Wining and Dining on the North Fork

Long Island is a relatively new wine region, a place where many of the growers and winemakers are still getting their bearings when it comes to which varieties fare best in the quite cool, somewhat unpredictable climate.

Even so, a number of the local restaurants on the North Fork have enthusiastically embraced the local wines. Depending on the dining establishment, you’ll find “North Fork of Long Island” wines offered by the bottle, by the glass and even by the flight.

A great place to “test drive” a number of wines in one location—without having to worry about over-imbibing and then getting behind the wheel—is Bistro 72. The reason it’s a “safe haven” for wine drinkers on a mission? It’s located inside the Hotel Indigo in Riverhead, N.Y., the gateway to North Fork wine country. Simply book a room at the hotel, then sample to your heart’s content.

Bistro 72’s menu is nicely constructed for wine sampling, a mix of creative small plates, sandwiches and entrees.

At an adjoining table, a couple was sharing an Ahi Tuna Burger (served with lettuce, tomato and spicy ginger mayonnaise), and an order of Sweet Potato Gnocchi (made with honey-caramelized garlic, sautéed julienned herbed chicken and pumpkin pesto).

They also were sharing two glasses of wine, one white and one red. Because they were engaged in a somewhat hushed conversation, I decided not to interrupt and inquire about specifics.

Our eyes apparently were a little hungrier than our stomachs, as we ordered two small plates and an entrée, but could not finish any of them.

The simply named Beet Salad was anything but simple, as a mix of thinly sliced red and yellow beets were accompanied by red onions, roasted chopped pistachios, goat cheese mousse and pomegranate reduction.

Our server mentioned that the individual flat bread pizzas were popular, so we tried the “Local Vegetable” rendition, topped with roasted garlic hummus, white balsamic-marinated vegetables, feta and olive tapenade—extremely flavorful and pretty darned healthful.

Then there was the French Cut Chicken Breast, which was topped with asparagus, a slice of beefsteak tomato and smoked gouda. After slicing through all that deliciousness, the chicken turned out to be perfectly cooked and juicy. Another healthful twist: the accompanying cauliflower mashed potatoes.

My dining companion said she was a bit “wined out” after sampling close to a dozen bottlings at a nearby winery that afternoon, so she emulated the practice of many a vintner at harvest time: She drank beer—specifically, a flight of locally made brews.

I, on the other hand, was on a mission to taste as many local wines as possible, and ordered the Long Island white wine flight—a selection of four third-glass pours.

I found all four to be well made, but falling just a tad short in body and mouthfeel weight, garnering scores of 83-85 on the Vinesse 100-point grading scale. That said, they went very nicely with our food, and were an absolute bargain at $12 for the flight.

A shared apple tart later (yes, we had dessert even though we didn’t finish our meals, as there were no parents anywhere in sight), and it was back to our room for a competitive game of yell-at-the-screen “Jeopardy” before turning in and getting a good night’s sleep. Another day of Long Island wine touring beckoned, and we needed our rest.

We got out the door for less than $100, including tax and tip, and were glad that we didn’t need to drive back to our hotel.

In terms of quality, value, convenience and selection of North Fork of Long Island wines, it’s hard to beat Bistro 72.

Posted in Editor's Journal, Our Wine Travel Log
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