Christopher S. Miller
Watching this year’s Tour de France reminded me of a wonderful bicycle trip I took years ago from St Moritz, Switzerland to London. The trip included many rides through vineyards and wine regions in both Switzerland and France (there are some vineyards in England, but I did not venture to them). Bicycling is such an excellent way to see a country or region. Due to the speed you travel on a bike, it is very easy to stop and see something that strikes your interest. Travel and vacations in wine country have become very popular, and to combine this with the gentle progress of bicycling is natural.
During my trip through Europe, I stopped to enjoy local wines and foods in the Valais of Switzerland (home to Fendant, a crisp white wine made from Chasselas and enjoyed with Cheese Fondue), Alsace, France (wonderful Rieslings and Pinot Gris), Chablis (home to crisp, clean Chardonnay), the Loire Valley (of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc fame) and naturally Bordeaux. The adventures I enjoyed ought to be considered by any wine geek. I picked grapes in Barsac (a commune of Sauternes) as a “wetback” at the famous Chateau Climens, I visited wineries and tasted the freshly fermented wines and also watched as some of the wines finished fermenting in square concrete vats; as the winemakers climbed a rickety ladder to check the fermentation temperatures. Apparently every few years, a winery employee becomes overwhelmed by the fermentation gases and falls into the fermentation tank—the results are usually quite sad. I vividly remember teetering on the bicycle with a fine wine buzz while trying to get home several times.
This same type of adventure can be replicated in wine regions here in the United States and even in New York and Long Island. The North Fork of Long Island provides excellent conditions for a bicycle trip that includes wine adventures. The terrain is flat and includes vistas of bays, vineyards and other crops. I would recommend driving to Greenport and bicycling west along either Sound Ave (Rte 48) or Main Road (Rte 25). If you travel along Sound Ave (some locals refer to it as North Road), you will pass Castello di Borghese in Peconic after about 8 miles. The series of wineries continue every few miles until you reach the outskirts of Riverhead and Palmer Vineyards. Sound Avenue has less traffic than Rte 25, but cars travel faster. Rte 25 also has many more lights and villages. The first winery you will see on Rte 25 will be The Old Field, which has one of the most beautiful vineyards I have seen, with vines heading towards a great view of the Peconic Bay (their wines are very good, especially their Sparkling wines and Cabernet Franc). If you continue on Rte 25 to the Riverhead limits, you will pass many of the most renowned New York Wineries including Bedell, Lenz, Pellegrini, Jamesport and Paumanok. The dining on the North Fork is also worth mention and includes new places such as the Vine Wine Bar, Tom Schaudel’s, Jedediah Hawkins Inn and The North Fork Table and Inn.