At this point, it’s almost obligatory to hit the Hamptons or North Fork wine trails at least once between April and October. Is it really summer without a glass of Wölffer rosé or fall without Raphael Merlot? But the virtual mandate has led to even more cars on single-lane roads like Sunrise Highway and Sound Ave. During peak season, when your mind is on Merlot and a low-traffic Saturday afternoon, forego the forks and hit these Long Island wineries further West.
Whisper Vineyards, St. James
It’s only appropriate that one of Long Island’s best-kept secrets has “Whisper” in its name. Barbara Perrotta and Steve and Laura Gallagher uncorked Whisper Vineyards in 2013 next to their long-standing farm stand, Borella’s. Locals flock to the vineyard for the 2010 Reserve Merlot, which welcomes the drinker with juicy black fruits and has a lingering oak finish. Those looking for something other than wine can choose from the spirit tasting menu, a diverse list of offerings that includes whiskies, vodkas and gins. Phone: 631-257-5222 | Address: 485 Edgewood Ave Go
Loughlin Vineyard, Sayville
Nestled on the South Shore’s Roosevelt Estate, Loughlin holds the distinction of being the closest vineyard to Nassau County and the City. The vineyard, started in the 1980s by Barney Loughlin, who is known to have as much character as Loughlin’s wines, still offers free tastings now unheard of on the Forks. The South Bay Breeze, a fruity rosé, is a light blend of Loughlin’s Cabernet, Chardonnay and Riesling. It’s a dead ringer for summer in a glass. Phone: 631-589-0027 | Address: 255-299 County Road 65 Go
Harmony Vineyards, St. James
Harmony Vineyards may fly under-the-radar as far as Long Island wineries are concerned, but the Old East Farm House on the property is on the National Register of Historic Places. The circa-1690 building now houses an art gallery and tasting room, where guests can sip, swirl and savor the fruits of winemaker Eric Fry’s labor. Taste the hints of grapefruit in the full-mouth Chardonnay, which has been hailed as fresh, rich and tangy. Red enthusiasts rave about the Cabernet Sauvignon, a strong-bodied wine that possess plum, currant and black cherry flavors for a drink that’s equal parts elegant and savory. The Vineyard also boasts a food menu, weekend brunches and live music. Phone: 631-291-9900 | Address: 169 Harbor Road Go