Western Suffolk is wine country, too

Guests visit the tasting room at Harmony Vineyards

Guests visit the tasting room at Harmony Vineyards at Head of the Harbor on a Sunday afternoon. The tasting room is home to a rotating gallery that join other rooms of the historic home.

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Wine drinkers who trek out to the North or South Fork to sip a glass of red, white or rosé no longer have to go that far east to experience wine country's bucolic charms.

The 40-year-old L.I. wine industry, founded in 1973 in Cutchogue, has been inching west in recent years. Wineries in Sayville and Head of the Harbor are open and offering tasting rooms and picnic spots by the vineyard -- just a bit closer to Long Island's population centers.

Armed with a GPS, you can thread together a western Suffolk wine country tour replete with historic houses, scenery and wine country characters.

Harmony Vineyards Tasting Room

169 Harbor Rd., Head of the Harbor

INFO 631-291-9900, harmonyvineyards.com

OPEN 5 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 1-8 p.m. Saturdays and 1-6 p.m. Sundays

A short drive from Stony Brook's Main Street, this year-old tasting room is set up inside a historic house built in 1690, but recently was moved onto the property and restored.

The tasting room floor is original, and, for more local charm, prints of paintings by 19th century Stony Brook master William Sidney Mount hang in the serving area. A small gallery off the tasting room showcases original artwork.

You can order wine in the tasting room or served at umbrella-shaded tables bordering the vineyard. There's no production facility here; the wines are made at Lenz Winery in Peconic, says manager Nita Simoes.

On a recent sunny Saturday, Kathleen Darling, 72, of Stony Brook, a retired software engineer, was enjoying a glass of chardonnay under the shade of an umbrella.

"The wine is very good, actually, and the scenery is just outstanding," Darling said as she looked past the 4-acre vineyard to a view of Stony Brook Harbor.

WINES Cabernet sauvignon, chablis-style chardonnay and a Harmonious Red Blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.

PRICES $9-$14 a glass, $34-$48 a bottle. A wine flight of three vintages of your choice costs $16.

Loughlin Vineyard

299B E. Main St., Sayville (on the grounds of the Meadow Croft Estate)

INFO 631-589-0027, loughlinvineyard.com

OPEN noon-6 p.m.Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

Down a dirt road, past the historic Meadow Croft Estate, the former home of President Theodore Roosevelt's cousin, John E. Roosevelt, you'll find the rustic Loughlin tasting room. The owner, Barney Loughlin, 87, regales visitors from his a chair behind the small bar.

The grapes are grown and the wine is produced by Loughlin family members at the 10-acre on-site vineyard, which was first planted 30years ago, says Brittany Cutrone, 19, Loughlin's granddaughter. Four years ago, wine production moved from the now-defunct Peconic Bay Winery to the Sayville property, says Cutrone, who also serves tasting room visitors.

The family-operated winery prides itself on offering "a different experience" from the East End wineries, she explains.

Nancy and Warren Horst of West Sayville stopped in late in the day for a couple of glasses of Loughlin wine and hospitality. Nancy Horst, 58, said she enjoys the flavor of Loughlin wine, the peacefulness of the farm setting and chatting with the owner.

Said Horst, "He's a jokester, but with a heart of gold."

WINES Chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and South Bay Breeze, a blush wine.

PRICES Tastings are free. $5-$6 a glass, $15-$22 a bottles.

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