Mattituck Winery in Tasting Room Limbo

Sherwood House Vineyards is facing pressure from Southold Town to close one facility while it awaits word on another site plan in front of the Planning Board.

, long known for its quaint outdoor tasting area on Elijah's Lane in Mattituck, could soon be out of any tasting facility at all in town, at least temporarily.

Under pressure from to close the tasting barn, because it sits on preserved land, Sherwood House's owners are in the process of trying to get another outdoor site plan approved by the Planning Board.

The winery also operates an indoor tasting room on Route 25 in Jamesport.

Raymond Huntington of the town's Land Preservation Committee spoke with town board members on Tuesday morning, asking the town to move forward in enforcing the preservation easement on which the outdoor tasting facility sits.

"We recognize the importance of ancillary activities in order to sell products," he said. "There should be and are limits on the easement. We want that easement enforced ... they are operating a marketing facility on preserved land."

The tasting barn, surrounded by patio furniture which allows wine tasters to enjoy the weather outdoors amid the vines, is located a couple of hundred yards from the road near the corners of Oregon and Elijah's Lanes. Problems, Huntington said, include using the retail facility on site and a "commercial driveway" in order to get there from the road. The land, he was, was preserved in 1996, the same year Sherwood House started planting grapes, according to its website.

The winery's owner, Barbara Smithen, said on Wednesday, "we are moving it. We are very, very aware."

She added that the town was "dragging" during the initial stages of her new site plan process, though conceded that her application has since "been moving pretty fast considering the town has a lot of other things on its agenda."

Monday's Planning Board meeting has Sherwood House on its agenda. The new facility - not located on preserved land - is also outdoors, and Smithen says all her I's are dotted and T's are crossed to ensure Sherwood House's new home – which she called a sculpture garden - will be up and running soon. According to planning department documents, two patios totaling nearly 900 square-feet are proposed. 

"There's really nothing we haven't addressed," she said on Thursday. "We are going to set a precedent for other people who want to do this."

But whether the transition from its current location to its proposed new one is seamless remains to be seen. 

The town ordered the winery to cease and desist operations at the Elijah's Lane facility in August, 2010 according to zoning inspector Damon Rallis. As the winery has continued operations – its website says it is open seven days a week, and Smithen said it opened after Memorial Day – the town is considering filing an injunction to put a court-ordered halt to operations.

"That's great [that they have another site plan in the works]," said Town Attorney Martin Finnegan. "But that doesn't mean they can violate the easement in the meantime."


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