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LI wineries offer chance to sip, savor at VIP tastings

Even in winter, wine tasting parties uncork a host of amenities, including rooms with private tables.

Amanda Kawiecki, left, Chad Davis, Christopher Korte, Karen

Amanda Kawiecki, left, Chad Davis, Christopher Korte, Karen Kawiecki, Jenna Korte, and Ed Kawiecki, all of Holbrook, share a toast at Palmer Vineyards in Riverhead. Photo Credit: Veronique Louis

This winter, wine lovers can uncork a host of extra amenities along with that bottle of red or white and be treated like a VIP on an off-season trip to wine country.

VIP wine tastings feature special rooms away from the crowd, private tables and food pairings as well as pourers who double as your personal wine connoisseur. 

“The pourers guide you through everything,” tasting room manager Rachel Sunday says of the VIP experience at Sherwood House Vineyards in Jamesport. “They give you tasting notes about the wine and how it’s made.”

“The biggest difference is the attention we provide,” says Ken Cereola, director of operations at Palmer Vineyards in Riverhead, which also offers VIP tastings by appointment, year-round.  

Here are wineries offering VIP upgrades that both educate and indulge wine lovers.

Sherwood House Vineyards, 1291 Main Rd., Jamesport

INFO 631-779-2817, sherwoodhousevineyards.com

COST $30 per person, 6 person minimum  

A private room in the vineyard’s renovated 1870s farmhouse is the venue for tasting seven Sherwood House wines.

A white merlot, a rose, two chardonnays and two Cabernet Francs are among the varietals sampled side by side “to taste the differences between” them, Sunday says. The wines run from light to full-bodied.  

The last is a Bordeaux-style red blend. Says Sunday: “It’s one of our older vintages.”

Harmony Vineyards, 169 Harbor Rd., St. James

INFO 631-291-9900, harmonyvineyards.com

COST $25 per person

Harmony’s VIP tasting focuses on a Chablis-style chardonnay and a Bordeaux-style red blend, two of the most popular wines at this winery, which opened in 2012:  

The wine is poured at a table in the vineyard’s lounge inside a 17th century house. Servers discuss “the nose” — or how each wine smells in the glass — and offer tasting notes. They also help guests compare and contrast different vintages of the same wines.  

“It’s interesting to see the difference between two years coming from the same varietal of grape, all grown at the vineyard’s four acres of vines,” says tasting room manager Nita Simoes.  

Says Simoes: “It’s very cool to see how the weather affects it [the vintage].”  

Palmer Vineyards, 5120 Sound Ave., Riverhead

INFO 631-722-9463, palmervineyards.com

COST $25 per person (minimum groups of eight or more.)

The view from the tasting area is a big part of the VIP experience at Palmer, founded in 1983, and one of the oldest vineyards in the wine region. VIP guests during the winter are served in Palmer Vineyards' mid-1800s farmhouse overlooking the 50-acre farm.  

One-and-a-half-ounce servings are sampled from Palmer’s inventory, which currently includes the newly released Albariño, sauvignon blanc, a dry rosé, a Cabernet Franc and a steel-barrel-aged chardonnay.  

A member of the senior tasting room staff pours the wine and helps guests note the differences between the ways wine is aged. For instance, steel chardonnay is “much more clean and crisp” than the oak-aged chardonnay, Cereola says.

A cheese board is included in the price.

Paumanok Vineyards, 1074 Main Rd, Aquebogue  

INFO 631-722-8800, paumanok.com

COST $50/person, $250 minimum charge  

This VIP tour always ends with a private wine tasting on a balcony overlooking the vineyards. (If there’s inclement weather, it’s held inside the tank room where the wine is made.)  

The group is served four wines of their own choosing, from a list of wines available that day: generally, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, merlot, Cabernet Franc or a high-end, red blend Assemblage, says winemaker Kareem Masoud.  

The last taste is also a toast. The guests share a chilled bottle of the current vintage of Paumanok Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling wine served in crystal Champagne flutes.  

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