I recently traveled to the North Fork, New York Wine Country, via Cross Sound Ferry. The ferry was a mode of transportation I honestly hadn’t considered in the past, but boy, were my expectations surpassed. It was efficient, restful and great value. The trip eliminated hours of driving, and the views from the boat were so impressive. The North Fork, once thought of a long drive on the Long Island Expressway, where you can sit for hours at a time during the summer, became more accessible, and now that I’ve been there, I can’t wait to go back.
A Trip on the Cross Sound Ferry
The 16-mile boat journey is just an eighty-minute journey from New London, Connecticut to the North Fork of Long Island and back. Ferries depart every day and drop off in Orient Point, NY (also known as the North Fork). You can take your car for just $51, plus $14.50 for additional adult passengers. Children ages 2-11 are $6.00 one-way, $10.00 round trip. Children under age 2 are FREE.
Once on board, there’s a concession stand, TVs and kids get an activity book with crayons or pick up a pair of kid-friendly binoculars. You can sit back and relax, charge your phone or get a drink from the bar.
Once we arrived in Orient Point, our tour of the Long Island Wine Region began, and my whole world opened up. I had no idea how rich in wine history and vineyards the North Fork truly is. Did you know the region hosts 50 producers of world-class wines, 383 wineries and over 3,000 acres of vines growing gorgeous grapes? The region has been voted one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2013. It is truly a spectacular, special place that I don’t think many New Yorkers visit often enough. However, that might be about to change.
A Tour of the North Fork
Vintage Tours met us at the ferry and took us on a tour of some of the area’s vineyards. The company is run by wine experts and Jo-Ann, our tour guide, provided information not only on the spots we were visiting but the region itself. As soon as we landed, I took a whiff of the ocean’s sea salt in the air and looked out at the vine lined fields and bucolic vistas that fill the region that constantly reminded me I was far from home.
Our first stop was Waters Crest Winery, with lunch and wine blending with its owner Jim Waters. Waters told us how he was a fireman working in Ground Zero on 9/11 and decided how fleeting life is and took the plunge to open a winery. The result, Waters Crest, produces boutique wines with grapes that are carefully hand-selected from local growers with fresh fruit. Lunch was served in the tasting room, where we sampled red and whites from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay grapes and Riesling. Lunch was served from local Nofo Lunchbox – a gorgeous kale salad with berries and cheese. The combination of salad, wine and being in the North Fork was soothing and so very zen. Waters Crest Winery is located at 22355 Route 48 in Cutchogue. The vineyard is open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 11am-5pm and Saturday from 11am-6pm.
Then we headed to Kontokosta Winery in Greenport, a 62-acre property with a 9,000 square feet winery owned by brothers Michael and Constantine Kontokosta, overlooks the bluff of Long Island Sound. The winery is in a a 19th century New England barn made of 90 percent recycled-content steel and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed steel beams. The result is breathtaking, clean, modern and the wine caters to connoisseurs. From merlot using grapes of Peconic to cabernet to merlot to cabernet sauvignon to chardonnay, the wines were flowing and the taste was magically flavorful and sublime. Kontokosta Winery is located at 825 North Road (Route 25) in Greenport and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-477-6977 or go to www.kontokostawinery.com.
The next day we headed to one more winery to learn about Vine to Wine at Sannino Bella Vita in Peconic. There we were greeted and hosted by Anthony Sannino, who owns Sannino Bella Vita with his wife, Lisa. They trace its origins in part to the island of Ischia, near Naples, where his grandparents came from. They bought the vineyard in 2006, along with a bed and breakfast. Their vine to wine process lets visitors join him in the wine making process, which he clearly loves. We tasted his fresh grapes and newly made wine in barrels outside and drank chardonnay, made from fresh fruit, and merlot made with dashes of tobacco, macerated dark plums and black licorice. Anthony’s passion for his roots and wine-making was addictive. Sannino Bella Vita is located at 1375 Peconic Lane in Peconic. It’s open every day until 6 and until 8 on Saturdays.
Where to Stay and Eat
Funnily enough, Michael of the Kontokosta Winery owns the Harborfront Inn at Greenport, our chosen accommodations for the night. Harborfront is a three-story, grey and white inn offering simplicity and comfort. Most rooms have harbor views and all rooms have Wifi, flat-screen TVs, hair dryers, an iron, an extra blanket and pillows, a safe and refrigerator. The front desk is staffed 24 hours a day. There’s a fitness room and complimentary continental breakfast from 7-10am daily. Our room was cozy, complete with contemporary furniture, an armchair and comfy bed linens. The inn is nicely located in the heart of historic Greenport, right by quaint shops and restaurants. The hotel is located at 209 Front Street. You can email email@example.com to make a reservation.
Just a few blocks away you’ll find Ruby’s Cove Bed & Breakfast, a charming historic Victorian home with so much character. The home has an eclectic and old-fashioned vibe, filled with chandeliers, tapestries, antiques and a sweeping fireplace. There are three cozy bedrooms, a terrace, a library and a salon where Donna, the owner, serves appetizers and beverages. Donna also serves a complete gourmet breakfast. I was quite taken by the experience, complete with music playing from the 1920s. Ruby’s is a great weekend getaway for a couple, set of friends, mother/daughter or anyone looking to truly escape. Ruby’s is located at 151 Bay Avenue and is only a short drive to over 30 wineries, gorgeous white sand and rocky beaches, and parks, farm stands and the Cross Sound Ferry. Check for reservations here.
At the Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., a microbrewery in a converted firehouse, we drank a flight of delicious, unique tasting beer that included Harbor Pale, Black Duck Porter, Leaf Pile Ale and Weesh’d Scotch Ale. We also toured the brewery and saw the beer making facilities: a 30-barrel four-vessel system complete with a mash tun (used to convert grains into fermentable sugars), a lauter tun (separates the liquid from the grain), a kettle (boils the liquid wort) and whirlpool (separates hops and any solids from the liquid again); four 90-barrel fermenters (that is where the magic happens); and two 90-barrel brite tanks (used to carbonate the beer). A food truck was parked outside from Noah’s on the Road offering scrumptious mushroom risotto balls, lobster rolls, crab cakes, which we munched on while listening to music. Greenport has a slew of restaurants in the historical district, as well.
Something for kids
Gingerbread University is a gingerbread decorating facility located in Riverhead. It was created by Frederick H. Terry Sr., a college professor/inventor turned entrepreneur. He runs gingerbread decorating workshops, children’s parties. It’s a place that brings out the “kid” in everyone. The kid came out of me when put to the task to decorate my own gingerbread man (see photo above). Located so close to wineries, they often have wine tasting evenings while decorating the cookies – that’s something I’d like to try! Gingerbread U is located at 3225 Sound Avenue in Riverhead, NY 11901. Reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: I never realized a trip to the North Fork could be so fabulous…and easy to get to! Thanks to my friends at Cross Sound Ferry for hosting me and giving me the opportunity to write about it here and elsewhere.