FAJO’s guide to the Hamptons
Photography by / courtesy of Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Topping Rose House and The Living Room
FAJO Picks — Stylish Venues
Whether you’re looking to join the influx of New Yorkers in the warm months, or escape the crowds for picturesque fall or winter activities, nothing says luxury like the jewel of New York: the Hamptons.
Living is easy on this beach-lined escape from the urban jungle, and FAJO has the perfect weekend escape for style, food and wine because who needs anything more?
Wölffer Estate Vineyard
The Tuscan villa that is Wölffer Estate Vineyard is set in Sagaponack, NY, near Bridgehampton, on the premier equestrian facility Wölffer Estate Stables — the inspiration for the iconic horse imagery on their wine packaging. An American winery with European character, this is one of Long Island’s top wineries. It sits on 55 acres of land that produce 37,500 cases of wine each year.
Large French doors open onto a stone terrace that overlooks the perfectly manicured vineyard and draws locals, New York City dwellers and celebrities, such as Christie Brinkley, Lo Bosworth, Kelly Reilly and Bobby Flay to their grounds. It is no coincidence then that the fashionable and stylish founder of mobile shopping-truck The Styleliner is also winery co-owner Joey Wölffer.
The vineyard, which was founded in 1988 and started producing wine in 1992, is best known for its Chardonnays and rich Merlots, and their rosés are a New York City favourite. You may remember Page Six reporting an actual rosé shortage in the Hamptons. Wölffer was involved: their staple “Summer in a bottle” rosé sold by the hundreds before buyers even had a chance to taste it. Once it was officially bottled and ready, it sold out in less than a month.
The quality of Long Island wineries is gaining both momentum and acclaim, as its winning combination of climate and soil is most similar to Bordeaux, and they aren’t subject to the Bordeaux region’s growing restrictions, such as grape mixing. The vineyard is sustainably farmed, and the grapes are hand-harvested as well as hand-sorted.
We met with Roman Roth, Wölffer’s winemaker, to talk about the process and their special vineyard culture. Roth, described by his colleagues as “an artist and a mad scientist,” takes pride in the consistency of his wine and had us taste a Lombardo from 2011, the year of Hurricane Sandy. “Everybody can make good wine in a good year, but it says something when you can make good wine every year,” he said.
Roth’s focus is on making food-friendly wines, which explains why his wines can be found in New York City’s finest dining establishments, such as Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin, and why his winery plays host to the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne fundraiser.
Indeed, the views of the vineyards from their terrace and their wine stand — a second seating area to the other side of the winery — are picture-perfect, and an ideal backdrop for hosting a few to hundreds of wine-lovers alike, especially during the winery’s popular Sunset Fridays & Saturdays. Their wine classes and tours aren’t stern or pretentious, but rather light and fun. Roth says that somewhere along the way, the pleasure behind learning about and tasting wine was lost, and it became a very serious affair.
Topping Rose House
Only open for a little more than a year, Topping Rose House has quickly become one of the Hamptons’ top luxury hotels — with reason. Nestled in the quiet town of Bridgehampton between Southhampton, East Hampton and Sag Harbor, the Greek-revival manor of the 1840s has been restored to a 22-room hotel, though it hasn’t in the least lost its classic charm. The art, curated by Christine Wächter-Campbell from the Winston Wächter gallery in Manhattan, adds a youthful and quirky twist to the modern but classic look of the manor.
Where Topping Rose House truly differentiates itself is in its reinvention of the full-service concept. Trek bikes are offered for those looking for a town or beach ride, luxury Lexus car service to and from a variety of popular Bridgehampton destinations is available to all guests (as well as the option to take the Lexus for up to five hours for a personal use), while beach chairs and umbrellas are supplied for a trip to the beach. In addition, a basket of local snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden await guests in their serene rooms. All of these services are complimentary. Guests are also welcome to unwind at the satellite Naturopathica Spa in the hotel, or use the heated outdoor saltwater pool, hot tub and yoga studio.
American celebrity chef Tom Colicchio (co-founder of the acclaimed Gramercy Tavern and recipient of five James Beard Foundation Awards) has an outpost in the restaurant at the House. Chef de cuisine, Kyle Koenig, who has worked for Colicchio for five years, manages their one-acre garden, which he says makes for approximately a quarter of what is served in the restaurant. We strolled the garden with Koenig, passing fresh organic tomatoes, corn, squash and edible flowers. “The garden tells me what we’ll be serving a month out,” says Koenig, adding, “80 per cent of the farm is an experiment; we’ll see what grows best where and readjust for [future] seasons.”
Highlights at the restaurant include fresh and light lobster roll, the fluke crudo with watermelon and the potato-roll burger. If you happen to spot Koenig on one of his many walks between the garden and the restaurant, ask for a tour (which he’ll be happy to give), and look out for some of the fresh produce that will eventually make its way to your plate.
The Living Room restaurant
Inside East Hampton’s c/o The Maidstone hotel, lives one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the region: The Living Room. Both Scandinavian in design and influence, the menu here mostly consists of locally sourced ingredients, except where specific items must be imported from Sweden to retain the true flavours of the dishes. Similarly, the wine list is a combination of wines from Long Island’s favourite wineries as well as international classics.
Walking into The Living Room feels like walking into a large but intimate Nordic dining space: minimalist furniture and busy-patterned walls adorn the venue.
Chef Mathias Brogie — who just arrived from Sweden this summer — offers a six-course tasting menu. While the traditional Swedish meatballs don’t make the cut (they are offered à la carte), each dish will have you say it’s your favourite…until the next one is set before you.
Noteworthy are the Grilled “Living Room” Oysters, the signature foie gras tacos and the grilled halibut. Lemon beurre blanc and shallots top the grilled oysters and add a sweet, buttery finish. The tacos are served with edemame purée, pistachios and mango chutney, while the incredibly fresh halibut comes with an authentic merguez, dried olives and mussel aioli.
The Living Room’s commitment to the Slow Food Movement is evident in the freshness and thoughtfulness of each dish, where the Nordic tradition and culture of cooking are fine twists on American food. Regardless of where you are visiting in the Hamptons, we predict The Living Room will be an east-end staple, and it should not be missed.