Enchanting Private Vineyard in European Style Setting
By Lead Travel Writer Renee Fontaine
As I passed through the tall wrought iron gates, I felt like I had entered a world of the past — a time in medieval Europe where I might expect to encounter horse-drawn carriages and knights. The driveway weaves its way through dense foliage of coniferous and deciduous trees resembling a path through the Black Forest of Germany. Just ahead, the home came into view — a country style two-story with gabled roof and front porch, elegantly framed with forest green arborvitaes and budding hedges. To the right, rows of grape vines caught my eye. Green leaves sprouting from the dry winter shafts lend promise to warm weather and spring flowers. To the left I noticed an expansive forest-like yard with towering pine trees.
Stepping on the front porch, my interest was piqued by a wrought iron bistro style table. I imagined mornings sipping an espresso while reading the latest edition of Food and Wine or Decanter. A neatly stacked pile of firewood waited ready for stoking up the home’s fireplace.
Stepping inside, I felt the warmth and history of this 1890s home. Originally built as a stable, this unique luxury home extends a warm welcome with its striking entrance foyer of perfectly polished restored rustic pine floors. A bench, croquet set, side table, and basket of sea shells extend an inviting and functional appeal. The entrance foyer leads to three charming bedrooms, each decorated in hues of blue, cream and tan. Plush plaid printed chairs and ivory bureaus blend for a warm and cozy feeling. At the center of the master bedroom is an elegant sleigh style bed – a perfect complement to the antique style décor!
Ascending the stairs, I admired the artwork along the walls. A painting of a zebra caught my attention – the intricate details and rich colors blend perfectly with the mood of the home. Arriving at the second floor, I marveled at the perfection of the interior design. The vaulted ceiling, original stable door, exposed cross beams, pine floors, brick fireplace, and paneled windows provide a superlative backdrop. Two plush sofas, a camel-colored leather chair, long wooden table, wrought-iron wine rack, wooden cabinetry, and western style antiques complete the setting with perfect symmetry. I relaxed on one of the plush sofas and basked in the warmth of the flames emanating from the fireplace.
The Love of Wine
The morning after I arrived, I sipped my morning espresso on the front porch while I admired the elegant gardens, and enjoyed the scent of pine drifting through the air.
I had learned that one of the owners of the home is Italian and loves good wines. In the autumn, the grapes in the garden would be harvested to create a fine red wine for his family and guests to enjoy. Determined to learn more about the history of wine in the Hamptons, I set out to explore the local vineyards and wine production on Long Island.
The east end of Long Island forks into a fishtail just beyond the town of Riverhead, creating the North Fork and the South Fork — where the Hamptons are located. The land on the North Fork is composed of a heavy topsoil. Below that is a layer of sandy loam. This creates good water drainage during rainy times. This is important for growing grapes because as those in the know say, “vines do not like wet feet.” These soils are, in fact similar to the soils of the Bordeaux Region, known as the Graves, which were created during the retreating glaciers of the Pyrenees. The soils on the South Fork are a bit heavier. As a result, more wine estates have developed on the North Fork than on the South Fork. Also, like Bordeaux, Long Island is surrounded by the sea. The Atlantic is to the west and brings rainy summers. These similarities in soil and weather conditions helped to feed the development of vineyards on Long Island.
Due to these favorable conditions, the proximity to New York City, and the ability for producers to purchase the grapes, wine production flourished in the early 1970s. The New York Farm Winery Act of 1976 encouraged expansion due to the easy licensing requirements. A distinction was established between wine producers and wine estates which grew their own grapes. Today, there are approximately 25 estate vineyards and 50 wine producers on the east end of Long Island.
More than 30 different varieties of grapes are now grown on Long Island. Chardonnay and Merlot account for more than one half of the grape varieties. Other selections include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and Syrah.
Driving east from Westhampton Beach, I spotted a sign, Long Island Wine Country – Hamptons Wine Trail, Next 6 Miles. Our first stop was Duckwalk Vineyards. Built in 1987, this vineyard estate was designed after a Normandy Style Chalet. The authenticity of the building is impressive with its brick exterior walls and a green metal roof. I admired the setting with rows of newly budded vines stretching out in all directions. Upon entering the tasting room, I noticed a group of giggling women who were enjoying a tasting party.
The tasting room is stylishly decorated to match the same Normandy-style appeal. The pine vaulted ceiling and matching tables, with candle and floral arrangements, made for a warm, inviting setting. I admired the bottles of wine lined along the center tables which yielded a lively mix of colors, shapes, and varieties!
Michael, working behind the tasting counter, was warm and welcoming. He offered insights into the region’s wine production and the specialties of their vineyard. Initially called The Reve, the name was changed to Duckwalk in 1994. He explained further that the grapes grown on Long Island have less maturity due to the growing conditions. This results in a unique and distinct flavor when compared to the West Coast wines. Duckwalk produces such varieties as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their specialty and best sellers are their dessert wines such as their Blueberry Port and others with unique names as Gatsby Red and Aphrodite.
Continuing east on Montauk Highway, I discovered Wolffer Estate Vineyard. Built in 1997, this Tuscan style vineyard is picturesquely set in the middle of rolling hills of vine rows. A stone fountain, towering arborvitaes, and yellow stucco exterior with blue shutters unite to create an authentic European impression. Entering through the front door, I found the interior similar in design to the beautiful Westhampton House – vaulted ceiling with exposed cross beams, rustic fixtures, and wood furniture.
I was introduced to Roman Roth, Wolffer’s partner and winemaker. Originally from Germany, Roman explained that he has been in the wine making business since 1982. Wearing a large smile and humble confidence, I found him to be truly an expert in his field. He gave me a tour of the production area. Rows of oak barrels expand in many directions. The arching stone, concrete ceilings, and soft yellow lighting create an original European appeal.
He explained that due to varying climatic conditions, some years he must cut and drop as much as half of the grapes in the field. This preserves the quality of the remaining grapes. After all, the quality of the wine is dependent on the quality of the grapes! Further,he explained that they grow the majority of the grapes themselves; but also buy from the vineyards on the North Fork. Their primary market is the Tri-State area. They sell a large amount of Chardonnay and Merlot; however, he states that they are famous for their Rose.
In the heart of these enchanting vineyards is Bridgehampton. Leaving Wolffer Estates, I stopped for a couple hours in this picturesque town that is the epitome of New England charm. As I strolled down Main Street, the sunshine warmed my face on this cool spring day. Passing from shop to shop, I discovered a true treasure: Pierre’s. This bright warm, colorful restaurant with beach-town flare captured my heart with a menu of fresh organically grown cuisine and freshly squeezed juices. The owner, Pierre, stopped at my table. Colorfully dressed and sporting a French accent, he welcomed me to his restaurant. I asked him what the best item on the menu was and he responded with “Everything!” I ordered Eggs Florentine which was delectable.
Leaving Bridgehampton, I made one more stop — Channing Daughters Winery. The tasting room is set in a quaint cabin-style structure in the midst of 28 acres of grape vines. Their logo is the vine root, depicted on their bottle labels. This theme is carried throughout the design of their tasting area. Intricately carved vines and roots decorate the wood poles that frame the entrance. Outside in the back gardens is an oversized carved statue of a man with a vine growing up his leg.
Since the tasting room was crowded, I picked up some brochures. I learned that Channing grows 15 grape varieties and their harvesting methods are unique. They use artisan methods that include picking all the grapes by hand and using cluster-pressing and stomping by foot to extract the fine juice. I vowed to return in the autumn to experience these ancient harvesting practices!
Back at the Westhampton House, I relaxed in the late afternoon sun while sipping a hot cup of Jasmine tea on the front porch. I took in the beauty of the forest-like setting and strolled through the rows of grape vines. In my mind’s eye I could envision this scene in the autumn — yellow and orange leaved trees scattered among the green needle pines, plump purple grapes hanging heavy from vines, a wine-press ready for extracting the juice, with family members mingling around the gardens as the harvest commences.
Welcomed Like a Family Member
The impeccable service provided by hostess, Lauren Berger, makes every guest feel like a family member. Lauren’s warm and welcoming smile, great sense of humor, and kindness will brighten the day of any weary traveler. Small details such as the fire in the fireplace, the fine plush bedding, and bath salt and oils next to the tub immediately put me at ease and made me feel right at home. The genuine heartfelt care she gives her guests will make anyone feel like they have arrive home, as well. She offers a fine selection of properties in New York, the Caribbean, and Europe.
For availability and reservations at the Lauren Berger Collection you may call her at (888) 522-1099, (239) 671 2920, or (646) 629-9669.
This property was chosen for the Vacation Rentals for the Wine Connoisseur Category because of the private vineyard on the property and the proximity to vineyards in the Long Island area. This property would also be well suited for the categories of Ultra Luxurious, Outstandingly Located, Super Romantic, Unusually Unique, Family Focused, Beach Area, and Vacation Rentals for the Sports Enthusiast. The Westhampton Beach property, located just a couple miles away, can be rented in conjunction with this home to accommodate additional family members or guests.
RELATED LOCATIONS: for more vacation rental options in this general area, check the article recently written about the Hamptons, New York.
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