Sparkling Pointe August 25, 2013

http://www.sparklingpointe.com/

Sparkling

It seemed appropriate on a sparkling August day, after several hours watching the sun sparkling on the water, to check out Sparkling Pointe winery, where they specialize in sparkling wine.  And a good choice it was.  Using the Méthode Champenoise to make authentic champagne-style wines (which can’t actually be called champagne because only wines from the Champagne region of France can legally bear that title), they have taken Long Island grapes into the realm of luxury wines.

The bright and airy tasting room leads out to a spacious patio area, which they need, since they often get van and busloads of visitors, as we have noted as we have driven by.  Just as Croteaux evokes France and Diliberto evokes Italy, Sparkling Pointe evokes Brazil, featuring Bossa Nova nights and paintings of Rio in its tasting room.  According to a server on a previous visit, the owners happen to “love the culture” of Brazil.  The winery also tries to promote an air of elegance, with crystal chandeliers on the ceiling and caviar on the fairly extensive snack menu. Once, when we came on Halloween, all the servers were in fancy dress, either tuxedos or ball gowns.  The snack menu, which needs to be somewhat extensive since they have a note on the door politely informing guests that they no longer allow outside food, also includes charcuterie, various cheeses, olives, and more,  as well as iced tea, Pellegrino, and something called Vita Coco Coconut Water from Brazil.  We have goodies waiting at home, so we decide to just do two tastings, one for our son and another we will share, at $17 for four tastes in pretty champagne flutes.   Although they have more than four wines, they decide on the menu of tastings each day. Oh, and you can add a chocolate pairing for an additional $10.

Our server knows his stuff, and seems quite enthusiastic, but he is also taking care of a couple of larger parties out on the patio and seems somewhat distracted, rushing back and forth.  Fortunately, we are not in a hurry.

  1.   2009 Brut                                           $29

This is their “signature” wine, a blend of 59% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier, and 5% reserve wine.  I want to ask the server what “reserve wine” means, though I assume it is wine left over from other years, but he has disappeared and I forget when he returns.  We like the Brut better than on a past visit.  It has a somewhat doughy smell, with some notes of not-ripe melon, or maybe pear.  It is a light, dry champagne, with some residual sugar and a hint of grapefruit.  While I wouldn’t want to drink it by itself, as in a toast, it would be a lovely aperitif wine with nuts or soft cheese.

2.  2008 Blanc de Blancs                      $42 (Magnum $93)

On the other hand, I would happily drink a toast with this wine.  After a year on the lees, this 100% Chardonnay wine has a somewhat funky mineral aroma but is creamy to taste, and reminds me of a Granny Smith apple pie.  Nicely dry, but with good fruit, I could also see this paired with some Crescent Farms duck breast. and my son agrees.  It is better than most $20 champagnes one buys.

3.  2003 Brut Seduction                       $60

Another blend, this one is 51% Chardonnay and 49% Pinot Noir, and spent eight years on the lees, according to our server.  One nicety—each taste is poured into a fresh glass. Here we smell dirt and mushrooms, but taste raspberry and lemon curd.  One could definitely sip this on its own and be very happy.  The tasting notes refer to its “organoleptic profile,” which occasions some hilarity in our little party.  Look it up.

4.  NV Cuvée Carnaval                         $27

Our server has poured our final taste before we finished the one before, and left, noting that he won’t be back, a fistful of glasses in one hand and a bottle in the other, so I miss whatever he said about this wine, as I was concentrating on the previous one and comparing notes with my son.  This wine combines Merlot and Chardonnay, plus 4% Gewürztraminer, which probably accounts for some of its sweetness.  We smell strawberry jam and taste mango and cherry.  It wouldn’t be bad with a dessert like a flourless chocolate cake, and, for a sweet wine, has some nice minerality, so I like it better than I thought I would.  If you didn’t have Chateau d’Yquem, my husband notes, you could substitute this.  Well, maybe…

After we finish our last wine, we stand at the bar waiting to pay for our tastings, our server, as promised, having disappeared.  A gentleman comes over and asks us if we are waiting to buy a bottle.  No, we say, just waiting to pay for our tastings.  He thanks us for our patience, and tells us the tastings are free!  Nice gesture, which somewhat makes up for our harried server’s divided attentions.

Reasons to visit:  you like champagne—um, I mean, sparkling wine; you want to see what a North Fork winery can do with sparkling wines; you want caviar with your champ…sparkling wine; the Blanc de Blancs (my favorite); Bossa Nova nights.

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Lieb Cellars/Oregon Road August 9, 2013

http://liebcellars.com/

Tuscany?  No, Oregon Road!

Tuscany? No, Oregon Road!

Suppose you like Lieb wines (as we do) and you decide to stop by their small tasting room on the corner of Cox Neck Road and Sound Avenue, only to find it…overrun sounds so judgmental, so let’s just say crowded…by the presence of a couple of limo groups.  Never fear, you have a lovely alternative.  Just go back onto Sound Avenue and continue a few blocks to Mill Road, turn left, then turn right onto Oregon Road and you will find yourself surrounded by farm houses and fields of sunflowers.  You’ll pass Shinn Vineyards—also worth a stop, by the way—and eventually you’ll find Lieb’s second tasting room, carved out of a warehouse (sort of similar to the way their first tasting room shares quarters with the Premium Wine Group, which does the wine-making for quite a few of the North Fork wineries).

This tasting room does not accept limo or bus groups, so it is unlikely to be crowded.  When we ask our server why the new room was opened, she gives just this reason, and notes that it is a nice place for their wine club members to come for a quiet tasting or glass of wine.  They also have an efficient-looking little kitchen just off the room, where on the weekends they make snacks such as hummus, tomato bruschetta, oysters, and other non-cooked items (since they don’t have an oven on site).  On this cloudy Friday, there is just one other group in the room, sitting around a table on the comfortable-looking modern wicker sofas.  The room has a sophisticated, semi-industrial look, softened by a swag of cloth and a seashell wreath over the kitchen and a sea-view mural on one wall.

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Lieb inside

They offer six tasting options:  five whites for $10, five reds for $10, a “summer fling” of six mixed types for $14, two sparkling wines for $7, a Reserve tasting of five for $12, and another summer tasting of four wines for $8. They also have a couple of Greenport Harbor beers on tap, in case your party includes a non-wine drinker.  We decide to do a white flight and then a red flight, sharing as we go.  The pour is fairly generous.

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  1. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot Blanc                                  $12

But wait, you say, isn’t merlot a red grape?  Yes, but if you don’t give it any time on the skins you get a white wine with some merlot characteristics.  In this case, that involves some funkiness in the taste.  We smell pine and mineral aromas, and the taste is sour, like grapefruit juice with some pineapple at the end.  We wouldn’t want to sip this one, but it might go well with food that needs a strong white.

2.       2010 Reserve Pinot Blanc                                             $18

Our well-informed server tells us that they are the only winery on the North Fork to make a Pinot Blanc, and so it is their signature wine.  Again, this one is not for sipping, though it would have gone well with the lobster bisque I made from our leftover shells the other night.  The aroma has a bit of the cat pee smell, and the wine itself is light and tart and citrusy, with a hint of sweetness at the end.

3. 2010 Bridge Lane Chardonnay                                    $10

We like this steel-fermented chard very much, and the price is certainly right.  Scents of cinnamon and mineral, with a bit of sweetness, lead to a classic steel chard with nice fruit, and not too much sweet.

4. 2009 Reserve Chardonnay                                           $24

After eight months in oak, this is a lightly oaked chard, with some baked goods aroma.  Very tasty, not too oaky, and again some sweetness at the end.

5. 2010 Sound Influence Riesling                                   $24

Although this is an off-dry Riesling, we find the sweetness overwhelms the tastes of pineapple and tropical fruit and wildflower honey.

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6. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot                                              $15

Now we switch to the reds, and we get a new glass, always a nice touch.  Although we smell forest floor, the wine itself does not have any of that earthy dirt taste one sometimes gets.  This would make a fine vin ordinaire, to have with pasta and such, as it has nice cherry flavors and just a little tannin.  Buyable.

7, 2005 Reserve Merlot                                                      $22

18 months in French oak gives this wine an aroma of smoke and tomato.  Hmmm…barbecue sauce?  This is also a good pasta wine, and would stand up to a rich Bolognese sauce, as it has more tannins than the Bridge Lane Merlot.  We taste cherry at the front of this relatively simple wine.

8. 2010 Right Coast Red                                                      $30

Here we have their classic Bordeaux blend:  58% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec.  I’m assuming the name is a play on Right Bank Bordeaux!  The aroma is almost meaty, it is so complex, and the wine itself is lovely, with lots of fruit.  It would complement a rack of lamb very nicely, though the end taste is a bit sour.

9. 2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc                                     $26

Our server describes this one as “nice and smooth,” as she also tells us it spent 15 months in French oak.  We smell wet rock, and my husband says it smells like a typical Cabernet Franc, but “not to distraction.”  Though not complex, this is a good red, with lots of fruit flavors.

10. 2005 Meritage                                                                   $45

Another blend, this one has 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and Petit Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc.  This is only the third time Lieb has made this wine, we are told, and they only made 300 cases of it.  We are underwhelmed by its aroma of sticky candy and just okay taste.

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They don’t offer any wine tchotchkes for sale.  We do buy both the Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot.  No reduction of tasting price with purchase.

lieb outside

Reasons to visit:  you like a quiet tasting room in a bucolic setting; many of their wines, including the reasonably priced Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot, are quite good; you want to come on a weekend and check out their snacks (I guess we’ll have to return!).

One Woman Winery August 5, 2013

http://www.onewomanwines.com/

Apparently, one woman is all it takes to make some terrific wines; at least, if that one woman is Claudia Purita, the woman behind One Woman Wines.  As her daughter proudly told us on a previous visit, Ms. Purita tends the vines by hand, picks the grapes, and makes the wine. The results are a pleasure to drink.  Oh, and she even picks and arranges the gorgeous bouquets of wildflowers that grace the tasting room.

Flowers in the tasting room

Flowers in the tasting room

We came to the winery this time on a breezy sunny Monday afternoon, when, until two other parties arrived, we were the only people in the tiny tasting room and on the only slightly larger deck area, where we drank our wines.  If you are in a party larger than six or in a limo, you’d better have a reservation!  The pleasant young women behind the bar were cheery and helpful, and guided us as we decided on what to pick from the menu of nine wines.  Tastings are $6 for two tastes, $8 for three, or $10 for four, plus there are three reserve wines one can try for $4 for one or $12 for all three.  Since there were four adults, we decided to share two tastings of four choices each, plus some reserves, while the two-year-old distraction ran races on the lawn. Because we were going back and forth between two tastings, the wines might not be in the absolute perfect tasting order.

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  1.  2011 One Woman Tribute                           $23

Created to mark Ms. Purita’s five-year anniversary as a winemaker, this is a blend of all their whites.  As a result, it has an unsurprisingly complicated aroma with peach and minerality dominating followed by a delicious taste that combines apricots (my favorite fruit) with a long citrusy finish.  Dry yet fruity, this is a wine one could happily sip by itself or pair with almost any food.   

2. 2012 Sauvignon Blanc                                    $25

Another goodie!  This one has a spicy aroma and flavor, with lots of lemon.  It would be great with oysters.  Very buyable.

3. 2011 Grüner Veltliner                                    $20

Hmmm…what’s that smell?  Eucalyptus!  This wine also has plenty of fruit, with a nice tartness that makes us think of gooseberries.  This is good, but…

4. 2012 Grüner Veltliner                                   $20

…the 2012 is even better.  Despite a slightly musty aroma under the eucalyptus, this is delicious, with a surprisingly sweet ending and a bit of a bubbly feeling on the tongue.  As this is the only Grüner on the North Fork, it is worth coming here just to taste it.

5. 2011 Gewürztraminer                                   $23

We smell pineapple and mango, then find the taste surprisingly dry, though with lots of tropical fruit.  This one is rather delicate, so you’d want to pair it with a dish that wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it.  Maybe scallops?

6. 2012 Gewürztraminer                                    $23

As the servers noted, the 2012s are more flavorful than the 2011s, and that holds true for both the Gewürztraminer and the Grüner.  Aromas and tastes of pineapple, and also spice and honey make this our favorite of the day, and we buy some to take home, thinking of Peconic Bay scallops on the barbecue.

7. 2012 Chardonnay                                             $20

This is our least favorite of the day, a half oaked, half steel fermented chard with some vanilla and pine sap aromas and some oak and tropical fruit flavors.

The deck

The deck

8. 2012 Rosé                                                            $19

We get the usual notes of strawberry, with perhaps, as they say, some pomegranate.  This is a dry, merlot-based rosé, with some earthiness and funkiness, though ultimately it is refreshing.

9. 2008 Estate Reserve Merlot                                        $48

Lots of aromas to this wine, including wet forest and cinnamon. We taste spice and dark fruit, and all agree that it is an excellent merlot with all sorts of interesting flavors.  This is part of the Reserve tasting, as are the next two.

10. 2010 Estate Reserve Chardonnay                              $38

Again, not a favorite.  It has that cat pee smell some wines seem to get, and is too oaky for our taste, with lots of butterscotch.

11.  2010 Dessert Wine                                                          $39

Smells like the Gewürztraminer.  It is sweet, but not just sweet, with some nice structure.

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If you are counting, you will realize we skipped one wine—the sparkling wine.  Perhaps next time we’ll try that.  Meanwhile we buy the Gewürztraminer and the Sauvignon Blanc, and as a result the tastings of the standard wines, but not the reserves, are free.  We also almost bought some gelato on sale in the tasting room, before we remembered that we had a Briermere pie for dessert.  Gelato?  Not surprising when you know that her husband owns D’Latte in Greenport.   Later that night we have Peconic Bay scallops, barbecued on skewers with plum tomatoes and zucchini, along with roasted new potatoes and corn and sautéed zucchini, and the Gewürztraminer goes perfectly with it all.

Reasons to visit:  you would like to drink some excellent white wines; you like peace and quiet among the vines (though they do have some evening events which might be livelier); you want to try Grüner Veltliner on Long Island; you like a nice dry Gewürztraminer; the Sauvignon Blanc.

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Harbes Family Farm August 5, 2013

http://www.harbesfamilyfarm.com/family-vineyard/

Harbes tasting barn

Harbes tasting barn

What a pleasant surprise!  Though we’d seen the sign for several years, we didn’t expect much from the Harbes tasting room.  After all, we mostly go to Harbes for their excellent sweet corn (best on the North Fork!), and other vegetables, not for wine.  However, we had walked around to the back of the farm stand on this breezy sunny day to give our small two-year-old distraction a chance to play on the wooden tractor/slide and in the sandbox filled with dump trucks.  Then the tasting barn caught our eye, so when play was done we headed there, with the little one’s assurance that she would just pretend to drink.

The tasting barn is indeed barn-like, a large bare room with wooden rafters and wire furniture, with some tables outside on the grass as well.  The tasting menu offers three options:  three wines for $10, four wines for $12, or five wines for $14, chosen from a menu of nine wines.  We decide to go for the five sample option, skipping their sparkling wine, their rosé, the ice wine, and a Chardonnay/Riesling blend that sounds as though it would be somewhat sweet.  They grow their own Chardonnay and Merlot grapes on a five acre plot, buy the rest of the grapes from Onabay and Clovis Point, and do their winemaking at Premium Group, as do many other wineries.  Though we don’t dislike any of the wines, we end up not wanting to buy any of them.

An array of bottles with medals

An array of bottles with medals

1.        Steel-fermented Chardonnay 2012                        $17

I’m not crazy about the aroma, which reminds me of mushy grapes, but this is a nice crisp clean steel chard, with flavors of green apple and lime.

2.       Barrel-fermented Chardonnay 2012                        $25

After a year of aging in French oak, this chard has the typical butterscotch aroma and flavor of an oaked chard, but is not too oaky.  More structure, observes one of our party, than the steel chard, and not too much vanilla.  Also nice.

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3.       Cabernet Franc 2011                                                       $29

The grapes for this wine come from Onabay and Clovis Point Vineyards.  Nice legs, we observe, which confuses the two year old distraction, but we explain that it means how the wine runs down the side of the glass, and she clinks her sippy cup of water with us.  Not a bad cab franc at all, with a spicy aroma and a light, clear, dry taste, with some cherry notes.

4.       Hallock Lane Merlot 2010                                            $55 

Though pricy, this is a very good wine with tastes of dark plum, black cherry, and leather.  Our server informs us that it is newly released.  Good tannins and plenty of fruit mean, we think, that this would probably get better with age. At that price, one would expect a memorable wine experience, which this is not.

5.       Old Barn Merlot 2007                                                     $26

Another good wine, which, despite an ashy aroma, has dark berry tastes on the tongue with some interesting flavors and good tannins.

As we are getting ready to leave, the hay ride comes around the bend, with a singer on board belting out “Thank God I’m a Country Girl.”  Looks like fun.

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Reasons to visit:  You have stopped to buy some corn and note the tasting room is just around the corner; you have children with you who would like to go on a barnyard adventure; you’ve had their roasted corn and a hot dog and you’re now thirsty; the merlots and the chardonnays.