Long Island Spirits: Not the Halloween Kind October 9, 2019

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On this rain-soaked, chilly day, a drink of whisky sounded perfect.

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There are pumpkins piled high at every farm stand or spread out in the fields, and it seems as though “pumpkin spice” is in everything except wine. There’s even a Pumpkin Pie Sorbetta liqueur at Long Island Spirits, but we are rebelling against all things pumpkin, so we did not try it on our recent visit to their tasting room. It was a chilly rainy day, and we and our guests agreed that it was perfect weather for whisky (or whiskey). So we dodged the raindrops and climbed the stairs to the airy space that includes a bar along one side and an assortment of tables and stools or chairs, plus doors leading to an outdoor deck where, one visitor noted, it would be nice to sit on a sunny day.

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That deck would be nice to sit on–on a warm, sunny day.

We were surprised to discover that we were not the only people there on this mid-week day. One couple ordered cocktails and sat at a table near the window, while a few other groups stood at the bar for tastings. We brought our tastes, plus a couple of bags of potato chips ($1.50 each), to a table and commenced some serious assessments.

There is a lengthy menu of cocktails and a separate menu of “Craft Tastings.” The latter is divided into two categories, of either three samples of “Vodka, Gin, or Sorbettas,” for $11. or three samples from the “Barrel Aged Tastings” list for $15. In either case, you get to keep your tasting glass, which the bartender will wrap up for you, as a souvenir. We have quite a collection of them!

Since there are eleven options on the first list, and seven options on the second, we needed some time and discussion to choose who would try which. Finally, my husband and I decided to share a Barrel Aged tasting; one visitor, who is a single malt scotch aficionado, decided to do one of those as well; and our other guest, whose favorite drinks include martinis and gibsons, opted to go for a vodka, a gin, and a sorbetta.

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1. Pine Barrens American Cherrywood Smoked Malt Whisky $39 for 375 mL
The bartender informed me that this and the other whisky are aged for one year, but in small barrels so they get plenty of exposure to the wood. That might account for the aroma of pencil shavings I detected, as well as a fruity note. Our friend noted that he prefers his whisky with a drop of water, and I suggested he could just step outside if he wanted water, at which he mimed wringing out his hat into his glass! We all agreed that this is a smooth whisky, somewhat fruity, though our friend did not like the finish.

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The first taste of vodka comes in a chilled glass.

2. LiV Potato Vodka $32 for a liter
This is the vodka that they started out with, and it is still a winner, which our friend called classic. She added that it would be good to sip on its own or as a mixer, as it is smooth and clean tasting.

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3. Pine Barrens American Single Malt Whisky $39 for 375 mL
Again we are in agreement, this time that we liked the first whisky better than this one, which is sharper or harsher, though it is not bad. It has a slightly funky aroma, and one friend says she detects a scent of chocolate.

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4. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $32 for 750 mL
True to its name, this is a complex gin with a piney aroma. Our martini-loving friend says she would like it in a gin and tonic, but that it is too floral for a nice dry martini. “There’s a garden in here somewhere,” she concludes.

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I’d like to try this brandy in a snifter.

5. Sherwood House Vineyards XO Brandy $39 for 375 mL

Made from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and aged six years, this is a really nice brandy. I imagine sipping it after dinner in front of a fire, perhaps while cracking walnuts. It makes me warm all the way down, one of us comments. I get some tastes of vanilla and spice—almost but not quite pumpkin pie!

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The Tahitian Lime Sorbetta has a faint green hue and a very assertive lime taste.

6. Tahitian Lime Sorbetta   $19 for 375mL
The sorbettas come is slim elegant bottles. Knowing she has limoncello and orange liqueur at home, our friend chose to try the lime flavor. None of us really like this, which we say tastes like lime rinds mixed with sugar. Blimey, it’s limey!

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Before you ascend the stairs, you can peek into the distillery.

7. Rough Rider Double Cask Straight Bourbon Whisky   $39 for 750 mL
Our whisky drinking friend is pleased with this choice as well, which he says would go well in a mint julep, but is also nice to sip. It is smooth and pleasant, with a good finish.

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The stools are somewhat precarious, so we were joking that they were there so you knew when you needed to stop drinking.

Reasons to visit: You are in the Riverhead area and want to try something other than wine, cider, or beer; the Cherrywood Smoked Single Malt, the Potato Vodka, the Deepwells Botanical Gin, the XO Brandy, and the Rough Rider Bourbon; you would like a creative craft cocktail but don’t feel like going to a bar; you want to add to your collection of vodka or shot glasses. We also have liked in the past, and bought, the Bull Moose Rye Whisky. I don’t always like rye whisky, but I like this one.

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Kontokosta Winery: Close to Greenport October 4, 2019

https://www.theharborfrontinn.com/kontokosta-winery

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The flowers are being blown sideways by the wind.

We had errands to run in Greenport (oil and vinegar at Vines & Branches, for one), so we decided to visit the closest winery to Greenport, Kontokosta. As we got out of our car, a gust of wind reminded us that the Long Island Sound is in sight of the tasting room, and we noted the vanes of the windmill spinning rapidly. No shortage of wind energy here!

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That’s my new notebook in the corner of the photo. I filled the old one!

The tasting room is large and airy, and, mostly empty on this October Friday, seemed somewhat echoey. Since we’d spent some time walking around Greenport, we decided we wanted to sit, so we took our tastes over to one of the long wooden tables. We also, feeling a bit peckish, ordered a round of St. Stephen’s 4 Fat Fowl cheese, which was $17, plus $2.50 if we wanted crackers with it. It seemed a bit chintzy to us to charge separately for crackers, but they do offer gluten free crackers as an option. No outside food allowed. The cheese was quite delicious, and more than enough for the two of us, so we had the server wrap up our leftovers to take home.

While in Greenport we amused ourselves by figuring out from what angle the pictures of Greenport were taken which appear in the new TV series “Emergence.” It’s mostly shot in New Jersey (one look at the beach where a plane crashes makes it clear it was not shot on the North Fork), but it is set in Southold and Greenport and uses shots of Front Street and Main Street for atmosphere.

A tasting consists of three one-ounce pours for $16, so we decided to do one tasting of three of the four whites, and another of three of the four reds. The servers gave us basic information on the wines, and the tasting menu had a few brief notes, but otherwise we were on our own.

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Our flight of whites.

  1. 2018 Orient Chardonnay $22

This is a fairly classic example of a North Fork chard, steel-fermented, with a floral aroma and a lemony, fruity, minerally taste. We also detected a slight salty note in this and some other wines, and wondered if the vineyard’s location so close to the Sound caused that. It went well with the soft, creamy cheese.

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That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance.

  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $25

Another easy-to-drink white, this smells to me like thyme honey. The taste is a touch sweet, but not too sweet, with some pineapple taste. Sometimes sauvignon blancs have a lot of lemon taste, but this one does not. It does have a touch of minerality.

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Each glass was labeled with the wine in it, so we would know which we were tasting.

  1. 2018 Field Blend $22

As I’ve mentioned before, the name field blend implies that it is made from various grapes which all grow in the same field. This one is 50% riesling, 33% viognier, and 17% chardonnay. I detect the riesling in the aroma, which had a bit of that cat pee smell, as well as honeysuckle. We like it the best of the whites, as it is more interesting than most. I think it tastes like a Granny Smith apple, and he agrees.

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The reds.  We did not try the rose, which you can see off to one side.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $29

I return our three empty glasses to the bar and order our three reds. To make sure we know what we’re drinking, the server uses a white marker of some sort to put the initials of each wine on the base of the glass. Clever. This is aged four months in Hungarian oak, she tells me. The aroma is jammy, like blackberry jam. The wine tastes like dark figs, with some nice acidity, but it is rather lean, with no finish.

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The cheese was delicious, and went well with the wines.

  1. 2015 Merlot $34

Typically, merlots around here taste and smell like cherries, and this is no exception. It has no depth, and is rather monochromatic, says my tasting pal. I agree that it would be a good pizza/pasta wine, if not for the price. I also note that it was served too cold, a common fault.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

Aged twelve months in Hungarian oak, this wine finally has some tannins. I smell black olives and pine, maybe something a bit funky. My poor husband is suffering from a major allergy attack, perhaps brought on by pollens blown on that brisk breeze, so he’s not much help in the what-does-it-smell-like department. His comment on this one is, “I can taste that it’s wine.” They do say that smell is a crucial element in taste. I taste purple plums, but I agree that it’s not very complex, though, like all the wines here, very drinkable.

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Perhaps if we’d stood at the bar we could have had more discussions about the wine.

Reasons to visit: it’s close to Greenport, which is getting quite popular these days; large tasting room with a view of Long Island Sound; menu of good cheeses (though I think the crackers should be included in the cost. What are you going to do, spread the cheese on your fingers?); all the wines are pleasant, if unexciting, but we especially liked the Field Blend white and the cabernet franc.

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Pretty view out the window.

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The grapes, covered with netting to keep critters out, look about ready to harvest. At some wineries we pass, they have already been picked.

Sannino Vineyard: New Digs September 20, 2019

https://www.sanninovineyard.com/

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After about nine years of having a tasting room on Peconic Lane, having taken over the Ackerly Ponds winery, the Sannino family has built their own tasting room on Route 48 (a.k.a. Middle Road or Sound Avenue).  It is a very attractive space, with two bars and ample seating, plus a pleasant patio out back, where we sat for our tastings.  They bring the tasting to your seat, all together on a labeled tray, so it is a relaxing place to sit and sip.  The few parties who were there on this sunny September Thursday seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Unfortunately, we did not care for most of the wines.  I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my taste buds today, but my tasting buddy had the same reaction.  I wondered whether they had paid too much attention to the planting of new vines and the building of the new tasting room, and not enough to the making of the wine.  We plan to return in a year or so, hoping for better results, since we have in the past met Anthony Sannino and thought he was a nice guy. 

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We enjoyed sitting on the patio.

Because a tasting consists of six wines for $20, and there are eleven wines, we decided to try them all.  When I discussed with the server what to do with the twelfth spot, she suggested that she could give us a taste of their port-like dessert wine, which sounded like a great idea.  In general, we found the whites too light, almost watery, and the reds without tannins or depth, but I did like the port.

They do not allow outside food, and have a little menu of cheeses, chocolates, or nuts  A nice touch:  they bring a bottle of water and glasses to your table.

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Oops, we drank a couple of the whites before I remembered to take a picture!

1.        2018 Semi-Chard           $18

A 50/50 mix of semillon and chardonnay, this has a sweet aroma of flowers and honey, but the taste is flat, tart, and almost watery.

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2.       2018 Sauvignon Blanc    $25

The aroma is appropriately lemony and pineapple-y, but again the taste is mono-dimensional.  Light.

3.       2018 Chilly Day Chardonnay       $28

Although this is steel fermented, it smells almost woodsy.  I guess the term is forest floor.  It’s a fairly standard North Fork chard, though it lacks fruitiness.  (When I mentally compare it with our favorite East End chard, Scuttlehole Chardonnay from Channing Daughters, I realize how much better Scuttlehole is.) 

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I kept sipping water, hoping if I rinsed my mouth the wines would taste better.

4.        2018 Fresco White Blend            $22

Shortly after we tried this, our server stopped by to see what we liked so far, so I asked her (not having anything nice to say) what the blend consisted of.  Chardonnay, semillon, and sauvignon blanc, she told us.  I had thought it might have a touch of gewürztraminer, since the aroma has some of that floral quality and the wine has a touch of sweetness.  This is the best so far, with some pleasant citrus flavor and a good blend of tart and sweet.

5.       2018 Bianca Dolce Rosé               $20

The smell reminds me of red candy, and so does the taste—or strawberry shortcake.  I find it has a pleasant acidity (the quality that makes your mouth water), but my husband says it is “just sweet.”

6.       2015 Prima Rossa Red Wine       $18

This is their inexpensive, everyday blended red.  We don’t care for it, finding it actually rather harsh.  My husband characterizes it as “red fruit juice.”

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The reds did spend some time sitting in the sun, so perhaps they’d be better if they hadn’t.

7.       2015 Syrah Naturale      $22

The menu informs us that this is made with “indigenous yeast and minimal winemaker influence.”   We smell black raspberries.  The taste is soft, with some fruit and a touch of funkiness.  It’s okay to drink.

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In addition to the patio, there are comfortable seating areas out on the lawn.

8.       2015 Merlot      $27

We’ve been drinking a merlot we get at the liquor store labeled North Fork Merlot, from a vineyard in Cutchogue, but we don’t know who makes it.  However, we buy it a lot for everyday drinking because it is inexpensive and delicious, with lots of cherry flavor but not sweet.  This wine does have the cherry smell of a typical merlot, but the best we can say about the taste is that it is “not unpleasant.”  I get tart plum taste.

9.       2015 Spotlight Petit Verdot         $40

Every time we come across a winery that makes a straight petit verdot, they make a big deal about how it is usually used for blending, but here it is on its own.  The same is true at Sannino, where the name indicates that they’ve put a “spotlight” on the petit verdot, combined with just 15% cabernet sauvignon.  The aroma is nice, of red fruit and dark berries, but once again we find the wine uninteresting and a bit thin.

10.   2015 Cabernet Sauvignon           $38

Another red with a nice aroma but no depth or tannins.  My tasting buddy says it tastes like “red grapes.”  How strange.

11.   2015 Francesco               $45

According to the menu, they only make this wine, a four grape blend named for Mr. Sannino’s dad, when they have a good year.  2015 was a good year on the North Fork, with plenty of hot dry weather and a long growing season, so we have hopes.  Drinkable, but, alas, nothing special, though the aroma is promising.  “Everything has nothing,” says my husband, and I have to agree.

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12.   Dessert Wine (Port)

It does taste like a port, nicely sweet with good fruitiness, and would be lovely to sip after a meal, though my tasting pal finds it too sweet.  I don’t know what they call it or how much it costs, because I didn’t see that information.

Reasons to visit:  nice tasting room with a pleasant outdoor patio; if I had to drink a glass of their wine, I’d choose the Fresco, the Merlot, or the port, a.k.a. “fortified dessert wine.”  One cute note—the single occupancy rest rooms are labeled “Saints” and “Sinners.”  Which to choose?!

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A little Sannino family history.

Astor Center: Nofowineaux Ventures into Manhattan September 3, 2019

https://www.astorcenternyc.com/

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Astor Center, right around the corner from Astor’s excellent liquor store, is a well-organized and set up venue for learning about wine.  We’ve taken a couple of classes there, and always learn something new.  For example, did you know that on Crete they train the vines to grow in a circle, to conserve moisture and protect from the sea breezes in a semi-arid climate?  Next time you are in a wine store, see if you can find a bottle of Cretan wine with an illustration of circular vines.

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The array of tastes.

The classroom is set up as a two-tiered semi-circle, facing the teacher’s desk and an overhead screen where she can show maps, etc.  When you enter, you see glasses of wine set up at each place, plus water, and, in this case, a basket of bread and a little slate with three cheeses.  The cheeses were there to illustrate how food and wine complement each other, a concept with which I heartily agree.

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We learned that Piedmont is an ancient wine-growing region, with its own unique grapes and set of growing conditions.  For example, the hilly topography means that the best grapes are grown on the upper slopes, where you have the best drainage, and so on down the slope. 

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A map of the region.

We enjoyed all the wines we sampled, which means that the following list will be useful to us when we are in a wine store, wondering whether or not to buy a particular Piedmontese wine.  I’ll just check my own blog!  The prices are ones given to us by Astor as their regular prices, though on that night we could have bought any of them for 20% off.

1.        Gavi di Gavi, La Merlina, 2018     $18.96

Made from the cortese grape, the only white of our tasting was refreshing on a warm night, crisp but with some richness.  I smell wet rock and green apple, and taste citrus at the end.  The rich robiola cheese complements it.

2.       Pelaverga “Basadone,” Castello di Verduno, 2017     $23.96

With a chuckle, Tess Rose Lampert, our teacher, notes that this is a “purported aphrodisiac.”  Maybe because it is a light red, without a lot of alcohol to weigh you down?  It is dry, with a taste of fresh berries, and no tannins.  It is mouth-watering, which is an indication that it has some acidity. Pelaverga is the name of the grape.

3.       Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, Crivelli, 2017    $24.96

In this case, ruchè is the name of the grape, and its presence in the name means the wine is at least 90% made of it.  Tess suggests that this is a nice wine to serve chilled in hot weather, and that it would go well with duck or venison or mushrooms.  It is dry, with tastes of blackberry and other dark fruits, with medium tannins.

4.       Barbera d”Alba “Castle” Barale, 2017   $17.96

I’ve had Barberas before, and Tess tells us that this is a fairly consistent varietal, with acceptable bottles in the $15-20 range, and really good ones for $30.  This is another mouth-watering wine, with cherry tastes that remind me a bit of merlot.  Tess adds that it is a crowd-pleaser, and goes well with pizza, lamb, and even chili.

5.       Barbaresco “Ovello,” Gigi Bianco, 2014   $54.96

Decant this wine at least an hour before you plan to serve it, she tells us.  Made from the Nebbiolo grape, which is, we learn, the most important grape of the region, grown on the best spots, this is a dry, slightly tannic wine with a complex flavor.  She discusses the texture of the wine with us, which she describes as silky and rich, and recommends serving it with similarly rich food, such as beef tartare or home-made pasta with a meat sauce.

6.       Barolo “Ravera,” Cagliero, 2012    $64.96

Another wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, this leads me to venture the opinion that they both have a smell somewhat like licorice.  No one disagrees.  Barolos tend to be expensive, but she cautions us that because of that, more and more of it is being made, so be careful to buy it from a grower.  Delicate and complex, this doesn’t have a lot of fruit, and is somewhat austere.  Tess says it can age a long time. 

7.       Moscato d”Asti, De Forville, 2018   $14.99

Unlike all the other wines, this one isn’t poured until just before we drink it.  It is a dessert or aperitif wine, with an aroma of honey and a sweet, peachy taste, a bit frizzante.  Tess advises it is good with something salty and crunchy.  I wouldn’t buy a bottle of it, but a glass might be nice with a dish of salted nuts.

Old Field Addendum September 7, 2019

https://theoldfield.com/

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Our picnic, with cheese from Love Lane Cheese Shop and pate from 8 Hands.

“Next time, bring a picnic,” urged the very hospitable server the last time we were at Old Field.  So we took her advice, and brought some friends who were thinking of joining their wine club plus some crackers and cheese, melon with prosciutto, plus a slice of paté and some shishito peppers we picked up at 8 Hands enroute to the winery. 

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We had a lovely time and enjoyed trying two wines which had not been available the last time we were there.  Our friends loved the laid-back family atmosphere of the farm, and admired the chickens and ducks.  We strolled the grounds and looked again at the ice house.  They tried a tasting of the reds, with which they were very happy.   And yes, they joined the wine club, which meant our tastings were free.  We’ll be back!

1.        2016 Blush de Noir        $25

Perry—one of the owners—explained to us that the pinot noir grapes hadn’t met their standards for red wine, so they made them into this lovely rosé.  We quite liked it, and it went very well with the charcuterie we had brought with us.  It is a light, dry wine with just a bit of fruit.

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Just four hours on the skins means that this is a very light colored rose.

2.       2014 Cabernet Franc    $36

We liked this wine so much that we bought a bottle for the cellar.  A new release, it has nice tannins, more depth than many North Fork reds, and was just overall delicious.

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On our stroll, we noted the view of the bay just beyond the vines.

P.S.  Perry came out of the vineyard and offered us a taste of merlot grapes.  They were not quite ready to be picked, she told us.  We liked the taste of the little, thin-skinned grapes, despite the seeds.
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Not quite ready to be picked!

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Channing Daughters: Just Some New Releases August 27 2019

https://www.channingdaughters.com/

The last time we went to Channing, it was with the intent to resign our wine club membership.  We were persuaded to stay in the club when we learned we could switch from home delivery to pick-up at the winery, and go whenever we had time, even if it meant getting several selections at once. 

We only had one installment to pick up, but we had decided to take some guests on the ferries from Greenport to Sag Harbor, and make a day of it.  The ferries are not cheap, so it would not be cost-effective to go that route every time we needed to pick up wine (since we can drive around, through Riverhead), but on the other hand there was no way we were going to brave the traffic on Route 27 in the summer.  Been there, sat there.

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On the ferry!

The ferries were fun for our visitors, especially two little ones who were excited to get out of their car seats and stand in the car while it floated across Peconic Bay.  We also enjoyed strolling through Sag Harbor, visiting old favorites like the Wharf Shop and Blooming Shells.  After a picnic lunch at the beautifully re-done Mashashimuet Park playground, we headed to Channing, intending to just pick up our shipment.  But we hadn’t reckoned with the blandishments of the hospitable tasting room servers, who suggested that we “just try the new releases.” 

The small members of the party admired Walter Channing’s huge wood sculptures and read their books while we did a quick tasting.

My notes are skimpy, because we hadn’t intended to do a tasting, plus, as the designated driver I only took a sip of each wine.  But I think you can get a sense of what we love about Channing:  the great variety of their wines and their brave spirit of experimentation.

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1.        2018 Sauvignon Blanc                 $23

With its lovely lemon grass flavor, this is a perfect oyster go-with.

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This has a slight pink tinge, and is best served icy cold.

2.       2018 Rosato Petillant Naturel Cabernet Sauvignon          $28

Delicious!  A fizzy, fruity, yeasty, dry sparkler, we agreed we could drink this as a toast or an aperitif or with food.  Charcuterie, perhaps?

3.       2018 Sylvanus Petillant Naturel                $28

A blend of 50% pinot grigio, 40% muscat-ottonel, and 10% pinot bianco, this is a great illustration of the Channing experimentalism.  It has a nice aroma of pineapple, but I did not particularly like it.   

4.       2016 Blaufrankish                         $28

Another unusual blend, this is 75% blaufrankish and 25% dornfelder.  It is dry, with tastes of blackberry and other dark fruits.  Channing suggest you can age this 6-8 years.  By the way, it is great fun to read the descriptions of their wines on their web site, which goes into intricate detail on the wines.

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5.       Vermouths         $28 (most of them)

I didn’t taste the vermouths, but those who did said they would be great to drink on ice or in a cocktail.

Reasons to visit:  still the greatest variety of wines anyone makes on the East End; best winery on the South Fork (though Wölffer is also quite good, it is a much more formal setting); vermouths, petillant naturels (they make ten in all, though not all are available at all times); beautiful sculptures made by Walter Channing.

Eastern Front: Sitting in the Front Yard August 25, 2019

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

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Eastern Front’s front. The parking lot is on the west side.

Since it was a beautiful day, we wanted a place where our rather large party (six adults and two children) could sit outside.  Happily, we discovered that Eastern Front had set out several tables in their yard, nicely screened from Main Road by some bushes.

So while the children read their books, we sipped and chatted and compared notes while enjoying a tasting of the five beers on offer.  I should note that I was recognized as the blogger who had been there before, since they had seen my post on Facebook and remembered my notebook!  We chuckled over that. 

A tasting consists of five little glasses of whichever beers are on tap, for $12, and each couple found sharing one tasting between them was plenty.  You can also buy a pint to drink there or a growler to take home—which we did.  We were planning to barbeque some pork chops from 8 Hands for dinner, so we got a growler of North Shore Red Ale, the consensus favorite, to drink with dinner. 

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1.        Miami Weiss     5.4% ABV (Alcohol by Volume)

Our tasting started with a beer I would never plan to drink, since I generally don’t care for wheat beer.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, which tasted more like a pilsner than a wheat beer.  This is a somewhat yeasty, light-bodied beer, easy to drink, with a slight taste of stone fruit.

2.       Anomalous Ale                6.1%

We had a difference of opinion on this one.  Some in our group liked it.  I did not.  It has a—fittingly—anomalous taste, somewhat like petroleum.  I would not think it was an ale.

3.       Love Lane Lager               6.4%

Some interesting terms were thrown around as we tasted this one, including “cherries,” “ice cream sundae,” “butter,” and “caramel.”  It is a bit on the sweet side.  Again, we had a difference of opinion in the group, with some liking it more than others.  That, of course, is the fun of going with several people, as you can see how much people’s tastes vary.

4.       North Shore Red Ale       5.9%

On the other hand, we all liked this one, which we were told is one of their most popular brews.  It is toasty, with a pleasantly bitter finish.  The taste reminded me of ales I’ve had in British pubs.  Since we all liked it, we decided to get a growler to take home.  By the way, you can find Eastern Front beer on tap at the Broken Down Valise, across the street from the Mattituck LIRR station.

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5.       Autonomous Ale             9.8%

One of our visitors from the north, a wine and beer aficionado, immediately said, “I like it.”  This is a nicely balanced double IPA, with piney rather than citrusy hops, with just the right amount of bitterness.  We joked about hoppiness creating happiness.  Well, it is 9.8% alcohol by volume…

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NoFoDoCo is right across the street.

Reasons to visit:  conveniently located on Main Road, just across the street from the NoFoDoCo (North Fork Donut Company, where, if you’re lucky, you may be able to get a chocolate iced donut topped with potato chips) and Love Lane; pretty tasting room, which was once a florist, and is still decorated with some impressive plants; nice outdoor area; the Miami Weiss, the North Shore Red Ale, the Autonomous Ale; you can get a growler to take home; there’s wine if you’re with someone who prefers that to beer.

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Wine is available.

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Croteaux: Back to the Garden August 16, 2019

https://www.croteaux.com/home/

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After you enter, turn right to find parking on the grass.

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To get to the garden, you go through the door and are then escorted to a seat.

It was a perfect August day—sunny, 80 degrees, blue sky with puffy white Magritte clouds—so we decided to check out the newly re-opened (under new ownership) Croteaux garden.  The good news is that it is still a lovely setting in which to sit in the shade on a summer afternoon, surrounded by flowering shrubs, enjoying table service.  Unfortunately, we were not as happy with the wines, except for one which is still a favorite.  We also got the herbed cheese and baguette basket, which came as before with a sprig of fresh mint.  However, that too disappointed.  Previously, the cheese was goat cheese mixed with fresh herbs, while now it is a cream cheese mixed with dried herbs.  So much for nostalgia.

On the other hand, the many groups seated at the rustic tables seemed quite happy, hanging out and chatting, enjoying the afternoon.  So if you prefer rosés that are so light they could pass for whites, this may be the place for you.  Like the other winery bought by the Frankel family, the general goal seems to be to make safe, easily accepted, wines.

A tasting of all six still rosés is $18, and all three sparkling rosés is also $18.  We opted to share one of each, which was plenty of wine.  The still tastes come in nice little round-bottomed glasses, on carefully labeled little trays, and the sparklers are served in tall glasses.  All wines are the 2018 vintage.

 

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Our first three tastes, with the basket of cheese and baguette in the back.

1.        Merlot 181 Rosé            $28

Croteaux uses three clones of merlot, labeling the wines accordingly.  This one looks almost clear, with just the faintest tinge of pink (color and taste are determined both by the grape and by how long the juice sits on the skins).  It smells like cut grass and flowers, and tastes like a citrusy white with a touch or berry flavor.

2.       Merlot 314 Rosé             $20

This has always been our favorite, and still is.  We like its aroma of melon and mineral, and its strawberry flavor.  It may be a touch sweeter than in the past.  It would be a lovely aperitif wine, and is also good with food.

3.       Merlot 3 Rosé   $20

I get a bit of a funky smell, but my husband, who, it must be said, is suffering from an allergy attack, says the smell is “neutral.”  This is very like a white, with lots of lemon flavor.  The tasting notes say it has a “zippy finish.”  I say it does not taste like a rosé.  It definitely needs food, like scallops in cream sauce or a lobster roll.  This is a blend of all three clones:  181, 314, and 3.

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Second group.

4.       Sauvage 181 Rosé           $25

I’m always intrigued when winemakers decide to use the wild native yeasts—hence “sauvage”—giving up some of the control over the outcome of the wine.  It definitely has some of the strawberry taste I associate with rosés, plus some minerality and citrus.  Like all the wines, it is dry.  The end taste is a bit harsh, and my tasting buddy’s word for this is “meh.”

5.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé       $25

The tasting notes describe this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can’t argue with that.  Not surprisingly, this tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé, so it would go well with local oysters.  It has a “touch of cabernet franc,” but I don’t taste it.

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Jolie is, indeed, pretty.

6.       Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé            $25

Jolie means pretty, and this is the prettiest looking wine of the day, and also my favorite, along with the 314.  It has more depth than the others, and good strawberry taste with just a touch of citrus.  However, the menu describes it as a “red wine lover’s rosé,” which I don’t see.  I think it’s just a rosé lover’s rosé!

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The sparkling wines.

7.       Cuvée Merlot 3 Sparkle                $32

After we finished the six still rosés, we still had some cheese and baguette left, so we decided to check out the three sparkling wines as well.  They arrived well chilled, with a laminated sheet of tasting notes.  I smell melon, and think this might taste lovely.  However, as my husband notes, it tastes more like seltzer than like a sparkling rosé.  He says it has overly aggressive bubbles, and we chuckle over the image of attack bubbles.  It is refreshing, but so is Schweppes seltzer. 

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You can see that Chloe looks just like a white wine.

8.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Sparkle   $35

Though this uses cabernet franc skins to give it some color and taste, our conclusion is, not so much.  It should be like a champagne or a prosecco, but again, this tastes to us like seltzer.  There is a slight yeast aroma.  I guess this is a sparkling wine for those who don’t like wine. 

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Well, it looks pretty.

9.       Jolie Sparkle      $32

“Benign,” is the best my tasting pal can come up with to describe this final taste.  It smells like strawberries, plus some red wine smells, and has more taste than the previous two sparklers.  It is neither sweet nor tart, with some strawberry taste, but I don’t find it very appealing.  For years I’ve been comparing every other North Fork rosé to Croteaux, as the gold standard, but, alas, that is no longer true.  They do still have the prettiest bottles.

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Reasons to visit:  still a really lovely garden setting, with relaxing table service; the 314 and the Jolie Cabernet Franc; they have a nice menu of snacks, although the cheese is not as good as it used to be.

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They often sell out by the end of the season. If you buy a case, you become a member of their case club. with special deals.

Other Types of Tastings on the North Fork

Wine, beer, cider, liquor:  I love to taste them all.  But there are other types of tastings on offer on the North Fork.  Unlike wineries and breweries, there’s no charge for these tastings, but you are expected to buy something in the process.  Don’t be greedy!  Try a few, and then choose a product to purchase.

Here are four places where you can try before you buy, two in Mattituck and two in Greenport.

The Magic Fountain

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Ice cream!  The Magic Fountain is a landmark in Mattituck, on the corner of Factory Lane and Main Road.  Check the big sign for the latest special flavors…and they are special.  For example, in March they celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness-flavored ice cream, which was surprisingly good.  The harvest of local fruits brings flavors including them, plus there are always plenty of other varieties.  How to choose?  Ask for a sample of a couple that intrigue you before you decide on a cup or a cone, or a pint to take home.  Yum.

The Village Cheese Shop

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I’ve seen people having lunch inside and in the little garden area off to one side.

Love Lane in Mattituck is a foodie paradise, as I’ve noted before, featuring a couple of restaurants, the Sweet Shoppe, Lombardi’s Italian market, and, my favorite, the Village Cheese Shop.  I’ve never bought an imperfect cheese from them.  The array of cheeses in the glass fronted case can be a bit intimidating, but the people behind the counter are always very helpful.  You can tell them what you like and they will find cheeses for you.  Not sure if you’ll like something?  They are very ready to offer a sliver or a smear for a taste.   Just recently, I asked for a creamy blue, moderately strong, and was immediately offered a taste of a gorgonzola that was exactly that.  You can pick up a loaf of bread from Tom Cat bakery or some crackers to go with your cheese, as well as charcuterie and other accoutrements.  They also offer lunch, including fondue, with wine.

Vines and Branches

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If you’re not used to tasting olive oil and vinegar, this can seem a bit odd at first.  By now, we’re old hands, having followed the store to three different locations in the village of Greenport.  At the moment, it is on Front Street, near the corner of Main.  When you walk in you will see an array of large metal urns, fronted by small bottles of each variety, all clearly labeled, with tiny paper cups for sampling.  Pour a very small amount from the glass bottle into the cup and take a sip.  The olive oils range from pure oils from various countries to oils infused with flavors from truffle to lemon and more.  Similarly, there are vinegars from dark to white balsamic to wine, flavored with everything from pomegranates to maple syrup to herbs or spices.  We no longer buy salad dressing, but simply add our current choice of oil and vinegar to our salads, plus some salt and pepper.  Save and clean the bottles (I find they need several trips through the dishwasher.) and they will refill them, saving you $2 per bottle.

Greenport Fire

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We ventured into this store for the first time recently, and were glad we did.  The u-shaped counter is lined with sample bottles of hot sauces, ranging in heat from mild to get-out-the-fire-hose.  The proprietor was very helpful, as we pondered over the panoply, offering us tastes on a little spoon.  He noted that none of his offerings are widely distributed, and if they become so he stops offering them, so you will definitely find unique sauces here.  For example, he makes one sauce that is only available in his store, and also the sauces for Lucharita, the excellent Mexican restaurant next door.  We’ll be back!

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Given how incendiary some of his sauces are, it seems appropriate that there’s a fire hydrant right outside the shop!

Shinn Estate Vineyards: It Pays to Take the Back Road July 25, 2019

https://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The sign tells you that your trip to Oregon Road has successfully landed you at Shinn.

As the couple at a nearby table on the Shinn Vineyard’s new and very nice patio noted, it took some searching to find Shinn, but they were glad they had persisted, having wended their way to Oregon Road.  We already knew our way, but we were glad we were there, too.  In 2017, Shinn was bought by the Frankel family, and they have made some attractive changes, though the place has a less funky vibe than it used to.

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As you enter, drive past the B and B, and go around to the back, where the tasting room is located.

On arrival, we were offered seats inside—in the A/C—or outside on the patio.  Though it was a warm day, it was not oppressively so, and the patio offered shaded areas.  We ended up spending almost an hour there, doing a leisurely tasting plus a couple of other tastes and sharing a delicious cheese board.  Reggae music played in the background—I remember one verse mentioning “island sun”—and it was easy to forget we were on Long Island and imagine we were on a tropical island.

The tasting menu offers many options, from a rosé flight for $16, which includes a couple of Croteaux rosés, to our choice, the Winemaker’s Picks, of five of their higher end wines for $28.  Why, you may wonder, do they feature Croteaux rosés?  Because the Frankel family recently bought Croteaux as well, and have reopened the tasting room and garden there.  Our server assured us that they are keeping the Croteaux rosés the same as they were.  We’ll have to check that out!

Our server brought the wines to us, the three whites first and then, when we had finished them, the two reds, carefully placed on a little mat which had labeled spots for each wine.  She also brought us a glass bottle of water and two plastic cups, a nice touch.

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The bottle of cold water was quite welcome.

After we finished the five wines in our tasting, we still had quite a bit of cheese left of the $14 cheese board, so we each added one more taste, which I have put at the end of the listing.  These also came on tiny round coasters with labels for what they were.

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1.       2018 Concrete Blonde   $40

Why this name?  The sauvignon blanc is aged in a concrete “egg” made, we are informed, from “French soil,” instead of in steel or oak.  Macari also uses this method, and you can find a discussion of the concrete egg in my entries on that winery.  The aroma of the wine is lovely, floral, like a bouquet of summer flowers.  The wine is more reminiscent of a chardonnay than a sauvignon blanc, almost creamy, with a citrus taste that is like a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon.  It doesn’t really complement the cheese, but would be quite nice with charcuterie.

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This was a fairly generous cheese platter, though I never feel as though they give you enough crackers.

2.        2016 Haven                     $35

What, I wondered, is referenced by the name of this blend, of 70% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 10% pinot blanc?  Haven is a reference to the type of soil on the farm, we were told, a combination of sand and loam.  This one is aged more traditionally, in oak, and I can scent a touch of the oak when I sniff.  Then I get flowers.  The wine is softer than a usual sauv blanc, with some depth and a touch of spice, perhaps nutmeg.  It’s a good food wine. 

3.       2016 Pinot Blanc             $35

Now we’re back in experimental territory, as puncheon (i.e. big) barrels of neutral oak were used to age this wine, for eight months.  The aroma is faint, with a touch of honeysuckle, but, on the other hand, as my husband notes, it has a lot of taste.  Again, I think of this wine as soft, not tart but not sweet, with some nice fruit tastes.  It would make a lovely aperitif wine, as it is very easy to drink on its own.

4.       2018 Mojo         $26

In 2014, Shinn had such a copious harvest of cabernet franc that they ran out of oak barrels, and so decided to make an unoaked cab franc.  Then they were so pleased with the result that since then they have made it that way on purpose.  The menu describes this wine as “bright, fresh,” and I agree.  They serve it chilled, which is nice on a hot day.  The aroma has a touch of funkiness, perhaps pine or forest floor, plus minerality.  This pleasant, fruity wine would be great for sangria. 

5.       2016 Wild Boar Doe       $42

Of course, this is their Bordeaux blend:  59% merlot, 21.5% cabernet franc, 12.5% petit verdot, and 7% malbec.  The merlot gives it a cherry aroma and taste, but I’m not sure what the other grapes add.  “It could be more assertive,” asserts my tasting buddy.  I get some light tannins, and the wine is dry, but, again, the word that keeps coming to mind is soft.

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6.       Non-vintage Red Blend                $19

We needed a bit more beverage to go with the rest of our cheese, so my husband opted to try a red we’d be likely—based on price—to buy.  This is a light, refreshing summer red, a simple table wine.  It’s a blend of 61% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 2% petit verdot, and tastes, as you’d expect, of the merlot cherry flavor.  We bought two bottles.

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I like cognac, and this one was quite delicious.

7.       Alembic Brandy               $65

Brandy?  Yep, they actually have a menu of four brandies, labeled Julius Drover Brandy.  Our server gave me a rundown of the four.  Divine is made from semillon grapes combined with the alembic; Eau de Vie is made from whatever scraps of grapes they have around and is only aged for one year, so it’s pretty forceful; Apple Brandy is like Calvados, and is made from apples and pears; and Alembic Brandy is made from chardonnay grapes, aged four years.  If you like cognac, you’ll like the Alembic, which I quite enjoyed.  The taste made me think I should be drinking it after dinner, perhaps with a good cigar and a bowl of walnuts for cracking (just kidding about the cigar). 

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Reasons to visit:  Off the beaten track, so less crowded and quieter than the big places, especially in the summer, as our new friends on the patio noted; lovely outdoor patio; nice menu of snacks; certified sustainable (a landmark for locating them is their tall windmill); the Concrete Blonde in particular, but all the wines are very drinkable, if not exciting.