Astor Center: Nofowineaux Ventures into Manhattan September 3, 2019

https://www.astorcenternyc.com/

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Astor Center, right around the corner from Astor’s excellent liquor store, is a well-organized and set up venue for learning about wine.  We’ve taken a couple of classes there, and always learn something new.  For example, did you know that on Crete they train the vines to grow in a circle, to conserve moisture and protect from the sea breezes in a semi-arid climate?  Next time you are in a wine store, see if you can find a bottle of Cretan wine with an illustration of circular vines.

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The array of tastes.

The classroom is set up as a two-tiered semi-circle, facing the teacher’s desk and an overhead screen where she can show maps, etc.  When you enter, you see glasses of wine set up at each place, plus water, and, in this case, a basket of bread and a little slate with three cheeses.  The cheeses were there to illustrate how food and wine complement each other, a concept with which I heartily agree.

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We learned that Piedmont is an ancient wine-growing region, with its own unique grapes and set of growing conditions.  For example, the hilly topography means that the best grapes are grown on the upper slopes, where you have the best drainage, and so on down the slope. 

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A map of the region.

We enjoyed all the wines we sampled, which means that the following list will be useful to us when we are in a wine store, wondering whether or not to buy a particular Piedmontese wine.  I’ll just check my own blog!  The prices are ones given to us by Astor as their regular prices, though on that night we could have bought any of them for 20% off.

1.        Gavi di Gavi, La Merlina, 2018     $18.96

Made from the cortese grape, the only white of our tasting was refreshing on a warm night, crisp but with some richness.  I smell wet rock and green apple, and taste citrus at the end.  The rich robiola cheese complements it.

2.       Pelaverga “Basadone,” Castello di Verduno, 2017     $23.96

With a chuckle, Tess Rose Lampert, our teacher, notes that this is a “purported aphrodisiac.”  Maybe because it is a light red, without a lot of alcohol to weigh you down?  It is dry, with a taste of fresh berries, and no tannins.  It is mouth-watering, which is an indication that it has some acidity. Pelaverga is the name of the grape.

3.       Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, Crivelli, 2017    $24.96

In this case, ruchè is the name of the grape, and its presence in the name means the wine is at least 90% made of it.  Tess suggests that this is a nice wine to serve chilled in hot weather, and that it would go well with duck or venison or mushrooms.  It is dry, with tastes of blackberry and other dark fruits, with medium tannins.

4.       Barbera d”Alba “Castle” Barale, 2017   $17.96

I’ve had Barberas before, and Tess tells us that this is a fairly consistent varietal, with acceptable bottles in the $15-20 range, and really good ones for $30.  This is another mouth-watering wine, with cherry tastes that remind me a bit of merlot.  Tess adds that it is a crowd-pleaser, and goes well with pizza, lamb, and even chili.

5.       Barbaresco “Ovello,” Gigi Bianco, 2014   $54.96

Decant this wine at least an hour before you plan to serve it, she tells us.  Made from the Nebbiolo grape, which is, we learn, the most important grape of the region, grown on the best spots, this is a dry, slightly tannic wine with a complex flavor.  She discusses the texture of the wine with us, which she describes as silky and rich, and recommends serving it with similarly rich food, such as beef tartare or home-made pasta with a meat sauce.

6.       Barolo “Ravera,” Cagliero, 2012    $64.96

Another wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, this leads me to venture the opinion that they both have a smell somewhat like licorice.  No one disagrees.  Barolos tend to be expensive, but she cautions us that because of that, more and more of it is being made, so be careful to buy it from a grower.  Delicate and complex, this doesn’t have a lot of fruit, and is somewhat austere.  Tess says it can age a long time. 

7.       Moscato d”Asti, De Forville, 2018   $14.99

Unlike all the other wines, this one isn’t poured until just before we drink it.  It is a dessert or aperitif wine, with an aroma of honey and a sweet, peachy taste, a bit frizzante.  Tess advises it is good with something salty and crunchy.  I wouldn’t buy a bottle of it, but a glass might be nice with a dish of salted nuts.

Old Field Addendum September 7, 2019

https://theoldfield.com/

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Our picnic, with cheese from Love Lane Cheese Shop and pate from 8 Hands.

“Next time, bring a picnic,” urged the very hospitable server the last time we were at Old Field.  So we took her advice, and brought some friends who were thinking of joining their wine club plus some crackers and cheese, melon with prosciutto, plus a slice of paté and some shishito peppers we picked up at 8 Hands enroute to the winery. 

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We had a lovely time and enjoyed trying two wines which had not been available the last time we were there.  Our friends loved the laid-back family atmosphere of the farm, and admired the chickens and ducks.  We strolled the grounds and looked again at the ice house.  They tried a tasting of the reds, with which they were very happy.   And yes, they joined the wine club, which meant our tastings were free.  We’ll be back!

1.        2016 Blush de Noir        $25

Perry—one of the owners—explained to us that the pinot noir grapes hadn’t met their standards for red wine, so they made them into this lovely rosé.  We quite liked it, and it went very well with the charcuterie we had brought with us.  It is a light, dry wine with just a bit of fruit.

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Just four hours on the skins means that this is a very light colored rose.

2.       2014 Cabernet Franc    $36

We liked this wine so much that we bought a bottle for the cellar.  A new release, it has nice tannins, more depth than many North Fork reds, and was just overall delicious.

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On our stroll, we noted the view of the bay just beyond the vines.

P.S.  Perry came out of the vineyard and offered us a taste of merlot grapes.  They were not quite ready to be picked, she told us.  We liked the taste of the little, thin-skinned grapes, despite the seeds.
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Not quite ready to be picked!

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Channing Daughters: Just Some New Releases August 27 2019

https://www.channingdaughters.com/

The last time we went to Channing, it was with the intent to resign our wine club membership.  We were persuaded to stay in the club when we learned we could switch from home delivery to pick-up at the winery, and go whenever we had time, even if it meant getting several selections at once. 

We only had one installment to pick up, but we had decided to take some guests on the ferries from Greenport to Sag Harbor, and make a day of it.  The ferries are not cheap, so it would not be cost-effective to go that route every time we needed to pick up wine (since we can drive around, through Riverhead), but on the other hand there was no way we were going to brave the traffic on Route 27 in the summer.  Been there, sat there.

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On the ferry!

The ferries were fun for our visitors, especially two little ones who were excited to get out of their car seats and stand in the car while it floated across Peconic Bay.  We also enjoyed strolling through Sag Harbor, visiting old favorites like the Wharf Shop and Blooming Shells.  After a picnic lunch at the beautifully re-done Mashashimuet Park playground, we headed to Channing, intending to just pick up our shipment.  But we hadn’t reckoned with the blandishments of the hospitable tasting room servers, who suggested that we “just try the new releases.” 

The small members of the party admired Walter Channing’s huge wood sculptures and read their books while we did a quick tasting.

My notes are skimpy, because we hadn’t intended to do a tasting, plus, as the designated driver I only took a sip of each wine.  But I think you can get a sense of what we love about Channing:  the great variety of their wines and their brave spirit of experimentation.

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1.        2018 Sauvignon Blanc                 $23

With its lovely lemon grass flavor, this is a perfect oyster go-with.

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This has a slight pink tinge, and is best served icy cold.

2.       2018 Rosato Petillant Naturel Cabernet Sauvignon          $28

Delicious!  A fizzy, fruity, yeasty, dry sparkler, we agreed we could drink this as a toast or an aperitif or with food.  Charcuterie, perhaps?

3.       2018 Sylvanus Petillant Naturel                $28

A blend of 50% pinot grigio, 40% muscat-ottonel, and 10% pinot bianco, this is a great illustration of the Channing experimentalism.  It has a nice aroma of pineapple, but I did not particularly like it.   

4.       2016 Blaufrankish                         $28

Another unusual blend, this is 75% blaufrankish and 25% dornfelder.  It is dry, with tastes of blackberry and other dark fruits.  Channing suggest you can age this 6-8 years.  By the way, it is great fun to read the descriptions of their wines on their web site, which goes into intricate detail on the wines.

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5.       Vermouths         $28 (most of them)

I didn’t taste the vermouths, but those who did said they would be great to drink on ice or in a cocktail.

Reasons to visit:  still the greatest variety of wines anyone makes on the East End; best winery on the South Fork (though Wölffer is also quite good, it is a much more formal setting); vermouths, petillant naturels (they make ten in all, though not all are available at all times); beautiful sculptures made by Walter Channing.

Eastern Front: Sitting in the Front Yard August 25, 2019

https://www.facebook.com/easternfrontbrewing/

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Eastern Front’s front. The parking lot is on the west side.

Since it was a beautiful day, we wanted a place where our rather large party (six adults and two children) could sit outside.  Happily, we discovered that Eastern Front had set out several tables in their yard, nicely screened from Main Road by some bushes.

So while the children read their books, we sipped and chatted and compared notes while enjoying a tasting of the five beers on offer.  I should note that I was recognized as the blogger who had been there before, since they had seen my post on Facebook and remembered my notebook!  We chuckled over that. 

A tasting consists of five little glasses of whichever beers are on tap, for $12, and each couple found sharing one tasting between them was plenty.  You can also buy a pint to drink there or a growler to take home—which we did.  We were planning to barbeque some pork chops from 8 Hands for dinner, so we got a growler of North Shore Red Ale, the consensus favorite, to drink with dinner. 

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1.        Miami Weiss     5.4% ABV (Alcohol by Volume)

Our tasting started with a beer I would never plan to drink, since I generally don’t care for wheat beer.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, which tasted more like a pilsner than a wheat beer.  This is a somewhat yeasty, light-bodied beer, easy to drink, with a slight taste of stone fruit.

2.       Anomalous Ale                6.1%

We had a difference of opinion on this one.  Some in our group liked it.  I did not.  It has a—fittingly—anomalous taste, somewhat like petroleum.  I would not think it was an ale.

3.       Love Lane Lager               6.4%

Some interesting terms were thrown around as we tasted this one, including “cherries,” “ice cream sundae,” “butter,” and “caramel.”  It is a bit on the sweet side.  Again, we had a difference of opinion in the group, with some liking it more than others.  That, of course, is the fun of going with several people, as you can see how much people’s tastes vary.

4.       North Shore Red Ale       5.9%

On the other hand, we all liked this one, which we were told is one of their most popular brews.  It is toasty, with a pleasantly bitter finish.  The taste reminded me of ales I’ve had in British pubs.  Since we all liked it, we decided to get a growler to take home.  By the way, you can find Eastern Front beer on tap at the Broken Down Valise, across the street from the Mattituck LIRR station.

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5.       Autonomous Ale             9.8%

One of our visitors from the north, a wine and beer aficionado, immediately said, “I like it.”  This is a nicely balanced double IPA, with piney rather than citrusy hops, with just the right amount of bitterness.  We joked about hoppiness creating happiness.  Well, it is 9.8% alcohol by volume…

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NoFoDoCo is right across the street.

Reasons to visit:  conveniently located on Main Road, just across the street from the NoFoDoCo (North Fork Donut Company, where, if you’re lucky, you may be able to get a chocolate iced donut topped with potato chips) and Love Lane; pretty tasting room, which was once a florist, and is still decorated with some impressive plants; nice outdoor area; the Miami Weiss, the North Shore Red Ale, the Autonomous Ale; you can get a growler to take home; there’s wine if you’re with someone who prefers that to beer.

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Wine is available.

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Croteaux: Back to the Garden August 16, 2019

https://www.croteaux.com/home/

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After you enter, turn right to find parking on the grass.

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To get to the garden, you go through the door and are then escorted to a seat.

It was a perfect August day—sunny, 80 degrees, blue sky with puffy white Magritte clouds—so we decided to check out the newly re-opened (under new ownership) Croteaux garden.  The good news is that it is still a lovely setting in which to sit in the shade on a summer afternoon, surrounded by flowering shrubs, enjoying table service.  Unfortunately, we were not as happy with the wines, except for one which is still a favorite.  We also got the herbed cheese and baguette basket, which came as before with a sprig of fresh mint.  However, that too disappointed.  Previously, the cheese was goat cheese mixed with fresh herbs, while now it is a cream cheese mixed with dried herbs.  So much for nostalgia.

On the other hand, the many groups seated at the rustic tables seemed quite happy, hanging out and chatting, enjoying the afternoon.  So if you prefer rosés that are so light they could pass for whites, this may be the place for you.  Like the other winery bought by the Frankel family, the general goal seems to be to make safe, easily accepted, wines.

A tasting of all six still rosés is $18, and all three sparkling rosés is also $18.  We opted to share one of each, which was plenty of wine.  The still tastes come in nice little round-bottomed glasses, on carefully labeled little trays, and the sparklers are served in tall glasses.  All wines are the 2018 vintage.

 

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Our first three tastes, with the basket of cheese and baguette in the back.

1.        Merlot 181 Rosé            $28

Croteaux uses three clones of merlot, labeling the wines accordingly.  This one looks almost clear, with just the faintest tinge of pink (color and taste are determined both by the grape and by how long the juice sits on the skins).  It smells like cut grass and flowers, and tastes like a citrusy white with a touch or berry flavor.

2.       Merlot 314 Rosé             $20

This has always been our favorite, and still is.  We like its aroma of melon and mineral, and its strawberry flavor.  It may be a touch sweeter than in the past.  It would be a lovely aperitif wine, and is also good with food.

3.       Merlot 3 Rosé   $20

I get a bit of a funky smell, but my husband, who, it must be said, is suffering from an allergy attack, says the smell is “neutral.”  This is very like a white, with lots of lemon flavor.  The tasting notes say it has a “zippy finish.”  I say it does not taste like a rosé.  It definitely needs food, like scallops in cream sauce or a lobster roll.  This is a blend of all three clones:  181, 314, and 3.

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Second group.

4.       Sauvage 181 Rosé           $25

I’m always intrigued when winemakers decide to use the wild native yeasts—hence “sauvage”—giving up some of the control over the outcome of the wine.  It definitely has some of the strawberry taste I associate with rosés, plus some minerality and citrus.  Like all the wines, it is dry.  The end taste is a bit harsh, and my tasting buddy’s word for this is “meh.”

5.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé       $25

The tasting notes describe this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can’t argue with that.  Not surprisingly, this tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé, so it would go well with local oysters.  It has a “touch of cabernet franc,” but I don’t taste it.

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Jolie is, indeed, pretty.

6.       Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé            $25

Jolie means pretty, and this is the prettiest looking wine of the day, and also my favorite, along with the 314.  It has more depth than the others, and good strawberry taste with just a touch of citrus.  However, the menu describes it as a “red wine lover’s rosé,” which I don’t see.  I think it’s just a rosé lover’s rosé!

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The sparkling wines.

7.       Cuvée Merlot 3 Sparkle                $32

After we finished the six still rosés, we still had some cheese and baguette left, so we decided to check out the three sparkling wines as well.  They arrived well chilled, with a laminated sheet of tasting notes.  I smell melon, and think this might taste lovely.  However, as my husband notes, it tastes more like seltzer than like a sparkling rosé.  He says it has overly aggressive bubbles, and we chuckle over the image of attack bubbles.  It is refreshing, but so is Schweppes seltzer. 

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You can see that Chloe looks just like a white wine.

8.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Sparkle   $35

Though this uses cabernet franc skins to give it some color and taste, our conclusion is, not so much.  It should be like a champagne or a prosecco, but again, this tastes to us like seltzer.  There is a slight yeast aroma.  I guess this is a sparkling wine for those who don’t like wine. 

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Well, it looks pretty.

9.       Jolie Sparkle      $32

“Benign,” is the best my tasting pal can come up with to describe this final taste.  It smells like strawberries, plus some red wine smells, and has more taste than the previous two sparklers.  It is neither sweet nor tart, with some strawberry taste, but I don’t find it very appealing.  For years I’ve been comparing every other North Fork rosé to Croteaux, as the gold standard, but, alas, that is no longer true.  They do still have the prettiest bottles.

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Reasons to visit:  still a really lovely garden setting, with relaxing table service; the 314 and the Jolie Cabernet Franc; they have a nice menu of snacks, although the cheese is not as good as it used to be.

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They often sell out by the end of the season. If you buy a case, you become a member of their case club. with special deals.

Other Types of Tastings on the North Fork

Wine, beer, cider, liquor:  I love to taste them all.  But there are other types of tastings on offer on the North Fork.  Unlike wineries and breweries, there’s no charge for these tastings, but you are expected to buy something in the process.  Don’t be greedy!  Try a few, and then choose a product to purchase.

Here are four places where you can try before you buy, two in Mattituck and two in Greenport.

The Magic Fountain

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Ice cream!  The Magic Fountain is a landmark in Mattituck, on the corner of Factory Lane and Main Road.  Check the big sign for the latest special flavors…and they are special.  For example, in March they celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness-flavored ice cream, which was surprisingly good.  The harvest of local fruits brings flavors including them, plus there are always plenty of other varieties.  How to choose?  Ask for a sample of a couple that intrigue you before you decide on a cup or a cone, or a pint to take home.  Yum.

The Village Cheese Shop

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I’ve seen people having lunch inside and in the little garden area off to one side.

Love Lane in Mattituck is a foodie paradise, as I’ve noted before, featuring a couple of restaurants, the Sweet Shoppe, Lombardi’s Italian market, and, my favorite, the Village Cheese Shop.  I’ve never bought an imperfect cheese from them.  The array of cheeses in the glass fronted case can be a bit intimidating, but the people behind the counter are always very helpful.  You can tell them what you like and they will find cheeses for you.  Not sure if you’ll like something?  They are very ready to offer a sliver or a smear for a taste.   Just recently, I asked for a creamy blue, moderately strong, and was immediately offered a taste of a gorgonzola that was exactly that.  You can pick up a loaf of bread from Tom Cat bakery or some crackers to go with your cheese, as well as charcuterie and other accoutrements.  They also offer lunch, including fondue, with wine.

Vines and Branches

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If you’re not used to tasting olive oil and vinegar, this can seem a bit odd at first.  By now, we’re old hands, having followed the store to three different locations in the village of Greenport.  At the moment, it is on Front Street, near the corner of Main.  When you walk in you will see an array of large metal urns, fronted by small bottles of each variety, all clearly labeled, with tiny paper cups for sampling.  Pour a very small amount from the glass bottle into the cup and take a sip.  The olive oils range from pure oils from various countries to oils infused with flavors from truffle to lemon and more.  Similarly, there are vinegars from dark to white balsamic to wine, flavored with everything from pomegranates to maple syrup to herbs or spices.  We no longer buy salad dressing, but simply add our current choice of oil and vinegar to our salads, plus some salt and pepper.  Save and clean the bottles (I find they need several trips through the dishwasher.) and they will refill them, saving you $2 per bottle.

Greenport Fire

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We ventured into this store for the first time recently, and were glad we did.  The u-shaped counter is lined with sample bottles of hot sauces, ranging in heat from mild to get-out-the-fire-hose.  The proprietor was very helpful, as we pondered over the panoply, offering us tastes on a little spoon.  He noted that none of his offerings are widely distributed, and if they become so he stops offering them, so you will definitely find unique sauces here.  For example, he makes one sauce that is only available in his store, and also the sauces for Lucharita, the excellent Mexican restaurant next door.  We’ll be back!

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Given how incendiary some of his sauces are, it seems appropriate that there’s a fire hydrant right outside the shop!

Shinn Estate Vineyards: It Pays to Take the Back Road July 25, 2019

https://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The sign tells you that your trip to Oregon Road has successfully landed you at Shinn.

As the couple at a nearby table on the Shinn Vineyard’s new and very nice patio noted, it took some searching to find Shinn, but they were glad they had persisted, having wended their way to Oregon Road.  We already knew our way, but we were glad we were there, too.  In 2017, Shinn was bought by the Frankel family, and they have made some attractive changes, though the place has a less funky vibe than it used to.

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As you enter, drive past the B and B, and go around to the back, where the tasting room is located.

On arrival, we were offered seats inside—in the A/C—or outside on the patio.  Though it was a warm day, it was not oppressively so, and the patio offered shaded areas.  We ended up spending almost an hour there, doing a leisurely tasting plus a couple of other tastes and sharing a delicious cheese board.  Reggae music played in the background—I remember one verse mentioning “island sun”—and it was easy to forget we were on Long Island and imagine we were on a tropical island.

The tasting menu offers many options, from a rosé flight for $16, which includes a couple of Croteaux rosés, to our choice, the Winemaker’s Picks, of five of their higher end wines for $28.  Why, you may wonder, do they feature Croteaux rosés?  Because the Frankel family recently bought Croteaux as well, and have reopened the tasting room and garden there.  Our server assured us that they are keeping the Croteaux rosés the same as they were.  We’ll have to check that out!

Our server brought the wines to us, the three whites first and then, when we had finished them, the two reds, carefully placed on a little mat which had labeled spots for each wine.  She also brought us a glass bottle of water and two plastic cups, a nice touch.

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The bottle of cold water was quite welcome.

After we finished the five wines in our tasting, we still had quite a bit of cheese left of the $14 cheese board, so we each added one more taste, which I have put at the end of the listing.  These also came on tiny round coasters with labels for what they were.

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1.       2018 Concrete Blonde   $40

Why this name?  The sauvignon blanc is aged in a concrete “egg” made, we are informed, from “French soil,” instead of in steel or oak.  Macari also uses this method, and you can find a discussion of the concrete egg in my entries on that winery.  The aroma of the wine is lovely, floral, like a bouquet of summer flowers.  The wine is more reminiscent of a chardonnay than a sauvignon blanc, almost creamy, with a citrus taste that is like a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon.  It doesn’t really complement the cheese, but would be quite nice with charcuterie.

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This was a fairly generous cheese platter, though I never feel as though they give you enough crackers.

2.        2016 Haven                     $35

What, I wondered, is referenced by the name of this blend, of 70% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 10% pinot blanc?  Haven is a reference to the type of soil on the farm, we were told, a combination of sand and loam.  This one is aged more traditionally, in oak, and I can scent a touch of the oak when I sniff.  Then I get flowers.  The wine is softer than a usual sauv blanc, with some depth and a touch of spice, perhaps nutmeg.  It’s a good food wine. 

3.       2016 Pinot Blanc             $35

Now we’re back in experimental territory, as puncheon (i.e. big) barrels of neutral oak were used to age this wine, for eight months.  The aroma is faint, with a touch of honeysuckle, but, on the other hand, as my husband notes, it has a lot of taste.  Again, I think of this wine as soft, not tart but not sweet, with some nice fruit tastes.  It would make a lovely aperitif wine, as it is very easy to drink on its own.

4.       2018 Mojo         $26

In 2014, Shinn had such a copious harvest of cabernet franc that they ran out of oak barrels, and so decided to make an unoaked cab franc.  Then they were so pleased with the result that since then they have made it that way on purpose.  The menu describes this wine as “bright, fresh,” and I agree.  They serve it chilled, which is nice on a hot day.  The aroma has a touch of funkiness, perhaps pine or forest floor, plus minerality.  This pleasant, fruity wine would be great for sangria. 

5.       2016 Wild Boar Doe       $42

Of course, this is their Bordeaux blend:  59% merlot, 21.5% cabernet franc, 12.5% petit verdot, and 7% malbec.  The merlot gives it a cherry aroma and taste, but I’m not sure what the other grapes add.  “It could be more assertive,” asserts my tasting buddy.  I get some light tannins, and the wine is dry, but, again, the word that keeps coming to mind is soft.

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6.       Non-vintage Red Blend                $19

We needed a bit more beverage to go with the rest of our cheese, so my husband opted to try a red we’d be likely—based on price—to buy.  This is a light, refreshing summer red, a simple table wine.  It’s a blend of 61% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 2% petit verdot, and tastes, as you’d expect, of the merlot cherry flavor.  We bought two bottles.

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I like cognac, and this one was quite delicious.

7.       Alembic Brandy               $65

Brandy?  Yep, they actually have a menu of four brandies, labeled Julius Drover Brandy.  Our server gave me a rundown of the four.  Divine is made from semillon grapes combined with the alembic; Eau de Vie is made from whatever scraps of grapes they have around and is only aged for one year, so it’s pretty forceful; Apple Brandy is like Calvados, and is made from apples and pears; and Alembic Brandy is made from chardonnay grapes, aged four years.  If you like cognac, you’ll like the Alembic, which I quite enjoyed.  The taste made me think I should be drinking it after dinner, perhaps with a good cigar and a bowl of walnuts for cracking (just kidding about the cigar). 

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Reasons to visit:  Off the beaten track, so less crowded and quieter than the big places, especially in the summer, as our new friends on the patio noted; lovely outdoor patio; nice menu of snacks; certified sustainable (a landmark for locating them is their tall windmill); the Concrete Blonde in particular, but all the wines are very drinkable, if not exciting.

Roanoke Vineyards: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood July 12, 2019

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/ 

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If you see this sign out on the sidewalk on Love Lane, the Roanoke tasting room is open.

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The full title is “Roanoke Vineyards Love Lane Wine Shop,” because this is not their main space.  That is located in Roanoke, on Sound Avenue, and is only open to wine club members.  However, the Love Lane location is open to all, and functions as both a tasting room and a place to buy wine from several wineries, including Wölffer Estates and Channing Daughters. 

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The storefront.

While we were there, someone came in wanting to buy a bottle of sparkling wine, which they did not have, so we told her about Vintage, the excellent wine store on Main Road in Mattituck. 

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Whenever we go to Vines & Branches, I scoop up a free sample of their delicious truffled popcorn. Now I know how it gets to Roanoke.

Then a wine club member came in and walked out with a case of wine, and another wine club member, who turned out to be the owner of one of our favorite stores in Greenport, Vines & Branches, came in to deliver some bags of her truffled popcorn and stayed for a glass of wine and a chat with the server and us.  Meanwhile, we were the only ones there doing a tasting, which consisted of four rather small pours for $14.

The tasting room is small but comfy, with some nice upholstered chairs around a table, a couple of seats at the bar, four other tables, and a pleasant patio in the back.  We opted to stay inside, in the air conditioning, though last year, when we came with friends, we enjoyed our tasting on the patio.  Love Lane is a great destination for foodies, containing on its short block two restaurants, plus Lombardi’s Italian Market and the Love Lane Cheese Shop. Just around the northern corner there’s Agora, a Greek food shop, and GoodFood, a great empanada spot, and, around the other corner, the North Fork Donut Shop.  And this is our neighborhood!

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Small pour, especially since we were sharing the tasting.

1.        2018 Roanoke Vineyards Infinite Possibility        $22

A blend of 70% chardonnay, 23% sauvignon blanc, and 2% gewürztraminer, this wine smells lovely, of honeysuckle and minerals.  The taste is more interesting than your usual white, reminding me of gooseberries, with some minerality.  It is tart, but has a sweet finish.  I could see having it with a seafood in cream sauce.  Lobster Newburg?

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I liked their labels. The rose is quite light.

2.       2018 R. V. Rosé               $22

From being a rarity to being a variety almost every winery needs to have, rosés have come a long way from the days of Mateus in a ceramic bottle.  The menu describes this as a “Provence style” wine, a mixture of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, with “a splash of chardonnay.”  The server explains that it spends only a few hours on the skins, which is why it is such a pale pink.  The aroma is faint, with only a trace of strawberry.  My tasting buddy insists it is sweet, but I contend that it is juicy.  We agree it is a light rosé, and ends with tastes of minerals and salt.  Though we like it, we still prefer Croteaux (which, we recently learned, has been bought by the new owners of Shinn, so we look forward to sitting in their delightful garden again).

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3.       2016 R. V. Site Specific Cabernet Franc                 $34

If you look at the tasting menu, you’ll see that this should have been the Marco Tulio, a blend that is primarily merlot, but, as our server explained with a bit of chagrin, she accidentally opened the Cab Franc, so that is what we get to taste.  She also explained the name.  Roanoke only has about seven acres of vines on their own land, getting the rest of their grapes from vines they tend at various other vineyards, including some of the Mudd plots.  So wines made from grapes grown exclusively on their estate are labeled “Site Specific.”  Her mistake is our pleasure.  This wine smells so fruity that, if I were a fruit fly, I would happily drown in it.  It also tastes quite good.  My husband describes it as “meaty.”  I think he means hearty. 

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4.       2016 R. V. Theory & Practice       $28

Of course, I have to ask the meaning of this name.  She explains that the first time they made this wine it was 50/50 cabernet franc and petit verdot, an unusual blend, so they decided to name it after the process of making it—theory followed by practice.  The current iteration is a more traditional blend, of merlot and cabernet franc plus 5% petit verdot.  It has a lovely aroma, mostly of cherries from the merlot, plus other fruits.  My husband notes that the “aroma is more inviting than the taste,” since it is not as luscious as one would expect.  We get dark fruits, mineral, and tobacco.  “It would be good with bacon,” says my husband.  “You mean spaghetti carbonara?”  I ask.  “Sure,” he replies.

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It was just a bit too warm to sit outside, though the patio is nicely shaded.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location in the midst of the Love Lane foodie paradise; they carry some South Fork wines; nice little tasting room and pleasant back patio; the Infinite Possibility and the Cabernet Franc, though all the wines were pleasant.

The Old Field: “Next Time, Bring a Picnic!” June 23, 2019

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The expansive picnic grounds are very inviting.

https://theoldfield.com/

The parting words from our excellent server were, “Next time, bring a picnic!” This was advice which many others seem to have followed, as we noted several groups at picnic tables scattered about the grounds, enjoying bountiful repasts along with glasses of Old Field wine.  Since many wineries now request that you not bring outside food, a great reason to visit Old Field is to picnic on the lovely grounds, enjoying the chickens and ducks that wander at will and the pretty scenery, punctuated by historic buildings. 

Historic buildings? Yes, some of them date to the 1860s, as the current owners are the sixth generation of the family to farm this land.  They are particularly proud of the restored Ice House, which may be reserved for small parties (I would say ten is about the limit.), and which overlooks a pretty pond. Speaking of parties, they were also gearing up to host a wedding—we could just see the tents down near the waterfront—of 250 guests. 

We came with friends, and sat on the rustic deck for our tasting.  One friend engaged our server in conversation about the farm, learning that it spans 23 acres, with about ten devoted to grapes.  She also spoke fondly of the family of owners, who are very much hands-on, in both the field and the winery.  At harvest time, she said, she helps hand-harvest the grapes.

Old Field offers eight wines to taste, in varied configurations.  You can do Chilled, three whites and a rosé, for $12; Red, four reds for $13; Everyday, four of their lower priced wines, mixed whites and reds, for $10; or Topflight, four of their higher priced wines, again mixed whites and reds, for $13.  We decided that the three of us (one opted not to drink) would share one each of the Chilled and Red tastings, which would allow us to sample all of their wares.  Our server Irene, who had already become a pal, told us she would divide each taste between two glasses, but I have to say, looking at the size of the pour, that we got a very good deal.

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The bar.

As we sat and sipped and chatted, admiring the pretty chickens—our friends have raised chickens, and so were quite appreciative—we decided that, regardless of the wine, this was a lovely setting in which to spend the nicest day so far of the summer (as one friend kept asserting, even though summer had just started). 

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One of the tables on the rustic deck.

1.        2016 Mostly Steel Chardonnay $22

The name “Mostly Steel” refers to the fact that they use 10% oaked chardonnay in this wine, which has a green apple scent, and tastes of mineral, salt, and citrus, with just a touch of what our friend characterized as “nut butter.”

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2.       2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay       $28

Because this is fermented in neutral—or used—oak barrels, this is not too buttery.  I do get the wood taste, however, which you would recognize if you have ever chewed on a pencil.  My husband likes it better than I do.  We detect some nut smells, as well as lemon.  The taste ends with a mild citrus flavor, like Meyer lemons.

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3.       2017 Charging Goose Sauvignon Blanc    $28

Old Field likes to acknowledge their feathered friends in the names of their wines, hence the name of this one, as well as the image of a goose on the label.  This is an unfiltered wine, which means you can see tiny bits of grape floating in the bottle, and also means secondary fermentation may take place in the bottle.  I like this the best of the whites.  It has a bit of a tingle on the tongue, and tropical fruit tastes, like kiwi and guava and pineapple.  Our friend thinks it smells a bit like cider, and I agree, adding that the aroma is a bit funky.  It would go well with local bluefish, which I am cooking for dinner.

4.       2016 Cacklin’ Rosé          $22

Irene tells us that this is a dry rosé, in the French style, and spends eight hours on the skins of the merlot grapes from which it is made.  It doesn’t have much aroma, and the taste is dry, slightly acidic, though sweet at the end.  Out friend asserts it has a banana taste.  I don’t get that, and offer “tangerine.”  Well, they say there are no wrong answers when it comes to the question of what you taste in wine.

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5.       2016 Dashing Duck Red Meritage             $16

This is their Bordeaux blend, a mixture of merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and pinot noir.  The aroma is sweet, reminding us, we all agree, of a fruit punch.  Our friend asserts it recalls the taste of the water her mother would soak raisins in overnight, to plump them.  I don’t know about that, but it is certainly a light red, with no body.  One of us notes that it is a good red for people who don’t actually like red wine.

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6.       2014 Rooster Tail            $16

90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, this has the expected cherry taste and aroma of a merlot, with a slightly funky aroma.  We agree to characterize it as a “spaghetti wine.” 

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An historic photo of the Old Field Ice House is featured on the label of the wine.

7.       2014 Ice House Rescue Cabernet Franc               $45

Why the name?  They used the proceeds from the sale of this wine to finance the restoration of the ice house.  Back before there was refrigeration, people would harvest blocks of ice in the winter and store it, insulated with hay, in ice houses. This is another fairly simple red, slightly fruity, with a touch of nutmeg, plus aromas of dark fruits. It would be okay with lamb chops.

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8.       2013 Merlot      $28

I detect a scent that it takes me some time to identify, and which I decide is camphor, mixed with cherry.  There’s also a touch of something chemical at the end of the taste, though primarily it tastes of black cherry.

9.       2014 Pinot Noir

Extra!  Irene notes that, when she has an open bottle of this, she likes to share it, though usually it is only for wine club members.  Good move.  We like this the best of the reds.  It is fairly complex, with some layers of flavor, and pleasant vegetal aromas of asparagus and cut grass.

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Reasons to visit:  Lovely picnic grounds, where you can bring your own food and purchase wines to drink; if I were bringing a seafood picnic, I’d get the sauvignon blanc to drink; if I were eating cheeses and charcuterie, I might still get that, or maybe the Rooster Tail; generous pour; chickens and ducks to watch running around.

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Old Field may be the most photogenic winery on the North Fork.

Greenport Harbor Brewery: Summer Sippers June 14, 2019

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 https://greenportharborbrewing.com/

Certain beverages just seem to go with certain seasons, like icy lemonade and cold beer in the summer.  It was a beautiful sunny day on the North Fork, so we decided it was definitely beer weather, and furthermore that it was time to return to Greenport Harbor.  They have two locations:  the original small place on a back street in Greenport, and a huge space in Peconic, with a large restaurant area and outdoor lawn. Since we wanted a bite to eat, we opted for the Peconic facility.

A remodeled car dealer, the tasting room has a definite industrial vibe, with exposed beams and a concrete floor.  Simple wooden tables and benches provide seating.  The restaurant area is a separate room off to one side.  Usually, you go in there to order food, but on this day a sign instructed you to order at the bar in the tasting room.  At the bar, we carefully perused the beers on offer, aiming to try varieties we hadn’t had the last time we were there.  We wrote down our choices on a piece of paper, and asked the server to please organize the glasses in the order in which we should taste them.  Then we gave him our food order—a giant pretzel—and, after filling our tasting glasses, he handed me a device which emitted a loud buzz and flashed lights when the food was ready to be picked up.

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Hot pretzel with melted cheese. Yum.

When you order a glass or a tasting, you surrender your credit card, which you get back when you return your glasses.  A tasting consists of five generous pours for $12.

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The beer menu changes seasonally, so you never know what to expect.

Our server was quite busy when we placed our order, as a large group had gathered on the lawn outside and individual members kept coming in to make orders. In addition, it was lunch time, and we saw a number of people quietly having lunch and a beer.  However, when we were ready to leave and I went to pick up the credit card, the room was quiet, so I was able to chat with him about the names of the beers—a subject that always fascinates me.

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If you want to take some beer home, you can buy bottles, cans, or growlers.

Because we were aiming to try new flavors, we skipped my favorite of their beers:  The Black Duck Porter.  I highly recommend it if you like dark Guinness-like beers.

1.        1927 Pilsner     5% ABV (Alcohol by volume)

This was one name our server couldn’t explain, but he thought it might have been named for a restaurant which had requested this particular brew. (The menu says “brewed exclusively for The Paramount”.) In any event, the date is appropriate, because my reaction was this is a “good old-fashioned-beer beer.”  My tasting pal said, “Nothing jumps out in your mouth,” which sounded to me like something to be grateful for.  In any event, it’s a mellow, rather monochromatic, malty beer.

2.       Summer Ale       5% ABV

Good name for this light ale, which I described as a “beer on the beach” type.  Also not an exciting beer, this is an easy to drink quaff, refreshing, with a touch of sweetness.

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There’s a gift counter where you can buy t-shirts, etc.

3.       Velvet Sea          5% ABV

The server described this as “between a lager and an ale,” and clearly it is designed to go down smoothly—which might explain the name.  It smells hoppy and has some citrus taste, but not too much.  I said it was pleasant but not OMG.  I could see this with a hot dog and fries at a barbeque.

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You can buy t-shirts like this in the little store area.

4.       Locals to Locals #14        7.2% ABV

They call this a “Hazzzy IPA.”  Whatever that means, this is a beer that smells like a Christmas tree and has a pleasantly piney taste, with a touch of cardamom.  We both like this the best of the brews so far.  It has enough taste to be interesting, but not so much that we can’t enjoy drinking it.  We also like the concept behind the name, which is that local breweries and retail outlets and restaurants band together to promote local beers and the places to drink and buy them.

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Note the taps. Greenport Harbor makes use of the fact that Long Island is shaped somewhat like a whale.

5.       Face Value         8% ABV

Like grapefruit juice?  Then you may love this beer.  I like grapefruit juice, but I prefer that my beer not taste like it.  This one tastes like a slightly sweetened grapefruit juice, just less acidic than most.  My husband, however, really likes it.  The menu describes it as an “Imperial IPA brewed in collaboration with Barrier Brewing Company,” in Oceanside. One of the brewers used to work for Barrier, the server told us, and that also explains the name.  Barrier likes to use money references for its beers, with names like “Legal Tender” and “Claim the Vault.” 

As we discuss the beers we drank and what we did and did not like, our server pours us a tiny taste of a beer he says we must try:  Maine Coarse.  It’s an IPA brewed with sea salt, key limes, and lactose.  It’s certainly interesting, and shockingly salty. This is a beer that you have to drink with food—maybe something like fried chicken—so that the saltiness would complement the food and not overwhelm your taste buds.

Reasons to visit:  a brewery with lots of interesting options plus a restaurant with some unusual dishes as well as what you’d expect; the Black Duck Porter and Harbor Ale, though we didn’t drink them today; Summer Ale, Velvet Sea, Locals to Locals #14; you can bring your dog, though not into the restaurant area; sometimes they have music; they always feature displays of art from local artists in both venues.

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Fido can come with you , but has to stay outside.