Jason’s Vineyard: No, It’s Not a Pirate Ship           June 24, 2017

http://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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Ancient Greek ships, like the Argo, had painted on eyes to help navigate.

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The ship-shaped bar even has a mast and sail, and the ceiling is painted to look like the sky.

Anyone unfamiliar with Greek mythology could be forgiven for thinking, when they sighted the ship-shaped bar, complete with mast and furled sail, that it was supposed to resemble a pirate ship.  However, the design of the bar—and of the ship on the wine labels—is meant to evoke the great ship the Argo, which set off with its crew of heroes, led by Jason, to find the Golden Fleece.  Jason Damianos, the son of the owner of Pindar and Duck Walk, was clearly quite pleased with his namesake hero, and not only designed his bar to resemble the Argo but also named some of his wines after elements of the heroic voyage and opted to raise sheep (golden fleece, get it?) on his property.  Sadly, Jason was killed two years ago in a car accident.  However, the family has continued to own and run his vineyard and his small herd of sheep (plus at least one llama).

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The llama–and the sheep, we were told–had all recently been shorn.

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Jason’s is a fairly large facility, with an expansive outdoor covered porch where a singer was entertaining guests the day we came (but so loudly that we opted to stay inside).  The servers keep track of your tasting by giving you a pile of tokens, taking one away each time they serve a taste.  That works well for large groups, which they do welcome.  The menu offers a flight of five wines for $10.  Since they have thirteen different wines, we decided to do two tastings, one of whites and then another of reds, which we clarified with our server after a bit of discussion.  As we thoughtfully considered each wine, our server became more and more enthusiastic about helping us, pouring a couple of “extras.”  As a result, the only wines we did not try are the two rosés.

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One view of the porch.

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There were no signs about whether or not they allow outside food, so I assume they do.  They also had a small selection of cheeses and crackers in a refrigerated case.  By the way, I only have vintages for a few of the wines.  The menu doesn’t mention them and neither did our server, who whisked most bottles away before I could check.

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The winery building is quite attractive.

  1. Golden Fleece                 $18.95

Apparently, this was a wine Jason meant to be his signature one, a blend of 41% chardonnay, 24% seyval blanc, 21% Cayuga, and 9% vidal blanc.  Noting this unusual collection of grapes, we asked if any of them came from Upstate.  Yes, said our server, she thought the Cayuga did, but wasn’t sure about the rest. However, according to the winery web page the Cayuga is actually grown locally. Tasting it, we were wondering whether this would be a collection of wines we would even want to taste, as it was much too sweet for us.  The menu describes it as “crisp,” but it made me think of candied or canned pears in syrup.  The aroma had combined minerality with floral and cat pee notes, so I was hoping the wine would be more interesting than it proved to be.IMG_3926

  1. Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

I have to say that this had a rather unpleasant smell, like rotting garbage, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  That’s one of the aspects of wine that fascinates me—how the smell and the taste can be so different.  Anyway, this one WAS crisp, and rather nice, dry, with tastes of lemon and mineral.  It would pair well with oysters.

  1. Pinot Blanc $34.95

We liked this one, too. The smell combined a funky, forest-floor element with a metallic scent, and the taste had lots of citrus.  I was thinking blood orange, with end notes of pineapple, and found it mouth-watering.  It would complement spicy food nicely, like maybe a shrimp fra diavolo.

  1. Chardonnay $29.95

In general, I’m not a fan of oaked chardonnays, and this one did not convert me, though it was not too heavily oaked.  As my tasting buddy said, “It’s neither here nor there.”  Aromas of vanilla and almonds, tastes of butterscotch and lemon, and a rather thin mouth feel.  Our server informed us that this was the last of the 2012 vintage, on sale for only $12.95 a bottle, or $100 a case.  A good buy, but not enough to tempt us.

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The servers use these tokens to keep track of how many tastes you get.

  1. White Riesling $27.95

What, we wondered, is a white riesling?  Aren’t all rieslings white?  Our usual server was occupied elsewhere, and the cheerful young lady who poured this one for us had no idea why this one was labeled “white.”  In any event, we dumped most of the glass, as it was unpleasantly sweet.

  1. 2006 Merlot $26.95

The servers rinse your glass with water between tastes, which is nice—except when they don’t dump out all the water.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with scents of cherry, wood, and tobacco and a taste of cherry, though with a somewhat bitter finish.

  1. 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95

The cabernet sauvignon is aged 24 months in new French oak, “unfined and unfiltered,” according to the menu.  Though the aroma is lovely, of black cherry and dark chocolate, the taste is disappointing.  My husband characterizes it as a pizza wine, though I would prefer a nice Chianti. We think it is at the end of its useful life, and so must the winery, since this is also on sale for $100 a case.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

This is our first “extra.”  Our server suggests we compare it to the 05, and is interested to see what we think of it.  Much better!  The aroma has hints of something spicy, like maybe A-1 sauce, and the wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and a taste that reminds me of a dried fruit compote.

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Hercules…and…

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Hercules! The wine is named for this cute pooch.

  1. Hercules $28.95

According to the menu, this is a unique wine, a “late harvest blend of merlot and cabernet.”  “Late harvest” would imply great ripeness and sweetness, and the label calls it a “sweet red.”  However, it is not as sweet as we were afraid it would be, and we actually liked it.  I said it was sweet on top and tart on the bottom, which I know makes no sense, but that was what I felt.  We agreed we’d love to try it with a nice piece of chocolate cake.  Hercules, by the way, is named not just for the great hero who went on the Argo (in addition to his famous twelve labors), but also for Jason Damianos’s dog.  Check out the photo…

  1. Meritage $28.95

Meritage is the North Fork’s version of Bordeaux wines, a blend in this case of merlot, cabernet, malbec, and pinot noir.  Very nice—not surprising, since Jason studied wine-making in France.  It smells pleasantly of sweet dark fruits, and tastes like cherries, other fruits, and some pepper.

  1. 2010 Malbec $28.95

As my Grandma Ruthie would say, “This one beats the bunch.”  Definitely the star of the day, this has a delicious aroma of dark fruit, plums, and chocolate and tastes quite fruity as well, while still being dry.  If we had decided to sit on the porch and listen to the singer, this is the wine I would have chosen to have in my glass.

  1. Dessert Wine $28.95

Yes, that is what it is called on the menu.  Our server offers us this “on me,” she says, having enjoyed serving people who are interested in the wine and not just in “getting drunk.”  Thanks!  At 19.5% alcohol, this is definitely an after-dinner drink, really a Port wine, with its sweetness balanced by dryness.  Quite yummy, it would be pleasant to sip this while cracking walnuts and almonds.

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Some snacks are available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  fun to see the bar shaped like a ship; the pinot blanc and the malbec; the Hercules and the Dessert Wine are good if you’re looking for an after-dinner sweet sipper; you can see—but not feed—the sheep and the llama.

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A portrait of Jason Damianos hangs on the wall. We met him a number of years ago, before he opened the winery, at a shop on Love Lane. We got into a discussion and he told us how excited he was to open his own winery. Nice guy. We were sad to hear he had died.

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Croteaux Vineyards: Easy to Drink   Rosés           June 9, 2017

http://www.croteaux.com/

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The very first time we went to Croteaux we fell in love with the beautiful garden and its comfortable seats and the refreshing, easy to drink rosé wines.  In fact, we liked them so much that we bought a case, and then discovered we had joined their “case club.”  Now it’s our favorite wine club as well, and we start every summer season by buying a case. In addition to the reduction in price that is pretty standard at any winery for buying a case, you can also come to the winery and have a free tasting.  Then, several times a year, they invite you to special events.  The most recent one included oysters and glasses of rosé, with apparently no limit on either.  Oh my.

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The view from our table out to the vineyard.

However, I don’t recommend going to Croteaux unless the weather is right for sitting outside, since their inside accommodations are not nearly as nice as the outside ones.  Fortunately, June finally brought us a beautiful sunny day, with a slight breeze making the weather perfect for visiting the garden.  We decided to sample all their wares, and so had a tasting of their six still rosés, for $15, and their three sparkling rosés, also $15.  Feeling the need for a little snack, we ordered the artichoke tapenade with croutons (French bread toasted and brushed with garlic, herbs, and olive oil) for $10.  In the past, we’ve had their goat cheese basket and the roasted nuts, both of which are good.  The artichoke tapenade was quite nice, a combination of artichoke, olives, lemon, and herbs.  The baskets all came garnished with a sprig of mint “from the owners’ garden.  The mint went crazy so they decided to add it to all the baskets,” explained our lovely server.  (They have a sign saying no outside food.)  One other note—they allow dogs on the leash, and every time we’ve come we’ve seen at least one or two canine visitors.

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Today’s pooch is in the background of this photo. Note the nice comfy Adirondack chairs.

  1. Merlot 181 Rosé            $19

The particular clone of merlot is what gives this wine and the next two their names.  This is, as you would expect for the first taste, their lightest rosé, almost white in color, with a slight mineral aroma and a tart citrusy taste and a slightly sweet finish.  “You could drink a lot of this and never notice—until you fell over,” opined my tasting pal.  When we came for the oysters this was one of the wines we had, and it went very well with them.

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Our first three tastes. Note the differences in color!

  1. Merlot 314 Rosé $19

Our favorite this year—we bought a case of it—this one has more character than the 181, with a slight chemical aroma and a tart taste that combines strawberries and citrus.  My husband adds that he tastes a bit of pear, too.  It would work well to sip on its own, nicely chilled, and would also go well with lots of different foods.

  1. Merlot 3 $19

A blend of 181, 314, and 3, this one reminds us more of a white wine than a rosé, with lots of tart citrusy tastes.  Sort of like a sauvignon blanc, but without the pineapple tastes that wine often has.  The color is a pretty pink, and the smell has a bit of something funky as well as minerality.

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The second three of the still wines. A coaster under each glass identifies the wine.

  1. Sauvage 181 Rosé $24

“Sauvage” is French for wild, as this wine is made with wild yeasts, which means it can vary quite a bit from year to year.  This year is a winner.  More interesting than your average rosé, this is mouth-watering (which I insist means it has some tannins), with a taste that combines fruit salad and lime and an aroma of pineapple and guava.  If we had decided to get the newest item on their menu—mini lobster rolls from American Beech—I would have gotten a glass of this to go with it.  Well, the summer is just getting started.  We may have to come back…

  1. Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé $24

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can see why.  Made with sauvignon blanc plus a little cabernet franc (“for color”), this is another yummy wine, with aromas of pine forest and citrus plus peach tastes.  Delicate, it would be fine to sip on its own, or paired with a light white fish like sole.

  1. Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé $24

Described as a French Bordeaux, “for red wine lovers,” this is my least favorite of the day.  It’s the sweetest of the rosés, though there is some minerality to balance the sweetness, with a red candy aroma.  We get the tapenade as we’re still sampling this, and I like it better with food.

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Tapenade.

  1. Cuvée Sparkle $29

Now we move on to the sparkling wines, which come in tall slim glasses, held in a metal carrier.  I would put all three of them in the “fun” wine category, as they are not overly expensive for sparkling wines and are all easy to drink.  The first is a blend of their three merlot clones and smells like them, of minerals with a bit of strawberry. Tart and refreshing and very bubbly, this is a sparkler I would choose, though my husband notes that not everyone would like it.  If you are looking for a sweet rosé sparkler, this would not be for you.

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The bubblies. We had already tried the first one before I remembered to snap a photo.

  1. Chloe Sparkle $29

Like the still Chloe, this is made from sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc grapes, and is quite different from the Cuvée.  The aroma has, in addition to the expected smells, something vegetal about it, maybe a cruciferous veggie.  The taste is more complex than the Cuvée, a touch sweeter, and would go perfectly with a tray of charcuterie.

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Jolie means pretty, and indeed this is a pretty color.

  1. Jolie Sparkle $29

Pretty color!  More like what people expect from a rosé sparkler, this is the sweetest wine of the day, so you should not be surprised to hear that I didn’t care for it.  However, my tasting partner thinks “people would like it.”  The aroma combines red candy, strawberry, and a funky forest smell.  I compare the taste to watermelon.

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Reasons to visit:  the garden!!!; the only winery that only makes rosés; the best rosés on the North Fork, especially the 314, the Sauvage 181, and the Chloe Sparkle;  prices; good snacks; the garden, the garden, the garden.

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Roses and then  rosés .

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