The sign outside Sannino Bella Vita says no groups of over six without a reservation, and that’s a good idea, because this small venue really can’t handle a big influx, as we saw when a group with a Groupon and another group there for Anthony Sannino’s wine tour arrived at the same time. However, the cheerful and hard-working tasting room staff did their best to compensate, and we were in no hurry anyway. Our youthful server was new to the winery, and actually learned a few facts from us, but she was so charming we didn’t mind at all.
This is a great spot if you hope to interact with an owner, as Anthony Sannino is usually on site. In addition, for a small winery they have an interesting range of choices, with a menu of eleven different wines to choose from for a tasting. Since their standard tasting is six wines for $18, we decided to share two tastings, thus getting to sample all the wines (except one that is off the menu). They generally set up all of your tastes on a tray, but with the influx of the groups they asked if we would mind getting our tastes one at a time, since they were worried they would run out of glasses! No problem. We also could have ordered a cheese and meat tray for $18.
We opted to sit on stools at the bar, but most other people sat outside on the side patio. The room has, according to one of the servers, “a certain rustic charm,” and we agree. There’s also a small selection of amusing wine-related gifts, and the Sanninos run a B and B next door to the winery. They are just down the street from Greenport Harbor Brewery’s Peconic location, where mass quantities of people were flocking for a barbeque cook off. We decided to give it a miss.
- 2014 Chilly Day Chardonnay $18
There’s an interesting vegetable aroma which we note in several other of their wines. Maybe asparagus? Also a touch of baked pear, even though this is a steel-fermented chard. The taste is a touch sweet for a steel chard, but ends with a tart lemony flavor. Nice, and quite buyable. We also note that the whites are served at a good temperature—not too cold.
- 2013 Off-Dry Riesling $17
“Bronze Medal in the FLI,” says the menu, which we later learn stands for Finger Lakes International. We’re somewhat iffy on rieslings, but this one is quite nice, with green plum aromas and tastes, plus a touch of citrus. It’s not too sweet, and would be a nice chilled summer sipper or an accompaniment to Thai food.
- 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $22
“I’d definitely have this with oysters,” I say. Lots of not-overly-ripe pineapple taste, tart, lemon at end, with a touch of cabbage in the aroma. Also worth buying, I think.
- 2014 Chardonnay $20
The menu says this is “fermented in steel and accented in oak,” and though at the moment there was no one to tell us exactly what this meant, we can figure it out, as this is an only lightly oaked chard. We smell honey and almond butter, but the taste is dry and crisp. If you find steel chards a bit too crisp and oaked chards too buttery, you’d probably like this one.
- Bianca White Merlot $16
This is a rosé, of course, so, as always, we compare it to Croteaux. The color is a pretty dark pink, with sweet strawberry aromas with again a touch of that vegetable scent. It’s good, though sweeter than Croteaux’s 314, and with less going on.
- 2014 Bianca Dolce $15
Our server confidently informs us that this is their sweetest wine, and notes that “people come in just for it.” I get that. This has a lighter color than the Bianca, and is quite sweet, almost enough to be a dessert wine. However, it is light and not cloying. Might be nice over ice.
- 2nd Bottle Red $20
Why 2nd Bottle? Because this is a wine you serve second, because “nobody cares by the second bottle.” A non-vintage blend of varietals, this is a fine barbeque wine, with no depth and not a lot of fruit, but quite drinkable. Something in the aroma reminds me of a black olive tapenade, like the one we sampled earlier in the day at Vines and Branches in Greenport.
- 2012 Merlot $25
Another FLI Bronze Medal winner, this 100% merlot spends 22 months in French and Hungarian oak. We smell plums and a hint of smoke and taste cherry. Neither sweet nor dry, this is a passable merlot, though my husband says he “would not go out of my way for it.”
- 2012 Prima Rossa $34
50% cabernet sauvignon, 33% cabernet franc, 17% merlot, we inform our eager-to-learn server, means this is a Left Bank Bordeaux-type blend. It’s also quite good, with aromas of coffee, cigars, and grape juice and lots of dark fruit tastes. This one is also aged for 22 months in French and Hungarian oak.
- 2012 Cabernet Franc $34
Ooh, this wine won a Silver Medal in the FLI. The menu describes it as “elegant.” Well, there is something restrained about it. Quite dry, with a bit of a woody aroma, it would be okay with lamb, but we liked the Prima Rossa much better.
- 2012 Spotlight Petit Verdot $42
We opt to get two tastes of this one, to complete our twelve, and decide that was a good choice, as we like this the best of the reds. A blend of 85% petit verdot and 15% cabernet sauvignon, aged 22 months in French and Hungarian oak, this wine has lots of dark fruit aromas with just a touch of smoke, and tastes very good. Lots of fruit, maybe some jam—I could see this with the Crescent Farm duck breasts I served with a strawberry-rhubarb sauce last week. It certainly merited its Silver Medal in the FLI.
Reasons to visit: you like an intimate setting, with the chance to chat with an owner (if he’s not giving a tour—or you could sign up for the tour!); the Chilly Day Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Prima Rossa, the Spotlight Petit Verdot; a cute selection of gifts.