Jamesport Vineyards: Brrr, It’s Cold Outside December 16, 2016

http://www.jamesportwines.com/

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On the coldest day so far this winter, we ventured forth to do some errands and a wine tasting.  We paid our final visits until spring to Bayview (potatoes and Brussels sprouts) and Briermere (last pie for months to come, a yummy blackberry apple), and then headed to Jamesport for a tasting.  In the past, we’d been there in warm weather and had enjoyed sitting outside on their pretty patio, watching families frolic in the capacious back yard and enjoying oysters.  Some day, we decided, we’d have to return to try the flatbreads from their outdoor wood-fired oven.  But now it was winter, very quiet, and rather chilly.  The only other occupants of the tasting room were a small party enjoying a bottle of wine at one of the tables. There are a few small tables and a long bar along one side.  Not much is on offer by way of merchandise aside from the wines.  We stepped up to the bar, and eventually the pleasant young woman behind it came over and asked us if we wanted to do a tasting.

Plenty of room at the bar on this cold winter Friday.

Plenty of room at the bar on this cold winter Friday.

Also room at the tables...

Also room at the tables…

We did, but first we needed some time to peruse the menu.  A tasting consists of any five of their wines for $18, so we decided to share one, even though that meant we had to skip many of the wines.  The menu offers nine whites (including one sparkling), seven reds (which includes a rosé, though some places list the rosé with the whites), two dessert wines, and a non-alcoholic verjus.  No guidance from the server being on offer, we made up our own minds.  As Christmas music tinkled in the background, we signaled her that we were ready for our first taste.

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  1. 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc      $21.95

In the past we’ve enjoyed their steel fermented East End Sauvignon Blanc with our oysters, so we decided it was time to try their other sauvignon blanc, one that is also steel fermented but spends some time in “oak puncheons.”  The aroma is mostly vegetal, with a hint of cat pee.  The server describes it as “New Zealand style.”  We sniff and sip.  Nicely dry, with a touch of sweetness on the tongue. I taste pineapple, and my tasting buddy says he can taste the oak.  Maybe a little.

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  1. 2013 Estate Riesling (Dry) $25.95

Described on the menu as “trocken”—which means dry in the German style—and by our server as having “no residual sugar,” this is indeed quite dry.  In fact, I find it rather sour.  My husband disagrees, though he agrees with my assessment that this is not my favorite riesling.  I think it smells somewhat chemical, with a whiff of apricot pits (arsenic, anyone?).  I taste hard green apricots and not ripe apple.  He likes it better than I do, though in general we both favor dry rieslings.

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  1. 2014 East End Cinq Red $18.95

Now we move to the reds, and get a clean glass.  By the way, we like their glasses very much—stemless and round-bottomed, they work well to warm the wines which, as in many places, are all served too cold.  If you know French, you may already have guessed that this is a blend of five grapes—cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and pinot noir.  Our server disappears to take a phone call before we can ask her about the proportions.  The bottle was just opened, which might account for a smell my husband characterizes as gasoline.  I’m not sure I agree (we seem to have more differences of opinion than usual today!), but I do get a bit of a sweet chemical aroma in addition to the expected red fruit smells.  We do, however, agree that the wine has more aroma than taste, and it is dry but not at all tannic.  I think it is a bit unbalanced, though I like the slightly peppery note at the end.  I would say just okay, a red you could have with roast chicken or lamb chops but not with Italian food or steak.

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  1. 2014 Thiméo Reserve $74.95

“How is this pronounced?” we ask our server before she can disappear again, “And where did the name come from?”  She replies, “Timeo, and it is named for the grandson of the French man who makes our barrels, Jean Louis Bossuet.  We collaborated with him to make this wine.”  While we have her, we ask about the grapes.  “75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc,” she replies, and is off to the far end of the bar before we can ask her why this one is so expensive.  Oh well.  It smells good; we detect lots of cocoa and some of the oak.  We try warming the glass in our palms to try to get a better idea of the taste, since we find it nice but not $75 nice.  Lots of tannins, so perhaps it would age well.  I decide to use a phrase I’ve seen lots of times, “It shows promise.”  My husband says you’d have to have an awful lot of faith in promises to buy it at that price.

My favorite of the day, the syrah.

My favorite of the day, the syrah. We also liked the glasses.

  1. 2014 East End Syrah $18.95

Finally, a wine I really like!  The menu—and our server—describe this as having been made in the “feminine style,” and therefore “not jammy.”  The aroma is of warm spices, like cardamom, and dark fruit, the taste is dry but fruity.  This would also pair well with lamb chops (maybe from 8 Hands Farm), but you wouldn’t want it with a very strong-flavored entrée, since it would be overwhelmed.  If we needed a red, I could see getting a bottle of this.

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Reasons to visit:  come in the summer, when you can sit outside and enjoy music and snacks, like their wood-oven-baked flatbreads; the East End Syrah; in the past, we’ve liked their East End Sauvignon Blanc.

Plenty of room in the summer for families, dogs, and picnicers.

Plenty of room in the summer for families, dogs, and picnickers.

Through a window in the tasting room you can peep in to see the vats.

Through a window in the tasting room you can peep in to see the vats.

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Lenz Winery: A Matter of Style December 4, 2016

http://www.lenzwine.com/Home.htm

In warmer weather, this courtyard might be a nice place to relax.

In warmer weather, this courtyard might be a nice place to relax.

“Eric,” said our server, referring to Eric Fry, the winemaker for Lenz, “prefers a more austere style, with salty minerality.”  We agree.  If you want to understand the difference a winemaker’s choices can make, then you should definitely include Lenz in your tastings.  For example, back in October we tasted Pugliese’s 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature, a rosé made from pinot noir grapes, and at Lenz we tasted their 2014 Blanc de Noir, also made from pinot noir grapes.  Of course, they are different vintages, but look at the difference in taste:  my notes for Pugliese (just down the street from Lenz) note a vegetable taste and aroma, while my notes for Lenz highlight a smell of minerals and salt and mushed up fruit and a taste of red grapefruit.  Same grape, same “terroir,” different winemakers, different tastes.  Both, I might add, quite good.

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The Lenz tasting room is in an attractive wooden building with a long bar along one side and a nice array of wine-related gifts and art for sale along the other sides.  They have room for tables, but don’t have any, which might be a good addition, though I did note some picnic tables in the courtyard.  On this sunny winter Sunday, there were several small groups and couples at the bar, tasting the wines, chatting, and listening to the soft jazz and pop music on the sound system.  I heard Frank Sinatra, among others.

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Some of their gift options

Some of their gift options

The tasting menu features an Estate tasting of five wines for $12 or a Premium tasting of five of their better wines for $15, plus a few additional wines available for individual tastes, such as their sparkling wine and the rosé.  Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable server suggested that he could also do an all white and/or all red tasting for us, and we decided that it would be perfect to share an all white and then an all red tasting.  Together the two were $27.

Pretty color, too.

Pretty color, too.

  1. 2014 Blanc de Noir Rosé               $24

As I noted above, we smelled a salty minerality plus mushed up fruit (a description I’m sticking to, even if that’s not a “wine word”) and agreed that this is a very dry, French-style rosé with nice acidity and a citrusy taste like red grapefruit.  Though you wouldn’t want to sip it on its own, it would be a very nice summer aperitif with a cheese tray, especially if you had some brie and creamy goat cheese on it, perhaps from Catapano.

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  1. 2012 Pinot Gris $25

Our server describes the style of this white as “Alsatian, with no residual sugar.”  I get the idea of austere here also, as this is a very dry wine with a vegetal aroma and an almost cabbage-y taste.  My husband compares it to Brussels sprouts, one of his favorite vegetables.  Again, though not a sipping wine, this would go well with certain foods, such as a charcuterie platter.  Nice acidity.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Gewürztraminer $30

And now, as they say, for something completely different.  2010 was a hot dry year, and, according to our server, a good year for gewürztraminer.  He may be onto something.  This is a delicious wine, with lots of aromas including lychees in syrup and tropical fruits.  This is again a dry wine, though gewürztraminers are often somewhat sweet, and it has some sweetness and a taste like roasted pear.  I observe that it would be perfect with turkey, and then flash on a memory of a number of years ago when we came to Lenz in order to buy several bottles of their gewürztraminer for Thanksgiving.

You can buy hand-decorated bottles to bring to a friend's house.

You can buy hand-decorated bottles to bring to a friend’s house.

  1. 2013 White Label Chardonnay $15

Two years ago when we came here we bought a couple of bottles of their White Label Chard, which was $15 then, so it is quite the bargain now.  This is a steel-fermented chard, with an almost candy-like aroma and a dry, crisp, gooseberry taste, with a touch of pineapple.  You could sip this with or without food, and it would go with any white-wine friendly dish.

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  1. 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30

When Lenz says “old vines,” they’re not kidding, as they first planted their grapes in 1978, which makes them practically ancient by Long Island standards.  Our server says that Eric wants you to “taste the year,” so ages the wine in neutral oak barrels.  This is a good chardonnay to give someone who thinks they don’t like chardonnay, as it is a lovely wine.  The aroma is of peaches with some vanilla, and the taste is crisp and dry with just a bit of sweetness and a taste of not-quite-ripe pear.

Lovely dark color

Lovely dark color

  1. 2013 Estate Selection Malbec $40

We get a fresh glass and switch to the reds.  This is a “pre-release” wine, not yet on the tasting menu.  Lots of wineries use Malbec in their blends, but not as many use it by itself.  The label notes it is “unfined and unfiltered,” as are several of their reds, which goes along with the philosophy on their website of trying not to interfere too much with the natural process of turning grapes into wine.  We smell lots of fruit aromas plus an undercurrent of something my husband describes as medicinal and I think of as Band-aids.  Mouth-watering taste, with lots of tannins, dry, with dark ripe prune plum taste.  Their tasting notes say chocolate, but I’m not getting that.  Yum.  Interesting wine.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

Now I get chocolate—this one smells like those chocolate-covered cherries.  This is also good, with lots of dark fruit tastes and a nice acidity that would complement lamb very well.  The tasting menu mentions cedar, and my tasting buddy objects, “I hate eating cedar.”  Ha.  I do get some woodiness.  Not complex, but good enough that if we had room in our cellar we would buy some to hold for a couple of years.

Unlike some places, the labels actually give you information about the wine.

Unlike some places, the labels actually give you information about the wine.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50

This one also could use some aging, though it is already very good, with a slightly funky aroma that is mostly of red fruit.  As we sip we note a complexity, with layers of flavors, including raspberry and other dark fruits.  2010 was a good year for reds, and this one is no exception.

  1. 2012 Estate Selection Merlot $30

Though this is mostly merlot, it also has some cabernet franc and malbec and petit verdot in it.  We get the typical cherry aroma and taste of Long Island merlots.  Judging by the tannins, we think this could also age well.  Good.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65

Always fun to taste the same grape from different years to see how they compare.  Our server enthuses that the ’93 and ’97 merlots are still very good, noting that this one should also age well.  “Don’t drink it right away,” he warns, if you buy it.  We don’t—not convinced it is worth the price—but I think it would be hard to resist drinking it sooner than later, as it is another winner.  Aromas and tastes of chocolate and cherry and tobacco greet us, but it is not a “fruit bomb.”  Nicely dry.

You can see some of the paintings for sale, and also a sign on the beam that never fails to amuse my husband.

You can see some of the paintings for sale, and also a sign on the beam that never fails to amuse my husband.

Reasons to visit:  a nicer than usual selection of gifts, including original paintings; a lovely calm setting and knowledgeable and enthusiastic servers; all the wines if you like them dry, but especially the Old Vines Gewürztraminer, the Old Vines Chardonnay, the Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Old Vines Merlot. 

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You can enter and exit the courtyard through this tunnel--or go around it!

You can enter and exit the courtyard through this tunnel–or go around it!

That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs...

That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs…