Macari Vineyards May 18, 2013

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http://www.macariwines.com/

This weekend we went to what we call the “Irish” winery—not because it is Irish, but because a friend, hearing the name but not seeing it, thought it was McCary!  In fact, so Italian (not Irish) are they that the Macari family has given several of their wines Italian names, including Collina, for the hills on which their vineyard is located, and Sette, for Settefrati, the town in Italy from which their family emigrated.

Macari has two tasting rooms, a commodious building just off Sound Avenue and another, formerly the Gallucio Family Winery, on Main Road in Cutchogue.  We’ve been to both, but this time we went to the one on Main Road.  As you enter, you see the road forks both up the hill and down.  Both ways lead to parking lots, so you can pick either way, but the uphill one enables you to drop off passengers at the door.  Both rooms have outdoor areas far enough from the road to feel pleasantly rustic.

We had an irrational prejudice against Macari because early in our winery-visiting days we walked in right behind a group of bachelorettes who stumbled out of their limo, beer cans in hand, plastic flowers in their hair, and proceeded to be quite raucous.  Not Macari’s fault!

The Main Road tasting room is a pleasant space, with a curving copper-topped bar and a nice selection of gift items, including hand painted wine glasses and tea towels with the word Wineaux on them.  A white flight of four tastes is $8 and a red flight is $12.  They also offer artisanal cheeses and salumi for $7-10.00, including crackers.   The servers are pleasant and well-informed, though it is a bit disconcerting to hear the same spiel delivered word for word to your neighbors at the bar. By the way, if you want to go you should go soon, as they are celebrating their 15th anniversary with a very nice sale on many of their wines.

We opted to do one tasting of whites and one of reds, sharing as we went.

Macari white

  1.   2012 Sauvignon Blanc                                   $23

This bears the subtitle “Katherine’s Field,” and our server noted it is their “signature wine.”  This steel-fermented white has aromas of herbs and baked pear (they say), and we think thyme and unripe cantaloupe.  We also taste unripe cantaloupe, along with a tart acidity and not much fruit.  Not really for sipping, but it would be a good oyster wine.

2.  2010 Riesling                                                      $27

Though this uses grapes from upstate, it escapes the sometimes over-sweetness one finds with that fruit.  A flowery aroma precedes tastes of grapefruit and dried apricot which unfolds quite pleasantly on the palate.  Good finish and, we conclude, a really lovely well-made Riesling.

3.  Collina Chardonnay                                         $13

The server describes this as their “house white,” and notes that it is a combination of oak and steel-fermented wine, which should make it quite pleasant but does not.  I think of the taste and smell as reminding me of a vacation house that has been closed up too long, with a sensation of damp and slightly moldy wood.  We dump the remainder in the spit bucket, something we rarely do.  Even on sale for $10, I can’t see buying this!

  4.  2012 Early Wine                                                                $17

This is a special production of their Austrian winemaker, and is called early wine because…it is picked early.  In late August, they harvest these mostly chardonnay grapes, and age the wine not at all, yielding an almost clear liquid.  We think it will be tart, but instead it is rather sweet, with aromas of grass or hay and tastes of pear with a slight edge of lemon.  Not bad, but not for us.

Macari red

  5.  Collina 48 Merlot                                                              $13

New glass for the reds, always a nice touch.  Mostly Merlot, with 5% each of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, this is a simple table-type wine that would be better with food than just sipping.  We smell tobacco and bay leaf and taste some berry, but the taste leaves the tongue quickly and is quite dry and tart.

 6.  Sette Red Blend                                                                                    $19

Named for Settefrati (seven brothers), the village from which the Macaris emigrated, this is our favorite of the wines so far.  A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this wine smells to us like a combination of cocoa mulch (try it on your garden some time, but I warn you, every time you weed you’ll crave a chocolate bar) and green olives, with nice plum flavors.  Very buyable.

 7.   2007 Merlot Reserve                                                     $36

After 16 months in French oak, this merlot is then aged for four years, so it was just recently released.  We detect a bit of menthol in the aroma, and also berry pie (a smell you’ll recognize if you’ve ever been to Briermere while they are baking).  The taste starts sweet, then becomes quite nice, with black cherry and enough tannins that our tongues tingle.  Interesting, and quite good.

8.  2008 Dos Aguas                                                                 $27

Two waters, we ask?  For the Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, the two bodies of water that frame the North Fork, she replies.  A Bordeaux blend, Dos Aguas combines 70% merlot with 17% cabernet sauvignon, 8% malbec, 4% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot.  Strongly spicy aromas of nutmeg and berries, maybe some plum, make us anticipate a delicious wine, but it is not to be.  Really not much to this one at all.

They also have, available by the glass but not included in the tasting, a couple of rosés and some dessert wines as well as a few additional wines.  We buy two bottles of Sette and two Wineaux tea towels (how could we not?).

Macari Wineaux

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room and outside seating area in a rustic setting; 2010 Riesling and Sette Red Blend; some nice gift items; choice of two tasting rooms so if you want to go there you can be flexible as to your route.

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The Winemaker Studio May 11, 2013

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

I love spring on the North Fork.  We stopped at the Bay View farm stand and bought fresh local spinach and asparagus and leeks and rhubarb and duck breast and bacon, and at Briermere for a blueberry crumb pie.  And now a short pause for a disquisition on Briermere pies…Yum.  Later that evening we had sautéed duck breast with a local red wine, garlic, and maple syrup reduction, accompanied by spinach salad with bacon and hard-boiled egg, with a dressing made from Vines and Branches olive oil and Cara Cara Orange White Balsamic vinegar, and steamed asparagus. All seasoned with artisanal North Fork salt!  Pie for dessert, of course.  With it we had Bordo wine from Anthony Nappa, about which more later.

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After all that shopping we felt thirsty, so we decided to stop into the Winemaker Studio on Peconic Lane.  This attractive store front used to be called The Tasting Room, and though the name and cast of characters have changed, the idea is the same:  to showcase smaller wine producers who lack a place of their own.  Run by Anthony Nappa, it features his wines as well as wines by others whose “day job” is as winemaker for other vineyards.  They buy their grapes, some from upstate, and make their wines at Premium Wine Group, a facility housed at Leib Cellars but used by many.  Nappa used to make wines for Shinn; Russell Hearn, originally from Australia, was the winemaker for Pellegrini until he and his wife Sue decided to make their own label, SuHru (Sue and Russell, with an H for Hearn); John Leo works for Clovis Point and also makes his Leo Family wines; and Erik Bilka works at Premium and also makes his own Influence brand.

The Studio has several features which causes it to stand apart from most tasting rooms, aside from the variety of different labels it offers, because in addition to wine it also offers a beer taste from Southampton Publick House, some coffee drinks, and local gins and whiskies, plus cheese or cheese and salumi platters for $15.  The gin brands include McKenzie and Glorious, and the whiskies and ryes include Pine Barrens and Greenhook.  If you go there for Happy Hour—from 5-7 p.m.—you might want to try them.  The airy room includes a nice bar plus little tables and chairs, with art on the walls by local artists.  Sometimes there is a dog or two in residence, though not today.  Oh, and the room is attached to a pleasant little food shop which includes both local brands and some hard to find labels.

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The wine menu offers nine tastes, at $2-$4 per taste, and we opt to share four whites and four reds, skipping the lone rosé.  Chris, our server and we believe the manager of the shop, is impressively knowledgeable.  We overheard him giving very good advice to some neophytes to the region on which tasting rooms to visit based on which wines they had liked of his selections.  He also knows all about the wines he serves, and yet was tactful enough to let us sip in silence when he saw that was what we preferred.

  1.  2011 Nappa Anomaly                                    $19

This wine is an anomaly because it is a white wine made from pinot noir grapes, and since it spends no time on the skins it is white, not the rosé one would expect.  Yet the aroma reminds us of strawberry candy, a smell one would associate with a rose.  However, the taste is very much its own thing:  some earthiness, some citrus—perhaps key lime—some minerality, dry but fruity and quite delicious.  It is all steel fermented, so it is quite a refreshing, clean drink.

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2.  2012 SuHru Pinot Grigio                                              $16

I often drink pinot grigio, but this does not taste like any I have had.  The aroma is sweet, like white grape juice, with a bit of that cat pee smell.  The taste is also sweeter than a typical pinot grigio, maybe because the grapes come from upstate.  The tasting notes say pear, and I don’t disagree. Though many would like it, it’s not for me.

3.  2012 Nappa Luminous Riesling                                 $18

This is another wine made from upstate grapes, and though Chris categorizes it as “on the dry/off dry cusp,” we find it a bit sweet.  As is typical of the wines in this room, it is not typical!  An aroma of honeysuckle heralds a goldenrod honey and pineapple taste, with a hint of citrus.

4. 2012 Nappa Sciardonné Chardonnay                       $18

Pronounce the name of this wine in the Italian manner, in which “sci” is pronounced like a soft “sh,” and you’ll get the joke of this Italian-style wine’s name.  Although this is a steel-fermented wine it does undergo malolactic fermentation, and so has some of the buttery taste associated with chardonnays.  However, it does not have that overly buttery flavor of an oaked chard, and the aroma of “pine forest after a rain”—my husband’s idea—is quite lovely.  Very buyable.

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 5. 2012 Nappa Bordo                                                           $20

We sniff and discuss—tomato leaves?  Maybe.  Definitely vegetabley, with a hint of minerals.  Good fruit, with some typical cabernet franc tastes of berries, but not too heavy. The color is a light and pretty red.  This would go perfectly with the duck we just bought, we think, and are later proven correct. Buyable.

6.  2011 SuHru Shiraz                                                           $22

The syrah grape is called shiraz in Australia, and Hearn is from Australia, so…I tend to like syrahs or shirazes, whatever they are called, and this is no exception.  A slight cardamom aroma leads to dry but good berry tastes with some nice depth.  Unlike some shirazes, this is not overpowering.  They say a taste of Earl Gray, but I don’t get it.  However, this is definitely a buyable wine.

7.  2010 Nappa Dieci                                                             $35

To get the reason for this name, look no further than the date.  A blend of 37% cabernet sauvignon, 44% merlot, and 19% cabernet franc, this is a Bordeaux style wine, though not as interesting as a French Bordeaux at this price point.  However, it is a pleasant wine and would be good with food.

8.  2007 Leo Family Cellars Red Blend                           $40

Aromas of mineral, earth, and blackberry are not surprising for this merlot/petit verdot blend.  This wine is really interesting, and we comment that it is a humble name for an ambitious wine with lovely depth of flavor. We also admire the label!

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Intrigued by the liquors on offer, we try the McKenzie and Glorious Gins, and end up buying a bottle of Glorious Gin, which has a really interesting herbal flavor and makes a very good Gibson later that night.  We also get two each of the Sciardonné, Bordo, and Shiraz.

Reasons to visit:  A chance to taste some experimental and interesting wines in a pleasant setting; availability of local liquors and beer as well; Happy Hour ; with the little shop next store you could buy dinner (except for produce) and something to drink with it as well; an ever-changing roster of wines.