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Kontokosta Winery, tasting room to open on LI Sound

Kontokosta Winery in Greenport will have a tasting

Kontokosta Winery in Greenport will have a tasting room in an eco-friendly, barn-style building on LI Sound bluffs. Photo Credit: Newsday

The first Long Island vineyard with a tasting room overlooking Long Island Sound is set to open this spring, the latest in a string of recent wine-trail newcomers and one of only a handful on the water.

Kontokosta Winery, set on 62 acres in Greenport, will feature a 9,000-square-foot winery that fronts nearly a quarter-acre of bluffs on the Sound.

It is owned by brothers Michael and Constantine Kontokosta, who own the Harbor Front Inn in Greenport and Cove Place Inn in Aquebogue.

The new winery, built with energy- and natural-resource-saving construction and designed in the form of a 19th-century New England barn, features a tasting room, wine library and cellar. The wine is made with noted local winemaker Gilles Martin.

"The farm produces beautiful fruit that has made some beautiful wines," said Michael Kontokosta, a hands-on vineyard manager who put aside a career as a corporate attorney to devote himself full-time to growing grapes and to other family enterprises.

"We wanted to make it look like this building has always been here," Kontokosta said.

"They've done a very nice job with it," said Ron Goerler, president of the Long Island Wine Council and owner of Jamesport Vineyards in Jamesport, which recently opened a summer-season tasting room on waterfront Shelter Island. "The tasting room is smack on the water," he said of Kontokostas. "I couldn't believe how beautiful the property is."

But wineries and water don't always mix. Red Hook Winery, which opened a tasting room on Pier 41 in Brooklyn last summer, was overcome by the tidal surge during superstorm Sandy and suffered devastating losses.

Red Hook lost three vintages of wine stored in its cellars and most of its equipment -- valued at nearly $1.7 million in all -- said general manager Darren Palace. The owners are working to reopen the tasting room as early as next month, with support from neighbors and local restaurants that buy the wines, made mostly from Long Island grapes.

"There's upsides and downsides to being on the water," said Ron Goerler, president of the Long Island Wine Council and owner of Jamesport Vineyards in Jamesport.

Kontokosta, on high bluffs, doesn't have the flooding concerns of low-lying properties. The vineyard was on land originally planted by Ray Blum, the Long Island wine pioneer and founder of Ackerly Pond Vineyards, who died in 2007.

The winery will make around 3,000 cases annually to be sold from the winery only. Varietals planted on about 23 acres include cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier, sauvignon blanc and riesling. It has been producing wine since 2006.

The Long Island wine region, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has long benefited from the moderating effects of the Sound and Peconic Bay, but few wineries are located directly on the waterfront. Kontokosta would be the first with a tasting room overlooking Long Island Sound.

Jamesport Vineyards recently opened a tasting room called the Shelter Island Wine Dock, at the Island Boatyard Marina on Shelter Island. Harmony Vineyards, which opened in Head of the Harbor last summer, is situated on a harbor of Smithtown Bay.

Onabay Vineyards is located on a property adjacent to Peconic Bay, but doesn't have a tasting room. Old Fields Vineyards also has views of Peconic Bay from its tasting room while Macari Vineyards in Mattituck owns bluffs fronting the Sound, but not visible from the tasting room. Pugliese Vineyards is on a pond in Cutchogue and Peconic Bay Winery, which recently closed its tasting room to regular public traffic, is a stone's throw from Wickham Creek.

Kontokosta joins a recent string of new wineries in the region in the last half decade, including Harmony Vineyards, Sparkling Pointe, Scarola Vineyards of Mattituck, Suhru Wines of Mattituck and Anthony Nappa Wines.

"It's amazing to see the growth of the industry since my father started Jamesport Vineyards in 1981," Goerler said.

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