Vineyard road trips
With more than 30 vineyards spread out across the North Fork, the Long Island winery scene can be overwhelming to explore alone. Thankfully, a number of tours are available across the region to take the guesswork out of visiting the various vineyards. From riding in an old-fashioned trolley to luxury limousine, the transportation options are varied, as are the types of tours. One thing is certain -- book early, because these tours sell out quickly.
Below are some of your options for day trips to the North Fork winery region.
Starting in 1997, Vintage Tours was the first company running wine tours on the North Fork. Born and raised in the region and now living in Peconic, owner Jo-Ann Perry caters her five- to six-hour van tours to groups of four to 14 staying at the local bed & breakfasts and coming to the area for the day.
For $80 per person on weekends and $70 per person Monday to Friday, the tour includes stops at about four vineyards and a boxed lunch from the Piping Clover Café in Southold, served with wine. Tasting fees are not included, and generally cost an additional $20 per person.
As a former tasting room employee at Pindar Vineyards in the '90s, Perry has a wealth of information about Long Island wines and the region. She likes to take groups to her favorite spots, farm stands or dairy farms, something to show everyone more of the region and break up the day.
Vintage Tours: 631-765-4689, vintagetour1.com
After retiring from his work as a Suffolk County cop in 2002, Tom Ingald was struck by an idea while having dinner in Greenport. As he watched the LIRR drop off a large group of people, he wondered how they got around without car rentals. A couple of weeks later while in Boston, he rode the Beantown trolley on a tour, and within minutes decided that a similar trolley service was exactly what the North Fork needed.
After purchasing two trolleys from Beantown, he promptly opened his company, North Fork Trolley , and started offering winery tours in April 2004.
Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from May 2 to October 31, the trolley embarks on a winery tour to three of the following spots: Baiting Hollow Vineyard, Palmer Vineyard, Martha Clara Vineyard, Macari Vineyard and Harbes Family Farm Stand. The trip costs $50 per person and includes wine tastings at each location. The tour begins at 11 a.m. at the Tanger Outlets in Riverhead and is approximately four hours. Reservations are necessary.
Outside of the group trips, all other winery tours are charters for groups of 20 or more. These packages include a Wine and Dine tour with a lunch stop in Greenport for $79 per person, a trip to the Tanger Outlets plus winery tastings for $75 per person, a Grand Excursion with stops in both the Hamptons and North Fork for $99 per person, plus additional tours by request.
North Fork Trolley Co.: 631-369-3031, northforktrolley.com
For the more adventurous set who'd rather be out experiencing the beauty of the North Fork rather than riding in a vehicle, Adventure Cycles & Sports provides an option to visit the vineyards by bike.
Tours meet monthly, April through October, at the Mattituck train station at 10 a.m. The five hour trip includes 15 to 20 miles of easy riding and stops at three area vineyards. Crackers and cheese are served at the first winery, a picnic lunch at the second and desert at the third.
A car rides along with bikers the entire way to carry purchases from the vineyards and farm stands or to offer a seat for anyone who decides to ride instead of bike.
The tour costs $120 per person if booked more than 30 days before the event and $130 for trips booked within that period. Bike rentals are also available for about $10-$15 per person.
Ten years ago, James M. Ferrarie, who grew up in New York City and summered in Mattituck, where he now owns a home, decided to offer a service for Manhattanites -- a tour company that would take them out to the North Fork to visit the cluster of vineyards. Today, Long Island Wine Tours continues to thrive as a business, introducing people from everywhere to the North Fork vineyards year-round.
The tours, which can accommodate groups from eight to 200, are customized, but the four most popular packages are priced $100 to $150 per person, which includes tasting fees. The Merlot Package includes transportation for up to 30 people in a luxury motorcoach, with stops at at least three vineyards plus lunch, a full-day trip for $100 per person. The Rose Package includes transportation by VIP luxury limo bus for up to 20 people with stops at at least three vineyards plus a buffet lunch for $150 per person. The Chardonnay Package includes a limo trip for two to eight people with stops at three vineyards for $800 total.
Ferrarie prides himself on offering excellent customer service and adding a little something extra, like a barrel tasting, grape picking or educational tour, to each outing. Additionally, he'll offer raffles and prizes in the motorcoach as added value.
Full hot buffet lunches are served at one of the toured wineries, which might include Osprey's Dominion , Laurel Lake , Pindar or Pugliese , for an additional $15.
New to the roster of tours this year, Ferrarie is offering private boat excursions for groups of more than 40 around New York City with a Long Island winemaker on board explaining wine pairings, wine blending and providing a little bit of education. The package, which includes wine and food, plus transportation to and from the dock, generally costs $150 to $300 per person.
LI Vineyard Tours, part of the Metro Limousine Service, rents out everything from standard limos to stretch hummers for winery tours, which they've been conducting for the past four years. During the summer months, Memorial Day to Labor Day, a trip to three vineyards starts at the Freeport Recreation Center at 10 a.m., where participants are dropped off at 5:30 p.m. The cost is $55 per person and does not include the tasting fees.
For a group from six people up to 35 people, a $75 per person base fee includes transport to five vineyards and a lunch catered from Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. Tasting fees are not included.
Owner Mike Weiss can create a vineyard tour package to fit any customers' needs.
LI Vineyard Tours: 718-946-3868 or 516-546-6737, livineyardtours.com
From April to November, with seven total Saturday trips, Long Island Wine Country Tours brings a coach bus, which can seat up to 54 people, from Manhattan to the North Fork with multiple pickups along the way. These public tours include round-trip transportation, an expert tour guide, tastings and tours at three vineyards and a three-course prix fixe lunch at Jedediah's for $129 to $149 per person, an all-inclusive price that includes wine tasting fees. The May tour goes to the South Fork and visits Wolffer Estate , Duck Walk and Baiting Hollows Farm Vineyards with lunch at the Southampton Publick House . The September and October tours will take part during the Harvest Festival, which involves visiting a single winery to pick grapes, get a wine making demonstration, learn about wine and food pairings and listen to the music of local musicians.
In addition to the public group tours, owner Christopher Davies, who also has similar businesses in California and Colorado, where he now lives, relies on charter tours for about 80 percent of his business. These tours can be arranged throughout the week and prices vary.
Additionally, Davies publishes a print magazine, Wine Country International. He said that he makes sure to add some education to every tour. Generally a Wine 101 is taught after the last pickup near Exit 63 on the LIE, where participants are instructed how to taste wines, hold a wine glass and more.
OTHER TOUR COMPANIES
Off the Vine Tours: 631-779-3278, offthevinetours.com