Author: Corin Hirsch - a Long Island native who covers food, drinks and restaurants for Newsday.
On an island with dozens of wineries, Del Vino Vineyards is one of only a scant handful outside of the East End. Tucked into a bucolic corner of Northport, Del Vino’s unique geography is not its only quirk: The winery is also one of the few with a full-service restaurant; one that serves Mediterranean fare such as grilled octopus and margherita pizza.
So it makes sense that it takes weeks to book a table here, nearly three years after owners Fred and Lisa Giachetti opened their 11-acre vineyard on a former apple farm. What will you find when you get there, and what does the long wait time for a table say about us?
1. We love a good manicure.
The roadside presence of Del Vino is striking and lush, awash in sunflowers that cluster around an often-locked ornate iron gate. Just beyond is a stone fountain and more flawlessly groomed gardens, the handsome facade of the winery itself (a restored farmhouse), a few outdoor patios and some of the most neatly trimmed grapevines you will ever see. Seriously: Hand pruning must be a daily task here. If you’ve been to one of those wineries in France or New Zealand where the winemaker trudges out in boots to sample wines inside a wooden hut, this is the opposite of that. It all engenders its own mystique, as if you’ve crossed into the Gold Coast version of wonderland.
2. We love exclusive experiences.
And that’s fortunate, because they are becoming the norm among wineries. Making a reservation at Del Vino is about delayed gratification. When booking a table for two (via OpenTable in mid-May), the first available times were in July — probably the longest I’ve waited for a reservation on Long Island. Seatings are at designated times, and even now, Del Vino is booking out four weeks in advance for weekday tables, and longer for weekends.
A pro tip, though: Walk-ins may strike kismet on weekdays, according to a hostess. I saw a few empty tables the night I visited, both inside the Italianate dining rooms and on the patios, due to rain-related cancellations. If you’re in the area, try your luck.
3. Our love for charcuterie boards, pizza and pasta is inexhaustible.
The food here could be easily dialed in, it is not: The kitchen makes most things from scratch, and chef Massimo Coscia, who hails from Florence, imbues a detail-oriented Florentine touch to dinner plates. Think pretty charcuterie boards ($36) with prosciutto, manchego, pecorino tartufo and fig jam; a few flatbreads ($15 to $18), including a decent white cauliflower-crust pizza; and lots of shareables ($12 to $18), such as olives, truffled burrata and giant, earthy meatballs in tomato sauce. There is a summer menu of Mediterranean-esque specials, too, including garlicky grilled octopus ($32) and a towering, melty croque monsieur sandwich ($19).
4. Impromptu wine tastings are likely a thing of the past, and we’re OK with that.
Not so long ago, in pre-COVID times, you could stop at an intriguing-looking winery and sidle up to their tasting bar, not knowing what to expect. Now, would-be tasters need to plan, plan, plan, as reservations and highly structured tastings are the norm — which can push out solo tasters and those on a tight budget. At Del Vino, for instance, tasting flights stopped last year, and only glasses and bottles of wine are served — although director of marketing Jennifer Pinto said flights might return in the fall and winter. "We’re looking to bring them back during the week," she said.
At Del Vino, only the whites — chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc and riesling — are grown here, while most of the reds are made from grapes brought in from Napa. Of those reds, the super-Tuscan is based on a recipe that has been in Lisa Giachetti’s family for nearly two centuries, stretching back to her family roots in the southern Italian village of San Leucio. (Malbec, pinot noir, cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon are planted here, too, but most take years to reach maturity.)
Expect to pay $10 to $12 per glass, and $38 to $47 per bottle; reserve wines are pricier, and all bottles are 25% off to-go. All of the whites I tasted are brisk and palate-pleasing (think oaky chardonnay, crisp sauv blanc), though the house rosé was on the tart side.
5. We’re thirsty for wineries outside of the East End.
Long Island wineries are clustered on the North and South Forks, which requires time and mettle to travel to (especially on congested fall weekends). The success of craft breweries here is a commentary on how we want for locally made libations in our midst. It’s tricky, given Long Island’s land crunch, to plop a winery down in the suburbs, but producing wine from grapes grown elsewhere means that wineries do not need lots of acreage to set up shop.