2004_09_food_vineyard.jpgThe end of summer is a bittersweet time for Gothamist. While it will be difficult to say goodbye to the things we love about summer – sunbathing in central park, barbeques and tube tops – the beginning of fall for a wine lover, is a very exciting time.

Harvesting of the grapes typically starts in late September and continues into October. The tours and tastings offered by most vineyards take on added dimension at this time with festivals, concerts, special events, hayrides and more. Luckily, as New Yorkers we have some great vineyards right in our backyard…

The North Fork of Long Island is home to 20 wineries and over 40 vineyards – quite a lot of wine to choose from. What’s special about these wineries is the lack of pretension and relaxed spirit they offer. Gothamist has spent a great deal of time exploring these wineries and here are our picks for navigating the North Fork:

Most Free Tastings – Pindar. If you are anything like us, living in the city has cleared out your bank account – therefore free alcohol is always a good thing. Pindar offers 20 plus wines for you to try. Once you’ve tried their 22 wines (Gothamist is no quitter) take a stroll (or in our case crawl) out back and enjoy the beautiful gazebo overlooking the vineyard.

Don’t miss: 2000 SYRAH, Pindar $12.99

2004_09_food_raphael.jpgMost Unique Tasting Room – Raphael. Stepping through the grand entrance of the Raphael Winery you are transported to a grand villa in Italy. From the European inspired fountain that greets you to the charm of the exposed rafters and tile floor, this winery delivers in marrying the Old World with the new. While most of the tastings are not free, a stop here is definitely worthwhile.

Don’t miss: 1999 First Label Merlot, Raphael $38.00

Best Events and Activities – Palmer. If you’re looking for a little action to go with your wine, then your best bet is Palmer Vineyards. Their Fall Harvest Festival beginning on September 18th (through October 31st) includes everything from free hayrides through the vineyard to live music and FREE HOTDOGS! (You know where Gothamist will be). There will also be art shows and sales featuring the great works from local artists. If that’s not reason enough to pay this winery a visit, then maybe the award winning wines will convince you.

Don’t miss: 2000 Select Reserve Red, Palmer $24.99

Great Selections of Reds and Whites – Galluccio. Whether we're in the mood for a crisp, white wine bursting with citrus fruit or a full red wine with hints of cherries and chocolate – Galluccio Vineyards delivers on all fronts. Their wines are a great expression of the Long Island terroir and can go head to head with some of the best from Napa. Also, don’t miss their 5th Annual Pig Roast on October 9th. There will be roasted pigs, great food and wine, free vineyard tours and much more. Tickets are only $15 in advance.

Don’t miss: 2000 Cru George Allaire Chardonnay, $21

Whether it’s the wine, the food or the hayrides – there are many reasons to get excited for this fall. Grab some friends and head out east because nothing beats a good Fork.