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.

Roanoke Vineyards: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood July 12, 2019

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/ 

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If you see this sign out on the sidewalk on Love Lane, the Roanoke tasting room is open.

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The full title is “Roanoke Vineyards Love Lane Wine Shop,” because this is not their main space.  That is located in Roanoke, on Sound Avenue, and is only open to wine club members.  However, the Love Lane location is open to all, and functions as both a tasting room and a place to buy wine from several wineries, including Wölffer Estates and Channing Daughters. 

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The storefront.

While we were there, someone came in wanting to buy a bottle of sparkling wine, which they did not have, so we told her about Vintage, the excellent wine store on Main Road in Mattituck. 

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Whenever we go to Vines & Branches, I scoop up a free sample of their delicious truffled popcorn. Now I know how it gets to Roanoke.

Then a wine club member came in and walked out with a case of wine, and another wine club member, who turned out to be the owner of one of our favorite stores in Greenport, Vines & Branches, came in to deliver some bags of her truffled popcorn and stayed for a glass of wine and a chat with the server and us.  Meanwhile, we were the only ones there doing a tasting, which consisted of four rather small pours for $14.

The tasting room is small but comfy, with some nice upholstered chairs around a table, a couple of seats at the bar, four other tables, and a pleasant patio in the back.  We opted to stay inside, in the air conditioning, though last year, when we came with friends, we enjoyed our tasting on the patio.  Love Lane is a great destination for foodies, containing on its short block two restaurants, plus Lombardi’s Italian Market and the Love Lane Cheese Shop. Just around the northern corner there’s Agora, a Greek food shop, and GoodFood, a great empanada spot, and, around the other corner, the North Fork Donut Shop.  And this is our neighborhood!

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Small pour, especially since we were sharing the tasting.

1.        2018 Roanoke Vineyards Infinite Possibility        $22

A blend of 70% chardonnay, 23% sauvignon blanc, and 2% gewürztraminer, this wine smells lovely, of honeysuckle and minerals.  The taste is more interesting than your usual white, reminding me of gooseberries, with some minerality.  It is tart, but has a sweet finish.  I could see having it with a seafood in cream sauce.  Lobster Newburg?

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I liked their labels. The rose is quite light.

2.       2018 R. V. Rosé               $22

From being a rarity to being a variety almost every winery needs to have, rosés have come a long way from the days of Mateus in a ceramic bottle.  The menu describes this as a “Provence style” wine, a mixture of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, with “a splash of chardonnay.”  The server explains that it spends only a few hours on the skins, which is why it is such a pale pink.  The aroma is faint, with only a trace of strawberry.  My tasting buddy insists it is sweet, but I contend that it is juicy.  We agree it is a light rosé, and ends with tastes of minerals and salt.  Though we like it, we still prefer Croteaux (which, we recently learned, has been bought by the new owners of Shinn, so we look forward to sitting in their delightful garden again).

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3.       2016 R. V. Site Specific Cabernet Franc                 $34

If you look at the tasting menu, you’ll see that this should have been the Marco Tulio, a blend that is primarily merlot, but, as our server explained with a bit of chagrin, she accidentally opened the Cab Franc, so that is what we get to taste.  She also explained the name.  Roanoke only has about seven acres of vines on their own land, getting the rest of their grapes from vines they tend at various other vineyards, including some of the Mudd plots.  So wines made from grapes grown exclusively on their estate are labeled “Site Specific.”  Her mistake is our pleasure.  This wine smells so fruity that, if I were a fruit fly, I would happily drown in it.  It also tastes quite good.  My husband describes it as “meaty.”  I think he means hearty. 

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4.       2016 R. V. Theory & Practice       $28

Of course, I have to ask the meaning of this name.  She explains that the first time they made this wine it was 50/50 cabernet franc and petit verdot, an unusual blend, so they decided to name it after the process of making it—theory followed by practice.  The current iteration is a more traditional blend, of merlot and cabernet franc plus 5% petit verdot.  It has a lovely aroma, mostly of cherries from the merlot, plus other fruits.  My husband notes that the “aroma is more inviting than the taste,” since it is not as luscious as one would expect.  We get dark fruits, mineral, and tobacco.  “It would be good with bacon,” says my husband.  “You mean spaghetti carbonara?”  I ask.  “Sure,” he replies.

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It was just a bit too warm to sit outside, though the patio is nicely shaded.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location in the midst of the Love Lane foodie paradise; they carry some South Fork wines; nice little tasting room and pleasant back patio; the Infinite Possibility and the Cabernet Franc, though all the wines were pleasant.

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

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The expansive picnic grounds are very inviting.

https://theoldfield.com/

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

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

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

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

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The bar.

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

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One of the tables on the rustic deck.

1.        2016 Mostly Steel Chardonnay $22

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

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2.       2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay       $28

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

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3.       2017 Charging Goose Sauvignon Blanc    $28

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

4.       2016 Cacklin’ Rosé          $22

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

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5.       2016 Dashing Duck Red Meritage             $16

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

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6.       2014 Rooster Tail            $16

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

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

7.       2014 Ice House Rescue Cabernet Franc               $45

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

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8.       2013 Merlot      $28

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

9.       2014 Pinot Noir

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

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

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

Greenport Harbor Brewery: Summer Sippers June 14, 2019

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 https://greenportharborbrewing.com/

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

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

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Hot pretzel with melted cheese. Yum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.       Summer Ale       5% ABV

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

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

3.       Velvet Sea          5% ABV

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

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

4.       Locals to Locals #14        7.2% ABV

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

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

5.       Face Value         8% ABV

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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

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A view from the ferry.

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

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

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

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

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The standard tasting, which we did not have.

  1. 2017 Bianco Petillant Naturel                   $28

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

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  1. 2017 Rosato Petillant Naturel      $28

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

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  1. Cuvee Tropical

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

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

  1. 2017 Pinot Grigio $20

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

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  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

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

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

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

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

Pellegrini Vineyards: In the Club June 4, 2019

https://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

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

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

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This is just one side of the courtyard.

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

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

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

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Each tasting comes with a little bag of oyster crackers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See the legs?

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

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

Sparkling Pointe: Sparkling Day May 24, 2019

https://www.sparklingpointe.com/

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Finally a beautiful day!

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

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

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

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Our server explaining dosage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nice touch–fresh flowers on the tables.

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

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  1. 2013 Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc $38

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

  1. 2018 Estate Pinot Blanc                            $22

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

  1. 2018 Estate Chardonnay $24

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

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

  1. 2017 Estate Merlot $30

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

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We enjoyed the music of The Second Hand.

  1. 2017 Estate Cabernet Franc $35

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

  1. 2017 Estate Petit Verdot $35

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

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Cans of Bridge Lane wines are available for purchase.

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I almost missed the small display of local art.

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

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