California may be the most popular wine region in America, but New York can indeed call itself wine country, too. The Finger Lakes have long been a region of note for vineyards in the state, but that’s a bit of a long haul for people living in New York City. Fortunately, there are plenty of wineries located within a two-hour drive from the city. The Hudson Valley, Long Island, and northern New Jersey are all home to some excellent wineries, many of which produce wines made from grapes grown in their respective states. While the pandemic has certainly affected the types of tastings and experiences available to visitors to the wineries, the good news is that most remain open for limited-capacity, outdoor visits with strict safety protocols to keep guests distant and as safe as possible. Here are seven of the best wineries that are within driving distance of New York City to visit this year.
Located about 1.5 hours outside of NYC, Brotherhood Winery’s claim to fame is that it’s “America’s oldest winery.” It was founded in 1839 by French immigrant Jean Jaques in Washingtonville located in the Hudson Valley. Currently, the winery has many different varietals available (made from grapes sourced from other wineries), including whites like chardonnay and riesling, reds like cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and different types of sparkling wine—the Grand Monarque, made using the Methode Champenois, is a favorite. In addition to these, the winery makes port, cream sherry, mead, and has a New York series of wines made exclusively from grapes grown in-state. Unfortunately, tours are still canceled due to the pandemic, so visitors can’t visit the sprawling wine cellars. But the tasting room is open, limited to groups of six people at a time.
Benmarl is another Hudson Valley winery, located in Marlboro about an hour’s drive from NYC. This is also a winery with historical bragging rights, claiming to have the oldest vineyard in America on its 37-acre estate. Speaking of which, there are several estate varietals you can find here, all of which are made from New York state-grown grapes (some grown onsite, others from regional vineyards), including Baco noir, Baco noir rose, and cabernet franc. The winery is currently open to visitors, with indoor visits by reservation only following CDC protocols for safety. Hopefully, the pizza oven will be fired up and ready to go if you have a chance to visit.
On the North Fork of Long Island, you’ll find Macari Vineyards. There are 500 sprawling acres of land here, on which vines were planted in 1995 by the Macari family. Wines include the 2020 Early Wine, a nod to Austrian Jungwein for which grapes are harvested two weeks before other whites, the 2017 cabernet franc Lifeforce, and the sparkling blanc de blancs Cuvee Katherine. The tasting room is currently open by appointment only, but the winery recently also opened its Bergen Road Bungalows for visitors. These luxury glamping tents can accommodate private groups of six, and include a selection of wines to taste and a gourmet lunch prepared by Chef Lauren Lombardi for $150 per person.
Pindar is another North Fork winery located about two hours’ driving distance from the city. The winery got its start in the 1980s when Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos planted his first vines. Nowadays, 17 varieties of grapes are grown on 500 acres, with 23 varietals and blends in production. Sustainability is important to the business, with 80 percent of the electricity coming from wind power, among other initiatives. Some wines currently available include the 2019 vintage of Dr. Dan’s Gewurztraminer, the 2017 Cuvée Rare Champagne, and the well reviewed 2015 Mythology blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, and malbec. Tours are currently canceled at the winery, but the tasting room is open daily, and there are outside tables available spaced apart for proper social distancing.
Wölffer Estate Vineyard
Out in the Hamptons, specifically in the town of Sagaponack, you’ll find Wölffer Estate Vineyard, which has been in operation since 1988. The winery is known for its White Horse lineup of red and white wines, as well as cider, pink gin, and even a non-alcoholic verjus. Beyond these, you can explore the Cellar Series of limited-release varietals like the 2019 Pinot Gris, or winemaker Roman Roth’s Grapes of Roth private label featuring a 2017 Merlot and 2019 Dry Riesling. The winery is currently open to visitors who’d like to check out the tasting room, terrace, and lawn with limited capacity to ensure social distancing. Cellar tastings and other private experiences can be booked as well, with additional safety protocol in place.
Brook Hollow Winery
Less than two hours west of NYC you’ll find Brook Hollow Winery in Columbia, NJ. This is a relative newcomer, founded in 2006 by winemaker Paul Ritter and his family. All the wine is made from New Jersey-grown grapes - including the popular frozen wine slushies and chocolate merlot milkshakes you can order in the summer months. In 2011, the family purchased a 16-acre farm and planted 7,000 new vines to keep up with growth. Current varietals available from the winery include Cayuga white, chardonnay, dry riesling, Frontenac, and Chambourcin. Visitors are currently welcome for limited outdoor seating and wine tastings, with live music as entertainment on some days (check the calendar online). No food is available, but guests are encouraged to bring their own.
Four Sisters Winery
Another New Jersey winery near the Delaware River Water Gap is Four Sisters, which was founded in 1984. It was recently purchased from owner Matty Matarazzo, but is set to continue the traditions it has put in place over the past four decades. A range of affordable red and white wines are available for purchase, including the Holiday Seasoned spicy red table wine, a favorite of the winter months. The outdoor deck is currently closed for the winter, but guests are welcome to sit at outdoor tables (weather permitting), and visit the tasting room for wine and cheese tastings. The annual barefoot grape stomping events are still scheduled for the winter months at $35 per person, which includes a chance to try some dessert wines.