Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines October 3, 2018

Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines                   October 3, 2018

http://mattebella.com/main

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Heading to the tasting garden from the parking area…

Most of the time, my husband and I are the only ones doing a tasting for my blog.  However, we love to take visitors with us to wineries.  Aside from the pleasure of their company, it is fun to compare notes on each wine and discuss what it tastes and smells like and what we would serve it with.  We also try to think of wineries our guests would like.

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We like to support places that care about the environment.

My brother and sister-in-law like to bring their dog with them, so a dog-friendly place was the first requirement.  Then, I thought about how they care about conservation, organic and local foods, and the environment, so I wanted to bring them to a winery that farmed sustainably.  I also wanted a place with wines we like.  Finally, it was a rare lovely day, so we could sit outside, with a pretty garden setting a plus.  And thus we chose Mattebella, which turned out to be perfect on all counts.

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Comfy seating in the gazebo.

As we settled ourselves on comfy cushioned seats inside a gazebo, a friendly server came over with menus and an offer of water for the dog.  We were off to a good start.

The menu offers five different flights, including an interesting one of all chardonnays, but we decided each couple would share a Vintner’s Select Flight, $30 for eight wines.  Our server put a tray full of glasses down in front of us, with each wine labeled, and poured the five whites, promising to return with the reds when we were ready.  She returned shortly with a small piece of slate on which perched two pieces of toasted baguette with a slice of brie on each, to go with the wine.  They used to give several different snacks with the wine, but now it is just the one.   Still, that’s nicer than the dry crackers which a few wineries offer.

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The first round of tastes.

  1. 2015 Steel Chardonnay               $21

The aroma is of minerals and green apples, and the taste is very lemony.  Our server suggests we compare it with a sauvignon blanc, and I see why.  It is the type of light, citrusy wine which goes great with oysters.  It could also be drunk as an aperitif, a “sipper on the patio,” we decide.

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Free snack!

  1. 2014 Famiglia Chardonnay        $22

“Why Famiglia?” we ask.  We don’t really get a clear explanation, but it has something to do with the winemaker being Italian and the word for family.  In any event, this is an oaked chard, with an aroma of wood and green apple.  Words that come up as we discuss the taste:  honeydew, butterscotch, lemony at end.  At this point we take a nibble of the brie and decide this is a wine that needs to go with food.  “Pleasant but not fascinating,” someone says.

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  1. 2013 Founder’s Reserve Chardonnay $38

My sister-in-law likes this one better than I do, but it’s fine.  The aroma combines basement smells with a chemical I identify as turpentine or gasoline.  Fortunately, it doesn’t taste the way it smells.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness.  I get some grapefruit and pear tastes.  They say it could age, and I see that.

 

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

I find riesling somewhat problematical.  In general, I don’t buy one unless I know how it tastes, since they seem to vary widely.  Some rieslings are too sweet, but some I really like.  This one, from a vineyard in Jamesport, is not sweet, but I don’t care for it.  It has a somewhat piney taste, which my brother compares to the bark on a tree.  He’s not fond of it, but my sister-in-law likes it, which proves what people often say, that wine likes and dislikes are very personal.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $21

This is a nice summer sipper, light and lemony, with some strawberry taste and aroma.  90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc.

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  1. Famiglia Red $24

There is no vintage on this wine, since it is a blend they try to keep consistent from year to year, so if you order it in a restaurant or buy a bottle you will know what to expect.  This particular blend is mostly merlot, with some cabernet franc.  Our server characterizes it as “a good wine to bring to a friend’s house.”  The aroma combines plums, cherry pits, and leather handbags.  Fruity, soft, and very drinkable, this is a serviceable food wine, good with pizza and pasta.  Someone says this is what should be called a “ten-minute wine,” a wine you just drink, rather than discuss.

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  1. 2011 Old World Blend $50

That’s quite a price jump, and we are wondering whether the wine is worth it.  Sniff.  Rotting banana and dried fruit compote.  Sip.  Good!  Lots of complex fruit flavors with light tannins, we taste raisins and prunes.  It would go well with lamb roasted with rosemary. The wine is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  If you care about such things, you might like to know that Robert Parker gave it 90 points.

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The drawing on the labels is of the owners’ children, Matt and ‘Bella.

  1. 2013 Old World Blend $65

OMG.  Really good, in other words.  This is another blend, of merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, aged in French oak.  It has lots of tannins, with aromas of leather and dark fruits.  It is not as fruity as the 2011, but we decide it is more elegant.  It has enough power to stand up to steak.

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Look how dark that Old World Blend is!

As we discuss our overall impressions of the wines, which we characterize as smooth, soft, and drinkable, my sister-in-law is perusing the menu.  She notices that we have not tried any of their sparkling wines, so we ask the server which one we should try.  She brings us two.

 

  1. 2017 White Sparkling Wine        $24

Our server says we should think of this as similar to a prosecco.  It’s not bad, but too sweet for us.

  1. 2017 Dry Sparkling Rosé $28

We prefer this one, which is refreshingly dry, with light fruit tastes.  This is another one to sip on the back deck.

Reasons to visit:  pretty outdoor setting, but the indoor area is quite small; comfy seating; lots of nice wines, especially the Steel Chardonnay, the Famiglia Red, and the 2013 Old World Blend; dogs are allowed; no outside food, but they do have various crostini on offer, plus they bring you one for free; they farm sustainably.

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We were tempted to taste the grapes, but the netting discouraged us as well as the birds.

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Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

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Yes, we were just at Channing Daughters on September 14th, and we usually visit a winery once a year.  However, my brother and sister-in-law were visiting.  Like us, they are members of the Channing Daughters wine club, and they wanted to pick up both their regular shipment and an additional case of wines.  We were happy to make the trek over to the South Fork again, enjoying our ferry rides, a walk on the beach, and a stroll around Sag Harbor before heading to Scuttlehole Road.

A plus of a repeat visit to Channing Daughters is that they have so many different wines, plus six vermouths, that there was no danger of running out of wines to taste.  I don’t think any other winery on the East End does as many different, interesting, creative wines as they do.  We were also interested in getting some wine for the seafood dinner we planned for the next night, which would include my sister-in-law’s delicious scallop ceviche.  (After a trip to Braun’s, we added a main course of pan-fried blowfish tails.  Yum.)

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This panorama barely begins to capture the impressive array of wines on offer at Channing Daughters.

The server recognized us, and we had a very friendly visit, which included chatting with various other visitors to the tasting room.  At the end, she gave us a loaf of Orwasher’s bread, which they get for free in exchange for giving Orwasher’s their leftover grape yeast for bread-making.  It went perfectly with the ceviche.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

The grapes for this wine come from the Mudd vineyard on the North Fork.  We agreed that it was a good wine, “clean and green,” according to our tasting crew.  Lemony, crisp, and light, it is a perfect seafood wine.

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This remains our favorite East End chardonnay.

  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

We first fell in love with Channing wines because of this chard, which we bought by the case for our daughter’s wedding.  Steel-fermented, it has aromas of honeysuckle and green apple with tastes of citrus, pineapple, and minerals.

  1. 2016 Vino Bianco $20

“I just had this one a couple of weeks ago,” I said, planning to skip it until our server pointed out that I had tried the 2015 and this was the 2016.  Oh.  And yes, it is a bit different, with more taste of mango and more complexity, with a somewhat earthy end.  My sister-in-law described it at “roundy,” by which I think she meant it had no sharp edges.  Very nice.  As I recall, this was the one we decided to have with the ceviche, and it paired well.

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The image on the bottle is of one of Walter Channing’s sculptures.

  1. 2015 Brick Kiln Chardonnay $25

I was a bit hesitant about this one, since it is an oaked chard, and I often don’t like that buttery, vanilla taste.  However, this one is aged in neutral Slovenian oak and 18% steel, so it is not at all buttery.  Instead, we tasted pineapple and Mandarin orange, with just a touch of sweetness.  It can stand on its own as an aperitif, we agreed.

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano $24

This one has aromas of caramel, earth, and pine.  The taste is very light and minerally, with a short finish.  Good with charcuterie, was the consensus opinion.

Then we decided to try one of the vermouths.  Oh no, insisted our server, you have to try them all!  She lined up six glasses on the bar and the four of us shared the six tastes.  Each one is inspired by a different season of the year and constellation of local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.  I can’t give a complete list, because the blends are secret, but I will say they are all good in different ways.  These are vermouths to sip over ice as an aperitif, though you could also make some interesting cocktails with them.  They are identified by number.

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Vermouths made from white, rose, and red wines plus seasonal local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

  1. Herbaceous, dry, and spicy, this is made from herbs which all grow within seven miles of the winery, and was the first vermouth they made.  I bought a bottle.
  2. This one includes cucumbers and jalapeno peppers, and is rather spicy. You could season a salsa with it.  Maybe you could serve it at a piñata party!
  3. She identified this one as “mid-summer.” It is also a bit spicy, made from rosé wine with a touch of honey as well.  Earthy.
  4. Summer, she said as she poured this one. Watermelon, shiitake mushrooms, mint, caraway, and more, all of which appear in the aroma and flavor.  It tastes of mint and rye bread.
  5. Late summer/early fall: Muskmelon, dill, peaches.  This is the lightest of them all so far, very minerally.
  6. Fall (of course): squash, pumpkin, apple, pear.  This last one was made from red wine, and is the smoothest to drink and feels the least like a vermouth.

We were thinking about getting on the road again when my sister-in-law noted that we hadn’t tried any of their sparkling wines.  Out came three more glasses and the chance to taste three sparkling wines.  It really pays to be in the wine club!  My notes at this point are a bit sketchy (no surprise), especially because my husband was our designated driver and left most of our share of the tastings to me.

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Sparklers!

  1. Sylvanus

“Amazing,” said our relatives.  Very sparkly, with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. Bianco

“Just okay,” was the consensus.

  1. Rosato

I have extensive comments on this petillant naturel on my last blog, but I will just add that, though we are not normally fans of pink sparkling wines, this one is pleasantly drinkable.

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There’s a small selection of wine-related gifts. I bought my brother and sister-in-law a stopper for closing sparkling wines, since we had discussed the problem of opening a sparkler for just two people.

Reasons to visit:  an amazing variety of wines, so you can come back frequently and try different ones; a wine club worth joining; a cozy tasting room where you can really engage with the servers and learn about the wines and the wine-making.

Bridge Lane Wine: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My! September 23, 2018

Bridge Lane Winery: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My!

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http://bridgelanewine.com/

If you ever want to have a wine kegger, Bridge Lane is the winery for you.  Or let’s say you want to take a can of wine to the beach.  Yes, they have those.  And boxes of wine.  Oh yes, bottles, too.  Bridge Lane is the less-expensive, more populist line of wines made by Lieb Cellars.  Their wine maker, Russell Hearn, also has his own line-up of wines which you can sample at his tasting room in Cutchogue, Suhru Cellars.  (https://www.suhruwines.com/ ) He must be a busy man!

 

Last September we went with friends to Lieb Cellars’ tasting room on Oregon Road, and tasted both the Lieb label wines and the Bridge Lane wines.  We much preferred the Lieb wines.  In June we went to the newly opened Suhru Cellars and liked their wines even better.  However, there is nothing wrong with the Bridge Lane wines, if you want simple, light inexpensive wines.  All of Bridge Lane’s wines cost $20 per bottle.  (A keg holds 130 glasses for $240 and each can provides two glasses for $9.)

Fittingly, not only do all the wines cost the same, the taste profile is remarkably similar.  In fact, my husband observed that he would be hard pressed to tell one white from another.  They are all citrusy and minerally and light.

The differences among the wines of the three venues extend to the tasting rooms, as well.  Bridge Lane’s is a simple square, with a bar along one wall and banquettes along two others, with brightly painted picnic tables outside.  Lieb Cellars’ tasting room is more elegant, with table service and a deck overlooking rural Oregon Road.  Suhru’s newly opened “tasting house” is in what had been a house, and is homey and beachy.  Bridge Lane allows picnics and dogs, while the other two do not (except at Lieb on the outside patio).  Suhru offers snacks from Touch of Venice restaurant across the street, and Lieb has an extensive menu of snacks, while Bridge Lane offers only a few snacks.

We arrived at Bridge Lane on a September Sunday afternoon, when many of the wineries were crowded and traffic clogged the approach to Harbes Orchard.  At Bridge Lane we encountered a large party of women—not sure if it was a group of friends or a bachelorette celebration—and one other couple who decided to brave the September chill to take their tastes outside.  After the large group left, it was quite quiet.

A tasting consists of five tastes for $15.  You can also taste a few of the Lieb Reserve wines at $4 per taste, or opt for a glass or bottle.   They serve you three and then two of your tastes at once, on a clearly labeled round tray in nice rounded-bottom glasses.  There’s a self-serve container of water at one end of the bar.

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  1. White Merlot

We get a very faint citrus aroma from this white wine made from red merlot grapes.  The taste is of grapefruit and minerals, and is pleasant and light.  It would be fine with some Peconic Bay scallops.

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Wine on tap.

  1. Chardonnay

A steel-fermented chard, this actually smells a bit metallic.  I taste pineapple, though the tasting notes say stone fruit and green apple.  Maybe a little green apple…but if by stone fruit they mean peaches and apricots, I don’t get it.  My tasting buddy asserts that “ten seconds in, it gets sweet.”

  1. Sauvignon Blanc

Another light, tart, citrusy, easy-to-drink white, this one would go well with oysters.  Maybe barbequed oysters?

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  1. Rosé

As one would expect, the rosé has an aroma of strawberry, but sweeter, more like strawberry jam.  There’s also a touch of smokiness.  Again, this is light, with the citrus this time reminiscent of pink grapefruit.  I could see having it with an herbed goat cheese from Catapano.

 

  1. Red Blend

This is their Bordeaux blend, of 65% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 6% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, aged six months in Hungarian oak.  It smells like a combination of cherries, smoke, and wood.  When we sip, we decide we can taste the wood as well, plus a fair amount of tannins which make us wonder if this would be better after a couple of years.  We also taste black cherry.  My husband describes it as “sour.”  Not a great red, but easy to drink, it could go with lamb chops.

Lieb Cellars Reserve 2015 Petit Verdot  $35

I want to end with something better, so we order a taste of the Lieb Petit Verdot.  As the server opens the bottle, I notice that it has a screw cap.  The Bridge Lane wines had been on tap, so I ask her if all the wines have screw tops.  Yes, they do.  The Petit Verdot is aged ten months in Hungarian oak, and has an aroma of blackberries and dark fruit.  It tastes of black cherry with a greater depth of flavor than the Red Blend.  There’s a pleasant softness to it, and enough tannins that I think it could be aged.  My husband and I simultaneously decide it would go well with barbequed ribs.

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The outdoor picnic area is somewhat screened from the traffic on Sound Avenue. The multicolored stripes are part of the whole light-hearted ethos of the spot.

Reasons to visit:  You want somewhere to take your picnic lunch where you can sit outside and drink some inexpensive wines; you are having a big party and need a keg of wine, or maybe a couple of boxes; you want to take a four-pack of cans of wine on your boat; the chardonnay, or any of the wines if you want something light and uncomplicated.

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Bridge Lane shares its location with Premium wine Group, a wine-making facility shared by many of the smaller wineries which lack their own wine-making equipment.

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As I watched crushed grapes being loaded here, I solved a mystery. All along Cox Neck Road I had seen a line of grapes by the side of the road. Where did they come from? Aha, I realized, they have fallen off those open carts which bring the grapes to Premium Wine Group!

Channing Daughters: SoFo, So Good September 14, 2018

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https://www.channingdaughters.com/

Friends often ask me, “What’s your favorite winery?”  I have various answers—rosés at Croteaux, whites at One Woman, reds at Pellegrini, Mattebella for sitting outside, Sherwood for the fireplace in the winter, etc.—but really, Channing Daughters is my favorite.  Unfortunately, it is on the South Fork, so we don’t get there as often as we like.  However, we had an errand that could only be done in Southampton, so off we went.  The errand finished, we took a walk around Sag Harbor, got a bite of lunch at the Golden Pear (really good sandwich), and headed to Channing Daughters.

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This line-up of bottles shows just some of the wines Channing Daughters makes.

So why do we like this winery so much?  It is the most creative, interesting winery on Long Island, growing about two dozen different grapes and mixing and matching them in unusual ways.  And we like almost all their wines. That’s why we joined their wine club, despite the inconvenience of having to be home to sign for the UPS delivery.

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Part of the outside area.

The tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and a few barrels on which to rest your tastes, plus some outside tables in the summer.  They carry a small selection of wine-related gifts, and offer some plain crackers as palate cleansers.  However, we’ve never been there without having interesting conversations with both the people at the bar and the servers, who are very well versed in the wines and eager to share what they know. For really complete analyses of the wines, check out their web site.

 

A tasting consists of six wines for $18, and though the wines in the tasting are listed on a chalkboard, we overheard the servers customize tastings for people based on what they like or don’t like.  As wine club members, we could have tasted any wines, but I wanted to taste the two wines which had just come in our shipment.  So we did the standard tasting plus those two.  Although we each could have had our own tasting, we decided to share in the interests of sobriety.

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The upside down tree is their logo, and references one of Walter Channing”s skills, which is carving.

  1. 2015 Vino Bianco           $20

A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 26% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Tocai Friulano and 23% Chardonnay, this is a basic good white wine.  Dry and refreshing, it has, observed my husband, “lots of taste.”  Citrus, flowers, spice, fruit—I agree.  They age some of the wine in steel, some in old oak, some in new oak, then blend it all together.  As I said, they are creative!  We buy two bottles, and think about having some the next time we buy oysters.

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  1. 2016 Rosato di Sculpture Garden $25

This is one of the rosés they make.  A number of years ago, they had seven, the result of late heavy rains which made them reluctant to use the red wine grapes for reds, as the flavor would be too diluted.  So instead they made rosé.  Good move.  The rosés were so popular, they now make a bunch every year.  This one is a field blend, of 91% merlot, 6% teroldego, and 3% blaufrankisch.  Really nice.  The aroma is somewhat earthy and minerally, and it has the strawberry taste you expect plus a really nice minerality and maybe some nutmeg.  Good.

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Orange wine!

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  1. 2014 Meditazione $40

Pronouncing the name with Italian verve, our server explained all about orange wine.  This is a white wine made using the red wine method of fermenting the juice with the skins, hence the orange color.  A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 21% Muscat Ottonel, 14% Chardonnay, 13% Tocai Friulano, 7% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Pinot Bianco and 4% Gewurztraminer, this is not an easy wine to drink on its own.  We have it with a couple of crackers, which improves the experience.  It smells like baked oranges and tastes like apples and spices.  They suggest pairing it with game birds or sausages, and that makes sense to me.

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  1. 2017 Rosso Fresco $22

Fresh red?  Yes, because this is a light, bright red, more along the lines of a Beaujolais.  I could see serving on the deck with hot dogs.  It’s another blend, of 76% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 8% Blaufrankisch, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Teroldego, and is barely aged.  They even suggest serving it slightly chilled.  It would make a great summer red.

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  1. 2017 Petillant Naturel Rosato $28

I usually eschew sparkling pink wines.  Fortunately, I did not skip this one.  Wow, is it good!  Mouthwatering, bubbly, dry, with some strawberry aroma and flavor, this wines makes a good case for never dismissing any type of wine before you taste the iteration in front of you.  The servers were going into great detail on the methods used to create this wine, which included freezing the tank at one point and fermenting it in the bottle.  Just another Channing Daughter original.

 

  1. VerVino Vermouth (500 ml) $28

Yes, the tasting ends with one of the vermouths they make.  This is a somewhat sweet one, and would make a fine aperitif or dessert wine.  There’s a somewhat chemical aroma—maybe petroleum? —but fortunately the vermouth doesn’t taste like gasoline.  I get sweet apples, pears, and other fruit flavors.  Vermouth is made by adding various herbs and other ingredients to wine, and at Channing they vary them by season.  This one includes such fall produce as apples, Asian pears, pumpkin, butternut squash, calendula, sage, borage etc.

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The “wild child” name references the use of wild yeast.

  1. 2015 L’Enfant Sauvage $38

This is one of the wines in our current shipment, so I added it to the tasting.  A chardonnay made with wild yeasts, this wine has varied over the years.  Sometimes it’s my favorite, and other times…not so much.  This iteration is yummy.  Although it spends fifteen months in French oak, it doesn’t have that buttery taste I dislike in oaked chards.  I do detect a bit of that woody flavor, which reminds me of when I was a kid and I would sometimes bite my pencils, but I also get lime and baked pear.  You could have it with very assertive dishes, like spicy Chinese food, or even as an aperitif.  We buy a bottle to add to the one we already have, aging in our cellar.

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  1. 2016 Dornfelder

I wonder if this is a wine which would improve with age, since of all the wines we tried today this is my least favorite.  But they do suggest aging it in the bottle, so we will see.  A blend of 85% dornfelder and 15% pinot noir, it has red fruit aromas and flavors, but is not a really deep big red.

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Lots of choices!

Reasons to visit:  some of the best and most creative wines on Long Island; the Vino Bianco, the Rosato, the Petillant Naturel Rosato, L’Enfant Sauvage, and more; there’s always something new to try; one of the few wineries on the South Fork, so well worth a visit if you find yourself in Sag Harbor.

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Mr. Channing’s sculpture’s decorate the tasting room and the grounds.

 

Bedell Cellars: Price/Quality Question September 8, 2018

Bedell Cellars:  Price/Quality Question    September 8, 2018

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https://www.bedellcellars.com/

I’ve read a number of articles about the price of a bottle in relation to the quality of the wine inside it, with many opining that it is not a simple relationship.  Often, what you are paying for with an expensive bottle is some measure of prestige or canny marketing, not necessarily the experience of drinking the wine.  My husband and I have had the good fortune and pleasure to go to events which included very expensive wines—vintage Dom Perignon, premium Bordeaux—which we certainly enjoyed.  But the question is, were they that much better than the $20 bottles of wine we often have with dinner.  Better, yes, but exponentially better?  Not so sure.  I was thinking about this because the wines at Bedell, while mostly pleasant and drinkable, are overall fairly expensive for what you get.

On a surprisingly chilly day (It’s been too hot to sit outside most of the summer, and then today it was too cold!), we headed to Bedell Cellars, knowing they have a pleasant tasting room, and not planning to sit on the porch—which was good, since the outdoor area was closed in preparation for a wedding.  We stood at the bar in the elegant black and white room and studied the menu, which didn’t take long since they only have one flight option, of five wines for $20, though you can add tastes of any other wines for $5-$7 each.  They are already sold out of two of their wines.

Our server was enthusiastic and chatty, though somewhat self-conscious about my notebook, even though I assured her that our main interest was in the wines.  She informed us at the end of our tasting that we could take our receipt and go over to Corey Creek, now owned by Bedell, for two free tastes of the wines on tap there, about which more later.

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1.        2017 Sparkling Rosé      $45

Just as I said, “This would make a perfect bachelorette party drink,” as if on cue, a group of women surrounding one who wore a headband that proudly proclaimed “Bride” entered.  Pink, bubbly, fruity, with a touch of minerality, this blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot seems like it would be pleasant to drink.  However, we felt that ultimately it did not cohere and was a bit too sweet for us.  We still would prefer Croteaux.

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The label is certainly pretty.

2.       2017 Viognier    $30

Although only a few wineries on the North Fork grow viognier, we just happen to have visited both Palmer and Kontokosta recently, and their bottles of viognier are $25, while at Bedell it costs $30.  We liked all three of the viogniers, and Bedell’s is no better than the others. This one has an orange blossom aroma with a slight metallic tang.  It has some nice fruitiness, and while I found it a bit too sweet my husband felt it had a nice balance between sweetness and minerality.  While we were discussing the wine, several people stopped in for glasses of wine, and two of them got the viognier, so clearly it is a wine people like.  My tasting buddy said it was a good summer wine, and I theorized that it could stand up to an assertive dish like bouillabaisse. 

3.       2016 Taste White            $40

Both the wine and the image on the bottle are blends.  The wine mixes 64% albariño, 18% chardonnay,10% sauvignon blanc, and 8% viognier.  How is the image a blend?  According to our server, the artist did a composite portrait of five people to end with a face that looks like Marilyn Monroe.  (The owner of the winery sits on the board of MOMA, as we are always informed.)  The aroma and taste are both relatively complex and interesting, with smells of honeysuckle, baked pear, and something vegetal, maybe asparagus or grass.  I laugh and say it tastes like white grapes, because it seems funny to think that a drink made from grapes rarely tastes like grapes.  We also detect a hint of pineapple, and other fruits, plus pleasant acidity.  It’s not a white for sipping, nor would you want it with something very delicate.

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4.       2016 Cabernet Franc      $45

The tasting menu describes this light red as juicy and ripe.  I say meh.  It is barely aged—six to nine months in neutral French oak—and has no depth and a very short finish.  It evanesces, as we say.  The aroma is of dark fruit, but the wine mostly tastes of minerals and a little fruit.  If you want a robust red, don’t pick this nothing burger!

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It is a fairly generous pour.

5.       2016 Malbec     $50

I’m not too crazy about this red either, though I think people would find it easy to drink.  It’s a very simple, slightly cherry-flavored red, with no tannins.  It does develop a bit more flavor as it sits, and we think it might be better with something like lamb chops.

 

On to Corey Creek!

https://www.bedellcellars.com/the-tap-room/

 

              Just a little further east from Bedell is Corey Creek, which used to be a separate winery until Bedell took it over.  There they offer wine from a tap, like beer, and you can bring a bottle to be filled.  The building is pleasantly rustic, with a pretty back porch overlooking pinot gris vines.  The atmosphere is more informal than Bedell, and we saw families whose children were running around outside, plus several dogs on leashes.  The bachelorette party was here, too. 

              Many of the wines here are aged in clay vessels, an ancient method being revived, so we were interested to see if the cabernet franc here tasted any different than the one we’d just had.  They also offer Frosé, a frozen concoction of rosé, sugar, and water.  No, thank you. 

 

1.       Syrah

For a syrah, this is a very light wine, with not much in the way of aroma or taste.  My husband says it has “forward tongue tingle.” 

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Our Corey Creek tastes

2.       Cabernet Franc

This is another not-much-there wine, though if you found reds challenging you might like it.  Our conclusion?  “Free is the right price” for these tastes.

 

Reasons to visit:  elegant tasting room, artistic labels, the Viognier and the Taste White; Corey Creek has a pleasantly rustic setting and the novelty of wine on tap, plus a taste is free if you’ve been to Bedell.

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Look how big those grapes are getting!

Kontokosta: The Far East August 28, 2018

Kontokosta: The Far East              August 28, 2018

https://kontokostawinery.com/

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Don’t be fooled by the weathered barn look; this is a fairly recently built tasting room.

East of Greenport sits the last winery on the North Fork wine trail:  Kontokosta.  We were there on yet another of the ridiculously hot and humid days of this hot and humid August, but a small contingent of our party braved the heat to hike the property to a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound.  Then they returned to the tasting room, red-cheeked and sweaty, to be revived with Kontokosta’s own sparkling water and grape soda.  It may have been the effect of the heat, but one member of our party who describes herself as a “grape soda connoisseur” said it was the best grape soda she’d ever had.

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That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance. It was really hot out there!

 

The rest of us stayed inside and shared tastings and glasses of wine, enjoying the air-conditioning and the company of each other—and the wine.  We sat at one of the long tables in Kontokosta’s airy, modern tasting room, transporting our tastings to the table ourselves.  A tasting consists of your choice of any three of their twelve wines for $16.  My husband and I decided that we would share a tasting of three whites and another of three reds, since it is a one-ounce pour.  So clearly, we could return for a completely different set of six tastes, which we may yet do.

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Part of the bar area.

They also offer a menu of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.  No dogs or outside food allowed.

  1. 2017 Viognier   $25

The aroma is sweet, of honeysuckle and peach, and the taste has some peachiness as well.  One friend described it as an “unctuous peachiness,” and we went on the discuss its appropriateness as an aperitif.  “It’s a crowd pleaser,” he said.  We also thought it would pair well with a chicken dish that had either a white sauce of something citrusy, or perhaps charcuterie.  It’s a refreshing, pleasant white.

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Our three whites. We took the glasses to a table.

  1. 2016 Field Blend $22

A field blend means just what it sounds like—a blend of various grapes, all grown in the same field.  This one blends 50% riesling, 30% viognier, and 20% sauvignon blanc.  The aroma is mostly mineral, and the wine itself is super dry, rather tart, with not much fruit.  It really needs to be drunk with food, but since we had just had a big delicious lunch at the Olive Branch café in Greenport, we were not about to buy any snacks.  We were not particularly fond of this one.

  1. 2014 Anemometer White $35

Another blend, this time of 45% chardonnay, 40% sauvignon blanc, and 15% viognier, Anemometer (the name a reference to the windmill which provides much of their power) is aged in neutral French oak, so it is not too oaky.  There is a subtle vanilla aroma, but also minerality.  One friend compares it to a Chablis, not surprising given the chardonnay in it.  The taste combines minerality, pineapple, some tropical fruit, and a touch of saltiness.  I don’t usually like oaked chardonnays, but this one has only a hint of butteriness.  Our friend says it is rather rich for a white, and could actually go with a steak, albeit not one with a lot of taste.  Maybe a filet mignon with a sauce that included some of the wine?

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The reds.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $29

Now we move on to our second group of three, the reds.  We asked the server for her recommendations, not having any reason to choose one red over another, and this was her first pick, as she noted it scored 90 points in Wine Enthusiast.  It’s good, fairly light for a red, with lots of fruit aroma and dried fruit tastes, with some tannins.

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One part of the tasting room, looking towards the door.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve $40

I often wonder about wines labeled “reserve,” and priced higher than the same grape from the same place.  However, this wine is actually better than the previous one.  The aroma combines dark fruits like black cherry, plus pepper.  It has more character than the other cab franc, and is softer and less tannic.  It would go well with duck, like the duck breasts from Bayview we plan to barbeque that evening.

  1. 2014 Anemometer Red $50

When they first opened, the anemometers were their least expensive wines, but now they are the most expensive.  This one is a blend of 40% cabernet franc, 22% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 18% syrah, which makes it their Bordeaux type.  Meh.  I much prefer the Cabernet Franc Reserve.  Not a lot of fruit to this one, nor is it at all complex.  One friend notes that it is “not challenging to drink,” and reminds him of a rioja.  Lots of tannins, so maybe given time…

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Now there’s something you don’t see at every winery.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting on the shore of Long Island Sound; modern, airy tasting room; menu of snacks; the Viognier and the Cabernet Franc Reserve; the grape soda.

Castello di Borghese: Old Favorite August 16, 2018

Castello di Borghese:  Old Favorite          August 16, 2018

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You can glimpse the outdoor seating area off to the side.

https://castellodiborghese.com/

When I say old, I’m not kidding.  Borghese took over the oldest vineyard on the North Fork—Hargraves—and is as serious about their wines as the Hargraves were.   Though we have been there when they had music—a French Edith Piaf-type singer—or oysters or art exhibits (like the current one, curated by and featuring local women artists), the emphasis here is definitely on the wines.

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So I spotted one interesting name on the list of artists contributing to the show at Borghese…

The tasting room has a bar along one side, and then wine barrel tables where you can stand and taste.  They also have some outdoor picnic tables, though it was (once again) much too hot to sit outside.

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One side of the tasting room.

Though they have several tasting options, for $20 or $15, featuring from five to seven wines, we ended up getting a more or less custom tasting, since we were the only people there and our server appreciated the serious way we went about our sniffing and sipping.  The pour is fairly generous, so sharing seven tastes was plenty for us.

They have a few wine-oriented gift items.

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A few of the gift items–or you could buy a work of art from the gallery.

  1. 2016 White Meritage    $60

Meritage on the North Fork usually refers to red wines, so we were interested to taste this white blend.  It includes semillon, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay, and is a dry, citrusy—more lime than lemon—crisp wine.  Our server informed us that the wine originated one year when they had a fair amount of semillon grapes, but not enough to bottle on their own.  The menu notes this is a “limited release,” which means it won’t be made every year or in large quantities.  I decided it is a very summery wine, with a faint aroma of peach.

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  1. 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $28

We got this taste because, as I perused the menu, I noted that I would certainly not taste the barrel fermented chard, as I tend not to like them.  “This one is on me,” insisted the well-informed and chatty retired gentleman who was our server.  “I think you’ll like it because it is not like most oaked chardonnays.  For one thing, it is aged in neutral oak.”  “Neutral” oak barrels are barrels that have been used, so when they are re-used they do not impart as much oakiness to the wine, so you don’t get that buttery taste or unctuous mouth-feel of oaked chards that I dislike.  Well, he wasn’t wrong.  I smelled honey, but the wine itself is not at all sweet or heavy, with tastes of flowers and spice and pineapple.  “It’s unexpectedly good,” I had to admit.  Lesson learned—don’t reject oaked chards without learning more about each one.

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  1. 2016 Bianco di Pinot Noir $50

“Ever hear of the saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” asked our server.  We had.  “Well,” he continued, “this is an example of that.”  In 2016 there was a nor’easter that literally blew the skins off one section of pinot noir grapes (Borghese grows, harvests, and makes all their wines.)  What to do?  This is the result—a white wine with just a tinge of pink and a taste that is more like a red than a white.  The wine smells subtly piney, and tastes like those white cherries that have about a one-week season.  A touch of citrus at the end.  I could see having this with prosciutto and melon.  It is good to be reminded that wineries are basically farms, at the mercy of the whims of nature.

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  1. 2015 Pinot Noir Reserve $68

At this point we have put ourselves totally into the able hands of our server, and let him choose our wines.  This, he tells us, is, like most Borghese wines, made in the Old World style, aged in new French oak barrels.  We discuss the observation that the Long Island has terroir has more in common with Europe than with California, which is not surprising when you consider both border the Atlantic Ocean—and were once, eons ago, part of the same continent.  (When the idea of Pangea was advanced, I’m sure I’m not the only person who thought back to that time in elementary school when you looked at a globe and thought about how those curves of the South American eastern coast would fit perfectly into the African western coast.)  Back to the wine, which is quite nice.  We smell forest and plum, and taste blackberry.  Some tannins.  I think it would go with blue cheese, and he suggests lamb chops.  Yup.  Nice finish.

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

  1. 2017 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon $25

A 50/50 blend, this is a good summer red, comparable to a Beaujolais, with no tannins.  The aroma is cherry and tobacco (unsurprisingly), and tastes like cherry, too. Dry.  It would go well with burgers.

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  1. 2014 Select Merlot $30

This is a good example of a somewhat typical North Fork merlot, with cherry aromas and flavors.  It would go great with pasta Bolognese.

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  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Franc $44

We like this one the best of the reds.  The aroma is somewhat earthy, with lots of dark fruit tastes.  It lacks the depth of a really good Bordeaux, though the menu says it is a “Bordeaux type” wine.

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The actual truck–of which this is a painting–sits along Route 48, advertising Castello di Borghese.

Reasons to visit:  you are serious about wine and want to go somewhere that values that seriousness (as opposed to the “sup”—shut up and pour—places); the merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend (we buy a bottle), the Bianco di Pinot Noir, the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (for those who don’t like barrel fermented chards); the art exhibits.

Palmer Vineyards: Sold! August 10, 2018

Palmer Vineyards:  Sold!              August 10, 2018

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This is the building with the tasting room, not to be confused with the first building you come to, which is the wine-making facility.

https://www.palmervineyards.com/#established-1983

The big news locally for those who are interested in wineries was that Paumanok Vineyards bought Palmer Vineyards.  My review will apply to the wines for the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the future brought some changes.  According to one article I read, Paumanok’s winemaker will take over at Palmer.  It will be interesting to return in a couple of years to see how they’re doing.

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Meanwhile, this was our first visit to Palmer since 2016, since a couple of times we stopped by and found the place too noisy and crowded for our comfort.  So we decided to try a Friday afternoon, and found we had the place to ourselves, aside from a few people out on the covered porch area. The last time we came we sat out there, since we were with relatives who had brought their dog with them, and we also shared a cheese platter.  We didn’t get one this time, but do note that they do not allow outside food.

After discussing the menu with the manager and each other, we decided to share two tastings, one of the whites and one of the reds, and settled into a booth.  We enjoy the décor at Palmer, which reminds us of our favorite British pubs, with cozy booths and old signs.  We only wish we liked the wines better.  They are all drinkable, but only one was a standout as far as I’m concerned.  The menu offers three options, all for four wines for $16 to $18.  My husband characterized the pour as “micro”:  each taste was just that, about two sips per person.

  1. 2016 Viognier                 $24.99

Only a few North Fork wineries offer viognier, which is too bad, as I tend to like wines made from this grape.  This one is dry, with an aroma of baked pear, and some nice fruit tastes plus minerality.  The menu says it tastes like quince.  Maybe.

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Small pour!

  1. 2016 Aromatico            $24.99

Often when a wine has a name other than the varietal it is a blend, and that is true of this one, which the manager tells me is, he thinks, 60% muscat and 40% malvasia.  Steel fermented.  When I hear muscat I wonder whether it will be sweet, but this one is not.  It’s fairly interesting, not your average Long Island white, with, according to my tasting pal, “lots of body for a white.”  There’s a taste of gooseberries and a tanginess to it that would make it a good match for the scallops we picked up earlier at Braun’s.

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  1. 2016 Gewürztraminer $23.99

Uh-oh.  The manager describes this as “semi-sweet.”  Too sweet for us!  It smells like honey and nutmeg, but actually doesn’t have much flavor.  There’s a trace of a chemical flavor I dislike, and we dump the last little bit of the small taste.

  1. 2017 Sparkling Rouge Rosé $21.99

He pours this from a partly used bottle with one of those champagne re-sealing corks in it, and at the end I ask him if perhaps it had lost its sparkle by the time he poured our taste.  No, he replies, it’s just not a very bubbly sparkler.  My husband says it has NDA—no detectable aroma.  Not even the strawberry one would expect from a rosé.  It is at least dry, but if you want a sparkling rosé I suggest you seek out Croteaux’s.  Vintage liquor store in the Mattituck shopping center carries all of their wines now.

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Not very sparkling and not very rose.

  1. 2015 Merlot (No price on the menu, but the 2014 is $24.99.)

As I told my brother the last time we were here, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, the reliable grapes that almost everyone grows (despite the opprobrium they got in the movie Sideways).  As expected, it has a cherry aroma and flavor, plus maybe some purple plum.  Dry, with faint tannins and a short finish, it is aged twelve months in French oak.  You could have this with lamb chops, or even roast chicken, but it would not stand up to a steak.

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  1. 2013 Old Roots Merlot $34.99

Why Old Roots?  Not surprisingly, because these grapes come from the oldest vines on the property, dating back thirty-five years.  The grapes are hand harvested, and aged for eighteen months, leading to a slightly more intense merlot experience than the previous taste.  Lots of cherry flavor, but no depth, is our verdict.  Maybe you could have it with grilled sausages, like the ones 8 Hands Farm makes.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

According to the menu, the tastes for this include “subtle cigar box.”  Not sure what that is, but there is a smokiness to the aroma.  Not complex, it has lots of fruit flavor and is pleasant enough to be a wine one could sip as an aperitif.

 

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $28.99

The previous wine is aged for twelve months, while this one ages for eighteen, and it is more complex.  The aroma includes fruit and tobacco, and we taste plums and other dark fruits.  Not much tannin.  I remember a dish I used to make, of tongue in a pickle sauce, and think this would go with that.

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A glimpse of the covered porch. We decided to stay in the air conditioning!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room which looks like an English pub, plus a wide covered porch for outside tastings; the Aromatico and the Cabernet Franc; they serve pitchers of water if you ask; dogs are allowed outside.  Note—the first building you come to is a “self-guided” tour of the winemaking facility, so pull around to the back for the tasting room.

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This is the first building you see, but the tasting room is around the back.

Roanoke: A Highlight of Love Lane July 25, 2018

Roanoke:  A Highlight of Love Lane          July 25, 2018

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

We had some visitors who had never experienced the delights of Love Lane, so we gave them a little guided tour, from the funky Broken Down Valise bar across from the train station to the excellent Village Cheese Shop, with stops along the way to admire the Sweet Shop and Lombardi’s Market and the wall murals.  Then we settled down on the shaded back patio (which would be a nicer setting if it didn’t look out on the parking lot) for a tasting at the Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar.

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One view of the back patio area

You used to be able to go to the Roanoke winery itself (on Sound Avenue just off Roanoke Avenue), but now the only way to taste their wines is in their wine bar on Love Lane, as the winery itself is only open to members of their wine club and their guests.  I particularly remember one chilly winter evening when we were the only people at the winery and had a tasting of red wines and chocolates.  Yum.  However, the wine bar is conveniently located in the middle of the North Fork.

The room itself is rather small, with a bar along one side and a few tables and some comfortable chairs, and so is the back patio.  But even in July, Wednesdays are rather quiet on the North Fork, and for much of our time there we were the only customers.  As has been the rule this week, the weather alternated between rainy and steamy, but we were comfortable on the patio and enjoyed sipping and chatting with our friends.

The tasting menu used to be more extensive, but at the moment there is only one option:  four tastes for $14.  We decided each couple would share one taste, which the server brought out to us one at a time, quickly adapting to our slow and thoughtful pace.  You can also buy bottles of wine from a few other wineries, including our favorite, Channing Daughters, and also Wölffer Estates, Red Hook, and Grapes of Roth.

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  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Pinot Blanc     $24

Our friend’s initial reaction to the aroma of this wine was “pungent!”  And yes, it has a rather sharp aroma of pineapple, with a whiff of some sort of chemical.  A blend of 95% pinot blanc and 5% viognier, this is a light, dry summery wine with tastes of pineapple and citrus.  It would be good with clams or oysters.

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Pretty labels

  1. 2017 Infinite Possibility $22

Just consider all the possibilities of taste and aroma you can get from a blend, in this case of 60% sauvignon blanc, 39.5% chardonnay, and .5% muscat and malvasia.   Our server describes this wine as smelling sweeter than it tastes, and she’s not wrong.   It smells like honeysuckle and tropical fruits, but the taste is dry and lemony, with hints of guava and spice.  Tasty.

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We liked the concept and the label better than the wine for this one.

  1. 2017 Site Specific Chardonnay The Wild! $22

Yes, that is the exact name of this wine, including the italics and the exclamation point.  Made from a muscat clone and steel-tank fermented with wild yeasts, you would never think this was a chardonnay if not for the name.  A year ago we liked it, and the friend we were with bought a bottle.  This year, not so much.  There’s something verging on the unpleasant in the taste, which our friend describes as “yeasty.”  We also get minerals and a touch of the nuttiness we liked last year, though this time it is more like bitter almond.  And that’s why we have to go back every year!

  1. 2016 (Greater Than)  $22

The only red in the tasting, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of 53% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 17% cabernet franc.  It has a pleasant aroma of cherry and other fruit and also tastes of the cherry one would expect with a merlot.  It is very dry, with some nice tannins, and would be good with a juicy hamburger (It is getting close to supper time!)  We are intrigued by the name, and discover that it has a dual meaning.  One is that, as a blend, it is greater than the sum of its parts.  The other involves a dispute over the previous name of the wine, which was Bond.  It turned out a California winery had a prior claim to the name, so the new name is a quiet dig at them…this one’s greater than yours!  We bought a bottle.

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This leafy alley leads to Love Lane on one side and the parking lot on the other.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location amid the shops and restaurants of Love Lane; pleasant backyard patio; Greater Than; you can buy bottles of wine from other wineries; they have a variety of special events for members.

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The back patio is a relaxing place to spend some time drinking wine.

McCall’s Winery: Here’s the Beef July 21, 2018

http://mccallwines.com/

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Why the reference to beef?  Because in addition to running a winery, the McCalls also raise Charolais cattle, and sell their grass-fed meat at the winery when it is available.

If you look on their website, you will see that they care about the environment and have taken steps to protect and improve it.  They also are careful with their grapes, and, while not certified organic, they do try to minimize the use of chemicals.  They focus mostly on red wines, though they do now have some whites.

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We went there on a breezy Saturday afternoon, and had a debate about whether to sit inside or outside.  Though we ended up inside, quite a few people were sitting under the trees on the lawn.  We did note that as they were served with cheese trays several crackers were gone with the wind.

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“Inside” is a converted stable, where you can actually sit in a cozy former horse stall or at a table in the central area.  We noticed all sorts of horse-related objects—saddles, bits, etc.—hanging on the walls, and a large mural showing the original Native American occupants of the land.

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Next time I go I will ask about that mural.

The menu offers three options:  Blancs, three whites and a rosé for $12; Noble, two whites and two reds for $15; and Reserve, four of their better reds for $19.   Knowing they pride themselves on their reds, we decided to share a tasting of the Reserve wines.  They do a two ounce pour, so sharing one tasting was plenty for us.  Mrs. McCall happened to wait on me, and she was happy to give details on each wine as we took them two by two to our table.  In the past we have also chatted with Mr. McCall, and they are both very pleasant and interesting to talk to.

  1. 2013 Hillside Pinot Noir              $48

Mrs. McCall informed me that they leave these grapes on the vines longer than for their other pinot noir, making for a richer wine.  These particular vines are located on a sloping piece of their property, hence the name.  The East End of Long Island is quite flat, but there are some small hills, including one as you approach Greenport that may not be steep but is long, as I recall every time I ascend it on my bicycle.  Back to the wine.  The aroma is fruity, with some cherry and other dark fruit.  The wine is dry, with some tannins, and pleasant fruit tastes, but is overall rather light, especially in this price range.  I think it would be better with food, and my husband opines that is it “closed,” which he defines unhelpfully as “not opened up.”  Maybe it needs more aging.

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Our first two tastes, plus a view of the lawn.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $48

The vines for this wine are thirty-five years old, and the older the vines the better the wines.  This is certainly a cut above the usual Long Island reds.  I think you could even pass this off as a French wine.  It has some layers of flavor and nice fruit, plus enough tannins that you could probably age it.  On the other hand, it has very little aroma.

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The bottles for the Reserve tasting

  1. 2010 Merlot Reserve $48

Like most Long Island merlots, this has distinct cherry flavors and aromas.  I also think I get a faint whiff of pine, or forest.  This is another pleasant wine that doesn’t seem worth the price, though we like it.  Not much tannin.

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Ben’s Blend has a beautiful dark color.

  1. 2013 Ben’s Blend $54

Ben was their original winemaker, who sadly died rather young, so they commemorate him in the name of their Bordeaux blend.  It is 50% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, plus smaller amounts of cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot.  The wine has a beautiful dark color, but is not as rich as one might expect.  The aroma is fruity, with also some funkiness like a forest floor.  The taste is good, not great, but again, maybe it could still age some more.  It feels like it doesn’t quite come together.  My husband thinks it would have gone well with our dinner last night of spaghetti with Italian sausage–or maybe with a steak from the McCalls’ herd.

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Beef

Reasons to visit:  uncrowded setting (limos only by appointment) with a pleasant outdoor area and interesting indoor setting;  the reds, especially the cabernet franc; you can also buy grass-fed beef to take home; no outside food on the weekends, but they do offer a generous cheese tray for $20 (and if a few crackers blow away they bring you extras).  I didn’t ask about dogs, but we saw one couple bringing theirs to the outside area.

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