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New York City escape: Long Island’s world of fine wines and deserted villages

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LONG ISLAND — At Macari Vineyards, a wine producer with its ranch on Long Island’s northern side, the party has already begun. Stretched limousines arrive in a steady flow from Manhattan with groups of young party animals, who come to pay a brief visit in this world of green nature and small family-run farms just two hour’s drive from the bustling Manhattan.

Inside the building, the volume is increasing steadily as more and more visitors pay at the bar for four small glasses of wine to taste. Behind the bar, a huge window lets visitors inspect the process of winemaking, which is carried out in large steel containers in a white room that looks much like a laboratory. At one side, wine bottles in long rows stand for sale along with locally produced cheese and other sorts of merchandize.

MORE INFO Long Island Vineyards

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Behind the winery, fields full of grapes spread out to the north, offering views much like those found in locations like France, where wine has been traditionally been produced for centuries. But this is in north-eastern Long Island, easily reached from Manhattan by car or, a little less easily, by train.

 

The Macari Vineyard, run by the Macari family, was established in 1995, but many other winemakers here have been around longer, and have different approaches, too. While Macari sports a young and party-approving audience, other farms along Highway 25 and 48 aim for families and a more low-key wine experience. The selection is wide – a look on a map reveals around twenty or more vineries spread out over a relatively small area in the north-eastern part of Long Island, where the island divides itself in a northern and a southern peninsula, like a giant fork.

Continuing our drive westward, after having strolled around the grapevine fields and enjoyed a lunch of cheese and wine at nearby Riverhead, we end up in Greenport, a small former fishing village close to Long Island’s northernmost point (marked by a lighthouse). Here, the bar and restaurant down at the harbor, a red wooden building, has stood since the Civil War.

“Sandy the Superstorm created much damage here in 2012,” says the bartender. “There was water way up over the floor. But the house still stands.”

 

Visiting Greenport is to make a travel back in time to when life was slower, buildings lower and people were content with what they had, rather than chasing after the latest iPhone model as soon as it hits the stores.

Enjoying Greenport and the wine-rich, northeastern parts of Long Island can be done all through the year. But if your goal is to escape thee crowds of Manhattan, a good idea is to save this treasure for off season-months such as late September or October, or, alternatively, go in April, when visitors are fewer and you can take in the beauty of the place much by yourself.

 

Driving back to Manhattan, if that is your destination, don’t miss the awesome beaches that line Long Island’s northern shores. These are accessed by small roads north of the highway, taking you through villages and picturesque communities far from the hectic life of New York City, only a few miles away. Check out your map for advice.

Traffic note: If you approach New York City from Long Island by car, beware of the massive traffic jams that often cork up the Long Island Expressway, westbound. You might be better off using the northern route via Queens and The Bronx.

 

GALLERY LONG ISLAND/GREENPORT

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