Raphael: Better for an Event than a Tasting? December 26, 2015

IMG_2346http://www.raphaelwine.com/

With their beautiful building, modeled after an Italian monastery, and spacious tasting room, Raphael is often in use as a venue for private events.   This time of year the room sparkles with Christmas lights, so it is no surprise to note that it will be closed New Year’s Eve for such an event.  In fact, if you plan to go for a tasting make sure to check their web page first to make sure they are open.  You may also choose to go or not depending on whether they have musical entertainment planned.  The performers we heard were all quite talented and we liked their music, but not the sound level, which made conversation difficult.  The other difficulty we encountered was that the servers were clearly understaffed, having to cater to a crowd around the circular bar plus many people sitting at the tables, drinking glasses of wine and listening to the music.

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The menu lists 18 choices, all priced by the taste, glass, or bottle.  We happened to have a coupon for two free tastings, which entitled us to three tastes each, which would have cost us $17 for the six tastes.  Since we knew we already liked the Portico—which proved to be a popular after-Thanksgiving-dinner drink—we decided to focus on the standard whites and reds, skipping the reserves, the rosés, and the dessert wines.  The menu mentions ratings by both Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate in the high 80s and low 90s for a number of the wines.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                   $22

We decided to start by trying their two sauvignon blancs side by side, and our request for information about the wines was referred by our server to another one who was more knowledgeable.  This is the less expensive of the two, steel fermented for a shorter time, and not the preference of our server.  We agree, though it is a fine example of Long Island sauvignon blanc, with lots of minerality and soft lemon taste at the end, and a refreshing acidity.  It would go well in the summer, or well-iced with oysters.

  1. 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc             $28

The tasting menu informs us that this one is “made from our oldest sauvignon blanc vines,” and it is fascinating to see that it is quite different from the previous wine, with more interesting aromas and flavors.  We smell a touch of funk in the aroma, plus various fruits.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness at the end but plenty of mouth-watering acidity.  It would complement pasta with cream sauce, we decide.

  1. 2014 Chardeaux $22

A mixture of 80% chardonnay and 20% sauvignon blanc, this wine is more interesting than a straight chardonnay, with lots of citrus and minerality, and some tastes of unripe peach.  It’s a good chard for people who think they don’t like chard, and would go well with chicken kabobs.

Not sure if you can tell from this picture, but the two rieslings looked quite different.

Not sure if you can tell from this picture, but the two rieslings looked quite different.

  1. 2013 First Label Riesling $26

There are two rieslings on the menu, and since one is described as “semi-sweet” we order the other one, not being a fan of sweet wines (except when we’re talking dessert wines).  As we take our first sniffs and tastes we note a chemical aroma and that it is quite sweet for a supposedly dry riesling.  We get the attention of the more knowledgeable server and discover that, indeed, we have accidentally been served the sweet riesling.  We put that glass aside and happily enjoy the correct pour.  Really good, with kumquat orange tastes and some leather notes in the aroma.  My husband—whose identification of the first pour as the wrong wine has deeply impressed our server—notes that he would not buy this for our usual use for a riesling (to go with spicy food), but that though he likes it he would prefer a riesling with more interest.

La Fontana and the fountain

La Fontana and the fountain

  1. 2012 La Fontana $28

Now we switch to reds, and by the way we get a new glass with each taste, a practice I appreciate.  La Fontana is their Bordeaux blend—merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet franc—but no one has information on the proportions, including the web page.  A glance at the Raphael label will give you a cue as to the source of this wine’s name—a drawing of the fountain which graces the middle of the parking lot in front of the entrance.  We like this one, too.  The smell reminds me of cassis—the menu says blackberry and eucalyptus –and I taste some nice fruit, with oak at the end and some layers of flavor.  However, compared with a French Bordeaux this is a bit on the thin side.

  1. 2010 First Label Merlot $40

Like the Fontana, this is aged 18 months in French oak, and you can smell the oak when you sniff, as well as cherries.  As it sits in the glass we start to like it better.  It is fairly dry and tannic but with nice fruit.  By the way, I would have liked a cracker to cleanse my palate between the whites and reds but, although there are bowls of them around the bar, there are none anywhere near us and no one offers us any.  As I said, they’re busy.

The fountain--and the Italian flag!

The fountain–and the Italian flag!

Reasons to visit:  you like to admire a beautiful room; the well-stocked gift shop; the First Label Sauvignon Blanc, the Chardeaux, the First Label Merlot, the Portico.

Tis the season

Tis the season

Father Christmas was guarding the well-stocked gift shop, which included food items as well.

Father Christmas was guarding the well-stocked gift shop, which included food items as well.

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Another view of the bar

Another view of the bar

 

 

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Shinn Estate Vineyards: Country Road December 20, 2015

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

The Farmhouse B & B

The Farmhouse B & B

As we drove slowly along Oregon Road I began humming “Country roads, take me home…”  We had just paid our first of what I hope will be many visits to the East End Mushroom Company, and two baskets of mushrooms sat in the back seat, awaiting culinary inspiration.  Meanwhile, we were enjoying the bucolic scenery along Oregon Road, on our way back to Shinn’s tasting room after more than a year away.

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I like the cozy rustic look of the tasting room, and today we had it to ourselves for a while, and then later a few other small groups arrived.  No buses are allowed here, and limos or groups of more than six by appointment only, which makes sense, given the small room.  Check out their web site for info on their B and B in the adjoining farmhouse.

But we are here to taste some wine.  The menu offers four wines for $14 out of a menu of 16, plus a few other choices which cost $7 per taste, including their brandy, about which more later.  We decided to do one tasting of whites and another of reds, not sharing tastes because I have a bit of a cold.  I’ll tell you about the whites first, then the reds.  We sit at a small table for two and are served each wine as we choose it.

  1. Sparkling Brut 2012                        $40

Given the festive season, I decided to start with their sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise and fermented in the bottle.  The first pour is from a bottle that has been open and is clearly somewhat flat, so our server quickly opens a fresh bottle.  Ah, nice frothy bubbles!  Typical yeasty aroma, then a nice dry light taste, with good acidity.  I recently learned that acidity is what makes your mouth water, and this one does.  I like it better than Sparkling Pointe’s sparklers.

I liked the glasses.

I liked the glasses.

  1. Coalescence 2014           $16

I liked Coalescence, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a touch of riesling, the first time I had it, then didn’t care for it the second time, and now I have to say third time is not the charm.  Although it has a pleasant aroma of gooseberry and honey, the taste has a funky forest floor edge that does not appeal to me.  Not that it’s bad, and I think it would be nice with a plate of salumi, but it’s just not for me.

  1. Pinot Blanc 2014 $35

I’m happy that the server gives me a new glass, since I don’t want the taste of Coalescence to influence the next one, which turns out to be a happy choice, since I like it very much.  This wine spends eleven months in new oak, we are informed, and it has a bit of that oaky vanilla scent.  However, the taste is quite nice, with some interesting layers of flavor, a bit tingly on the tongue.  It has just a touch of sweetness, especially at the end, and is sippable on its own, but would be even better with some Catapano goat cheese.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

  1. Veil “Sherry” 2009 $48 (for a small bottle)

Why is sherry in quotation marks, I wonder?  Because it is not fortified, they can’t actually call it a sherry, we are told.  However, it does taste very like a medium dry sherry and smells like sherry, too.  Made from late harvest savoy, sauvignon blanc, and semillon grapes, it is fermented for so long that a “veil” forms on the top of the wine, hence the other part of the name.  19% alcohol, this would make a great aperitif.  I would drink it!  It has tastes of baked pear and a bit of oak, and would be perfect with some toasted almonds or manchego cheese.

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  1. Estate Merlot 2012       $26

My husband admires the beautiful dark color of the wine, which seems to be typical of all their reds.  Not much aroma, he says, and a spicy tart taste, ending with black cherry.  Somewhat mono dimensional, he adds, with not much tannin and over the top on acid.  (Acid does not mean bad, remember!)

  1. Estate Merlot 2009 $32

Always fun to compare different vintages of the same grape, we say, and our server agrees.  This merlot has more aroma than the 2012, with some notes of forest and wood, plus sweet cherry, with more tannin and less acid.  It would be good with a meat that was not too flavorful, like a filet mignon.

  1. Wild Boar Doe 2012 $32

Say the second two words quickly and you’ll get the joke.  Yes, this is a Bordeaux blend, of 40% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in oak for 20 months.  When my tasting buddy sniffs, he says he smells toast, which must come from the oak aging, plus some fruit.  Again, it has a beautiful dark color, but, he adds, it lacks gravitas.  If you compare it with a French Bordeaux, he says, you’ll say the French is better, but there’s nothing wrong with this.  It would pair well with a veal chop, since it does not have too much acid or body.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $40

This has just been released, we are told, and again, this is a pleasant if not complex wine.  There’s “more at the end,” my husband notes, than the other reds.  Overall, I think the whites fare better than the reds.

The brandy

The brandy

  1. Julius Drover Alembic Brandy $75

We have some discussion about this additional taste ($7), since there are several “hard” liquor options to try, and settle on this brandy.  It is named for owner David Page’s maternal grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger in Wisconsin during Prohibition.  Since it is 86 proof, we are perfectly happy with the very small taste, which I give my companion first.  Mmm, mellow.  Smells like brandy, with some vegetable and wood aromas.  Dried fruit taste.  Warms the cockles (whatever those are) I say.  Doesn’t bite you back, says my pal.

Another view of the room

Another view of the room

Reasons to visit:  a chance to drive down a country road; the Sparkling Brut, Pinot Blanc, Wild Boar Doe, Veil “Sherry,” and Julius Drover Alembic Brandy; a winery that is quiet and relaxing; their use of wind and solar power and biodynamic farming (check out their web site for details); the chance to taste some types of drinks not made in other places, like the brandy, eau de vie, and “sherry.”  And do stop and get some mushrooms from East End Mushroom Company on Cox Lane: http://www.theeastendmushroomcompany.com/ .

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they'll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they’ll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

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Sherwood House: Cozy by the Fire November 22, 2015

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/About_Us.htm

A view of the fireplace plus musicians

A view of the fireplace plus musicians

It feels as though you are walking into someone’s living room, albeit one with a bar along one side and a couple of folk-ish singers in one corner.  The fire in the stone fireplace surrounded by comfy couches is what you notice when you first enter in the winter.  The welcome from the servers is equally warm, and they do a good job of keeping track of each customer and giving information about the wines.

Sherwood House offers two menus:  the Premium Flight of four wines for $12 and the Top Reds Flight of 4 reds for $15.  They also offer cheese and/or salumi plates for $15 or $20, prepared by Lombardi’s Market in Mattituck.  We decide to share the Premium Flight, thinking we may stop back at some point to try the other one.   The pour was generous enough that we decided we had made the right decision.

Array of bottles

Array of bottles

  1. White Merlot   $19

We compared this to Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly and to various rosés we have tried, and found some similarities and some differences.  Like a rosé it has a faint strawberry aroma, though we felt the smell was a bit funkier than most, and like Anomaly it was neither a red nor a white nor a rosé, but its own thing.  The color is a very light pink, the taste is lemony and refreshingly dry (1-2% residual sugar, notes our server), and the aroma has a slight mushroomy tinge to it.  Good for summertime barbequed chicken!

You can see the pink tinge of the White Merlot.

You can see the pink tinge of the White Merlot.

  1. 2013 Oregon Road Chardonnay $19

This is an unoaked chard, a bit on the sweet side for an unoaked chard, with a touch of overripe pineapple plus lemon flavors.  “Not much to say,” opines my tasting buddy, as we swirl the wine to open up the flavors.

Generous pour.

Generous pour.

  1. 2012 Chardonnay $30

“This wine spends 12 months in second year oak barrels,” our server tells us.  I now know what this implies!  As I’ve learned, the extent to which being aged in oak affects a wine depends on whether the wine was aged in new oak barrels (in which case the oak affects it more heavily) as well as how long it was aged.  As expected, we can taste and smell some butterscotch, but not too much, and some toasty, pineappley flavors. My husband claims it reminds him of Reese’s peanut butter cups.  It’s not sweet and has some interesting layers of flavor (once we warm up our too-cold taste).  It would be great with lobster.

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  1. 2012 Oregon Road Merlot $19

A combination of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon, the wine spends 12 months in oak.  Noting our seriousness, our server provides us with a clean glass for the red, something I always appreciate.  The aroma reminds me of perfumed soap, but fortunately it doesn’t taste like that!  We get blackberry, some cherry, some woody flavors, and no tannins.  Soft, we decide, and just okay.

  1. 2011 Cabernet Franc $45

Wait, you cry, didn’t she say you get four tastes?  Well, yes, but once again the fact that we take notes and discuss each wine seriously gets us an extra taste.  And happily, this is the best of the bunch.  Our enthusiastic server notes that the reds are “where we shine,” and I would agree as to this one.  The aroma includes some scents of forest floor and dried herbs, the taste is very cherry berry, with some tannins and some interest to it. Not sure it is worth the price, but it is a lovely wine.

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Reasons to visit:  Good place to sit in winter with a glass of wine (I’d choose a red) and listen to music while contemplating a fire in the fireplace; the 2012 chardonnay, the 2011 cabernet franc.  They also offer a blanc de blancs.

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if you get bored with your tasting you can check out the funky objets at Material Objects next door.

if you get bored with your tasting you can check out the funky objets at Material Objects next door.