I like wine, and I like visiting farms. But I've never made a tour of the North Fork wine country; even though I’ve admired the landscape and the wines for years. So I decided to explore both the farmland and the wines this spring--by bicycle.
I mapped two routes with scenery and serenity in mind. Each one amounts to about an hour of easy pedaling and is dead flat. Cyclocross this was not. No carbon frames, spandex shorts or aerodynamic accessories. Both routes take in small, low-key wineries situated in the earthy, farm paradise called the North Fork.
Bikes are allowed on the Long Island Rail Road with a $5 permit (check the LIRR site for rules) so each route begins and ends near a train station. A morning train from Penn Station in New York City arrives in Mattituck around noon, and Southold 15 minutes later--perfect timing for an afternoon wine tour.
Dan’s Bike Rental in Greenport (212-380-1119, greenportbikerental.com) will deliver a rental bike to train station and Hampton Jitney stops in Mattituck and Southold.
The Mattituck/Oregon Rd. Loop Oregon Rd. may be the most beautiful country road anywhere, and this 8.5 mile route makes the most of it. Starting at the train station, I pedal through town on Pike and Wickham, and cross Rt. 48, with the stoplight coming in very handy. Next is a lovely stretch of Wickham Ave. and Mill Rd. with beautiful old homes and tiny Wolf Pit Lake. A right onto Oregon Rd. puts me in the heart of prime North Fork farmland. Acres of fields and farmhouses spread out around me as I arrive at Shinn Estate Vineyards.
Shinn Estate Vineyards 2000 Oregon Rd. Mattituck Shinn is a vineyard, country inn and wine-tasting room with a comfy, homespun feeling that goes with my low-key approach to wine country. It is a weekday, so I avail myself of the self-guided tour. For $10 I get a wine tasting and a booklet to guide me around the vineyard. On weekends, the tours are in small groups, at 1:30 and 2:30.
On the tour, I learn that Shinn is a biodynamic grower. The kitchen garden, chickens and honeybees are every bit as essential to the wines as the rows and rows of cabernet franc, merlot, and sauvignon blanc grapes. In the tasting room, I put my $10 tour fee toward a bottle of Pear Cider, wedge it into my saddlebag, and roll back onto Oregon Rd., toward Lieb Cellars.
Lieb Cellars, 13050 Oregon Rd., Cutchogue Lieb Cellars has three tasting locations on the East End, but the small, Oregon Rd. tasting room, set on the edge of their 62 acre vineyard suits me best. An outdoor patio with fire-pits and tables looks out on farmland and has the laid-back vibe I like. After some tasting, swirling and expectorating, I heave my leg over my steed of steel, and head for some more farmland-appreciation.
Alvah’s Lane runs north/south with views of such green fertility that I think I can hear things growing. Approaching Rt. 48, I see Castello di Borghese across the way.
Castello di Borghese Vineyard & Winery 17150 County Rte 48, is the home of several award-winning wines, including a 2010 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Riesling. My timing is off--tours and tastings at Borghese are on Thursdays and Sundays at 1pm July through October, and Saturday at 1pm November through June--so I continue west on Rt 48 to Elijah’s Lane to check out Sherwood House Vineyard’s roadside tasting room.
Sherwood House Vineyard, Corner of Elijah Lane and (2600) Oregon Rd., Mattituck Stopping at Sherwood’s Oregon Rd. tasting barn is like pulling into a small farmstand. Except instead of corn and peas, you find Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. Closed for the last two summers, the tasting barn is set to open on weekends again in late June, “as soon as school is out” says tasting-room manager, Kristen Hand.
I’m working up an appetite with all this tasting and pedaling, so it’s back into Mattituck.
Love Lane in Mattituck is a one-block downtown lined on both sides with interesting shops and excellent food options. One of the best is Love Lane Kitchen, (240 Love Lane, Mattituck), where they make a great burger from organic grass-fed beef. If I’m feeling fancy, their Duck Tagine is a fragrant and flavorful Moroccan version of roasted duck made with a bird that was raised a few miles away. The Village Cheese Shop, 105 Love Lane has a casual café with a wine-friendly menu of fondue, cheese platters and charcuterie. Behind their big, glass cheese-case is an impressive and fragrant assortment of cheeses and meats, and they also make sandwiches. Or you can just get a loaf of good bread and a few select cheeses--the ideal to-go lunch for wine country.
The Southold Town and Country Loop
My second route is around 12 miles; begins and ends at the Southold train station, and features three small vineyards, each with a distinct personality. The ride is an easy and beautiful loop that takes in the charm of Southold village as well as the farms and waterways that lace the area.
From the station, I head east on Traveler St. and turn south to cross Main St. at the light. Passing Town Creek and into Calves Neck, the road turns and winds along the water. I cross Jockey Creek with more winding and turning until I see the rows of grapevines that indicate my goal is nigh, Croteaux Vineyards.
Croteaux Vineyards, 1450 South Harbor Rd., Southold Croteaux feels like a private country mansion that is somehow open to the public. The tasting area is a lovely garden of flowering plants and trees with tables and Adirondack chairs between a barn and the vineyard. Croteaux makes rosé, so I sample six kinds (with lots of sniffing, swirling and spitting, because this is my first stop of the day.)
Leaving Croteaux, I pedal past farms and sheep, then down Main St. in Southold through town, and two miles to The Old Field Vineyards on the right.
The Old Field Vineyards, 59600 Main Rd. Southold Walking up the gravel driveway, I see the shimmering waters of Southold Bay at the far end of the vineyard. The Old Field Vineyards feels like a real farm. The tasting room appears to be a former chicken coop, complete with antique nesting boxes. The current chicken coop is just outside, and its residents mingle with wine-tasters on the outdoor deck and picnic tables. The birds provide local color as well as inspiration for wine-names. I like the red table wine they call “Rooster Tail.”
Back on the Main Rd, I cross to the north side and head west for a half a mile to The North Fork Table and Inn, 57225 Main Rd. (631-765-0177), one of the finest, and best-loved restaurants on the East End. I’m not ready for the kind of meal that is served at a table, but I can still enjoy the food of chefs Hayden and Fleming at The Lunch Truck, parked next to the Inn, and serving from 11:30-3:30 on most summer days. Very partial to the beef and black-bean chili; I can also vouch for the excellence of the lobster roll. After a fine lunch, I rolled through the farmland north of Southold on Old North Rd. to One Woman Wines and Vineyard.
One Woman Wines and Vineyard, 5195 Old North Rd., Southold In keeping with the stripped-down nature of this adventure, One Woman is a vineyard and winery conceived and created (not to mention planted) by one woman, Claudia Purita. One Woman is known primarily for one grape- Gruner Veltliner—and is the one place Gruner is grown on the North Fork. And taste it I did, sitting on the sunny deck in the middle of farmland with the grapevines everywhere I looked.
Leaving One Woman, I pass a sign directing me to Horton Point, a worthy side-trip to a tiny and charming lighthouse. I pass more farms with the patina of age and weather and then roll back to the Southold train station, and the end of another North Fork wine-tasting, loam-smelling, bike-touring adventure.
Turn-by-turn route instructions
The Mattituck/Oregon Rd. Loop -Begins and ends at the Mattituck train station on Pike St.
East on Pike St. and left on Wickham Ave.
Cross Rt. 48 at the stoplight and continue on Wickham Ave., as it veers right.
Left on Mill Lane to Oregon Rd.
Right on Oregon Rd. to Shinn Estate Vineyards 2000 Oregon Rd. on the right.
From Shinn, continue east on Oregon Rd., 2 miles to Lieb Cellars, 13050 Oregon Rd., on the right.
From Lieb, head left (west) on Oregon Rd.
Left on Alvah’s Lane, 1 mile to Rt. 48. (Castello di Borghese Vineyard & Winery 17150 County Rte 48 is on the South side of Rt. 48 at Alvah’s Lane)
Right (west) on Rt. 48 1.3 miles to Elijah’s Lane.
Right on Elijah’s Lane, 1 mile to Oregon Rd.
Sherwood House Vineyard tasting barn at the Corner of Elijah’s Lane and Oregon Rd.
From Sherwood, head left (west) on Oregon Rd. to East Mill Rd.
Left on Grand Ave. which becomes Wickham Ave.
Cross Rt. 48 at the light.
Turn right on Pike St. to train station, or left on Love Lane to Love Lane Kitchen and The Village Cheese Shop.
The Southold Town and Country Loop-Begins and ends at the Southold train station on Traveler St.
East on Traveler St.
Right on Youngs Ave.
Cross Main St. (Rt. 25) at the light and continue past Town Creek.
Stay left as Youngs Ave. becomes Calves Neck Rd.
Calves Neck becomes Hill Rd. in ½ mile, then becomes Hill Rd. West for another ½ mile.
Left on Wells Ave. for ½ mile.
Left on Oaklawn Ave. across Jockey Creek.
Right on Clearview Ave. for ½ mile to a left/fast right to Clearview Ave.West.
Left on Main Bayview Rd.
Right on Baywater Ave.
Right on South Harbor Rd. to Croteaux Vineyards, 1450 South Harbor Rd.
on the left.
From Croteaux, left on South Harbor Rd.
Right on the Main Rd. (Rt. 25) for ¼ mile.
Right on Corwin (aka “Peanut Alley”).
At the end of the alley, cross Main Bayview Rd. to right on Pine Neck Rd.
Left on Oaklawn Ave.
Right on Main St. Southold for two miles to The Old Field Vineyards, 59600 Main Rd. on the right.
From The Old Field Vineyard, cross to the north side of Rt. 25 and head west for ½ mile to The North Fork Table and Inn, 57225 Main Rd.
From The North Fork Table and Inn, head right (west) on Rt. 25 for 1 mile.
Right on Boisseau Ave. ½ mile.
Left on Hummel.
Right on Youngs Ave.
Cross Rt. 48 at the light and continue on Youngs Ave.
Right on Old North Rd.
One Woman Wines and Vineyard, 5195 Old North Rd. is ½ mile ahead on the left.
From One Woman, head right (west) on Old North Rd. past sign for Horton Point Lighthouse at Lighthouse Rd.
Left on Horton Lane.
Cross Rt. 48 at the light, for ½ mile across train tracks.
Left on Traveler St. to the train station on the left.