A beautifully deep rich voice singing “sunshine on a cloudy day” greeted us as we entered Pindar’s large tasting room, and that seemed like an appropriate message. It was a cloudy day, and, as the French say, “A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.” Pindar often offers musical entertainment, and is often crowded. Today, however, there were only a few couples at the bar and the tables in a room that, according to their web site, can accommodate 3,000 (!). Because of the crowds, we hadn’t been there in a few years, but this visit reminded us that we like many of their wines, though not all. Their prices also are quite reasonable, which may have something to do with the economies of scale, as they say they are the largest vineyard on Long Island.
The menu offers 5 tastes for $10, out of 14 choices, including four characterized as “sweeter” and two dessert wines, plus another list of three “limited” wines at $3 per taste, and a sparkling wine. The list is further divided into reds, whites, and “proprietary blends,” so it took us a while and some discussion to decide what to do. We finally decided to share two tastings, first the whites, including two of the proprietary blends (marked with an * in my review), and then five of the reds. We chose to skip the rosés, as we tend to find no one’s measure up to Croteaux’s. Since the pour is rather generous, we were glad we chose to share. They also offer a selection of cheeses and crackers, and do not allow outside foods.
- 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $14.99
In general, we feel Long Island sauvignon blancs tend to go better with food, as they tend to be too lemony to just sip, and that’s true of this one as well. The aroma is of mineral and peach. Very refreshing, I could see having this with lobster, as its tartness would offset the crustacean’s richness. My husband notes that the end is too lemony for too long for his liking, especially sans food.
- *Autumn Gold $10.99
This is a blend of Cayuga, Seyval, and chardonnay grapes, our server informs us, as will be our next choice, though in different proportions and different residual sugar amounts. We ask if the Cayuga is from upstate, since it is an upstate grape, and are informed that they grow all their grapes in their own vineyards. We like this better than the first wine. It has a touch of sweetness and a bit of funkiness which are well balanced with green apple and citrus tastes. I also smell some minerality. This is a very buyable wine, and we get a bottle of it to take home.
- *Winter White $10.99 for 750 ml., $17.99 for 150 ml.
“Our most popular white,” notes our server as he pours this blend. We smell tropical fruits, and are ready to like this one but find it much too sweet for our tastes. The menu describes it as “semi-dry,” which makes us wonder about the wines they categorize as “sweeter.” You could serve it to someone who actually would prefer soda—or maybe with Thai food. We dump it.
- 2013 Peacock Chardonnay $9.99
There’s a pretty peacock on the label, so we ask (as we did two years ago) about the name of the wine. Still no answer! This spends eight months in French oak, and we do smell a bit of that woody smell. We don’t really care for this one, either. The taste reminds me of over-ripe bananas plus a really tart grapefruit—they say “citrus rind”—and then too much sweetness. We don’t dump, but we also are not fans.
- 2013 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99
Why sunflower? This time we get an answer—a sunflower appeared spontaneously in the midst of the vineyard. The menu describes this as “100% new barrel” fermented, from a “special 3.9 acre vineyard block.” Sniff—vanilla and grape juice. This has more body than any white so far. I say nice. My tasting buddy says it is “not offensive at the end.” One could sip this, and it would also be good with a seafood diavolo, since it has some sweetness to it, but not too much.
- 2013 Cabernet Franc $21.99
Now we switch to reds, and get a new glass. Our server tells us this was just released. Hmmm…smells good. Berries, forest floor, maybe wet leaves. Tastes light, more of a roast chicken or game bird red than a steak red. It would have gone well with the quail from Feisty Acres we bought at the Riverhead Farmer’s Market and had for Valentine’s Day dinner. But it is soft, pleasant, and quite drinkable.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99
Another pretty label, this one with Pegasus, the flying horse, on it, reminds us that Pindar is named for the Greek poet and owned by the Damianos family, who are Greek. The wine spends two years in American oak barrels, and has just been out for six months. I like the aroma, which has a bit of a black olive smell. This is another fairly light red, dry, with some tannins and tastes of stewed prune and spice, maybe allspice. My husband thinks it could use more time.
- 2013 Merlot $18.99
Merlot is the most popular red wine grape around here, and this is a fairly typical example of a merlot, though with more of a café au lait aroma than most. My tasting buddy says it reminds him of Hopjes candy. I’m thinking mocha. Again, nice and soft, dry at the end, with some nice fruit flavor, but not particularly interesting.
- 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $34.99
“This,” says our server enthusiastically, “is my favorite!” Yes, I can see why. It is quite good. Oak (two years in French oak), cherry, and tobacco aromas, with lots of berry tastes, this would have gone well with the lamb chops we had last night. Very drinkable.
- 2010 Reserve Merlot $34.99
The menu informs us that these grapes were hand-picked and the wine spent two years in French oak. We smell black cherry and dark plum and taste lots of dark fruit tastes. Yes, it is better than their other merlot. Then again, everyone says 2010 was a very good year, especially for reds.
Reasons to visit: big room that accommodates a crowd (which might also be a reason not to go!); frequent music performances; good prices for Long Island; the Autumn Gold, Sunflower Chardonnay, 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 Reserve Merlot; they sell cheese and crackers and other snacks; lots of choices; wines that non-wine drinkers may prefer.