Long Island Spirits: Spirit of Spring March 23, 2018

http://lispirits.com/

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Despite the Four’Easter, spring IS coming to the North Fork.  You can tell because Briermere is open and selling pies!  Meanwhile, it was still cold enough that whisky sounded like a good idea, so we headed to Long Island Spirits, the home of vodka, gin, and various whiskies on the North Fork.  The first tasting room that you come to on Sound Avenue heading from west to east, it is a large structure with a gravel parking lot.

You climb steep stairs to the tasting room. The stairs might be seen as a warning not to drink too much, though in the summer they open an additional bar downstairs, and have music and food trucks.    Upstairs you will find a large airy barn-like room with a bar along one side and a small outside balcony.  The have a small selection of snacks on sale, like jerky and Backyard Brine pickles, some fancy tonic and mixers, and some t-shirts.

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One view of the room.

On offer are several menus.  There’s a vodka and gin and sorbetta menu, three tastes for $11, and you keep the commemorative glass.  Then on the back of that there’s a whisky, rye, and bourbon menu, three tastes for $16, and again you get to keep the glass.  Finally, there’s a two-sided menu of cocktails, whisky or vodka based.   Sorbettas are vodka-based liqueurs, like a Limoncello, but here in many flavors, from lemon to strawberry.    We’ve had—and bought—them in the past, so this time we skipped them, but I will say in general they are quite good, with real fruit flavor, only slightly sweet, and make nice after-dinner drinks.

 

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The menu of vodkas and gin and sorbettas: I recommend you try both the potato and corn vodkas, to see the difference. The gin is also excellent.

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  1. LiV Potato Vodka           $36/liter

This is their original product, a great use of the famous Long Island potato.  It’s a good, smooth vodka, with a bit of a citrusy and baked pear taste, not quite as neutral as some vodkas.  It’s also gluten free, for those who need to know this.

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We’re amassing quite a collection of these nice little vodka glasses.

  1. LiV Standard Edition Vodka $36/Liter

I tend to think of vodka as a rather tasteless drink, but I am willing to be educated, and today I was.  So I learned that corn-based vodka really tastes different from potato-based vodka.  It may be the power of suggestion, but I felt I could taste corn, and a slight touch of sweetness in comparison to the other one.

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If you look closely, you can see the list of all the botanicals.

  1. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $35/750 ml.

You can make gin at home.  Just take vodka and add whatever herbs and spices you like.  We’ve done it!  This gin starts with a potato base and adds twenty-eight “local and exotic botanicals,” from almonds to elderflower to merlot leaf to watermelon.  We liked it.  It is spicy, with some nutmeg-like taste along with other complex flavors, and would make an interesting martini.  It might be fun to combine it with a Channing Daughters vermouth.

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The whisky tasting glass. We’ve begun a collection of these, too!

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

Another easy-to-drink beverage, this is a smooth and unchallenging non-peaty whisky.  I smell oranges and vanilla, and the taste is slightly sweet.  I like the peaty single-malt Scotch whiskies, so this was good but not one I would buy.

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The names are nods to Long Island: Teddy Roosevelt and the Pine Barrens region.

  1. Rough Rider “Bull Moose” Three Barrel Rye Whisky $60.50/750 ml.

Three barrels?  According to the menu, they age this in a combination of new American oak, X-bourbon, and X-pine barrels.  It smells like a sawmill, like fresh-cut pine.  Smooth and easy to sip, this has some tastes of ginger and spice, but my tasting buddy found it “bland and monochromatic.

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We haven’t tried any of these, but if we came with friends we might.

  1. Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whisky $45/750 ml.

Made from 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley and aged two years in new American oak and wine casks, it tastes like a traditional bourbon.  It is a touch sweet, with some orange flavor.  We liked it.

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Reasons to visit:  the chance to taste some locally made hard liquors and liqueurs; cocktails if you prefer that; something different instead of wines.  We bought the Deepwells gin.

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Careful on those stairs!

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Arrays of bottles and of various other products for sale.

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Pugliese Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser March 10, 2018

http://pugliesevineyards.com/

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The pergola and pond make a pretty outdoor setting–but not in the winter!

We’ve driven past Pugliese many times in the summer, noting the crowds at the outdoor tables and the many limos (by appointment only) in the parking lot, and given it a pass.  But we figured a March Saturday would be safe, and indeed, when we entered, there was only one other couple there.  However, as we were leaving the first of what the servers told us would be several groups arrived, a bunch of bachelorettes in matching burgundy sweatshirts emblazoned with wine-related quips, with the bride-to-be in a matching white sweatshirt.  “Rise and wine,” read the one on a cheery woman, who informed us that this was already (at 2 PM) their third winery.

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The limos were starting to gather.

If we hadn’t been on our way out, I would have recommended that they start with the sparkling Blanc de Noir, which was one of the wines we did like, and would have been a suitably festive start to their tasting.  But I would guess that many of the wines on the Pugliese menu are crowd-pleasers, as they are generally un-challenging and easy to drink, as well as moderately priced.

 

For $12 you can choose any four wines on their extensive menu of four sparkling wines, seven whites (including one rosé), seven reds, and five dessert wines.  We decided to share two tastings, trying one sparkler, the rosé, two whites, and four reds.  As we sipped we admired the view out the window of Pugliese’s pretty grounds, with a vine-covered pergola and a fountain-centered pond.  It would be a nice place to bring a picnic in the summer, though they discourage food in the tasting room itself (and a sign on the door admonishes “No Pets”).  (One server remembered a group that brought a huge cake with them, and left “crumbs everywhere.”)

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One view of the tasting rooms.

The tasting room itself is not huge, but there is a side room with tables.  That space is lined with tables laden with gift baskets, which feature the pretty flower-decorated bottles of Pugliese wines and hand-painted wine or champagne glasses, all wrapped up in cellophane.  If you need to pick up a gift basket in a hurry, this is the place.  They also have a selection of matted photographs, mostly of local nature scenes, for sale at reasonable prices.

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Nice bubbles in the bubbly

  1. 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature         $25.99

Made from 100% pinot noir grapes (all their grapes are grown on their estate, we were informed), this has the typical yeasty aroma of a champagne.  It is a pleasant sparkler, not complicated, with nice bubbles and a bready flavor.  It would work for a toast (no pun intended!).

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We enjoyed the view as we sipped.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $17.99

At first, I didn’t detect any aroma, but on a second sniff I decided it smelled like clover honey, plus minerals.  It also tastes a bit like honey that has somehow had the sweetness removed from it, or like a tart dish that has been flavored with honey.  My husband complained that it was “watery,” and I agreed that it was very light.  Not a sipper, it needs to go with food, maybe charcuterie, though it has so little flavor most food would overwhelm it.

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  1. 2015 Veronica’s Rosé $17.99

Why Veronica?  “I wanted to name a wine after my niece,” said one server, who was most likely a member of the Pugliese family, since they are generally in the tasting room.  This is another light, dry wine, with typical strawberry aroma and flavor, again not complex.  It has a pretty pink color from the merlot grapes.

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I commented on the pretty labels, and was thanked. On a previous visit I was told that Pat Pugliese painted the design.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay Gold $14.99

They have an oak-fermented chard, but we decided to go with the steel, since we tend to prefer those.  I was also thinking if we liked it we’d buy a bottle, to go with the fish we planned to buy at Braun’s later.  However, we cancelled the trip to Braun’s when we realized we’d be stuck in the Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day parade, and, though we found the chardonnay pleasant, we didn’t like it enough to buy it.  (Instead we stopped at 8 Hands Farm and picked up some of their delicious bratwurst.)  Though the chard is a bit sweet, it is balanced by good fruit flavors of citrus, mango, and pineapple.  My tasting buddy says it would have gone well with a dish I made a couple of days ago, called Chicken Veronique, chicken breasts cooked with grapes and mushrooms.

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The grape is the one used to make chianti, but this is not a very chianti-like wine.

  1. 2012 Sangiovese $16.99

I was interested to taste this, as it is advertised on the menu as “Long Island’s only chianti.”  I like chianti.  I wouldn’t have necessarily identified this as a chianti, however, and, considering that 2012 was supposed to have been a good year for reds on the North Fork, this was a rather disappointing wine.  However, it is drinkable, with no tannins, very light and dry.  Not much fruit.  My husband says it has “no oomph,” sort of a “generic wine.”  It would be okay with pizza.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $16.99

Their reds certainly are reasonably priced for the North Fork.  This is another light, easy to drink wine, with no tannins.  You get a bit of fruit with the first sip, but the taste soon evanesces.  You could pair this with pasta with a not-powerful sauce.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99

Nice aroma of dark fruit and berries precedes a taste also of dark fruit and berries, with a touch of tannins.  It’s the best red so far, but again has no depth and is rather light.

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  1. 2013 Sunset Meritage $34.99

Why sunset?  “It’s just a name.”  You need a non-varietal name for a blend, which this is, a mixture of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon.  It’s the best red of the day, which is not saying much.  Again, it is a relatively simple, light wine, “tame,” according to my drinking pal.  It is pleasant, but not worth the price.

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Entrance–the little signs say no food inside and no pets inside–which I assume means both are okay outside.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting for sitting outside; very crowd-friendly if you’re coming with a limo (which I actually did one time); lots of choices on the menu; the Blanc de Noir, the Chardonnay Gold, the Sunset Meritage; you prefer light, easy-to-drink wines with no complexity; lots of gift baskets and hand-painted glasses.

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Pellegrini Vineyards: A Favorite March 1, 2018

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

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The news was threatening an apocalyptic storm, so after a trip to the supermarket for a few essentials (milk, bread, toilet paper, and guacamole ingredients) we headed to Pellegrini to pick up our wine club shipment.  When I looked in my notebook, I realized that, although we had been to Pellegrini many times and sampled wines, we hadn’t done a recorded tasting since 2016.  As wine club members, we can do free tastings at any time, and since pick-ups happen four times a year, we often combine picking up our three bottles of red with either a glass of something or a full tasting.

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The tasting room is not huge, but certainly adequate in the winter.

We chose the reds because Pellegrini does a better-than-North-Fork-average with them, though we like some of their whites as well.  We also like Pellegrini because it is a pleasant setting in which to taste wine.  Though the tasting room itself is small, there’s plenty of room in and around the courtyard, where we have often sat in the summer.  It is a good place to bring guests because you can get your whole tasting on a tray and bring it to a table, where you can share snacks you’ve brought with you.  The only food they sell is North Fork chocolate, though they do include a little bag of oyster crackers with each tasting.

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They have a few tasting options, but the main ones are either three one-ounce pours at the bar for $8 or three two-ounce pours which you take to a table on a tray for $14.  The latter option also includes a one-ounce pour of a wine they select, which this time was their rosé.  When you get there, they hand you a menu on which you circle your three choices out of a possible fourteen wines.  My husband and I decided to do three whites and three reds for our two tastings, sharing them, as usual.  The room was empty on this winter mid-week day, so we opted to take our trays to a table by the window where we could take our time and chat as we sipped.

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Pellegrini was having a good sale on their rosés, so though we prefer Croteaux, we decided to get the three bottles for $33.

  1. 2016 Rosé         $19.99

This is a very pale pink rosé, with the typical strawberry aroma, plus a touch of petrol or some chemical.  It is made from a blend of 66% cabernet franc, 24% cabernet sauvignon, and 20% merlot.  Compared to Croteaux rosés, it is very light, almost more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé.  It is very dry, and drinkable but not one you would want to sip by itself.  It could go with charcuterie.

  1. 2015 Gewürztraminer $24.99

I find gewürztraminers a little tricky, since sometimes I like them and other times I find them too sweet.  I would hesitate to buy a gewürztraminer or a riesling I didn’t know.  This one smells, I assert, “gewurzty”—floral, perfumey, ferny.  I like the taste, which reminds me of ripe pineapple with a touch of lemon.  Despite all the fruitiness, it has only a touch of sweetness, with a nice long finish.  My tasting buddy suggest pairing it with mac and cheese, and I counter with weisswurst, since it is after all a German grape.

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Our tray of whites. As you can see, the rosé, in the upper right corner, is almost as pale as the whites.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $19.99

Though they have a couple of oaked chardonnays, I opt for the steel-fermented one, since I generally tend to prefer steel over oak.  This one smells like honeysuckle and fruit salad, but the taste is very minerally, with not much citrus, and some green apple.  It is so dry that some might find it harsh.  Though it is not a sipper, I could see drinking it with something like a barbequed salmon burger.

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Pellegrini often has special sales. Today they had one on the chardonnay and one on the rosé. We opted to get the rosé.

  1. 2016 Rejoyce $24.99

Because we’re not standing at the bar, I can’t ask about the origin of this name, but since it is a blend—of 58%chardonnay and 42% sauvignon blanc—I assume they had to give it a non-grape name.  In any event, we like it.  The aroma is lovely, with notes of pine needles and forest and what I insist is sweat (which doesn’t sound so good, but I liked it).  It does not taste at all like the smell, notes my husband, saying it is more like lime than lemon.  It is a good food wine, and if he catches any bluefish next summer (or we buy some at Braun’s) I may get a bottle to go with it.

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The vines are bare now, but spring is coming. My chives are starting to grow.

  1. 2014 Merlot $29.99

Now we switch to the reds, which, because they have been sitting on our tray for half an hour, are at perfect room temperature.  This merlot is in our shipment, so we are interested to try it.  It is actually a bit of a blend, 90% merlot plus 7% cabernet sauvignon and 3% cabernet franc.  It is a nice, not atypical Long Island merlot, with dark cherry aroma and flavor, more soft than tannic, with not a lot of fruit and some mineral and salt flavors.  We like it, but more as a picnic red than as one to stand up to red meats.  We decide that when we get home we will label it for drinking this year, rather than holding on to it for any length of time.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $29.99

“Not a killer cab,” opines my drinking pal, though he also says it is a pleasant wine.  It is aged 19 months in oak, and has an aroma of dark fruit and tastes of ripe purple plums.  It may not be hefty enough at this point to go with a steak, but one could certainly pair it with pork or lamb chops.  It has enough tannins that we decide to label it for a year from now when we stow away our wine club selections.

  1. 2012 Petit Verdot $39.99

I have high hopes for this wine, since 2012 was a good year for reds on the North Fork and I often like petit verdot, and I am not disappointed.  Yum.  The aroma is like macerated raspberries, and it tastes like black raspberries.  It is dry, with lots of tannins, and could definitely stand up to a steak.  Their website describes the taste as “dark and brooding.”  I don’t know about that, since I never saw a wine brood, but we like it.

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In the summer I often try to angle my photos so I don’t include too many people. Not a problem today!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room with ample outside space for summer tastings; outside food is allowed, so you can bring your own snacks; you can bring the tastings to a table so it is a nice place to sit with friends; the gewürztraminer, the Rejoyce, the cabernet sauvignon, the petit verdot.  One note on the tray of tastes—in general, you want to go from whites to reds, and from top to bottom and from left to right.

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We’ve often been here when they were setting up for weddings in the courtyard, when it is covered with a white tent.