Rob Saldarini is a college professor and inclusion training facilitator. Beyond academic publications and articles, Saldarini’s fiction work includes the novel, For the Least of My Brothers, “Leader of the Pack” within the Queer Wolf anthology, and “The Truth That We’ll Miss” published in Mob Men on the Make.
I have always been an advocate of enjoying the beauty of autumn even after the leaves fall. So, join me by turning a deaf ear to the December holiday retail clamor. Instead of tugging at a 72” TV on Black Friday, feel the brisk air of November. Be different and go rogue by taking an off-peak tour of Long Island’s wine country. The Island offers dozens of wineries all with their own unique charm. As New Yorkers know, Long Island is a very long island. Therefore, unless you live in one of the neighboring boroughs of the City, an overnight stay proves to make the trip worthwhile.
Due to the number of wineries and variety of wines, the first part of planning a Long Island trip is determining the geography based on your time invested. The closest vineries, roughly, mid-island are Harmony Vineyards (Head of the Harbor on Harbor Road), Whisper Vineyards (Saint James on Edgewood Avenue) and Loughlin Vineyards (Sayerville on South Main Street). You may have seen advertisements for Loughlin Vineyards if you vacation on Fire Island. This winery is not-so-far from the Ferry Terminal. Further east, either the South and North Fork can be explored. And if time is not a major consideration, you can travel from one Fork to the other by Ferry.
If a bit of sightseeing is desired and a shorter time among the vineyards is your preference, I recommend that you visit the South Fork. The South Fork provides the well-known Hamptons. This region boasts only three vineyards that are open for tastings: Duck Walk Vineyards (Water Mill on Montauk Highway), Wolffer Estate (Sagaponack on Sagg Road), and Channing Daughters Winery (Bridgehampton on Scuttlehole Road). Beyond the vineyards, points of interest in the Hamptons could be a full discussion in its own right. As most know, summer in the Hamptons is full of the to-be-seen and those who wish to be near them. But, few ever get to enjoy the tranquility of the region when many tourists are gone. The beaches are empty. Simply pull the collar of your coat tight in the mid-afternoon sun and walk in peace. Nevertheless, for the hardcore wine connoisseur, the signpost clearly points to the North Fork.
The North Fork lays out the “Wine Trail” that runs along both Route 25 and Route 48. The Trail delivers a superb journey from one estate to another where great walks and tastings can be the heart of any weekend afternoon. If you want a romantic evening, consider staying at Shinn Estate Vineyards (2000 Oregon Road in Mattiuck). The Shinn Estate is the first vineyard on the Island to accommodate overnight guests. Their Farmhouse Inn is an almost impossible booking during high season. If you can travel midweek, one night costs roughly $170; yet, weekends often require a two-night minimum. Should you be looking for a bonafide gay-friendly place to stay, consider either the Arbor View House (8900 Main Road in East Marion) or Quintessentials Bed & Breakfast (8985 Main Road in East Marion). These B&Bs are picturesque and allow you to indulge in your time away. Be aware, they come with a price tag of over $300 a night and can prove out of reach for many who just want a mini-vacation.
Finding great places to eat is not a difficult task. When on the North Fork, stop for lunch at Lombardi’s Love Lane Market (170 Love Lane in Mattituck). For $8.99 you can get my favorite, “The Brad Amato” Panini which is made with Prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, fire roasted red peppers and sundried tomatoes. Want a burger? Then go to the Modern Snack Bar (628 Main Road in Aquebogue). Those staying on the Island for dinner should choose a place that offers a fireplace to warm the day’s chills away.
As you are traveling off-peak, carefully research your destinations as some are only open on weekends and others have shortened hours. Lodging accommodations are more reasonable mid-week for rooms that during the summer are unaffordable for many. If you have to shop, bring back something from a local merchant, excellent bottles of wine for holiday gifts, or something for your Thanksgiving table. Your friends will enjoy this better than another scarf. As always, book ahead to avoid any possible disappointments.
Editor’s Note: The wineries of Long Island make for a great trip no matter what season of the year it is!