North Fork Brewing Company: Newbie Joins the Riverhead Clan February 17, 2019

North Fork Brewing Company:  Newbie Joins the Riverhead Clan

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This was formerly a fire house.

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The Mattitaco truck outside the brewery.

https://www.northforkbrewingco.com/

Just a couple of blocks off Main Street in Riverhead, in a former fire house, we found the newest member of the Riverhead craft beer scene, North Fork Brewing Company, joining Crooked Ladder, Moustache, and Long Ireland.  We went there with our daughter and son-in-law, who are both beer lovers, and our two granddaughters, who sampled the home-made root beer for us.  The junior members of our group rated the root beer as very good, with a nice licorice flavor, not too spicy, and “goes well with a grape lollypop.” IMG_6228

With four of us, we were able to sample all eleven brews currently on tap.  If we had not just had lunch at Perabell (I recommend the thin-crust pizza.), we could have gotten tacos from a Mattitaco truck parked just outside the firehouse doors.  They also sell North Fork potato chips.

The space is medium sized, and subscribes to the frequent brewery esthetic of industrial chic.  I’ve noticed that many wineries evoke the rural scene around them, being housed in former barns or buildings that suggest farm structures, while breweries tend to be more factory-like, using repurposed car dealerships or firehouses or other industrial spaces.  Not sure why that is, and of course it’s not true of them all.

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Note the taps made from re-purposed firehouse lockers.

The very helpful and accommodating server explained to us that a flight consists of any four of their brews for $8.  She handed out little cards on which we wrote down our choices.  The four little glasses were carefully placed in a carrying tray with numbers corresponding to the number on the card of each choice.  She noted that if we had trouble choosing, we could get a sip of the beers before deciding on our flight.  However, with a little coordination, we realized that we could easily try all eleven.  We gave up on a strict order of tastes, and there was no offer to suggest a succession, but we did generally try to go from lighter to heavier.  (We overheard a server note that they carry Bridge Lane red and white blend wines, for those who would prefer not to drink a beer.)

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Overall, we agreed that the beers were interesting and quite varied, though we didn’t like any one enough to take home a growler.  Our son-in-law summed it up by noting that this was a good place to come to try lots of experimental beers, but most were too “in your face” to want a full glass to sip with a meal or on its own.

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We have gotten take-out from Mattitaco several times, and liked every variety we’ve sampled so far.

  1. Sticky Bandit IPA 6.9% ABV (alcohol by volume)

The brewery prides itself on acknowledging its North Fork roots, including literally, in that they have a farm where they grow much of their hops.  This is a fresh, nicely hoppy IPA, with lots of grapefruit flavor.  I could definitely see having this with one of Mattitaco’s fish tacos, like the seared tuna one on offer from the truck.

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  1. Run the Juice IPA 6.1% ABV

This tastes like a joint, said one of us (anonymously).  It does have some vegetal notes, plus the grapefruit one expects in an IPA, in this case more like the pith than the fruit.

  1. Pierce the Ale IPA 6.8% ABV

My daughter likes this the best so far of the IPAs, and said it would be refreshing on a hot day.  I said it was like a better version of a Budweiser beer, easy to drink.  This would also go well with a fish taco.

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  1. South Bend Shovel Slayer IPA 6.8% ABV

Some day I’ll have to come back and stand at the bar for my tastes so I can ask how they came up with some of these names.  This is a piney rather than a grapefruity IPA, and my daughter liked this one as well.

  1. Basement Pipe Belgian Dubbel 8.2% ABV

When we were in Belgium, I became very fond of the dubbel style of beer, which tends to be rich, with caramel and raisin flavors.  I also like Raisin Bran cereal, which the taste of this reminded me of.  Very good and refreshing.  If I were to get a glass of a North Fork beer, this would be one contestant.

  1. Take for Ever Sour 6.2% ABV

On the other hand, if I were given a glass of this, I would say thanks but no thanks.  This is a dark, heavy sour beer, brewed with cherries, and tastes both sour and sweet. Last fall, I went to a brewery upstate that specialized in sour beers, and I never dumped so many tastes before.  I say bleh, but, in a perfect illustration of how subjective and individual taste is, this is my son-in-law’s favorite.

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  1. Hop Contagion Imperial 8.25% ABV

Contagion indeed.  This is very hoppy, and more bitter than I like, though balanced with some creaminess.

  1. Dark Side of Maple Porter 6% ABV

My daughter and I both like this one, which reminds me of the glasses of bitter I have had in many English pubs.  It is a bit on the light side for a porter.  My daughter says she could see enjoying this with a serving of Shepherd’s pie, and I agree.  Or maybe with the Mattitaco Ruben taco, made with corned beef.

  1. Bill’s Hyper Local Forecast 5.9% ABV

I didn’t ask about this name, but I assume it refers to News 12’s tag line (this cable-company-sponsored channel specializes in Long Island news, traffic, and weather).  The brewery characterizes this as a “winter warmer,” and it evokes a pumpkin ale, with tastes of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  A bit too much cinnamon, though not bad in a small dose.

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They kept the firehouse doors, though you enter through a small door on the side. I wonder if they open these in the summer.

  1. Dough’nt Stout Me Now  Imperial Milk Stout 9.3%

I knew right away that I had to try this one, as it is made “in collaboration with North Fork Doughnut Company,” one of my favorite new businesses in Mattituck.  I also tend to like stouts.  This has rich chocolate tastes, and though my son-in-law characterizes it as “too sweet for a pint,” I wouldn’t mind sipping it in a pub, perhaps with an order of chips (a.k.a. French fries).  We are so inspired by our discussion of the North Fork Doughnut Company that our guests stop there on the way home to pick up some doughnuts for breakfast the next day.  One granddaughter, a Girl Scout, is delighted to get a Samoa doughnut, and the other is pleased to have snagged “the last chocolate doughnut!” Alas, they were out of the maple-glazed bacon flavor.

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A Samoa doughnut from the North Fork Doughnut Company. Yum.

  1. Iron Pier Porter 5.4% ABV

My husband and I just recently drove over to Iron Pier beach, on the Sound, within the bounds of Riverhead (so our Southold parking stickers are not valid there), and thought it seemed very nice, with a good-sized parking lot and a little playground.  This porter is made with coconut milk, and though I often like porters, this was not a favorite.  It has a slight metallic taste, which I likened to licking metal, perhaps the source of the name.

Reasons to visit:  you’re making the rounds of the Riverhead breweries; you like to try a wide variety of styles and experimental tastes of beer; the Mattitaco truck; the Pierce the Ale, Basement Pipe, Dark Side of Maple, and Dough’nt Stout Me Now (though, for some people the choices might be quite different!); a pleasant place with generous pours.

Wine and Food Pairings (Inspired by Newsday)

Wine and Food Pairings (Inspired by Newsday)

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https://www.newsday.com/

https://paper.newsday.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?edid=b162131d-f983-4571-8d34-226583242f16&pnum=1

Today, for Valentine’s Day, Newsday ran a nice little piece, “Perfect Pairings,” about wine and food pairings. But they missed an opportunity, which Nofowineaux will attempt to remedy.  For example, they mentioned Peconic Bay oysters, but not the Long Island wines one could drink with them.  So what follows is my own list of the foods and types of wines they mentioned, updated with my own recommendations of local wines to use.

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We get a new red-wine-friendly glass with the reds.

  1. Roast chicken

Newsday says have pinot noir or an oaked chardonnay.  I say, try Castello Borghese’s or McCall’s pinot noir, or Castello’s oaked chardonnay.

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  1. Pasta with a Bolognese sauce

Chianti would be perfect, of course, and it is made with the sangiovese grape, which is found on Long Island in a few places.  Try the sangiovese from Pugliese, or the Meritage from Laurel Lake, a blend that includes sangiovese.

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

  1. Lobster

They say a steel fermented chardonnay or a rosé.  Of course, as soon as I hear rosé, I think of Croteaux, which has lovely dry Provençal-style rosés.  For a steel chard, my favorite is Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay.

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  1. Chicken Tikka Masala

Aside from my own kitchen, I don’t know anywhere on the North Fork to get Indian food.  When I make Indian food (as I did last night, making curried cauliflower and cucumber raita), I like to pair it with a slightly sweet white, which is also what Newsday suggests.  They say use a gewürztraminer, and you have three good options on the North Fork:  Osprey’s Dominion, Coffee Pot Cellars, or, my preference, One Woman.  We drank Meditazione from Channing Daughters, a delicious orange wine made from a blend that includes gewürztraminer.

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  1. Roasted White Fish

There are lots of good options for white fish fillets at Braun’s, and there’s almost always cod.  Newsday suggests a sauvignon blanc.  Almost every winery has a drinkable sauvignon blanc, but I prefer Channing Daughters to most of the others.  It is nicely dry, but has enough fruit to give it taste.  Other good ones: Diliberto’s, Duck Walk, Clovis Point, and Coffee Pot Cellars.

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  1. Rib-Eye Steak

Two sources of good beef are Wayside Market and 8 Hands (though 8 Hands doesn’t always have beef—check their web page or call before you go).  As to wines, Newsday recommends either a cabernet sauvignon or a sparkling wine (and many people believe sparkling wines go with everything).  Big reds are in short supply on the North Fork, but Laurel Lake has a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that’s pretty good.  Sparkling Pointe, of course, only makes sparkling wines.  Their Brut Magnum is lovely, but if you don’t care to buy a huge bottle you could try Roanoke Vineyard’s sparkling wine.

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The sparkler and the chard

  1. Oysters

In general, I like sauvignon blancs with oysters.  I find the lemony taste of the wine complements the bivalves very nicely.  They suggest a Muscadet or a sparkling wine.  You might try the Sherwood House blanc de blancs, or one of the above suggestions.

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  1. Cauliflower Steak

As Newsday notes in its article, it is often hard to pair wine and vegetables.  They suggest a grüner veltliner with this dish, and I agree.  One Woman makes a grüner that is one of my favorite North Fork whites.

As with all suggested wine and food pairings, personal taste is paramount.  If you just don’t like red wines or white wines (but why?), just go with what you like.  A light red can go with fish or chicken, and a heavy white, like an oaked chardonnay, can go with meats.  However, I can’t picture having any white with steak.  Instead, have a beer! Happy Valentine’s Day.

Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece February 9, 2019

Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece               February 9, 2019

https://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

If you remember your Greek mythology, you will realize that the boat-shaped bar at Jason’s Vineyard is meant to evoke the famous ship, the Argo, on which the Argonauts, led by Jason, set out to find the Golden Fleece—not, as we once heard a guest guess, a pirate ship.

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A view to the outdoor veranda and a portrait of Jason.

Jason was (he sadly died young, just a few years ago) a member of the Damianos family, whose other vineyards are Duck Walk and Pindar, which we reviewed recently.  We decided to check out Jason’s and make it a trifecta.  Having met and had a great chat with Jason, whom we ran into in a local store, back when he was planning to open this winery, we wanted to like it.  Though we were pleased by some of the wines, overall we found some of the same issues as with the other Damianos family wines, a tendency to over-sweetness and simplicity.

The tasting room is of average size, but they also have a plastic-sheeted veranda and an outdoor seating area for larger crowds in the summer.  The bar is surrounded by bar stools, so you can perch as you sip.  We observed one group nibbling on food they had clearly brought with them, and there are also a few snack items for sale.  In an outdoor enclosure we saw several sheep and alpacas, I suppose another reference to that famous fleece.

The menu offers five tastes for $15, and after some calculating we realized that we could do two tastings and try almost all of their wines.  You pay in advance and get a little pile of black “coins,” which the server collects as she pours each new taste.  The tastes, by the way, are quite generous, so that we found ourselves dumping those that didn’t delight with more frequency than usual.  They also have Greenport Harbor beer on tap.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay          $21.95

The aroma of this steel-fermented wine is rather typically chardonnay-ish, with plenty of lemon and tropical smells.  The taste is also rather strong for a chard, and we decided it would go better with chicken than any sort of delicate seafood.

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No that’s not water–our water glasses are in the back–that’s how light the sauvignon blanc is.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

The first thing I noticed was the very light, almost watery color of the wine.  That turned out to be predictive of the taste, which I described as wine-flavored water.  Grassy aroma.

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  1. 2017 Pinot Blanc $34.95

“Are they keeping the wine outside?” wondered my tasting buddy, as we tried to warm up the very cold glass so we could assess the wine.  On the other hand, we liked this the best so far.  Although the aroma is slightly chemical, the taste balances citrus with a sweeter fruitiness, perhaps guava.  This is a white you could have with pork chops.

  1. 2015 White Riesling $24.95

Isn’t saying white riesling redundant, we asked our server, who chuckled and admitted she was equally baffled.  In this case, the chem lab aroma led to a taste we did not care for.  It was sweet, but with a bitter aftertaste, like honey being used to disguise medicine, as my mother used to do to give me aspirin when I was little.

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  1. Golden Fleece $18.95

Given the name, we were not surprised to hear her describe this as their “signature white.”  It is a blend of chardonnay, seyval blanc, Cayuga, vidal blanc, and riesling.  Though she didn’t have any information on the proportions, she said it was predominantly chardonnay.  Having been forewarned that this was on the sweet side, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, although it did remind us of white grape juice mixed with tropical fruit and tangerines, it was not cloyingly sweet.  However, we did dump most of this and the previous taste.

  1. 2014 Merlot $27.99

Our server poured this along with an “extra” of a taste of the 2000 Merlot, which they are offering for just $12 a bottle.  One sip and we knew why the low price—my husband described it as “if not over the hill, at least standing at the top and about to walk down.”  It smelled like forest floor and machine oil and tasted smoky and thin.  Which made the 2014 taste better.  It’s a typical North Fork merlot, with dominant cherry tastes and light tannins.  The extra, by the way, was not given to us because of the book, but according to the server is being given to everyone, so they are clearly looking to offload the 2000.  We dumped our taste.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $27.95

We had hopes for this wine, as it smelled really good, of dark fruits, but the taste was very light, with no depth and not much fruit.  Dump.

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  1. 2015 Meritage $29.95

This is an unusual blend for a red, of cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay, aged 24 months in French oak.  The aroma reminded me of Cheracol cough syrup, but the taste was not bad.  My husband described it as “not sophisticated, but tasty.”  A light red, it would be fine with pasta or, for a Greek meal, pastitsio.

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  1. 2013 Malbec $29.95

We get some wet basement funkiness in the smell, but fortunately it tastes better than that.  Though it is not complex, we get some nice dark fruits and light tannins.  Dry and drinkable.  We decide it could go with barbeque, but for this level of wine we’d rather head to Vintage, our local liquor store, for one of their $12 bottles.

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  1. 2007 Dessert Wine $28.95

As we were deciding which wines to get, we hesitated between this and the rosé in order to total ten tastes.   Our server, seeing what we liked, steered us to this one, telling us that the rosé was on the sweet side.  This, of course, is sweet as well, comparable, she said to a port, with 19.5% alcohol, made from cabernet.  A good drink for a cold day, she suggested.  It does taste port-like, rather sweet, but, my husband opines, with no depth or gravitas.  We try it with the heart-shaped chocolates that are in a bowl in front of us, which does improve the experience.  I could see sipping this by the fire with a piece of chocolate cake.  Or maybe just the cake…

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We noted the nautical theme even at the entrance.

Reasons to visit:  you like to visit the sheep and alpacas, though you are sternly warned not to feed them; very generous pour; you can bring your own snacks; the chardonnay, the Meritage, the malbec; the bar is cool; they also have the Absenthe, which we tried at Pindar.

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Diliberto Winery: A Trip to Sunny Italy February 2, 2019

Diliberto Winery:  A Trip to Sunny Italy                   February 2, 2019

https://www.dilibertowinery.com/

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The murals help you imaging you’re in Italy.

To celebrate Groundhog Day, we decided to take a trip to Italy—or at least as close as you can get on the North Fork.  We love the décor at Diliberto’s winery, where the trompe l’oeil effect of the murals reminds us of sitting in a café in a small Italian town’s main square, one of our favorite activities in Italy.  The sounds of Italian opera or pop music and the video on the screen over the piano showing scenes of the Italian countryside add to the immersive effect, a nice antidote to the recent sub-zero wind chills we’ve experienced.

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Note the sign on the “building”: Trattoria Diliberto.

In addition, the room was filled with the delicious scent of freshly made pizza, which every table but ours was enjoying.  The kitchen is almost as big as the tasting room, and they have a pizza oven where they make thin crust pizzas as well as other Italian treats (no outside food allowed).  The only problem with the pizzas was that I had trouble smelling the wines over its aroma.

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The screen shows “Visions of Italy,” a series of flyovers of Italian cities and countryside, originally produced for PBS.

The tasting room is quite small, but in the summer they have a sizeable outside area, as well as a plastic-enclosed porch for mild days.  No big groups allowed, and, most emphatically, no children. In the winter, they are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, but check their web page, since on some Sundays they feature “Sundays with Grandma,”  which involves a four-course Italian meal and live music.

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There are real roses on the tables, a classy touch.

The menu has five wines, and oddly offers three tastes for $16, or $6 per taste.  Our server, who was simply a server, with not much to say about the wines, first asked if we wanted to do two $16 tastings, until we pointed out that there were only five wines.  “Oops,” she said, “I forgot we don’t have the rosé any more.”  So we paid $28 for our five tastes, which were delivered to our table all at once, in nice little round-bottomed glasses.  She did come back to our table periodically to check on how we were liking the wines and offer us some water.

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Our panoply of tastes–we had already taken a couple of sips of the chardonnay.

Now that the prognosticating groundhogs haven’t seen their shadows, perhaps soon we’ll be enjoying some warm, Italian-like weather.

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  1. 2017 Chardonnay $32

This is a lightly oaked chardonnay, which spends five months in oak barrels, so it is not too butterscotchy.  The taste reminds me of thyme honey, which is herbier than clover honey, plus a touch of lemon.  Not bad, but not a style of chard I particularly like.  My husband says he could see it as a summer sipper on the deck.

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  1.  2017 Sauvignon Blanc                $30

We like the pretty bright yellow color of this wine, which is steel fermented.  It’s a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with crisp green apple and lemongrass flavors, a good oyster wine.  By the way, you may notice that the prices are a bit high here. My guess is that, as such a small winery, they lack the advantage of larger scale places, which can distribute the cost of winemaking over more bottles.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $32

In general, I think Diliberto does better with his reds.  This merlot is rather light, with lots of that typical cherry flavor and some tannins.  It is served a bit too cold.  According to the menu, it is aged just one year, in a mix of new and used French oak, which might account for why it seems so light.  It seems not quite balanced to me, though it would be a fine wine to have with pizza, especially one made without tomato sauce.

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  1. 2016 Cantina $30

A cantina is usually a bar, or an informal kind of restaurant, and this wine would go fine in such a place.  A blend of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc, it combines the cherry and pepper tastes of the two, with some hints of blackberry.  Though it has more body than the merlot, I find the finish evanesces, though the menu says it has a “smooth, lingering finished” (sic—we used my pen to correct our copies).  It’s another perfectly fine wine, and again would go well with pizza or pasta.

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Even the labels are a nod to the Dilibertos’ Italian heritage.

  1. 2015 Tre $42

If I were ordering pizza and a glass of wine, this is the one I would get, even though it is $17 per glass.  As you might guess from the name, this is a blend of three grapes:  65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  It has a lovely dark color and an aroma of tobacco, spice, and candy.  It tastes good, with cherry and dark chocolate flavors and enough tannins that I think it could age some more and be even better.  It could even stand up to steak or lamb chops.

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They also lead tours of Italy.

Reasons to visit:  you like a small, intimate setting; you want to pretend you are in Italy; you like listening to opera while you sip; you appreciate a child-free setting; the Cantina and the Tre; you want a thin-crust pizza for lunch.

 

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The grounds include a room for overnight stays.