There’s something about eating outside. The fresh air, the breeze, sights and sounds. You feel hungrier and somehow more relaxed. The food tastes better. And if it tastes better outside, just think how it will taste in a vineyard. Don’t think too long, because at Lenz they’re at it with their Dinner in the Vines series. The winery pairs up with a local chef, who sources all the ingredients locally, and each course is paired with the winery’s latest releases.
The winery sells tickets with a discount going to members of their wine club. And they’ve been selling out.
The first dinner was in August 2009 with Tom Schaudel of A Mano in Mattituck behind the grill.
In the spring, the dinner featured the three sparkling wines Lenz had out and was prepared by Eric Orlowski of the Fifth Season in Port Jefferson.
Dorothy-Dean Thomas, a marketing consultant at Lenz, organizes the dinners, and says the initial dinner met with resistance from the town. The development rights to the land under vine had been sold to the county years before. When Southold Town found this out, they said they would not allow something for which the winery had sold tickets to take place there.
Thomas called the county, where she learned that educational activities are allowed on land without development rights. Their dinners, because all the elements are local, are considered good for the region.
Now the dinners, which are modeled on a traveling outdoor dining outfit called “Outstanding in the Field,” are held at a communal table amid the vines. Local flowers adorn the tables, and an outdoor kitchen is set up so the chef can work tableside. Aldo’s coffee is served at the end.
Thomas says the future dinners will be seasonal, leading to a varying menu.
“People are really interested now in knowing where their food comes from,” she says. “It gives us an opportunity to promote our wines and what’s in the area.”