Sound Avenue is one of Long Island Wine Country’s staple roads, dotted with well-known vineyards like Harbes and RGNY; sweet farm stands; and sunflower fields. It’s how you really know you made it to the North Fork.
But along this road is a secret vineyard. No sign out front announcing the approach. No big, welcoming driveway. No parking lot crowded with limos. In fact, it’s actually easy to miss. This is Roanoke Vineyards, an exclusive members-only vineyard in Riverhead, NY, with grapes that span across 10 acres of land.
According to Scott Sandell, marketing and creative director of Roanoke Vineyards, the reason it’s so exclusive is because of its size. The vineyard is a small producer and only kicks out about 4,000 cases of wine per year. Its calling card is a natural terroir, meaning the grounds don’t look manicured and landscaped. The experience centers on the beautiful wines that are painstakingly produced by attention to the vines at Roanoke, instead of the Instagrammable moments and picture-worthy charcuterie boards that most others offer.
“When we looked at our production, our process, and exactly where we wanted to place our efforts, the answer was absolutely in the vineyard, and not as an entertainment venue, or restaurant with a vineyard attached. We wanted a place where people could count on high quality wines, and we wanted to be sure the members of our wine club were the recipients. Almost all of the estate portfolio goes to members,” says Sandell.
The winery itself is simple and no-fuss. A small outdoor seating area, much smaller than NoFo’s winery majority, makes customer service seamless at Roanoke. The inside tasting room, which is quaint, has just been redesigned to accommodate private tastings for groups.
What Are the Wines Like?
Because Roanoke pays so much attention to its vineyard, it may be hard to duplicate bottles year after year, so the portfolio tends to be more unique than steady.
“The portfolio is completely dependent upon what happens in the vineyard. Some years it changes almost entirely. There are plenty of stories here, but we feel we need to be agile, and take the best advantage of any vintage,” says Sandell.
He says that the brand’s site specific/estate wines are mostly dispersed to its members and are available on-site for sipping, but there are a few that are sometimes offered for public consumption that are sought after.
“There’s often a run on the store when we release The Wild! (a wild fermented Chardonnay), and Marco Tulio (a very popular North Fork red blend),” he says. Additionally, Roanoke’s Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Long Island’s highest scoring wines with 95 points from Wine Spectator. So basically, these wines mean business.
How Do I Become a Member?
The process of becoming a member isn’t exactly hard and is free, but there is a waiting list. Sandell explains that because of its limited production, wine club members are, well, limited. New members can wait for weeks up to several months until a spot opens up.
“People should absolutely grab an application. There’s not much attrition in our membership, but openings do occur,” he says.
Members receive several bottles four times per year, with a range of $95 to $125 per delivery. Each delivery can be picked up or shipped. While the major perk of becoming a wine member is the ability to enjoy the winery itself, there are actually more great reasons to join. You get a free tasting flight for yourself and a guest while you visit, discounts on bottles and glasses and access to a full schedule of members-only events.
What If I Want to Try Before I Buy?
If you don’t want to become a member of the wine club, there is still a way you can get a sip of these exclusive blends. The vineyard has a wine shop on Love Lane in Mattituck (one of the cutest streets in wine country!) where you can taste what’s available. Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and fully equipped with a walk-up window for ordering, sit in the outdoor seating area for a glass or two of wine and a charcuterie board, then go home with your favorite sippers from the wine shop. A wine club member bonus at the shop: discounts on bottles of Wölffer Estate, as esteemed winemaker Roman Roth does double duty at both wineries.
“We are always going to be focused on the wines. If wine is your passion, we would love to have you join us,” notes Sandell.
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