If you live on Long Island, allow me to pass on some unsolicited advice: You can take the greatest staycation possible without leaving the area. I’m not talking about a trip to the huge movie theater with the lean-back seats and lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (though I’m not opposed to such flights of fancy). I’m talking about a winter tour of the area’s premier wineries (and ciderhouses and distilleries). If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of alcohol producers on the North Fork, you’re not alone. But let us be your guides. Come for a day, come for a weekend, or come forever. The choice is yours.
More than Just Wine
If you’re worried about burgeoning palate fatigue from too much of the good stuff, I urge you to change it up. Start your day at the Riverhead Cider House, way west on the Long Island Wine Trail. Riverhead produces three ciders for purchase: the Benjamin’s Best hard cider, the Founder’s Reserve hard cider, and the Captain Cook’s Razz Ma Tazz raspberry cider. On tap, they also pour a rotating list of specialized ciders, like the Greg’s Strawberry Patch, the Prickly Pear Rosé, and the Crannie. Local beers and wines from Greenport Harbor, Blue Point, Martha Clara, Lieb, and more are also available. Check their website for an updated list of what’s currently being poured.
The Riverhead Ciderhouse, 2711 Sound Avenue, Calverton, (631) 591.0217, open Wednesday through Sunday, check website for hours, riverheadcider.com.
Head to Jamesport
Clovis Point’s inviting wooden façade will have you dreaming of Sonoma. Buses and limos are not permitted, which means you won’t be competing with the bachelorette party of the day. The winery offers three separate tasting options (“cold,” red, and “master”), all of which are affordable—the Master maxes out at $22 per flight. On Saturdays and Sundays, the winery offers live music in the afternoons.
Clovis Point, 1935 Main Road, Jamesport, (631) 722.4222, open Monday through Friday 12 to 5 p.m., Saturday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Make a Stop in Cutchogue
Off the main drag, you’ll find Lieb Cellars, the interior of which is industrial chic (think Joanna Gaines meets Greenpoint) and peppered with comfy lounging couches. A cheese and snack menu will keep the hungries at bay while you taste through any of the winery’s flights: Lieb offers 5-wine flights of red, white, and reserve wines. You can make a reservation in advance (they’re open daily from 12 to 7 p.m., or, if you’re a large party interested in a private tasting, you can book the intimate, cozy library, with glass French doors that look out into the rest of the tasting room. On Fridays and Saturdays, the winery features live music, a nice complement to all that imbibing.
Lieb Cellars, 13050 Oregon Road, Cutchogue, (631) 734.1100, open 12 to 7 p.m. daily.
Go East or Go Home
I love the stark, wintry landscape of Kontokosta Winery, a Greenport establishment built on acreage that trails to the Peconic Bay. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame a rolling lawn that dips down into a slip of blue. At the tasting bar, you can order snacks and flights—and you’re just a short drive from bustling, fun Greenport, where it’s worth checking in for a mid-winter lunch. There are no limos or buses permitted here, either, contributing to Kontokosta’s serene atmosphere.
Kontokosta Winery, 825 North Road, Greenport, (631) 477.6977, open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Get in the Spirit
On your way home, make Long Island Spirits—Long Island’s first distillery—your final stop, with a spirit or too to soothe the soul. The tasting room is open seven days a week, year round, and offers everything from the complex Pine Barrens Barrel Reserve Botanical Dry Gin to the cleansing orange Sorbetta. The distillery is surrounded by 5,000 acres of pristine, pastoral potato farms, a true East End vista.
Long Island Spirits, 2182 Sound Avenue, Baiting Hollow, (631) 630.9322, open Sunday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.