As a proud East Coaster, I’m always so elated when I get to explore an amazing wine region in my neck of the woods. Having worked in wineries in Rhode Island and Connecticut and having tasted my way through the Finger Lakes, getting a chance to mosey on over to the flourishing wine region of Long Island has been a long time coming.
Just a two-hour drive from Manhattan or a short ferry ride from the Connecticut shore (my method of reaching the island), Long Island is New York State’s youngest and newest burgeoning wine region. The majority of the region’s 60+ wineries are located on the North Fork, known historically for its rolling farmland and fishing villages. Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island benefits from the moderating influences of the surrounding water, extending its growing season and aiding grape ripening.
With these Atlantic influences, Long Island has traditionally drawn inspiration from another well-known maritime grape-growing region: Bordeaux. For this reason, Merlot and Cabernet Franc make up a majority of plantings in Long Island. But you would be mistaken to think that’s all this region has to offer. Today, you can find Chardonnays of promise, rosés of every hue, aromatic white varietals, and my personal favorite: sparkling wine. There are several standout examples of the latter, many of which are grown and crafted in Southold, New York at Sparkling Pointe Vineyards.
Sparkling Pointe is dedicated to the exclusive production of méthode champenoise sparkling wines. Keeping in true Champagne fashion, Sparkling Pointe grows Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay on their 40 acres of vineyards. I was impressed with the range of their portfolio – from Brut to Demi-sec styles – there was something to satisfy everyone in my family.
The winery itself embodies the glitz and glamour associated with Champagne, showcasing crystal chandeliers, floor-to-ceiling windows, and colorful works of Brazilian art, a nod to owners Cynthia and Tom Rosicki’s passion for Brazilian culture. We walked through to the back patio where the sun was peeping through the overcast skies.
Our tasting was conducted at a private table on their vineyard-side terrace. The grass of the vineyard floor was so plush, matching the hedge-like rows of vines. Chardonnay flower clusters were beginning to form and their fragrant perfume wafted with the island breeze.
Tom was our gracious host for our 2-hour visit. He started us off with their 2015 Brut while we finalized our cheese selections. A cheese board of local New York sharp cheddar and fresh goat cheese was the perfect accompaniment for my favorite sip of the trip: Sparkling Pointe 2013 Blanc de Blancs. This wine was true to its archetype – waves of lemon, Asian pear, and zippy acidity – easily mistaken for a good Champagne. I’m not the only one who enjoys this bottle. Wine Enthusiast has awarded this Blanc de Blancs with 90 points (not too shabby for an up-and-coming wine region).
An equally memorable bottle was one of Sparkling Pointe’s member exclusive wines: 2015 Topaz Impérial Brut Rosé. Those who know me or follow me on social media know I can never turn down a sparkling brut rosé and this bottle is no different.
Almost equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with Pinot Meunier added to the blend, this wine is bursting with sweet, sharp notes of raspberry and cherry before finishing dry and crisp. If the flavors don’t turn you onto the wine, its gorgeous, pale pink color surely will. While I’m not a seafood lover, I imagine this pairs perfectly with an assortment of Long Island’s fresh lobster renditions.
Sparkling Pointe was the perfect introduction to the many high-end wines Long Island Wine Country has to offer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover many top-shelf sparklers being produced so close to home. There’s still more for me to explore in this budding wine community. Now that I know just how accessible the region is, I’ll most definitely be back during my next trip to the East Coast!