10 best tours at Long Island wineries
The barrel room smells like wood, fittingly. A group of six stands around Giovanni Borghese as he talks about the different types of barrels -- American, French, Hungarian -- and how each can add something to the aroma and taste of the wine that ages inside.
There's plenty of time to ask questions at Castello di Borghese, a winery in Cutchogue. Borghese, whose late parents owned the vineyard, is in no rush. He answers questions such as: How long do the barrels last? (Surprisingly, not that long. They can be used as little as twice.)
This and other wineries dotting Long Island's North and South forks regularly give tours. Some are simple, including only the winery's tasting room or vineyard, while others are a longer and more comprehensive look at the winemaking process. Many include tastings after the tour.
"It's about the experience," says Suellen Tunney, retail sales director at Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, which also offers tours. "People just find it so fun and interesting."
Bedell Cellars(Credit: Randee Daddona)
Hourlong wine tours here are available for private groups. They include all aspects of winemaking, from a look at the vines to the winery itself, with guides explaining the history of Bedell Cellars and its winemaking.
The $100 fee includes tastings of five top-tiered wines, including its Musée, which sells for $125 a bottle.
INFO: Tours by appointment with a week's notice; 36225 Main Rd., Cutchogue, 631-734-7537, bedellcellars.com
Castello di Borghese(Credit: MorgueFile)
After going through the vineyards and an old barn where the wine is aged, tours return to the main tasting room, where at least six wines are served, including many estate wines.
INFO: 1 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays year-round. Small groups can sometimes reserve other times. Book online, or show up around 12:30. $20 includes the tasting, which is normally $10. 17150 County Rd. 48, Cutchogue, 631-734-5111, castellodiborghese.com
Gramercy Vineyards(Credit: Randee Daddona)
This is about as private a tour as one can get.
The tour starts at owner Carol Sullivan's home, where she leads a group along the vines to explain the growing process. "During the tour, we talk about the history of the property," she says. "It's one of the older farms out there."
The by-appointment-only tours are tailored to each group. Sullivan recalls one when a little girl who was bored until Sullivan let her pick an apple and play catch with her terrier.
There is no tasting room, so samples of the wines are poured along the way. Gramercy grows the grapes on the property but makes the wine off-site, so you won't see anything of the wine-aging process. "It's more hands-on," she says. "You get to touch and feel."
The tasting is a vertical flight of merlot, which means you'll try the same type of wine made in different years.
INFO: $20 includes four tastings, 10020 Old Sound Ave., Mattituck, 631-298-1213, gramercyvineyards.com
Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard(Credit: Randee Daddona)
The vineyard has been named one of the 10 best wine tours in the country by TripAdvisor, and employee Jennifer Murray knows why: "You are tasting the grapes, you are tasting wine the whole time," she says. And owner Anthony Sannino injects a little humor, too, while imparting his knowledge of the grape-growing and harvesting processes and explaining how the wine is fermented and stored in barrels. (Tour visitors get to see the inside of the barrel room.)
The 90-minute tour includes a small cheeseboard to complement the wine. The vineyard is one of the smallest on the North Fork, selling only 2,000 cases a year.
INFO: $25, 1 p.m. Saturdays. Book online at sanninovineyard.com, 1375 Peconic Lane, Peconic, 631-734-8282
Mattebella Vineyards(Credit: Ian J. Stark)
The small family-run vineyard is known for its lush summer gardens, but the by-appointment vineyard tours continue through fall.
Its wine is made off site, tours cover just the vineyard and include tastings ranging from $15 to $24, sometimes poured by a family member. Expect to hear about the vineyard's sustainable-growing practices.
INFO: 46005 Main Rd., Southold, 631-655-9554, mattebella.com
Paumanok Vineyards(Credit: Randee Daddona)
Paumanok has several types of tours, from free self-guided walks to $5 guided tours to a more in-depth proprietor tour with one of the family members for $20. A $50 VIP tour includes a private tasting and a bottle of wine to take home.
Except for the self-guided one, all tours are by appointment only and geared toward groups. Prepayment is required.
INFO: 1074 Rte. 25, Aquebogue, 631-722-8800, paumanok.com
Wölffer Estate Vineyard(Credit: Gordon M. Grant)
From the outside it feels like a French chateau. Tours start in the vineyard, with an explainer of vine management and sustainable-growing practices. The tour continues to show the winemaking process in the wine cellar, from the crush pad to the fermentation and barrel rooms.
Afterward, guests try some of the wine shown in the tour ($15-$20 for four tastings).
INFO: $15, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on the hour Saturdays and Sundays, 139 Sagg Rd., Sagaponack, 631-537-5106, wolffer.com
Shinn Estates(Credit: Newsday)
The vineyard's owners have been giving the tours here for a long time. Barbara Shinn takes visitors out to the vineyards to discuss growing seasons and holistic farming. Then Shinn's husband, David Page, takes the group through the winemaking process.
INFO: $25 includes a tasting flight, 2000 Oregon Rd., Mattituck, 631-804-0367, shinnestatevineyards.com
Old Field(Credit: Randee Daddona)
The vineyard runs tours in the spring and summer. "It's a walking tour," says owner Rosamond Baiz. "We take them to the end of the property, which is the bayfront." The owner's daughter, Perry Bliss, talks about sustainability measures and the history of the land.
INFO: $20 includes a tasting of four wines, 12:15 p.m. Saturday (sustainability) and 1:30 p.m. Sundays (history), 59600 Main Rd., Southold, 631-765-0004, theoldfield.com
Sparkling Pointe(Credit: Randee Daddona)
Known for its French method of making sparkling wines, Sparkling Pointe offers a tour that takes visitors through the process.
"We start in the vineyard, where we give a little background on the owners, Tom and Cynthia Rosicki, and their dream for the winery," says marketing manager Kelsey Cheslock.
The tour continues through the vineyard, covering the growing season, then on to the tank room, where the first fermentation process happens, and then tirage, a step in the bottling process that turns wine into bubbly.
The 60- to 90-minute tour includes tastings of three or four wines and a souvenir glass.
INFO: 39750 County Rd. 48, Southold, 631-765-0200, sparklingpointe.com, $50, by reservation only online.