Waters Crest: A Learning Experience October 18, 2015

http://www.waterscrestwinery.com/

One view of the cozy tasting room

One view of the cozy tasting room

“This was a great year for whites, but probably not for reds,” opined our enthusiastic and knowledgeable server, Adam, at Waters Crest winery, one of the semi-hidden gems of the North Fork.  I love to listen to people talk about something they are passionate about, and Adam certainly fit that description.  Though he is working for Waters Crest at the moment, he hopes someday to have his own winery, and meanwhile the good part about working for a small place like this is “you get to do everything.” The good part for those of us who are curious about various aspects of wine making is that the servers here have always been able to do a great job of answering our questions.

Though you can see the wine-making facility through a window in the tasting room, you may wonder where the vines are.  Jim Waters buys his grapes from local North Fork vineyards, then makes the wines himself.  When we first arrived we had the room to ourselves, but then a couple of small groups came in, all clearly regular customers who knew exactly what they wanted, including which cheese from the small refrigerator to get and which pizza they wanted heated up.

The tasting room is hidden in a strip of stores off Sound Avenue, with the entrance on Cox Lane, just to make finding it even harder, but they hope to soon have a spot on the Main Road, which will be great.  We have been a fan of this tiny place ever since our first visit, as the wines tend to be both tasty and interesting.  The room is small, but newly furnished with comfortable leather stools and chairs.  The tasting menu offers all seven of their wines for $15, and so we opted to share a tasting.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25.99

“We treat this more like a Sancerre,” noted Adam, using cold fermentation and no oak.  The aroma is quite floral, with notes of pineapple and lemon, which also describes the taste.  As is often the case with this grape, it would be perfect with local oysters.

Two of the whites

Two of the whites

  1. 2013 Pinot Blanc $24.99

What is “indigenous yeast” and how does it work?  If you want to know, ask Adam! Most winemakers will treat their grapes with SO2 when they come in from the field in order to kill off the naturally occurring yeasts so that they can then introduce the yeasts they have bought, thus controlling the effect of the yeast.  With this pinot blanc (and also, as we discussed, Channing Daughters’ L’Enfant Sauvage and Roanoke’s The Wild!) the natural yeasts were allowed to stay on, which also meant that fermentation took longer.  The wine was fermented mostly in steel, with just a touch of oak.  The result?  Lovely.  Aromas of green apple and minerals, with a touch of funkiness preceded a taste of tart green apple and pear salad, with some nice minerality.

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $24.99

Dry?  Bone dry!  This wine is made with grapes from upstate, from Gold Seal Vineyards, but it is not at all sweet.  .025 residual sugar, says Adam.  Interesting flavor, with notes of citrus and stone and a touch of funkiness.  Unlike most rieslings, which I would choose to have with spicy food, this would go better with duck, sausage, or, suggests Adam, knockwurst.  Good call.

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay $23.99

After a time of steel fermentation, this gets six months in new French oak, so it is not too buttery.  You do get some typical butterscotch flavors, along with lemon and other citrus.  Good, a not untypical chard.

  1. 2012 Red Blend $19.99

The mixture of 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc is blended in the bottle after being independently fermented.  This has my favorite label, inspired by the famous painting by Charles Demuth which was inspired by his friend William Carlos Williams’s poem “The great number 5.”  The aroma is typically cherry, like a merlot, and so is the taste.  It is fairly dry, and the tasting notes suggest some rhubarb in the flavor.  In any event, it is a good barbeque wine, and would be great with burgers.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

  1. 2008 Cabernet Franc $39.99

“Now you can see how our wines age,” notes Adam.  “The tannins have fallen off.”  This has a very distinct taste, combining black pepper, tobacco, and smoke with the fruit flavors, and is balanced and mellow.  I start to say roast chicken, and then we agree it would be great with lamb.  The 08 is almost all gone, as they found a few cases forgotten in the warehouse!

  1. 2010 Merlot Grand Vin $59.99

After three days on the skins (which is fairly long) the wine spends two years in new French oak.  It was worth waiting for!  2010 was a great year for reds on the North Fork, and this one, which garnered 90 points in Wine Spectator, is excellent, with lots of tannins, black cherry , and a delicious aroma.  It could stand up to a good steak.

Nice color

Nice color

  1. 2010 and 2007 Campania Rosso $56 for the ‘07

If you’re counting, you know we should be done, but as a reward for our intense interest in the wines, Adam gives us small tastes of two Bordeaux blends from two different years just to show what else they can do.  These are Right Bank blends of mostly merlot, plus cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  Though the only difference in the wines is how long they have aged and the year of harvest, they are quite different.  The 2010 is dark red, while the ’07 is more of a garnet color.  The ’10 is really good, with tannins which finally make sense to me of the term “chewy tannins” and lots of layers of flavors.  The ’07 is almost over the hill, with asparagus in the aroma and a lack of depth.   Though it is not bad, I would definitely choose the ’10, and drink it soon!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Reasons to visit:  a chance to talk to knowledgeable servers (one time it was Jim Waters himself) and learn all about the wines; the Pinot Blanc, the Red Blend, the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot Grand Vin, the 2010 Campania Rosso; no crowds on a busy weekend (though this may change once they move to a more public spot).

wa outside

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Bedell Cellars: High Art October 17, 2015

http://www.bedellcellars.com/

The bottles feature works of art by contemporary artists.

The bottles feature works of art by contemporary artists.

“Our owner is on the board of the Museum of Modern Art,” explained our well-informed server when we commented on the art on the wine bottle labels.  “He commissioned Chuck Close to do that one,” she added, as we admired the bunch of grapes on one label.  Wow.  And the prices of the wines also elicited a wow, including the Musée 2010, which is $125 a bottle.  You can learn more about the artists and the labels on Bedell’s web page, so I’m just going to discuss what’s in the bottles.

be room

And what’s in the bottles is quite good—though I’m not sure it’s $125 good.  The tasting menu offers two options:  five Estate wines for $15, or five Premium wines for $20, both featuring three whites and two reds.  We decide to share a Premium tasting, which turns out to be a good idea, as the pour is generous.  We also decide to return later in the winter to try the other menu.

One view of the large porch tasting room.

One view of the large porch tasting room.

We are standing at the bar, our favorite place for tastings, as this gives us the chance to chat with the servers and observe the scene.  This part of the tasting room is not very large, but an enclosed porch off to one side is much bigger, and is where most of the people doing tastings have congregated on this brisk sunny fall day.   It looks to us as though they could use more help behind the bar as it gets quite busy, but the servers do a good job of keeping us in mind, and we’re impressed that they never stop smiling.

This is my favorite label

This is my favorite label

  1. Blanc de Blanc 2010 $60

We start off with a 100% chardonnay sparkling wine, fermented in the bottle using the Méthode Champenoise.  Whoa, this is REALLY dry, also crisp and quite good, with a nice minerality and lots of flavor.  The aromas include yeast, mushrooms, and celery.  As it sits in the glass we get some hints of sweetness.  Definitely lighter than a California sparkling chardonnay, it would pair well with goat cheese or a mushroom terrine.  Mushrooms are on our mind lately, since we hope soon to check out the local mushroom growers whose storefront always seems to be closed.

  1. 2014 Viognier $40

Mmm, this smells nice, maybe some sticky peach, and my husband says French toast.  Maybe.  Light, dry, with what the tasting notes call “flinty minerality,” and also some peach tastes, this is a delicate wine that would go well with local flounder lightly sautéed in butter.

be viognier

  1. 2013 Gallery $75

This is a blend of 70% chardonnay, 24% viognier, and 6% sauvignon blanc, and is described by our server as a “white wine for red wine lovers.”  I want to ask her why, but she’s called away at that moment.  Perhaps it is because of the complexity of the flavors or the richness of the taste.  The wine is first fermented in steel, then spends ten months in new French oak, so it does have some buttery vanilla notes, but not too much.  We taste unripe peach, minerals, “hay” (according to my husband), and a touch of something chemical.  This starts off seeming quite tart, then gets sweeter, with a slight tingle on the tongue, and I could see drinking it as an aperitif.  It would also be fun to give this to people at a tasting and see what they make of it.

Merlot art

Merlot art

  1. 2013 Merlot $35

We get a new glass for each red.  The merlot spends ten months in French oak, so not very oaky.  We smell some chocolate, maybe Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, then taste.  Briermere blueberry crunch pie, my tasting pal insists.   Hmmm.  It is very soft, not at all tannic, though dry, and does not have lots of the cherry flavor you usually get in a Long Island merlot.  It’s okay, but I see no reason to buy it over many other merlots.

I guess you could soak off the label and say you own a Chuck Close print.

I guess you could soak off the label and say you own a Chuck Close print.

  1. Musée 2010 $125

A Right Bank Bordeaux blend, this is 65% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, 3% petit verdot, and 2% syrah, and features the Chuck Close label.  Though the price somewhat takes our breath away, this is a pleasure to drink.  It is aged 14 months in French oak, and has lots of layers of fruit flavors, with very soft tannins.  Nice mouth feel, and the aroma reminds us of raisins or Craisins.  We have had the opportunity to taste very high end French Bordeaux, and this does not quite equal those (at least in memory—don’t know what we’d think in a head to head tasting), but it is quite good.

be muse label

Reasons to visit:  the chance to admire some very artistic labels; the Blanc de Blanc, the Gallery, the Musée.

Patient pooch on the porch

Patient pooch on the porch

Another view of the porch

Another view of the porch

Southold Farm + Cellar: Poetry in and on a Bottle 10/3/2015

https://www.southoldfarmandcellar.com/

The entrance to the tasting shed

The entrance to the tasting shed

The Artful Dodger, Tilting at Windmills, Counting Stars, Flying and Falling—how could I, an English major, resist wines with such allusive names?  I could not, especially since I was also quite happy with what was in the bottles.  Regan Meader, the owner and winemaker of Southold Farm + Cellar, loves to experiment, and doesn’t like to compromise.  He likes to make what he wants to make, and since the results are so good, let’s hope his experiments lead to his success.

That success seemed to be in doubt this past summer when, due to some issues with permits with the town of Southold, he wasn’t able to open his tasting room.  Fortunately all is settled now, and he used the time this summer to re-decorate the tasting room, located off a back road next to his house, on his farm.  His own grapes still were not quite ready to be used, so he sourced grapes from Osprey (where he used to work), Gristina, and other places.

Comfy couches are a nice addition to the tasting room.

Comfy couches are a nice addition to the tasting room.

We arrived on a cold, damp day to a warm welcome from Mr. Meader, with whom we discussed not only the wines, but also the traffic we encountered last weekend (mainly due to activities at Harbes), development on the North Fork, and literature.  After a while some additional people came in with kids in tow, so the room became quite lively as they settled on the comfy couches.  One couple had arrived on bicycles despite the weather, and we and Mr. Meader discussed various options for their next stops, including Horton’s Point Lighthouse and One Woman Winery.

A tasting of his four wines is $15.

s white

  1. 2014 Artful Dodger (Sauvignon Blanc)                   $26

Well, of course I had to ask why name a wine after a Dickens character.  Mr. M. and I discussed the Dodger’s character, how cheeky he is, and that moment when he is being hauled off to jail and berates the policemen for not knowing what a special gent he is.  This version of sauvignon blanc is also pretty special and a bit cheeky.  Unlike most local sauvignons, this is not steel fermented.  Instead, he uses neutral oak barrels which add just a touch of vanilla to the citrusy tangerine taste and a more textured mouth feel.  Good!  Of course this would be good with raw oysters, but could also complement something like oysters Rockefeller or you could just sip it, perhaps with a slice of brie.  We buy it, thinking about the local scallops sautéed with onions, red peppers, and local corn I’m planning to make for dinner.

Tilting at Windmills!

Tilting at Windmills!

  1. 2014 Tilting at Windmills (Old Vines Chardonnay) $26

Chardonnay can be such a pedestrian wine, so clichéd, so perhaps it is Quixotic to take it on and try to do something different with it.  The Man of La Mancha may have failed in his attempt to vanquish the windmill (a passage which had me laughing out loud when I read it), but Mr. M. is certainly not defeated.  “I was thinking of Chablis,” he says.  We smell mineral, asparagus and taste baked pear, minerals, with something a bit herby at the end.  There is a touch of sweetness but not too much.  He ferments it on the skins, again in neutral (i.e. old) oak barrels, achieving some nice texture.  Good!  I could see having it with duck, though usually with duck I want red or rosé.

  1. 2014 Counting Stars (Red Sparkling) $28

Having recently had an unfortunate encounter with a red sparkling wine at Sparkling Pointe (I dumped it!), I was a bit leery of this option, but no fear, this was lovely.  Made from 100% petit verdot, it has an aroma of dark fruits, then is tingly on the tongue.  Not sweet, it is light but not inconsequential, with a mineral aftertaste.  It would be perfect with charcuterie, or perhaps with a Thanksgiving turkey.  In the tasting notes, Mr. M. says he let petit verdot’s “freak flag fly.” His tasting notes are fun to read.  Oh, and the name?  The bubbles rising in the dark wine remind him of stars in the night sky.

The glass is a touch foggy from my attempts to warm the wine.

The glass is a touch foggy from my attempts to warm the wine.

  1. 2014 Flying and Falling (The Farm Cabernet Franc) $32

What’s the difference between flying and falling?  Hmmm.  This is 100% cabernet franc and spends seven months in oak.  Lots of aroma—we smell olives and chocolate and maraschino cherry.  The wine is a bit too cold—time to set up the heater, we agree—but as it warms we like it better.  At first it seemed as though it didn’t follow through with as much interest as the aroma would suggest, then it got better.  It might also benefit from more time, or from sitting longer in the glass.  At first we were afraid he had fallen, but he’s still flying.

Nothing like a short commute! This is where he lives.

Nothing like a short commute! This is where he lives.

Reasons to visit:  All four of his wines are worth tasting and thinking about; nice to get away from the usual places and be somewhere where the winemaker likes to experiment; Mr. Meader, who is fun to talk to, enthusiastic about his wine, and a really nice guy; pretty rustic little tasting room.

Regan Meader explaining his wines.

Regan Meader explaining his wines.

These grapes have been picked.

These grapes have been picked.

Pretty, isn't it? I took this photo from one of his menu cards!

Pretty, isn’t it? I took this photo from one of his menu cards!