I told my husband he’d miss the Jets/Steelers game because we’d be out for the afternoon, but he was in luck—it was playing (with the sound off) on the flat screen TV in the Sannino Bella Vita/Ackerly Ponds tasting room. And that wasn’t the only way the good-humored staff was helpful. The three of us were going to share a tasting when one confessed he might be coming down with a cold. Could we split one taste by sharing it 2/3 in one glass and 1/3 in another? We could! Everyone was happy, including the honeymooning couple who were staying in the Bed and Breakfast associated with the winery, and enjoying their complimentary tasting and so were the drunken fruit flies.
Each time we’ve come, we’ve noticed improvements to the tasting room, and they now have more space than they did at first in their rustic barn. Bella Vita took over the site from Ackerly Ponds, which continues in the names of some of the wines. On the list, some of them are marked BV, which means they are Bella Vita’s own. There are two tasting options: eight wines for $15 or four wines for $8. Since there are eleven wines on the list, plus spice wine, we decide to go with one 8 and one 4. They also offer a cheese tray for $15, and request that people not bring in outside picnics. As we sipped and chatted, a guitarist with a James-Taylor-type sound began to play in one corner of the room.
- 2012 Riesling $17
Not surprisingly, since this is made with grapes from the Finger Lakes Region, this is a somewhat sweet wine, though not cloyingly so. There’s an aroma of spice and goldenrod honey. It would pair nicely with something spicy.
2. 2012 Chilly Day Chardonnay $18
Just like most steel-fermented chardonnays, this one has a green apple smell, with tasting notes of citrus. It is a bit sweeter than one would expect, and one of the well-informed servers tells us that they try to accommodate a variety of preferences, and many people prefer a sweeter wine.
3. 2012 BV Chardonnay $23
Only one month in oak make this an only slightly oaked chard, with some ripe pear tastes and the usual vanilla aroma. It is drier than the first two.
4. 2012 BV Bianca White Merlot $17
“What a lovely color,” I said, admiring the pale pale pink of this 100% merlot rosé, made from the first press of the grapes, having spent almost no time on the skins. “Tastes like strawberries,” notes our son. We agree it is a nicely complex, not too sweet wine, with good fruit flavors. Quite buyable.
5. 2012 BV Snow Rose of Merlot $15
And now a wine from the second press, with twelve hours on the skins. The color is so dark it almost looks like a red, with a bit of a funky aroma. “Garbage smell?” asks our son. Fortunately it tastes better than it smells, though its notes of over-ripe fig may not appeal to everyone,
6. 2010 Cabernet Franc $40
Now we move on to the reds. This one doesn’t have a lot of fruit flavor, and does have some of that earthy smell and taste one gets out here.
7. 2004 Ackerly Ponds Merlot $19.99
Very nice! Dry, with ripe purple plum tastes, this would be great with pasta and meatballs.
8. 2nd Bottle Red $12
The name of this wine needs a bit of explaining, as there’s a philosophy behind it. So often a host wants to serve a good wine as a first round, but feels it is not necessary to serve as good (or expensive) a wine for the second round. Hence…2nd Bottle. It is true that one thing the North Fork could use is more less-expensive reds for everyday drinking, and this does fill that ecological niche. A blend primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this is a fine table wine, though it would be overpowered by anything big, like a steak.
9. 2010 Merlot $35
Lots of “2s” here—22 months aging in oak, with juice from 23 year old vines. We like this one, too. Dry, with a bit of berry taste.
10. 2010 BV Prima Rossa $35
Another blend, this one is also aged 22 months, and includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. We smell cinnamon, spice, cedar and find the taste lighter than one would expect from the smell, with some hints of licorice. It would go great with a Middle Eastern lamb dish.
11. 2010 BV Spotlight Petit Verdot $45
Another good red, and strong enough to stand up to a steak dinner, this is primarily Petit Verdot with about 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and has tastes of berry and ripe cherries. In general, we’re liking the reds better than we did a year ago when we visited Bella Vita.
12. Warm Spice Wine
Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice make this wine “smell like Christmas and taste like Thanksgiving,” according to out server. If you’ve ever had Swedish glögg you know what this tastes like. Throw in some cranberries and some cut up oranges and you have a nice party drink.
We buy some bottles of 2nd Bottle and our son gets some White Merlot and 04 Merlot. Good choices
Reasons to visit: you want to get a step or two off the beaten path (limos or groups larger than 6 only by appointment); the White Merlot and the 04 Merlot, plus 2nd Bottle if you’re looking for an everyday table wine; a warm friendly atmosphere.