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

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

https://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay          $21.95

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

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

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

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

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  1. 2017 Pinot Blanc $34.95

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

  1. 2015 White Riesling $24.95

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

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  1. Golden Fleece $18.95

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

  1. 2014 Merlot $27.99

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

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $27.95

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

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  1. 2015 Meritage $29.95

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

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  1. 2013 Malbec $29.95

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

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  1. 2007 Dessert Wine $28.95

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

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We noted the nautical theme even at the entrance.

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

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Duck Walk Vineyards: Quack Quack January 12, 2019

Duck Walk Vineyards:  Quack Quack        January 12, 2019

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https://duckwalk.com/

“We’ll have to stop quacking,” joked my husband, as we finished our tasting at Duck Walk Vineyards’ North Fork tasting room.  You see, the last time we went, in 2009, we disliked almost all the wines, including a red that tasted like ashes, and I had an allergic reaction (something I almost never have to Long Island wines, for some mysterious reason).  So we vowed never to return, and amused ourselves by quacking derisively as we drove past.  No more.  Though we didn’t like all the wines, there were plenty we did enjoy, and we had a great tasting experience.

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This tasting room is quite spacious, though the last time, when we came in the spring, we were in a different one that was even bigger.

Duck Walk, like Jason’s and Pindar, is owned by the Damianos family, and many of their wines are somewhat sweet for our taste, though numerous people like them.  And it is a family affair, with even a third generation possibly getting ready to join the business, according to our chatty and well-informed server.  It is always a plus to have a server who is really into the wines of the place where she works, and we appreciated our server’s enthusiasm for the wines and eagerness to share her preferences.  She also was happy with our respectful approach to the wines, and gave us some extra tastes to show off the depth of their collection.

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The tasting room we went into is to the right of the main entrance, where we had a tasting the last time, and is a smaller—though still quite large and airy—room.  A long bar dominates one end, past which are French doors leading out to the vines.  When we entered, a large group of young women were enjoying their tasting before heading back out to the limo, and the room became noticeably quiet when they left.  In the summer, we have often seen whole fleets of limos and buses parked outside, as Duck Walk is a regular on the limo circuit (another reason we haven’t been back in a long time).

Aside from feeling it was finally time to go back, I also was intrigued to taste their Absenthe, their new after-dinner “traditional distilled spirit,” whose name echoes that of the famous Czech drink, absinthe.

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Their website notes that they have snacks for sale, though we were not offered a menu, and they do allow you to bring in “light snacks.”  It also says they are “pet friendly,” which I assume means in the summer, when you can sit outside.

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A tasting consists of four tastes for $10, which you pay in advance.  You then get four tickets, which the server collects after each drink.  Since the menu includes seventeen red, white, and rosé wines, plus seven other drinks in the sparkling and dessert categories, we decided to do two tastings and share as we went along.  Though you are free to choose any four, in any order, our server did give us the standard advice to drink whites before reds, and to follow the order of their listings on the menu.

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  1. 2017 Chardonnay          $16.95

Since chardonnay is so ubiquitous on the North Fork, I felt we should include it in our tasting.  This is their steel-fermented chard, and at the moment they do not have an oaked chard, though our server says they have had one in the past.  We agree that we both prefer steel to oak.  This one has a bit of a barnyard smell, and is a touch too sweet for us.  It has tastes of pineapple and guava with some minerality.  My tasting buddy opines that it is “wine for the skittish,” by which he means it is easy to drink if you’re not a big wine drinker.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $18.95

Nice.  I get a cut grass smell which my husband describes as “woodsy,” plus some rock or mineral.  The taste is fairly typical for North Fork sauvignon blancs, lemony and grapefruity, and would be fine with oysters.

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When the labels do not feature ducks they feature Gastby-themed art, like this one of what the tasting room workers jokingly named the “Hamptons hooker.”

  1. 2017 Rosé $16.95

We admire its pretty pink color and Gatsby-inspired label, which features a young woman in flapper dress standing in front of a mansion and a 1920s car.  Her provocative pose has led the winery workers to dub her the “Hamptons hooker.”  Made from the pinot meunier grape, this has a slightly funky aroma, plus the expected strawberry.  The taste reminds me of a vodka-infused watermelon I once sampled at a party (I was young.), with some sweet strawberry and lemon notes.  This would be a fine summer sipper, though it is a bit too sweet for us.

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  1. Southampton White   $14.95 for 750 ml, $18.95 for 1.5 l

According to the menu, this is made from the cayuga grape, which is often used upstate.  As we feared, it is too sweet for us, while also being light and not complex. I contemplate dumping the rest of our taste.

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  1. 2017 Pinot Meunier   $29.95

Since Duck Walk is the only vineyard that grows this grape, we decide we need to start our tasting of the reds with this wine.  My tasting pal and I agree that this smells like berries, though I say blueberry and he says raspberry.  It is a light, fruity summer red, good with barbequed chicken.  It reminds me of a Beaujolais.  This label also features an upper-crust Gatsby-esque theme, with formally clad horse riders.

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  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon   $18.95

This cab doesn’t have much aroma or taste.  There is a slightly funky smell.  The wine itself is light and dry, with some tannin.  It would be okay with a burger, though I generally prefer beer with burgers.

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Do you see the duck reference in this picture? I got it!

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   $38.95

Power of the book strikes again!  Our server, with whom we have been having enjoyable conversations about the North Fork vs. the South Fork (where she often has to travel to work in the South Fork tasting room in Water Mill), gives us an extra, a taste of the high-end cab sauv.  And it is really good!  Lots of dark fruit taste, the kind of tannins that make me think it could age even more, and some depth and interest.

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  1. 2015 Merlot   $16.95

Again, the aroma is a bit funky, plus the usual cherry smell.  This is a dry, drinkable merlot, not overpowering at all.  My husband says there’s “not a lot of stuff going on.”  It’s a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with some cherry taste.  It would be fine with pasta.

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  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve   $38.95

Once again, we get an extra.  This time, a taste of the reserve merlot.  The aroma is complex, with notes of plum, cherry, and tobacco (which my husband calls ash).  However, the aroma promises more than the taste delivers, though this is a good, dry, drinkable red.  Not a lot of tannins.

  1. 2015 Malbec   $16.95

Although malbec is most often used as part of a mixture of grapes, I tend to enjoy it on its own as well.  The color of this is a beautiful dark red, and the aroma is also dark, of dark fruits like plums.  We like the taste, which is dry and tannic, with enough fruit that it would be fine to sip or have with steak.

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The White Port is so new it wasn’t on the menu.

  1. 2010 White Port

I can’t tell you the price of this because it is not yet on the menu.  Another extra treat!  Duck Walk often features their blueberry port, which is actually made with blueberries, so this is a departure for them.  The aroma is nutty, and it would actually taste good with nuts.  I taste some gooseberry taste, (and then we decide that next summer when Briermere sells gooseberries we will have to buy them again).  Nice after-dinner sipper.

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If you like Sambuca you’ll like Absenthe.

  1. Absenthe   $29.95, $5 per taste

We happen to have a bottle of absinthe we hand imported from the Czech Republic a while ago, so as I tasted this Duck Walk version, I looked forward to comparing it to the historical drink.  Supposedly, absinthe used to be made with wormwood and was highly addictive as well as causing hallucinations.  That’s no longer the case, so it is safe to sip.  In the Czech Republic there is a whole ceremony to drinking absinthe, involving mixing sugar and a bit of absinthe on a spoon, igniting it, and then, as the sugar liquifies, blowing out the flame (important step!) and pouring it into the glass.  No sweetening is necessary with the Duck Walk Absenthe, which is quite sweet, almost syrupy, and tastes very strongly of black licorice.  If you like Sambuca, you’ll like this.  After I went home—and recovered from all that drinking!—I tried our absinthe.  It is not at all sweet or syrupy, though it does have a licorice taste plus a beautiful green color, and is quite strong (70% alcohol).

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Reasons to visit:  it is winter, and you want to check out a winery that is too crowded in the summer; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Rosé, the Pinot Meunier, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; they allow dogs (outside) and snacks; pretty labels; reasonable prices; beer on tap in case you’re with someone who doesn’t want wine (why?).