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Long Island Winterfest returns with North Fork day trips

Wine in the retail shop at Martha Clara

Wine in the retail shop at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. Credit: Randee Daddona

Planning a North Fork day trip means choosing from a bewildering and still-growing list of vineyards, breweries, distilleries and cider houses — and then there’s the problem of designating a driver, who will be missing out on most of the joie de vivre.

Another option for those who are cool with leaving the driving and planning to the experts: Package tours offered during Long Island Winterfest, the 12th annual celebration of East End arts, culture and local farm products. This installment of the music and art festival formerly known as Live on the Vine runs from Feb. 22 to March 24.

Hotel accommodations, a five-hour tour of area wineries or breweries, and a restaurant lunch are included in Winterfest Experience packages ($375 per couple). Overnight hotel guests are picked up at noon by a shuttle bus or limo, returning in time for the evening’s Winterfest concerts. Participating hotels include the Residence Inn, the Hilton Garden Inn and the Hotel Indigo in Riverhead, and the Duncan Inn in Jamesport.

“It’s a nice little weekend getaway, almost like a staycation,” Tina Ferro, 43, of Ronkonkoma says of two previous Winterfest Experience tours she took with her husband, Frank. On last year’s tour the couple sampled IPAs in Riverhead and Greenport and capped their stay with dinner and a concert at the Hotel Indigo.

“It’s only one night, so I don’t have to have somebody watch my kids from the whole weekend,” Ferro says.

Winterfest coordinator Diane Tucci says tour guests can expect a wider assortment of music genres than in past festivals, and a warm welcome at local tasting rooms and restaurants.

“When you arrive they are expecting you and you’re treated as a special guest,” Tucci says. Tastings and tips are included in the tour price.

Early birds can squeeze in a Saturday morning side trip to Riverhead Farmers Market, which draws 45 vendors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. inside a downtown Riverhead building. Preserves, gluten-free muffins and doughnuts, and cheese from Mecox Bay Dairy in Bridgehampton can be bought there for snacking on the tour bus, says Peggie Ehlers, a market vendor of Alpaca socks and other woolen goods.

After the hotel drop-off, guests can add on a show or concert (some are free, some carry cover charges) at one of the Long Island Winterfest venues. Download an app for a free Lyft ride for North Fork venues.

Long Island Winterfest Experiences

INFO 631-209-4244,

COST $375 per couple includes overnight hotel stay, restaurant lunch and five-hour tour. $150 per person covers just the tour; call for details.

Feb. 23: Brewery tour

Stops at Jamesport Farm Brewery, Baiting Hollow’s Cooperage Inn, and Long Ireland Beer Co. and Moustache Brewing Co., both in Riverhead. Evening concerts choices include the HooDoo Loungers, a Sag Harbor-based Mardi Gras band, 7 to 10 p.m. at Clovis Point Vineyard and Winery in Jamesport ($30, 631-722-4222, or a Billy Joel cover band, 7 p.m. at Hotel Indigo East End in Riverhead ($20 and $55, including dinner, 631-369-2200,

March 9 and 16: Vineyard tours

Tastings at Sannino Vineyard in Cutchogue, and Palmer and Martha Clara, both in Riverhead. Lunch at Cooperage Inn. For the evening, join the line dancing at Spirits Promise Equine Rescue in Riverhead, 7 to 10 p.m. March 9 ($10 admission). On March 16, singer-songwriter Joe August plays 6 to 9 p.m. at the Cooperage Inn (no cover charge) while the Billboard Live Band is at Martha Clara Vineyards 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. ($35 to $40, 631-298-0075 ,


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