AN INTRODUCTION TO ME & WINE

Wine & Charcuterie at Wölffer Vinyards. Deb's Photos.

        In mid-summer Long Island's Vineyards are ripe with grapevines dangling new fruit, luscious and plentiful. I was out East yesterday at Wölffer Vinyards taking in the sights and the smells, the sea air mixed with the musky smell of earth and plants and, of course, a lovely bottle of wine. It occurred to me that this is as an important part of our dining experience as is the food, and we have a treasure trove right here on the Island. I started my wine experiences in my late 20's and, quite a number of years later, I'm still learning. Having explored many of these vineyards myself, I can tell you what I know about those I've been to, those I loved, those I liked, and those I would not recommend.  I'll also connect you to some of the most popular links for winery tours, which will open up adventures of your own. After all, there is nothing better than the perfect bottle of wine to complement you favorite meal!

    In recent years, New York has become a very fruitful wine-producing State, and Long Island, with its sandy soil and sea breezes, now produces wines in almost all varieties.  Best known for our dry, crisp white wines, made from Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin blanc and Pinot Grigio; you will also find numerous reasonable and readily availably red table wines made from Merlot or Merlot-based blends.  For those of you stuck on the European wines (like me), don't despair.  Some Long Island vintners also produce a decent approximation of your traditional sparkling wines, aromatic white wines like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, oaky Chardonnays, and an array of minerally to fruity dry rosé wines made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Refosco, and Syrah.  Even better, you will also find some fruity red wines made from Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, along with a few fine, spicy red wines from Blaufrankisch, Lagrein, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, not to mention some luscious dessert wines.

      So, off we go to a short & simple lesson, then on to our tour!!

WINE 101 - HOW & WHEN TO USE WINES

photo credit to wineofthemonthclub.com

     Before we get too deep into the proprieties of this subject, as a cook and an avid wine drinker, I firmly believe that you should drink what you like with whatever want to eat it with.  For years I was told that I should never drink my favorite French dessert wine, a Chateau d'Yquem, with Chinese food.  So what it was expensive? I liked the combination.  In fact, I believed this was heaven on earth.  The beautifully sensuous, silky sweet flavor of the wine caresses your tongue, then the sharp, salty flavor of the Chinese food cut right through it - over and over again.  I doubt the vintners of Chateau d'Yquem would deny me this pleasure.  Nevertheless, this was a "no-no" in the wine world for years.  Yes, right until they started making salted caramel, and chocolate with bacon pieces in it!  So, I'm going to give you the basic rules in the "wine world."  However, I've never been one to follow the rules.  Ignore the establishment and feel free to drink whatever you love.  I do.
RED WINES
Red wines on Long Island range from full-bodied varietal (one grape) wines and blends (two or more grapes fermented together) to fresh and fruity wines.  The common wisdom is that lighter reds can take a light chill for drinking on their own or with causal fare like pizza, burgers and barbecue. Spicy red wines stand up to richer seasoned, grilled meats.  My view is that if you have to chill a wine to enjoy it, something is wrong with it, red or white!
WHITE WINES
Here on the Island, our better white wines are crisp and dry; aromatic with pungent and exotic notes; or rich, oaky, full bodied and deeply scented.  The un-oaked (fermented in stainless steel barrels) crisp and dry and aromatic whites are perfect as aperitifs or paired with a wide range of lighter foods, fish and white meats - only these should be lightly chilled.  A rich oaky white is more complex and will stand-up to heartier, sauced dishes and even red meat if you prefer.  I refuse to chill this wine, as the chilling tends to hide the true flavor and creaminess of the wine. (Again, against conventional wisdom). 
ROSE' WINES
     Long Island Rosés are said to be very versatile wines (not my opinion), ranging from pale with mineral notes to more deeply colored, medium bodied and fruit-scented. They are generally un-oaked, often dry, and well-suited as aperitifs with lighter vegetable and chicken dishes, they can be good with grilled fish and meats.  In my mind, I would use a Rose' for my White Sangria and be sure to add lots of fruit and Brandy; you can put it in your punch bowl or champagne fountain, or serve it on the rocks - if you know what I mean.  
SPARKLING WINES
     Remember, Champagne comes only from the region in France called "Champane."  Anywhere else, and its called its sparkling wine.  The traditional method sparkling wines range from the young fun wines that are perfect as aperitifs (for a celebratory toast with a berry at the bottom), with brunch or at any special occasion, to the richer, late-disgorged sparkling wines that you would usually serve with a variety of richer foods from roast fowl, to truffled dishes, and fattier fish.  Then again, if I'm going to the trouble of buying truffles, I'm going with the French Champagne. 
     So, there you have it.  A quick summary of which wines are available on Long Island and how to use them.  Next we'll look at where to find them.  Thank you and credit to www.liwines.com, the Official Website of The Long Island Wine Council, for providing this volume of information.  Be sure to check them out before your future winery tour, as they list and describe all of the major vinyards, along with emails, locations and phone numbers.  

WOLFFER ESTATE WINERY, Sagaponack (South Fork) NY

Deb's Photo, Mid-Summer at Wolffer Estates.

     I'm going to start with Wölffer Estate Winery, which has recently become one of  my favorite places to be in the Hamptons. Overlooking acres and acres of lush vineyards, this is undeniably one of the most beautiful vineyards on Long Island, and one of the most inviting and family-friendly. The Tuscan-style building with its warm handmade entry, houses a lavish tasting room with imported stain glass doors, an expansive portico and underneath is the state-of –the-art winery – an appropriate foundation for the Wölffer wines nurtured by winemaker Roman Roth.

     Wölffer has become known for a highly popular dry Rosé (“Summer in a Bottle”) a bottle of which is seen at almost every table.  This wine is not unusual in the region and reflects a classical style of winemaking, with a rich concentration of fruit and lively acidity.  Personally, I'm not sure why the Rose' is so popular, and I don't prefer "lively acidity" in my wine.  However, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Try a bottle of Fatalis Fatum. It may not be the most popular, and its certainly not the cheapest, but it will be well worth your money. This is one of the best reds on Long Island. Dark red in color, rich and viscous on your tongue, with the aroma of oak and ripe sweet plums. You taste and smell black cherries, lightly tannic, with a residual oak and cocoa flavor. Mmmm, I can taste it now, days later.  Although they say its food friendly, in my opinion, the finish is so daring and the flavor lingers such that you may not want to disturb it with food - or share it with your friends!! You gotta check this one out.

       Go as a couple and find a lovely table for two on the patio overlooking the vines as they bloom, or take the family and you will be comfortable at the available tables for 4, 6 or 12. Even the dog is welcome. 

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    Deb's photo of Wolffer Vines in the Spring.

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    Deb's photo of Wolffer Vines in Mid-July. (ok, so I like it there)

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    Wolffer Estate Interior - Photo credit www.wolffer.com

THE OLD FIELD VINEYARDS, Southold Bay, (North Fork) NY

Photo credit: www.theoldfield.com

     Ok, my second favorite, the Old Field Vineyards is way out East and on the North Fork, situated on Southold Bay of the Peconic Bays, just east of Southold’s village center. Established almost 30 years now, Old Field is Long Island’s oldest  vineyard continuously run by the same family. Christian and Rosamond Baiz, & their daughter Perry Weiss.  You can't help but wonder when you drive up that dirt road, being careful not to hit any of the roosters, chickens or ducks roaming around, and you see that old red farmhouse, whether you are really in the right place.  Don't give up.  Get out, walk around back and take a look.  You may get swept away by the view and drawn down to the water, the beautiful grasses, weeping willows and pond, but go back up to where the baby chicks are kept and  I guarantee you will be warmly welcomed in, offered your pick of tasting options or offered a seat on the barn porch to enjoy a bottle of wine and some other homemade delectables.  Here, the reds are rich and you are even safe with their merlot blend, which comes out lightly fruity at first, easy on the palate, not so tannic, yet keeps a balance with a deeper flavor of  dark berries at the end.  My favorite here is their special reserve - the 2007 Commodore Perry Reserve Merlot.  Go and let them tell you the story, or check it out on their website.  Even at $40 a bottle, this one is a bargain.  Just buy 2, because the story alone may keep you from opening one.   Old Field is rustic to the core, but makes their wine as refined as it gets. www.oldfield.com
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    Entry to Old Field's Tasting Barn & Shop. (Deb's Photos)

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    Steps to patio and view toward grape vines...,

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    View toward grape vines, pond and the bay.

RAPHAEL VINEYARDS, Peconic (North Fork) NY.

Entry to Raphael Vineyards, photo credit www.raphaelwine.com

     Raphael is Elegance, Raphael is Tradition, Raphael is a dedication to detail and craftsmanship.  Established by John Petrocelli Sr., and named in honor of his father Raphael who was an avid home winemaker, as was his father before him.  Although John is also the owner of J. Petrocelli Construction, Inc.., he inherited the love and art of making wine from his father and grandfather, and continues the family tradition on the North Fork of Long Island.
     After decades of combined experience, the Petrocelli’s have planted their Estate with what they believe to be Long Island’s best wine grape varieties. Located on the North Fork of Long Island, John maintains that the surrounding water provides a moderate climate, allowing their grapes to fully ripen, achieving a balance, aroma, and flavor.  In the European tradition, Raphael believes quality comes from commitment to an ideal.  When you walk into Raphael you see that commitment in all aspects of the winery, from the beauty of the ornate circular drive entry, the exterior of the Mediterranean styled building and the stunning interior with cavernous 50' ceilings filled with stairs and terraces inspired by the Italian monasteries of his ancestral home.
      As for the vines, an old French proverb states, “Only the vines that overlook the water are capable of producing wines of great quality."  At Raphael the ancient practice of fruit thinning is carried out during the summer and fall.  Approximately half of the crop is sacrificed every year to insure that the remaining fruit will reach the ultimate peak of ripeness. Raphael is one of the few wine estates in the United States that harvest entirely by hand. "Terroir" is the French term that can be loosely translated as “a sense of place.” It is the influence and interaction of the climate and soil of a specific location on the flavors and aromas of the grapes and subsequently, the wine.  Raphael Vinyards believes that the North Fork of Long Island is the sunniest spot in New York State and one of the few places on the east coast that can properly ripen European wine grapes. "Our terroir is derived from our glacial soils and maritime climate that is influenced by the surrounding waters of the Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound. Some characteristics of our terroir found in the wines of the North Fork are flavors of indigenous, coastal fruits such as strawberry, blackberry, cranberry and beach plum in the red wines, as well as a distinct saline mineralogy found in many of the whites." See, www.raphaelwine.com   As you can see, Raphael’s philosophy is that wine is grown, not made, and combines the best of centuries-old tradition with scientific progress. Raphael wines, produced sustainably, result in wines that purely express our local terroir.
    When you go, take a moment to look around and appreciate the architecture, inside and out.  If you are thinking about getting married out on the East End, Raphael is the place to go.  Then try a tasting, buy a bottle of your favorite, and take it outside where the view is breath-taking.  In this case, my favorite wine at Raphael surprisingly is a white - The 2011 First Label Sauvignon Blanc. Made from mature vines grown on the original, 3-acre founding vineyard block planted in 1998 where the gravelly sandy loam soil predominates on this gently sloping, sunny, south-facing rise. The grapes are hand-picked and sorted, gently pressed in a wooden basket press and fermented in 100% stainless steel. Here you won't find that oaky-ness that I so often prefer, but in this case, the complex aroma and flavors of of grapefruit, lemons, kiwi and herbs, and a full, rounded balance and weight make this wine perfect almost everything from seafood to poultry, pork, full-flavored cheeses and most meats.  (Maybe I wouldn't suggest it with a steak for someone else, but I would try it myself!)
  • photos by www.raphaelwine.com


    Raphael's Stunning Interior

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    Raphael Oak

  • Deb's photos


    That's me! I really go visit the places I write about!!

BEDELL CELLARS, Cutchogue (North Fork) NY

Bedell Wines. All photos credited to www.bedell.com

       Continuing along the North Shore, you will come upon Bedell Cellars.  It may look small on the outside, but step in and taste the wines.  You can't help but be amazed.  No fancy columns or architecture to wow you, just really excellent wine.  A little pricey, but you get what you pay for.  They know how to make wine at Bedell.  This is a 30-year-old sustainably farmed and family owned estate vineyard and winery.  Bedell's flagship red blend, Musée, received 91 points from Wine Spectator, the highest score this publication has ever awarded to a red wine from Eastern North America.  Bedell needs no praise from me, as you will find when you try and order it, they're often sold out.  Again, Bedell was one of the few occasions where the whites rivaled the reds in quality.  
     I am going to make some recommendations here:  The 2010 Musée is their flagship expression of quality, passion, and artistry. This blend highlights the terrain and soil of the North Fork of Long Island. Aromas of ripe plums, coffee, and earth wrap around flavors of cedar and fennel. At 91 points from Wine Spectator, you didn't need me to tell you that.  If you can't find it anywhere, go with the 2010 Taste Red; produced entirely from estate grown Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, this supple fruit driven wine showcases the diversity and beauty of the North Fork agriculture. Aged 12 months in a mixture of new and older French oak.  Indigenous aromas of blueberry, violets and beach plums mingle with flavors of black cherries, cedar, and earthy forest floor.  Finally, I loved and took home (even 'though I swore I wouldn't buy one more bottle of wine that day, a bottle of the extraordinarily expensive 2010 Gallery, in the words of Bedell "unique blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, produced from hand-selected French clones grown on the ripest sections of our vineyard. Fermented with ambient yeast and aged in French oak, this wine is rich, powerful, and seductive with confectionary hints of pears, lemon meringue and butterscotch. The nose is ripe with sweet exotic notes of lemongrass and honeysuckle that linger along with flavors of caramel, vanilla and toast. The finish is crisp, smooth, and long lasting due to its refreshing acidity and savory North Fork saline minerality."  Who am I to argue that it wasn't too acidic?  I paid for it and it was worth it!  I have only one question for Bedell - what does a Bramble smell or taste like, and has anybody ever eaten one?
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    Bedell Cellers Exterior
    Photos: www.bedell.com

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    Bedell Oak

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    Bedell Tasting Room

PINDAR VINYARDS, Peconic (North Fork) NY

Pindar Wine of the Month Club, credit www.pindar.net

      So, what can we say about the original, the oldest vineyard on Long Island?  I think I was one of the first fans of Pindar wines and if I recall, it was one of the first wines I tasted when I was old enough to drink.  Hmmm, 30+ years ago now, I grew up with this one!  Pindar was founded in 1979, by the entrepreneurial Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos (Yes, same owner as Duck Walk).  Starting off with just 30 acres of uncultivated land in Peconic on the North Fork of Long Island, Dr. Damianos envisioned grand possibilities for his fledgling vineyard, named after the Hellenic poet from Sparta. His dream was realized as the expanding Pindar now encompasses nearly 550 acres of prime viticultural property, making it Long Island’s largest, and likely most well known, vineyard.  Pindarhas remained under continuous family ownership since its inception, still run by Dr. Dan and his three sons, Alex, Jason (Winemaker), and Pindar (Vineyard Manager).  The Pindar Winery devotes itself to producing quality wines and the name has become synonymous with consistency and reliability.  Unfortunately, the name has also become associated with inexpensive, mass-produced and "table-wine."  I have to confess that I stopped buying it years ago.  But, I checked it out again recently on a trip out to Greenport and I was pleased to find that they still have a couple of surprises up their sleeves if you get past the bus tours:  
     A wonderful Cabernet Port, 750ml, at $28.99, featuring select Cabernet grapes aged in small oak barrels for two years to create a deep, hearty vintage Port with lingering flavors of toffee, chocolate, and ripe cherry;  And a lovely 2009 Syrah at $14.99.  Pindar produced Long Island’s first Syrah and it continues to impress with bright flavors, a lightly peppery nose with rich red berry, and lavender notes balanced by full, earthy flavors of bacon, vanilla, toast and oak.  Unfortunately, for you white wine lovers, I'm sorry but the 2010 Sunflower Chardonnay seems to be sold out.  It was the only white stand-out.
      Importantly, there is one more thing about Pindar which mitigates in favor of buying my wine there anyway.  Pindar Vinyards, in partnership with LIPA and GreenLogic Energy, has completed the installation of the largest Wind Turbine in the Town of Southold, NY.  This will power over 80% of all Pindar Winery operations.  "Given the large volume that Pindar produces on an annual basis, it was necessary to install a Turbine of this magnitude. This is a milestone in our continued overall plan for sustainable practices.” –Pindar Damianos, Vineyard Manager.  Pindar has pioneered the movement away from chemical fertilizers and pesticides with a massive composting operation that benefits both the harvest and the community.  It also utilizes a geothermal heating and cooling system for its wine-making tanks -a zero-emissions system that reduces the use of fossil fuels.  In the tasting room, all empty bottles are recycled, all light bulbs are efficient compact fluorescents, high efficiency dishwashers use a fraction of water than their conventional counterparts, and customers are encouraged to bring back their corks for recycling into cork board and flooring.  Thank You Pindar, you'll always be my first!!
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    Pindar Vineyards, photo at www.pindar.net

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    Pindar Tasting Room, photo by Bridgeandtunnellclub.com

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    Pindar and GreenLogic team up to install the largest Wind Turbine in Southold, NY. Photo at www.Greenlogic.com

DUCK WALK VINEYARDS, Watermill (South Fork**) NY

Duck Walk Vineyards Outdoor Patio, Watermill, photo at www.duckwalk.com

     And that brings us back to the South Fork, in Watermill, another sentimental favorite.  An Original and one of the pioneers of winemaking on Long Island, Duck Walk was founded in 1994, also by Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos and his son, Alexander.  With a decade or more of experience under their belt, the Damianos built the beautiful Normandy château-style building in Water Mill, a true landmark, and became home to what has evolved into another one of the most well-known names in Long Island wines.  Duck Walk Vineyards.  This South Fork location is only a few minutes drive (when there is no weekend traffic) from my home out east and it became a common destination for my family.  
     In 2007, a second location debuted on the North Fork of Long Island, Duck Walk North. This location was beautifully designed to lend itself as an event space for up to 400 guests. The high vaulted ceilings, two custom tasting bars and expansive outdoor patio between the vines give its visitors an Elegant Long Island Wine Country experience - but, not the true organic feel I came to love.   Me?  I prefer the original, still a beautifully preserved building, a lovely patio out back, all surrounded by the original vines. (The North Fork location is often very busy and crowded, right smack in the middle of all the wine tours).  
     As one of the originals, their wines began as fresh and new, always a treat.  These days, I find that they excel in the dessert wine category and the beautiful bottle Aphrodite, Late Harvest Gewurztraminer (lately the 2004 vintage) is a staple in my house, for looks and taste.  If you go, try the Blueberry Port or Boysenberry Dessert Wine (a wonderful addition as a reduction in your cooking glaze repertoire) or the Vidal Ice Wine.  If you want to try one of their Varietals, try the 2007 Blue Duck Cab. Savignon - black cherry and cocoa essences mingle with a soft tannin, creating a lingering finish.  Not too bad at all. In the end, Duck Walk will provide an adequate table wine, even better for your BBQ or Beach Party, at an affordable price.  Volume, Volume, Volume.  But its close to my heart.
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    Duck Walk Vineyards, Watermill, photo at www.duckwalk.com

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    Duck Walk's Aphrodite,
    photo at www.duckwalk.com

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    Duck Walk North, photo at www.duckwalk.com

WINE TASTING DINNERS / TASTING DINNERS

Vitae's Whisky Tasting Dinner by Chef Steve Del Lima.

     Here's a treat for you:  To highlight the numerous wines, both on Long Island and around the World, there a few wonderful restaurants that host "Tasting Dinners."  For the uninitiated, that could mean a 3, 4, 5 or 6 course dinner, consisting of a number of smaller portions beginning with appetizers, fish or light meats, then dark or game meats all the way to dessert.  Of course, each course is paired with a special wine chosen to compliment the dish. Sometimes, the dish is created to compliment the wine.  Sometimes the pairing is not wine, but Tequila, Whisky, and even Beer tastings.  Whatever your preference, you can find a tasting dinner to suit you!

     These dinners are a wonderful way to learn about the different wines from different areas, and the way the flavor of the wine is changed by the food you eat with it  Even if you are well-versed in your wine knowledge, you can always learn a thing or two about pairing it with different foods, about the similarities and the contrasts, and the balance of flavors.  The same really does go for beer, and your hard alcohols (especially when you are serving cocktails and appetizers).  So, lets browse some of my favorites*: 

*note: these are not reviews, rather they are suggestions and ideas, most of which I've loved, and definitely liked.  In this section I will not put in anything I didn't like or don't recommend.  This one is just for fun!!

VITAE RESTAURANT & WINE BAR, Huntington, NY

      Most recently I was at my favorite place for a Tasting Dinner, Vitae.  Here, you're always welcomed back like family, but treated like royalty, all while Chef Steve Del Lima makes magic behind the kitchen curtain.  I don't know how he does it, but he can make even a not-so-good wine taste great, and he can make a wonderful wine taste better.  He finds that combination of ingredients in his food and brings out the best in a wine: like pairing the wonderful French Fournier Sauvignon Blanc with an Oyster Escabeche Shooter (in a granita of pink grapefruit & mandarin orange salsa). This wine stood alone as wonderful. The pairing was heavenly.  This was just a prelude to the pairing of a Spanish LZ Rioja by Telmo Rodriguez with deep rustic, earthy notes and a black cherry undertone, yet still too young - with "Lamb Lollipops", Moroccan Chick-pea Salad, Apricot Mango Salsa & Spicy Mint Mojo.  The combination deepend the flavor of the wine and sent it over the top.  However, the feat of the evening was his pairing of an Italian wine they call Super Tuscan by Vigorello, a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese grapes.  I've never had this wine before, and now I know why, it smelled like glue and drank like a mish-mosh of indistinguishable flavors.  Unbelievably, Chef Steve performed his wizardry and paired this "wine" with a plate of Smoked Bison Carpaccio, Watercress-Fennel & Mandarin Salad, Truffle Mac-n-Cheese Croquette & Pickled Shallot Marmalade.  Notice the strength of the flavors in the dish.  The bison melted in my mouth, creamy and strong at the same time, going perfectly with the peppery watercress - so that when you took a sip of the wine it suddenly became palatable, even likeable.  Nice work Chef, your are always tops in my book!!


  • Fournier Sauvignon Blanc w/ Oyster Escabeche - for me, heaven on earth!


  • LZ Rioja w/ Austrailian Lamb "lollipops" Chickpea salad, Mango Salsa, Perfectly Cooked, perfectly combined.


  • "Super Tuscan" w/ Smoked Bison Carpaccio, Watercress & Fennel, Mac/Cheese. A miracle in food combination.

Whisky Tasting at VITAE, Huntington NY

     Sticking with Vitae for a moment, I'll take you back in time to a Jameson Irish Whisky Tasting we attended a few months back.  You need to check their website at www.vitaeli.com because they have different events monthly.  That night Chef Steve was up to his old sorcery once again, with combinations of food and Irish whisky.  We were treated to Cured Pork Belly w/Maple Soy Glaze, Pickled Red Onions & a Savoy Cabbage Mushroom Stir-fry.  He paired this delectable delight with Jameson's Gold Reserve, bringing out all the sweet and spicy character of the whisky. However, this dish did not need the whisky, even though the whisky benefited from the dish. I don't recall if that was the first combination of the night, but certainly the most memorable.  Another pairing: Vitae's Autmn Salad, designed to open up your taste buds with sweet, salty, spicy and savory flavors, was lovely w/ Jameson's Reserve 12 year; Then, a Zucchini-Red Onion, Roasted Red Pepper "Naan" w/ Mexican Oregano, Mozzarella, 25 yr balsamic & Artichoke Hummus. That was unbelievable paired with the Reserve Black Barrel. Last, but certainly not least (and this is where the sorcery comes in) served to this non-steak eater was a Seared Wagyu Flat Iron Steak, Charred Eggplant, Oven-Dried Tomato & Sherry Vinegar Emulsion. Imagine a crusted filet mignon, but with more flavor. I did not need the steak knife, I would have used my fingers! Jameson's 18 yr Limited Reserve stood up beautifully to the flavors of the meat with hints of nuttiness and spice right through to the end. Vitae knows how pairings should be done and if you're starting out for the first time, try it there. 

ROOTS BISTRO GOURMAND, West Islip, NY

Roots Appetizer Salad

      Also at the top of my list is ROOTS BISTRO, especially for Wine Tasting and Pairing menus.  I have a soft spot for French Wine and Food so, if I'm in the mood for love, I'm in the mood for Roots!  You can see a full review of my escapades at this charming French bistro in that section.  Here I will pare it down to the basics of our various samplings, and here, one wine may pair with 1, 2 or 3 courses - especially if your tasting is 6 courses!  First, the escargot were creamy and tender, simply sensuous.  The Lobster consomme' with ginger/soy and assorted fresh garden vegetables, frog leg meat and grilled shrimp was simply unbelievable.  The appetizer salad was a mixture of fresh thinly slices zucchini, marinated beets, watermelon & micro-greens on a base of drunken goat cheese, all atop a puff pastry base.  By this point,  I left myself in the hands of this amazing young French chef.

     The tasting menu included a plate of fresh homemade ravioli stuffed with a sweet pea filling, topped with chunks of tender lobster meat and an oh-so-light creamy sauce.  So fresh & light you could barely believe it was ravioli!  Next was Seared Fois Gras w/ roasted figs and pear reduction.  O.K., I tried it.  Many of you know I don't eat liver and I generally don't like Fois Gras despite its fame.  Well, OMG, this was absolutely, the best, most silky tender bite of any piece of meat/organ meat I have ever eaten, anywhere.  And I have eaten Fois Gras in many a fine restaurant.  Thank you Chef Philippe for finally making Fois Gras the right way in Suffolk County.  There was more: a grilled ground veal (or lamb, I can't recall) sausage filled with veggies, over a creamy polenta, smoked and served in a plate with smoke and all -- which was incredible.  Then, a seared Rib-eye, with a rich crust (they must have wood in that kitchen) and a perfectly red rare inside.  Now, are you ready? Served with a delicate black truffle wild mushroom sauce and a beautiful rich red wine to accompany it.  Who does that?  Its genius.  The contrast in flavors in this dish, and throughout the meal were perfectly matched and we did not leave a bit of anything.  I'm not a meat eater, I'm not a liver eater, I don't eat beets.  I was converted.  The appetizer size pressed suckling pig was similarly unbelievable, with a crispy skin that melts in your mouth and meat that was fall-apart tender.  Then, a very special dessert of Creme Fraiche' Ice Cream (made in-house) over a strawberry sauce of some kind and this unbelievable whipped cream, along w/ a raspberry napoleon, also baked in-house.  The food at Roots is exciting, ambitious and original.  They will expertly pair your wines, or you can pair your own.  Roots is another one of the best places to go for Wine Tastings and Beer Tastings.**

**For example, they will typically have a six-course Beer Tasting dinner, beginning around 6:30pm from $65 to $75 per person.  You will find delicacies like Carmelized Fluke, Ricotta Spiced Ravioli & Lime Caviar paired w/ a White Wheat Ale, or Duck Meatballs & Potatos Mousseline paired with an Abbey Ale.  On a Belgian Beer tasting evening, you may find a Slow Cooked Farm Egg w/ Escargots, Purple Asparagus & Carmelized Bacon paired with a Palm Amber Ale; a Long Island Duck Leg Confit w/ Prune Stuffed Gnocchi & Fois Grois Emusion paired w/ a Monks Cafe' Sour Ale, or a Pan Roasted Venison Loin w/ Eggplant Caponata, Edamame Mousseline and Port Wine Reduction paired with a Gulden Draak Quadruple.  That's quite a mouthful!!!  Keep an eye on their website or Facebook for advance notice and reserve early.  

You can find their menus at http://www.rootsbistrogourmand.com


  • Roots Beet Salad


  • Roots Seared Pork Belly


  • Roots Foie Gras

TEQUILA TASTINGS: CARACARA MEXICAN in Farmingdale; MARA'S HOMEMADE in Syosset

    If you're serious about your Tequila, a Tasting Dinner is the way to go.  You get to sample a variety of Tequilas, straight and as mixers, and enjoy the fine spicy foods they can stand up to:

First, one of my favorites right around the corner, Caracara Mexican Restaurant.  This past winter we had the pleasure of dining at Caracara for a tequila tasting dinner sponsored by Riazul Premium Tequila. Caracara is an escape from the usual, and the dinner was superb all the way from the guacamole, soup and scallops to the Flan de Coco. Each Course was paired with either a cocktail made from Riazul, or a straight up shot of each of their Silver, Reposado and Anjeo (my favorite). Even the desert cocktail made from tequila and a sweetened milk was wonderful.  Caracara always has something special going on, so sign up for their email list and stop by! Thank you to the Owners of Caracara, and the proprietors of Riazul. Keep up the good work!! (photos below)

     As far as Mara's Homemade, you have heard enough of me extolling the virtues of Mara's cooking.  However, at the risk of trying your patience I have to tell you once more to stop by and check it out.  All her recipes are her own and when you go there you end up with authentic Cajun home cooking with a touch of gourmet flair.  This is definitely one of my favorites.  A Tequila Tasting at Mara's is something special because the flavors of the Cajun Cuisine (as with the Mexican above) stand up particularly well to the strength of a great Tequila.    Mara's always has something special going on and coming up is Mara's "Celebrate National Tequila Day."..a day early, Tuesday, July 23rd, 7:00 pm - 5 cocktails, 4 courses Tequila Dinner  $90 per person - with specialist Richard Plutz er giving out t-shirts, flashlight key chains & more! (click the link for the dinner menu) .  At Mara's, there is always a party going on, so check on her website www.marashomemade.com often or sign up for her newsletter to find events and other tastings like Scotch Whisky Night, National Bourbon Day and Beer Tastings.  There are even Cigar dinners (same with Vitae).  Don't miss out on Mara's.  Its a real treat. 


  • Caracara: Table-made Guacamole to-order w/ and appetizer Margarita!


  • Caracara: Dessert Flan with a Tequila Cocktail made from Sweetened Milk!


  • Mara's Homemade: Nothing can compare to Char-grilled Oysters & Tequila - straight-up!

Stay tuned, more to come....

Surrounded by water, friends & family, sandy beaches, great food & wine. At DebsFood, we can help you find the place you want to be. If you don't see it here, just ask Deb.

 

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 Wine Travel Destination 2013: North & South Forks of Long Island, New York

 

From Our Friends at LongIsland.com

    This is the perfect time of year for a long weekend "Road Trip" and, here on the East End, we are know for our winers, farm stands, fresh produce, and pumpking and apple picking in the fall.  You certainly don't want to get caught unprepared on your next Road Trip, whether you happen to be going East on the LIE, our taking the scenic Southern Route on Montaulk Highway.  Before you go, click on this link and make sure you have your Emergency Kit on hand...just in case.  Safe travels!!

Some important information from LongIsland.com to keep in mind before your next summer road trip: http://www.longisland.com/articles/06-06-14/do-it-yourself-road-trip-emergency-kit.html
Do It Yourself Road Trip Emergency Kit | LongIsland.com

Source: longisland.com

You never know what’s going to happen on the road, be prepared with this kit that you can easily put together.