I admit it: I’m a bit of a cynic. Okay, maybe more than just a bit. No matter the degree, that is just my default setting. I’m fine with it, though I do try to keep it in check as much as possible.
But looking back on 2017 and what I’ve written about Long Island Wine Country, I worry that maybe I’ve focused too much on the negatives: the curse of agritainment and what it’s done to a wine region I have so much affection for; the way local government continues to make it harder than it needs to be for the region to flourish.
Make no mistake, there is plenty to lament. But there is also so much to celebrate, both in and around the wine industry. I think it’s important to highlight that, too. So that’s what I’m going to do here: tip my proverbial cap to some of the great food- and wine-related things I loved during a recent overnight stay in Southold. It seems like a good way to close out the year.
Because my wife and I have two young kids and live just off the North Fork, we don’t have dinner in wine country very often, but a few weeks ago, we had dinner at North Fork Table & Inn for the first time in years and we were blown away. Chef Stephan Bogardus is nothing short of a genius. From Peconic Bay scallop crudo to a rustic duck terrine to perfectly cooked grass-fed sirloin, it was probably the best meal we’ve had in a decade. That we were talking about simple glazed carrots that came with the beef — well after we left the dining room — tells you that every single item on that menu shines. And did I mention the chestnut soup? Or the pork belly? Or the desserts? Or the Raphael Sauvignon Blanc and Lieb Pinot Blanc we had with our first courses?
Before dinner, we had drinks at Brix & Rye in Greenport, including a glass of Jamesport Vineyards 2016 Syrah Petillant Naturel, which was exactly what pet nat should be — fresh, a little fruity and just plain delicious. I need to get my hands on winemaker Dean Babiar’s other pet nats and keep an eye on his recent work with Northern Italian grapes grown in what used to be Southold Farm + Cellar’s vineyard in Southold. The cocktails we had at Brix & Rye were outstanding, too. Why can’t there be more cocktail bars like this in Suffolk County?
I don’t drink coffee, a fact that one of my friends is convinced identifies me as a psychopath, but my wife does, so we also made our first visit to North Fork Roasting Company after hearing so many great things about it for so long. Not only was my wife’s French press delicious, I may have found a way to enjoy coffee — in a “dirty” chai latte, which has a shot of espresso in it. Maybe it’s coffee with training wheels, but it hit the spot the morning after quite a bit of wine.
Sometimes I worry about the future of Long Island wine and the food and beverage businesses that thrive because of it. That weekend was a great reminder of just how special the people are out here. They are pouring their passions — their souls — into what they do, whether it’s coffee, farming, wine, beer or cooking. We’re lucky to live where we live and have what we have.