Lenz Winery: Solid Place, Slushy Day January 24, 2015

http://www.lenzwine.com/Home.htm

Despite the slushy roads, people still come to the wineries.

Despite the slushy roads, people still come to the wineries.

Lenz has some of the oldest vines on Long Island, having planted its first ones in 1978, and they are quite proud of the fact that all of their wines are made from their own grapes.  The attractively rustic tasting room (open every day all year long) is not very big, though it is augmented by an outdoor seating area in the summer, and their selection of wine-related gifts tends to be somewhat less hokey than others.  In addition, a winery dog made a brief appearance—always a plus in my book.  Both of the servers we talked with were smart, attentive, and knowledgeable, with an evident passion for the wines.

Low beams are marked with this warning.  Can one watch one's head without a mirror, wondered my husband.

Low beams are marked with this warning. Can one watch one’s head without a mirror, wondered my husband.

Despite the slushy streets and cold rain, we shared the room with a small group of women who had arrived in a limo and a few other couples and small groups.

The tasting menu offers two main options, the Estate menu of 5 wines for $12 and the Premium list of 5 wines for $15.  You can also put together an all white or an all red tasting, plus there are a few additional wines—dessert, sparkling, and Late Harvest wines—not included in the tastings.  We opted to do one of each menu, sharing tastes as we went, and our server quickly caught on to what we were doing and carefully arranged the samples, pointing out which of the two or three tastes to begin with.  I mark the Premium selections with an *.

  1. *2010 Old Vines Gewürztraminer            $30

This, our server tells us, in an Alsatian style Gewürz, so it is dry and refreshing.  Indeed, it is quite dry, with lots of pineapple and mineral tastes.  Hmmm, maybe a bit too dry, and a bit harsh on the finish.

When we commented on the cute label for the Tete-a-Tete we learned that it was designed by a former winery worker, who also still comes in and does the blackboards.

When we commented on the cute label for the Tete-a-Tete we learned that it was designed by a former winery worker, who also still comes in and does the blackboards.

  1. 2011 Tete-à-Tete $25

Since they only make the Gewürztraminer in years when they are particularly happy with the grapes, they decided to use the Gewürztraminer grapes in a blend in 2011, so this wine is 50% Gewürztraminer and 50% Pinot Gris.  Good decision!  We really like this one.  The aroma is rather mineral, but when we taste it we definitely get the pineapple of the Gewürztraminer and then some earthiness, maybe mushroom?  I could see enjoying this with a creamy clam chowder.

Sparkling.

Sparkling.

  1. *2010 Cuvee $40

100% pinot noir grapes were fermented using the Champagne method, we are told.  Sniff.  “Apple pie!” exclaims my husband, perhaps, I think, suffering from Briermere pie withdrawal (they are closed for the season).  But he’s right.  Not only does it smell all warm and toasty and apple-y, it also has a definite apple taste.  This is a relatively simple sparkling wine, but quite pleasant.

  1. 2011 White Label Chardonnay $15

We are now about to have one of my favorite tasting experiences—tasting two very different wines made from the same grape.  The White Label Chard is steel fermented, yielding a light, crisp, flinty, very drinkable wine, perfect for summer sipping.  The aroma is of baked pear.  Very buyable, which we do.

Chardonnays going head to head

Chardonnays going head to head

  1. *2012 Gold Label Chardonnay $20

After ten months in oak, the wine definitely has the typical vanilla and freshly baked bread aroma of an oaked chard, but it is not too oaky.  The finish is both tart and sweet, and my husband tries to convince me that it reminds him of Reese’s Pieces.  I was with him on the apple pie, but not on this!

  1. 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $25

The reds all seem to note that they are unfiltered and unfined.  We’re doing another head to head comparison, this time of cab sauvs.   This one has a delicious woodsy and berry aroma, and a taste of ripe plums.  It is good, but simple, with no tannins.  “It lacks gravitas,” opines my tasting companion.  I could see it with barbequed sausages.

  1. *2007 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvnignon $40

You can age this wine for ten years, enthuses our server.  We’re not so sure, as it also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of tannins.  However, it is a lovely wine, with a delicious aroma and good fruit tastes—raspberries, plums.  Though it is primarily cab sauv, it also is blended with merlot, malbec, and cabernet franc.

Not one, not two, but three merlots!

Not one, not two, but three merlots!

  1. 2011 Merlot $20

This is a perfectly fine table wine, we agree.  We smell spice and cherry, with none of the earthy smell some North Fork merlots can have.  The taste is also of cherry.  The tasting notes suggest having it with roast turkey, and I think duck would also work well.

  1. 2010 Merlot $28

We have in front of us a line-up of three merlots.  What fun!  This one is a bit of a blend, and though it is 80-90% merlot it also has some cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.  We do smell a touch of earthiness, but also lots of cherry.  The wine itself is very dense, tannic, and dry.  Despite the blend, the taste is rather simple with a flat finish, but overall we like it.

  1. *2007 Old Vines Merlot $60

Now this one you can age for 20 years, we are told.  We should live so long, as my grandmother used to say.  You can definitely smell the wood from the oak it was aged in, and also another smell my husband compares to rubber bands.  Perhaps.  The taste is terrific, with dark fruit flavors and lots of interesting layers, though again not much in the way of tannins.  For the price I would probably try to find a Bordeaux—from France.

A view of the tasting bar

A view of the tasting bar


lenz more boards

Reasons to visit: pleasant tasting room with good selection of gift items; very knowledgeable and attentive staff; the Tete-à-Tete, the White Label Chardonnay, the 2007 Old Vines Merlot.

lenz board

Not a good day for sitting outside...

Not a good day for sitting outside…

Advertisements

Long Island Spirits: And We Don’t Mean Ghosts January 3, 2015

http://www.lispirits.com/index.php

LIV sign

Local wine and craft beer are fine, but what if you want something stronger?  Long Island is famous for its potatoes, so what could be more natural than to use those potatoes to make a pure potato vodka?  And so LIV was born.  The distillery’s tasting room is up a flight of wooden stairs in a chic industrial-style loft space, where you will find not only vodka, but a series of liqueurs made from that vodka, plus gin, and also a line of “brown” spirits—various styles of whisky.

Here you buy the glass, which can then be filled with your choice of tastes: three from the vodka menu for $10 or two from the whisky menu for $14.  Then they wrap up the glass for you to take home.  Our server was also one of the distillers, and his enthusiasm for his products was quite catching.  We learned all sorts of bits of information, such as that it takes 25 pounds of potatoes to make one bottle of vodka.  They also can now offer cocktails, and will soon have local beer as well.  They have a small selection of drink-related gift items.

Some of their gift items

Some of their gift items

By the way, if you go on their web site they ask for your birth date, and if you decline to provide it and try to enter you are diverted to a Disney site.

From the Vodka Menu

  1. LIV Original

This is “just a great vodka” we decided.  Not too many vodka makers do a straight potato vodka, notes our server.  The taste is very clean and clear.

The vodka glass

The vodka glass

  1. Raspberry Sorbetto $22

Local raspberries are used to infuse the vodka with intense berry taste.  Though sugar is also added, our friend noted it was not too sweet, and would make a lovely cocktail with bitters.

  1. LIV Ristretto Espresso $30

Yes, this is vodka infused with espresso plus sugar.  “Dangerously delicious,” muses our friend, and “shouldn’t coffee come in this form?”  Not sure how much this would wake you up in the morning.

LIV also menu

  1. Lime Sorbetto $22

Obviously the limes are not locally grown, but this is also quite good.  Our friend compared it to key lime pie.

  1. Strawberry Sorbetto $22

Mattituck is famous for its strawberry festival, so it’s no surprise to find a strawberry flavor on the menu.  However, we find this one a bit too sweet.

  1. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $35

28 botanicals, to be precise, all of which are listed on the tasting menu, and quite botanical it is indeed.  Though it would not really work in a martini, one could be quite happy drinking this straight or on the rocks, or maybe in a gin and tonic with the interesting tonic they have for sale.

From the Whisky Menu

The whisky glass

The whisky glass

  1. Rough Rider Bull Moose Three Barrel Rye Whisky $45

Yes, three barrels—North American oak, bourbon casks, and finally whisky casks—are part of the process of distilling this whisky.  The aroma is sweet and spicy, maybe allspice, also caramel candy and apple pie.  I like whisky, single malt scotch in particular.  This is very smooth and quite tasty and we buy a bottle to take home.

  1. Pine Barrens Single Malt Whisky                 $45

This drink starts its life as English ale barley wine which is then double pot distilled and aged in new American oak casks—plus more detail I missed in my notes because I was enjoying the drink.  I didn’t like this as much as the Rough Rider, but it is also a very good whisky, with some earthiness to the taste, a bit lighter than the Rough Rider.

LIV bar

Reasons to visit:  you like vodka, gin, whisky, and/or after dinner drinks like Limoncello, which the sorbettos resemble; you’ve been to a bunch of wineries and are ready for something different.

The recipe for one of their cocktails

The recipe for one of their cocktails

The entrance

The entrance

Martha Clara: Something for Everyone January 3, 2015

http://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

Winery entrance

Winery entrance

The tasting menu offers four different flights, as well as sangria and wines by the taste or glass; the adjoining huge performance space features an array of lunch and snack items as well as live music; the gift shop carries all sorts of wine-related gifts, the outside area includes farm animals one can feed:  Yes, there seems to be something for everyone here.  There are even a few quite nice wines.  It’s no wonder the front parking lot at Martha Clara is so often full, with overflow crowds for special events sent to lots further back.  What will happen to the winery if the Entenmann family is able to sell it, no one seems to know, but according to our server it is a profitable business.  So it you have a spare 25 million hanging around…

Lots of holiday lights

Lots of holiday lights

We walked into the tasting room on a chilly drizzly day to be greeted by a multitude of holiday lights and decorations.  We came with friends who are wine club members, so our tastings were free, but if you’re not they are still reasonable.  The Barrique flight, all reds, gives you five tastes for $13, and so does the Aromatic Flight.  The Off Dry (Sweet) is just $12 for your five tastes, and the Reserve, of their more expensive wines, is $15 for five.  We opted for the Barrique and the Reserve.  The pour is fairly generous.  Our server gave us a minimum of information about each wine, but when asked did have more to offer.  I will give you the Reserve Flight information first, then the Barrique.

Reserve Flight

  1. 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling     $45

The server described it as semi-dry, but we found it rather sweet.  The aroma is nice—floral and apricot—but then the taste is rather simple, without any complexity or layers, and mostly just sweet.  It might be okay as an aperitif at a party.   I wondered why they start their flight with such a sweet wine.

Two of the wines we tasted

Two of the wines we tasted

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $26.99

My friend compared the taste of the chard to crème bruleé, as it features vanilla flavors—it is oak fermented—and a pleasant mouth feel.  There’s even a bit of citrus at the end—perhaps lime.  Quite nice.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon $25.99

The Cab Sauv is a blend of the 2010 and 2011 vintages, and is included in both tastings, so I’ll just write about it once.  It is, our server noted, the wine of the month.  It’s not bad, with tastes of red plum or dried prune and some minerality, but overall, not exciting.  My husband theorized that perhaps the winemaker is too tame, not making each wine distinct and different.  There’s some sweetness and almost no tannins.

The unanimous favorite of the day

The unanimous favorite of the day

  1. 2010 Northville Red $23.99

Winner of the day!  The Northville Red is their Bordeaux blend—78% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec—and is also included in both flights.  We all agree this is our favorite, and quite buyable.  It smells a bit like forest floor, just a touch funky, but the taste is quite delicious, with lots of dark fruit.  It would be yummy with lamb chops, for example.

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Merlot $32.99

Unlike all the other wines today, this one has a cork.  Our server explains, giving several good reasons, why Martha Clara is changing to all screw tops—ecologically better, wine keeps better, less spoilage, etc.  We smell some of that barnyard terroir Long Island merlots can have, and maybe wet forest floor.  The taste includes black cherries and some tannin, but my husband theorizes that perhaps the wine is not quite ready to be poured.  “It’s not fair to the poor wine,” he says.  Maybe given more time…?

Barrique Flight

  1. 2011 Pinot Noir $29.99

We admire the pretty garnet color of the pinot, scents of cherry and oak—maybe a touch too much oak.  This is a pleasant wine, a bit light and thin, but would be okay with roast chicken or for sipping.

  1. 2011 Merlot $22.99

This is a new release, our server tells us.  We are not excited.  We smell oak and mineral, not much fruit, and the wine itself seems to have no body or depth.  It is dry, and could definitely use more fruit.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon (see above)
  2. 2010 Syrah $23.99

I often like syrahs, and this one is no exception.  I smell pepper and black cherry, and taste lots of dark fruits.  This wine is easy to drink, either just to sip or with food, and the price makes it quite buyable as well.

  1. 2010 Northville Red (see above)
This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale.

Menu

Menu

Reasons to visit:  you’re with a group and everyone wants something different; you need entertainment for yourself or some children; you need to pick up a wine-related gift;  you want a spot of lunch with your wine; the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are leashed.

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are leashed.

martha poster

Plenty of gift items are available.

Plenty of gift items are available.

100 bottles of wine on the wall, 100 bottles of wine...

100 bottles of wine on the wall, 100 bottles of wine…