Riverhead Cider House:  Cider House Rules          August 24, 2017

http://www.riverheadcider.com/

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This giant apple marks the entrance to the Riverhead Cider House.

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Shortly after we entered the cavernous tasting room at the newly opened Riverhead Cider House, we decided that we were not the target audience.  Then we tasted their wares, and were sure.  That being said, if you are a twenty-or-thirty-something heading East with a group of friends who like sweet-ish mildly alcoholic drinks or local beers, you might find the Cider House to be just what you’re looking for.  As you enter, you’ll see a smaller room off to the side that can be rented for parties and a small alcove where a gift shop is located.  Then you enter the large room lined on one side by a long bar and on the other by tables made from repurposed doors (knobs and all!) and tractor seats, plus more comfortable seating areas near the fireplaces.  Twin “dueling grand pianos” are in the center of the room, and guitars hang on the walls with notes encouraging their use.  Towards the far end is another alcove occupied by a café selling pizzas, salads, sandwiches, huge pretzels, and more.  Out the back is a patio with more seating and what has become a necessity for many tasting rooms, bean bag toss games.

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I would guess that on the weekends the bar is more crowded.

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One view of the room.

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Another view, with the “dueling pianos.”

A huge sign over the bar lists the eight different hard cider flavors and the four local beers currently on tap.  As we were familiar with the beers, we decided to get two tastings of four ciders each:  what they call the Cider Master Flight, and then the other four, for $10 each foursome of two-ounce pours.  The server was quite friendly, but gave us no guidance as to the order of the tastings, which are served on a square tray, so we took them to our table and drank them in whatever order we pleased.  To accompany the tastings, we stopped into the café and bought one of their huge pretzels (and then another one, since the six of us—including two children—demolished the first in short order), which came with three dipping sauces, for $9.75.

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Our guests, who are fond of dry European hard ciders, and the two of us agreed that these were not serious ciders, but would be fine for those who like sweet fruity drinks.  We all went to the Woodside Cidery last year, and liked their ciders much better.  The children enjoyed playing on the patio (supervised by an adult, of course) and looking at some of the quirky décor, so this is one of the places you can come with children—but not with a picnic, as they forbid outside food.

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The Cider House Rules

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The patio, with the obligatory bean bag toss game.

You can also buy growlers of cider or beer to take home, at $8 for the bottle and $18 to have it filled.

The choices from the Cider Master Flight are marked with an *.

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One of our flights, composed of the ciders that are not on the Master Flight.

  1. Apple Annie

Sweet.  Tastes like apple juice.  Maybe you could have this in a mixed drink with a spicy tequila.

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You can buy the ciders by the bottle in the gift shop.

  1. *Prickly Pear Rosé

A bit on the dry side, though I don’t think it tastes much like a rosé or like a prickly pear.

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Seating on the patio.

  1. Black Cherry

If you like black cherry soda, get this one.  It even has a bit of fizz.  One of our guests, an excellent mixologist, thinks you could make a decent highball of this if you mixed it with bourbon and orange or angostura bitters.

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You can see into the room where they brew the ciders.

  1. Razz

Continuing the soda theme, this one smells and tastes like raspberry soda, though it is not cloyingly sweet.

  1. Grapefruit

We agree that this smells remarkably like Lemon Pledge.  I don’t recall what Fresca tastes like, but one of our party opines that that is what this resembles.

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The Master Flight.

  1. *Greg’s Strawberry Patch

Yuk.  Tastes like “strawberry-flavored medicine,” we hear.  Another mildly alcoholic soda-ish drink.

  1. *Founder’s Reserve

Sweet apple juice, very apple-y.

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Our partially demolished pretzel. I liked both the cheese and one of the mustard sauces.

  1. *Benjamin’s Best

We like this the best—or dislike it the least!  It is more like a wine than the others, fairly dry, and tastes more like a European hard cider than the rest.

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The café menu

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Reasons to visit:  you like sweet fruity alcoholic drinks; you are with a group and want to get pizza or huge pretzels and beer or cider; you want a place with a slightly funky vibe and a party atmosphere; the Benjamin’s Best. 

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The fireplace area looks like it would be quite cozy in the winter.

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Not sure what the statue represents, but we did heed the sign next to it.

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Roanoke Vineyards: Sipping and Shopping           August 20, 2017

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

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The view out the door to lovely Love Lane.

Roanoke Vineyards has a tasting room conveniently located on Love Lane in Mattituck, so you can browse the shops before or after your tasting.  The shops include the excellent Love Lane Cheese Shop, the Sweet Shop, a toy store, a yarn store, an art gallery/framing store, a pet accessory store, a dress shop, Orlovsky’s Hardware store, Lombardi’s Market, and several restaurants.  We decided to celebrate having seen a 70% solar eclipse with a wine tasting, while several members of our party (two of whom were too young to drink) cruised the shops.  By the way, although there is parking on Love Lane, there is also ample free parking in the town lot to the west of the street.

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One view of the tasting room.

The tasting room is small but attractive, and is augmented in warm weather by an enclosed patio in the back.  We stood at the bar, which allowed us to chat with the very personable server.  The menu offered two main options:  The Summer Flight, of four wines for $14, or the Special Flight, of three wines for $12.  The three of us decided to share one of each.  The wines from the Special Flight are marked with an *. We also noted that the tasting room sells bottles of wine from two South Fork wineries—Channing Daughters and Wölffer Estates—and Red Hook.  Good to know, since it is sometimes hard to find their wines in stores.

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The back yard patio.

  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc           $26

We started out with this steel fermented white, tart and spicy with some creaminess.  We had an amusing discussion with the server over the aroma of cat pee, which I would also describe as the smell you sometimes get when you have kept flowers in water for too long.  Fortunately, the wine does not taste like the smell.

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  1. *2016 R.V. The Wild     $22

Wild refers to the use of “wild,” or indigenous yeast, or in other words the yeast that just occurs naturally, rather than a purchased yeast.  I would imagine that it takes some courage to do this, since you risk that the wine might not come out well.  Happily, this chardonnay did, with an aroma of gooseberry and a rather nutty taste—as in it tastes like nuts.  We all like it, and our son-in-law buys a bottle to take home.

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  1. 2016 Infinite Possibility $22

This one is also delicious, a blend of 66% chardonnay, 25% sauvignon blanc, 5% viognier and 5% albariño.  We taste pineapple and honeydew in this steel fermented white.  Our relative notes that this is the type of wine, “I could drink all day.”  Perfect summer white.

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  1. *2014 Single Acre Merlot $45

All the grapes for this merlot come from one particular acre, so it has a limited production, and all the pruning, etc., is done by hand.  It has the typical merlot cherry aroma and flavor.  Nice, but not worth a fuss.

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  1. Colorfield   $26

Extra!  Noting my note-taking, and our engagement with the wines, the server says we need to try this one, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot blanc that is not on the menu.  It is light and dry, and, we agree, another wine one could sip “all day.”

  1. 2015 R.V. ARC $34

Arc?  Why?  The server is not sure why this blend of 72% estate cabernet franc and 28% merlot has this name, but by the next wine, we have a theory.  In any event, this is a dry, pleasant red that would go well with burgers.  It has just a touch of cherry taste, plus blackberry and blueberry.

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  1. *2014 Prime Number   $59

Okay, there is a definite theme of mathematic-inspired names.  The server notes that a retired teacher works for the winery, writing copy for the menu and helping come up with names.  We theorize that the teacher must have been a math teacher, and our son-in-law buys a bottle for his father, who is both a retired math teacher and an oenophile.  Perfect!  We decide that he should cellar this wine, which has the types of tannins that make us think it would age well, though now it is “too tight” and “closed.”  A blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot, it had some interesting layers of flavor.  I’d like to taste it in a few years (hint!).

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  1. 2014 R.V. Cabernet Sauvignon   $45

And here’s another wine that we decide would benefit from some aging—and we buy a bottle to store in our cellar.  The aroma is slightly earthy, but mainly plummy, as is the taste.  We tell our companion about how early on so many of the wines out here tasted earthy or barnyard-y, a trait the winemakers seem to have succeeded in ameliorating.

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As you can see from this list, you can buy wines from a number of different wineries at Roanoke’s Love Lane tasting room.

Reasons to visit:  you want to do some shopping on Love Lane and need a respite; The Wild, Infinite Possibility, Prime Number, Cabernet Sauvignon; the ability to buy wines from Channing Daughters, Wölffer Estates, and Red Hook; a pleasantly intimate tasting room.

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Old Field Vineyards:  Counting their Chickens      August 11, 2017

http://www.theoldfield.com/

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If you want to feel as though you are really out in the country, head almost all the way to Greenport and stop into the Old Field Vineyards, through the gate, past the barn and the Port-a-Pottie, to the rustic tasting room and open porch.  Old Field is one of our favorite wineries to bring guests when the summer weather cooperates, since their porch is a charming place to sit and have a tasting as you look out onto the capacious lawn and watch children and chickens running around.  Yes, chickens—and also roosters and a rather charismatic duck—have free rein of the place during the week (on weekends, when it is more crowded, they tend to be kept in the coop), and they sometimes will wander up onto the porch, where they thought my cousin’s hat straw might have been edible.

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Off in the distance you can see the picnic tables and kids running around.

It wasn’t, but the wines were quite potable.  The menu offers several options:  Sample our Rosés (2) for $4.00, Sample our Chardonnays (2) for $6.00, Sample our Reds (4) for $12.00, or Sample our Everyday Mixed Flight (4) for $10.00.  We had just eaten many oysters in Greenport at the Little Creek Oyster Farm, so we didn’t need snacks, but this is one place where you may bring a snack, or even a picnic.  One cousin, S., wanted to try one rosé and one chardonnay, and the friendly and accommodating server told her that was no problem.  The other cousin, R., opted for the red tasting, and we chose the mixed one, so we were able to try all the wines—plus one extra which was not included!

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I hope people heed this sign.

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One rooster.

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Another rooster.

We chatted with our server about the fowl, and he noted that they actually serve a purpose, providing both pest control, as they gobble up bugs, and fertilizer for the vines.  If you go on their web site, you will see that this is not the only part of their dedication to all things natural.  The vineyard also has an interesting family history, so it is worthwhile to ask about it. We were busy chatting amongst ourselves this time, so we didn’t get into those stories.  Also note that the following descriptions of the wines are not exactly in the order in which they appear on the menu, but are rather in the order in which we tasted them.

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  1. 2014 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay      $28

This was one cousin’s first taste, and she liked it.  The aroma is butterscotch-y, but the taste is not too buttery, since it is a blend of oak and steel fermented chards.  It has some light citrus notes as well.

  1. Blush de Noir $18

Our tasting began with this rosé made from pinot noir grapes.  We all agreed it was very light, with lots of grapefruit aroma and not a lot of fruit taste, and surprisingly lemony for a rosé.  My cousin thought it could go with the pesto I had made a couple of nights ago, or seafood in a rich sauce, like scallops Alfredo.

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This chicken was quite sure my cousin’s hat was edible.

  1. 2014 Rooster Tail $20

My other cousin’s tasting started with this red, a blend of mostly merlot with a little cabernet franc.  “Nice, potable, everyday wine,” was his judgment, and we all concurred.  The aroma combines cherry and tobacco with a bit of funkiness and the taste is dry, with cherry and not a lot of fruit.  We got this one in our tasting as well.

  1. 2014 Mostly Steel Chardonnay $23

Comparing this chardonnay with the other one led to lots of conversations about oak vs. steel, and their various virtues and shortcomings.  Overall, we thought this was the preferable chard here, clean and refreshing, with some green apple taste and lots of citrus. R commented on its “up front flavor.”  S laughed that she had said the other chard smelled “woody” and this one smelled “metallic.”

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The Cacklin’ Rose is quite dark, compared to their other rose.

  1. 2014 Cacklin’ Rosé $16

Venturing on her second taste, S commented that this smelled pleasantly like “old library.”  It spends 24 hours on the skins, so is a more flavorful rosé than the other one.  We all liked it, and I noted that it tastes like macerated strawberries.

  1. 2013 Merlot $26

The server mentioned that this was made from two clones of merlot, so we asked him to explain what that meant.  They used to have two different clones of merlot, each grown in a separate field, but they discovered that one grew better than the other, so the weaker one was ripped out.  As a result, this particular mixture ends as of 2015.  Too bad, because it was quite yummy.  In fact, we bought two bottles of it.  It has lots of fruit, and S said she tasted cranberry, and we added yes, and also ripe cherries.

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I love the mis-matched table clothes on the bar.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $38

We all agreed that this, from R’s tasting, was the weakest of the reds, described by R as “watery.”  It evanesces, I added, making use of my favorite word this summer.  It has an aroma of red fruits and forest floor.

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  1. 2010 Commodore Perry $38

Named for the illustrious ancestor of the current owners of the vineyard, this is a wine they only make in good years.  Cherry, tobacco, chocolate, thyme, juniper or bay leaf were some of the taste descriptors we used for this merlot.  Also, “serious legs” and “very good.”  We also learned that it was quite appropriate to name a wine for Commodore Perry, since he was known to carry wine with him on his voyages to give as gifts.

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  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Speaking of gifts, after we paid for our tastings and the two bottles we bought, our cousin gave our server a very nice tip, at which point he offered did we want to taste anything else?  We looked over the menu and realized that we had tasted every wine on it (nine in all, counting Rooster Tail twice).  Ah, he said, but how about this one that is not on the tasting menu, producing a bottle of Charging Goose Sauvignon Blanc.  S, noting that she had grown up on a farm, said it smelled like straw.  We all liked this, too, and decided its lemon flavor would have gone well with those oysters we had eaten earlier.

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Charging Goose? Maybe that’s why they have chickens and ducks, but no more geese.

Reasons to visit:  you want to really feel as though you are out in the country; you want a place where you can bring a picnic and let children run around; you like chickens; the Rooster Tail, the Mostly Steel Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, the 2013 Merlot, the Commodore Perry.

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The netting on the grapes prevents the birds from eating them.

 

Wölffer Estate: Trés Elegante     August 2, 2017

http://www.wolffer.com/

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The Wölffer Estate building is quite attractive.

We had an errand to run on the South Fork, one which couldn’t be put off until the winter, so we decided that as long as we would have to brave the traffic on Route 27—and there was a lot of it—we would make a day of it.  So we visited the Parrish Art Museum (great installation of gigantic photos and videos of waves) and then headed to the Wölffer Estate tasting room in Sagaponack.  We arrived there around lunch time, and a very pleasant hostess showed us to a table on the pretty back porch overlooking the vineyard.

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We perused the menu, and were immediately struck by the prices.  Well, we were in the Hamptons.  They offer two tastings, each featuring four wines for $25, the Summer Flight and the Grand Flight.  Figuring it would be a long time before we came back, we decided to get one of each, sharing tastes along the way—a decision facilitated by the fact that the wines in the two flights are well matched.  Each one has a rosé, a chardonnay, and two reds.  I was disappointed to see that All Summer in a Bottle, their popular rosé, was not in either tasting, though it was available by the glass.  Wines by the glass range in price from $10 to $28, and bottle prices go all the way up to $110.  Whew.

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We thoroughly enjoyed this cheese tray.

Since it was lunch time, we also ordered a cheese board from their well-curated menu of snacks.  We got very generous servings of our selections—Humboldt Fog, St. André, and Lamb Chopper—plus crackers (and more crackers when we used up our allotment) and a blob of guava paste for $25.  Our flights arrived at the table in a series of carafes, lined up on nice slate trays, clearly labeled as to each wine, which we then poured at our leisure into our big wine glasses.  And I do mean at our leisure, as we took our time, sipping and munching, for over an hour.  It was a beautiful day, and we felt as though we were on vacation—a feeling facilitated by the view over the vines, the excellent cheeses, and the group at a nearby table conversing in French!

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We also liked the back patio.

If you check out their web site, you will learn that the property also includes a horse farm—and the named wines are all named for horses from Wölffer’s barns—and this note in all caps:  No Bachelorette Parties.  When it was time to head home, we decided that it was worth it to take the ferries back to the North Fork rather than sit in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on 27.  Good decision.  The “Grand” tastes are marked with an *.

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The Grand flight.

  1. Rosé Table Wine 2016                 $42

Our waitress gave a quick run-down of all the wines when she brought over our flights, so my notes are somewhat sketchy.  She also spoke really quickly!  However, I did glean that this rosé is a blend of merlot and I believe she said chardonnay.  In any event, it is a very light dry rosé, so light that with your eyes closed you might think it was a sauvignon blanc, despite the faint strawberry aroma.

  1. *Grandioso Rosé 2016 $54

This rosé spends a little time in oak, which you can slightly sense, and which gives this one a bit more complexity than the other.  Again, it is very dry, with some nice fruit, and was good with the cheeses.  But for my money, I’d rather have any Croteaux rosé.

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The chardonnay is a pretty color.

  1. Chardonnay 2015 $36

A chardonnay for those who think they don’t like chardonnays, according to the waitress, this is mostly steel fermented and is very light and dry, with citrus tastes and a smell of lemon grass.  You could have it with seafood in a cream sauce.

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  1. *Perle Chardonnay 2015 $54

At this point in the tasting, we began to discuss the prices of the Wölffer wines and the fact that they have some of the few Long Island wines that are often rated in wine magazines.  Perhaps, I theorized, if you charge a lot for something, people tend to think it must be superior.  Our waitress had described this chard as her favorite, and I can see why.  Though it is oaked, it is not too oaky or buttery, with a very distinctive aroma.  We discuss the smell, and conclude that there’s a metallic edge to it.  The taste reminds me of baked pear.  It does not complement the cheeses.

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The summer flight

  1. Classic Red Blend 2014 $38

My husband insists that it smells like “wet paper,” as well as cherries, and I don’t disagree.  He also opines that this blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon has “all the requisite elements” of a red blend.  It is on the dry side, with not much by way of tannins, and some nice fruit tastes.  The waitress had mentioned that it was aged in both steel and oak, and that it might even be nice lightly chilled.

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Now you know why there are horses on the labels.

  1. *Fatalis Fatum Red Blend 2014 $58

A fairly classic Bordeaux-style blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot, this is my favorite of the day.  Dry, with good tannins, it has lots of cherry and other dark fruit/berry tastes, though an almost non-existent finish.  It evanesces!  My tasting buddy notes that it is not as complex as a French Bordeaux can be, but it would stand up to a steak.

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You can see that the pour is rather generous.

  1. Caya Cabernet Franc 2014 $58

There’s something I can’t quite identify about the aroma of this one, but also prune plums and tobacco scents.  There’s a bit of a tingle on the tongue when you start to drink it.  It’s dry, with nice tannins, and lots of dark fruit taste.  I think it would go well with grilled lamb chops.

  1. *Christian’s Cuvée Merlot 2013 $110

Yes, you read that price right.  This Long Island merlot, named for the founder of the Wölffer estate, is over $100 a bottle.  It comes from the oldest vines on the estate, and, according to our waitress, Christian said it is a wine one should savor with one’s eyes closed, the better to focus on the taste.  The fruit fly that flew into my glass seemed to like it…until it drowned and I fished it out.  Not sure how they justify the price on what seemed to us a pretty typical Long Island merlot, with lots of cherry taste, which “doesn’t dance in my mouth,” according to my husband.

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According to their web page, they use these juniper berries on the property to make their gin.

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork and you want to visit a winery and sit outside and relax (but if you just want a tasting, I’d recommend Channing Daughters); the Fatalis Fatum Red Blend; the cheese tray.

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We didn’t get to try any, but they also make ciders.

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I think I wanted to try this just because the bottle is so pretty. But it wasn’t in the tasting.

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The inside room also seems nice.

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Resident cat

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On the ferry heading home–how to get around the traffic on Route 27!