The first winery you come to on Sound Avenue, traveling west to east as most visitors do, is Baiting Hollow, and I can’t help but wonder if that has contributed to its popularity. To be fair, its tasting room is located in an attractive building that is based on what was originally a farmhouse built around 1861, it has an extensive food menu so you can easily have lunch there, and it has an attractive charity to which it donates the profits of certain wines. It also frequently features musical entertainment, welcomes limos and buses, and its wines are all crowd pleasers.
The charity is interesting. They operate a horse rescue sanctuary, where they house horses which were destined for slaughter. If the day had been warmer, we might have gone out back to take a peek at them. We did spot one horse through a window. In the summer, they offer pony rides for children. A number of their wines are marked with a horse’s head on the menu. These wines are named for particular horses, and the profits from their sale are donated to their charity, as are the profits from the pony rides.
The food menu, in addition to the expected snacks and cheese plates, also included today warm soups and chili, and such dishes as “merlot meatball sliders” for $12.99. We saw several family groups eating lunch when we were there, early in the day on Saturday.
We were glad we went early, since most of the time when we go past Baiting Hollow we are scared away by the crowds of cars and limos. Today it was nice and quiet, though a band warming up promised livelier times to come. Instead we had peace in which to savor the wines, and a server who seemed to know all about them.
The tasting menu offers several options for one ounce tastes: one taste for $4, three for $9, four for $11, or six for $16. We opted to share one six-taste flight, chosen from a menu of three whites, two rosés, four reds, and two dessert wines. Our server apologetically gave us tickets for the six, assuring us that he would remember where we were. We opted to sample our choices at a nearby table, returning to the bar for each new one.
- White Satin 2013 $27.99
This is a blend of a couple of different whites with an aroma of chalk or stone and peach pit. Happily, it tastes better than it smells. White Satin is a dry, fairly tart white with tastes of blood orange or tangelo and maybe kumquat, with some interest. My tasting buddy objects to the finish, saying, “I don’t want that taste in my mouth.” It would be better with food, maybe a nice fresh bluefish. I like to bake bluefish fillets on top of potatoes, with a few slices of bacon on top.
- Angel Chardonnay 2013 $27.99
One of the horse charity wines, this is typical of those Long Island chardonnays which have spent some time in oak and some in stainless steel. When you smell it you can detect traces of the wood, plus some mineral and lemon aromas, and the taste includes both lots of lemony citrus and a touch of vanilla (from the oak). Nice. It would also go well with local fish, perhaps the blackfish I oven “fried” several times this fall.
- 2007 Merlot $26.99
We decide to skip the rosés and the riesling, thinking they might be too sweet for our tastes, and move on to the reds. No new glass. Sniff. “Gasoline?” says my husband, perhaps a bit influenced by all the time he spent last week behind our snow blower. I tilt more towards berries, but I get what he means. There is a sweet slightly chemical aroma. The taste is light and pleasant, with a touch of smoke but not enough to be unpleasant. While not for sipping, this would be fine with chicken or game birds.
- Mirage $27.99
Another wine named for a horse, with proceeds going to the horse rescue, this is their Bordeaux blend, a mixture of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. Again, this is a fairly light red, not complex, dry, with berry tastes, and is pleasant enough. Though it would not stand up to a steak, it would be fine with veal or lamb. The tasting notes say “bold.” I say not so much.
- Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $28.99
You can’t tell a wine by its smell, an adage I just made up, is certainly exemplified by this wine, which smells kind of funky but tastes quite good. It’s my favorite so far, with lots of mouth-watering acidity and fruit. It is easy to drink, either as a sipper or with food, and is just the right amount of dry.
- Cabernet Franc 2012 $28.99
Just as my husband wonders whether one can actually tell one North Fork red from another, we try this one. The aroma is quite different from the cab sauv—somewhat reminiscent of Cheracol, that old cough syrup, with no funkiness—and so is the taste. Lots of blackberry, we decide simultaneously, nice and dry, and less fruity than you’d expect from the aroma. If I were having roasted Crescent Farms duck breast I’d pair this wine with them.
- Sweet Isis $32.99 (for 375 ml.)
No, we did not get a free taste! I decided I wanted to taste one of the dessert wines, and my husband accidentally came back to our table with a whole glass of Sweet Isis. A taste would have been $5. The last of the horse rescue wines (thus named for a horse, not a certain group), this is a white wine dessert wine, with lots of fresh pear and apple tastes. I was concerned that a whole glass of it with no food (blue cheese would have been perfect) would cloy, but somehow as we sat and chatted and sipped it all disappeared. It was sweet, but appropriately so, and could also go with charcuterie as well as with a cheese platter. Very likable.
Reasons to visit: it’s the first winery you come to; horses!; lots of food options; music; you don’t mind crowds; lots of gift items; the Angel Chardonnay, the cabernet sauvignon, the cabernet franc, the Sweet Isis.