Roanoke’s main tasting room and vineyard are located on the western edge of the North Fork, but their satellite spot, which they call their “wine bar,” is in the heart of wine country, on Love Lane in Mattituck. As I found out, their main room will close this winter to all except wine club members, so you might as well plan to go to their Love Lane place—especially since Love Lane itself is worth a visit for the Village Cheese Shop, Lombardi’s Italian market, and Love Lane Kitchen restaurant, among others.
The wine bar is a small room, but it is well laid out, with a bar along one side and comfy chairs around tables, as well as a small piazza out the back, overlooking the Love Lane parking lot. We happened by on a Sunday afternoon, when local Pearl River oysters were on offer, so we decided to partake of some after our tasting ($20 for a dozen). In addition to their own wines, they also carry bottles by Wölffer Estate (on the South Fork) and Brooklyn Oenology. In fact, the last time we were there they were doing a side-by-side tasting with Brooklyn Oenology, which we quite enjoyed. They also carry their own verjus, a non-alcoholic drink people sometimes use in salad dressing or cooking.
Their menu offers three options, the “Round Trip,” featuring a white, a rosé, and two reds for $12; Whites, four whites for $12; or Reds, four reds for $14. We opted for one each of the white and the red, so we could try all their wines. The pour is fairly generous. Our server was enthusiastic and friendly, fairly well-informed. In addition, she did a very nice job gift-wrapping a pretty bottle of a Wölffer wine for another customer.
- 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $19
This is a bit tarter than the usual North Fork sauvignon blanc, with a bit of a woodsy aroma and some tastes of kumquat and lemon. My husband immediately plans to have this when he gets his oysters, but I’m not sure I like this. I think I like the Jamesport sauvignon better.
- 2014 Rosé $19
The server informs another couple at the bar that this is their top seller, at least this summer, and I can see why. It is a very light rosé, a blend of 75% merlot and 25% “wild” chardonnay (about which more in a moment), with an initial “rush of sweetness,” according to my tasting buddy. I taste not fully ripe cantaloupe, which is in my mind because that’s what we got at a farm stand this week. Good, but we still prefer Croteaux.
- 2014 The Wild! $20
What is wild here is the yeast, meaning that the wine is fermented using only naturally occurring yeasts, a process I find fascinating, since the winemaker gives up a bit of control over the process by doing this. I quite like this one, though the aroma is a touch musty, with maybe a hint of pencil shavings. The taste is a little sweet, with some honey and citrus, but not too sweet. I decide I’ll have this with my oysters, even though the sauvignon is actually a better fit.
- 2014 Brio $24
Since brio means vivacity or verve, I’m interested to see whether this wine has these qualities. It is a blend of 66% chardonnay, 14%viognier, 8% malvese, and 20% muscat canelli, according to the menu. That doesn’t quite compute, according to my math-challenged mind, but the result is interesting. The aroma is complex, with a touch of toffee, a bit of funk, plus more. “Lots going on,” says my husband, who doesn’t particularly like the wine. I disagree. I taste apricot and gooseberry, and like it. I also like that the whites are not served too cold.
- 2012 Merlot $24
Now we switch to reds, and get a fresh glass. According to the menu, this merlot is “blousy,” and after some hilarity with clothing puns, we decide we have no idea what that means in terms of this wine. The wine spends 20 months in French oak. Aroma has a touch of barnyard, but also cherry, and the taste is the typical cherry taste of North Fork merlots, with a bit of tannin at the end.
- 2012 Marco Tulio $24
I figure there must be a story behind this name, and indeed there is. The wine is named for the owner’s father, who recently passed away at the age of 99. “He drank wine every day!” our server informs us. Sounds like quite an endorsement for wine drinking. This is a wine one could easily drink every day, with an aroma of cherry and dark fruit and a light delicate taste. It is a blend of 59% merlot, 39% cabernet franc, and 9% petit verdot, and spends 14 months in French oak.
- 2012 Cabernet Franc $34
Although this is labeled cab franc, the menu informs us that this too is a blend, of 79% cab franc, 20% merlot, and 1% petit verdot. There’s some cherry in the aroma, thanks to the merlot, but also plums and spices, perhaps allspice. This is very good, and I could see drinking it with boeuf bourguignon—soft, with lots of fruit and a bit of woodiness.
- 2013 Bond $20
One more blend—63% cabernet franc, 22% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petit verdot, and 6% merlot—and the fact that it is a blend and the choice of the name are both appropriate. They called it “Bond” to commemorate their opening on Love Lane, as a thank you to the other local merchants and how welcoming and friendly they were. We actually saw that friendliness in action when we ordered the oysters. The owner of Pearl River asked my husband if he wanted lemon, and then offered a squeeze of “Realemon,” which my husband declined. Before we had a chance to eat any, he reappeared with some lemons which Lombardi’s had given him and which he quickly sliced for us. How nice. And so were the oysters—oh, and so is Bond! I really liked it, though our server opined that it would be even better in a year or two. The aroma is quite fruity and the taste has a good balance of fruit and tartness.
Reasons to visit: a convenient location on Love Lane—you can buy a bottle and then stop in to the cheese shop and put together a picnic (I recommend Bond to go with your cheese.); The Wild!, Brio, Marco Tulio, Cabernet Franc, and Bond; oysters on Sunday afternoons; you can buy bottles of Wölffer Estate and Brooklyn Oenology wines as well.