Martha Clara: Playground or Winery? September 3, 2016

https://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

The capacious "backyard" of Martha Clara.

The capacious “backyard” of Martha Clara.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

The parking attendant waved us on to the “additional parking” area, so we had a good view of the activities going on in back of the Martha Clara tasting room and barns.  Children and dogs were running around, a couple played Frisbee, many people tossed beanbags into a whole line of targets, and a wagon hitched to horses waited to give rides.  The delicious smell came from an old-fashioned Airstream camper that had been turned into a food truck.  And that was a good thing, since Martha Clara no longer allows you to bring in outside food, preferring that you buy your own from their menu, catered by Noah’s Restaurant in Greenport.

Food truck!

Food truck!

Noah's menu

Noah’s menu

We were there with a friend who is a member of the Marth Clara wine club, so we first headed to the Tasting Barn with its sign outside limiting it to wine club members.  However, it was full, so we headed on into the main building and, not feeling like standing at the bar in the crowded main tasting room, sat at a table in the table service area.  At first the server said we’d have to pay full price, but after assuring her that we had been turned away from the members-only barn she said okay—which resulted in a significant saving for our four tastings.

No room in the Members Only barn

No room in the Members Only barn

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

The sleekly bound menu offers four options for tastings, plus a variety of wines by the glass or bottle, and a bunch of snacks.  The four flight menus are labeled Aromatic, Sustainable, Northville, and Vintners, and range from $14-$17 for five generous tastes (or $5-$7 for wine club members).  The tables were all set with napkins, wineglasses, and water glasses, which we used both for water from the large bottle the server delivered to our table and as a dump bucket.  But more on that later.

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I opted for the Northville flight, mostly because it included their Syrah, a wine I often like.  The two men in the party chose the Vintage flight, and our friend the wine club member decided on the Aromatic because it is all whites, and that’s what she was in the mood for.  The Sustainable has a combination of reds and whites, as do the other options.  I will tell about my tasting first, and then about the other wines, not all of which I tried myself.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer Estate Reserve   $27

Gewürztraminers are tricky, because they can be very sweet or dry, with a lot or not much fruit, depending on how they are handled.  This one is steel fermented, so I had hopes, but then the server explained that it was on the sweet side, and she liked it as an after dinner drink or with “spicy Thai food.”  The aroma combines flowers, mineral, and creosote—you know, that smell you get from the railroad tracks on a hot summer day.  Fortunately it doesn’t taste like what I imagine creosote would taste like, but rather like lychees in sugar syrup with some minerality at the end.  This wine also began the Vintage tasting, and we all found it too sweet.  In fact, we all dumped at least part of our serving.  But if you like a sweet wine, you’d probably like this one.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc      $27

A light ruby color, this wine is also light in body, with a red candy and wet rock aroma, and a plum taste.  It would be a good burger or roast chicken wine.  Aged 14 months in oak.

  1. 2013 Merlot $24

Merlot does well on Long Island, and this is no exception, a nice, light, dry red with some fruit.  I like it.  It smells rather oak-y, even though it only spends 12 months in oak.

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  1. 2012 Syrah (Cote Rotie Style) $24

I would be very happy drinking a full glass of this one.  It has aromas of red fruit and pepper, with lots of red fruit tastes, some tannins, and a dry finish.  It could pair well with lamb or duck.  It’s my favorite of the day, too.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Again, you can definitely smell the oak.  This is somewhat dry, with lots of cherry taste and a nice long finish.

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And that was the end of my tasting.  However, here are some notes on the other flights.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Lots of aromas on this one, including vanilla and nutmeg, which is the first on the Vintage list.  It is aged “sur lie” for ten months.  If you like a smooth buttery chard, this is one for you.

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  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blend $18

I liked the bottle for this, featuring an image of a sun, which my friend saw as appropriate for this first on the Aromatic list, since it is, she said, “a perfect summer sipper.”  It is a blend of about four or five grapes which the server rattled off too quickly for me to catch.  We all sniffed it and agreed that it smelled like ripe pineapple, and my friend said it was “crisp and refreshing” with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $22

This is a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with honeysuckle aroma and lemon tastes, though it is a touch sweeter than some sauvignon blancs.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $22

And this is another great summer wine, said my friend, with some peach tastes and a touch of bubbles on the tongue.  It was her favorite of her tasting.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

We were all intrigued by the smell of this one, identifying vanilla sugar cookie (even though it is steel fermented) and wet rock.  Unlike the gewürztraminer, this escapes over-sweetness, and is a light and almost bubbly with some mineral taste.  The Aromatic tasting should have ended with the Gewürztraminer, but my friend decided to forego it since she had already tasted it and felt she had had enough wine.  As I said, the pour is generous, and we actually dumped some tastes we liked.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir $37

The Vintner tasting includes some of their higher priced wines, and we got into a discussion of value vs. cost, which I may revisit some time this winter when I don’t have a winery to review.  My husband informed us that this was a Burgundy-type wine, but a bit sharp for a Burgundy.  It had aromas of plum and prune, and a somewhat grapey (I know, shocking) taste.  Good, but not complex.

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  1. 2013 Northville Red (Bordeaux style) $27

Again, the server listed the grapes in this too quickly for note taking, but it is a Bordeaux-style blend we all liked very much.  In fact, my notes include “yum,” “delicious,” “very drinkable,” “layers of flavor,” and “really nice.”  We were happy when our friend bought us a bottle!

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Merlot $35

The menu informs us that this was rated a 90 by Wine Advocate.  Maybe.  It has a touch of that barnyard smell we always used to get from local merlots and hardly ever sense any more, but it tastes nice, with good fruit, some cherry flavor, and is dry.

Here's something not every winery has--a Tiki Bar!

Here’s something not every winery has–a Tiki Bar!

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Reasons to visit:  Lots of space to play and a relaxed, welcoming vibe; some agritainment; the Northern Solstice Blend, the Pinot Grigio, the Syrah, the Northville Red; lots of choices ; catering by Noah’s (We didn’t have any, but I like the food in the restaurant!).

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The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

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Croteaux: Still Our Favorite Garden August 26, 2016

http://www.croteaux.com/

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It’s a hot Friday afternoon, but in Croteaux’s shady garden it is just pleasantly warm.  We settle into the pair of Adirondack chairs the hostess indicated, and peruse the simple menu.  We have plenty of time to do so, since service is a bit overwhelmed by what is clearly a larger-than-expected crowd in the garden, but when our waitress appears we order two tastings of all six of their still rosés for $15 each, plus a basket of delicious herbed goat cheese and fresh baguette slices for $10.  They have a few other snack items as well, which is good since they don’t allow outside food.  We could have ordered a tasting of three of their sparkling rosés, also $15.  The first three on the list are $20 per bottle and the last three are $25.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, all they make is rosé.  The name also hints at the style of rosé, which is lean and flinty and dry, in the manner of French rosés.  All their wines are steel fermented and made to be drunk young.  We just finished the last of the case we bought last year, and we are here to decide whether or not to get a case this year.  As you will see, vintage clearly matters, as we found some of the wines quite different from last year.  Another difference—they used to have a rather extensive boutique with clothes, jewelry, etc., but that is no longer so.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

  1. Merlot 181 (Pomerol)

“181” refers to the clone of merlot used for making this, the lightest of their rosés.  The aroma has a hint of strawberry, and also flowers and, believe it or not, asphalt.  No, really.  There is a distinct chemical smell.  The wine itself is dry, mineral-y, and salty, with not a lot of fruit.  It is very refreshing, with a long finish of the mineral and salt flavor, but not our favorite.

All our tastes at once!

All our tastes at once!

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

  1. Merlot 314 (St. Emilion)

Sniff.  “Auto repair shop,” opines my tasting buddy.  I counter with one of my favorite aromas, though not one usually associated with wine:  “hardware store.”  For the last few years 314 has been our favorite rosé on the North Fork and we’ve bought cases of it.  Not this year.  It’s not bad, despite that aroma, but it is very tart and subdued, with very little fruit.  Some might even say sour.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

  1. Merlot 3

This is a blend of three clones:  181, 314, and 3.  More fruit “on the nose,” as wine people like to say, though it always conjures for me an image of someone balancing a glass of wine on his or her nose.  It would be a mistake to limit your use of this wine to a balancing act, as it is quite nice.  Still there are notes of mineral and salt, but not overwhelmingly so, with nice strawberry flavor.  “More interesting than the usual rosé,” says my husband.  I agree that it has layers of flavor, and we both agree that we’ll get a case of this.

Just barely pink

Just barely pink

  1. Sauvage (Merlot 181)

“Sauvage” means wild, or savage, and this wine is made with wild yeasts.  We like it better than the other 181.  Though it has a touch of that chemical smell, it is much fruitier and sweeter than the other wines, with just a touch of minerality.  Red candy, I say.  It would pair well with spicy food, like Thai duck salad.

  1. Chloe (Sauvignon Blanc with Cabernet Franc skins)

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and indeed it is more like a sauvignon blanc than like a rosé.  It has a sweet pine smell, like a Christmas tree, and tastes a bit like pine as well.  Quite dry, it would pair well with oysters, which gives us an idea.  When Happy Hour comes we will head to the Old Mill Inn for their dollar oysters and $3 glasses of wine.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

  1. Jolie (Cabernet Franc)

Bright pink, this looks more like what one expects a rosé to look like than the other types.  The aroma is somewhat vegetal, maybe like a salad, but also with some fruit.  The wine is still dry, but with a fuller flavor.  A “red wine lover’s rosé,” they call it.  There’s a touch of Meyer lemon on the finish.  I like it, but my tasting companion does not.  I think you could sip this by itself, though of course it would be fine with roast chicken (as are many wines).

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance--it is quite pretty.

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance–it is quite pretty.

Reasons to visit:  all rosé all the time; a very pleasant garden setting where you can relax and sip at your leisure; better-than-average snacks; prettiest bottles on the North Fork; they allow dogs; the Merlot 3 and the Jolie.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

They've created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

They’ve created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

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