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Food & Drink

7 Drivable East Coast Wineries to Visit this Spring

From Virginia to the Niagara Peninsula, these vineyards offer a perfect escape.

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In the spring, wine lovers’ thoughts turn to putting together summer tours—perhaps with a group of friends to drink and dine at fascinating spots in Napa Valley, Sonoma or Oregon’s Willamette Valley. With more ambition—and cash—the aficionados’ sights might turn to a guided wine-and-food tour of Bordeaux or Burgundy. Or how about renting a villa for 

For most of us, such grandiose trips are an occasional opportunity at best. But that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on satisfying our wine wanderlust. Once we’ve thoroughly explored local wineries in the Brandywine Valley, we can set our sights on accessible trips to wine venues on the East Coast, before heading north to Canada. That way, we can just load up the trunk with cases of the wines we love and not worry about shipping. 

Here are some possibilities to explore: 

Charlottesville

A hot new wine region in the U.S., the area around the university town of Charlottesville, Va., offers a few dozen interesting wineries. They all love to re-tell the old story of how Thomas Jefferson failed in his attempt to establish a vineyard at Monticello in the years leading up to the American Revolution—his declaration of wine independence from his beloved France. 

A good place to start is the winery owned and operated by a pair of ex-Wilmingtonians, David and Margot Pollak. Their Pollak Vineyards is tucked into the Blue Ridge west of Charlottesville. Nearby is Stinson, another fine winery. Or enter the beautiful horse country to the south of the city. If you drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, stop at Linden Vineyards, perhaps Virginia’s best winery, near Front Royal. If you go via Middleburg, visit Boxwood, a beautiful little cellar owned by the Cooke family. Either way, drive down Friday and come back Sunday evening. 

Baltimore Area

This one is a quickie—a Saturday or Sunday day trip to two wineries near Baltimore. One, Boordy Vineyards in suburban Hydes, dates back to 1945. It has a lovely new winery and enjoyable vintages. One of the best wineries on the East Coast—or in America, for that matter—is Black Ankle Vineyards near Mt. Airy, owned by Sarah O’Herron and Ed Boyce, who make the wine. Be prepared to come back with cases of their beautiful blends. 

Eastern Long Island

Is the trip through the maddening traffic around NYC and across Long Island rewarded by this destination? It can be, but you need to take your time once you’re there—perhaps two full days. Though most of the grapes and wineries are on the North Fork, two of the best wineries are in the glamorous Hamptons on the South Fork. 

Once you’ve fought your way across the island, stay in the Sag Harbor area and have a good dinner and an early night. The next day, enjoy Roman Roth’s wines at Wölffer Estate—especially the sparkling variety, the merlot and the chardonnay. 

Next, go to one of my favorites, Channing Daughters, with some of the country’s best wine blends—spiritual cousins of those from Va La Vineyards in Avondale, Pa. Then take the short ferry ride and drive across Shelter Island. Another ferry gets you to the North Fork. Some of the wines made here—in what were once potato fields—are ordinary, but there are some very good ones, too. For quality, don’t miss Macari, Shinn and Lieb family vineyards, and take time to enjoy the small villages and their restaurants.

New Jersey

Another day trip is all that’s needed to take in Delawarean Brock Vinton’s lovely White Horse Winery in Hammonton and the newly re-named William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill. Both make some fine varieties, so you can be one of the first to hop on the Jersey wine wagon. 

Finger Lakes Region

This section of central New York State was the first East Coast-area wine region to gain recognition for its fine wines. It’s a go-to for those who love rieslings—but most of the wines I’ve had from the region haven’t wowed me. But it is a lovely place to explore—especially in summer and fall. The jumping-off point is Ithaca, and you can’t go wrong with visits to the venerable Dr. Konstantin Frank and Standing Stone wineries. Visit fingerlakeswinealliance.com. 

Eastern Shore

This could be another day trip—though there are plenty of wineries in what was once tobacco country if you want to take longer. For a beginner’s route, drive south on Route 213 from Chesapeake City for a morning visit to Chateau Bu-De in Cecilton, where the wines are made from both local and California grapes. 

Then have lunch in Chestertown and do a little shopping. On the way back, stop at Crow Winery in Kennedysville. In addition to making good, affordable wines, they have a herd of grass-fed beef, so you can take home some steaks to go with a bottle or two of Crow Barbera. 

Niagara Peninsula

I have to admit that this one is on my wish list of places to visit, so there will be no personal insights here. I do know that this Canadian wine region first became famous when business travelers began to load up on its great ice wines at the Toronto and Montreal airports while journeying home. 

Its wineries also makes table wines, and the region is known for its beautiful countryside. You may even want to take a peek at the Falls.

The Hunt Spring 2019  Issue

This article was published in Food & Drink from the Spring 2019 issue.
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