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Grape Escape

The North Fork, L.I.; July 17–18

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It's not the first place you think of when you're contemplating a winery tour. The phrase Long Island fine wine sounds as oxymoronic as Brooklyn champagne. But it shouldn't, according to Eberhard Müller, chef-owner of Lutèce. On the un-Hamptony North Fork, where farms still outnumber Ferraris, Müller recommends a tour of four wineries whose vintages he rates on a par with the pressings from the great vineyards of France and California. Among his favorites is Hargrave in Cutchogue: "a fabulous '95 Pinot Noir." Also Paumanok, whose Tuthills Lane '93 and '95 Rieslings are "stunning and the ideal match for a local clam roll or lobster." Lenz champagne won Müller's blind tasting over Veuve Cliquot; and he puts the winery's barrel-fermented Chardonnays ahead of Grand Cru Montrachets. "In a tremendous upset," he recalls, "we voted the Lenz '95 Merlot ahead of Petrus!" Macari, which recently hired a very good French wine-maker, also gets high marks from Müller. The seafood and vegetables locally available are as simple and fresh as you will find anywhere. The four wineries are within twelve miles of one another, and all are open to visitors. As for accommodations, the tiny Rhinelander in Cutchogue is charming. And the Home Port B&B in Peconic is a pretty Victorian house restored by saltwater fly-rod guide Jack Combs, who comes from a long line of Long Island decoy carvers, duck hunters, and baymen.

DETAILS Paumanok Vineyards (516-722-8800; www.paumanok.com)


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