North Fork's New Wave

Two inns with restaurants and a new wine bar broaden visitors' choices in Long Island's low-key wine region
Sep 1, 2006

Although the North Fork of Long Island now has more than 30 wineries, it long lacked enough restaurants and accommodations to make it a true wine destination along the lines of Napa, Sonoma or Provence. But that's changing, as newcomers such as North Fork Table & Inn and Jedediah Hawkins Inn combine fine dining and luxurious lodging under one roof. Their menus, and that of Vine Wine + Café, reflect a commitment to local, seasonal and organic ingredients, while their wine lists show devotion both to this burgeoning region and to exploring the world's diversity.

At the eastern end of the North Fork winery trail, in Southold, the hip North Fork Table & Inn was launched this summer by an experienced Manhattan restaurant team: former Aureole and Amuse chef Gerry Hayden, former Gramercy Tavern pastry chef Claudia Fleming, and Mike and Mary Mraz of Hearth and Gramercy Tavern. The inn, which has four rooms with private baths, is decorated in a style Fleming describes as "Shaker-esque and distinctly not Victorian," pared-down yet comfortable.

The spare but elegant dining area, with nooks and open spaces, gives diners privacy simply by the angled layout of the tables. Hayden's goal is to bring a European sensibility to the North Fork, and he's emulating the style of French chefs from provincial towns, such as Georges Blanc, who stick close to home in sourcing meats and produce. The all-American fare includes wild striped bass, East Coast swordfish, Long Island duck and biodynamic vegetables from KK's Farm, as well as Colorado lamb. "It's the chef's job to subtly blend flavors," explained Hayden, "so I like to braise and roast, and procure as many indigenous ingredients as possible."

North Fork Table & Inn is headed by experienced Manhattan chefs.
Mike Mraz has selected seven Long Island wines and seven international wines to offer by the taste, glass or bottle. Of the additional 29 wines sold only by the bottle, most in the $30 to $75 range, one-third come from Long Island. The wines go beyond the usual suspects, with local choices such as a 2002 Lieb Blanc de Blanc and more esoteric ones like 2003 Frédéric Lornet L'Abbaye de Genne Ploussard from the Jura.

Dessert never takes a backseat with Fleming's exquisite creations--from blackberry corn cake and coconut tapioca to a chocolate caramel tart with caramel ice cream--and seven dessert wines and Ports.

The partners have ambitious plans to improve the tourism experience. "In the winter, we plan to offer a package with lodging, cooking classes and winery tours that culminates in the pairing of food and wine for the ultimate hands-on experience," said Hayden.

Joe Watson pours nearly 60 wines by the glass at Vine Wine + Café.
Farther east, in the village of Greenport, enophiles will delight in Vine Wine + Café. Proprietor Joe Watson, former sommelier at Nick & Toni's in East Hampton, has fashioned a groovy retreat, with a veranda, a patio and a tasting room with banquettes and an exquisite Carrera marble bar. Guests can choose from a frequently changing list of 54 wines--20 percent of them from Long Island--available by the glass, taste or flights and 79 New and Old World wines by the bottle from some of the world's lesser-known appellations. Prices range from $7 to $25 per glass, with most bottles from $40 to $85, though prices go much higher for the library gems such as Harlan Estate Napa Valley 1995 and Gaja Barbaresco Sorì Tildin 1995.

"I wouldn't put a wine on the list I didn't enjoy drinking myself," said Watson, who pairs the wines with the café's tasty small plates. Try a local match of Channing Daughters Vino Bianco 2005 with succulent Widow's Hole oysters, a bright honeydew and basil soup with a Muscat Blanc from Navarro in Mendocino or the bold Turley Zinfandel Juvenile 2003 with delectable Tasmanian blue cheese.

At the western end of the North Fork winery trail, Jedediah Hawkins Inn opened in Jamesport in June in the renovated 19th-century Italianate villa of sea captain Hawkins. There are five rooms and one suite. Behind the modern decor lies a stainless steel-outfitted kitchen where veteran Long Island chef and restaurateur Tom Schaudel and chef de cuisine Michael Ross transform local ingredients--some from the inn's own garden--into dishes for Jedediah's, the fine dining room. The Captain's Cellar, a subterranean wine cellar made of fieldstone and brick, is home to the restaurant's 2,500-bottle collection and offers a full dinner menu and tapas-style menu each night.

Jedediah's dining room serves 52 wines from Long Island.
Come for "High Cheese," when Schaudel offers delicious pairings of New York wine and cheeses at teatime in the property's screened-in gazebo. For dinner, select from 13 Long Island wines by the glass or 100 wines by the bottle, ranging from $28 to $265. The list offers 52 selections from Long Island--more than any other North Fork establishment, he says-- along with Old World wines Schaudel considers interesting, from Austrian Grüner Veltliner to the 2003 Flor de Pingus from Ribera del Duero.

A recent tasting menu included a green bean, watermelon and blue cheese salad with a splash of Wölffer verjus, complemented by a Martha Clara Brut NV, which also did justice to tempura zucchini blossoms stuffed with local Catapano goat cheese. Black truffled, butter-poached lobster was paired with 2005 Bodegas Martínez Serantes Albariño Dona Rosa, while the 2002 Private Chef Schaudel Reserve, blended at Paumonok winery to Schaudel's specifications, matched well with the ricotta gnocchi and the deconstructed beef "Burgundy-style" with Pinot glaze.

Next fall, Shinn Estate winery in Mattituck is scheduled to open the North Fork's first vineyard-based B and B. Barbara Shinn and David Page, who practice sustainable farming in their vineyard, are restoring an 1880s farm house to create a four-room B and B. "It's a dream of ours to provide a place for guests on the vineyard property and support land preservation and family farming," Shinn said.


Jedediah Hawkins Inn
400 South Jamesport Ave., Jamesport, N.Y.
Telephone: (631) 722-2900
Web site: www.jedediahhawkinsinn.com
Open: Lunch and dinner, daily; high cheese, daily; brunch, Sundays
Cost: Entrées $26—$44
Rates: $325—$595

North Fork Table & Inn
57225 Main Road, Southold, N.Y.
Telephone: (631) 765-0177
Web site: www.northforktableandinn.com
Open: Dinner, Wednesday to Monday
Cost: Entrées $25—$44
Rates: $250

Shinn Estate Vineyards
2000 Oregon Road, Mattituck, N.Y.
Telephone: (631) 804-0367
Web site: www.shinnvineyard.recipesfromhome.com

Vine Wine + Café
100 South St., Greenport, N.Y.
Telephone: (631) 477-6238
Web site: www.vinewinebar.com
Open: Lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday; dinner, Tuesday to Friday
Cost: Small plates, $10—$15

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