It's time to pop a cork in Long Island's version of Napa Valley.
The grapes are ripening on 3,000 acres of vines. Tasting rooms are open in rural Aquebogue and Southold. And wine-loving visitors are being enticed with extras like grilled pizza, chocolate pairings and live music.
You can quaff inside in a quiet nook, or take your glass to a vineyard-side picnic table or chaise longue.
A wine country trip involves more than just sniffing and sipping. Pick up cheeses or chocolate at specialty shops on Mattituck's Love Lane, or load up on lobster rolls at the local seafood emporium. Attractions such as farm stands and the busy harbor village of Greenport round out the offerings.
Choose your winery
The wineries are as varied as the grapes themselves.
Diliberto Winery, located in rural Jamesport, is an Italian villa setting run like a mom and pop shop by owners Sal and Maryann Diliberto. On a recent Sunday, she served wine while he led a vineyard tour and made barbecued pizza on the wraparound porch (over-21 only; 3 tastings for $6 or 5 for $9).
Further east, a Santana tribute band entertained at Peconic Bay Winery, one of the most happening spots on the North Fork. Hundreds of wine lovers and their friends were gathered at tables or reclining on chaise longues spread out in front of the vines.
"Nobody hassles you, and there's different music every weekend," says Michael Deeb, 29, visiting from Stratford, Conn. He was sitting at a picnic table with his girlfriend, a bottle of chardonnay on ice and a grilled tuna wrap from Braun Seafood Co. next door. At Peconic Bay, prepackaged meals are available from A Mano, a Mattituck restaurant.
At another table, Corey Celt, 21, of Commack, was sipping merlot, accompanied by his parents and younger brother. "It's very relaxing, and it's a little more sophisticated than I'm used to as a college student," he says. As he spoke, a boccie game played out on the court nearby.
It gets fizzy at Sparkling Pointe in Southold, the North Fork's new bubbly-only winery. From the champagne-colored tasting room to the breezy backyard, it's a sparkling way to end your day (four tastings for $17).
Sound Avenue farm stands
Kids and designated drivers don't have to miss out on North Fork fun. Sound Avenue is the home of "agritainment," or agricultural entertainment.
Harbes Farm & Vineyard in Mattituck sells hot roasted sweet corn (drenched in butter, if you desire), and the kids can ride ponies. Garden of Eve organic farm and market in Aquebogue is known for its 10 different heirloom tomatoes (including white, pink and purple varieties). Briermere Farms in Riverhead is still baking its famous fruit pies ($15 and up), including apple and strawberry-rhubarb. Or, buy apples and peaches at the farm stand out front to bake your own.
Greenport and galleries
If you can find a parking space (not easy on weekends) in this bustling port community, you can stroll and explore the North Fork's take on a New England village.
Arts and crafts galleries line Main and Front streets. Aldo's serves up fresh roasted coffee and local color. For an introduction to Greenport's scene, try the free 6-9 p.m. gallery walk this Saturday evening (greenportgallerywalk.com).