Suhru: A Warm Welcome November 16, 2019

https://www.suhruwines.com/

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Another tasting room housed in a former house, Suhru similarly has a warm family vibe.

Like our last tasting, at Coffee Pot Cellars, Suhru is located in what was formerly a house and has a similarly welcome, family vibe. Susan Hearn is behind the bar, and is quick to explain, as she hospitably offers glasses of water, that the name of the winery is composed of her name, her husband Russell’s name, and the initial of their last name.

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Ask Susan and she will explain exactly how they came to add the H to the name.

The last time we were there happened to coincide with their grand opening, and featured a spread of cheese and charcuterie from Touch of Venice, just across the street. No such luck today, but Susan offered that we could order snacks from Touch of Venice and they would be delivered within fifteen minutes. Though the options looked good, we were not hungry, but I do wonder why more of the wineries don’t have similar arrangements, especially the ones that are close to restaurants. A number of them do feature snacks catered by local restaurants, which they keep on the premises.

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The “Shared Plates” come from Touch of Venice, and will be delivered in about 15 minutes.

On this sunny but cold November Saturday, there was a steady trickle of guests in the tasting room, including a large group when we arrived, and then a few couples, all of whom seemed very happy to have found Suhru. The room is small but nicely set up, with a bar at which one can stand, comfy couch seating areas, and tables featuring bottles of water and glasses. We decided we’d like to sit, so Susan brought our flights to the table for us, and gave us a thorough run-down of each wine.

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There are three flight choices: Fall Favorites, of four wines for $14; White Wine of four whites for $12; and Red Wine, of four reds for $15. One could also choose from the entire panoply of offerings of Suhru and T’Jara wines (The T’Jara label is owned with another couple and honors Russell’s Australian roots.) and put together a tasting, or get a glass or a bottle. We also noticed that if one bought a bottle of the wine of the month—the Shiraz—one of the tastings would be free.

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Russell is one of the founders of Premium Wine Group, a facility at the corner of Cox Neck Lane and Sound Avenue, where a number of the smaller wineries make their wines, taking advantage of state-of-the-art facilities, which they would otherwise not be able to afford. For example, Susan pointed out, they use screw caps on all their wines, and without the expensive machine at Premium they would have to use corks.

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1. Non-vintage Brut $29
They did not have their sparkling wine ready for the opening last year, as it takes two years to make, so we were happy to have a chance to taste it today. Made from 85% chardonnay and 15% pinot noir, using the méthode champenoise, this is a creditable sparkler, with tiny bubbles and a delicious taste of fruit and mineral. Susan said it smells like roasted pears and toasted brioche, and we agreed—though we probably would have just said toast! Nicely dry and crisp.
2. 2018 Pinot Grigio $18
The aroma is a bit funky and foresty, but pleasant. The wine itself is quite delicate, with what the menu describes as tastes of Granny Smith apple, bosc pear, and lemon peel. Susan laughs as she says this, and admits that most people are happy to just say apple and pear. I think one needs to drink this with food, but something light, like a flounder fillet, rather than something heavy, which would overwhelm the wine.

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Susan in motion behind the bar.

3. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $19
My tasting buddy and I agree we like this better than many North Fork sauvignon blancs, the second most popular local grape, after chardonnay. The menu prose is a bit over-the-top, describing “aromas of passionfruit jumping out of the glass.” We chuckle at the image of aromas jumping, but quite enjoy the wine, which has the lemon one expects but more fruit than many. It would certainly be good with oysters.
4. 2018 Dry Riesling $18
I’m somewhat wary of this, since I’ve had so-called “dry” rieslings that were anything but. However, this is a really good one, with deep enough flavor to stand up to big tastes, like a lobster fra diavolo, and tastes of stone fruit and citrus. It could also make a nice sipper on its own, though my husband notes if you opened it to have with one meal it might not go with the next day’s dinner. I guess you’d just have to finish the bottle. Susan suggests that it is a good Thanksgiving wine, and I tell her that this year we’ll probably be drinking sake with our turkey, since our theme is Japanese food. But we decide to get a bottle anyway. By the way, they source all their other grapes on the North Fork, but the riesling is from the Finger Lakes.

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5. 2014 Shiraz $23
Because Russell is Australian, they call this wine shiraz, rather than syrah, which is the same grape. He is particularly happy to make this wine, because the terroir of the North Fork reminds him of Western Australia, with its cool maritime setting. They aim to make all their wines food-friendly, and we can see that. This is a medium-bodied red, not a big fruity syrah-style wine. It smells to me like purple plums, and has some fruit tastes. It is the kind of red, like a Beaujolais, that could go with roast chicken or pizza. She says it would also be good for Thanksgiving. We decide to get a bottle, and not just because one of our tastings will be free.
6. 2017 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $25
This and the next two reds are aged in Hungarian oak, while the Shiraz is aged in American oak. I suppose some day, with enough education, I could tell the difference…Anyway, cab franc has become the second most popular grape on the North Fork, after merlot, and though at first it was primarily used in blends, it is now often featured on its own. The aroma is lovely, with notes of nutmeg and minerals as well as dark fruits. It tastes good, too, like purple plums. Again, not a big red, but one with enough acidity that it could go with something like the yummy short ribs and mashed potatoes I had at Jamesport Manor during Restaurant Week.

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One side of the tasting room.

7. 2015 T’Jara Merlot $25
Cherry taste and aroma, as typical of merlots around here, but not very fruity. Minerality. Not bad, just not exciting.
8. 2013 Suhru Ember $20
Why Ember, I ask? Susan explains that they just called this “red,” and their wine club members objected that it was too good a wine to have such a meh name, so they had a contest to name it, and ember won. She feels like it captures the warmth of sitting around a fire and sipping this Bordeaux blend. It is 49% merlot, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 18% cabernet franc, and 4% each petit verdot and malbec, though they may vary the proportions from year to year, depending on the qualities of each grape’s juice. Again, we get a slightly funky, forest floor aroma, plus tobacco. She says it has a long finish, but we don’t find that. I taste blackberries. We think this either needs more or less time to age—not sure which!

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This little patio abuts the rather large parking lot, and there is a back entrance to the winery off to the side.

Reasons to visit: pleasant intimate setting, where you can talk to the owner and learn about the winemaking; you can take your tastes to a table, all at once on a carefully labeled tray in nice round-bottomed glasses; snacks from Touch of Venice, a restaurant whose food we like; a cute little outdoor patio area for warm weather; we liked almost all the wines, but especially the shiraz, the sauvignon blanc, and the dry riesling.

Coffee Pot Cellars: Consider Yourself at Home November 3, 2019

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

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Why a huge mural of a monarch butterfly? Read the review and find out!

The name may seem a bit misleading—it refers to the nickname of the Orient Point lighthouse—but the building in which this winery is housed is totally appropriate. It is a house, and you will feel as though you are a guest in Laura Klahr’s living room as soon as you enter the intimate, yellow-walled space.

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If you’ve ever been there before, she is likely to recognize you (even if you are not, as she and her husband, winemaker Adam Suprenant, figured out, a wine blogger like me). And even if you are visiting for the first time, you will get a warm welcome and soon feel at home, as you learn about Laura’s bee hives and Blossom Meadow farm, the delicious wines, and Beasley, the resident red-wine loving pug.  Beasley, by the way, has recently been joined by Molly, a chardonnay-sipping goldfish. (Never fear, the pets’ wine preferences are part of Laura’s quirky sense of humor.)

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That’s the wine-o-saur.

Out on the front lawn is the wine-o-saur, a dinosaur of wire “fleshed out” with wine corks, many of them contributed and decorated by fans of Coffee Pot. Laura promises to finish it, now that jam-making season is over. She also called our attention to a wall hanging made by her mother, which illustrates, using colored yarn, the daily temperatures in 2015. Other wall décor calls attention to the Merlot for Monarchs campaign, which teams up with the Girl Scouts and others to plant milkweed every time a bottle of merlot is bought—1,821 so far—which helps support the endangered monarch butterflies. We bought a bottle of the merlot, but not just because of the campaign. It’s good!

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As we were discussing with Laura the phenomenon of people who are winemakers for large wineries—Adam is the winemaker for Osprey’s Dominion, whose wines we also like, and of which he is also proud—also having their own label, Adam entered, bearing what I bet was a lunch for his wife. He agreed that it is interesting, and they both talked about the benefit of having the freedom to do what you like. (There are other winemakers on the East End who do the same, like Anthony Nappa, who has his own label in the Winemaker’s Studio and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Roman Roth, who makes the Grapes of Roth as well as Wölffer Estate wines.) For both their jams and their wines, Laura and Adam like to be “true to the fruit.”

A complete tasting consists of all six wines for $12, so we opted to share one tasting.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $21.99

Laura explained that this is aged in steel barrels, rather than vats, which gives it a more concentrated flavor. When I opined that it was “zippy,” she smiled and said that was a word Adam would never use, but she liked it. This has a floral aroma, of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass, and tastes lemony, with, as she noted, more depth of flavor than your typical sauvignon blanc. We buy a bottle.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $19.99

I wondered whether I would like this, since it is oaked, but after Laura explained that it is aged in fourteen-year-old oak for just six months, I was ready to taste it. She characterized it as their fall/winter chard, and I can see why. It has more body than a steel chard, but is not heavy or oaky or buttery. I taste wood and honey and citrus. They get most of their grapes, by the way, from a vineyard in Jamesport, plus some from other vineyards.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $21.99

Gewürztraminer is a wine that becomes rather popular in November, since many people like it as an accompaniment to turkey. I can see that. This is a blend of gewürztraminer plus 12% riesling, steel fermented, and nicely fruity. My tasting buddy says it is sweet, but I disagree. What he sees as sweet I see as tropical fruit flavors. In fact, it even smells like lychee fruit. I also get pineapple and a touch of nutmeg.

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  1. 2013 Merlot $21.99

This is their newest release, and Laura proudly informs us that it just got 91 points and an Editor’s Choice award from Wine Enthusiast. I don’t give scores (as a retired English teacher, I am DONE giving grades), but I can see why this was highly rated. It has the cherry aroma and taste I have come to expect from North Fork merlots, but also more depth of flavor than many, with a touch of smokiness that is just enough to add interest. We buy a bottle, and not just to support the monarch butterflies. It’s delicious.

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  1. 2015 Beasley’s Blend $23.99

Beasley is featured on the label of this blend of 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot, and he certainly has good taste. This has aromas of dark fruit and tobacco, with tastes of black raspberry and dark chocolate, plus enough tannins that I think it could age well. By this time Adam has joined us, and he agrees.

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  1. 2014 Meritage $27.99

Adam tells us that he calls 2014 the “immaculate summer,” in that the weather was perfect for grape-growing, with cool nights and warm sunny days, and just the right amount of rain. Viticulture is, of course, farming, though those of us who just deal with the finished product don’t often think about that. (In fact, I think that might be the first time I’ve ever written that word!) He’s justly pleased with the way this blend has turned out, and we agree that it could also age well. We buy a bottle of this and label it to wait a couple of years in the cellar. He also discusses the use of petit verdot in this blend of 56% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon. It adds dark color and some blueberry flavor, he notes. This is another yummy wine, with aromas and flavors of dark fruits, like blackberries, plus cocoa and spice.

Reasons to visit: intimate atmosphere for tasting, with personal attention; Laura; all six wines, but especially the sauvignon blanc, the merlot (save the monarchs!), and the Meritage; Beasley, the official greeter and employee of the month; jam and honey and other bee-related products for sale. Laura also described to us the fun of a honey tasting, where you put out several varieties of honey and taste the differences amongst them, since honey gets its flavor from the flowers the bees visit. I do have one suggestion: perhaps at some point in the future they could replace the bar stools with more comfortable seating options.

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Macari Vineyard: No Tricks, Several Treats October 30, 2019

http://macariwines.com/

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It was the day before Halloween, and oddly warm, when we drove over to Macari. We had the tasting room to ourselves, so it wasn’t surprising that there were no pre-made cheese trays available. (No outside food allowed.) However, we could have bought any package of cheese on display, plus some crackers, and our server would have supplied us with a knife and cheese board.  We decided to content ourselves with a bag of very tasty black truffle-flavored potato chips. Then I worried that they were interfering with the tasting, so I requested a glass of water, which was quickly forthcoming.

The tasting room on Bergen Road is large, with a beautiful stone fireplace on one side, and ample displays of their wines all around. There is also a second large room filled with tables, and seating on a veranda off to one side. We stood at the bar and shared an Estate tasting, of five wines for $30. The other flight is called Vintage, and also includes five wines for $30. My tasting buddy complained that it was a small pour, though I noted that the glass was large.

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The main tasting room.

When you stand at the bar you have a clear view of the huge steel vats in the wine-making area, and we watched with interest as a worker tethered himself with a safety harness before checking on one vat. Makes sense, I suppose. What a way to go, drowned in a vat of wine!

In general, we have liked Macari wines, and often buy a bottle with dinner in local restaurants. Today was no exception, though in general we liked the whites better than the reds, and really liked the rosé we tried.

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  1. 2018 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $24

Why Katherine’s Field? All our server could tell us was that the grapes for this wine all came from an area of the vineyard called Katherine’s Field, and that it is the part closest to Long Island Sound. Perhaps that closeness to the water accounts for the slight note of saltiness I detected. The wine is light and easy to drink, with tastes of green apple, mineral, and pineapple. Like many NoFo sauvignon blancs, it would go well with local oysters. Good.

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  1. 2017 Dos Aguas White $22

Dos Aguas is, of course, a reference to the two waters which surround the North Fork: the Sound and Peconic Bay. This is a blend of 52% grüner veltliner, 27% viognier, 10% sauvignon blanc, 7% pinot gris, 3% friulano, and 1% gewürztraminer. It smells very much like honeysuckle, which I think might be due to the grüner, and also gets some of its fruitiness from that. My husband thinks it is too sweet, but I argue what he’s tasting as sweet is actually fruitiness. It has some lemon taste, as well as gooseberry. I would buy it, and it would go well with spicy food, but he doesn’t like it as much as I do.

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Even visually, you can tell this rose is more robust than most.

  1. 2018 Lifeforce Rosé $28

The term “lifeforce” in the title of a Macari wine refers to the fermentation method used. Instead of steel or wood, these wines are fermented in a concrete “egg.” They used to explain that egg on their website, but I couldn’t find that information now. In any event, this rosé is made from cabernet franc grapes, and was described by our server as their “fall rosé.” It is heavier and darker than a typical rosé, and as we discussed it he told us that what had happened was that in 2018 they were not happy with the way the cabernet was turning out, so rather than make a red from it they decided to turn it into a rosé. We are happy they did, as we quite liked it. Though it has some typical strawberry aroma and flavor, it has more oomph than many rosés. We bought a bottle. I think it will go great with seared rare duck breasts, which we get at Bayview farm stand.

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By this time our server–a bright young man–had figured out how I like to pose these photos. We had a nice chat about how he has learned to like wine.

  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve $40

Our server tells us this in aged twenty months, 9% in new French oak, so it is not super oaky or tannic. It smells fruity, like black cherries. The taste is soft and pleasant, but rather unidimensional. At that price, I’d want a more exciting wine. However, it is quite drinkable.

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  1. 2016 Dos Aguas $35

This is another blend, this time a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 62% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec, 8% petit verdot, and 6% cabernet franc. I like the aroma of red raspberries, but again the taste is good but not exciting. Dry, soft, with no tannins, this is an everyday type of red that you could even have with roast chicken. It would not stand up to a steak.

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Reasons to visit: spacious tasting room; the sauvignon blanc, the Dos Aguas white, and the Lifeforce Rosé; we often get the Sette in restaurants, a nice blend of half and half cabernet franc and merlot; no food allowed, but they do have a large selection of snacks and will do cheese trays on busier days.

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The grapes have been picked, and soon the leaves will be gone as well, leaving the vines bare until spring.

Del Vino Vineyards: First Stop? October 25, 2019

https://www.delvinovineyards.com/

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My friend’s friend described Del Vino as “pretentious.”

Del Vino, in Northport, bills itself as the “first vineyard on the North Fork wine trail.” That statement involves a rather loose interpretation of North Fork, since it is almost an hour away from any next stop. However, it turned out to be a pleasant place for my friend and me to share some snacks and a tasting, especially since it was such a mild afternoon that we were able to sit out on the patio.

The vineyard and tasting room are located on a hilly street in a very nice residential area, so I can see why the local residents had reservations about a business selling alcohol in their neighborhood. I have been curious about the place since I first read about their struggles to get the necessary permits. I wonder whether the surroundings influenced the style of the tasting room, which my friend told me a friend of hers had labeled “pretentious.” Well, it is somewhat glitzier than many of the more rustic rooms on the North Fork, but the service was perfectly friendly and efficient.

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The tasting room is dominated by this large bar.

When we entered, we saw a rather shiny tiled bar surrounded by bar stools and tables. At that moment, around 12:30, it was mostly empty, but by the time we left, around 2 (We had a lot to talk about!), it was rather full, as was the patio. A hostess immediately greeted us and offered us the option of sitting outside, which we took.

The patio overlooks their vineyard, where they grow the white wine grapes, and is adjacent to the building where they make all their wines. The red wine grapes are imported from California.

As we perused the menu, we were a little baffled to see there was no price listed for a tasting, but our waitress assured us that we could do a tasting, and that a white tasting consisted of the first three whites on the menu, and a red the first three reds. Figuring backwards from my credit card receipt (subtracting what the snacks cost), each tasting was about $14. Though we liked the wines, we agreed they were all a bit pricey, and so didn’t buy any of them.

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For lunch, we decided to share a cheese and charcuterie platter, which cost $28 for a bountiful selection of hard cheeses and slices of sausages and prosciutto, plus nice little extras like almonds, olives, fig jam, and pickled peppers; and then added Artichoke Formaggio, which was a delicious warm dish of a whole cooked artichoke under a blanket of melted cheese.

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Would I take the time to travel there if I were doing a North Fork tasting trip? Nope, but I would go there if I was in the neighborhood for something else.

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  1. Alto $35

The wines all have names, rather than being labeled by their varietal, but our waitress could shed no light on the reasons behind the names. This is their chardonnay, which is described on the menu as “lightly oaked.” I was glad it was lightly, since I tend not to like heavily oaked chards. This has a fruity flowery aroma, and tastes distinctly of pineapple.

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  1. Ventola $43

We liked this the best of the three whites, and agreed it would be a good oyster accompaniment. It has a delicate aroma, with some notes of minerals, and tastes very like a typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with some dry lemon flavor. It is a bit petillant on the tongue.

  1. Bobina $39

My friend and I agreed that pinot grigio is a wine we both often get when confronted with a list of “by the glass” wines, as it is a fairly dependable grape. This is a light, dry version, with some citrus taste. My friend’s assessment was that it “doesn’t bite but it’s not like drinking fruit juice.”

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The cheese and charcuterie board was more than enough food for the two of us.

  1. Suprema $39

The menu describes this as their “red blend,” but gives no further details as to what is blended. I wouldn’t be surprised if the blend included a fair amount of merlot, as it has that typical merlot cherry smell and taste. It is dry, with some tannins, and would make a good pizza or pasta wine.

  1. Ultimo               $43

I really would like to know why this name! In any event, once again the menu vaguely describes this as a “cabernet blend,” with no further details. It is our favorite of the reds, with some interesting layers of flavor of dark fruits plus chocolate. The wine has some tobacco and chocolate aromas as well as fruit.

  1. Grande $47

The winery calls this a “Super Tuscan.” I guess that means it is another blend. When I say that it has a funky aroma, my friend, who has a way with words, elaborates: “a combination of old socks and grandpa’s breath.” Fortunately, it doesn’t taste like that! However, we are less than impressed by the taste, which is rather light, with not much fruit or depth. My friend says, “It doesn’t hit any notes, it just hums—off key.”

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Reasons to visit: you are in the Northport/Huntington area and are in the mood for a wine tasting; you want to go to a winery but there’s too much traffic on the LIE, so you decide to bail out at exit 53; the Ventola and the Ultimo, though we liked all the wines except the Grande; the Artichoke Formaggio.

Kontokosta Winery: Close to Greenport October 4, 2019

https://www.theharborfrontinn.com/kontokosta-winery

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The flowers are being blown sideways by the wind.

We had errands to run in Greenport (oil and vinegar at Vines & Branches, for one), so we decided to visit the closest winery to Greenport, Kontokosta. As we got out of our car, a gust of wind reminded us that the Long Island Sound is in sight of the tasting room, and we noted the vanes of the windmill spinning rapidly. No shortage of wind energy here!

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That’s my new notebook in the corner of the photo. I filled the old one!

The tasting room is large and airy, and, mostly empty on this October Friday, seemed somewhat echoey. Since we’d spent some time walking around Greenport, we decided we wanted to sit, so we took our tastes over to one of the long wooden tables. We also, feeling a bit peckish, ordered a round of St. Stephen’s 4 Fat Fowl cheese, which was $17, plus $2.50 if we wanted crackers with it. It seemed a bit chintzy to us to charge separately for crackers, but they do offer gluten free crackers as an option. No outside food allowed. The cheese was quite delicious, and more than enough for the two of us, so we had the server wrap up our leftovers to take home.

While in Greenport we amused ourselves by figuring out from what angle the pictures of Greenport were taken which appear in the new TV series “Emergence.” It’s mostly shot in New Jersey (one look at the beach where a plane crashes makes it clear it was not shot on the North Fork), but it is set in Southold and Greenport and uses shots of Front Street and Main Street for atmosphere.

A tasting consists of three one-ounce pours for $16, so we decided to do one tasting of three of the four whites, and another of three of the four reds. The servers gave us basic information on the wines, and the tasting menu had a few brief notes, but otherwise we were on our own.

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Our flight of whites.

  1. 2018 Orient Chardonnay $22

This is a fairly classic example of a North Fork chard, steel-fermented, with a floral aroma and a lemony, fruity, minerally taste. We also detected a slight salty note in this and some other wines, and wondered if the vineyard’s location so close to the Sound caused that. It went well with the soft, creamy cheese.

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That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance.

  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $25

Another easy-to-drink white, this smells to me like thyme honey. The taste is a touch sweet, but not too sweet, with some pineapple taste. Sometimes sauvignon blancs have a lot of lemon taste, but this one does not. It does have a touch of minerality.

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Each glass was labeled with the wine in it, so we would know which we were tasting.

  1. 2018 Field Blend $22

As I’ve mentioned before, the name field blend implies that it is made from various grapes which all grow in the same field. This one is 50% riesling, 33% viognier, and 17% chardonnay. I detect the riesling in the aroma, which had a bit of that cat pee smell, as well as honeysuckle. We like it the best of the whites, as it is more interesting than most. I think it tastes like a Granny Smith apple, and he agrees.

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The reds.  We did not try the rose, which you can see off to one side.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $29

I return our three empty glasses to the bar and order our three reds. To make sure we know what we’re drinking, the server uses a white marker of some sort to put the initials of each wine on the base of the glass. Clever. This is aged four months in Hungarian oak, she tells me. The aroma is jammy, like blackberry jam. The wine tastes like dark figs, with some nice acidity, but it is rather lean, with no finish.

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The cheese was delicious, and went well with the wines.

  1. 2015 Merlot $34

Typically, merlots around here taste and smell like cherries, and this is no exception. It has no depth, and is rather monochromatic, says my tasting pal. I agree that it would be a good pizza/pasta wine, if not for the price. I also note that it was served too cold, a common fault.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

Aged twelve months in Hungarian oak, this wine finally has some tannins. I smell black olives and pine, maybe something a bit funky. My poor husband is suffering from a major allergy attack, perhaps brought on by pollens blown on that brisk breeze, so he’s not much help in the what-does-it-smell-like department. His comment on this one is, “I can taste that it’s wine.” They do say that smell is a crucial element in taste. I taste purple plums, but I agree that it’s not very complex, though, like all the wines here, very drinkable.

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Perhaps if we’d stood at the bar we could have had more discussions about the wine.

Reasons to visit: it’s close to Greenport, which is getting quite popular these days; large tasting room with a view of Long Island Sound; menu of good cheeses (though I think the crackers should be included in the cost. What are you going to do, spread the cheese on your fingers?); all the wines are pleasant, if unexciting, but we especially liked the Field Blend white and the cabernet franc.

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Pretty view out the window.

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The grapes, covered with netting to keep critters out, look about ready to harvest. At some wineries we pass, they have already been picked.

Sannino Vineyard: New Digs September 20, 2019

https://www.sanninovineyard.com/

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After about nine years of having a tasting room on Peconic Lane, having taken over the Ackerly Ponds winery, the Sannino family has built their own tasting room on Route 48 (a.k.a. Middle Road or Sound Avenue).  It is a very attractive space, with two bars and ample seating, plus a pleasant patio out back, where we sat for our tastings.  They bring the tasting to your seat, all together on a labeled tray, so it is a relaxing place to sit and sip.  The few parties who were there on this sunny September Thursday seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Unfortunately, we did not care for most of the wines.  I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my taste buds today, but my tasting buddy had the same reaction.  I wondered whether they had paid too much attention to the planting of new vines and the building of the new tasting room, and not enough to the making of the wine.  We plan to return in a year or so, hoping for better results, since we have in the past met Anthony Sannino and thought he was a nice guy. 

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We enjoyed sitting on the patio.

Because a tasting consists of six wines for $20, and there are eleven wines, we decided to try them all.  When I discussed with the server what to do with the twelfth spot, she suggested that she could give us a taste of their port-like dessert wine, which sounded like a great idea.  In general, we found the whites too light, almost watery, and the reds without tannins or depth, but I did like the port.

They do not allow outside food, and have a little menu of cheeses, chocolates, or nuts  A nice touch:  they bring a bottle of water and glasses to your table.

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Oops, we drank a couple of the whites before I remembered to take a picture!

1.        2018 Semi-Chard           $18

A 50/50 mix of semillon and chardonnay, this has a sweet aroma of flowers and honey, but the taste is flat, tart, and almost watery.

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2.       2018 Sauvignon Blanc    $25

The aroma is appropriately lemony and pineapple-y, but again the taste is mono-dimensional.  Light.

3.       2018 Chilly Day Chardonnay       $28

Although this is steel fermented, it smells almost woodsy.  I guess the term is forest floor.  It’s a fairly standard North Fork chard, though it lacks fruitiness.  (When I mentally compare it with our favorite East End chard, Scuttlehole Chardonnay from Channing Daughters, I realize how much better Scuttlehole is.) 

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I kept sipping water, hoping if I rinsed my mouth the wines would taste better.

4.        2018 Fresco White Blend            $22

Shortly after we tried this, our server stopped by to see what we liked so far, so I asked her (not having anything nice to say) what the blend consisted of.  Chardonnay, semillon, and sauvignon blanc, she told us.  I had thought it might have a touch of gewürztraminer, since the aroma has some of that floral quality and the wine has a touch of sweetness.  This is the best so far, with some pleasant citrus flavor and a good blend of tart and sweet.

5.       2018 Bianca Dolce Rosé               $20

The smell reminds me of red candy, and so does the taste—or strawberry shortcake.  I find it has a pleasant acidity (the quality that makes your mouth water), but my husband says it is “just sweet.”

6.       2015 Prima Rossa Red Wine       $18

This is their inexpensive, everyday blended red.  We don’t care for it, finding it actually rather harsh.  My husband characterizes it as “red fruit juice.”

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The reds did spend some time sitting in the sun, so perhaps they’d be better if they hadn’t.

7.       2015 Syrah Naturale      $22

The menu informs us that this is made with “indigenous yeast and minimal winemaker influence.”   We smell black raspberries.  The taste is soft, with some fruit and a touch of funkiness.  It’s okay to drink.

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In addition to the patio, there are comfortable seating areas out on the lawn.

8.       2015 Merlot      $27

We’ve been drinking a merlot we get at the liquor store labeled North Fork Merlot, from a vineyard in Cutchogue, but we don’t know who makes it.  However, we buy it a lot for everyday drinking because it is inexpensive and delicious, with lots of cherry flavor but not sweet.  This wine does have the cherry smell of a typical merlot, but the best we can say about the taste is that it is “not unpleasant.”  I get tart plum taste.

9.       2015 Spotlight Petit Verdot         $40

Every time we come across a winery that makes a straight petit verdot, they make a big deal about how it is usually used for blending, but here it is on its own.  The same is true at Sannino, where the name indicates that they’ve put a “spotlight” on the petit verdot, combined with just 15% cabernet sauvignon.  The aroma is nice, of red fruit and dark berries, but once again we find the wine uninteresting and a bit thin.

10.   2015 Cabernet Sauvignon           $38

Another red with a nice aroma but no depth or tannins.  My tasting buddy says it tastes like “red grapes.”  How strange.

11.   2015 Francesco               $45

According to the menu, they only make this wine, a four grape blend named for Mr. Sannino’s dad, when they have a good year.  2015 was a good year on the North Fork, with plenty of hot dry weather and a long growing season, so we have hopes.  Drinkable, but, alas, nothing special, though the aroma is promising.  “Everything has nothing,” says my husband, and I have to agree.

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12.   Dessert Wine (Port)

It does taste like a port, nicely sweet with good fruitiness, and would be lovely to sip after a meal, though my tasting pal finds it too sweet.  I don’t know what they call it or how much it costs, because I didn’t see that information.

Reasons to visit:  nice tasting room with a pleasant outdoor patio; if I had to drink a glass of their wine, I’d choose the Fresco, the Merlot, or the port, a.k.a. “fortified dessert wine.”  One cute note—the single occupancy rest rooms are labeled “Saints” and “Sinners.”  Which to choose?!

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A little Sannino family history.

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.

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.