It was still early on a Saturday afternoon in Peconic, and the sky was mildly threatening. Nevertheless, Lori and Gary Smith settled comfortably into their lawn chairs, with a cooler on the lawn between them and glasses of wine in their hands.
Woody Mack tuned his guitar on the patio before them, as several other visitors to the Osprey’s Dominion winery chatted amiably over wine and cheese.
The Smiths had driven to this North Fork vineyard from their home in Merrick, as they have done on many a summer weekend, for a few hours of music and drink.
“It’s a nice way to spend the afternoon,” Lori Smith said as the strains of “My Girl” drifted over the grass, the vines and the outbuildings filled with stainless-steel vats and oak barrels of fermenting liquid. “We gave up tickets to the Yankee- Mets game and came here instead.”
Musician Mack lives in Bethpage, and during a couple of decades in the Island’s musical scene he has found that the vineyards make a nice gig. “It’s very relaxing,” he said. “You meet a lot of nice people…I enjoy it myself.”
As Long Island’s wineries have matured into a major local industry — saving farmland and helping build the North Fork, where they predominate, into a destination for up-Island and New York City day trippers as well as tourists from New England — many of them have added a little music and a little art to make their offerings more attractive. “It’s a draw to the vineyard,” said Krista Zilnicki of the Long Island Wine Council. “People are looking for things to do.”
The attractions range from low-key events such as Osprey’s Dominion’s free weekend performances to staged opera at Castello di Borghese in Cutchogue and full orchestral concerts – the Sound Symphony performs tomorrow night at Jamesport Vineyards. Events encountered on a recent day ran the gamut, from Woody Mack at Osprey through the Nick Russo Trio at Jamesport to the music, food demonstration, wagon rides, art gallery, and alpacas and goats at the Martha Clara Vineyard in Riverhead.
Everything goes on rain or shine. There’s a little gazebo overlooking the vines at Tamesport where the Nick Russo Trio played until a light sprinkle drove them into an alcove in the tasting room: “On a good day — even a rainy day — there are a couple hundred people,” manager Elizabeth Wilczynska said.
As demonstrated most elaborately by the expanse of activities at Martha Clara, there’s often more than music. On Sundays, the Palmer Vineyard in Aquebogue presents “Authors on the Vine,” in which host Larry Davidson talks with writers about their books (this weekend it’s Sarah Dunn with her first novel, “The Big Love” Little, Brown, $21.95). “It’s just a nice cultural thing we do for the people in the area,” said Palmer’s tasting room manager Susan Skrezec.. “It brings in a lot of people who maybe would never come to our vineyard.”
Art spritzer, anyone?
Several wineries have art galleries. on their grounds as well, led by the evolving sculpture garden at the Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton, one of just. three vineyards on the South Fork. Co-owner Walter Channing is the sculptor, and he is continually adding new sculptures or cunningly modified pieces of driftwood. Castello di Borghese is showing. the work of Liz Duerschmidt, who. specializes in paintings of old farm equipment. Martha Clara, which is one of the biggest wineries, hosts a branch of New York’s Hemingway Gallery, this summer showing work. from Zimbabwe. There’s a second gallery as well, which also is used as a catering hall and will be turned into a theater later this summer for a production of “The Arabian Knights,” manager Bob Kern said.
Winery hopping allowed
Unlike the Smiths at Osprey’s Dominion, few visitors spend their time at only one winery. Children are generally welcome — some wineries offer occasional events geared to kids — and most tasting rooms stock juice and soda as well as their various vintages. On the other hand, many adults, to free themselves from worry about drinking and driving, travel by limousine from one winery to the next. Osprey tasting room manager Scott Romond observed that, since his winery is one of the easternmost, it. tends to get more crowded later in the afternoon, as travelers head from west to east, often aiming for dinner in nearby Greenport at the end of a mellow day of sampling merlot, chardonnay and pinot noir