Peconic Cellar Door: Good Things Come in Small Packages December 7, 2018

Peconic Cellar Door: Good Things Come in Small Packages            December 7, 2018

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/

IMG_5946

This sign shows the way to Peconic Cellar Door.

I recently picked up a postcard with a map of North Fork wineries which labeled them as either “petit” or “grand” wine houses.  Peconic Cellar Door is definitely one of the most petit of the petit places, a sliver of a storefront with room for a couple of tables and a narrow bar with four stools.  A sign on the door warns that they will not accept groups of more than six, adding, “Sorry, arriving in more than one car doesn’t count as separate groups.”  I suppose what you could do is have one part of your group go to the Winemaker Studio, which is right next door, connected to Cellar Door by an open doorway.

 

That’s not a bad idea, actually, since both tasting rooms offer similarly intimate experiences, and the ability to taste some interesting boutique wines.  Peconic Cellar Door is something different on the North Fork, as it is one of the few wineries owned and run by women (One Woman is the only other one I can think of, since Comtesse Therese closed a few years ago.).  In fact, if you go on their web page and click on “Meet the Cru,” you might notice that the entire crew is female.

When we entered on a chilly Friday afternoon, we were warmly greeted by Robin Epperson-McCarthy, who remembered that we’d been there before (a year ago), and introduced us to her charming three-year-old daughter, who soon left in the arms of her baby-sitter.  No one else was there, so we had a lovely time chatting with Robin and exchanging bits of wine country gossip as well as in-depth discussions of the wines.

IMG_5958

This is literally half the room.

She and her partner, Alie Shaper, have four different labels between them:  Saltbird Cellars, Brooklyn Oenology, As If, and Haywater Cove.  Alie is gradually transitioning her label to almost all Haywater Cove, a reference to a place on the North Fork, though she will continue to make a couple of her most popular Brooklyn Oenology (BOE) wines.  Robin explained that they don’t have a reserve label, so the As If line functions somewhat like that.  And Saltbird is Robin’s label, named for the sea birds she loves.

IMG_5948

There are twenty-five (!) wines on the menu, plus a new sparkling wine that isn’t even there yet, but they offer a “Winemaker’s Flight” of five wines for $18, highlighted on the menu in blue ink, so we decided to go with those choices.  However, the first item on the menu, a keg wine called Fizzi Rosé, was not available, so Robin instead gave us a taste of the newest As If wine, Gratitude, which is also a sparkler.

IMG_5950

The name of this wine is, among other things, an homage to Alie’s mother, who died last year.

  1. 2018 As If Gratitude      $28

This is a petillant naturel, which goes through some of its fermentation in the bottle and is sealed with a bottle cap.  Interestingly, it is made from gewürztraminer grapes, which I don’t recall ever seeing before, which are fermented into an orange wine before it becomes a bubbly.  The color is a cloudy yellow with a slight orange tint.  It has a sweetish aroma, like flowers, but also something like pickle juice.  It’s a light, refreshing, sparkler, which, we agree with Robin, would go well with charcuterie.

IMG_5951 (1)

Saltbird Chardonnay and its creator.

  1. 2017 Saltbird Chardonnay $20

I discuss with Robin my—and her—preference for steel-fermented chardonnays, and she tells how she has served this wine to people who think they don’t like chardonnay, not realizing that what they don’t like is an oaked chard.  They like her Saltbird chard.  I smell gooseberries and lots of minerality, plus some citrus.  She explains that part of the fermentation happens “sur lies,” which means on the dead yeast or bits of grape particles, which adds some depth to the taste.  It is very dry, and has plenty of mineral taste.  I think it needs food, like something in a cream sauce.

IMG_5954

  1. 2016 As If Courage Rosé $28

Alie named her wines Serendipity, Courage, Persistence, and Gratitude to chart her progression in the wine business—the way serendipity led her into winemaking as a career, the courage it took to continue, the persistence it took to stick with it, and the gratitude she feels for being able to do this.  It takes no courage to drink this French-style rosé, a dry pink wine with tastes and aromas of strawberries and minerals.  Like most North Fork rosés, this is a good summer wine, and would go well with a salade niçoise or some nice Catapano goat cheese.

IMG_5955

Now that’s orange!

IMG_5956

This is the art on the BOE label. Can’t tell what it is? Neither could we. Apparently, it’s a box.

  1. BOE 2014 Broken Land $30

As we learned the last time we were there, broken land is a reference to the original Dutch meaning of Brooklyn.  This is an orange wine, made with gewürztraminer grapes from the Finger Lakes region.  It sits on the skins for ten days, Robin tells us, which gives it that lovely orange color.  I wonder whether it is the color that makes me think it tastes like blood oranges, but Robin assures me that she tastes orange too, though she thinks of tangerines.  The label, like all BOE wines, features a work of art by a Brooklyn artist.  This one is a representation of a box.

IMG_5957

For the red we switched to this elegant glass.

  1. Saltbird Cellars 2016 Harbinger Red Blend $36

A blend of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon, this has the cherry aroma and flavor we have come to expect of North Fork merlots, somewhat ameliorated by the cabernet sauvignon.   It’s a light, bright red which Robin says benefits from a bit of aeration.

Reasons to visit:  an intimate setting in which to taste some nice wines and chat with the winemakers; the Broken Land orange wine (we buy a bottle), the Gratitude sparkling wine; it’s right next door to the Winemaker Studio, so you can do two tasting in one stop.  The tasting room is on Peconic Lane, so you could do a winery walking tour by adding on Sannino Bella Vita (which may be moving in the future), ending in the Greenport Brewing Company restaurant on the corner for lunch or a snack and a sampling of excellent brews.

IMG_5959

Coffee Pot Cellars: Puppy Love December 1, 2018

Coffee Pot Cellars: Puppy Love   December 1, 2018

c sign

What you can’t quite see is the “winasaur” made from used corks.

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

As you enter Coffee Pot Cellars’ cozy tasting room, you will be greeted by Beasley, Laura Klahre’s adorable, friendly, and tiny black pug dog.  The day we went, Beasley was sporting a set of monarch butterfly wings, to help promote their merlot to monarch campaign.  For every bottle of merlot they sell, they will, with the cooperation of the Girl Scouts of America, plant a milkweed seed.  Milkweed, though deemed a weed by most people, is crucial for the survival of the monarch butterfly, whose caterpillars will only feed on it in their early lives.  So of course before we left we had to buy a couple of bottles of merlot, bringing the running tally on the blackboard to 731 bottles sold.

Laura, who is also a beekeeper and lover of nature, was pleased.  She and her husband Adam Suprenant own Coffee Pot Cellars, a tiny winery named for the distinctive lighthouse out near Orient Point.  She also runs Blossom Meadow Farm, where she not only makes honey, but also makes various beeswax products, such as candles, and promotes the usefulness to pollination of carpenter bees.  If you would like to host some carpenter bees on your property, you can buy bee houses for them from Laura.  We bought a little jar of her newest product, a raspberry jam.

In addition to a line-up of very good wines, Coffee Pot has an asset in the person of Laura, who is friendly and talkative, full of stories about bees and wine and Beasley.  If you happen to go there the weekend of December 8-9, you will be in time for the celebration of Beasley’s twelfth birthday, which will be marked by the release of their 2015 Beasley’s Blend—of which we had a preview.  And if you have ever been there before, Laura will remember you and greet you like an old friend.

The menu features six tastes for $12, but as long as they still have the Cyser (about which more in a moment), Laura will pour you seven tastes, so you don’t have to make any decisions.

IMG_5919

The Cyser is a sparkling hard cider made with honey, and it’s quite yummy.

  1. Cyser                    $19.99

Hard cider is made with sugar, and is often too sweet for me.  Mead is made with fermented honey, and can be sweet as well, but this cyser is hard cider made with Blossom Meadow honey, and the Coffee Pot version is delicious—dry and sparkling, made with the méthode champenoise, hand disgorged by Adam.  Laura informed us and another couple at the bar that it was made with 50% Liberty apples, 25% Black Twig, 10% Granny Smith, and 15% Crisp Golden, all from the local Breeze Hill Farm.  It tastes like a slightly apple-flavored champagne, and would be lovely with charcuterie.

IMG_5920

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc   $21.99

We already miss summer, so perhaps that’s why we envisioned sipping this wine with a summery salad dinner, perhaps salade niçoise.  It is fruitier than many North Fork sauvignon blancs, with an aroma of minerals and honeysuckle.  Good.

IMG_5921

Though the chardonnay is oaked, it is so lightly done so that I like it.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay    $19.99

As she rinses our glass with a bit of the next taste, Laura informs us that this wine was fermented in thirteen-year-old oak barrels.  I’m happy, because I don’t generally care for oaked chardonnays, but when they are fermented in old—called neutral—oak, the taste is different from a steel-fermented chard, but not buttery.  There is s slight taste of the oak, but I mostly taste and smell apples and tropical fruits, with some nice acidity.  It would go well with fish tacos, which I am making for dinner tonight with locally caught cod.

IMG_5922

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer   $21.99

Although this is just called gewürztraminer, it is also 12% riesling.  The aroma is quite flowery.  I taste lychees and pineapple, but it is a bit too sweet for me.  However, it would go well with spicy food.

IMG_5924

If you buy a bottle of merlot, you will also be helping the monarch butterflies!

  1. 2012 Merlot    $19.99

Now we get a new glass for the reds.  The famous merlot-for-monarchs merlot is aged eighteen months in French oak, and we smell cherries and spice and smoke.  It’s a light, dry red, a Friday-night-hamburger wine, suggests Laura.  We agree, liking the hint of spiciness which balances the cherry taste.

IMG_5926

Note the portrait of Beasley, standing guard on the lighthouse. Watch out, he might lick you to death!

  1. 2015 Beasley’s Blend    $23.99

All the labels show the Coffee Pot lighthouse, but this one also shows Beasley standing guard on the upper level of the lighthouse. Though it will be officially released next weekend for Beasley’s birthday, Laura gave us a preview taste.  It’s a blend of 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot, and we can smell the cherry of the merlot when we take a whiff.  We taste dark fruit—cherries, plums—and nutmeg.  A soft, dry red with nice tannins, this would be drinkable on its own.  Good work, Beasley!

  1. 2014 Meritage    $27.99

Another blend, this one is  a Bordeaux-style 56% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon, and it’s also really good, though given the tannins I think it would be better in a few years.  It is fairly complex, with layers of flavor, including that merlot cherry flavor plus blackberries and spices, and would stand up to steak or lamb chops.

c porch

They have some little tables for two on the porch, in case you come in the summer.

Reasons to visit:  Laura and Beasley; the chance to taste some lovely wines, especially the Cyser, the sauvignon blanc, the Beasley’s Blend, and the Meritage; all sorts of interesting gift items you won’t find other places, like the carpenter bee houses, beeswax candles and other products; the opportunity to support monarch butterflies by buying the merlot; and I haven’t even mention the “winasaur” they’re building from used corks on the front lawn (Laura says when it’s done she’s going to make herself a dress from corks!).

c sundog

After spending an afternoon with Beasley, it seemed appropriate that on the way home we saw the solar phenomenon known as a sun dog!

 

 

 

 

Laurel Lake: Chile But Not Chilly November 18, 2018

Laurel Lake:  Chile But Not Chilly               November 18, 2018

www.llwines.com

The weather outside was chilly, and the winemaker is from Chile, but our welcome was quite warm when we walked into the Laurel Lake tasting room on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Our server, Maureen, recognized us from previous visits—especially the notebook—and had time to chat with us, exchanging bits of wine country gossip.  She also introduced us to the charming Chilean winemaker, Juan Sepúlveda, who was pleased to discuss his wines with us.

 As we stood at the bar, we noticed that behind us a large party was happily sharing a meal and some bottles of wine, and another group was out on the enclosed porch.  One of those groups was a club of classic Cadillac owners, whose cars were lined up in the parking lot. Maureen told us that they also host a group of Corvette owners who come once a year, and we remembered one time when we had thought to stop in but found the parking lot filled with Corvettes. Now we knew why.

All of these Cadiallacs were not in the parking lot by coincidence.

 The last time we were here it was a warm day in September,and the food truck was in operation. However, the winery is coping with Southold Town’s crackdown on food trucks, so now if you want food they will order it for you from CJ’s restaurant, just down the street in the Mattituck shopping center. 

A standard tasting consists of four wines for $16, and we decided to share a tasting, which means we could go back and do another tasting and have all different wines.  We were, however, perfectly happy with our choices.

  1.  2016Pinot Gris               $22.99                                                                               I smell citrus and flowers.  The wine tastes fruitier than some pinot gris(a.k.a. pinot grigio), but still dry and light. It is soft and tasty enough to sip on its own. 
  2. 2017Sauvignon Blanc                 $22.99

This is another light white, dry and citrusy, and, like most North Fork sauvignon blancs, would go well with oysters.  We had thought to taste the gewürztraminer, but Maureen warned us that we might find it too sweet.  She also mentioned that their best-selling white is the somewhat sweet riesling, which is why they keep a supply next to the cash register.

They keep a supply of their best seller–the reisling–next to the cash register.

3.  2014 Merlot Estate         $21.99

I feel that if there is a merlot, one should try it, since it is such a basic North Fork red.  The aroma combines the expected cherry plus a touch of smokiness.  This is a relatively light merlot, with tastes of cherry, prunes, and vanilla.  Relatively simple, it is a good burger wine.

4. 2012Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve          $28.99

Aged in French oak, this had a lovely fruity aroma and taste, with a long finish and some complexity.  It has enough tannins that I think you could age it a bit longer, and it could stand up to a nice steak.  Very drinkable, we conclude.

5.  2013 Meritage                 ($59.99on the menu for the 2010)

I know, the menu says four tastes, but once again the book and our seriousness get us an extra.  The Meritage is a combination of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, sangiovese, and syrah, and she pours our taste out of an unlabeled bottle because officially the wine is still in the barrel.  Wow.  My notes characterize the aroma as “yummy.”  I taste lots of fruit, some nutmeg, and cassis.  Lots of tannins.  It is worth the price, especially if you keepit for a few years, but we are currently not in the market for a fancy red.

This is their most expensive wine, and no, they are not pouring tastes of it!

Reasons to visit:  Pleasant tasting room, and lovely outdoor area in the summer; we liked all the wines, but especially the pinot gris and the cabernet sauvignon reserve; the chance to chat with the winemaker if he is around; dogs are allowed in the outdoor area; small but amusing selection of wine-related gifts.:

They have a small selection of wine-related gifts.
This was my favorite one.
You can see the porch off to the side, and in addition in warm weather there’s a shaded outdoor area.

Surrey Lane: Serendipity November 18, 2018

Greenport is quiet in the winter, but often quite pretty.

http://www.surreylanevineyard.com/index.html

We were in Greenport to run an errand and stroll around town when my husband remembered that this was the first weekend for the Greenport Farmers’ Market, so we headed over to First and South (also the address of one of our favorite restaurants) to check it out.  We found a sparsely populated room, but with some interesting vendors:  a couple of cheese mongers, a fish market, some organic vegetables, the local jerky maker, etc.  Then we noticed a stand for Surrey Lane winery.

I’d been noticing the colorful signs for the Surrey Lane Vineyard Orchard Farm for a couple of years now, but I also knew that they didn’t have a tasting room, so this seemed like a good chance to find out about their wines.  Don, the friendly guy pouring free tastes of the wines, pointed out that he is also an artist and musician.  We noted his drawings for sale behind him, and as we left we heard him start to entertain the room with some folk-y songs. 

By the way, the link above to their website leads you to a basically blank page.  If you want more information, click the link to their Facebook page which is about all that is on the web page.

I hadn’t planned to do a tasting, so I didn’t have my notebook, and we only tried three wines, but here are my brief impressions.

1.        Sauvignon Blanc

Fairly typical mineral and citrus tastes, but also an intriguing smoky note.

2.       Trebbiano

Very good, with some lemon but also mandarin orange taste.  Dry.


3.       Merlot  $23

A good example of a North Fork merlot, dry, with tastes and smells of cherry and some nice tannins.  We bought a bottle.

If they ever open a tasting room I’ll be sure to check out the rest of their offerings.

Martha Clara Vineyards: Change Is Coming November 8, 2018

Martha Clara Vineyards:  Change Is Coming                        November 8, 2018

IMG_5840

https://www.www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

Until recently, Martha Clara Vineyards, named for the matriarch of the family, was owned by the Entenmanns.  Now it has been sold to the Rivero-González family, so changes will be coming.  A year from now the wines could be quite different, because right now the wines have been overseen by the Entenmanns’ winemaker, but the next vintage will be the product of a new one.  Our chatty and knowledgeable server is hopeful that the changes will all be good.  Meanwhile, the tasting room already looks different, with most of the décor stripped away, and the shop objects also seems to have been winnowed down, with many fewer items for sale.  Should be interesting to come back next year.

IMG_5822

One side of the frequently bustling tasting room.

IMG_5824

The other room for tastings, where they used to serve food.

On this warm November day, the tasting room was practically empty, with only a few people stopping by, some to pick up wine club packages and others to do a tasting.  During the summer Martha Clara can be mobbed, so it was nice to taste in a quiet setting.  It’s not that I don’t like people—I’m just not fond of crowds.

The menu offers three options, the Aromatic tasting, of four whites for $15; the Northville tasting, of four reds for $15; and the Vintner’s Reserve, of two whites and two reds from their estate selections, for $17.  We decided to share an Aromatic and then a Northville, thus giving us the greatest variety of tastes.  We weren’t hungry, but there was no menu of food on offer, though the shop has a refrigerated case of cheeses, etc., and packages of crackers and other snacks.

  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blanc $19

Generally, when a local wine has a name other than a variety of grape, that means it is a blend, and so this is—a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and semillon.  It has a pretty golden color, and an aroma of honeysuckle and tropical fruit.  Though it is slightly sweet, we like it.  The wine is nicely balanced, with some complexity, and flavors of pineapple and minerals.  I think it would be fine to sip on its own, but my husband disagrees.  However, we both think it would go nicely with seafood in a cream sauce.  Hmm…Peconic Bay scallops are in season.

IMG_5823

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc $22

The aroma is metallic and vegetal.  My tasting buddy thinks it smells like his favorite fall vegetable, Brussels sprouts.  Maybe.  The wine is dry, tart, and very light, tasting of lemon peel.  It is so light that if you drank it with food that had lots of flavor it would disappear.  Maybe oysters.

IMG_5827

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $20

This chardonnay is steel-fermented, like all the other whites in our tasting, and we like it.  I smell slate or rock and gooseberry, and taste citrus and tropical fruit.  It is nicely tart and dry.  We also notice that it is on sale, 30% off if you buy two bottles, so we do.

IMG_5828

The steel-fermented chardonnay is currently on sale.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Hang on a second, you might say, I thought all the whites in your tasting were steel fermented, but this one is oaked.  Yes, I say, power of the book.  We get a little side-by-side sample of the oaked chard, courtesy of our server, with whom we have been having a nice chat.  Unfortunately, we don’t care for it.  The aroma is rather funky, with lots of woody smells.  Though it is not too buttery, there is something about the taste I find off-putting.  Cedar?  Pencil shavings?

IMG_5829

Our “extra”–a taste of the oaked chardonnay. When you take tasting seriously, servers like to see what you think of various wines.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

She warns us that this will be semi-sweet, and she’s right to warn us.  Though it’s very aromatic it is much too sweet for us, and we dump the rest of our taste.  Maybe with Thai food…

IMG_5830

Northville Tasting

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $27

Now we switch to the reds, and get a clean glass.  Our server describes this as a bit smoky, and says it goes with red meat.  I’d say this is a roast chicken red, as it is rather thin.  It has a red fruit aroma but the taste is not very fruity.  I get nutmeg and some tannins.  No finish.  By the way, all their wines come in screw top bottles.

IMG_5831

  1. 2014 Malbec-Merlot $27

51%-49% (sort of like many of the vote percentages in the recent elections), this has the cherry aroma and taste of the merlot, but not much else.  No depth. Dry. We decide this is a burger red.

IMG_5834

  1. 2013 Northville Red                  $27

A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, this is, unusually for a red, steel fermented.  I tell our server that I have a catchphrase for her to use with this wine—It’s a white-wine-drinker’s red wine.  It is pleasantly fresh-tasting, with some red plum and cherry flavors, very light.  A ten-minute wine—not to be discussed, just to be drunk.  It is also on sale, but we decide not to get any.

IMG_5835

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

We like this the best of the reds.  It has aromas of spice and red candy.  Dry, with some nice tannins, though it has no depth it has some nice plummy flavors.  I could see having it with lamb chops.

IMG_5825

I found this little guide to wine tasting quite interesting, in that it seems to indicate that many of their customers are new to wine tasting.

Reasons to visit:  last chance to taste the Martha Clara style wines before the new winemaker takes over; you can bring your dog to the outside tasting area; the Northern Solstice Blanc, the Chardonnay, and the Cabernet Sauvignon; reasonably priced wines.

Lagniappe:  As we were driving home, we passed a movie crew outside the Mattituck Motel, which will be one of the North Fork sites used in the Netflix movie of the Gilgo Beach murders.

 

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels October 25, 2018

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels               October 25, 2018

IMG_5778

The tasting room used to be a farm house, and it still has a homey feel.

https://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

https://www.hounds-tree.com/

What happens when a vineyard is bought by new owners, who want to make their own style of wine, but the previous owners still use the same grapes for their wines?  You get Sherwood House and Hound’s Tree wines, made from the same grapes but in different styles.  Sherwood’s winemaker, Gilles Martin, likes the French style, while Hound’s Tree’s owners, who are from Oregon, use a West Coast style.  Confusingly, the vineyard is located on the North Fork on Oregon Road.

The last time we were here, the server set us up with parallel tastings, but this time, in the absence of her suggestions, we did a tasting of the Sherwood Classic wines, and then the Hound’s Tree ones.  There are actually four tasting options, but the two we did had no overlap.  In addition to the set tastings, they will also craft an all white or all red tasting on request.

Since the room is so pleasant, and we realized we’d be there a while, we decided to get a small cheese tray, put together by Lombardi’s Market.  $15.  Did we want crackers with that?  As opposed to what, eating the cheese by hand?  That will be an additional $3 for a small sleeve of Carr’s Water Crackers.  That seems a bit chintzy to us, especially since the cheese tray is rather meager.

IMG_5789

The cheese tray is adequate for two, if neither of them is very hungry.

We settled at a table, in sight of the fire in the fireplace, and brought our tastings and our cheese to the table ourselves.  Two other couples came in and took glasses of wine to sit on the couches by the fireplace.  Through an open doorway we could see into the William Riis gallery, where art, sculpture, and antiques are for sale.  Not a bad way to while away an afternoon.

IMG_5780

The first five wines are the Sherwood Classics Flight, $30 for a fairly generous pour.

IMG_5788

The sparkler and the chard

  1. 2016 Blanc de Blancs    $45

This is only the second time they have released a sparkling wine, so it is new to us.  Made from chardonnay grapes, it has a slightly vegetal aroma and is a pleasant dry sparkler.  It has a slightly yeasty taste, and is light.  You could definitely have this with a meal or some charcuterie.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $3

Our server describes this as “lightly oaked,” and I agree that it is not overly oaky or buttery or butterscotchy.  On the other hand, it is fairly nondescript, I say.  Undistinguished, adds my tasting buddy.  Bittersweet, with just a trace of butterscotch, even with the cheese it is just okay.

  1. 2010 Merlot $38

Better than the average North Fork merlot is our assessment of this dry and elegant red.  It has aromas and tastes of cherry, as expected, but also some interesting layers of flavor.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $40

Although this has a nice aroma of brambles and blackberries, there’s not much taste.  It’s a soft red, with no tannins, and some minerality.  Not a sipping wine, it would be okay with a burger.

  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor $45

The tasting ends with their Bordeaux blend, of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  The menu describes it as “preciously aged”—whatever that means—in French oak.  I smell plums and other red fruit, but it is too cold to taste much, so I warm it in my palm.  Ah, now I can taste it.  This is quite good, a wine for steak, dry, with various fruit flavors.  It’s also nice with the Marcona almonds on the cheese plate.

 

Each taste comes in its own glass, by the way.  Now we move on to the Hound’s Tree Flight, $25 for five tastes.  We snack on our crackers and cheese a bit to clear our palates.

IMG_5794IMG_5795IMG_5796

  1. 2016 Rosé         $22

The aroma is slightly funky, and smells like fermented berries.  Yum.  This has more taste than the average rosé, though it is served too cold, of course.  It is a blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 15% cabernet sauvignon.  We taste fruit and minerality, but it’s not overly fruity.  This would be a good summer sipper.

IMG_5803

When wine is too cold, try warming it with your palms.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $26

What is acacia aged?  The server has told us that this is aged in steel and acacia, but she can’t answer what that means.  We sniff and get minerals and just a touch of citrus.  My husband sips and says, “Watery.”  It is very light.  I say it is “not unpleasant,” which is not exactly high praise.

IMG_5805

Pretty labels.

  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

By the way, we find the labels for the Hound’s Tree wines quite attractive.  Although this has almost no aroma, it has, says my husband, “a distinctive taste which lingers in your mouth.”  It’s dry, almost tart, with not much fruit at all and some tannins.  Perhaps it needs to age longer.

  1. 2015 Merlot $29

Unlike the Sherwood merlot, which had lots of cherry aroma, this has almost no aroma.  It is quite dry, with some tannins but no depth, and is drinkable but not at all complex.  Innocuous, is a word we agree on.

IMG_5806

  1. 2015 Cornus Reserve $45

Why “Cornus”?  She doesn’t know, and the web site doesn’t even list this wine.  In any event, it is their Bordeaux blend, of 62% cabernet sauvignon, 19% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 3% malbec.  Of all the wines we tried today, this is our favorite.  It has red plum aromas, and a somewhat complex taste with red fruits and tobacco.  The tannins make me think it could improve with age.  It would pair well with lamb or mutton chops.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant, cozy tasting room with a fireplace and comfy couches; the chance to compare two different styles of winemaking using the same grapes (with very different results); the Sherwood Merlot and Manor; the Hound’s Tree Rosé and Cornus Reserve; you can shop the interesting items in the next-door gallery.  If I came there to sit by the fire and sip a glass of wine while listening the

 

 

music, I would get a glass of the Cornus.

IMG_5807

Moustache Brewing Company: October and Fest October 20, 2018

http://www.moustachebrewing.com/home

IMG_5768

We liked the coasters.

Riverhead has become something of a mecca for craft beer, with at least five brewing companies as I write this:  Crooked Ladder, Long Beard, Long Ireland, North Fork, and the subject of today’s blog, Moustache Brewing Company.  I haven’t been to Long Beard and North Fork yet, and it’s been awhile since I’ve been to the others.  Part of the problem is that they tend to keep limited hours, opening late in the afternoon and not opening during the week.

IMG_5763

Many of the breweries have limited hours during the week.

However, in the spirit of Oktoberfest, we decided to brave the crowds of cars headed east on this partly sunny Saturday and check out Moustache, which we hadn’t visited since January 2016.  Then, the tasting room was an alcove between huge tanks of brewing beer, with a short bar and limited table space.  Now they have opened an actual tasting room, with a long bar and communal tables, located on the same hard-to-find industrial back street of Riverhead.  Thank goodness for Google maps, or we’d still be wandering around.

IMG_5762

That is the rather nondescript entrance to the tasting room on a nondescript back street in Riverhead.

We were quickly greeted by one of the two bearded men behind the bar (there’s also a woman, who does not have a beard), prompting me to ask if a moustache was a prerequisite for employment.  Nope.  He cheerily informed us that a tasting consisted of four five-ounce pours, took and held our credit card, and gave us two blue tickets for our second round of drinks.  What was this tasting going to cost us?  There was nary a sign.  What would a glass or growler cost?  No idea.  They should post a price list.  At the end our bill was $9.01 for our shared tasting.  Why the one cent?  With some embarrassment he confessed that they had tried to make the price something that would include tax and come out even, and had miscalculated.

Meanwhile, we studied the menu, trying to decide what to get, and looked around the fairly full room.  It was quite noisy.  As we left we noted a limo and a multi-cycle waiting outside, so maybe part of the noise was because we had happened on two parties.  By the way, they allow dogs, children, and outside food.  According to the website they sell North Fork potato chips, but I saw nothing about that at the bar.

IMG_5769

Beards are not required, but it seemed as though they were.

Our server told us that their signature beers were the porter and the brown ale, so we decided to start with those.  There was no indication, either in print or from our server, in what order to drink the beers, even when we asked.

IMG_5767

The Everyman’s Porter and the Milk & Honey brown ale.

  1. Everyman’s Porter         4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume)

This dark brown quaff has a lovely aroma of grains.  It is light for a porter and easy to drink, with a pleasant bitterness but no depth.  I could see sipping this in a pub along with an order of steak and kidney pie, hold the kidneys.

  1. Milk & Honey 6%

A slightly lighter brown than the porter, this tastes quite different.  It has a faintly vegetal aroma and the taste has a touch of sweetness and what my husband describes as “cold metallic.”  Nice carbonation.  This would be fine to drink on its own, or with a hot dog with spicy mustard.

IMG_5770

  1. Sailor Mouth 6.5%

There are several IPAs on the menu, so we asked for descriptions of them.  I tend not to like extremely hoppy IPAs, thus we settled on this one.  As I recall, two years ago when we asked for the origin of the name, Lauri Spitz, the co-owner with her husband Matthew, told us that it was named for her and her, shall we say, command of the language.  In any case, this is a good summer beer.  It smells of Christmas trees and citrus, and the taste is also somewhat piney and not very fruity, though we also detect tastes of pineapple and grapefruit.  It’s not really a beer you’d want to sip on its own, but it would go great with barbequed pulled pork.

IMG_5772

Note the structure of the bar: There is a raised lip a few inches in from the edge, which, we speculated, might lead to spilled beer with some regularity.

  1. Slow Claps 4.3%

Again, there were a couple of pale ales on the menu, so we asked for help in choosing this one.  It is the closest to a regular American beer, the type you might drink while eating nachos and watching the Stupor Bowl (as I call it—I watch it for the commercials).  It is pleasant and light, but not memorable.  We had brought a growler with us in case we wanted to take anything home, but left it in the car.  No need to retrieve it.

IMG_5773

As we left we noted a limo and a multi-cycle, which probably accounted for the noisy groups inside. Groups need a reservation, by the way.

Reasons to visit:  you like craft beers and are not afraid to navigate the back streets of Riverhead; all the beers are definitely easy to drink and pleasant, but, at least based on what we tried, we prefer Greenport Harbor.

Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines October 3, 2018

Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines                   October 3, 2018

http://mattebella.com/main

IMG_5727

Heading to the tasting garden from the parking area…

Most of the time, my husband and I are the only ones doing a tasting for my blog.  However, we love to take visitors with us to wineries.  Aside from the pleasure of their company, it is fun to compare notes on each wine and discuss what it tastes and smells like and what we would serve it with.  We also try to think of wineries our guests would like.

IMG_5726

We like to support places that care about the environment.

My brother and sister-in-law like to bring their dog with them, so a dog-friendly place was the first requirement.  Then, I thought about how they care about conservation, organic and local foods, and the environment, so I wanted to bring them to a winery that farmed sustainably.  I also wanted a place with wines we like.  Finally, it was a rare lovely day, so we could sit outside, with a pretty garden setting a plus.  And thus we chose Mattebella, which turned out to be perfect on all counts.

IMG_5729

Comfy seating in the gazebo.

As we settled ourselves on comfy cushioned seats inside a gazebo, a friendly server came over with menus and an offer of water for the dog.  We were off to a good start.

The menu offers five different flights, including an interesting one of all chardonnays, but we decided each couple would share a Vintner’s Select Flight, $30 for eight wines.  Our server put a tray full of glasses down in front of us, with each wine labeled, and poured the five whites, promising to return with the reds when we were ready.  She returned shortly with a small piece of slate on which perched two pieces of toasted baguette with a slice of brie on each, to go with the wine.  They used to give several different snacks with the wine, but now it is just the one.   Still, that’s nicer than the dry crackers which a few wineries offer.

IMG_5739

The first round of tastes.

  1. 2015 Steel Chardonnay               $21

The aroma is of minerals and green apples, and the taste is very lemony.  Our server suggests we compare it with a sauvignon blanc, and I see why.  It is the type of light, citrusy wine which goes great with oysters.  It could also be drunk as an aperitif, a “sipper on the patio,” we decide.

IMG_5740

Free snack!

  1. 2014 Famiglia Chardonnay        $22

“Why Famiglia?” we ask.  We don’t really get a clear explanation, but it has something to do with the winemaker being Italian and the word for family.  In any event, this is an oaked chard, with an aroma of wood and green apple.  Words that come up as we discuss the taste:  honeydew, butterscotch, lemony at end.  At this point we take a nibble of the brie and decide this is a wine that needs to go with food.  “Pleasant but not fascinating,” someone says.

IMG_5737

  1. 2013 Founder’s Reserve Chardonnay $38

My sister-in-law likes this one better than I do, but it’s fine.  The aroma combines basement smells with a chemical I identify as turpentine or gasoline.  Fortunately, it doesn’t taste the way it smells.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness.  I get some grapefruit and pear tastes.  They say it could age, and I see that.

 

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

I find riesling somewhat problematical.  In general, I don’t buy one unless I know how it tastes, since they seem to vary widely.  Some rieslings are too sweet, but some I really like.  This one, from a vineyard in Jamesport, is not sweet, but I don’t care for it.  It has a somewhat piney taste, which my brother compares to the bark on a tree.  He’s not fond of it, but my sister-in-law likes it, which proves what people often say, that wine likes and dislikes are very personal.

IMG_5738

  1. 2017 Rosé $21

This is a nice summer sipper, light and lemony, with some strawberry taste and aroma.  90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc.

IMG_5743

  1. Famiglia Red $24

There is no vintage on this wine, since it is a blend they try to keep consistent from year to year, so if you order it in a restaurant or buy a bottle you will know what to expect.  This particular blend is mostly merlot, with some cabernet franc.  Our server characterizes it as “a good wine to bring to a friend’s house.”  The aroma combines plums, cherry pits, and leather handbags.  Fruity, soft, and very drinkable, this is a serviceable food wine, good with pizza and pasta.  Someone says this is what should be called a “ten-minute wine,” a wine you just drink, rather than discuss.

IMG_5741

  1. 2011 Old World Blend $50

That’s quite a price jump, and we are wondering whether the wine is worth it.  Sniff.  Rotting banana and dried fruit compote.  Sip.  Good!  Lots of complex fruit flavors with light tannins, we taste raisins and prunes.  It would go well with lamb roasted with rosemary. The wine is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  If you care about such things, you might like to know that Robert Parker gave it 90 points.

IMG_5742

The drawing on the labels is of the owners’ children, Matt and ‘Bella.

  1. 2013 Old World Blend $65

OMG.  Really good, in other words.  This is another blend, of merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, aged in French oak.  It has lots of tannins, with aromas of leather and dark fruits.  It is not as fruity as the 2011, but we decide it is more elegant.  It has enough power to stand up to steak.

IMG_5744

Look how dark that Old World Blend is!

As we discuss our overall impressions of the wines, which we characterize as smooth, soft, and drinkable, my sister-in-law is perusing the menu.  She notices that we have not tried any of their sparkling wines, so we ask the server which one we should try.  She brings us two.

 

  1. 2017 White Sparkling Wine        $24

Our server says we should think of this as similar to a prosecco.  It’s not bad, but too sweet for us.

  1. 2017 Dry Sparkling Rosé $28

We prefer this one, which is refreshingly dry, with light fruit tastes.  This is another one to sip on the back deck.

Reasons to visit:  pretty outdoor setting, but the indoor area is quite small; comfy seating; lots of nice wines, especially the Steel Chardonnay, the Famiglia Red, and the 2013 Old World Blend; dogs are allowed; no outside food, but they do have various crostini on offer, plus they bring you one for free; they farm sustainably.

IMG_5748

We were tempted to taste the grapes, but the netting discouraged us as well as the birds.

Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

IMG_5652

Yes, we were just at Channing Daughters on September 14th, and we usually visit a winery once a year.  However, my brother and sister-in-law were visiting.  Like us, they are members of the Channing Daughters wine club, and they wanted to pick up both their regular shipment and an additional case of wines.  We were happy to make the trek over to the South Fork again, enjoying our ferry rides, a walk on the beach, and a stroll around Sag Harbor before heading to Scuttlehole Road.

A plus of a repeat visit to Channing Daughters is that they have so many different wines, plus six vermouths, that there was no danger of running out of wines to taste.  I don’t think any other winery on the East End does as many different, interesting, creative wines as they do.  We were also interested in getting some wine for the seafood dinner we planned for the next night, which would include my sister-in-law’s delicious scallop ceviche.  (After a trip to Braun’s, we added a main course of pan-fried blowfish tails.  Yum.)

IMG_5718

This panorama barely begins to capture the impressive array of wines on offer at Channing Daughters.

The server recognized us, and we had a very friendly visit, which included chatting with various other visitors to the tasting room.  At the end, she gave us a loaf of Orwasher’s bread, which they get for free in exchange for giving Orwasher’s their leftover grape yeast for bread-making.  It went perfectly with the ceviche.

IMG_5719

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

The grapes for this wine come from the Mudd vineyard on the North Fork.  We agreed that it was a good wine, “clean and green,” according to our tasting crew.  Lemony, crisp, and light, it is a perfect seafood wine.

IMG_5720

This remains our favorite East End chardonnay.

  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

We first fell in love with Channing wines because of this chard, which we bought by the case for our daughter’s wedding.  Steel-fermented, it has aromas of honeysuckle and green apple with tastes of citrus, pineapple, and minerals.

  1. 2016 Vino Bianco $20

“I just had this one a couple of weeks ago,” I said, planning to skip it until our server pointed out that I had tried the 2015 and this was the 2016.  Oh.  And yes, it is a bit different, with more taste of mango and more complexity, with a somewhat earthy end.  My sister-in-law described it at “roundy,” by which I think she meant it had no sharp edges.  Very nice.  As I recall, this was the one we decided to have with the ceviche, and it paired well.

IMG_5721

The image on the bottle is of one of Walter Channing’s sculptures.

  1. 2015 Brick Kiln Chardonnay $25

I was a bit hesitant about this one, since it is an oaked chard, and I often don’t like that buttery, vanilla taste.  However, this one is aged in neutral Slovenian oak and 18% steel, so it is not at all buttery.  Instead, we tasted pineapple and Mandarin orange, with just a touch of sweetness.  It can stand on its own as an aperitif, we agreed.

IMG_5722

  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano $24

This one has aromas of caramel, earth, and pine.  The taste is very light and minerally, with a short finish.  Good with charcuterie, was the consensus opinion.

Then we decided to try one of the vermouths.  Oh no, insisted our server, you have to try them all!  She lined up six glasses on the bar and the four of us shared the six tastes.  Each one is inspired by a different season of the year and constellation of local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.  I can’t give a complete list, because the blends are secret, but I will say they are all good in different ways.  These are vermouths to sip over ice as an aperitif, though you could also make some interesting cocktails with them.  They are identified by number.

IMG_5723

Vermouths made from white, rose, and red wines plus seasonal local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

  1. Herbaceous, dry, and spicy, this is made from herbs which all grow within seven miles of the winery, and was the first vermouth they made.  I bought a bottle.
  2. This one includes cucumbers and jalapeno peppers, and is rather spicy. You could season a salsa with it.  Maybe you could serve it at a piñata party!
  3. She identified this one as “mid-summer.” It is also a bit spicy, made from rosé wine with a touch of honey as well.  Earthy.
  4. Summer, she said as she poured this one. Watermelon, shiitake mushrooms, mint, caraway, and more, all of which appear in the aroma and flavor.  It tastes of mint and rye bread.
  5. Late summer/early fall: Muskmelon, dill, peaches.  This is the lightest of them all so far, very minerally.
  6. Fall (of course): squash, pumpkin, apple, pear.  This last one was made from red wine, and is the smoothest to drink and feels the least like a vermouth.

We were thinking about getting on the road again when my sister-in-law noted that we hadn’t tried any of their sparkling wines.  Out came three more glasses and the chance to taste three sparkling wines.  It really pays to be in the wine club!  My notes at this point are a bit sketchy (no surprise), especially because my husband was our designated driver and left most of our share of the tastings to me.

IMG_5725

Sparklers!

  1. Sylvanus

“Amazing,” said our relatives.  Very sparkly, with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. Bianco

“Just okay,” was the consensus.

  1. Rosato

I have extensive comments on this petillant naturel on my last blog, but I will just add that, though we are not normally fans of pink sparkling wines, this one is pleasantly drinkable.

IMG_5724

There’s a small selection of wine-related gifts. I bought my brother and sister-in-law a stopper for closing sparkling wines, since we had discussed the problem of opening a sparkler for just two people.

Reasons to visit:  an amazing variety of wines, so you can come back frequently and try different ones; a wine club worth joining; a cozy tasting room where you can really engage with the servers and learn about the wines and the wine-making.

Bridge Lane Wine: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My! September 23, 2018

Bridge Lane Winery: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My!

IMG_5692

http://bridgelanewine.com/

If you ever want to have a wine kegger, Bridge Lane is the winery for you.  Or let’s say you want to take a can of wine to the beach.  Yes, they have those.  And boxes of wine.  Oh yes, bottles, too.  Bridge Lane is the less-expensive, more populist line of wines made by Lieb Cellars.  Their wine maker, Russell Hearn, also has his own line-up of wines which you can sample at his tasting room in Cutchogue, Suhru Cellars.  (https://www.suhruwines.com/ ) He must be a busy man!

 

Last September we went with friends to Lieb Cellars’ tasting room on Oregon Road, and tasted both the Lieb label wines and the Bridge Lane wines.  We much preferred the Lieb wines.  In June we went to the newly opened Suhru Cellars and liked their wines even better.  However, there is nothing wrong with the Bridge Lane wines, if you want simple, light inexpensive wines.  All of Bridge Lane’s wines cost $20 per bottle.  (A keg holds 130 glasses for $240 and each can provides two glasses for $9.)

Fittingly, not only do all the wines cost the same, the taste profile is remarkably similar.  In fact, my husband observed that he would be hard pressed to tell one white from another.  They are all citrusy and minerally and light.

The differences among the wines of the three venues extend to the tasting rooms, as well.  Bridge Lane’s is a simple square, with a bar along one wall and banquettes along two others, with brightly painted picnic tables outside.  Lieb Cellars’ tasting room is more elegant, with table service and a deck overlooking rural Oregon Road.  Suhru’s newly opened “tasting house” is in what had been a house, and is homey and beachy.  Bridge Lane allows picnics and dogs, while the other two do not (except at Lieb on the outside patio).  Suhru offers snacks from Touch of Venice restaurant across the street, and Lieb has an extensive menu of snacks, while Bridge Lane offers only a few snacks.

We arrived at Bridge Lane on a September Sunday afternoon, when many of the wineries were crowded and traffic clogged the approach to Harbes Orchard.  At Bridge Lane we encountered a large party of women—not sure if it was a group of friends or a bachelorette celebration—and one other couple who decided to brave the September chill to take their tastes outside.  After the large group left, it was quite quiet.

A tasting consists of five tastes for $15.  You can also taste a few of the Lieb Reserve wines at $4 per taste, or opt for a glass or bottle.   They serve you three and then two of your tastes at once, on a clearly labeled round tray in nice rounded-bottom glasses.  There’s a self-serve container of water at one end of the bar.

IMG_5696

  1. White Merlot

We get a very faint citrus aroma from this white wine made from red merlot grapes.  The taste is of grapefruit and minerals, and is pleasant and light.  It would be fine with some Peconic Bay scallops.

IMG_5699

Wine on tap.

  1. Chardonnay

A steel-fermented chard, this actually smells a bit metallic.  I taste pineapple, though the tasting notes say stone fruit and green apple.  Maybe a little green apple…but if by stone fruit they mean peaches and apricots, I don’t get it.  My tasting buddy asserts that “ten seconds in, it gets sweet.”

  1. Sauvignon Blanc

Another light, tart, citrusy, easy-to-drink white, this one would go well with oysters.  Maybe barbequed oysters?

IMG_5700

  1. Rosé

As one would expect, the rosé has an aroma of strawberry, but sweeter, more like strawberry jam.  There’s also a touch of smokiness.  Again, this is light, with the citrus this time reminiscent of pink grapefruit.  I could see having it with an herbed goat cheese from Catapano.

 

  1. Red Blend

This is their Bordeaux blend, of 65% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 6% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, aged six months in Hungarian oak.  It smells like a combination of cherries, smoke, and wood.  When we sip, we decide we can taste the wood as well, plus a fair amount of tannins which make us wonder if this would be better after a couple of years.  We also taste black cherry.  My husband describes it as “sour.”  Not a great red, but easy to drink, it could go with lamb chops.

Lieb Cellars Reserve 2015 Petit Verdot  $35

I want to end with something better, so we order a taste of the Lieb Petit Verdot.  As the server opens the bottle, I notice that it has a screw cap.  The Bridge Lane wines had been on tap, so I ask her if all the wines have screw tops.  Yes, they do.  The Petit Verdot is aged ten months in Hungarian oak, and has an aroma of blackberries and dark fruit.  It tastes of black cherry with a greater depth of flavor than the Red Blend.  There’s a pleasant softness to it, and enough tannins that I think it could be aged.  My husband and I simultaneously decide it would go well with barbequed ribs.

IMG_5710

The outdoor picnic area is somewhat screened from the traffic on Sound Avenue. The multicolored stripes are part of the whole light-hearted ethos of the spot.

Reasons to visit:  You want somewhere to take your picnic lunch where you can sit outside and drink some inexpensive wines; you are having a big party and need a keg of wine, or maybe a couple of boxes; you want to take a four-pack of cans of wine on your boat; the chardonnay, or any of the wines if you want something light and uncomplicated.

IMG_5691

Bridge Lane shares its location with Premium wine Group, a wine-making facility shared by many of the smaller wineries which lack their own wine-making equipment.

IMG_5711

As I watched crushed grapes being loaded here, I solved a mystery. All along Cox Neck Road I had seen a line of grapes by the side of the road. Where did they come from? Aha, I realized, they have fallen off those open carts which bring the grapes to Premium Wine Group!