We’ve driven past Pugliese Vineyards many times and not stopped in, because the parking lot was clearly full, as were the outdoor tables under an awning next to their pleasant fountain-centered pond. However, on this blustery fall Friday there were only a couple of other cars in the lot, so in we went.
We were immediately greeted by a friendly server behind the bar, who turned out to be a member of the Pugliese family (and also a neighbor of ours), and who pointed out “Mom,” who was busy decorating glasses with her signature flower paintings (which also adorn the attractive bottles). She explained that the tasting consisted of any four tastes from their extensive menu for $12. “This will take some time,” we laughingly informed her, so she gave us some space to discuss. The menu offers tastes in four categories: four Sparklings, seven Whites, seven Reds, and five Desserts. We decided to each do a tasting so we could sample as many different wines as possible. And we could easily return and do a completely different tasting! Our server carefully pointed out which of the pair of tastes we should start with, and answered our questions about the wines, rinsing our glasses with water between tastes.
- 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature $25.99
Since today is my birthday, it seemed appropriate to start with some sparkling wines, so we chose the first two on their list. “This is a completely dry wine, with no residual sugar, made from pinot noir grapes,” we were told. She wasn’t kidding. Many American champagne-type wines err on the side of too much sweetness, but this one is totally crisp and very dry, with some vegetable aromas and tastes. Nice acidity. I don’t think I’d want this for a toast, but it would be good with soft flavorful cheeses (like a nice runny brie) or foie gras.
- 2010 Blanc de Blanc Brut $25.99
We like this one better, as is more complex with more fruit flavors, though still relatively dry and light. It seems fizzier than the first, though this may be a consequence of how often each bottle was opened. This would work fine if you were pouring sparkling wine for a toast.
- 2014 Pinot Grigio $17.99
This has more tropical fruit and pineapple aromas than I would expect from a pinot grigio, with some minerality, which we also find in the taste. My husband says it has a “citrusy tingle.” I think it would go well with something fatty, like pork belly. “Really?” he says. Yup.
- 2013 Riesling $14.99
By the way, notice the prices. One reason this winery is so popular may be the reasonable prices on most of the wines. The aroma is pleasantly flowery, with maybe a touch of mint. I worry rieslings will be too sweet, but this one is not, with nice fruit and a touch of Meyer lemon at the end. My tasting buddy waxes poetic, “Nice sitting-outside-kick-your-feet-up-easy-drinking wine.” I think he’s already nostalgic for summer and sitting outside on the porch.
- Bella Domenica $10.99
Since we often have pasta for dinner, we’re always on the lookout for reasonably priced reds, so we decide to try this one. A blend of merlot and cabernet, it has nice aromas of dark plums, but the taste is both tart and light with not a lot of fruit. It would be ok with burgers, but there’s not much to it. “An excellent value,” says the menu.
- 2012 Sangiovese $16.99
“Long Island’s only Chianti,” says the menu about this wine, so of course we have to try it. Meh. We would not have said Chianti if we had tried it without the label, as it is rather light with not much to it. Perhaps this is a grape that does not do well on Long Island.
- 2010 Merlot Reserve $16.99
Merlot, however, does do well, and this is a good example of that. The aroma is a touch funky, with some forest floor and what my husband identifies as asparagus, but the taste is quite good. Dark plum, we decide, dry, with nice acidity. I could definitely see having this with pasta Bolognese, or perhaps some Neapolitan-style pizza (especially as the Pugliese family is originally from Naples).
- 2010 Sunset Meritage $34.99
50% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon=a Right Bank Bordeaux style. 2010 was a good year on Long Island, and this blend does not disappoint. Again the aroma is a touch funky, but the taste is good, with plenty of tannins which make us think it could continue to age well. Though it has the most interesting flavors of any wine we’ve had today, we feel $35 might be a bit more than we’d want to pay for this one.
Reasons to visit: Good all-purpose winery with lots of room outside for groups; the Blanc de Blanc Brut, the Riesling, the Meritage; reasonable prices and a wide variety of wines many people will like; the creative gift packages of hand-painted glasses and bottles (which can be customized to order).