Palmer Vineyards: Fun Hanging Out August 20, 2016

http://www.palmervineyards.com/

The entrance to Palmer's tasting room is in the second building on their property.

The entrance to Palmer’s tasting room is in the second building on their property.

Our plans for a garden-setting wine tasting having been scuttled by a completely un-forecast deluge, we decided to head to Palmer Vineyards, which has a cozy tasting room with pub-like booths and an expansive covered veranda.  We settled on the veranda where, our guests were happy to learn, their very well-behaved dog was welcome to join us.  When a singer/guitarist with a folksy sixties-ish repertoire began to play, we settled in for a relaxing afternoon.

We enjoyed his performance.

We enjoyed his performance.

The tasting menu offers four different flights, ranging from $15-$18 for four tastes each.  We (three couples) decided each couple would share first a flight of whites and then a flight of reds.  We gave the flights labeled “Sweet” and “Steel vs. Oak” a pass.  Maybe next time.  They also have a couple of local beers on tap, plus coffee.  My cousin bought a $16 “charcuterie platter” for the table, which was fine but rather meager for the six of us, consisting of a few slices of two different sausages and I believe two different cheeses, plus Carr’s Water Crackers and a few other odds and ends.  Since they don’t allow outside food, I think they could do a better job with their edible offerings.  We didn’t try the “brick oven pizza.”  However, we had an enjoyable afternoon tasting the wines, listening to the music, and chatting about everything.

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The "charcuterie platter" and some whites.

The “charcuterie platter” and some whites.

  1. 2015 Albariῆo   $27.99

The server informs my brother that they are the only vineyard on the North Fork to use this grape, and he may be right.  Albariῆo is one of my go-to wines when I order just a glass of wine, as it is generally fairly dry with good fruit tastes, and this is no exception.  Although there is some disagreement around the table, I find it delicious, with a touch of lemon at the end and tastes of apricot and apple.  It smells like honeysuckle, peach, and minerals.  Having it with a bite of cheese helps smooth out the sourness of the citrus at the end.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

“Great nose,” opines my brother.  “It smells like lantana flower,” says my sister-in-law.  I don’t know what that smells like, unfortunately, but there is definitely a flowery aroma.  The taste is rather orange-y, perhaps like a minneola.  “Just lovely,” says my Canadian cousin-in-law.  “It’s got some strength to it,” says my cousin.  We all agree that this has the best balance of any of the whites, and would be good to sip by itself or with the scallop ceviche my brother and sister-in-law intend to make for dinner.

The bar on the veranda

The bar on the veranda

  1. 2014 Viognier $24.99

Our server (we send a representative to the bar to pick up each round) thinks they are also the only ones to use this grape on the North Fork, but I happen to know at least four or five other vineyards use it.  In any event, this is not a crowd pleaser.  “Not a lot of character on the nose,” asserts my brother.   I smell minerality and not much else.  This is a light dry wine, with some earthiness.  We discuss whether it would be good with the oysters we also plan to pick up, but decide maybe not.

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc $21.99

We all smell and taste pineapple this time.  Someone smells vanilla, and someone else says the smell is “earthy.”  “Not integrated,” says my brother.  I think it would be better with food, and take a bite of sausage.  Yes, that does improve it.  However, the overall opinion of the whites is “fine, but no home runs.”

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  1. 2014 Syrah $24.99

Syrah is my other wine-by-the-glass standby, and this one is an acceptable version, though not my favorite.  I like syrahs to be bigger and bolder, and this one is a touch thin.  It may need more time to age.  The aroma is sweet, almost like a sherry.  The server told my brother that this spends two years in oak, and they add a bit of viognier to “lighten it up.”  It is lighter than most syrahs, with almost no finish.  You wouldn’t want it with steak, but it might be nice with some Crescent Farms duck breast.

The indoor space is particularly nice in the winter.

The indoor space is particularly nice in the winter.

  1. 2014 Merlot $24.99

As I explain to my guests, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, a generally reliable red.   My brother characterizes this one as “an art opening wine,” and I see what he means.  Not distinguished, but also not offensive, it has some cherry tastes with a medium body and medium tannins.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

Mmm.  The aroma is brambly and peppery and the taste is sweeter and fruitier than expected.  Soft tannins.  We also note some herb and fig tastes.  Yum.  Just then the singer starts “Here Comes the Sun,” and indeed it does appear.  A bachelorette party forms a line on the wet grass with the veiled guest of honor in the middle for a photo shoot.

The bachelorette party organizing for a photo.

The bachelorette party organizing for a photo.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $28.99

Dark figs and earth and peppers with just a “soupçon of paint thinner.”  Not so sure about that last bit!  I like it, and it’s very nice with one of the last bits of cheese, which lends it some creaminess.  It is also a wine one could sip on its own.  My husband thinks it might have needed to breathe longer.  We all agree it is good, and has “the most character.”

Rainy day!

Rainy day!

Our tasting is done, the sun is out, so we leave to take a walk on the beach.

I wonder what the pooch would have said about the nose.

I wonder what the pooch would have said about the nose.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room with cozy booths for the winter time and a breezy veranda for the summer; the sauvignon blanc, the cabernet sauvignon, and the cabernet franc; dogs are allowed on the veranda.

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I like this pattern on the side of the bar.

I like this pattern on the side of the bar.

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Pellegrini Vineyards: Refuge from the Rain August 10, 2016

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

The thunder was ominous, and we barely made it into the tasting room before a deluge poured from the sky.  However, the menacing weather meant that on this Wednesday afternoon we had the tasting room to ourselves (though a couple of other groups arrived later).  With no urgent business, we stayed for almost two hours, snacking on hummus and pretzel chips we had brought with us and chatting with our friends who confessed they were neophytes to wine tasting—though not to wine drinking.  “I’m a virgin,” my friend joked, explaining that though she’d been to wineries for events she’d never actually sat down for a tasting.

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In that case, I was glad I’d chosen to take our friends to Pellegrini, where you can have your tray of tastes delivered to your table and spend as long as you like discussing the wines.  Our discussions ranged from the personal to the political, but we did devote some attention to the wines, which our friends generally enjoyed.  They had some favorites, and others they didn’t finish, about which more later.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

A tasting includes any three wines you choose from the menu printed on a placemat, which then becomes your guide to the order in which to drink the wines, plus a sample of their rosé, for $12. Since we are wine club members, our tastings were free.  We all chose a variety of different wines, so I’m going to comment on my choices first, with some briefer notes on other options.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

  1. 2015 Rosé           $19.99

We decided we would all start with this, since it was one wine we had in common, so we could discuss both this particular drink and also how to think about the aroma and taste of wine.  A steel-fermented blend of 35% merlot, 32% cabernet sauvignon, and 33% cabernet franc, this is a light dry rosé with a distinctively citric taste we decided was more like tangerine than lemon.  It had only a faint bit of the strawberry aroma many rosés have, and lots of minerality.  My friend particularly liked the pale pink color.

A tray of whites.

A tray of whites.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

As in the past, I like this wine.  It’s a crisp steel-fermented sauvignon blanc with a bit of a gooseberry aroma and nice balance of mineral and lemony citrus.  I would have it with local oysters.  My friend said she would too—if she liked oysters.  Well, then, with scallops?  Oh, yes.

  1. 2014 East End Select BBQ Red $18.99

What kind of wine do you want to serve at a barbeque?  Probably something uncomplicated and easy to drink that goes well with burgers and doesn’t cost too much.  Hence BBQ Red.  Made from steel-fermented petit verdot, this is simple and direct and light and dry.  You could even have it with hot dogs.

Mostly reds

Mostly reds

  1. 2011 Petit Verdot $29.99

If you want to understand the difference between a wine that has been steel-fermented and one that has been aged 20 months in French oak, you might want to follow the BBQ Red with this petit verdot.  This remains one of my favorite North Fork reds, with rich flavors of blueberry and other berries and dark plums, pleasantly tannic and dry.  It can stand up to a steak.  Our friend agrees, and this is the only glass he, who is not much of a drinker, empties.

Now here are a few notes on other wines, in no particular order, though we did spend some time explaining why the order in which you sample a tasting matters.  Basically, you want to go from the lightest to the most flavorful, so you can appreciate each one as it comes.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

  1. 2014 Medley White $21.99

I wasn’t sure my friend would like this one, since she is not fond of sweet wines and this blend includes 5% gewürztraminer as well as 55% sauvignon blanc and 40% chardonnay, and I was right.  She was not a fan, describing both the taste and smell as “pungent.”  It did have a bit of that cat pee smell you sometimes get.  She did not finish her glass, but much preferred her next taste.

  1. 2015 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $19.99

A fan of pinot grigio, our friend liked this dry, citrusy chard, which she described as “mild.”  I like it too, better than their oaked chard.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $19.99

Although this is a blend of 80% oaked chard (8 months aged) and 20% steel chard, we felt this was still too oaky for our taste.

  1. 2010 Merlot $29.99

My friends were not fond of this merlot, which they felt could have been fruitier.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $29.99

Actually a Bordeaux blend of 84% cabernet franc, 7% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, this red also was not a favorite with our friends, who perhaps found it too tannic for their taste.  I think a few more years of aging would be useful.

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

Reasons to visit:  as I’ve said before, a good all-around winery, with plenty of good choices in both white and red and reasonable prices;  nice place to go with friends, as you can sit at a table with your tastes and bring your own snacks; the steel chardonnay, the sauvignon blanc, the petit verdot, the BBQ Red.

We couldn't resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.

We couldn’t resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.

Woodside Orchards: Bring the Kids August 3, 2016

http://www.woodsideorchards.com/

The sign says caramel apples, but you'll have to wait until harvest time to try them.

The sign says caramel apples, but you’ll have to wait until harvest time to try them.

The last time we tried the hard cider at Woodside Orchards’ Aquebogue location, it was October, and the tasting room also featured bins of apples and sweet cider drinks, plus cider doughnuts.  This time, we were too early for the apple harvest, so all that was on offer were the hard ciders and the cider doughnuts.  However, the five-year-old and the two-year-old we had in tow were pleased with the doughnuts, and worked off their sugar high out in the back yard of the tasting room, playing bean bag toss with a few other children who were also happily running around.

Bean bag toss is available--just ask at the bar for the beanbags.  Towards the back you can see the entrance to one of the orchards.

Bean bag toss is available–just ask at the bar for the beanbags. Towards the back you can see the entrance to one of the orchards.

Meanwhile, the adults took turns going back into the tasting room to bring out samples of the four different ciders on offer, at $6 for all four, served in a plastic cup.  Each couple decided to share one tasting, which worked out fine.  Hard cider has a similar alcohol content to some beers, at 6.8% alcohol, and like beer from a brewery is also available to take out in growlers, $18 for 64 ounces.  Unlike beer, hard cider is a fairly delicate drink, more like a sparkling wine than anything else I can think of.

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  1. Traditional Hard Cider

The tasting starts off with this rather straightforward cider, a bit bubbly, with a clear taste and smell of apples.  It is fairly dry, and would pair well with a pork roast, we decide.

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  1. Sweet Traditional

Yes, it is sweet, more like a dessert wine in its sugar level than like a non-dry sparkling wine.  However, our daughter finds it refreshing, and could see drinking it on a warm evening instead of a beer, or at the beach with prosciutto and melon.  We also decide that, because it goes down so easily, more like a soda than an alcoholic drink, it could be dangerous.  I think it tastes very like a Macintosh apple.

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  1. Apple-Raspberry

What a pretty color, we all agree.  If you need a pink drink, this could be it.  The raspberry smell dominates over the apple, and though the taste is on the sweet side it is, interestingly, not as sweet as the previous variety.  If you happened to have some on hand, it would go well with spicy barbeque, or you could use it as a liquid when making fruit soup.

The Ginger-Apple was very light.

The Ginger-Apple was very light.

  1. Ginger-Apple

Here the aroma is a fairly even blend of apple and ginger, but the ginger is barely discernable in the taste.  Our son-in-law, an expert amateur mixologist, wonders if one could use it to make a Dark and Stormy instead of ginger beer, but then we all agree it is not gingery enough.  Like the others, this is a light, refreshing quaff.

They have a small selection of t-shirts for sale.

They have a small selection of t-shirts for sale.

Reasons to visit:  you are ready for something different; you really love apples; the Traditional; you have children with you so don’t care to be involved in a more serious tasting experience, plus there is a back yard where they can run around while you sit at the picnic tables and do your tasting; in season, the chance to pick up (or pick!) some apples and cider doughnuts (though I think Harbes’ doughnuts are better).

The entrance to the pleasingly rustic tasting room.

The entrance to the pleasingly rustic tasting room.

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Castello di Borghese: Oldie but Goodie July 30, 2016

Castello di Borghese:  Oldie but Goodie July 30, 2016

You can bring your own picnic to the outside tables, but no outside beverages.

You can bring your own picnic to the outside tables, but no outside beverages.

http://www.castellodiborghese.com/

“Yes,” our server said, “these grapes come from our 43-year-old vines.”  In North Fork terms, that’s ancient history, and since the older the vines supposedly the better the wines, we were quite interested in the Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc.  The Hargraves were the first to see the potential of grape vines on the North Fork, (then the Borghese family bought their vineyard) and wow, did they ever start something.  But in the wine business there is no resting on one’s laurels (or vines), so let’s see how they are doing today.

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The pleasant tasting room, with several areas, including a very large room which I would assume is mostly used for parties and such, offers two menus, of Estate and Reserve wines.  You can taste four of the Estate wines for $10 or five of any of their wines for $15.  Since there are quite a few choices on both menus, including reds, whites, rosés, and dessert wines, it took us a while to choose.  In fact, we could easily go back and do a completely different tasting in the near future.  We finally settled on one 5-sample tasting, of two whites and three reds.  Our server, though at first somewhat tentative about recommendations, began to give us some helpful guidance as we progressed.

The large back room boasts quite a gallery of art.

The large back room boasts quite a gallery of art.

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Another neat feature of the tasting room is their ever-changing display of art works.  They have a small selection of snacks for sale, but you can bring your own picnic and settle in at the outside tables.  Glasses of wine go for $9-12, depending on which you choose.

They have quite a display of awards they've won.

They have quite a display of awards they’ve won.

  1. Chardonette/CDB White             $12

Since we are always on the lookout for inexpensive whites for weekday meals, especially in the summer, we decided this would be a good place to start.  We were right.  A mixture of mostly chardonnay with some sauvignon blanc, this is a perfect light summery white, with aromas of herbs and minerals and a crisp taste with some acidity.  This is steel fermented, so don’t expect any buttery-ness.  The menu suggests matching it with hummus or “smoked beef tartare,” whatever that is.  I think it would be a nice aperitif, well iced, with some charcuterie and cheese, on the porch, in the summer.  We buy two bottles.

I think the label for the Chardonette goes perfectly with the wine.

I think the label for the Chardonette goes perfectly with the wine.

  1. 2013 Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $29

What a contrast!  The Chardonette is a very non-serious white, while this one is quite serious.  Complex, with aromas of butter and honeysuckle, this is a combination of oaked and un-oaked sauvignon blanc, with the oaked portion spending two months in new French oak.  There’s a touch of citrus at the end, plus interesting layers of flavor, including gooseberry (which, now that I bought some at Briermere a few weeks ago, my husband agrees it tastes like).

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  1. 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve                 $50

The menu said 2013 Pinot Noir, but they were sold out of that, and after we discussed that change with our server he confessed that this was his favorite of their wines.  He does have expensive taste!  He brought us a new glass for the changeover to red.  “Mmmm,” said my husband.  Anything more enlightening to say, I asked?  We smell some cherry candy, taste dark fruits such as plums, plus nice tannins, and perhaps a trace of nutmeg.  This is a Burgundy, so we decide it would go well with Boeuf Bourguignon.  Making that according to Julia Child’s recipe is an all-day affair, so I guess if I put that much work into a dish it would warrant a bottle of this wine.

  1. 2013 Merlot Reserve $33

Our server informs us that this spends 14 months in French oak, which probably accounts for the trace of smoke we smell.  We also get plum and black cherry.  The wine is dry, with lots of tannins and good fruit, so it would be a good counterpoint to a fatty meat such as lamb.  My husband observes that it is very well balanced, with a good finish.  “Yum,” I add.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

As we discuss which wine to have to end our tasting, our server volunteers that this one is quite interesting, so we go with it.  He’s right (again).  We sniff and get fruit and a trace of tobacco, then sip and decide the taste is rich.  We taste dark cherries with a trace of smoke at the end, but not overwhelming, plus good tannins.  They suggest pairing with game, and I could see it with venison steaks.

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Bunches of lavender for sale.

Bunches of lavender for sale.

Reasons to go:  A nice calm tasting room plus picnic tables outside; the Chardonette, the Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir Reserve; art on the walls.

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