New to the North Fork drink scene Brought to you by Sheri Winter Parker

One year ago, Martha Clara Vineyards was among the best-known wineries in the region. By the end of this month, it will be something different altogether.

One of two wineries sold in the past year — the other is Palmer Vineyards in Aquebogue — the transformation of Martha Clara to RGNY is the biggest of many changes on the North Fork.

The popular winery and the neighboring estate known as Big E Farm, previously owned by the Entenmann family, sold for $15 million last April to Mexican winemaking family Rivero González. As of Mother’s Day, Martha Clara will be renamed RGNY to fit within the Rivero González brand, which operates tasting houses in Mexico City, Monterrey and Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila.

RGNY. (Photo Credit: Michelina Da Fonte)

Changes include the brand name, product offerings and a new approach to wine.

“The goal of this new venture is to approach wine differently through more immersive experiences and improved quality on both processes and products. Experiences on-site will be highly curated, ranging from private wine tastings to vineyard tours and tasting and pairing dinners, all driven by art and modern tradition.” — RGNY

Manager María Rivero González has said luxury homes, a bed-and-breakfast and an on-site winemaking facility are among other updates being considered for the 200-acre property.

The changes at Palmer Vineyards, which was purchased in 2018 by Charles and Ursula Massoud of nearby Paumanok Vineyards, are not as drastic. The Massouds will maintain the Palmer brand under the stewardship of an integrated team of Paumanok and Palmer staffers.

Heading into its first full summer under new ownership, fans of Palmer can expect the same quality of wine and tasting room ambience, according to Kareem Massoud, who is now winemaker for both operations. Palmer will continue to host live music and pop-up food purveyors while Paumanok, which has never held those types of events, will not.

The Massoud brothers: Nabeel, Kareem and Salim. (Photo Credit: David Benthal)

“We deliberately didn’t want to change Palmer into Paumanok II,” Massoud said. “Each of the brands has its own personality. The bigger picture has remained the same: Palmer is focused on quality wines in an atmosphere that is fun and festive.”

The wines produced by both facilities will continue to be estate-grown, meaning Palmer grapes won’t find their way into Paumanok wines and vice versa. The only exception is the riesling. Massoud has discontinued the riesling label at Palmer, though a small percentage of Palmer’s riesling grapes will be blended into Paumanok’s semi-dry riesling.

Massoud also introduced screw-top wine bottles to Palmer this year.

Farther east, Sannino Vineyard has raised the timbers on a new eco-friendly winery and tasting room on Route 48 in Cutchogue. It is set to open in late spring or early summer. Owners Anthony and Lisa Sannino already operate a bed-and-breakfast and vineyard on Alvah’s Lane.

Expect a rustic-meets-modern vibe at the two-story tasting barn. The 6,000-square-foot facility was designed for a more inclusive wine-tasting experience. The Cutchogue tasting room will have space for a wine education room and a winemaking facility, which allows the Sanninos to gradually increase production.

The new Sannino winery and tasting room under construction. (Photo Credit: Krysten Massa)

“It is designed to be a North Fork experience,” Lisa Sannino said. “It was built with the intent to maximize customer service — people can take a wine class and stay at the bed-and-breakfast.”

Sannino Vineyard’s Peconic tasting room, which opened in 2009, will continue to operate during construction of the new space but will slowly be phased out.

Other changes to check out this summer include Jamesport Vineyards’ new on-site pizza bar and small bites bistro, Little Oak, and Pindar Vineyards’ new line of canned wines. The Peconic winery released its two most popular vintages — Winter White and Summer Blush — in four-packs in February, and hopes to expand the line to include its other seasonal vintages, Autumn Gold and Spring Splendor.

(Photo Credit: Pindar Vineyards)

Sparkling Pointe Vineyards has also received approval to open an outpost on First Street in Greenport Village, though no opening date has been set.

New on the craft beverage scene

The original Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. tasting room is newly renovated. It has been 10 years since the North Fork’s first craft brewery opened in the old firehouse on Carpenter Street. It has since added a Peconic outpost, where many of its staple beers are brewed and bottled, but the experimental styles are still brewed in small batches where it all began.

“To make it look like a showcase is important. We want to potentially open it up for live music and special beer releases on Fridays in the summer, and to have it be a place where people come and grab a beer that is being brewed in Greenport.” — John Liegey, Greenport Harbor
Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. (Photo Credit: David Benthal)

The renovations, which began in March, included moving tanks and fixing the floors to improve drainage in the main level brewing area. The newly positioned tanks will open a space for bands to set up in the warmer months. The reworked second-floor tasting room will give guests more space to spread out. It will still double as a gallery space to showcase local artists.

New to the local brew scene, Eastern Front Brewing Company officially opened its doors in January on the Main Road in Mattituck. Riverhead also gained North Fork Brewing Company last June. The brewery is housed in the former Second Street firehouse and specializes in wild yeast beers in addition to IPAs and other popular styles.

A little bit off the fork, Westhampton Beach Brewing Company celebrated the grand opening of its brick-and-mortar tasting room last July in the Hampton Business District at Francis S. Gabreski Airport.

Sip and sail

Get your tequila — and a taco — aboard the new Greenport Harbor Cruise. Marc LaMaina, owner of Lucharitos, a taqueria and tequila joint, is spearheading the new cruises through East End Foodie Tours. Guests can enjoy a two-hour-long excursion on the Peconic Bay aboard a newly restored vintage 43-foot Matthews boat. Drop anchor and enjoy a Lucharitos taco and margarita tasting on the water. Tours will depart from Greenport Harbor four times a day: 10:30 a.m. and 1, 3:30 and 6 p.m.

(Photo Credit: Marc LaMaina)

“We believe the cruise would fill a niche in Greenport,” LaMaina said. “The response has been huge.”

Tours can be booked through Facebook on the East End Foodie Tours page.

There is also another way to boat and booze — just not in the way you’d think. The Dory on Shelter Island is giving its guests a way to enjoy an adult beverage (or two) without having to worry about transportation between the restaurant and the ferry. Owner Jack Kiffer is assuming a new role as chauffeur. This summer, he will pick up restaurant patrons who walk onto the North and South ferries, which will save them the cost of vehicle fares.

A Guide to Tasting Rooms on the East End

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