10/22/13 5:00pm
10/22/2013 5:00 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Taste North Fork shuttle bus stops are now scheduled for 25 locations during Veteran’s Day weekend.

With less than a month to go, details of the first-ever Taste North Fork festival are falling into place with more than 50 local wineries, restaurants, hotels and shops signing up to participate.

On Tuesday, Hampton Jitney released the official list of more than 20 stops (see below) the free shuttles will be making on Veteran’s Day weekend.

The three-day event will feature a full range of activities celebrating local wines and foods across the region. Wineries, as well as local breweries and distilleries, will be invited to offer special tasting menus paired with foods from local restaurants.

The buses will run in a loop between Riverhead and Greenport. There will also be feeder buses from the Cross Sound Ferry and Long Island Rail Road. Stops will be made at each location approximately every 45 minutes during business hours.

The pilot program is being made possible through a portion of a $335,000 “I Love NY” grant, aiming to help promote agritourism on the East End. Since the East End Tourism Alliance, Long Island Wine Council and North Fork Promotion Council unveiled the plan in August the event has received an overwhelming response from local businesses and town officials, organizers said.

Southold, Greenport and Mattituck have all signed on to host their own “mini-festivals” in honor of Taste North Fork through the holiday weekend.

North Fork Promotion Council president Joan Bischoff said he hopes the shuttle program can continue next year for the entire summer season.

“We have to make sure it’s not a bridge to nowhere,” he said. “We would like some sort of annual event in the slow season to bring in tourists.”

The list of stops are as follows:

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard

Bedell Cellars

Castello di Borghese

Clovis Point

Coffee Pot Cellars

Duck Walk Vineyards

Jamesport Vineyards

Jason’s Vineyard

Kontokosta Winery

Macari

Osprey’s Dominion

Palmer Vineyards

Pellegrini Vineyards

Pindar

Raphael

RoanokeVineyards

Sannino Bella Vita Vineyards

Sherwood House Vineyards

Sparkling Pointe

Waters Crest Winery

LI Spirits Craft Distillery

Greenport

Southold

Mattituck

Orient Point (Cross Island Ferry connection)

cmurray@timesreview.com 

10/20/13 8:00am
10/20/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Seven-year-old James McGrath of Islip hauls a pumpkin last Saturday at Gabrielsen’s Country Farm in Jamesport. Pumpkin-picking is one reason people flock to the North Fork in the fall, leading to plenty of traffic.

I love my commute to work. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one around here who considers it a privilege to be able to drive Sound Avenue and other scenic routes in the area during their daily commute. Driving into – or even away from – a rising sun while farmers tend their fields or passing a tractor rolling along seems to offer a sense of “away-from-it-all” peace that, for me at least, makes the daily drive pretty enjoyable.

Then comes the weekend.

JOSEPH PINCIARO

JOSEPH PINCIARO

Particularly this time of year, as most of us know, those drives — though you’re often not doing too much actual “driving,” but rather “slowly traveling” — can easily become a little less enjoyable.

Yes, it’s pumpkin-picking season. Corn maze season. Apple-picking season.

If you haven’t already, you’ll probably read plenty on Facebook or maybe hear it in the grocery store about those dreaded tourists, the people from “up west” who annually swarm the slice of heaven we’re blessed to be able to call home year-round. They’ll pay someone to harvest their crops for them (extra points for the farmer who thought that one up!), the young-uns will post some selfies on Instagram (look guys, no pavement!) and someone might even bring grandma out into the farm in an electric wheelchair (I actually saw that one last weekend).

What they’re all doing, ultimately, is clogging up all these one-horse (or five-lane) roads and getting in our way as we just try to get our hair cut or make a trip to the hardware store.

They really should just go back to where they came from and leave us all alone, right?

I honestly doubt many people out there think all tourists should leave us alone. But what do we do exactly — close the gates at the Brookhaven Town border?

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, a place people don’t really travel to. They live there, as do their family and friends, and they have fun together and watch the Red Sox together and make plenty of beautiful memories there. And they travel short distances when they want to be somewhere different for a weekend or so. Now, I happen to live in that place I used to travel to.

So I guess I don’t really get some of the complaints about tourists. If someone’s drive is delayed 20 minutes because people are dragging their bags of pumpkins across the street and wheeling their kids down the road in their wagons, to me that means a lot of people really wanted to come to the area I live in. Which I think is pretty neat.

I do hear horror stories about the way some tourists behave. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all tourists are angels or that dealing with agritourism traffic couldn’t be improved. But let’s not let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. And we’ve all heard that saying about people in glass houses (not greenhouses), right?

I was told by Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, that from Labor Day through the end of October, agritourism will generate anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of the annual revenue that comes into the farms that I’m able to enjoy long after those families are gone, the pumpkins rotted on their doorsteps. Agriculture as a whole in Suffolk County leads the state in terms of sales dollars generated, according to a 2010 study, bringing in over $240 million. And Cornell University found in the early 2000s that over 70 percent of farm owners said their agritourist customers were repeat customers, while nearly half of the customers themselves reported spending money at those destinations on more than one occasion.

I’m not exactly sure what all those numbers mean when it comes down to a direct impact on my pocket.

But if working around really bad traffic for a few weekends — or just staying home and doing work around the house or watching college football — is part of the cost of maintaining those morning drives on Sound Avenue while most of the tourists are taking the LIRR, I’ll take it.

Joseph Pinciaro is the managing editor of The News-Review. He can be reached at jpinciaro@timesreview.com or 631-298-3200, ext. 238. Follow him on Twitter @cjpinch.

08/04/13 8:00am
08/04/2013 8:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A reality television show led a Times/Review intern to ask around this week about the silly things tourists say.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A reality television show led a Times/Review intern to ask around this week about the silly things tourists say.

“We’re gonna go to the wine vineyards,” the young woman said.

“Where?” her friend asked.

“In, like, North Fork,” she responded.

This was an exchange between two stars on the last episode of the reality TV show “Princesses: Long Island,” the latest offering from Bravo. Though the girls on the show hail from Nassau County, they ventured out to the Sparkling Pointe vineyard in Southold for the July 28 episode.

Reactions to our homeland were varied: One girl compared the vineyard to the Garden of Eden, while another actually relieved herself in between the rows of grapes.

As drama ensued, one character cried to her parents on the phone, asking if there were an airport nearby so she could take a private jet back to her hometown. As she started walking to Route 48, her friend screamed, “Don’t walk toward the freeway!”

Finally, as the crying girl explained to the camera that she just wanted to leave, she lamented, “But we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

The princesses’ take on the North Fork can’t help but evoke memories of the different ways tourists react to our communities on Long Island’s East End.

It inspired me to ask around this week uncover some of the funny, absurd and borderline insulting things folks in the local tourist industry have heard out-of-towners say.

I left out their names and kept their businesses out of the piece in an effort to encourage them to share the really good stuff.

ON THE FARM

“This one guy asked us, ‘How many seeds are in your tomatoes?’ We said we really didn’t know, so he had us cut them open and look. He said he liked to eat his tomatoes like apples and didn’t like a lot of seeds.”

farm stand employee, Mattituck

“My friend works as a waitress out here and one time a little kid ordered a glass of milk to drink and his dad said to him, ‘It’s gonna take a little while because they have to go out back and milk the cow. We’re in the country and that’s how they do it out here.’”

restaurant worker, Riverhead

“One time, this lady came in and she looks outside and then at me and goes, ‘Are the animals out there real?’ I just stared at her for a minute because I was thinking, ‘Is this lady for real?’ Then I just said, ‘Yes.’ ”

farmer, Cutchogue

Out to eat

“Once this guy came in at like 11:55 p.m., we close at midnight, and he was sitting at the bar. He looked at me and said, ‘Hey, you, call a cab would ya?’ The bartender was like, ‘This is the North Fork; we don’t have cabs.’ ”

restaurant worker, Southold

“While I was working, tourists came in and sat at one of the tables up against the wall that used to be a booth. After I cleared their dishes and was at the counter, just like seven feet away, one woman very loudly said, ‘Service these days. Whatever happened to serve from the left, take from the right?’ which was physically impossible without taking their plates through the window outside. Then the other woman said, ‘I guess they don’t do that out here.’ ”

restaurant worker, Southold Town

“We get lavish requests for sandwiches sometimes. When we ring them up, people are always surprised and comment how the Hamptons is so much more expensive. They are also always asking where the wineries are and where ‘Herbie’s Farm’ is.”

deli worker, Mattituck

OUT AND ABOUT

“One time my friend and I were at Scoops eating ice cream and a group of tourists came up to us and were whispering really loudly, like ‘Oh my gosh, they must be locals’ and gawking at us like we were animals at the zoo.”

Cutchogue resident

“I was on the Cross Sound Ferry in June and a lady was telling her son to wave goodbye to the Hamptons.”

store clerk, Mattituck

Of course this column is meant to be funny. I recognize the tourism economy is a great thing for my hometown and most of the folks who come out here get what we’re all about.

Just do me a favor, though, next time you come visit: Try not to pee in the vineyard.

Ms. Leaden is a student at Manhattan College. She lives in Cutchogue and worked at Times/Review Newsgroup this summer as an intern on a New York Press Association scholarship. She can be reached at intern@timesreview.com.

04/19/13 8:00am
04/19/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Summertime at Iron Pier Beach in Northville. The calm bay and Sound beaches are a big attraction for vacationing families with small children, says Islip resident David Cogliano.

Longtime Islip resident Dave Cogliano and his family, who have summered on Fire Island for the past seven years, now have their sights set on the North Fork for a season of beach bathing and barbecues.

As of now, the family is looking for houses in Mattituck or Jamesport.

“Rather than figuring out which homes [on Fire Island] have mold or damage, we decided to rent on the North Fork,” Mr. Cogliano said. “It’s beautiful. It’s different. I want to check it out.”

The Coglianos are not alone.

With Hurricane Sandy having devastated popular summer spots in the tri-state area, like Fire Island and several Jersey Shore communities, those in the local tourism and hospitality industries are preparing for what could be one of the busiest summer seasons on record. The North Fork’s infrastructure was largely unaffected by Sandy, in comparison to other locations, and the pricier Hamptons aren’t an option for most middle-income families eager to spend a week, a month or longer away from home.

By April, most Jersey Shore and Fire Island rentals have been leased, but ongoing reconstruction and a sharp drop in the number of available rentals has taken its toll.

Bob Hilton, executive director of the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates that more than 50 percent of rentals were lost during Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast Oct. 29. Mr. Hilton said some businesses have since been trying to make the best of a bad situation, but he freely admits certain pockets of the Jersey Shore cannot reopen as they had before the storm.

The situation is similar on Fire Island, where the Army Corps of Engineers just began removing the first piles of debris last month. Many homes on the barrier island will need to be demolished. In those that withstood the storm, concerns about mold or other structural damage are preventing some homeowners from renting out their properties at all this season, said Grace Corradino, a broker with Fire Island Living Real Estate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baiting Hollow farmer Jeff Rottkamp turning over a field for early sweet corn. North Fork tourism officials frequently highlight the region’s farms, shops and waterways.

Other issues, like spotty Internet and cellphone service and the decimation of dunes and beaches, are also deterring visitors, she said.

Meanwhile, at Colony Real Estate in Jamesport, the phones have been “ringing off the hook” with potential seasonal renters, said agent Dolores Peterson.

The company has already rented 10 summer homes this year, Ms. Peterson said, and business is not slowing down.

“It’s picked up quite a bit since last year,” she said. “People always ask how we made out during the hurricane. I tell them to come check it out. We were very lucky.”

Greenport Village Business Improvement District director Peter Clarke expects a tourism surge in his waterfront village this year.

“One of the things we tried to do before Christmas was let people know we are open for business, we have power and all of our stores aren’t destroyed,” Mr. Clarke said.

The village has a host of plans to prepare for the summer months. The BID is developing maps and signage to outline the business district for visitors, he said.

Village officials are currently working with the BID to develop a way to manage summer parking, according Mayor David Nyce. In March 2012, the board voted against installing parking meters downtown. Mr. Clarke said the BID plans to use additional signage to point visitors to the village’s ample municipal parking lots behind Front Street stores and on Adams Street.

It seems they’re right to be preparing ahead of time for more visitors than in years past.

“Most summer weekends at this point are already sold out,” Greenporter Inn owner Deborah River Pittorino said. “Greenport is busier than ever.”

Other area hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead are also reporting a record number of bookings. Sales director Meghan Mathesen said the hotel is almost sold out seven days a week from May through October. “Summer has always been busy, but there is a high demand for hotel rooms this year,” she said.

Last year, direct tourist spending generated $9.2 million, according to the North Fork Promotion Council.

Tourism is critical to the viability of the North Fork’s small business community and agricultural operations, according to council president Joan Bischoff.

With a substantial number of tourism-dependent seasonal jobs, visitor traffic is crucial for local employment and area economy, Mr. Bischoff said.

To support the small businesses and the tourism industry in general, the North Fork Promotion Council — whose members include the North Fork and Mattituck chambers of commerce — has recently partnered with East End Tourism Alliance to undertake collaborative marketing projects, he said. To help manage vehicle traffic in the coming months and beyond, for example, the groups plan to test the viability of a shuttle network, which could increase tourism without burdening local roadways, infrastructure and natural assets.

Mr. Cogliano said it’s the North Fork’s natural beauty that attracted him to the area, but its family-friendly atmosphere makes it ideal for his two young children. He said the waterways provide a lot of options for fun, and that boating, fishing and lazy beach days will all be on the agenda.

After a fall season slowed by Sandy and other storms, local business owners are welcoming the expected increase in tourism this summer.

“We need a really great summer for businesses to recover what they lost due to Sandy,” said North Fork realtor Donielle Cardinale, a member of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce. Storm damage caused some Mattituck businesses to close for extended periods for reconstruction, she said, and in some cases, inventory was destroyed due to wind and prolonged power outages.

Some business owners incorporated Sandy-related repairs with re-branding efforts as well as construction upgrades.

Ms. Cardinale called the North Fork a “warm” and welcoming place for visitors, and expressed confidence that any newcomers will enjoy their stays here.

“The entire community is like ‘Cheers’! Everyone is friendly,” she said. “It’s going to be an exciting summer.”

cmurray@timesreview.com