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Uncork an adventure at Long Island wineries offering rare tasting experiences

Peconic Bay Vineyards in Cutchogue is back and

Peconic Bay Vineyards in Cutchogue is back and open for business, offering a new attraction, buggy rides through the vineyard while tasting wines alongside the grapes that'll make up this year's vintage.  Credit: Randee Daddona

If a typical winery tasting, with its quick-pour flights of wine and rote-delivered tasting notes, is the oenophilic equivalent of speed dating, Long Island’s North Fork offers fast times aplenty.

But as the region’s wine industry matures — the oldest plantings are now more than 40 years old — properties are increasingly in transition. In recent years, new owners and winemakers have taken charge at many North Fork properties, bringing a studied sensibility to vineyard management, winemaking and visitor experience.

Now, visitors can peek behind the curtain (in winery and field), enjoying drinks and learning at once. From classes and cellar dinners to lunch among the vines and roving tasting tours, these East End wineries are offering guest experiences that are as delicious as they are informative.

Tastings in the wine cellar at Macari Vineyards

Since 2013, Macari Vineyards’ juicy-yet-peppery Cabernet Franc rosé "Horses" has attracted a cult following — it’s poured at some of NYC’s hippest natural wine bars. In 2020, the Macari family welcomed noted winemaker Byron Elmendorf to lead winemaking operations, and this summer and fall, staff are shepherding groups of four to six visitors to the winery’s stone-lined barrel vault for intimate two-hour tastings.

Get to know five wines in the cool, subterranean quiet — and when hunger strikes, feast upon a lavish spread of cheeses, meats and fresh produce prepared by Love Lane Market chef Lauren Lombardi.

Larger groups (up to 20) can explore the 500-acre property during a three-hour tour — with pours in the cellar and a catered vineyard lunch.

INFO $75-185 per person (book online); 150 Bergen Ave., Mattituck; 631-298-0100, open daily; macariwines.com

Buggy through the vines at Peconic Bay Vineyards

Two years ago, the real estate titans at the Soloviev Group purchased Cutchogue’s Peconic Bay Winery, which ceased operations in 2013. Operating partner Stacey Soloviev is developing a luxe, wine-oriented resort-hotel on-site, but one of her first moves was to bring back Peconic Bay’s longtime vintner (and noted riesling guru) Greg Gove to make the wine.

This season, visitors can sample bottles (or local oysters, on weekends) in the tasting room or farmstand, or get to know the rolling property via vineyard picnics and tasting tours.

Buggy through the vines in an open-air electric Moke (think: part Jeep, part golf cart), tasting wines alongside the grapes that’ll make up this year’s vintage. Consider the flavor of a delicate riesling among ripening, pale yellow grapes, or study dense green clusters of sauvignon blanc while swirling sips of the brisk, citrus-inflected wine around your mouth.

Or cozy up on a picnic blanket (pillows provided) beneath a shade in the vineyard. Try wines from recent vintages, then pick a bottle to drink along with a spread of locally made breads, meats and cheeses.

INFO $50-57 per person (book online); 31320 Main Rd., Cutchogue; 631-735-9192, open Friday through Monday; peconicbayvineyards.com

Classes at Terra Vite Winery & Vineyard

North Fork natives Jacqui and Greg Goodale acquired the former Diliberto Winery in Jamesport this past spring. With winemaker Kelly Koch (formerly: Macari Vineyards, Bedell Cellars) running the winery, they’re hoping their freshly reappointed tasting room will become a hub for viticultural education.

Most Thursdays, operations manager and sommelier Jessy Fusco pours estate-grown wines during tasting classes — how to pair wine with chocolate, cheese or local oysters — and hosts courses on world wine regions and traditions.

Looking for something a little more casual? On Friday evenings, swing by for aperitivo — predinner meats, cheeses, pastas and other small bites, paired with all the wines the bar can pour.

INFO Classes, $60-80 (book online); 250 Manor Ln., Jamesport; 631-722-3416, open Wednesday through Sunday; terravitevineyard.com

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