It’s a Friday afternoon in October on the North Fork, and traffic is building on the east-west roads. Roadside placards advertise pumpkin picking, apple picking, festivals.
Inside the gate of The Old Field vineyards in Southhold, it’s still relatively mellow. You park amid giant oaks and wander to a 150-year-old barn that holds the tasting room — a petite bar and folding tables covered in tablecloths. These segue to a deck that overlooks more ancient trees.
The tasting bar is hosted by Perry Bliss, the sixth generation of her family to live and farm here. Bliss’ dad, Christian Baiz, planted grapes at The Old Field 44 years ago — cabernet franc, merlot, pinot noir, now joined by chardonnay and sauvignon blanc and comprising 10 acres. The family first produced wine in 1996, and the tasting room opened in 2001; Bliss and her mom, Rosamond Baiz, are the winemakers.
It can be easy to forget that all wine begins with farming. As we talk, a bantam rooster chases a hen around our feet; their manure will go back into the vineyards, as will eggshells and vine prunings. Chickens — plus bats and other creatures — help control insects. Grapes are picked by hand. Bliss, who trained as an environmental biologist, says she and her mother let that fruit guide their approach to winemaking. “We’re very Old World, and focus more on bringing in a good crop,” she said.
It’s the middle of harvest, and Bliss worries aloud about how this fall’s rainy weather will affect grapes still on the vine. She pours some cabernet franc from the 2014 vintage. It smells of raisins, cranberries, dried herbs. In the glass, it’s racy, tasting of black currants with a faint hint of cardamom. If you’ve wondered how a wine tastes as its secondary flavors emerge, here it is: Multifaceted and savory, and lithe enough for Thanksgiving turkey.
I ask Bliss if the open-air tasting room closes in winter, but a cozy area is sealed off from the elements. Bliss points to a vintage wood-burning stove. “It looks like it would be cold in here, but it stays toasty.” Sometimes she and her mom sit here after they close in winter, sharing a glass of wine.
The Old Field, 59600 Rte. 25, Southhold; 631-765-0004, theoldfield.com