Winterfestival1Until last weekend it wasn’t obvious, but winter is upon us. And while most of the farm stands are boarded up for the season, just about all of Long Island’s East End wineries, bed and breakfasts, and restaurants remain open.

Believe it or not, this is one of the best times to visit Long Island wine country. The summer crowds are a memory, the rush of harvest season is over and the 2005 vintage is resting comfortably in barrels and bottles before release. Tasting room staff can spend more time with you, it’s easier to get a reservation at the best restaurants, and accommodations are much more reasonably priced.

To help get people out to the wineries in the month of February, the Long Island Wine Council, Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission and the East End Arts Council are sponsoring the Long Island Wine Country Winter Festival, which will feature special discounts at the East End’s best restaurants, hotels, B&B’s and, of course, wineries.

Every weekend throughout the month offers a different theme as well, with participating businesses catering their events and specials to fit the theme. On February 4 and 5, you can get away with the girls (while the guys are watching football) for the festival’s Women’s Weekend/Girl’s Getaway. Enjoy discounts at spas, see a film screening, check out an art exhibit and sample the best food and wine on the twin forks.

The next two weekends are devoted to Valentine’s Day and Romance. You can have your wife or girlfriend’s name carved into a vineyard fence post, sample fine chocolates with local dessert wines or spend the entire weekend at one of the area’s beautiful B&B’s at a discounted rate.

Finally, the last week in February (20-26) is Family Week. So enjoy an afternoon, a day, or a weekend with your whole family. Activities include cooking classes, a kid’s carnival and a mid-winter picnic.

To take part, you need only buy a 30-dollar Long Island Winter Festival Passport (good for a couple or family with children under 18), which is a bargain given all of the specials and discounts it entitles you to. And, with the warmer-than-normal winter weather we’ve had thus far, you should get out and enjoy Long Island’s bounty.

For further details or ticket information, please call 631-477-8493.