Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Heard it through the Grapevine: Long Island's got some Good Wine

Take a trip with me through the heart of Long Island’s North Fork. Flanked on each side by rich farms and green pastures, the slender roads lead you past small businesses, produce stands, and charming provincial homes dotted along the way. At every minute’s break, grapevines intertwine endlessly, uniformly lined up for miles. Welcome to wine country.

Being from the opposite direction of the island where there is barely a working farm in operation, it is always amazing to realize where an hour’s drive can land you. Among other farms, the North Fork is home to dozens of vineyards and award-winning wineries, most of which have tasting rooms and tours. It was my first stop when I turned 21 and I’ve been returning in the fall and summer seasons to discover new wineries each time. It is always a relaxing day filled with great wine and memories. This visit, I stopped at Martha Clara and Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard: two wineries that have particularly interesting stories.

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard and Horse Rescue:

Wine grapes aren’t the only ones being cared for at Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard. Since 2007, Baiting Hollow has provided a sanctuary for horses rescued from execution. The healthy and beautiful horses that so graciously greet the winery’s visitors by the fences of their corrals, once stood neglected, scared and helpless inside of slaughter pens. Destined to be killed for human consumption, racehorses who have outrun their careers and babies found on feedlots are among Baiting Hollow’s rescues. For some, days or only hours remained before being saved from their grim fate. Read their miraculous stories.

Over the years, Baiting Hollow has built up a strong and content family of horses that are evidently well-cared-for and loved. Overlooking rows of grapevines, the horses eat, play, curiously approach guests, and can even be spotted plopping down for a nice roll in the dirt. As boasted by the winery on their website, the horses are spoiled rotten. You can see it in their eyes and in the way they have learned to trust: they are grateful.

Meeting the winery's lastest addition!

Although Baiting Hollow’s horse rescue is now a large and important part of their operation, it all started with the wine; from their sprawling, picturesque vineyards, delicious fine reds, whites, dessert wines, and three memorable rosés are created. This was my second visit to the Baiting Hollow winery and other than the horses and the atmosphere, the rosé is what brought me back. Ranging from dry to sweet (Cabernet Franc Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, and Merlot Rosé), each is better than the next.

Baiting Hollow’s newest Chardonnay, Angel, is inspired and named after their first rescue. Described as “rich,” proceeds from purchases of the oak-blended white, go toward helping the horses. Mirage, a soon-to-be-released red blend, will be the winery’s second in their line of wines dedicated to the horse rescue. You can buy Baiting Hollow wines online here.

Inside of a quaint country house, the Baiting Hollow tasting room is a relaxing place to hang out and sip on their many varietals and blends. Surrounded by black and white photos of the rescued horses, it is just the right atmosphere to sit back and reflect, not only on the good wine, but on the sweet souls you’ve encountered at the corrals and the decency of the people who have provided them with a much warranted second chance.

Martha Clara Vineyards

Martha Clara is one of the livelier, more family-friendly vineyards to visit. They’ve got animals, a scenic patio and picnic area, pick your own sunflowers and peaches, horse-drawn tours of the grounds, entertainment on the weekends, and of course, a great tasting room to check out their wine selection.

Named after his mother, the vineyard grows on the estate of Robert Entenmann of the Entenmann’s Bakery franchise. Originally a potato farm, Robert transformed the grounds into a thoroughbred horse farm, and eventually put all that fertile land to use and turned it into a vineyard. The grounds are covered in healthy vegetation sprouting everywhere; after rows and rows of grapevines, there is a long stretch of peach trees, followed by a seemingly endless field of sunflowers.

 Since I happen to like my bubbles, I ordered a glass of the Brut Rosé at the tasting room. While the berry-noted sparkler was good, it was overshadowed by the 2009 Riesling. The hit of the day and said to be the latest favorite among customers, Martha Clara’s 2009 Riesling has a great balance of flavors that goes perfectly with a nice summer day.

I did not take notes about the wine but I did spend a lot of time drinking and taking bad pictures of it. Just so you get a better idea, the website describes the Riesling as having, “enticing aromas of white tea leaves, citrus zest, and fresh apricots…that lead to tantalizing flavors of orange blossom, honey, kaffir lime leaf, with hints of passion fruit.” I couldn’t have said it better! What I can say, is that while it doesn’t fail to deliver the crisp sweetness you expect from a Riesling, it does so in a subtle way; it is not overly sweet as some Rieslings can be. It has just enough acid to offset the sugar.

Martha Clara wines are sold all over Long Island and in Manhattan, as well as in other parts of New York and in Florida. If you are interested, you can also buy wine at their online store.


Magic of Spice said...

Wow, what a great place...your visit looks wonderful, and I love seeing the spoiled babies :)

Adelina said...

Would have never guessed.. thanks for your post. I will keep my eyes open.

Foodessa said...

Oh Marisa...what a charming post. I hope i'll get a chance to visit this area one day too.
Those animals are just too adorable!

Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

~Lisa~ said...

Nice job and great photos. I want to go now! I love Riesling!

Lazaro Cooks! said...

Awesome read. Thanks for sharing what seems to have been a great trip.

There are so many wonderful wineries all over the country, sometimes where you would least expect them.

Great photos.

A Little Yumminess said...

On our way here so this is very helpful!

Angie's Recipes said...

A very interesting and informative wine entry.

Luigi said...

Wow didn't think the climate was suitable there. I imagined the winters to be too cold. Interesting to read, looks like an excellent place to visit!

Just Food Snobs said...

I lived on Long Island when I was younger and this looks like a beautiful place to visit! Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing!

Marisa said...

Thanks for your comments everyone!

Magic of Spice, aren't they the cutest?

Claudia, thank you! I hope you visit one day too.

A Little Yuminess, perfect timing!

Luigi & Just Food Snobs, Thanks for following! Luigi, you wouldn't expect Long Island to be suitable for wine. The grapes really thrive in the summer. The winters are very cold, but some of the wineries even take advantage of the frost and make their own ice wine!


Great post! I love the horsey pictures!