Somewhere between strolling through the vines, sitting on the patio in the dazzling sun and stepping into the tasting room, all with a glass in hand Long Island residents and visitors realize wineries are their own unique art galleries. Home to nearly 60 producers overseeing 2,500 acres of vines there has never been a better time to plan a winery tasting, but like all fine art venues there are rules. To make the most of a winery tasting I spoke with Melissa Martin of Creative Island marketing company, which specializes in wine, food and East End tourism, and Ali Tuthill, head of marketing for the Long Island Wine Council, to get their tips on having the best vineyard experience ever.
How to Choose the Vineyards
With nearly 60 wine producers on the Island there are a plethora of vineyards to choose from. Narrow it down by thinking of the overall experience you want from the place. Is a group going? Is it just the girls or is it a couple or family affair? After you’ve decided on the type of wine tasting day or weekend you’re looking for, pick three vineyards to visit.
“I always say don’t visit more than three in a day,” Martin said. “That’s the perfect wine tasting day because you can enjoy everything they have to offer and not overdo it. Plan the last place to be one where you can sit and have lunch or listen to live music, just hang out for a while.”
Martin’s tips: A girls’ day of wine tasting should include Croteaux Vineyards. It has a beautiful patio and artwork to take in. If you’re traveling as a couple with a child Martha Clara is a must do.
What To Taste
Long Island’s diverse wine region means there is something for everyone to try at a vineyard.
“If you’re a white wine drinker and don’t really like red wines than do a tasting of all the whites, or if you’re a red drinker pick a red flight,” Tuthill said.
There’s always going to be more than one variety at a Long Island vineyard. For those that are unsure of what they like or just looking to try everything, Martin recommends picking a varietal white, a white blend, a rosé and a lighter red and dark red to get a good taste of what each offers.
Tuthill’s tips: Ask questions and let the pourer point you in the right direction. You’ll end up discovering some very cool stuff.
The Proper Technique
I probably don’t have to tell you chugging is not cool but what exactly do you do when you have that wine in front of you?
“Don’t take one giant gulp, smell it, sip it, taste it, enjoy it,” Tuthill said.
And ask questions. Ask the pourer what you are tasting, background on the wine being poured and the flavor notes. Then see if while you taste you can look for those notes and flavors. Every year is different and you’re never going to get the same thing so get the history behind it.
“Everything with wine is the experience, swirl, sniff and then sip and savor,” Martin said.
Martin and Tuthill’s takeaway: It takes two sips to get a full taste of the wine.
Host Your Own Winery Tasting
If hitting the vineyards isn’t possible, host your own wine tasting by heading to a local shop and getting a good assortment of Long Island wines.
“It’s a lot of fun, come up with a theme for a great dinner, let that direct you.” Martin said.