The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017

http://winemaker-studio.com/index.html

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To celebrate April 15 NOT being tax day, we decided to return to The Winemaker Studio, where winemakers who work for some of the big wineries experiment with their own labels. It does fascinate me that people whose job is winemaking feel the need to express more of their ideas about wine with their own experiments—but when the results are as good as this, why not?  On this day, the Studio was featuring the wines of Anthony Nappa, who owns the place and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Russell Hearn, who is the winemaker for Lieb.  Hearn actually has two different labels available:  Suhru for one line, and T’Jara for wines whose grapes all come from one vineyard.

We stood at the bar and enjoyed chatting with our server, who seemed to know everything about all the wines.  On that day, the menus offered any five of Nappa’s ten wines for $15, and all five of Hearn’s wines, also for $15.  We decided to do one of each, alternating as we went, with some guidance from our server as to sequence and choices from Nappa’s list.  We could also have ordered cheese or other snacks, which come from the little food store attached to the tasting room.  Before we started, the server gave us glasses of chilled water, which he regularly replenished.

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The room is simple. The tables are sometimes inside and sometimes outside.

One other couple entered, and we enjoyed chatting with them about where they had been that day and their love of Key West.  Then a large group came in, and though they don’t usually permit groups without a reservation, since it was so quiet the server agreed to take care of them, and seated them in the food store room.  We were concerned we’d lose our source of information, but he competently took care of everyone!

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The sign seems clear enough…

  1. 2016 Suhru Sauvignon Blanc      $20

We decided it was best to start with what was likely the lightest of the wines, and we were right.  This is a really nice light sauvignon blanc, with some aromas of cat pee and asparagus.  It’s a bit fruity for a sauvignon blanc, and also has lots of minerality and some saltiness.  Very refreshing.  Good summer sipper, or to have with clams or oysters.

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  1. 2016 Nappa White Pinot Noir   $19

White pinot noir?  Isn’t that the wine that used to be called Anomaly?  Well, yes.  Apparently there was some sort of allegation of copyright infringement from a winery in Napa Valley, so Anthony Nappa had to rename his wine.  The first time we had this we really liked it, then not so much the next time, but this time it was back into the plus file.  The aroma combines strawberry—like a rosé, which this basically resembles—with a touch of funkiness that adds some interest.  The wine is somewhat dry, with some strawberry taste as well.  It would pair well with a stinky cheese, like an aged blue.

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  1. 2014 Suhru Dry Riesling               $18

Not sure why, but my tasting buddy insisted the smell reminded him of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  It is a strong aroma, with a touch of mineral or metal.  If you like a dry riesling, this is for you.  The server noted that it had .7% residual sugar, quite a contrast to the Nappa riesling we were going to taste next.  I always enjoy these side by side tastings, where you try the same grapes made in different ways.  Like the Suhru sauvignon blanc, this also has a bit of a salty tang, with some gooseberry taste.

  1. 2016 Nappa New York Riesling   $18

So different!  Made with grapes from upstate’s Sheldrake vineyard, this riesling has 1.9% residual sugar.  Although it is much sweeter, it is well balanced, and would be fine with something really spicy, like Thai food.  “Almost candy,” says my husband, but I get tropical fruit and spices like nutmeg, and a complex aroma that is rather alluring.

  1. 2012 Suhru Shiraz           $25

Although the scent promises lots of dark fruit, the wine itself is rather light for a shiraz.  I could see this with roast chicken, not steak.  Nice tannins, so maybe it will age well.

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  1. 2016 Nappa Bordo Antico           $22

If you care about such things, you might like to know that this wine is certified organic.  It is made from cabernet franc grapes, steel fermented.  It smells like forest floor, with a bit of a mushroomy funk.  The taste is good, fruity, direct and simple.  I might pair it with duck breasts.

 

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc         $30

Here we go again—same grape, different preparation—though this is a bit of a blend, 87% cabernet franc with 10% merlot and 3% cabernet sauvignon.  This is oak fermented, and has lots of fruit tastes like dark plums, and a long finish.  Delicious.  It would complement lamb chops.

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  1. 2014 Nappa Nemesis Pinot Noir               $35

Why “Nemesis”?  We learn that pinot noir is notoriously hard to work with, so the danger is that it could prove to be the winemaker’s nemesis.  Not in this case, though it is not our favorite of the day.  Made with grapes from Macari and Peconic Bay, this is a light, dry, slightly fruity red.

  1. 2013 T’Jara Merlot         $28

A blend of 92% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc, and 2% malbec, the wine is aged 20 months in Hungarian oak and tastes to us more or less like a typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry flavor.  Very nice.

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Both the design on the label and the name of the label come from Australian Aborigines. Hearn is from Australia.

  1. 2013 Nappa Tredici        $35

Tredici?  As in three grapes:  67% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 18% cabernet sauvignon?  Nope, as in 2013—named for the year.  And why not, since it was a very good year.  We smell cherries, and the taste is very much of the merlot, but with more interesting flavors than the Hearn blend.  It has lots of tannins, and if we had room in the wine cellar (we really must drink more of our wine!) we might have bought a bottle to age for a few years.

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There are wines from a variety of winemakers available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to taste wines you won’t find elsewhere; an intimate setting with knowledgeable servers (not just this time, but every time we’ve come); the Nappa White Pinot Noir (formerly Anomaly) and Tredici; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc and T’Jara 2012 Cabernet Franc; lots of availability of magnums, if you happen to want to buy one!

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Lots of magnums!

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The Studio is on Peconic Street, where you will also find a nice little food store and a gift shop.

The Winemaker Studio: Moment of Fame March 26, 2016

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

“We’re going to Nappa’s tasting room,” I said to our guests, who, having recently returned from a tour of California’s wine country, wondered why we weren’t heading to JFK rather than further east.  I clarified, “N-a-p-p-a; it’s his name.”  Ah.  We further explained that although Anthony Nappa owns and operates The Winemaker Studio, it earns its name as a studio because it is a showcase for a variety of wines produced in small quantities under their own labels or names by winemakers who also work for larger vineyards.  Just as an artist may do commercial work but also produce his or her own creations, these winemakers have the artistic freedom to experiment and express their own ideas about wine production.  A good example of this is Nappa’s Anomaly, about which more in a moment.

We were particularly interested in visiting this tasting room because we had just read an interesting article about one of their wines in the most recent issue of Wine Press magazine.

The menu varies from time to time, and today’s menu offered a choice between four of Nappa’s wines for $12 or five of Russell Hearn’s wines for $12.  We also could have opted for a local beer on tap or coffee, and the Provisions shop connected to the tasting room offers a variety of sandwiches and other edibles.  However, having just had a delicious and very satisfying brunch/lunch at A Mano in Mattituck, we were happy just to taste some wines.  In order to facilitate our conversations about the wines, we decided that each couple would share one tasting of the Nappa wines, choosing four out of the menu of six varieties.  Both couples opted to skip the riesling, made from Upstate grapes, when the server informed us that it was on the somewhat sweet side.    Our server, by the way, was very informative and friendly, and we had some nice chats with him about wine.

Our server did a great job.

Our server did a great job.

  1. 2014 Anomaly  $19

Anomaly is a good illustration of what happens when a winemaker decides to experiment.  It is a white-ish wine made from red pinot noir grapes, and each time I’ve had it it has been different.  A couple of years ago it was a very light pink and I liked it very much.  The last time it was definitely white, though a somewhat darker yellow than many whites, and I didn’t care for it.  This year it was almost orange, and we all liked it!  The aroma included peach and spice, and we tasted citrus and boysenberry with nice tartness and acidity, with still some fruit on the finish.  As we speculated on what it would go with, we decided it would make a nice aperitif.  One friend speculated that it would go well with “odds and ends from the refrigerator.”  Hers must be well stocked, as she began to muse on eggplant dip and bits of charcuterie.  Or with a salade niçoise, she continued, and it would make terrific vinegar.  They bought a bottle.

Pretty color

Pretty color

  1. 2013 Sciardonné $20

Because it is made from chardonnay grapes, steel fermented but allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, this wine can be drunk on its own, as it is less tartly citrusy than other chards.  It would be great, we agree, with lobster, or with mussels cooked with bacon or sausage.  We are still full from lunch, but I guess food is on our minds.  Before we move on to the reds, we’d like some water, but before our friend can pull a bottle from her bag our observant server offers us all glasses of chilled water.  Many H2O jokes ensue.  One can drink it chilled or at room temperature; recent vintage; crisp and light; no residual alcohol.  I’ll spare you the rest…

The 2016 H2O vintage...

The 2016 H2O vintage…

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

We were particularly curious to try this wine since it was featured in an article in Wine Press magazine, a very useful free publication you can pick up at many restaurants and wineries on the North Fork.  You would think from the name that this is a Bordeaux-style wine, but “bordo” is in fact the Italian name for cabernet franc (which is an ingredient in Bordeaux wines).  We sniffed and noted an aroma of cherry, but also something metallic.  “Burnished copper,” said my husband; “Like a wet penny,” opined one guest.  The taste was somewhat peppery, a touch earthy, with some cherry, and rather light.  You could drink it with cheese or pizza, but it is not a wine you would want to sip by itself.

The famous Bordo

The famous Bordo

  1. 2014 La Strega $22

At this point we diverged for our last tastes.  We opted for La Strega, partly because I wondered why name a wine “the witch.”  “Malbec is not the easiest grape to work with,” chuckled our server.  If you are expecting a big bold Argentinian malbec, this is not the wine for you.  It is steel fermented, said the server, with a perfume-y smell, with perhaps a whiff of oatmeal, and is much lighter than most malbecs.  Rather crisp and delicate, it is not our favorite.

The witch!

The witch!

  1. 2013 Tredici $35

Meanwhile, our friends opted for the Bordeaux blend, of 67% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  This is another dry wine, with not a ton of fruit, with tastes of fig and tobacco.  It is aged 18 months in oak.  We sense something green about it, perhaps a bit of a taste of asparagus. Our friends think it would pair well with paella, with its blend of seafood and sausage and strong flavors.

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You can see the next door food shop through this window.

You can see the next door food shop through this window.

Reasons to visit:  The chance to taste some offbeat wines off the beaten track; a cute tasting room with colorful folding chairs; one can buy sandwiches, etc., next door, so they do ask you not to bring your own food; the Anomaly and the Sciardonné.  We haven’t tried it, but they do a happy hour from 4-7 on weekends, which might be fun. 

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The Winemaker Studio: Studying Wine May 16, 2015

http://www.anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

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Proving once again that regular visits to all wineries are essential, we noted several changes at Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker Studio since our last visit there in July.  For example, the emphasis has gone from looking at the wines of many winemakers to a focus on Nappa’s own wines, although others are available, including for purchase.  Today, the choice is between a set menu of five wines for $10 by Russell Hearn, under his SuHru and T’Jara labels, or any of fourteen wines by Nappa at $2 per taste.  After some serious discussion, we decide to share two tastings, one of the Hearn wines and the other of five wines from Nappa’s list.  We also could have had a beer from Greenport Brewing Company or hard cider or espresso.

Note the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company tap.

Note the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company tap.

The building is over 100 years old, which contributes to the cozy feeling of the place, and is divided into two halves, with one half the tasting room with a bar and some little tables and chairs, and the other half a store called Provisions, which offers both a selection of groceries and a menu of sandwiches and snacks.  While we were there we saw one party enjoying some paninis—which smelled delicious—with their wine.  We could also have bought wines by the bottle from Leo Family, Race Wines, Coffee Pot Cellars (which now has their own place), and Influence Wines.

You can see Provisions through the window.

You can see Provisions through the window.

Some of the snack choices

Some of the snack choices

Our server, by the way, was quite pleasant and very knowledgeable, and we overheard her giving a pair of North Fork novices some good advice as to which wineries they would and would not like.  Based on their preferences, we suggested their next stop should be One Woman Winery.    I’ll list the wines as we drank them, with the Anthony Nappa wines second.

One view of the room

One view of the room

  1. SuHru Pinot Grigio         $17

Nice way to start a tasting.  This is a bright, citrusy white with a slightly funky, mineral aroma.  Though somewhat too dry to be a sipper, it would go great with oysters.

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  1. 2013 Frizzante                 $20

As you may have guessed from the name, this is a sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise from pinot noir, riesling, and gewürztraminer.  Because it is unfiltered, it is somewhat cloudy.  Given the grapes it is made from, I thought it might be sweet, but, though it has a touch of sweetness, it is dry, with aromas of pear and orange flower.  Our server compares it to a Prosecco, and says she likes it with sushi.  I think it would be great with some charcuterie!  And given the price, one could drink this without waiting for an occasion.

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  1. 2013 SuHru Sauvignon Blanc $19

As I’m sniffing and thinking, hmmm…toast, lemon peel, minerals, my husband says, “This is very like a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, and so anyone who liked that would like this.”  I’ll have to do some research to verify that, but meanwhile I taste lemon and gooseberries.

  1. 2013 Anomaly $19

The Anomaly is Nappa’s signature wine, a white made from red pinot noir grapes, and it is quite nice, though we liked it better the first time we had it.  The aroma is a tad funky, with some minerality and a smell like raw yeast dough.  It is fairly crisp, and we taste sour cherries.

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  1. 2010 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $30

New glasses for the reds.  Aged in oak, this has aromas of asparagus, coffee beans, and cherry juice, with tastes of spice and dark fruit.  It’s quite good, and we like the finish, and think it would pair well with veal Milanese.  Since Russell Hearn used to be the winemaker for Pellegrini, and we like their reds, it’s logical that we would like the reds he makes under his own label.

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

I kind of expected this to be a Bordeaux, based on the name, but it is made from steel-fermented cabernet franc.  Our server describes it as a “rustic Italian” wine, and says, among other flavors, that it has tastes of calamata olives.  We agree, and also think we taste dark plums and raisins, plus maybe some black cherry.  Although there’s lots of fruit tastes, it is relatively simple, in that there aren’t layers of flavor.  In any event, it would go great with pizza or pasta!

We really liked the clean, simple, modern style of Nappa's labels.

We really liked the clean, simple, modern style of Nappa’s labels.

  1. 2010 T’Jara Merlot $25

Just as my husband noted that the barnyard odors we used to sense frequently in North Fork wines are mostly gone, and I reminded him that it was merlots that featured it, we sniff this and find just a touch of barnyard.  Otherwise, lots of berry aromas and sour plum tastes in this somewhat tannic red.  Not at all soft, it would go well with pasta with a rich meat sauce.

  1. 2012 “dodici” $35

Named for the vintage year, this is a blend of 67% merlot, 28% cabernet franc, and 5% cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak for 18 months.  A Right Bank Bordeaux, says my drinking pal.  Aroma:  Captain Black tobacco, chocolate, red fruits.  Taste:  cherry, dry yet soft, with some tannins.  Compared with how it tasted a year ago, we decide it has aged well so far, though it could be overwhelmed by a big steak dinner.

I love doing side by side comparisons.

I love doing side by side comparisons.

  1. 2007 T’Jara Reserve Merlot $35

Also aged in French oak, this is, despite the name, a bit of a blend:  89% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, 2% malbec, 2% cabernet sauvignon.  “Unripe peach pit,” opines my pal, as he sniffs.  Really?  Okay, maybe.  Also currants, perhaps.  We taste and agree on dried fruits and unsweetened cocoa.  In a head to head with dodici, we choose the T’Jara.

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  1. 2012 Blackbird $40

Why Blackbird?  Because merlot is the French word for blackbird, says the server.  Well, close, it is “merle,” and this is Nappa’s Reserve Merlot.  Red cherry taste, quite tannic, not much aroma:  we think it would be better with food, but are not thrilled with this wine.  Not bad, mind you, but not worth the price.

One corner of the room.  The furniture is cute, but could be more comfy.

One corner of the room. The furniture is cute, but could be more comfy.

Reasons to visit:  the chance to taste and buy wines from more than one winemaker; some offbeat choices like the Frizzante and the Anomaly; the lovely food from Provisions; a relaxed atmosphere; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc, the Bordo, the T’Jara Reserve Merlot, the Dodici; freshly made espresso or cappuccino for those who have had enough wine.

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The Winemaker Studio May 11, 2013

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

I love spring on the North Fork.  We stopped at the Bay View farm stand and bought fresh local spinach and asparagus and leeks and rhubarb and duck breast and bacon, and at Briermere for a blueberry crumb pie.  And now a short pause for a disquisition on Briermere pies…Yum.  Later that evening we had sautéed duck breast with a local red wine, garlic, and maple syrup reduction, accompanied by spinach salad with bacon and hard-boiled egg, with a dressing made from Vines and Branches olive oil and Cara Cara Orange White Balsamic vinegar, and steamed asparagus. All seasoned with artisanal North Fork salt!  Pie for dessert, of course.  With it we had Bordo wine from Anthony Nappa, about which more later.

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After all that shopping we felt thirsty, so we decided to stop into the Winemaker Studio on Peconic Lane.  This attractive store front used to be called The Tasting Room, and though the name and cast of characters have changed, the idea is the same:  to showcase smaller wine producers who lack a place of their own.  Run by Anthony Nappa, it features his wines as well as wines by others whose “day job” is as winemaker for other vineyards.  They buy their grapes, some from upstate, and make their wines at Premium Wine Group, a facility housed at Leib Cellars but used by many.  Nappa used to make wines for Shinn; Russell Hearn, originally from Australia, was the winemaker for Pellegrini until he and his wife Sue decided to make their own label, SuHru (Sue and Russell, with an H for Hearn); John Leo works for Clovis Point and also makes his Leo Family wines; and Erik Bilka works at Premium and also makes his own Influence brand.

The Studio has several features which causes it to stand apart from most tasting rooms, aside from the variety of different labels it offers, because in addition to wine it also offers a beer taste from Southampton Publick House, some coffee drinks, and local gins and whiskies, plus cheese or cheese and salumi platters for $15.  The gin brands include McKenzie and Glorious, and the whiskies and ryes include Pine Barrens and Greenhook.  If you go there for Happy Hour—from 5-7 p.m.—you might want to try them.  The airy room includes a nice bar plus little tables and chairs, with art on the walls by local artists.  Sometimes there is a dog or two in residence, though not today.  Oh, and the room is attached to a pleasant little food shop which includes both local brands and some hard to find labels.

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The wine menu offers nine tastes, at $2-$4 per taste, and we opt to share four whites and four reds, skipping the lone rosé.  Chris, our server and we believe the manager of the shop, is impressively knowledgeable.  We overheard him giving very good advice to some neophytes to the region on which tasting rooms to visit based on which wines they had liked of his selections.  He also knows all about the wines he serves, and yet was tactful enough to let us sip in silence when he saw that was what we preferred.

  1.  2011 Nappa Anomaly                                    $19

This wine is an anomaly because it is a white wine made from pinot noir grapes, and since it spends no time on the skins it is white, not the rosé one would expect.  Yet the aroma reminds us of strawberry candy, a smell one would associate with a rose.  However, the taste is very much its own thing:  some earthiness, some citrus—perhaps key lime—some minerality, dry but fruity and quite delicious.  It is all steel fermented, so it is quite a refreshing, clean drink.

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2.  2012 SuHru Pinot Grigio                                              $16

I often drink pinot grigio, but this does not taste like any I have had.  The aroma is sweet, like white grape juice, with a bit of that cat pee smell.  The taste is also sweeter than a typical pinot grigio, maybe because the grapes come from upstate.  The tasting notes say pear, and I don’t disagree. Though many would like it, it’s not for me.

3.  2012 Nappa Luminous Riesling                                 $18

This is another wine made from upstate grapes, and though Chris categorizes it as “on the dry/off dry cusp,” we find it a bit sweet.  As is typical of the wines in this room, it is not typical!  An aroma of honeysuckle heralds a goldenrod honey and pineapple taste, with a hint of citrus.

4. 2012 Nappa Sciardonné Chardonnay                       $18

Pronounce the name of this wine in the Italian manner, in which “sci” is pronounced like a soft “sh,” and you’ll get the joke of this Italian-style wine’s name.  Although this is a steel-fermented wine it does undergo malolactic fermentation, and so has some of the buttery taste associated with chardonnays.  However, it does not have that overly buttery flavor of an oaked chard, and the aroma of “pine forest after a rain”—my husband’s idea—is quite lovely.  Very buyable.

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 5. 2012 Nappa Bordo                                                           $20

We sniff and discuss—tomato leaves?  Maybe.  Definitely vegetabley, with a hint of minerals.  Good fruit, with some typical cabernet franc tastes of berries, but not too heavy. The color is a light and pretty red.  This would go perfectly with the duck we just bought, we think, and are later proven correct. Buyable.

6.  2011 SuHru Shiraz                                                           $22

The syrah grape is called shiraz in Australia, and Hearn is from Australia, so…I tend to like syrahs or shirazes, whatever they are called, and this is no exception.  A slight cardamom aroma leads to dry but good berry tastes with some nice depth.  Unlike some shirazes, this is not overpowering.  They say a taste of Earl Gray, but I don’t get it.  However, this is definitely a buyable wine.

7.  2010 Nappa Dieci                                                             $35

To get the reason for this name, look no further than the date.  A blend of 37% cabernet sauvignon, 44% merlot, and 19% cabernet franc, this is a Bordeaux style wine, though not as interesting as a French Bordeaux at this price point.  However, it is a pleasant wine and would be good with food.

8.  2007 Leo Family Cellars Red Blend                           $40

Aromas of mineral, earth, and blackberry are not surprising for this merlot/petit verdot blend.  This wine is really interesting, and we comment that it is a humble name for an ambitious wine with lovely depth of flavor. We also admire the label!

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Intrigued by the liquors on offer, we try the McKenzie and Glorious Gins, and end up buying a bottle of Glorious Gin, which has a really interesting herbal flavor and makes a very good Gibson later that night.  We also get two each of the Sciardonné, Bordo, and Shiraz.

Reasons to visit:  A chance to taste some experimental and interesting wines in a pleasant setting; availability of local liquors and beer as well; Happy Hour ; with the little shop next store you could buy dinner (except for produce) and something to drink with it as well; an ever-changing roster of wines.