Let me start off by saying that I have drank boxed wine with the same satisfaction and enthusiasm as a $60 bottle, so to say that I am a wine connoisseur would be a ridiculous overstatement.
That being said, I do know things: what I like and pleasant experiences.
What stemmed from a brainstorming session between a friend and I when trying to decide where to spend a short weekend resulted in in, “why don’t we go drink wine in the Hamptons?” Southampton, specifically.
Southampton is primarily known for two things: It’s close proximity to several North Fork wineries and The Big Duck.
“What is the big duck?!”, you may have just exclaimed. Well, it’s literally a giant duck made of concrete. Built in 1913, the Big Duck was a shop that sold both ducks and duck eggs (not-so-ironically), but now stands as Southampton’s cutest souvenir shop and information center.
Anyway, back to wine – Being that this was such a short trip, and we had essentially planned for just one full-day of winery hopping, we spent some time looking up various Long Island wineries and narrowed our choices down to two. Well, actually we narrowed it down to four but let’s just say, some of the wine was too good for just a sample.
While we knew right away which of the two wineries was the clear winner, we could definitely break down our reasoning it into four categories: atmosphere, hospitality, wine, and munchies.
When you first pull up into the Paumanok Vineyards parking lot, you’re face-to-face with the vineyard from which they yield the grapes for their wine. As we were visiting in April, the actual vineyard was pretty bare, but it still provided a beautiful and relaxing view that got us excited for the remainder of the weekend.
The interior of Paumanok Winery gives off a very minimal, New England feel, boasting a blue and white color scheme along with wood finishes. But it’s the view from the outside deck that really makes Paumonok a complete experience.
With only two other small parties, we were able to have a seat anywhere we preferred and enjoy the beautiful weather while not having to scream over the loud chatter of others.
Alternatively, Jamesport Vineyards provides a more rustic, barn house atmosphere, which I adored. There is definitely more of a laid-back vibe when compared to Paumonak, and we noticed that the main crowd was a tad bit younger and close to our age. One thing that bothered me a bit was that despite the many windows, the interior could’ve used some artificial light. Sitting in the dark wasn’t too appealing.
Jamesport Vineyards seems like the type of place that may be a lot more vibrant and well-managed later in the season, but our experience at their outdoor seating area involved, an empty bar, unleveled seats, a door that kept locking everyone outside, and one too many loud parties (though that is not at fault of the winery). While we could’ve spent hours lounging at Paumonak, Jamesport just didn’t give us that warm feeling.
When we first entered Paumonak Winery, we were quickly greeted and passed a menu, which described the wines currently offered in tasting, glass, and bottle options as well as some choices of light fare. Our bartender was hospitable, and worked quickly getting us some tasting samples to share almost as soon as we had ordered.
The bartender at Jamesport was just as friendly and efficient despite dealing with a sizably larger crowd than that at Paumonak. We did have to shoulder our way passed a handful of groups once we were ready to go, but we were still able to make our purchases and close out our tab in under two minutes. Having worked in retail, I always appreciate those who are easily able to manage multiple parties without diminishing their efficiency.
Not being huge fan of dry wines, we decided to sample Paumonak’s Vin Rose and Semi Dry Riesling. Both were delicious, not too acidic but full of vibrant flavor. In terms of wine quality, you could definitely taste how much time and effort went into making each one. Deciding that the Riesling was the winner of the two we sampled, we almost opted for two glasses before realizing that for almost the same price, we could get a whole bottle. And, honestly, that just seemed like the only option.
At Jamesport Vineyard, we decided to jump the gun and order a glass each of the East End Rose, which ” evokes flavors of peach, strawberry, honeysuckle and fresh flowers” and the Estate Demi-Sec Riesling 2013 with “aromas of orange blossom honey, elder, and cider” based on their amazing sounding descriptions alone. While the descriptions, at least for the latter, noted the acidity, these were both a bit too acidic for me. I could definitely pick up some of the flavor notes but due to the harsh aftertaste, we almost found ourselves having to force ourselves to finish each glass.
Since nothing pairs better with wine than cheese, we decided on Paumonak’s Cabot Cheddar for our small plate. We weren’t expecting anything mind-blowing, but for only twelve dollars we received some of the most perfectly-sliced, high quality cheddar I have ever tasted. It was rich, solid but creamy and when eaten with the crisp baguette was a perfect combination for our Riesling. Our cheddar was served on a wooden cutting board and was perfect for lovers of culinary presentation and of those who love a good food shot.
Already having had our fill of cheese, my friend suggested we order some prosciutto with our wine at Jamesport Vineyards. Let me start off by saying that while our prosciutto was smoky and delicious, and we definitely brought the remaining back with us to eat later in the night, the presentation was seriously lacking. As mentioned above, I’m a sucker for presentation, but we could’ve easily picked up a packet of Italian meats at a local grocery store on our own. A little effort or plating could have made this so much more than what it was.
Both wineries had little special touches not found at the other. Jamesport provided a small section of items to purchase, and we did end up grabbing some jarred garlic pickles. Paumonak on the other hand provided more than just wine, but an entire experience. We also felt that the value was more than worth it. A bottle of wine, a small cheese plate, and two samples only ran us about $40.
If the opportunity arose to just do just one, I would highly recommend Paumonak as your vineyard of choice. Despite the wine not being some of my personal favorite, and once again I would consider myself far from a wino, I do think Jamesport has the opportunity to at least be a more vibrant place to visit when the weather is on the warmer end. But based on our most recent experience, you can definitely find more worthwhile vineyards in the area.
But regardless of where you choose to spend your time and drink your wine, you’ll definitely want to stop by Main Road Biscuit Co. to cure your potential wine hangover the next day. In my experience any cafe with the word “biscuit” in it, usually knows what they’re doing. Upon entering the cafe, you’re greeted by a display case of various cakes, scones, and biscuits – but save the extra purchases until after breakfast.
My friend ended up ordering the Main Road Biscuit Breakfast, which comes with two eggs any style, a buttermilk biscuit, your choice of grits, hash browns, or local mixed greens, and your choice of bacon, sausage, or avocado. I ended up going with the Buttermilk Oat Pancakes with maple butter and topped with blueberry compote. Simple, classic, but so flavorful and perfectly cooked. Of course before we left, we were caught scanning the bakery display and asked if we’d like to add anything to our bill as if that were even a question. FYI, I had never had bread pudding in muffin form prior to this visit, but I’d like to eat it once a day.
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