Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018

https://www.pindar.net/

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You might guess from the red tile roof that there is some Mediterranean culture behind this winery. You’d be right.

I have been to wineries where the server knew just enough to spout a brief memorized description of the wines, and to others where the winemaker him or herself was there to tell me everything I could possibly want to know about the wines.  Both models work, but there’s another way: a well-informed server who knows the wines and is enthusiastic about them, without getting too technical.  The last is the type we encountered on a cold day in January in the almost empty tasting room at Pindar.

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Don’t let that sunny blue sky fool you. It was COLD!

Since the tasting room is quite large, and obviously set up to serve many people, it felt kind of funny that there were at most two couples at any one time during the hour or so we were there.  But it did mean that we got plenty of individualized attention from our excellent server.  We learned some interesting details about the wines and some of the labels, and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.

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Plenty of room for more people.

Pindar is both one of the older and larger wineries, and their prices reflect the economies of scale, being lower in general than many of the other places.  The wine list offers 27 different varieties, with almost all of them available for the basic $10 for five tastes.  The menu is divided into the categories of White Wines and Dry Rosé, Red Wines, Proprietary Blends, On the Sweeter Side, Dessert Wines, and Limited Production.  We quickly decided to eliminate the Sweeter Side category and also that we needed to share two tastings in order to get any sense of their offerings.  Since the Red Wines category included eight wines, we also decided to focus our attention there, and only try three of the four regular whites.  Due to the power of the book, we ended up getting a few extra tastes, as our server appreciated our enthusiasm and began to grok our taste.  As the pour is rather generous, I ended up having to drink more of each taste as the afternoon went on, since I was not the driver.  Tough job…

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Pindar requests that you not bring in outside food, and offers a selection of cheeses to which they will add crackers, etc.  They also have a modest selection of wine-related gift items.

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Snacks to have with your wine.

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Some of the gift items for sale.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

We started at the top of the menu with their sauvignon blanc, a wine we find often pairs well with oysters or clams.  This one would do so, too, but has an assertive enough flavor that it could also go with bluefish.  The aroma has a touch of cat pee, plus a fruit the menu identifies as white peach.  The taste is pleasant, with a touch of sweetness, and some citrus and mineral notes.

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The beautiful art is supposed to reflect the taste of the wine.

  1. 2016 Viognier $18.99

“What a beautiful bottle,” we said, and learned that it had been painted by Sylvia, a former patient of the founder of Pindar, Dr. Dan Damianos.  We also found out that she was a quadriplegic who painted with a brush in her mouth, and that she designed the pretty pastel floral image to reflect the taste of the wine.  Wow.  Viognier is a grape you don’t find too often on Long Island (a quick search of my blog found three or four other wineries that had it), and our server told us that they didn’t bottle it every year, since the grapes did not always meet their standards.  We’re glad it was on the menu this time.  Though not a sipper, it is a really nice wine, with lots of tart pear and some woody/mineral tastes.  She suggests serving it with shrimp or lobster, and I bet it would go well with Peconic Bay scallops, too.  We decided to buy a bottle.

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I love looking at the fields of sunflowers in the summertime on the North Fork.

  1. 2015 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

We were going to try the Peacock Chardonnay, but our friend warned us that it had been reformulated and was on the sweet side.  We had been reluctant to have the Sunflower, since the menu said it was 100% new barrel fermented, and we tend not to like really oaky chardonnays.  However, she reassured us that it was not like that, but rather tasted mostly of pineapple.  She was exactly right.  She said that the particular clone of chardonnay that was used for this wine tended more towards tropical fruit flavors.  Interesting.

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  1. Pythagoras $16.99

Now we moved on to the reds, getting a clean glass for these tastes.  The name of this wine, the images on several of the bottles, and the name of the winery, reference the Damianos family’s Greek heritage.  (We went to a class on Greek wines several months ago, and were quite pleased to discover that they were no longer limited to retsina and harsh reds, but included many wines we enjoyed. Wines occupy an important role in Greek mythology, and not just because they have a god of wine!)  This is their Bordeaux blend, and varies from year to year.  It likely includes some combination of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and Malbec, and was described as a “good pizza wine.”  That it is, and has lots of fruit with a touch of tannins.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably heavy on the merlot.

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Another image made to hint at the flavor of the wine.

  1. 2014 Syrah $16.99

Here’s another label painted by Sylvia, which is supposed to convey the “stormy and dark” taste of the wine.  Not so sure about the stormy part, but it is certainly dark, with black cherry flavor, a bit of oak, and nice tannins. It smells a bit like nutmeg.  It is not complex, but is very good, and we also plan to buy a bottle of this one.  It would go well with a soup and bread and cheese dinner.

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A beautiful stained glass window in the tasting room.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

We were going to give this one a pass, but now it seems we will be trying all of the reds.  Our server has poured out a glass of one of the Limited Production wines, to let it breathe while we taste the others.  The cabernet franc has lots of tannins, with some tastes of fruit, spice, and wood, and would be okay with food.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

2014 was a good year for reds on the North Fork, so we’re not surprised that we like most of the reds we taste.  This is a very drinkable red, not very deep or complex, with a pleasant fruity aroma.

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Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology.

  1. 2014 Merlot $18.99

Oops.  Finally one we don’t particularly like.  The smell is a bit funky and earthy, the wine rather thin. We dump the rest of this taste.

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We like the image of the Argo, the boat for Jason and the Argonauts, better than the wine inside.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $21.99

Like a number of the other reds, this is aged two years in French oak.  We do detect a bit of oak in the aroma, plus purple plum and toast.  The wine is quite yummy, though not complex, tasting of plums and cherries.  It would be overpowered by red-sauce Italian foods, but would be good with meat loaf.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $16.99 (on sale, was $21.99)

This one could be on the edge of going over the edge, we decide.  It also has a somewhat funky aroma, and has a slight cherry taste.  Just okay.

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  1. 2014 Mythology $27.99

Their Meritage blend, this is 40% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 10% petit verdot, and 10% Malbec.  Nevertheless, my notes say “not much to it.”  I swear it smells like cheese, though the menu says it has “cassis, bing cherry and raspberry on the nose.”  It is dry, with some tannins and dark fruit tastes.

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A wine well worth buying.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014       $24.99

After Dr. Damianos died, his children decided to make some special wines in his memory.  They did a great job with this one, the special taste our server had set aside to breathe for us.  Given the price point, it is quite impressive, with lots of delicious dark fruit tastes and some complexity.  The tannins are strong enough that we feel it could age several years and get even better, so we decided to get a bottle of this and label it to be drunk a few years from now.  It could stand up to steak or lamb chops, for sure.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot 2014       $24.99

Well, she had a bottle of this open and had served a taste to the other couple at the bar, so we might as well try it, too.  We like this better than their other merlots.  It tastes of black cherry and spice, perhaps nutmeg, with tannins that could let this one age as well.

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Reasons to visit:  big place that can accommodate a crowd (which it definitely gets in the summer); lots of different wines at good prices; despite the mass appeal, many of the wines are quite good; the Viognier, the Syrah, Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in particular, plus many of the other wines; dogs are allowed on the back deck in the summertime.

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Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

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Lenz Winery: The Older the Better January 11, 2018

https://lenzwine.com/

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Lenz is justifiably proud of being one of the oldest wineries on the North Fork.

“We’re the second oldest winery on Long Island,” our server proudly told us.  Most people know that certain wines improve with age, but I’ve also learned that grape vines do, too.  As the vines get older, their roots go deeper and get stronger, and the grapes also get better.  The first modern winery on the North Fork was Hargraves, now Castello di Borghese, founded in 1973.  Lenz started in 1978, but didn’t harvest their grapes for wine until 1988.  Now in their fortieth year, they have some really good wines on their list.

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Plenty of room at the bar during the week in the winter.

We had been housebound by snow and cold, and it was still rather chilly when we set out to do a tasting.  A quick walk around Greenport revealed a very quiet town, with many stores and restaurants closed for the season or open with limited hours or days.  However, we were able to stop into the book store to pick up a copy of On Tyranny and into The Weathered Barn to drop off dead light bulbs for recycling.

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One side of the tasting room.

Then we headed back west to Lenz.  The barn-like Lenz tasting room was quiet as well, as we were the only customers.  However, that meant we were able to have some in-depth discussions with our server on wine and the tastes of the ones we chose.

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And the other side.

The menu offers two choices: five Estate wines for $14 or five Premium wines for $18.  She also offered to customize an all red or all white tasting for a dollar or two more, and described the Estate choices as “lighter.”  We decided to share a tasting of the Premium wines, and were quite happy with all six of the wines we tried (Thanks to the power of the book, we got a sixth taste!).

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Lenz also has some wine-related items for sale, and a small gallery of art, also for sale.  They offer Catapano cheese for a snack, and do allow people to bring their own snacks.

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  1. 2015 Blanc de Noir Rosé            $24

We always compare rosés to Croteaux, and this one can stand up to the comparison.  It’s made from pinot noir grapes and has an aroma of strawberry.   It’s dry, but mouth-watering, with some nice citrus tastes.  I think blood orange, rather than lemon.  It’s not really a rosé for sipping on its own, but would be great with food.

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Cute label, too.

  1. 2014 Tête à Tête $25

As a blend, this changes from year to year.  This is a good one.  It blends 45% sauvignon blanc, 35% chardonnay, and 20% gewürztraminer for a dry, minerally and lemony white that would be great with lobster or Peconic Bay scallops.  We joked about gooseberries and other more obscure fruit comparisons, but I insisted that it did smell like gooseberries.

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  1. 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30

Lenz makes three different chardonnays, so at some point I’ll have to try their others, one of which is steel fermented and the other spends eleven months in oak.  This is sort of in the middle of those two, spending three months in neutral oak.  You can smell a bit of the oak, and also a light floral aroma.  This might be a good wine for someone who finds steel chards too lemony, but doesn’t like that big oaky taste of oaked chards.  Although there is a slight note of vanilla, what I mostly taste is green apple, plus some other flavors that make this a relatively complex white.  We decide it would be perfect with bluefish, or some other assertive fish.

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  1. 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50

We get a clean glass as we move on to the reds.  Cabernet sauvignon is a grape that takes longer to ripen than, say merlot, so it doesn’t do well every year.  However, 2010 had a long warm season, and was a good year for North Fork reds—including this one.  Blended with merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec, this is a very dark red with lots of dark fruit flavors including black cherry and a touch of tobacco.  It was aged two years in French oak.  It has the tannins to stand up to steak or roast lamb.  Another good one.

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  1. 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65

We like this one, too, though not as much as the cab sauv.  It is somewhat austere, a bit light for a red at this price point, with a purple plum and cherry flavor.  Not much aroma.  Our server tells us this could age 20 years, and tells about some of the older Lenz wines she has tasted.  We get the last of the bottle, so there’s a bit of sediment at the bottom of the glass. They don’t filter their wines.

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The one we took home.

  1. 2014 Estate Select Merlot $30

Extra!  Having noticed our preferences in the wines we’ve tasted, our server offers us a taste of her favorite of their reds, a new release.  Good move, as we buy a bottle and date it to be drunk in a few years.  The merlot is blended with cabernet franc and petit verdot and aged in French oak.  We like it much better than the Old Vines Merlot, and especially prefer the price.  It has more fruit, layers of flavor, and good tannins.

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Reasons to visit:  lots of good wines; a good compromise between the big commercial wineries and the smaller boutique ones, as it has characteristics of both; in the summer, they have an outdoor courtyard; the Estate Select Merlot, the Tête à Tête, and the Old Vines Chardonnay in particular, but we liked all the wines.

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Sometimes the vines in the snow remind me of dancers. In this case, they are hip deep in old snow.