Visiting vineyards is usually a summer or fall activity, so how to get ’em in the door during the bleak winter months? Long Island wineries came up with a great answer: Long Island WinterFest, where over six weekends in February and March, select vineyards host jazz artists while pouring their finest.
Driving due east from Manhattan to Riverhead, we found ourselves two hours later standing in a small room at the Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards, glass of their imminently drinkable cab franc in hand, listening to Tessa Souter sing about unrequited love. The hectic morning of emails and errands melted magically away and nothing seemed more relevant than the sunlight pouring through the bay window.
In barely 24 hours, we heard three jazz bands and savored the wine from Baiting Hollow, Peconic Bay Winery, Sparkling Pointe (New York’s only winery dedicated to the production of sparkling wine), andClovis Point.
We also managed to visit the Orient Beach State Park (the strong Atlantic headwinds made our walk short and fast, but enough to get a sense of the sweep of the land and water) and see the Orient ferry cross the Long Island Sound for New London, CT.
We also wandered the back roads of the North Fork. The day, though bright, was too blustery for outdoor activity, so we admired from the comfort of our car the choppy waters of the Sound and the architecture of majestic trees revealed without the cover of leaves or color.
While many East End hotels are offering specials for WinterFest, we chose Hotel Indigo because it hosts the weekly evening performance. We began at the Indigo bar, sampling the wares of the appealingly named Long Ireland Beer Company. After a well-deserved nap we were ready for the mellow sounds of the Steve Watson Trio, playing to a full house in the Indigo ballroom. It was eminently satisfying afterwards to simply take the elevator up to our warm, cozy room.
Our final jazz date was with the Eri Yamamoto Trio. The small room at Clovis Point paneled in unpainted wide beams needed no amplification and provided great acoustics. Yamamoto, born in Japan and now a New Yorker for the past 16 years, has an appealing personality along with talent. She gave us little vignettes about what inspired her songs: The Swimming Song in honor of her 8- year old nephew doing endless laps; Blue in Tunisia written on a plane homeward to celebrate the color of the sky, water and doorways of that country; the NYC Subway song, which gave me new respect for my fellow riders the next morning as I wondered who amongst us gazing blankly into space was actually composing a melody in her head.
The 2012 WinterFest takes place over six weekends until Sunday March 18th. It is a relatively cheap and easy way to beat the melancholy of late winter, and get some rest and renewal. Here are some useful tips if you go:
- Bring cash, the only way to buy tickets for the music.
- Reserve. Most vineyards don’t require it but avoid disappointment at the ones that do. Definitely reserve for the Indigo show, especially if you want dinner at the same time.
- Discover. The festival showcases over 70 bands and instead of researching them beforehand, we simply went with the flow. We now have three new bands to follow.
This article was first published on Yahoo!