Sunday, June 09, 2013

A grape-filled getaway

When Westo, Kitty, Sharlo and I set off on our road trip on Friday evening, the storm was coming in and a steady rain had already started to fall.  And what should have been a 2 hour drive to Cutchogue on the North Fork of Long Island turned into a nearly 4-hour crawl.  Through what became rather torrential rain, we limped into town and onto the gravelly driveway of this adorable home.  Naturally given the weather, the darkness, and our collective state of mind, we couldn't fully appreciate the beauty of this place until the next morning but still, we enjoyed some wine, pizza, and salad before turning in and sleeping like the dead.

When Saturday morning arrived, it had taken Friday's awful weather with it and in its place, we had blue sky and sunshine.  I was as happy as a clam, though not quite sure what to do with so much living space.  Flat floors!  An island kitchen!  Comfy couches!  It was all so new, yet so familiar at the same time!

Spacious kitchen!

Super comfy couches!
A lovely place to dine!

We sat on rocking chairs on the porch and contemplated heading out for breakfast.  The rental house kitchen had a coffee maker but no coffee (tragedy), so I was pretty much ready to plunge caffeine straight into my vein when about 90 minutes later, we pulled into the neighbouring town of Mattituck.

We'd chosen to have breakfast at a delightful little place called Love Lane Kitchen, by all accounts a very popular spot for weekend breakfasts, and favourably-reviewed online.  Their coffee certainly hit the spot and given that we were facing a day of grape grazing along the North Fork vineyards, I fortified my stomach with a delicious Breakfast Bowl - roasted potatoes, topped with pepperjack cheese, two poached eggs, guacamole, and spicy salsa.  Plus a side of bacon, because I was being serious about this.  So delicious and really hearty.  Just the ticket.  After breakfast we took a stroll up the Main Street and we did a quick lap around the Bookhampton store, where I was very pleased to pick up the new Dan Brown book in hardcover.

By the time we got home and pulled into our driveway, Driver Dennis was waiting for us. Sharlo had been clever enough to book Driver Dennis to take us around to wineries for a few hours on Saturday afternoon.  Dennis had recently retired after 33 years teaching elementary school in the area.  We got the impression that he knew pretty much everyone in town.  So we piled into Driver Dennis' big car and off we went to take full advantage of his local knowledge and sobriety.

Our first stop was Bedell and it was a very impressive winery.  See how impressed we look?

Me, Westo, Kitty, and Sharlo holding up Bedell's Bar
The tasting menu was about $20 each I think, but the guy taking care of us let us have a freebie taste of the merlot that they served at President Obama's inauguration (or a similar vintage anyway).  I liked it very much, but I didn't buy it.  I did join their wine club though, and walked away with $60 worth of wine for about $25.  I was pretty happy with that, and we set ourselves a cracking pace.

The next stop was Lenz, not too far down the road.  This time at the cellar door we were taken care of by a rather young man in a tight white tshirt.  I can't remember what wines we had, even at the time.  I believe he described some of them as masculine, and others as androgynous - which was unusual.  But we listened intently, quaffed eagerly, and walked out with several more bottles under our arms.  Again, very proud.

I think at this point, Driver Dennis was starting to wonder what he'd gotten himself into.  We were not raucous by any means, but we certainly did our bit for the Long Island economy.

Pulling into Osprey's Dominion, I remember thinking it was a very majestic name and promised great things.  Sadly we were a little let down.  In contrast to the other wineries we'd visited, where we had individual attention and were steered through the tasting menus, this time we were pretty much left to our own devices. And no good can come of that, surely!  Kitty and I took quite a shine to some spiced wine, admittedly a bizarre choice for summery weather, but we resolved to buy a bottle each, and keep it for Thanksgiving.  I also bought a bottle of their Meritage, though in the absence of tasting notes I just remember I liked it but have no idea why.

Given that the place didn't kick goals as we'd hoped it would, we wanted to find another place that would love us like the others.  Driver Dennis knew what to do and put his foot to the floor, stopping only when he got us safely to Sparkling Pointe, a winery celebrated for its bubbly goodness.  The tasting room was bright, spacious, and spotless.  It led us out onto a decking area overlooking the vineyards and in the afternoon sunshine, we were terribly happy.  The afternoon had been redeemed.  We sat outdoors and enjoyed a bubbly tasting menu each, accompanied by some delicious local goat cheese, served on a frosted slate slab, so the cheese wouldn't melt.  Ingenious.  Again, we walked out with yet more bottles clinking.

Originally we'd wanted Driver Dennis to take us to one last winery for the day, but by this point in the afternoon we were pretty much done.  So instead, we asked Driver Dennis to take us back to our rented house and there we zonked out for a couple of hours.

Fresh from our nap, we all rallied and headed out to dinner at Touch of Venice, a very cute little Italian restaurant nearby.  None of us could quite face wine with our meal, so it was cocktails and coffee alongside.  Still an excellent combination and we were well fed.  Sleepytime came shortly after though, no question about it!

By Sunday morning, I could feel the heat in the air and again, the sky was clear and blue.  Cutchogue is a very peaceful place - the sounds of nature.  No jackhammers, no car different to our normal habitat!

We cleaned up the house, piled all our suitcases and wines into the car, and we set off for home.  But on the way, we stopped off to visit the town of Greenport.  The houses, churches, shops (many of which were 'shoppes') were just gorgeous.  The residents are terribly house-proud and all the gardens are well-kept, with green lawns, healthy trees, and flourishing flowerbeds as far as the eye can see.  And Greenport makes lovely use of its waterfront location - as we found out during lunch at Claudio's Clam Bar.  I couldn't resist the cajun shrimp to start and the lobster roll for my main course.  All washed down with a crisp, ice-cold beer.  And the breeze coming off the water just added to the easy-going atmosphere.

Our commute back to Manhattan was very smooth - and probably only took us the two-and-a-bit hours it was supposed to.  I had made a playlist for our journey. I thought that 180+ songs was probably a bit excessive, but nobody seemed to mind and it was fun to rock out to songs we all knew well, with no lost radio stations or DJ chatter in between.

I had such a wonderful time this weekend, getting away from it all and relaxing with Westo, Sharlo, and Kitty.  I think we travelled so well and I hope this is just the first of many mini-breaks together.  We will all probably need this week to detox, but then we'll be back in fine form and can do it all again another day.