Girlfriend Getaways: Wine Tasting in Long Island

By Melanie Nayer

New York is known for many things – Times Square, The Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Bronx Zoo, “Sex and the City” – but wine? In fact, New York’s Long Island hosts some of the best vineyards on the east coast.

If you’re looking for a getaway without all the bright lights and big city chaos, head north of Manhattan to Long Island wine country and taste some of the nation’s most unique wines.

Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Long Island sound, Long Island’s wine country produces award-winning wines thanks to the region’s moderate climate. After a weekend in Montauk at the Montauk Yacht Club, I hopped in the car with my girlfriends and headed down Route 27 to taste some of what Long Island has to offer. A few rules of the road before you start pouring:

Designate a driver! Long Island wine country has plenty of organized tours to get you from one winery to the next so you don’t have to get behind the wheel. If you are driving, designate a driver and stick to the rules. On our trip, our driver chose one vineyard she wanted to try, and only sipped a taste from a recommended vintage.

You won’t get to all 46 wineries, so choose wisely. We picked our first choice, then asked for recommendations from the locals and vineyard owners once we arrived. Here’s what we discovered:

Our first stop was at Wolffer Estate along Route 27. The Wolffer Estate is known for its rose wine, and to our surprise, you don’t have to be in the south of France to enjoy a rose! The vintage was crisp and clean, with the right depth of a good rose. The bottle was $10.99, a great price for a decent rose. The bonus: A bottle of apple wine, which is a great alternative to Reisling’s or ports as a dessert wine.

Wolffer Estates

We made our way down Route 27 to Route 25, which takes you from one end of wine county to the other. Our first stop along Route 25 was Laurel Lake Vineyards, a gorgeous property that was both inviting to the eyes and palette. I opted for a small tasting of three wines, and was treated to a cheese test as well. I walked away with a deep Cabernet Franc, an earthy Chardonnay, and a tub of horseradish cheese, which goes amazing well with the Cabernet. Total: $31.50

Our next vineyard was Bedell Cellars, a recommendation from the Laurel Lake Vineyard. The design of Bedell was very modern and sleek, a stark contrast to the English countryside-motif of Laurel Lake. Bedell Cellars’ Musee 2007 was rated the best wine in New York from New York Magazine, and while it was good, I enjoyed the Taste Merlot a bit more. It was heavy on the palette, which is how I like my Merlot’s, and would pair well with steak, lamb or pastas. The fun part? The wine’s labels are exclusively designed by local artists. Total cost for the Merlot: $35.99

Bedell Cellars

The Raphael vineyard was our last stop, and worth every moment. It lives up to its Italian name, complete with flags of Italy on the outside and a grandiose entrance to the tasting room. The vineyard was promoting its white wines this year, so I tasted the Reisling, which was surprisingly dry and plentiful for what is normally a sweet wine. I highly recommend it for those who want a crisp white without the acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc. I walked out with a bottle of the vineyard’s Naturale White, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Reisling. Total cost: $21.99

Inside Raphael winery's tasting room

Next time you’re wondering what to do with the girls, consider a trip through Long Island’s wine country and enjoy the scenery, along with some unique and flavorful wines. Don’t forget to buy yourself a few bottles – coming home to a bottle of wine from Long Island will certainly make you smile!