Lenz Winery 8/25/12

The first round at Lenz

http://www.lenzwine.com/

After a 28-mile morning bike ride, we are ready for some refreshment, and so we head to the Lenz Winery, on the main road, one of a row of wineries.  They have an attractive barn-like tasting room, as well as some outside tables, and they sell some of the art that is on their walls as well as a small selection of wine-related tchatchkas.  A chalk board suggests one ask about their cheese tray, but we don’t.  There are two tasting menus, the Estate wines, 6 for $10, and the Premium wines, 5 for $14.  Being good at sharing, we order one of each, and our well-informed and bright server asks if we would like him to coordinate them so we can taste the wines in groups.  We do!

The first round consists of three wines, the 2010 Blanc de Noir ($15), the 2006 Cuvee ($30) and the 2008 Gewurztraminer ($20).

1)  The Blanc de Noir is a rose, with a sweet beginning and a tart finish, and a taste of green tomatoes.  It would work with oysters.

2) Champagne!  The 06 Cuvee is a methode champagnoise sparking wine that is quite good.  They use pinot noir grapes.  Although the aroma reminds us of cut grass that has been left in a pile for too long, the flavor is dry and good, with notes of green apple.  This wine, the server tells us, is aged for 6 months.

3) In the past we have liked their gewurz, but this one does not thrill us.  Neither here nor there, is one comment.  Some sweetness, some spice, a bit of ginger.

The second grouping lets us compare three chardonnays.  I love this type of tasting, since it is always so fascinating to see how the same grape can be so different depending on how it is treated.

4) 08 White Label Chardonnay          $12

This mostly steel fermented chard has a honeysuckle aroma, and though it is a bit sweet is is nicely balanced and not too citrusy.  Very buyable!

5) Gold Label Chardonnay         $20

This is an oak-aged chard, and has the expected vanilla/caramel notes with a roast pear aroma.  It starts tart and ends a bit acidic.  Though it has a bit too much flavor for simple foods, it might be really good with a seafood in cream sauce dish.

6) Old Vines Chardonnay          $25

“Old vines” because the vines are 25 years old, this variety is “only made when we have good grapes,” we are told.  This is in the tradition of a white Burgundy, with flavors of spice, pears, and some vanilla.  Excellent!

Now we move on to the reds, with a grouping of two cabernet sauvignons and a merlot/cab sauv blend, again facilitating fascinating comparisons.

7) 08 Cabernet Sauvignon          $23

The aroma reminds us of one of our favorite NoFo treats:  Briermere blackberry pie!  Soft, simple, and uncomplicated, this would make a pleasant sipping wine.  Good!

8)  08 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (plus other grapes) blend     $17

Another right bank Bordeaux.  We feel this could use more time to age, as it is very soft and dry, with no aroma.  Not bad for an everyday Bordeaux, however.

9)  2002 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon          $40

Yum!  The server tells us this wine has had 10 years in the bottle to “calm down,” an interesting way to put it.  He also says it could sit another 10-15 years, but we doubt that.  We go on to have a discussion of the cabernet sauvignon grape, which, he says, has thicker skins than other grapes, and so needs more time to ripen, meaning that it is also more subject to the vagaries of weather and thus more difficult to work with.  They’ve done a good job with this one, which has lots of fruit, an interestingly complicated aroma, but not much tannin.  Though expensive, this could be worth the price.

The last grouping pairs two merlots.

10)  07 Estate Select Merlot          $23

How can a wine smell like coconut suntan lotion?  I don’t know, but this one does!  Though it is dry, we taste lots of fruit and sense plenty of tannins.  We like this one, and buy two bottles, one for a friend and one for us.

11)  02 Old Vines Merlot          $55

We sense some of the earthy terroir aroma of the Long Island merlot, but only a little.  Again, this is dry, with tastes of black cherry and chocolate.  Though good, we don’t think it is worth the price.

Reasons to visit:  some good reds, especially the Old Vines Cab and the Estate Select Merlot; the chance to do some comparative tastings across grape types; the Old Vines Chard.

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Waters Crest 8/11/12

http://www.waterscrestwinery.com/

Waters Crest has probably the worst-located winery on the North Fork, in a strip mall around the corner from the Southold town dump, which is too bad, because their wines are generally quite good.  The tasting room is small but pleasant, with a selection of gift items including some cute t-shirts and a cheese tray for $9.99. Jim Waters makes all his own wines, but buys his grapes from local growers, not having his own vineyard.  He started as a home winemaker, and, as we’ve learned from talking to other winemakers, that’s often the first step to becoming a professional wine-maker. (The server, Jenny, also tells another couple how Jim was a volunteer at Ground Zero, and after that decided to follow his dream.)  We bonded with Jim and his wife on our first visit, when we discovered they had looked at and contemplated buying the house we eventually bought in Mattituck!

The tasting menu now includes all seven of their wines, for $15, or you can buy individual tastes of whites for $2 each or reds for $3 each.  We opt to share one tasting.

1)  2011 Rose          $24.99

This is a simple and refreshing rose, with a fresh strawberry aroma and taste, fairly tart.

2)  2011 Chardonnay          $18.99

Although it is steel fermented, it has some interesting notes of vanilla and caramel which makes us wonder if it spent any time in oak, though Jenny says no.  It has a pleasantly lemony finish.

3)  2010 Reserve Chardonnay          $25.99

Delicious.   A somewhat smoky, mineral aroma makes us wonder how this will taste, but the wine has a nice balance of fruit and is not too oaky.  Jenny says it spent 10 months in new French oak barrels.

4)  2008 Merlot          $39.99

We get new glasses for the reds, always a nice touch.  This is a lovely soft Merlot, with a berry aroma and dark plum flavor, without too much of the North Fork dirt flavor.  Not much in the way of tannins.

5)  Due Sorelle          $34.99

Two sisters–named for the Waters’ daughters Michelle and Lauren–combines two wines, Merlot and Cabernet Franc to good effect, with lots of yummy pepper and fruit flavors including cherry.  Mild and mellow, this is dry despite the good fruit flavors.

6)  2008 Campagnia Rosso          $49.99

This is a right bank Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.  The aroma is somewhat funky and off-putting (earthworm?) though the taste is better than the aroma. However, it is not our favorite of the wines.

7)  2007 Cabernet Franc Grand Vin          $39.99

Though the aroma of this is also somewhat earthy, the flavor is excellent, lots of ripe fruit with some mineral on the finish.  We buy a bottle!

Reasons to visit:  some nice wines, especially the 07 Cab Franc Grand Vin and 10 Reserve Chard; intimate setting, with the frequent chance to chat with the owner.

Bedell Cellars 8/7/12

http://www.bedellcellars.com/

If someone ever gives an award to a winery for attention to design, Bedell should get it.  From the pretty flower-surrounded parking lot to the attractive type-face of their signs to the arty labels on their wines, it is clear that someone is paying attention to appearance, and doing it very well.  The tasting room is well-designed, and the outside veranda lovely.  Even the servers wear a “uniform”–checked shirts with the Bedell logo.  Happily, the wines are equally well-designed!  We are here on a warm late summer afternoon with our daughter, son-in-law, and a now 14-month-old distraction, so not all of my notes are as comprehensive as they could be.  However, many of the technical details of their wines are readily available on their web page.

There are two tasting options (as well as the usual ability to buy wines by the glass or the bottle):   The Estate tasting includes 5 wines from their lower priced line for $10, while the Premium tasting gives you 5 tastes of their higher priced wines for $15.  We opt for one flight per couple, with one pair trying the premium and the other the estate so we can taste all ten wines.  The pour is small, but since we are there at the end of the day (4:30), a couple of times we get the benefit of a little extra to empty a bottle!  The servers are very knowledgeable and pleasant, and we also enjoy chatting with another young couple with a baby in tow, and our granddaughter enjoys meeting the calm and very friendly golden lab who is allowed into the room just to say hello.

Estate Tasting:

1)  2010 First Crush White          $18

This is a mostly steel-fermented blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling that is light and tart and refreshing.  The aroma is of mineral and chalk, and the fruit is subtle but there, with a pleasant dryness.

2)  2011 Chardonnay          $25

The server explains that this wine spends some time in neutral oak barrels (in other words, in barrels that have already been used for previous fermentations, and so have lost much of their oaky taste) in order to give the wine a better texture, and indeed, it does have a pleasant mouth feel.  The tasting notes also point out that beach stones are used in the casks, which we learn help to keep the cask full.  How much, if anything, they do for the flavor is debatable.  The flavor is pleasantly citrusy.

3)  2011 Taste Rose          $18

This is a light, fairly nondescript blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv.   Can’t compete with Croteaux’s roses.

4)  2010 First Crush Red          $18

This is a Beaujolais Nouveau style of light red, and would be nice slightly chilled with a roast chicken.  The aroma has some of that North Fork earthiness, but it tastes better than it smells.

5)  2009 Merlot          $20

Nice berry aroma, and a typical Long Island Merlot, though without the earth flavor that is sometimes too prevalent.

Premium Tasting

1)  2011 Sparkling Rose          $35

This is NOT a champagne-style sparkling wine, but rather one made by injecting CO2 into the tanks.  It is a refreshing blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and Merlot, but tastes a bit too much like a pink soda to me.

2)  2011 Viognier          $35

Winner!  This is a delicious white with lots of citrus and pleasing amount of complexity, despite a somewhat funky aroma.  Since I have no earlier notes on this wine, my guess is it is a new one for Bedell.

3)  2010 Gallery         $40

The Viognier grape also appears in this blend, which adds Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to the mix.  The aroma reminds me of lemon candy, and the taste has a sweetness of ripe fruit to it, but it is a pleasant wine.

4)  2010 Taste Red          $35

Yum.  The server notes that this was aged for 12 months, and is a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, and Malbec.  The aroma is intensely berry berry, and the taste is lovely, with lots of fruit but dry.  Good tannins.

5)  Musee          $75  (!)

This rather pricey wine is also a Bordeaux blend, with an aroma of coffee and plum.  It spends 14 months in a combination of oak and old oak, and is a blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Petit Verdot.  Though it is a good wine, with some complexity and good fruit flavor and a nice finish, we feel it is not worth the price.

Our son-in-law buys the First Crush Red, a good choice, we all agree.

Reasons to visit:  beautiful room and attractive labels; good though expensive wines; First Crush Red.