Random Raven: North Fork Long Island Feature

Pindar Damianos, general manager/ owner of Long Island’s Pindar Vineyards, prepares for a customized tasting from the nearly 30 varietals the winery is offering this season. Damianos’ father, Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos, helped create the winemaking industry on Long Island in the early 1980s. Today, Pindar Vineyards is one of the largest facilities on the North Fork, boasting some 300 acres.

With acres upon acres of spacious vineyards, North Fork’s more than 50 wineries provide sensory experiences in social distancing-friendly settings. Photos by Gary Carra.

When you come to North Fork in the road, definitely take it
Welcome back to Random Raven, the column that aspires for nothing less than to be your complete entertainment itinerary on a month-to-month basis.

Needless to say, COVID-19 has all but put the kibosh on 2020 when it comes to special live events. That said, there are a quite a few experiences Nutmeggers can partake in utilizing nothing more than their personal vehicle while steering clear of coronavirus hot zones. 

Consider the case of Long Island’s North Fork.

In an about an hour, most North Central residents can get themselves to Groton/New London by car. 

From there, a scenic 80-minute ferry ride transports folks to (and from) “The Fork” about a dozen times daily. The cost per passenger is around $18 per person, per trip, and the vessel itself offers nominal-fee Wi-Fi, concessions, indoor and outdoor seating on the first floor and a large lounge on level two.

For an average of $50 each way, vehicles may be transported on the ferry. It’s certainly a nice option to think about as you will, of course, A) need to get around once there (rental options are limited and many feel safer in this current climate in their own vehicle rather than utilizing driving services) and B) it is nice to not have to lug all of your belongs on and off the boat. You just get out of your car and roam around the ferry to whatever aforementioned option suits your fancy.

Once across Long Island Sound, there are a plethora of shopping and dining options in North Fork – including an outlet proper in Riverhead. Depending on the time of year, the major roads are also lined with fresh fruit, vegetable, seafood stands and the like.

For most people, however — your friendly, neighborhood Raven included — the true allure of the North Fork is literally rooted in … well, grape roots. 

Since the early 1980s, Long Island has been steadily establishing itself as a wine region to be reckoned with. Today, more than 50 wineries can be found on the Fork. And while the pandemic has certainly hurled more than a few curveballs at the industry, a fortuitous “real estate reality” has smiled upon it.

“You know, the health departments and zoning officials are working with businesses to help them stay open and social distance,” Pindar Vineyards owner Pindar Damianos explains as he pours a 2017 White Blend originally crafted by his father/Long Island winemaking originator Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos. “By design, vineyards of course have lots of room to do this. We have 300 acres here ourself. So people are definitely seeing this as a safe way to get out, be in nature and have a good time.”

Other North Fork Notables:

• Lenz Winery (lenzwine.com) Founded by successful restauranteurs Peter and Patricia Lenz in 1977, this family business is presently offering a stunning assortment of Cuvées, Estate Grown Cabs, Merlots and a bright, crisp Firefly Rosé that pairs oh-so-nicely with a sunny afternoon.

• Paumanok Vineyards (paumanok.squarespace.com) An estate winery established in 1983 by the Massoud family, Paumanok is the place to try unique varietals and blends ranging from Chenin Blanc, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.

• Jason’s Vineyard (jasonsvineyard.com) Planted in 1996, Jason’s has made a name for itself for its mix of stellar staples (Cabs, Malbecs), and interesting White and Red table wines – Golden Fleece and Hercules, respectively.

• Sannino Vineyard Tasting House (sanninovineyard.com) Easily one of the easiest hangs on the Fork. And if you end up staying so long you don’t want to leave, you don’t have to. Sannino also boasts an adorable Bed & Breakfast.

By Gary Carra

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