The Old Field: “Next Time, Bring a Picnic!” June 23, 2019

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The expansive picnic grounds are very inviting.

https://theoldfield.com/

The parting words from our excellent server were, “Next time, bring a picnic!” This was advice which many others seem to have followed, as we noted several groups at picnic tables scattered about the grounds, enjoying bountiful repasts along with glasses of Old Field wine.  Since many wineries now request that you not bring outside food, a great reason to visit Old Field is to picnic on the lovely grounds, enjoying the chickens and ducks that wander at will and the pretty scenery, punctuated by historic buildings. 

Historic buildings? Yes, some of them date to the 1860s, as the current owners are the sixth generation of the family to farm this land.  They are particularly proud of the restored Ice House, which may be reserved for small parties (I would say ten is about the limit.), and which overlooks a pretty pond. Speaking of parties, they were also gearing up to host a wedding—we could just see the tents down near the waterfront—of 250 guests. 

We came with friends, and sat on the rustic deck for our tasting.  One friend engaged our server in conversation about the farm, learning that it spans 23 acres, with about ten devoted to grapes.  She also spoke fondly of the family of owners, who are very much hands-on, in both the field and the winery.  At harvest time, she said, she helps hand-harvest the grapes.

Old Field offers eight wines to taste, in varied configurations.  You can do Chilled, three whites and a rosé, for $12; Red, four reds for $13; Everyday, four of their lower priced wines, mixed whites and reds, for $10; or Topflight, four of their higher priced wines, again mixed whites and reds, for $13.  We decided that the three of us (one opted not to drink) would share one each of the Chilled and Red tastings, which would allow us to sample all of their wares.  Our server Irene, who had already become a pal, told us she would divide each taste between two glasses, but I have to say, looking at the size of the pour, that we got a very good deal.

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The bar.

As we sat and sipped and chatted, admiring the pretty chickens—our friends have raised chickens, and so were quite appreciative—we decided that, regardless of the wine, this was a lovely setting in which to spend the nicest day so far of the summer (as one friend kept asserting, even though summer had just started). 

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One of the tables on the rustic deck.

1.        2016 Mostly Steel Chardonnay $22

The name “Mostly Steel” refers to the fact that they use 10% oaked chardonnay in this wine, which has a green apple scent, and tastes of mineral, salt, and citrus, with just a touch of what our friend characterized as “nut butter.”

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2.       2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay       $28

Because this is fermented in neutral—or used—oak barrels, this is not too buttery.  I do get the wood taste, however, which you would recognize if you have ever chewed on a pencil.  My husband likes it better than I do.  We detect some nut smells, as well as lemon.  The taste ends with a mild citrus flavor, like Meyer lemons.

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3.       2017 Charging Goose Sauvignon Blanc    $28

Old Field likes to acknowledge their feathered friends in the names of their wines, hence the name of this one, as well as the image of a goose on the label.  This is an unfiltered wine, which means you can see tiny bits of grape floating in the bottle, and also means secondary fermentation may take place in the bottle.  I like this the best of the whites.  It has a bit of a tingle on the tongue, and tropical fruit tastes, like kiwi and guava and pineapple.  Our friend thinks it smells a bit like cider, and I agree, adding that the aroma is a bit funky.  It would go well with local bluefish, which I am cooking for dinner.

4.       2016 Cacklin’ Rosé          $22

Irene tells us that this is a dry rosé, in the French style, and spends eight hours on the skins of the merlot grapes from which it is made.  It doesn’t have much aroma, and the taste is dry, slightly acidic, though sweet at the end.  Out friend asserts it has a banana taste.  I don’t get that, and offer “tangerine.”  Well, they say there are no wrong answers when it comes to the question of what you taste in wine.

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5.       2016 Dashing Duck Red Meritage             $16

This is their Bordeaux blend, a mixture of merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and pinot noir.  The aroma is sweet, reminding us, we all agree, of a fruit punch.  Our friend asserts it recalls the taste of the water her mother would soak raisins in overnight, to plump them.  I don’t know about that, but it is certainly a light red, with no body.  One of us notes that it is a good red for people who don’t actually like red wine.

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6.       2014 Rooster Tail            $16

90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, this has the expected cherry taste and aroma of a merlot, with a slightly funky aroma.  We agree to characterize it as a “spaghetti wine.” 

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An historic photo of the Old Field Ice House is featured on the label of the wine.

7.       2014 Ice House Rescue Cabernet Franc               $45

Why the name?  They used the proceeds from the sale of this wine to finance the restoration of the ice house.  Back before there was refrigeration, people would harvest blocks of ice in the winter and store it, insulated with hay, in ice houses. This is another fairly simple red, slightly fruity, with a touch of nutmeg, plus aromas of dark fruits. It would be okay with lamb chops.

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8.       2013 Merlot      $28

I detect a scent that it takes me some time to identify, and which I decide is camphor, mixed with cherry.  There’s also a touch of something chemical at the end of the taste, though primarily it tastes of black cherry.

9.       2014 Pinot Noir

Extra!  Irene notes that, when she has an open bottle of this, she likes to share it, though usually it is only for wine club members.  Good move.  We like this the best of the reds.  It is fairly complex, with some layers of flavor, and pleasant vegetal aromas of asparagus and cut grass.

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Reasons to visit:  Lovely picnic grounds, where you can bring your own food and purchase wines to drink; if I were bringing a seafood picnic, I’d get the sauvignon blanc to drink; if I were eating cheeses and charcuterie, I might still get that, or maybe the Rooster Tail; generous pour; chickens and ducks to watch running around.

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Old Field may be the most photogenic winery on the North Fork.

Greenport Harbor Brewery: Summer Sippers June 14, 2019

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 https://greenportharborbrewing.com/

Certain beverages just seem to go with certain seasons, like icy lemonade and cold beer in the summer.  It was a beautiful sunny day on the North Fork, so we decided it was definitely beer weather, and furthermore that it was time to return to Greenport Harbor.  They have two locations:  the original small place on a back street in Greenport, and a huge space in Peconic, with a large restaurant area and outdoor lawn. Since we wanted a bite to eat, we opted for the Peconic facility.

A remodeled car dealer, the tasting room has a definite industrial vibe, with exposed beams and a concrete floor.  Simple wooden tables and benches provide seating.  The restaurant area is a separate room off to one side.  Usually, you go in there to order food, but on this day a sign instructed you to order at the bar in the tasting room.  At the bar, we carefully perused the beers on offer, aiming to try varieties we hadn’t had the last time we were there.  We wrote down our choices on a piece of paper, and asked the server to please organize the glasses in the order in which we should taste them.  Then we gave him our food order—a giant pretzel—and, after filling our tasting glasses, he handed me a device which emitted a loud buzz and flashed lights when the food was ready to be picked up.

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Hot pretzel with melted cheese. Yum.

When you order a glass or a tasting, you surrender your credit card, which you get back when you return your glasses.  A tasting consists of five generous pours for $12.

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The beer menu changes seasonally, so you never know what to expect.

Our server was quite busy when we placed our order, as a large group had gathered on the lawn outside and individual members kept coming in to make orders. In addition, it was lunch time, and we saw a number of people quietly having lunch and a beer.  However, when we were ready to leave and I went to pick up the credit card, the room was quiet, so I was able to chat with him about the names of the beers—a subject that always fascinates me.

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If you want to take some beer home, you can buy bottles, cans, or growlers.

Because we were aiming to try new flavors, we skipped my favorite of their beers:  The Black Duck Porter.  I highly recommend it if you like dark Guinness-like beers.

1.        1927 Pilsner     5% ABV (Alcohol by volume)

This was one name our server couldn’t explain, but he thought it might have been named for a restaurant which had requested this particular brew. (The menu says “brewed exclusively for The Paramount”.) In any event, the date is appropriate, because my reaction was this is a “good old-fashioned-beer beer.”  My tasting pal said, “Nothing jumps out in your mouth,” which sounded to me like something to be grateful for.  In any event, it’s a mellow, rather monochromatic, malty beer.

2.       Summer Ale       5% ABV

Good name for this light ale, which I described as a “beer on the beach” type.  Also not an exciting beer, this is an easy to drink quaff, refreshing, with a touch of sweetness.

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There’s a gift counter where you can buy t-shirts, etc.

3.       Velvet Sea          5% ABV

The server described this as “between a lager and an ale,” and clearly it is designed to go down smoothly—which might explain the name.  It smells hoppy and has some citrus taste, but not too much.  I said it was pleasant but not OMG.  I could see this with a hot dog and fries at a barbeque.

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You can buy t-shirts like this in the little store area.

4.       Locals to Locals #14        7.2% ABV

They call this a “Hazzzy IPA.”  Whatever that means, this is a beer that smells like a Christmas tree and has a pleasantly piney taste, with a touch of cardamom.  We both like this the best of the brews so far.  It has enough taste to be interesting, but not so much that we can’t enjoy drinking it.  We also like the concept behind the name, which is that local breweries and retail outlets and restaurants band together to promote local beers and the places to drink and buy them.

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Note the taps. Greenport Harbor makes use of the fact that Long Island is shaped somewhat like a whale.

5.       Face Value         8% ABV

Like grapefruit juice?  Then you may love this beer.  I like grapefruit juice, but I prefer that my beer not taste like it.  This one tastes like a slightly sweetened grapefruit juice, just less acidic than most.  My husband, however, really likes it.  The menu describes it as an “Imperial IPA brewed in collaboration with Barrier Brewing Company,” in Oceanside. One of the brewers used to work for Barrier, the server told us, and that also explains the name.  Barrier likes to use money references for its beers, with names like “Legal Tender” and “Claim the Vault.” 

As we discuss the beers we drank and what we did and did not like, our server pours us a tiny taste of a beer he says we must try:  Maine Coarse.  It’s an IPA brewed with sea salt, key limes, and lactose.  It’s certainly interesting, and shockingly salty. This is a beer that you have to drink with food—maybe something like fried chicken—so that the saltiness would complement the food and not overwhelm your taste buds.

Reasons to visit:  a brewery with lots of interesting options plus a restaurant with some unusual dishes as well as what you’d expect; the Black Duck Porter and Harbor Ale, though we didn’t drink them today; Summer Ale, Velvet Sea, Locals to Locals #14; you can bring your dog, though not into the restaurant area; sometimes they have music; they always feature displays of art from local artists in both venues.

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Fido can come with you , but has to stay outside.

 

 

Channing Daughters: To Club or Not to Club June 5, 2019

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https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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As the NoFo Wineaux, I hate to admit this, but my favorite winery is actually on the South Fork:  Channing Daughters.  Why?  They have the widest—and wildest—variety of wines, and they are constantly experimenting with new combinations and flavors.  As a result, we are always excited to open the box when our wine club shipments arrive.  BUT…UPS requires the signature of an adult in order to deliver alcohol.  And if you’re not home three days in a row, you need to either pick up your shipment in Farmingdale (not happening) or have it returned to sender and re-shipped—and hope you’re home for it.  What to do?

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A view from the ferry.

We headed to the Shelter Island ferries to make the trek to the South Fork, planning to tell Channing we were resigning from the club and then do one last tasting.  It takes a good hour and a half to travel to Scuttlehole Road this way, plus about $40 for the ferries, and even longer in the summer if you come around by land and cope with Hamptons summer traffic.  Then we made a wonderful discovery.  We could opt for pick-ups rather than mailed selections, but—and here comes the important revelation—we could come at our convenience and pick up several different releases.  Game changer, as they say.  It’s easy to travel to Sag Harbor in November!

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Wine Club news about new releases is posted on a chalkboard. Note the impressive array of wine types.

So we tried a few recent releases, bought two bottles of Scuttlehole Chardonnay and two of Pinot Grigio, and headed home, happy to remain in the wine club.

If you are on the South Fork, I recommend you make a visit to Channing Daughters’ cozy tasting room (no dogs or food allowed) and check out their delicious wines.  A flight of six wines will set you back $20, but it is well worth it.  The flight includes one of their interesting vermouths, as well.  We did not do a standard flight, so this is what we had.

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The standard tasting, which we did not have.

  1. 2017 Bianco Petillant Naturel                   $28

As soon as we identified ourselves as wine club members, our server poured us a taste of the newest release, their sparkling white wine.  It is crisp and dry, with lovely little bubbles.

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  1. 2017 Rosato Petillant Naturel      $28

This is a rosé sparkler, made from merlot, and equally crisp and dry, with a lovely strawberry taste.  We got into a discussion with another wine club member—who noted that she also does her pick-ups on her own schedule, avoiding Route 27 in the summer—about how Channing really doesn’t do sweet wines.  So if you like your wines tasty but not sweet, this is the place to come.

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  1. Cuvee Tropical

Alas, this taste proved how important vintage is.  In the past, this has been a very flavorful wine, with tastes of guava and lychee, but this iteration was quite plain, with not much flavor.

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Note the tree sculpture on the label. Walter Channing was a talented sculptor, and some of his work can be seen on the grounds.

  1. 2017 Pinot Grigio $20

Fortunately, we liked the pinot grigio, nicely lemony, and very easy to drink.  Buyable.

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  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

This remains our favorite steel-fermented chard, dry, very tasty.  I think of it as our “house” white!

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This price list doesn’t even include all of their wines.

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork (where the only other options are Wölffer—lovely, but more formal—and Duck Walk—not so lovely); all the wines they have on offer for a tasting; the petillant naturals; an intimate setting where you can discuss the wines with well-informed servers; a wine club well worth joining (if you can do pick-ups!).

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There’s a small selection of wine-related gifts.

Pellegrini Vineyards: In the Club June 4, 2019

https://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

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The day was pretty, but too chilly to sit outside.

We had thought we might sit outside, but though it was sunny it was so chilly that we asked the server if we could close the door to the tasting room. Since at that moment we were the only people there, he said sure. Later, a few other people arrived, including a couple who brought their lunches, sat in the courtyard with glasses of wine, and were clearly, based on some remarks to the server, planning to have their wedding there. We’ve seen how they set up for events, tenting the courtyard, which makes it into a large room.

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This is just one side of the courtyard.

The tasting room itself is rather small, with just a few tables and a bar along one side, augmented in warm weather by outdoor tables. Since you take your entire tasting with you on a tray, Pellegrini is a nice place to bring snacks and sit with friends. A take-to-the-table tasting includes three two-ounce pours of your choice, plus one ounce of the rosé, for $16. You can also stand at the bar and get three one-ounce tastes for $9, a good option if you’re going to more than one winery that day.

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As soon as we entered, we noticed the new furniture, with more comfortable chairs.

As wine club members, we could have done any tasting we wanted, but we opted to follow the standard format and do two trayfuls, one of whites and one of reds. Since our membership is “reds only,” we wanted to be sure to try the wines in our shipment. Our tasting confirmed our original judgment, that Pellegrini does a better job with reds than whites.

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Each tasting comes with a little bag of oyster crackers.

1. 2017 Rosé      $19.99
We were particularly interested to try the rosé, since it was on sale, and we like to have plenty of rosé on hand for the summer. This is a dry, steel-fermented blend of 57% merlot, 27% cabernet franc, and 16% cabernet sauvignon. With such a variety of grapes, you might expect a fruitier wine, but this is a rather lean rosé, more like a white, with tastes of unripe strawberry and minerals. My tasting buddy labeled it a “confused wine,” not sure if it wanted to be a white or a rosé. However, we liked it enough to buy the three-bottle package for $33. That night, we enjoyed a glass with a plate of pan-fried locally-caught blowfish tails (not the poisonous kind!) and a spinach salad made with local spinach and 8 Hands Farm bacon. As they say, what grows together goes together!

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A locally-caught delicacy–fried blowfish tails. Yum.

2. 2014 Gewürztraminer    $24.99
Mmmm. This smelled lovely, flowery, fruity, perfumey. The taste…not so much. Gewürztraminers can be too sweet, and this one was. I got tastes of honey and over-ripe pear, with just a touch of minerality. I prefer One Woman’s interpretation of this grape. This wine is a good illustration of why vintage matters. Over the years, there have been some Pellegrini gewürztraminers we liked, and others we found too sweet.
3. 2017 Steel Chardonnay      $19.99
I opted for the steel chardonnay over their couple of versions of oaked, since I often prefer steel to oak. This is a fairly standard North Fork chard, with lots of lemon aroma and taste. Just okay.

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4. 2017 REJOYCE    $24.99
I still haven’t gotten around to asking what this name of this blend of 63% chardonnay and 37% sauvignon blanc means. However, we did not rejoice at the taste, which is somewhat pineappley, but very light, with just a touch of sweetness. Almost not there at all. Meh.

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5. 2014 Cabernet Franc      $29.99
Now we moved on to the reds in our club shipment. Fortunately, we liked this one, a somewhat light, dry red with aromas of plums and berries and a taste of stewed prunes and cherries. Though it is simply called cabernet franc, it also has 15% cabernet sauvignon and 5% merlot. It would go well with lamb, since the dryness would cut through the fattiness of a chop.

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Our wine-club selections after we brought them home and before we put them in the wine cellar.

6. Steakhouse Red      $19.99
Though they label this “Steakhouse,” I think it should be called “pasta,” since it is not quite big enough a red to stand up to a steak. This iteration is a blend of 72% cabernet sauvignon and 28% merlot, but as a non-vintage wine the blend could vary from year to year. For the price, it is a good choice. I asserted that the aroma had a touch of funk, but my husband asserted I was “hallucinating the funk.” Nice generic red.
7. 2013 Vintner’s Pride Encore       $49.95
This is their Bordeaux blend—40% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 17% petit verdot, and 3% cabernet franc—and a very good blend it is. This is a wine that would stand up to steak, or maybe boeuf bourguignon. Delicious, is what I wrote. Dry, with plenty of dark fruit tastes, and some tannins. I observed that it had nice legs, and my pal made a silly joke about its pants. Well, this was our seventh taste, though we had left all three whites unfinished.

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See the legs?

Reasons to visit: good all-around winery, especially for reds; you can take your tray of tastes to a table and enjoy a visit with friends plus your own lunch or snacks; alternatively, you can stand at the bar and have smaller samples, a good option if you’re going to more than one winery; the rosé, the Cabernet Franc, the Vintner’s Pride Encore.

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I love this time of year, watching the vineyards green up and the farm stands start to open.

Sparkling Pointe: Sparkling Day May 24, 2019

https://www.sparklingpointe.com/

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Finally a beautiful day!

Finally! After weeks of unseasonably chilly rainy weather, a beautiful day arrived. Following a pleasant stroll in Greenport to check out the new shops and restaurants (We’ll be back.), we headed to Sparkling Pointe, the sparkling-wines-only vineyard in Southold.

Over the past few years we’ve noted a consistent pattern of improvement in their wines, so we were interested to see how they have progressed. Since they have a French winemaker (Gilles Martin) and use the méthode champenoise, it is no surprise to discover that their wines have a definite French orientation, though a number of their options are sweetened to American tastes. What is a surprise is the Brazilian-Carnival-themed tasting room and wine labels, which, according to the website, stem from the owners’ love of Brazil. I suppose the festive nature of sparkling wines also entered into the choice.

A sign at the entrance cautions against outside food or drinks, and allows only service animals, but they do have a good menu of snacks. We ordered two cheeses, which came with two sleeves of crackers, and took home leftovers. They also have table service, and our server was very competent and well-informed, happily expounding on wines and winemaking when we asked any questions.

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Our server explaining dosage.

On looking over the set menu, of four wines for $20, we noted that two of the options were described as rather sweet (Sugar cookie? Really?), so with our server’s help we chose four—and then a fifth—wine from the tasting list, totaling $30. That’s a bit pricey, but on the other hand we spent about an hour on their lovely terrace overlooking the grape vines, enjoying the pleasant breeze and sunshine, sipping champagne and munching on two very tasty cheeses (Hudson Valley camembert and Coach Farms Hudson Truffle). Not too shabby.

A few other notes: the tastes come in proper champagne flutes, very classy; a small gift shop features North Fork-made food items plus Brazilian-Carnival-themed décor; though we enjoyed several of the wines, they share the North Fork issue of being a bit too expensive compared to other options for sparkling wines, such as Italian Proseccos or Spanish Cavas; they charge an extra $15 over the per bottle cost if you want to order a bottle of wine to drink on the premises, though the fee is waived for wine club members.

1. 2016 Brut $30 ($4 per taste)
We started with the driest of their wines, a blend of 53% chardonnay, 31% pinot noir, and 16% pinot meunier. The smell is lovely, with floral notes plus roasted pear, and some depth and interest. I compared the taste to fresh apple juice with lemon, but my tasting buddy disagreed. However, we both agreed that it was a very pleasant, fairly dry sparkler, with nice little bubbles.

2. 2014 Blanc de Blancs $44 ($6 per taste)
Our server was quite enthusiastic about this one, naming it as a “staff favorite,” and I can see why. My husband described it as “very champagne-y,” which I first laughed at and then decided was rather apt. Though the aroma is only faintly yeasty—like walking along across the street from a bakery—the taste is crisp and clean and refreshing, with a nice balance between sweet and dry. Very drinkable on its own, and also good with our cheeses.

3. 2014 Reserve Blanc de Blancs $68 ($8 per taste)
This is another lovely choice, a delicious, well-balanced sparkler, only very slightly sweet, with aroma of honeysuckle and pear, plus a taste that combined Meyer lemon with apple pie and freshly baked bread. Our server pointed out the word “Séduction” on the label, and noted that they use that to indicate their higher end wines. I’d gladly drink this any time—if someone else bought the bottle!

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If you look carefully, you can tell this has a faint tinge of pink.

4. Blanc de Noirs $68 ($8 per taste)
A very faint tinge of pink is the result of this wine spending a little time on the skins of the 50/50 combination of pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. They don’t market this as a rosé, noted our server, which makes sense, since if you wanted a rosé you’d be disappointed, but we were pleased. Though the aroma has some notes of something slightly burnt, or chemical, the taste is pleasantly dry, with just a touch of strawberry.

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Just for fun, I used a filter on this photo.

5. NV (non-vintage) Cuvée Carneval Blanc $30 ($4 per taste)
We were not ready to leave yet, and were still enjoying the day and our cheese, so we decided to try one more taste. The Carneval line seems to include the wines they feel will most appeal to a mass audience, and I can see why. We dubbed this one a “crowd pleaser,” which I had already written in my notes when my husband called it that. A blend of 47% chardonnay, 37% white merlot, and 16% pinot noir, it also has a “liquor de dosage” of gewürztraminer, the only grape they use that is not grown on site. I wondered if they got that from One Woman, which is quite nearby, but for once our server couldn’t answer a question. He did happily describe the process of dosage, however. Though this is not a sparkler I would choose to drink, it would be quite acceptable in a toast. The aroma is of yeast and a bit of lemon, and the taste includes some minerality and a bit of lychee flavor from the gewürztraminer.

Photos of the gift shop, including Carneval-themed décor:

Reasons to visit:  beautiful setting, especially if you can sit outdoors on the terrace; tasty sparkling wines; table service that is efficient and friendly; nice menu of snacks; the Reserve Blanc de Blancs in particular, though we enjoyed all of the wines we sampled (though in the past we have had some of their sweeter wines which are just not for us).

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We enjoyed our time on the lovely terrace, looking out over the vineyard.

Lieb Cellars: Well, the Setting is Pleasant April 27, 2019

http://liebcellars.com/lieb-cellars-tasting-room/

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In warm weather, it is pleasant to sit on the patio. Plus you can bring your dog there.

The small, nicely decorated tasting room was almost full when we got there at 1:30, so we were concerned that we hadn’t made a reservation.  But the hostess showed us to a small table made from a wine barrel topped by glass, with high stools for seats.  By the time we left an hour later, every seat was taken, including the stools at the bar.  Well, there was music, by a pleasant duo called The Second Hands, and weekends are starting to get more crowded on the North Fork, but we were underwhelmed by the wines.

I remembered that the last time we had been there we had sat outside on the lovely patio overlooking rural Oregon Road, with one of my brothers and his wife, and my brother had characterized the merlot as “Kool-Ade wine.”  Still not an unjust description.

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By the time we left, all the seats were taken.

The crowd seemed to skew slightly older than some other wineries, with larger groups sitting on comfortable couches around coffee tables.  Many people were getting snacks from the somewhat upscale menu of cheeses and meats and other nibbles.  A large party occupied a separate room, where they seemed to be getting some sort of wine tutorial or private tasting.

The menu offers three options:  four whites for $12, four reds for $15, or six Estate wines for $20.  As we perused the list, we noted that the white and red options included a number of the lower-priced Bridge Lane wines, which we had tasted at Lieb’s more casual tasting room on Cox Neck Road back in September, so we opted to share an Estate flight.  There’s also a list of higher priced wines only available as single tastes or glasses.

Our server brought us all six tastes on small round trays, clearly labeled as to variety and order of tasting, and gave a quick, almost robotic run through of their characteristics.  Though she checked back on us at regular intervals, my husband felt the lack of those wine discussions we so enjoy having.  One nice touch—they bring to each table a carafe of water and glasses, useful for palate cleansing.

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Nice touch–fresh flowers on the tables.

(Note:  no outside food or drink.  Dogs are allowed on the outside patio, but not inside.)

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  1. 2013 Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc $38

It’s always nice to start with a sparkling wine, since it sets a festive tone.  Our server informed us that it was “fermented in the bottle, in the traditional method.”  It was served so cold that at first we could barely taste it, so by the time it warmed up the nice little bubbles had mostly dissipated.  I don’t know whether the bottle had been open for a while, or whether the bubbles just don’t have much staying power.  The wine smells of metal and honeysuckle, with tastes of roasted pear, butterscotch or toast, and minerals.  It’s dry, so could go with charcuterie, but not tasty enough to go on its own for a toast.

  1. 2018 Estate Pinot Blanc                            $22

This is our signature grape, our server announced.  I can see why.  This is a nice, very drinkable white.  The aroma I described as a combination of orange blossoms and asparagus is characterized in the tasting notes as lemon blossom.  Again, this is a dry wine, with some light citrus taste plus maybe gooseberries and, according to my tasting buddy, celery.  Also some minerality.  It could be good with lobster or seafood in a cream sauce.

  1. 2018 Estate Chardonnay $24

Our server described this one as “70% oaked, with nice creaminess” so I was not looking forward to it, but the tasting notes on the tray said “neutral oak.”  Whew.  It was pretty strongly citrusy for an oaked chard, with aromas of pencil shavings (cedar, they say) and a touch of cat pee.  The notes also said melon, but I would say unripe melon. Definitely not the butterscotchiness you sometimes get with oaked chards. My husband liked it the best of the three, but I was not as pleased with it.  He thought it would go well with oysters, while I was thinking veal chops (though I’ve pretty much stopped eating veal).

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Note the schedule of music events: though we were underwhelmed by the wines, it is still a nice place to sit and hear music.

  1. 2017 Estate Merlot $30

This is the wine my brother described as “Kool-Ade.”  You get the merlot cherry aroma and taste, plus some nutmeg, but it is a soft, tanninless red with a flavor that evanesces.  The notes call it medium bodied, but I would say light.

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We enjoyed the music of The Second Hand.

  1. 2017 Estate Cabernet Franc $35

I would also call the cab light-bodied, with very slight tannins.  The aroma is slightly funky, with some scent of plums.  I described the taste as raspberry, but my pal said he would agree only if I twisted his arm and held him down.  Ouch.

  1. 2017 Estate Petit Verdot $35

As we hear at every NoFo winery that makes a petit verdot, we are told that this grape is most often used in blends, where it lends a nice rich color.  I happen to often like petit verdots, and this one is no exception.  In fact, I like it the best of the wines we tasted.  It has a lovely fruity aroma, and, though dry, has tastes of sweet dark fruits.  Again, short on tannins.  Anti-tannic, opines my husband.  However, if we were going to stay and have a glass of wine while listening to the music, this is the wine I would get.  Would it stand up to a steak?  I don’t think so.

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Cans of Bridge Lane wines are available for purchase.

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I almost missed the small display of local art.

Reasons to visit:  nice location on rural Oregon Road, with a pleasant outdoor space in warm weather and a classy tasting room; good menu of snacks; the Pinot Blanc and the Petit Verdot; you can also buy the reasonably priced Bridge Lane wines there, available in cans as well as bottles, etc.

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Blog Updates April, 2019

Blog Updates     April, 2019

Change is the one constant, and the North Fork is no exception.  If you rely on my old entries for recommendations, you may arrive at a winery or restaurant and find it no longer exists, or has changed.  So, in no particular order, here are some changes:

Peconic Winery has closed, and the property is for sale.  (Not to be confused with Peconic Cellar Door, on Peconic Lane, which is lovely.)

Vineyard 48 is also permanently closed, but if you read my last entry on them you wouldn’t be going there anyway.

Southold Farm + Cellar closed, alas, due to issues with the town of Southold.  The owners have moved to Texas.

Comtesse Thérèse closed a few years ago.  A couple of restaurants have come and gone, and the one that is currently there, Il Giardino, has management issues they need to resolve if they are to stay in business.  For example, we got there with a reservation for 6 PM and found a scene of total chaos, with no one seeming to know when we could be seated.  We left, and had a calm and delicious meal at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn.

Croteaux is still making wine, but at the moment their lovely garden is closed, again due to issues with Southold town.  They are hoping to reopen.  Meanwhile, you can order wine through their website or buy it at Vintage, the liquor store in the Mattituck Shopping Center.  (I highly recommend joining their club.  Just sign up with your telephone number and then get great discounts.)

Speaking of Mattituck, Crazy Fork is gone.  Sadly, they morphed from being a candidate for Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives to needing the work of Restaurant Impossible.  Then they closed.  Two places have opened in its place.  Mattitaco is primarily a take-out place, offering delicious and creative tacos.  East on Main has a bar and restaurant where they serve American classics like fried chicken and meat loaf.  Good place to bring kids.

Salamander’s in Greenport has closed.  A new restaurant will take their place.  Goodbye delicious fried chicken.

Deep Water has also changed ownership, so I have no idea how the new place will be.

We liked Caci the first time we went there, but less so on subsequent visits.  Though the food is good, it is pricey for what you get and the tables are too crowded together and the noise level is too loud.

Pepi’s in the Port of Egypt marina has closed.  We haven’t tried the new place there.

Martha Clara has changed owners.  In the past, I had recommended it as kid friendly, with animals to feed, but as we drive by it seems the animals are gone.  I would not rely on it as a place to bring kids.

The Coronet in Greenport has changed its name, but seems to have a similar vibe under new ownership.  We haven’t eaten there.

Scrimshaw, also in Greenport, has been replaced by Barba Blanco, and we haven’t tried it.  It is closed in the winter.

On the other hand, since I last mentioned it, we’ve been to American Beech a couple of times and liked it very much.  Cool beachy vibe and delicious seafood dishes.

Empire State Cellars in Tanger Outlet closed.  I’d be sad, except Vintage, our local liquor store, carries a good selection of local wines.

Old Mill Inn is for sale.  Anyone interested in buying a restaurant on the water?

O’Malley’s has new ownership.  The one time we went there it was not good—French fries fried in old oil!—so I don’t know if it has improved. 

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but note also that every year’s vintage may taste different than the year before–which is why I try to visit each place once a year.

Clovis Point +Music April 13, 2019

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

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A glass of wine and some pleasant music add up to a civilized way to spend a couple of hours.

There’s something pleasantly civilized about sitting comfortably on a cool spring afternoon, with a glass of wine in hand, listening to live music.  A number of wineries offer live music, especially on the weekends.  Though Live on the Vine is a winter phenomenon, there’s plenty of opportunities to hear live music at other times of the year. 

I’ve signed up for several winery email lists, and so I had a message in my inbox about Clovis Point’s current music offerings.  Having nothing else to do on Saturday, we drove over to Clovis, ordered glasses of cabernet franc (see my tasting write-up from January 4, 2019, so see why that was our choice), and settled on their plastic-walled porch.

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A view of the porch where we sat.

We were lucky to have seats, since, as we learned after we arrived, many of the tables had been reserved.  As more people arrived, the Clovis people quickly set up outdoor tables in the grass just outside the porch.  If we go again, I would make a reservation and be sure to bring some snacks.  Every other table seemed to be enjoying snacks, from chips and dip to cheese and crackers to a whole pizza (though the web site specifies no coolers and no outside alcohol).  The winery also has a menu of nibbles.

The performer was a singer/guitarist whose stage name is Teacherman.  (He’s actually an English teacher named Dave Goldman.)  We enjoyed his set, which included songs by Billy Joel, the Beatles, and the Eagles, among others. 

If you’re interested in a similar experience, I suggest you check out the websites of any wineries you like to see if they have music scheduled.  I’ve noticed that Baiting Hollow and Martha Clara often offer music.

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Watch for signs like this if you’re interested in live music.

Lenz Winery: A Touch of Paris March 29, 2019

https://lenzwine.com/

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As our server explained a couple of times, the winemaker at Lenz likes the French style; hence their pinot gris, not pinot grigio, for example. But they recently changed their winemaker, so it will be interesting to check back in a couple of years and see if the wines are any different.

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The vines are still bare, but we’ve seen a few signs of spring on the North Fork: robins on the lawn, rolled up snow fences in the fields, signs promising to open soon.

On this gray, drizzly late March day there was only one other group at the winery, so we were able to have a nice chat with the very well-informed server, who seemed to have a real appreciation for the wines.  Because she had to open fresh bottles for us, she carefully sniffed a small portion of each one before she poured, actually rejecting one bottle as not quite right.

The attractively barn-like tasting room has plenty of room for groups, and a small selection of wine-themed gifts, as well as local art for purchase.  They offer a Catapano cheese tray, and, though they currently allow you to bring in snacks, they may expand their food offerings in the future and limit outside foods, so check their web site before you go.  My husband thinks it is amusing that a couple of lower beams have signs warning “Please Watch Your Head!,” a feat he deems impossible without a mirror.  And that was before we had a drink.

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As we sipped and chatted, we discussed the changeover at many wineries from cork to screw top.  Screw tops have several advantages over corks, although, as our server explained to us, if you use a top end supplier, as many NoFo wineries do, they’re actually not all that much cheaper. However, there is less chance for a wine to become “corked,” among other problems.  On the other hand, if you have a wine you want to age, aging happens more quickly with the breathability of a cork.

On the menu are three options: Library, of their highest end wines, $15 per taste or $20 for two; Estate, five of their middle label wines for $16; or Premium, five of their higher end wines for $20.  Since Lenz is one of the older wineries on the North Fork, first established in 1978, they can label some wines “Old Vines” without exaggeration.  Though many of their wines are reasonably priced, the price tags on some of the Library wines gave us pause.  $125?  Wow.  I don’t know whether they’re worth that much, and I also haven’t tried them!

We opted for the Estate flight.

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  1. 2014 Pinot Gris               $25

We liked this French style expression of the grape, with its aromas of yeast and citrus and tastes of kumquat or mandarin orange.  My tasting buddy said it has a creamy mouth feel.

  1. 2014 White Label Chardonnay $15

One reason we picked this flight was because the Premium flight featured an oaked chard, and though I have had oaked chards that were unobjectionable, in general I prefer steel fermented.  This one is steel fermented, but has a small amount—about 5%–of oaked chard added “to soften” it.  We liked this wine, too.  The aroma includes lemon and a touch of cedar, and the taste is mildly lemony, like a Meyer lemon, plus a little pear.  We are a bit short on whites in the cellar, so we decide to buy two bottles of this one.

  1. 2016 Blanc de Noir $24

This rosé is made from 100% pinot noir (hence the name, though I bet someone thought it was amusing to call this “white of black”), and is left on the skins for just three and a half hours.  Again, this is a French style rosé, so quite dry, with the expected aroma of strawberries, though also quite minerally.  Like a bunch of sliced strawberries without added sugar, perhaps early in the season before they get very sweet and fruity.

  1. 2014 Estate Selection Cabernet Sauvignon $35

Our server explains that they make the Estate Selection wines from the better vintages.  This is a “typical Long Island cab,” she adds, “lighter, less tannic, fruit driven.”  I’d agree.  I really like the smell, which has lots of berry and cherry.  It tastes like plums, and is pleasant, but rather monochromatic, I tell my husband, just as he turns to me and opines that it is “not complex.”  So we are in agreement.

  1. 2014 Estate Selection Merlot $35

Although it is called merlot, our server informs us that it is 10-20% cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.  There’s a touch of the earthiness you find sometimes in NoFo merlots, which I don’t care for.  Although the wine is not bad, I like it the least of the ones we’ve tasted.  It does have that black cherry taste of merlot.  I think it might do better if it ages a while longer.  My husband says it “lacks gravitas,” one of his favorite phrases recently.  I could see having it with lamb chops.

Reasons to visit:  a good-sized tasting room whether you are with a group or just a couple, with an outdoor area for summer seating; small selection of gift items and local art for sale; the Pinot Gris and the White Label Chardonnay; they have some serious wines.

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We admired the chalk drawings, and were told that a local woman, named Patty, does them, changing them with the seasons.

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Eastern Front Brewing Company: Sort of New Kid on the Block March 23, 2019

https://www.facebook.com/easternfrontbrewing/

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The entrance to the tasting room on Main Road. Brewing is still done in the Westphalia Avenue building.

First, about three years ago, a family member noticed the Eastern Front Brewing Company sign on a warehouse building on Westphalia Avenue, just north of the railroad tracks in Mattituck. Then we tried the beer at a First Friday celebration two summers ago on Love Lane. Then Eastern Front opened a tasting room on Main Road, southeast of Love Lane. Then, before we could get there, they closed the tasting room due to issues with getting a permit from the town of Southold. However, with the issues finally solved, we were able to get to Eastern Front for a tasting on a blustery but sunny Saturday, after our visit to the Riverhead Farmers Market.

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One side of the tasting room.

The tasting room is an attractively renovated space in what had been a fence store and a florist. Were the large healthy plants in the tasting room a leftover from the florist, we wondered. We’ll ask next time, and there will surely be a next time, because we enjoyed both the beers and the setting. Dark blue walls make the room cozy, and a slightly elevated alcove contains a display of local art. Any local artists are encouraged to enquire, as they hope to have a constant series of gallery shows.

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The artist whose work is currently on display.

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Yes, this is the parking lot. Perhaps they will improve it in the future.

The small parking lot is still rather primitive, though serviceable, and is located to the west of the tasting room. Right across the street on Main Road is another welcome newcomer to the Mattituck food and drink scene, North Fork Donut Company. One person in the tasting room suggested they build a bridge across Main Road to connect the two. Ah yes, I could see having a maple bacon donut with a beer, for sure!

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That’s the North Fork Donut Company right across the street.

A flight consists of all five beers on tap, costs $12, and comes in a well-designed wooden tray, with holes for each generously-filled glass. We were glad we had decided to share, as one shared flight was more than enough beer. You can also purchase a growler or beer by the glass.

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We took our flight to a table, and as we sipped and listened to quiet jazz being played on the sound system, we also enjoyed eavesdropping on a generously bearded fellow, who was clearly a brew aficionado (what is it about beards and beers, anyway?), discuss the ins and outs of brewing.

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Oops. We drank half the Fat Old Sun before I remembered to take a picture of the flight.

1. Fat Old Sun 6.3 ABV (alcohol by volume)
This is described on the menu as an American lager, and it is a clean, light, very drinkable classic beer—like Budweiser, but with taste. The flavor is yeasty and grainy, with a pleasant finish. If the name is a reference to drinking this in the summer, it is a good choice, because I could definitely see sipping this on the deck with some barbequed ribs and cole slaw.

2. Anomalous Ale 6.7
Why anomalous? Perhaps because, though it is an India-style ale, it has a unique flavor. I get lots of spice, perhaps cardamom, plus a slight but pleasant bitterness. It has a bit of a chemical smell. Though this is not a beer I would choose to drink by itself, I could see having it with food, perhaps an Indian curry.

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3. Love Lane Lager 6.2
The servers were quite busy solving some problem with filling a growler, so I didn’t get to ask why this is called a “pre-Prohibition lager.” In any event, it is light brown in color and light and somewhat sweet in taste. We decided it is more of a hot dog beer than a burger beer. It would be a good drink for someone who doesn’t like the bitterness often present in beers, but we found it too sweet, with an evanescent finish.

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It’s not as heavy as you would think from the color of Sexy MF.

4. Sexy MF 5.1
I do like it when brewers get creative with the names for their beers. This “dry Irish stout” smells like chocolate and coffee, and tastes of them, too, with a touch of saltiness. Though not having as much oomph as a Guinness, it is certainly good. My husband said he felt cognitive dissonance, because he expected more gravitas in such a dark beer. However, I liked it.

5. Wee Heavy Scottish Ale 8.8
The server explained to us that, though this is a somewhat lighter beer than the Sexy MF, they put it last in the tasting because it is so high in alcohol. Once you have this, you may not be able to appreciate any beers that follow it. I appreciated it. This is a very tasty beer, with lots of spice flavor, perhaps cardamom again, or nutmeg. If I were getting a growler here, I would choose this one. Perhaps next time we’re in Riverhead we’ll stop in at a Polish grocer and get some of their kolbassi to grill, then stop by Eastern Front for a growler of Wee Heavy. Yum.

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Reasons to visit: convenient location on Main Road, right near the food mecca that Love Lane has become (Village Cheese, Lombardi’s, North Fork Donut Company, Love Lane Kitchen, etc.); attractive tasting room with a little art gallery; the Fat Old Sun, Sexy MF, and Wee Heavy Scottish Ale; good place for both those who love beer and those who prefer sweeter drinks, as the beers tend toward the sweeter side.

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Interesting contest. I think I’d have trouble choosing!