On Sunday the weather was excellent, so we decided to rent a car and drive the 100 miles (160 km) from Manhattan to the Hamptons. As you may know, the Hamptons is a favorite place for many New Yorkers to spend their weekends (or their vacation time) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s a place to see and be seen, and people love to show off their nice cars and the latest fashion.
I had not been to the Hamptons since I worked at Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Germany in the late 1990s. At that time I was doing revenue controlling for MB passenger cars in the USA and Canada, and I often tried to stay for the weekend after a business trip. I mainly remembered that I liked the area but found the beaches pretty boring, and that is actually still the case: the white sandy beaches with dunes remind me of the beaches in Holland and the water is just as cold right now!
But generally the Hamptons are a great area to spend your free time when you live in the big city. But you’ll have to make sure that you bring some money, because it’s not cheap. Buying a house is still crazy expensive. As usual we looked at some listings at real estate agents and we were shocked by what sellers dared to ask for top location properties (on the beach or bay front). For the best locations you’ll need a lot more than a few million dollars if you want a nice property. Of course you can always rent, but even that’s expensive: nice houses in good locations set you back several hundreds of thousands of dollars just for the summer.
Anyway, we were not planning to buy nor rent, so we just laughed about the prices. And likely there is a lot of negotiation possible with the prices, because what struck me as well is how many properties are on the market. I have no idea if that’s always the case, but in some streets it seemed as if almost a quarter of all houses had a for sale sign. Maybe people are just waiting for the right offer? Or is this a sign of a recession?
But people still spend a lot of money, because when we wanted to have lunch at a nice restaurant there was a huge line of people waiting to get in. So we ended up buying some salads and wraps at a deli, and ate them picnic style in the sun.
Grace and Sonja did some shopping in Bridgehampton, which has a nice village center with high end shops, while I read the New York Times on a bench in the sun. Very enjoyable, both for them and for me.
We also visited some of the beaches, but that was actually a bit hard: you are not allowed to park anywhere close to East Hampton’s beaches if you are not a resident. I remembered this from the past as well and I don’t like it too much. Non-residents are allowed on the beach, but it’s just very hard to get there without a car. We parked there anyway for a couple of minutes and luckily nobody checked our permit.
In Montauk (at the Eastern end of the peninsula) it was much easier to get to the beach by car and as a result the beaches were much more busy there. Montauk itself I did not like too much, way too touristy for my liking, probably because the place seems to be full of (cheap) motels. I liked Montauk harbor though, which is a bit further down the road from Montauk. We had drinks at a harbor front restaurant, which was very enjoyable. Many fishing boats drove by, mainly with tourist going on deep sea fishing trips.
While driving through the Hamptons we saw several signs for wineries and even for a wine route. Being a wine lover I decided to make a stop at a winery on the way back to Manhattan. We ended up at the Wolffer Estate Vineyard, a very nice, small winery located in Sagaponack.
As with most wineries, this one also had a wine tasting, so we decided to try out some of the wines. The wine tasting was not cheap (USD 18 per person), but you got value for money because we got 4 decent glasses of wine for it while sitting in the sunshine on the terrace overlooking the vineyards.
We had a sparkling wine (made out of Chardonnay grapes), a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Franc and a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend (with the name Fatalis Fatum – I forgot to ask why they gave it such an unlucky name). The wines itself were much better than I had expected, I did not realize that Long Island could produce good wines. I especially liked the Chardonnay, even though I found the price quite steep (but I guess that has to do with the fact that the winery is quite small, so you have no efficiencies of scale).
I had wanted to try their Sauvignon Blanc (which has become my favorite white wine since my trip to New Zealand in January), but you could only taste or buy that wine as a Wine Member. I found it a bit too much to become a wine member just in order to taste a wine, but I hope to one day find and taste a good Long Island Sauvignon Blanc.
After the wine tasting we made a short walk along the vines and then we headed back to Manhattan. I can understand why people like to stay in the Hamptons, and although I likely won’t come back for the beaches I may come back in the future to check out some more wineries.