Raphael Vineyards and Winery: On a Winter’s Day January 27, 2017

http://www.raphaelwine.com/

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Greenport was quiet. Some stores had their “closed for the season” signs up, while others had signs saying they would open at 11, but were still closed at 11:10.  As a woman in one shop said to me last winter, when I asked about her neighboring shop not being open, “It’s winter in Greenport.”  Indeed it is, as a chilly wind reminded us.

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The architecture says Italy, but the weather says January in New York.

After a few errands, including a stop at Eight Hands Farm to pick up some free-range chicken, we headed to Raphael Winery, hoping it was not closed for a private party, which is often the case.  It is not surprising that Raphael is a popular venue for weddings and other events, since they have a very spacious and attractive facility.  Our enthusiastic and very well-informed server told us that we should come by on Sundays, since they don’t schedule parties on that day and often have free entertainment as well.

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The attractive room is often used for weddings.

On this blustery Friday we were the only people there, so we were able to have great chats with our server, who had answers for all our questions and some good ideas of his own, especially about food pairings.  No surprise, he revealed that he had worked in restaurant kitchens.  The menu offers a number of options, including a mixed tasting of reds and whites and two premium tastings.  The white premium tasting offers four whites for $20, and the red has four reds, also for $20.  We decided to get one of each and share.  Our server lined up the glasses on the counter and poured all four whites, and then all four reds so they could warm up and breath a bit before we had them.  We learned that our complaint about the wineries serving the whites too cold was not their fault, as they had to maintain a certain temperature in case of a food inspector’s visit.  Ah-ha. Speaking of food, Raphael does not allow outside food, and suggests you check out the “wide variety” of snacks they offer in their shop.  Their gift shop has a more extensive selection of items than many other places.

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  1. 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc            $39

85% sauvignon blanc and 15% Semillon grapes make this a very nice drink, tart but with good fruit; lemony as one would expect, but more like lemongrass than a strong lemon flavor.  The aroma has notes of minerals and toasted almonds.  Steel fermented, it would pair well with local oysters.

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Nice sized pour!

  1. 2014 First Label Riesling (Virgin Berry)    $39

So our first question was, what does “Virgin Berry” mean?  No, it’s not Sir Richard Branson’s latest venture.  It means that some of the grapes don’t happen to get fertilized, and these small seedless berries are hand harvested and used to make this Riesling. We end up having a long discussion about this wine, because it is quite tart for a Riesling, actually for any wine, and we wonder about food pairings.  I say corn chowder, and our server suggests roast pork with a sweet glaze, and my husband opts for lobster bisque.  The aroma is earthy, with some of that cat pee smell you expect, and also cut grass.

  1. 2014 First Label Chardonnay      $39

For an oaked chardonnay, this is pretty good.  The menu says it is aged 50/50 in French oak and new oak, which somewhat mellows the oakiness.  The aroma is vanilla and Werther’s butterscotch, the taste is quite buttery with a long finish, more like a California chard.  Our server suggests it would go with linguini with clam sauce, putting a bit of the wine in the sauce.  We also discuss that they no longer make Chardeaux, a chardonnay/sauvignon blanc blend we had liked.  That’s why you have to try each winery every year, we say, because things change.

  1. 2015 White Primo Reserve          $45

At first sip I’m not impressed, but as I warm the glass in my palms a lovely Granny Smith apple taste begins to bloom.  This is a blend of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% Semillon, and 49% Riesling, fermented in both stainless steel and oak.  The aroma is sweet and flowery, the taste is tart, but an easier to take tart than the Riesling, very crisp.  Our server suggests that the cooler temperature is good for sipping, while the warmer is good to go with dinner.

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  1. 2012 Malbec Reserve     $69

The prices of the reds somewhat take our breath away (though they have less expensive wines on the other menu), and we get into a discussion of the economies of scale and the problems of pricing wines when you don’t make enough for a mass market.  In any event, our server suggests that all of the reds would benefit from a few years in the cellar, which would make them a better investment.  The aroma is of prune plums, and so is the taste, with some cherry as well.  It’s nicely dry, with plenty of tannins, which probably means it would age well. It would, we agree, go well with pork or lamb chops, both of which we saw at Eight Hands.  (We urge our server, as someone who appreciates good food, to pay them a visit.)

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The line-up of reds.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $69

The aroma is the expected blackberry, and also some wood.  I say it’s a nice aroma, while my husband says “fireplace logs.”  It’s good but a bit simple and a touch sour at the end and quite tannic.  “Chewy,” says our server, and we agree it could probably use a couple of years of aging.  It could certainly hold its own against a steak.

  1. 2012 Petit Verdot Reserve          $69

I discover that our server and I share a love of Petit Verdot, and he tells of the time he was able to taste the 2005, and how great it was.  2012 should be a good year, and if our cellar were not full we might have considered a bottle, despite the price.  The smell is lovely, with dark fruit and maybe some chocolate, and it tastes good.   We see some sediment at the bottom of the glass, and he notes that the wines are not filtered.  Again, the tannins are strong, and we agree it could use more time in the bottle.

  1. 2012 Primo Reserve       $72

Our favorite of the reds, this is a blend of 64% merlot, 17% Malbec, and 19% cabernet franc.  We smell wood and something vegetal—asparagus!  Dry, but not as tannic as the others, it has nice fruit tastes and a lovely finish.  You could drink this with boeuf bourguignon and be a happy camper.  If I came to sit, listen to music, and have a glass of wine this is what I’d choose.

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One view of the large circular bar.

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful tasting room that is reminiscent of an Italian villa or monastery; a gift shop with lots of items; the First Label Sauvignon Blanc, the White Primo Reserve, the Petit Verdot Reserve, the Primo Reserve; a great server (if he’s on duty when you go!).

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A touch of Italy

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Sparkling Pointe: For a Celebratory Mood January 14, 2017

http://www.sparklingpointe.com/

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After we came home from running errands, my husband discovered that he couldn’t find his house keys (which also meant a variety of other important keys).  We retraced our steps, becoming gloomier and gloomier.  Then…he found them!  Feeling in a celebratory mood, we decided to head to the only-sparkling-wines vineyard, Sparkling Pointe.  (Well, we don’t need much encouragment to opt for a sparkling wine.)

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Everyone there seemed to be in a celebratory mood.

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Plenty of room for more people.

The airy, modern room was filled with groups at tables, enjoying bottles of wine and various snacks they had bought at the winery (outside snacks are not allowed, but they have a nice list of cheeses and charcuterie).  The place was a bit noisy, but not unpleasantly so, and the staff behind the bar was friendly and accommodating, especially when they took note of me taking notes.  The tasting menu offers four tastes for $20.  We noticed that the menu included Cuvee Carnaval, a rosé sparkling wine which we ended up dumping last time, as it was much too sweet for us.  So I asked if it was possible to substitute the Blanc de Blanc for the Carnaval.  At first she said no, but then reconsidered and said yes.  Whew.

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The menu.

With our tasting, she included a bottle of Fiji water, which was useful for cleansing our palates between tastes.  A note about the term “sparkling wines”:  the only wines which can legally be called “champagne” are those grown in the Champagne region of France.  However, these wines are made using the same method—méthode champenoise—as in France, and are made to taste similar to French champagnes.

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Nice bubbles!

  1. 2014 Brut          $29

A blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir, this is a pleasant, crisp drink.  The aroma is of lemon peel and stone or mineral, and the taste of the tiny bubbles as they burst on the tongue is of pear and citrus.  Very nice.

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  1. 2009 Brut Magnum        $75 for 1.5 liters

This one is aged in the bottle—and it’s a big bottle!—for quite a while, spending four years “sur lies” (which means the wine is aged on the lees, the bits of grapes that form a sediment), giving it a more complex and interesting taste.  It is a blend of 59% chardonnay, 31% pinot noir, 5% pinot meunier, and 5% reserve.  The aroma is warmly yeasty, with a whiff of something chemical.  The first sip seems somewhat chemical to us, too, but as it sits in the glass that dissipates and we find it quite good.  This is a sparkler you could compare to French champagnes and it wouldn’t do badly.  By the way, we get a new glass with each taste, a nice idea.

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You get a nice sized pour here.

  1. 2012 Blanc de Blanc       $44

Okay, so the Blanc de Blanc is not on the tasting menu, but we’re getting it instead of the Carnaval.  Good thing too, as it is our favorite of the day.  Made of 100% chardonnay grapes, it was also ages on the lees.  It has an aroma of honey, maybe thyme honey, and crisp small bubbles.  My tasting buddy says it “blooms in the mouth.”  I say it would make a good sipping sparkler, with tastes of citrus and just a touch of sweetness.

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  1. 2007 Brut Seduction       $72

This really reminds me of a French champagne, with an aroma of baking bread and almonds.  The taste also has hints of almonds, as well a red grapefruit. The bubbles are tiny.  Our server informs us that this spends eight years on the lees, and is a 50/50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir.  Really lovely.  Too bad it is so expensive, but the method of making these wines is labor intensive and requires lots of years of investment, so the cost is understandable.

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They don’t allow outside food, but do have a nice menu–including chocolates.

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Reasons to visit:  you feel celebratory (whether because you found your keys or for some other reason); you like sparkling wines; you feel like doing some shopping in the well-stocked boutique; in the summer you can sit outside and sip champagne…I mean sparkling wine.

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Brazilian carnival masks on display in the boutique–the owners have a connection to Brazil (hence the wine named Carnaval).

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This is the first winery I’ve ever seen with its own perfume!

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Long Island Spirits: Time to Warm Up January 8, 2017

http://lispirits.com/

It takes more than a little snow to keep us from doing a tasting.

It takes more than a little snow to keep us from doing a tasting.

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There’s something about a cold snowy day that gets me thinking about whiskey rather than wine—and certainly not beer.  So we headed to Long Island Spirits—formerly known as Long Island Vodka, or LiV, but now much more than just vodka.  We hadn’t been there for two years, and, though the tasting room is the same, the menu has certainly changed, with many more options.  In addition to their classic vodka, they have a new vodka that is corn based and tastes very different. Then there are a couple of gins and several whiskeys.  Plus their line of sorbettos—after- dinner drinks comparable to Limoncello—has greatly expanded.  And we didn’t even begin to explore their menu of cocktails.

Lots of options!

Lots of options!

Plus cocktails...

Plus cocktails…

Since we had the tasting room to ourselves on this Sunday after a big snowstorm, we took our time and enjoyed chatting with the server, who had plenty to tell us about our choices.  They have two basic menus, with the vodkas and sorbettos and a gin on one, with any three for $11, and the whiskeys and bourbons and a different gin on the other, with any three for $16.  We decided to share one of each group of tastings, which meant we got to go home with two cute little glasses to add to our collection.

 

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The glasses are free with your tasting.

 

 

  1. LIV Standard Edition Vodka        $32/1 liter

Served practically frozen straight from the freezer, this is a good vodka for someone who finds most vodka rather tasteless.  It has an intriguing smoky flavor and a smooth—almost too smooth—finish.  I think it would add an interesting depth to cocktails such as a Bloody Mary, and you could also sip it straight or on the rocks.  Our server informed us that it is made from corn, unlike their classic vodka, which uses Long Island potatoes, and is a new product.  Good addition to their line-up, we think.

You can see they have quite an array of products.

You can see they have quite an array of products.

  1. LIV Ristretto Espresso Vodka $35/750 ml

They make this with actual brewed coffee and sugar, plus vodka.  If you like Starbucks espresso, you’ll like this drink.  Our server says she likes it mixed with chocolate syrup and cream for an after dinner drink.  Yum.

  1. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $35/750 ml

Our glass got a quick rinse after the espresso so that we could really taste and appreciate the varied flavors of this gin.  Thoughtfully, our server also gave us some water so we could rinse out our palates.  According to the label, it is made from 28 “local and exotic botanicals,” amongst which we were not surprised to find anise and orris root, since we detect a strong note of licorice.  It smells like cloves and other spices and has a complex flavor.  My husband, a devotee of martinis and Gibsons, likes the taste, but would not want it in a martini.  Our server suggests it would be good in a Tom Collins, and I could see it going very well in a gin and tonic—or again, just on the rocks.

We had the room to ourselves.

We had the room to ourselves.

  1. Pine Barrens Reserve Botanical Dry Gin $45/750 ml

For the switch to the other menu, we get a different glass, with a little etching of pine cones on it.  Our server suggests we start with this, so we can do a gin to gin comparison.  It is quite different.  This is a gin that is aged in whiskey barrels, which, we decide, makes it a good gin for someone who likes whiskey.  It smells somewhat piney, and tastes like a cross between gin and whiskey.  It also uses 28 botanicals.  I have to say, it goes down very easy.  My husband again says he wouldn’t want it in a martini, but I think it would be perfectly fine straight.

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  1. Pine Barrens Single Malt Whisky $80/750 ml

I like single malt scotch, so I was interested to see what this was like.  The aroma is sweet and again a bit piney.  It’s my favorite of the day.  The LIV web site has an interesting description of how they make this: “Pine Barrens is the first American Single Malt Whisky to be distilled on Long Island. Instead of creating whisky from a regular mash, Pine Barrens uses an actual finished 10%ABV barley wine English styled Ale Beer that has a high hop count of 70 IBU’s.”  As they say, it is incredibly smooth, with some tastes of spices such as nutmeg.

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  1. Rough Rider “The Big Stick”       $60/750 ml

You may not know this, but Theodore Roosevelt took his Rough Riders out to Montauk for training before they rode up San Juan Hill.  In any event, this rye whisky is made from winter rye, a cover crop that is used to enrich the soil after potatoes are harvested.  The name may be a reference to the fact that it is 121 proof, in addition to Roosevelt’s famous quote!  Though it is not as smooth as the Single Malt, it is still a good drink, with some nice spice tastes, though a bit sweet for me.

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  1. Bull Moose Three Barrel Rye Whisky $45/750 ml

Just for comparison sake, and because we have been having such interesting conversations about the drinks, as well as about various other North Fork venues, we are given a little sample of this other rye whisky.  I find it less interesting than the Rough Rider, though I think it would make a superlative hot toddy.  It is called “three barrel” because it is actually aged in three different kinds of barrels:  new American oak, bourbon casks, and Pine Barren casks.

We get a small bottle of the Pine Barrens Single Malt to take home.

They have a small selection of gift items.

They have a small selection of gift items.

Reasons to visit:  it’s winter and you need something to warm your innards; you’d like to try locally made, small batch, and really good spirits; you like vodka; you like gin; you like whisky.

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