Like a lot of people who grew up on suburban Long Island, I couldn't wait to leave. I spent my twenties trying to escape, eventually moving 3,000 miles away, to France. Naturally I was skeptical that the wine region on the rural North Fork of Long Island could live up to its nickname, the Napa of the East, much less rival French wine country. But since moving back to the Island four years ago, I've heard about how exciting the area has become, with more than 3,000 acres of vineyards and charming restaurants and shops opening every year.
So one Friday afternoon I found myself on the Long Island Expressway with my husband, Bill, trailing the eastbound Hampton Jitney. When the bus veered south toward the Hamptons, the moneyed enclave across Peconic Bay from the North Fork, we headed north on Main Road into the old whaling village of Greenport, where we would be staying at the Greenporter Hotel and Spa.
As we drove into town, I realized that the North Fork is nothing like the bedroom community where I grew up. Instead of split-levels, there are white-clapboard houses; instead of strip malls, there are farm stands with orchards and fields behind them stretching to Peconic Bay. The North Fork also has a reputation as the retro alternative to the high-powered Hamptons, and the Greenporter, a renovated 1950s motor lodge, seems to confirm that. But the hotel also offers vinotherapy treatments as well as Frette linens and Annick Goutal bath products in its 15 guest rooms. Fifteen more rooms and a full-service spa are under construction.