is to be sure to eat a good breakfast.
Fill your stomach with wholesome food. Since it’s New York, if you want to bring a bite on the vehicle, a bagel and cream cheese will do you fine. Or, a bagel with lox and cream cheese. Love that smoked fish on a bagel! And of course, a hot coffee. Sip it slowly as you move through the Midtown Tunnel (or the Triborough Bridge) into Queens.
Your journey east has begun.
Start the clock.
For the most part, the ride out is not rustic, although as the exit numbers increase on the Expressway (32 is the last exit in New York City) the view will gradually become more picturesque until you come to Exit 72, the final exit.
You’ve reached the beginning of the North Fork on Route 25. The first five miles are commercial, but then the countryside gradually opens into an expanse of sumptuous greenery and in Aquebogue you’ll come upon the first of the 20 wineries: the Vineyards at Aquebogue.
You’ll begin tasting wines either here or at other wineries ahead. For the next five, six hours the spirit of the wines, the beauty of the vineyards rich in history and craft, and conversations with growers who’ll be more than glad to show you how their wines are handcrafted as you sip them, will make time fly. You’ll also find places to snack, if necessary.
Although some wineries offer crackers because if you have not eaten on the way out and you’ve been sampling many wines at each winery, you’ll find all these tastes will catch up with you. Some folks won’t realize just how good a time they’re having. Food in the stomach will keep you from succumbing to the charms of the wine and allow you to taste some more.
As the afternoon continues after you’ve stopped at many of the 20 wineries, if you’ve chosen to have dinner at one of the fine restaurants in the area, we’ve made your reservations and built that into your custom wine tour. You’ll be driven to your chosen restaurant. Your transportation back to New York City awaits the end of your evening.
If you’re travelling out in the fall or early winter, the area still has a unique charm. There’s plenty of excellent wine to taste, and knowledgeable winemakers to talk to in a less frenetic environment. But dress warm, in layers. So, if you’re glancing over a snow-dusted vineyard, glancing into the warm sun, you can leave your jacket in the vehicle. A woollen sweater might be enough for an hour or two in the heat of the afternoon. The wine will leave you with its cordial hello. And if this is a date, there’s nothing like a friendly companion to share the cordiality of the wine, the rustic atmosphere, and the passion of the day.
Your trip can be a day you won’t forget for years to come. Finish the Long Island vineyard tour at one of the seafood restaurants in Greenport on the water. Claudio’s has a long bar, good food, and tables with views of the Peconic River and Shelter Island to the south. Enjoy.
For more unmissable things to do and see, check out our guide to the best New York tours.