The East End of Long Island is shaped like a large Lobster Claw. The smaller fork, the North Fork, could be compared to the Lobster’s ripper or pincher claw, which a lobster uses for tearing food apart, whereas the South Fork would be the crusher claw, suitable for crushing prey such as shellfish. Shelter Island, one could say, has the dubious honor of being the prey - caught between the two sides of the claw, ever in danger of being crushed (or overrun by traffic crossing from the south to the north on route to the New London Ferry)!
The North Fork, from Riverhead to Orient Point, is now the heart of Long Island Wine Country, home to 47 Wineries which have taken over the terroir from its previous crops of potatoes and ducks.
The South Fork lays claim to only 3 wineries, as much of the rich farmland has been supplanted by McMansions and green land preservation tracts.
But don’t equate quantity with quality; exploring the three South Fork wineries will make for a great viticultural adventure or three!
Stop 1: Wölffer Estate Vineyard
Wölffer Estate is, perhaps, the most recognized of the three. And, if you follow our blogs, you will recognize it as one of our favorite wineries in Long Island Wine Country!
Wölffer Estate Winery
- Founded in 1988 by Hamburg-born Christian Wölffer, the winery now encompasses 55 acres in Sagaponac (one of the most expensive zip codes in the country!), producing over 50,000 cases of wine and hard cider per year. It also owns vineyards in the North Fork of Long Island as well as internationally in Mallorca and Mendoza. Since 2016, Wölffer has added spirits to its roster (a Pink Gin), oh - and did we mention - it also has world-class stables which provide the subjects for its most beautiful labels.
- In 1992, winemaker Roman Roth joined the Wölffer team, delighted to discover the South Fork’s particular terroir, with cool ocean breezes and the rich Bridgehampton loam left behind by the glaciers. His Grapes of Roth Merlot and Riesling are remarkable and have been incorporated into the Wölffer stable after the unfortunate death of Christian Wölffer in 2009, when the Wölffer children invited Roman to join them as a full partner in the business.
- Now, in August of 2018, as Wölffer celebrates its 30th anniversary, Roman has brought Miguel Martin, longtime winemaker at Palmer Vineyards on the North Fork, into the Wölffer winemaking team. We look forward to tasting his contributions to the oenology of Wölffer Estate!
- Wölffer Estate boasts a spectacular Tuscan Style Winery (perfect for events, by reservation only for tastings) and a more casual roadside (on Route 27) Wine Stand. Both offer live music and great wines!
- Gary’s favorite Wölffer wines: Grapes of Roth Merlot (we still have bottles in our cellar from the 2003, 2004 and 2010 vintage . . . ) and the Summer in a Bottle Rosé!
The Grapes of Roth Merlot 2004
Wolffer Estate Wine Label with White Horse ‘Claletto Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Stop 2 – Channing Daughters
Channing Daughters, in Bridgehampton, north of the highway (Route 27), was conceived when Walter Channing Jr. planted his first Chardonnay vines in 1982. Although he passed away in 2015, the vineyard retains his legacy and vision including massive sculptures of reclaimed wood adorning the fields and the winery.
Channing Daughters Winery
- Channing’s Partner, Larry Perrine, joined him in 1995. WIth his extensive knowledge of, and hands on experience in, viticulture, he worked with Channing to produce Channing Daughters’ first wine in 1997 and opened the winery in 1998. The two considered themselves custodians of the land, grounded in Mother Nature’s Rhythms. And, with an easygoing, understated approach to things, even-handed managerial skills, and a talent for crafting velvety rieslings, a crisp yet understated sauvignon blanc, a new rosé made from merlot grapes ("If I'd known it was going to be this nice, I would have made more"), and several other varietals, Larry Perrine is in the enviable position of being perfectly content doing exactly what he loves most.
- And then came Christopher Tracy. He’s got a BA in Performing Arts/Philosophy and spent several years writing undercover restaurant reviews in NYC. He has received a Sommelier Certificate from the Sommelier Society of America as well as a Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Most of all, he’s a wine geek. Christopher's initial involvement with Channing Daughters was as a Wine Club Member, then as a Team Merlot member. In 2001 he began developing several new products and prestige cuvees for the winery. He is now a partner in the company, as well as the winemaker. And, through the introduction of both ancient and modern practices … indigenous yeast fermentations, longer extraction periods, small batches, field blends, white wine skin fermentation, astute barrel control, the molti rosati project, the VerVino’s and most importantly, blending, he believes Channing Daughters and the Long Island wine-growing region will keep on growing and producing world-class wines. World class wines that we love to drink - especially the whites, pinks, and yes, even orange wines (perfect for pairing with that lobster - maybe rubbed with Moroccan spices!)
You can read more of Christopher’s wonderings in his own words - in our favorite magazine Edible East End.
- "Channing Daughters in the Hamptons has rendered what I do not hesitate to call among the most interesting and rewarding white wines grown anywhere in North America." – David Schildknecht, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate
Channing Daughters Sculpture Garden
Stop 3 – Duck Walk Vineyards
Duck Walk Vineyards occupies a prominent position at the very entrance to the Hamptons - just where Route 27 takes a sharp left hand turn at Southampton to continue out east. The imposing brick winery was built in 1994 by Dr. Herodotus “Dan" Damianos, and his son, Alexander.
Wooden Sculpture of Dr. Damianos at Duck Walk Tasting Room
- Dr. Damianos was the founder of Pindar Winery on the North Fork in the early 1980s and one of the great ambassadors of Long Island Wine Country.
- “He had a very early vision that Long Island wines should be accessible to everyone," said Louisa Hargrave, who along with her then-husband Alex planted the first commercial Long Island vineyard in 1973. “He wanted to reach everyone with his own vision and his love of wine."
- Duck Walk wines are very accessible. Particularly popular are their Vidal Ice Wine made with grapes actually frozen on the vine, and their Blueberry Port crafted from wild Maine blueberries.
- Duck Walk is a family operation and their Tasting Rooms are family and dog - friendly. Snacks and cheeses are available for purchase, or bring your own light snacks to enjoy with a glass of wine either indoors or out. And, for fall family fun, the Tasting Room is directly across the highway from Hank’s Pumpkintown, a perennial favorite for kids of all ages.
Duck Walk Winery across the highway from Hank’s Pumpkintown
So make a day, or three, out of exploring our South Fork Wineries! Ask your Mill House Inn Personal Assistant about arranging a car service so you can imbibe responsibly. Then head back to Inn to recover! Call us or email us to book your stay.