Over the past two years, I went from a regular girl, to being super busy as a television host on The Rhode Show, to being pregnant, to then giving birth to our adorable tiny baby whom we so fondly nicknamed Itty Bitty. Tall Dad and I went from being husband and wife, to TV host and bag carrier, to mom and dad, all in what seemed to be a nano-second. It was a busy and frantically paced whirlwind of life transitions in such a small time period. Suffice it to say, since the tornado of our life began, our romantic date nights had been few and far in between. With no time for anything but...stuff (?)...we grew tired, irritable, and didn't quite feel like ourselves. But, at least we recognized it. So, a decision was made...
We needed a vacation.
To save money, we were looking for a destination to which we could drive. Additionally, our goal was to find somewhere fun, **no kids**, and a place neither of us had been. We also wanted to make sure we weren't too far away, just in case reality happened, and an emergency went down with our son so we would be close enough to rush home. There are plenty of romantic places like that around us, right?
Ok, woah. First off - Long Island, really? Secondly, there's wine country...in LONG ISLAND? Whaaat!?
That's what I thought too. My only experience with Long Island has been with the Long Island Medium (love her btw) and Jersey Shore castoff Angelina. But, I soon learned that there are over 30 wineries there! It's like the East Coast version of Napa.
Let's get this straight; drive down gorgeous, yet, quaint roads which are lined by grape trees, and surrounded by B&B's that are nestled on the side streets? Sounds cute. Endless wine, a jacuzzi tub, and 36 hours of being with my husband? Alone?! Sign me up. Yesterday. I was freakin' pumped! Maybe I'd meet my favorite medium while I was there!?!?
Our trip started on a foggy morning, driving down 95 South to New London, CT. It was only an hour drive, and we parked at the ferry terminal. (You can, however, easily take Amtrack to the ferry!) After grabbing a well deserved cup of coffee (Itty Bitty wanted to party at 2:30am that night), Tall Dad and I boarded the the Cross Sound Ferry, and we slowly cruised through the Long Island Sound as the still gray water lapped up against the ship's hull. It was soft and relaxing as the sea gently parted to make way for our large vessel. This was so much more relaxing (and not to mention time-saving) than driving to Long Island. Tall Dad and I were eager and excited because this would be our first night away together since I gave birth to Itty Bitty. We didn't know what the 36 hour trip would exactly entail, and honestly, we didn't care. We could have been staying in a card board box on the side of Rte. 1 for all we knew, and we would have been delighted. So, with nothing but time and privacy ahead of us, all we knew is that we were excited to just have us.
Thanks to the Cross Sound Ferry, we felt like we were in a completely different land. The total travel time from Providence, Rhode Island to the North Fork of Long Island was a mere 80 minutes (there is a passenger ferry that can get you there in 40!) God forbid anything major were to happen to our child, we could have been home in two hours.
After sailing away, we landed at Orient Point, and were whisked away in a comfortable van hosted by Vintage Tours. After a delicious lunch at The Loft Restaurant in Greenport, NY (don't even get me started about their raspberry and fudge filled cookies), Tall Dad and I were picked up once again by Vintage Tours, and were driven through the North Fork to our first vineyard.
While driving through the North Fork, it felt oddly familiar. The town and the surrounding area was very quaint. Old timey. Dare I say even New England-esque? (gasp!) Built on the backs of fisherman and the boating industry, the North Fork has come to clearly rely on tourists as of late. But, despite the obvious grab for tourist attention, the area still had that feel of unfettered "Americana". It's small and intimate. I felt like we were in an Indie film like Sideways. The North Fork people are a nice people - a self sufficient people. The kind who fix their own roofs, or if a tree fell in the street, they would pick it up and move it themselves before they called anyone in.
You can tell that the wine industry, and more specifically, wine culture, is new to the region. But, despite that new car smell, they're still very proud of how far they've come. After only forty years invested in the business, all the wineries know each other and compete for success, but they don't seem to be rivals. They genuinely want each other to succeed so long as it brings more praise to their niche market of the world.
After the beautiful ride, we arrived at our first winery, Bedell Cellars.
Bedell is a clear manifestation of the hard work, and subsequent pride of the North Fork Region. And, rightfully so. Bedell's merlot beat out all of it's main competitors from the more established Napa region, and was selected to be served at President Obama's 2013 Inauguration!
The Bedell winery and tasting room was very modern, personal, and almost swanky. A private conversation with the winemaker, Richard Olsen-Harbich, was very revealing, and getting his take on the style of wine was a nice touch. Tall Dad and I were amazed with how much more personal of an experience this was when compared to our trip to Napa.
Ever confident and charismatic, Olsen-Harbich was uncharacteristically transparent about his wine and said some pretty memorable things. An advocate of using only "natural yeast," to brew his wine (the yeast found growing natively on the grapes) he compared making his wine to making jazz - "nothing is played same." He continued that thought by enlightening our group that due to the fickle nature of the natural yeast, every wine, no matter how consistent the brewing process, is going to result in a slightly different taste each time.
The Winemaker also kept reiterating how he hates rules about wine. "We already have too many rules in life. If you like something, drink it with whatever you eat. Riesling and steak? No problem. Just as long as you like it" he maintained. To be honest, it was refreshing. So many people are snobs about wine, and here was a professional winemaker throwing caution to the wind. It was great.
With success comes a lot of business and this place was no exception. Bedell sells upwards of 30,000 cases of wine per year! Thus, the manufacturing plant and brewery were enormous. Totally professional. It was actually little humbling to see all the spectacular wine barrels - especially knowing how old the barrels are, nevermind all the different types of barrels I didn't even know existed. We learned that there is a huge difference between French and American barrels - and that wine stored in American Oak Barrels tastes, well, oakier!
From Bedell Cellars, we traveled back to the town center of Greenport, and I was able to let loose and ride the vintage Greenport Carousel as Tall Dad snapped pictures of me.
The town itself is absolutely darling - filled with delicious restaurants (I hear Noah's is the place to go if you're a foodie like myself), candy vendors, clothing stores, and anything else a tourist would need or want to shop for while on vacation.
After our trip through town, we were escorted to Kontokosta winery.
The owner, Michael Kontokosta, was very nice and approachable. He personally took the time to show us around his winery and how his wine was made. Oddly enough, his thoughts on wine were completely opposite that of Rich's from Bedell. Primarily using steel containers, commercial yeast, and new American Oak barrels, Kontokosta had a completely different feel. Not so say that it's worse, or even better for that matter. Rather, it's just different. Thus, the beauty of wine I suppose - everyone has their own take on it and it's all tailored to your personal taste.
In terms of the facility, holy crap - talk about modern! The outside appeared to be nothing more than a well kept barn. But, everything on the inside of Kontokosta was shiny and new, with a clean, crisp interior. Adorned in all chic black's and white's, the interior consisted of all smooth finishes, a grand piano, stylish music, and a very large bar. Designed almost like a loft, there were multiple ways to overlook the expansive yard that leads to the beautiful Long Island sound through the large bay windows. It was very hip - a place for the likes of Jay-Z, or Angelina Jolie to go to drink wine for fun. Instead of Long Island, it almost feels like it belongs in New York, or Providence.
I think this is a perfect place to spend an afternoon, or to watch the sunset with a glass of wine in hand.
While at Kontokosta, we were treated to a delicious spread by Noah's, as well as some beers supplied by Greensport Harbor Brewing. Oh my word, their Porter was to die for....
Noah's food was perfect - tasty hummus, personalized filet sandwiches, and little desserts. Between the wine and the food, I was one happy camper!
That night was spent at the most adorable Bed and Breakfast in the world - The Blue Iris. Seriously, owners Jerry and Lorry are some of the nicest people Tall Dad and I had ever met.
Due to the pristine grounds, and top notch service, we could tell that they genuinely cared about their craft. The owners built their house specifically for it's use as a B&B. Each suite has it's own jacuzzi tub and fireplace, and feels private like a hotel. But, it retained the best perks of being a B&B: it was warm, inviting, and had common areas for all their guests to use if they so desired. The Blue Iris is well kept and cared for, and it was within a nice walking distance to Bedells. This made it a convenient location because it allows for an easy night out on the town, or the ability to stay in and enjoy the rocking adirondack chairs around the beautiful fire pit. Lorry's style was top notch - everything was designed and picked out for very specific reasons. You know how you go to some B&B's, and it feels like you're walking into your grandmothers house? Like, if you touch something then it'll break and you'll get in trouble? Or, it's so stuffy, old, and way out of modern taste? Lorry has made sure that The Blue Iris' style is the exact opposite. Our room was American themed, with funky posters on the wall, tastefully picked out linens, and furniture that didn't feel like it belonged in a museum. But where The Blue Iris truly shined? Breakfast time! Jerry nailed it! We were welcomed with lemon squares, coffee and a raspberry yogurt served on gorgeous china. The Egg dish he made, served with a cream sauce on top of Garlic Texas Toast, was among the best breakfast meals I have ever tasted. We were served water and juice in these super sturdy glass goblets of water that were definitely not cheap. Lorry and Jerry joined our conversation, but were not overbearing. Unlike most owners of B&B's, they didn't inject themselves into our private time. Because of this, their opinions were a welcomed addition to our morning. I simply cannot commend Lorry and Jerry enough on the AWESOME job they had done for us. They even converted Tall Dad into liking B&B's! So, please, if you ever go to the North Fork region, do yourself a favor and stay at the Blue Iris - you won't be disappointed.
After our lovely morning, Vintage Tours came and picked us up once again. We said farewell to our hosts, and drove away to one last vineyard, The Old Field.
This farm/vineyard is owned and operated by the Phelps family dating all the way back to the 1850's.
Ros and Perry were the mother/daughter duo who guided us around their homey winery. They bickered back and forth about business, as I am sure most mothers and daughters would do if they worked together, and It was endearing in super cute family way. If we thought the difference between Bedells and Kontokosta was stark, nothing could have prepared us for the wine making process at The Old Field.
Speckled with real live chickens, ducks, and dogs throughout the wine fields, The Old Field is the epitome of a small business. There was farm equipment laying around, old cars just sitting in the middle of the yard, and run-down buildings dating back to the farms' beginnings out of which the family was trying squeeze the last ounce of usefulness before they had to be replaced. Not pretentious, or snobby by any stretch of the imagination, the Phelps family is certainly proud of their wine making style. Selling probably only 1,000 cases per year, they literally brew their wine in the basement of their barn! Their little winery houses only 6 barrels at most, and it felt like the family brewed the wine just for the love of doing it. The tasting room was the former chicken coup and it was very quaint. Again, not better or worse than the other wineries we visited - they're just different. And I LOVED it!
We finished our day by having lunch at Orient By The Sea, which is located right on the water. If you like seafood, this is the place to be. While it's certainly not fancy, there is a palpable fondness that is at the heart of the restaurant. Like, people have been going there for ages - generations of families eating there because they have quality food, good deals, and they know your name like it's Cheers. The food and company were fantastic, and it was the perfect way to end our trip.
With bellies full of delicious food, we reluctantly boarded the Cross Sound Ferry for our return voyage back home.
I have to say, even though it was only 36 hours away from Itty Bitty - this trip was well deserved and well needed. Tall Dad and I felt like we were dating again. With all the responsibilities we have - mortgage, work, kid, family obligations, trying to be social still, house chores, more work and even more kid, it's easy to forget why we're married. But, this trip was an easily welcomed detour.
We were us again.
We remembered why we were so in love with each other and how special this little slice of life we carved out together is. Being serious New Englanders, all things New York are pretty much black- listed in the Tall House. But, sure enough, this trip is exactly what we needed. Who thought that Long Island of all places could do that for us? Well, the freakin' awesome wine certainly helped.
And although I may not have run into the Long Island Medium as I so desperately hoped, this was the best trip we have taken in many years. *I received a complimentary tour and stay on Long Island as part of a writers' tour. All opinions are my own, and I can't wait to go back to LI Wine Country!*