In the Mets 6-3 victory against the Padres, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and David Wright all socked home runs. But it was the blast by pitcher Bartolo Colon that made all the headlines. In his 19th season, just 17 days shy of his 43rd birthday, “Big Sexy,” as Colon likes to refer to himself, became the oldest major leaguer to hit his first home run, passing the record set by Randy Johnson who waited 480 plate appearances before hitting his first. While I haven’t had to wait 19 seasons to visit all the wineries on the East End, it just seems that way. And because Harbes Family Farm is seasonal, I had to wait until Mother’s Day weekend before I could cross that winery off my list.
While Harbes Family Farm on Sound Avenue in Matttuck is best known for their fall festivals, Harbes is also a wine producer. Ed Harbes, from a long line of East End farmers, and his wife Monica, started Harbes Family Farm Stand in 1978. After years of farming, the Harbes family ventured into wine in 2003, planting a vineyard at the edge of their Mattituck farm. From a simple farm stand, the Harbes empire now has three North Fork locations: Jamesport, Riverhead and Mattituck, which is the flagship location. That is where the wine tasting barn is located. It is also the location of corn mazes, pig races, a popular Barnyard Adventure and numerous festivals.
If you go wine tasting on a weekend, don’t be turned off by the traffic or the number of cars parked at the farm. The tasting barn, which is behind the main farm stand, has its own small parking area, while the farm may be crowded, the tasting room is usually not overwhelmed with people, so you should have no trouble doing a tasting. Since this was my first visit to Harbes for the year, I did a full tasting, starting off with their Blanc de Blanc, a quite refreshing all-Chardonnay sparkling wine produced in the traditional méthode champenoise style. Next I did a comparison of Chardonnays: the 2012 barrel-fermented and the 2014 stainless steel. While both were excellent, I preferred the stainless steel. Which puts me good company, as the stainless steel chardonnay is their most popular white wine. A pair of red wines from 2013 were next: the Red Blend (Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc) and the Hallock Lane Merlot. While the Merlot was great, the Red Blend Bordeaux Blend was spectacular. I finished my tasting with 2014 Semi-Dry Rose, which is made from Merlot. With hints of watermelons and strawberries, my appetite was now whetted for some lunch.
While nibbling on a sandwich at Wendy’s Deli in Mattituck, three miles east of Harbes and directly across the street from the Premium Wine Group and Bridge Lane Cellars, I started thinking about how to celebrate the end of my journey. Of course there was going to be the blueberry cream pie from Briermere Farms. But I should do more. Then it hit me. What better way to celebrate the end of my “grand tour” then with a totally local meal for dinner. First stop after lunch was Catapono Dairy Farm on Country Route 48 in Peconic, just off Peconic Lane and about seven miles east of Wendy’s. Founded by Michael and Karen Catapano in 2003, the Dairy Farm specializes in artisanal goat cheese and skin care products. Lots of great cheeses to choose from, but I went with the Herbed Chevre and the Fresh Whole Milk Ricotta. The Ricotta cheese would be my appetizer and the chevre I would use for an omelet.
Next was 1760 Homestead Farm for some eggs. 1760 is located on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, near Twin Stills Moonshine. The 4.2 acre farm has belonged to only a few families since it was established in 1760 by The Terrys. The current owners, Larry and Margaret Kaiser purchased the property in 2014 from the tuthills. The farm not only offers an assortment of eggs, but they have heirloom vegetables and unique native Long Island perennials. You can never have enough eggs, so I went with a dozen of the blue eggs as well as a dozen of the pink eggs. (Sorry Dr. Seuss fans, no green eggs were available.)
Continuing east, I reached the always crowded Briermere Farms on Sound Aveune for the promised blueberry cream pie. Briermere is a farm and bakery. All of their pies, bread, muffins, cookies, cakes, jams are made on their farm from scratch and most of the fresh fruit used in their bakery is grown right on the farm. For more than 50 years, the McCombe family have farmed the 200+ acres, which extends from the back of the bakery down to the Long Island Sound, planting a variety of fruits and vegetables, many of which are used daily in their bakery. Since their arrival on the North Fork in 1961, things have changed enormously since the days of growing potatoes and cauliflower. Now it is vineyards, breweries, distillers, and popular harvest festivals.
My final farm stand stop was a return visit to Schmitts Farm. When I was there in March, the selection of fresh produce was slim. Today’s visit was completely different and the cupboards were anything but bare. Hmmm. What should I put in my omelet. An onion, of course. Perhaps I’ll cut up a few potatoes. And some asparagus would be nice.
That evening I toasted my success and the success of the Long Island wine industry with a glass of the Blanc de Blanc I had purchased earlier in the day from Harbes. This was accompanied by an appetizer of Fresh Whole Milk Ricotta. The remainder of the ingredients were combined into an omelet. Except for the olive oil and a few condiments, all the ingredients were local. Of course I finished with the infamous blueberry cream pie, which did not disappoint.
As I was reveling in my success, I realized that my quest was not complete. I had forgotten about Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn and there were still a few private label wines that do not have a tasting room. So after over 1,700 miles, it looks like my game will be going into extra innings. Which is not necessarily a bad thing
Today’s Line Score: 1 wineries, 6 wines and 140 miles.
Season Statistics: 41 wineries, 163 wines and 1,770 miles
To read the previous blog in this series