Long Island's first commercial vinifera vineyard was planted in 1973 by Alex and Louisa Hargrave in Cutchogue, on the North Fork. The East End now boasts more than 3,000 acres of vineyards, which supply more than 35 wineries and whose grapes reach the public under approximately 50 different labels. Among whites, Chardonnay dominates, but Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chenin Blanc have had success. Merlot established itself as an early leader among the reds, but Malbec, Cabernet Franc and in warm vintages Cabernet Sauvignon can deliver balanced and structured wines. The region also makes sparklers, rosés and sweet wines. Many producers offer fine quality and good value. But eight wineries stand out for their consistency and leadership in this still-emerging wine region.
Kip Bedell, a home winemaker, planted his first vineyard in 1980. He rapidly established Bedell as a leader in red wines, especially Merlot. Michael Lynne purchased the business in 2000, and in 2010 hired veteran Long Island winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich to lead his team.
Sculptor Walter Channing planted his first South Fork vineyard in 1982, while winery partner and CEO Larry Perrine has been making wine on Long Island since 1985. They are adventurous, growing a diverse group of grape varieties and constantly pushing the limits of the region.
The Lenz Winery
Lenz was a pioneer on the North Fork, founded in 1978; current owner Peter Carroll took over in 1989 and hired winemaker Eric Fry in 1990. Fry makes a broad range of wines in a distinctive style that has won Lenz a devoted following.
The Macari family has owned land on the North Fork for more than half a century, founding its winery in 1995. They farm their vineyards organically and biodynamically, setting an example for environmental sustainability while turning out fresh, clean wines, especially fine in whites.
Charles and Ursula Massoud bought vineyards in 1983 and debuted with the 1989 vintage; they now work with their three sons. The family's best wines have been reds, but they also specialize in dessert wines made from Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Bob and Joyce Pellegrini built their winery in 1991, making their first wines from vineyards planted in 1982. Australian Russell Hearn, their longtime winemaker, is skilled with a range of varietals; he now runs Premium Wine Group, a custom-crush facility for many small Long Island labels.
David Page and Barbara Shinn ran a Manhattan restaurant before transplanting to the North Fork in 2000. They now grow 20 acres of grapes, all farmed biodynamically, and make fresh, distinctive wines. They also created a bed-and-breakfast inn on the property.
Founder Christian Wölffer developed part of his South Fork horse farm into vineyards in 1987 and hired German winemaker Roman Roth to head the operation. Though Wölffer died in 2008, Roth and the Wölffer family continue to make this estate one of the region's leaders. The Merlots, Chardonnays and rosés are consistently fine.