The Old Field: “Next Time, Bring a Picnic!” June 23, 2019

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The expansive picnic grounds are very inviting.

https://theoldfield.com/

The parting words from our excellent server were, “Next time, bring a picnic!” This was advice which many others seem to have followed, as we noted several groups at picnic tables scattered about the grounds, enjoying bountiful repasts along with glasses of Old Field wine.  Since many wineries now request that you not bring outside food, a great reason to visit Old Field is to picnic on the lovely grounds, enjoying the chickens and ducks that wander at will and the pretty scenery, punctuated by historic buildings. 

Historic buildings? Yes, some of them date to the 1860s, as the current owners are the sixth generation of the family to farm this land.  They are particularly proud of the restored Ice House, which may be reserved for small parties (I would say ten is about the limit.), and which overlooks a pretty pond. Speaking of parties, they were also gearing up to host a wedding—we could just see the tents down near the waterfront—of 250 guests. 

We came with friends, and sat on the rustic deck for our tasting.  One friend engaged our server in conversation about the farm, learning that it spans 23 acres, with about ten devoted to grapes.  She also spoke fondly of the family of owners, who are very much hands-on, in both the field and the winery.  At harvest time, she said, she helps hand-harvest the grapes.

Old Field offers eight wines to taste, in varied configurations.  You can do Chilled, three whites and a rosé, for $12; Red, four reds for $13; Everyday, four of their lower priced wines, mixed whites and reds, for $10; or Topflight, four of their higher priced wines, again mixed whites and reds, for $13.  We decided that the three of us (one opted not to drink) would share one each of the Chilled and Red tastings, which would allow us to sample all of their wares.  Our server Irene, who had already become a pal, told us she would divide each taste between two glasses, but I have to say, looking at the size of the pour, that we got a very good deal.

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The bar.

As we sat and sipped and chatted, admiring the pretty chickens—our friends have raised chickens, and so were quite appreciative—we decided that, regardless of the wine, this was a lovely setting in which to spend the nicest day so far of the summer (as one friend kept asserting, even though summer had just started). 

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One of the tables on the rustic deck.

1.        2016 Mostly Steel Chardonnay $22

The name “Mostly Steel” refers to the fact that they use 10% oaked chardonnay in this wine, which has a green apple scent, and tastes of mineral, salt, and citrus, with just a touch of what our friend characterized as “nut butter.”

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2.       2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay       $28

Because this is fermented in neutral—or used—oak barrels, this is not too buttery.  I do get the wood taste, however, which you would recognize if you have ever chewed on a pencil.  My husband likes it better than I do.  We detect some nut smells, as well as lemon.  The taste ends with a mild citrus flavor, like Meyer lemons.

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3.       2017 Charging Goose Sauvignon Blanc    $28

Old Field likes to acknowledge their feathered friends in the names of their wines, hence the name of this one, as well as the image of a goose on the label.  This is an unfiltered wine, which means you can see tiny bits of grape floating in the bottle, and also means secondary fermentation may take place in the bottle.  I like this the best of the whites.  It has a bit of a tingle on the tongue, and tropical fruit tastes, like kiwi and guava and pineapple.  Our friend thinks it smells a bit like cider, and I agree, adding that the aroma is a bit funky.  It would go well with local bluefish, which I am cooking for dinner.

4.       2016 Cacklin’ Rosé          $22

Irene tells us that this is a dry rosé, in the French style, and spends eight hours on the skins of the merlot grapes from which it is made.  It doesn’t have much aroma, and the taste is dry, slightly acidic, though sweet at the end.  Out friend asserts it has a banana taste.  I don’t get that, and offer “tangerine.”  Well, they say there are no wrong answers when it comes to the question of what you taste in wine.

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5.       2016 Dashing Duck Red Meritage             $16

This is their Bordeaux blend, a mixture of merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and pinot noir.  The aroma is sweet, reminding us, we all agree, of a fruit punch.  Our friend asserts it recalls the taste of the water her mother would soak raisins in overnight, to plump them.  I don’t know about that, but it is certainly a light red, with no body.  One of us notes that it is a good red for people who don’t actually like red wine.

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6.       2014 Rooster Tail            $16

90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, this has the expected cherry taste and aroma of a merlot, with a slightly funky aroma.  We agree to characterize it as a “spaghetti wine.” 

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An historic photo of the Old Field Ice House is featured on the label of the wine.

7.       2014 Ice House Rescue Cabernet Franc               $45

Why the name?  They used the proceeds from the sale of this wine to finance the restoration of the ice house.  Back before there was refrigeration, people would harvest blocks of ice in the winter and store it, insulated with hay, in ice houses. This is another fairly simple red, slightly fruity, with a touch of nutmeg, plus aromas of dark fruits. It would be okay with lamb chops.

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8.       2013 Merlot      $28

I detect a scent that it takes me some time to identify, and which I decide is camphor, mixed with cherry.  There’s also a touch of something chemical at the end of the taste, though primarily it tastes of black cherry.

9.       2014 Pinot Noir

Extra!  Irene notes that, when she has an open bottle of this, she likes to share it, though usually it is only for wine club members.  Good move.  We like this the best of the reds.  It is fairly complex, with some layers of flavor, and pleasant vegetal aromas of asparagus and cut grass.

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Reasons to visit:  Lovely picnic grounds, where you can bring your own food and purchase wines to drink; if I were bringing a seafood picnic, I’d get the sauvignon blanc to drink; if I were eating cheeses and charcuterie, I might still get that, or maybe the Rooster Tail; generous pour; chickens and ducks to watch running around.

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Old Field may be the most photogenic winery on the North Fork.

Clovis Point: First of the New Year January 4, 2019

Clovis Point:  First of the New Year          January 4, 2019

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Even the bare vines have a stark beauty.

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

All the leaves are gone from the vines, leaving the rows looking like lines of bent-legged dancers.  For our first winery of the year, we decided to return to Clovis Point on a Friday afternoon.  The tasting room was empty the entire time we were there, but on weekends, when they feature live music and artist talks, it is livelier.

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Artist talks?  Yes, every six weeks the winery invites an artist to come in and hang their works, setting aside one day when the artist can come in and talk to the people assembled there about the art. (Check their web site for times and performers.)  We admired this week’s art, large photographs of natural scenery by Leonardo Vatkin, as we perused the menu.

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The current art exhibit, which changes every six weeks, consists of photographs by Leonardo Vatkin.

The menu offers four options:  Cold, $18 for four whites and a rosé; Red, $12 for three reds; Complete, $28 for all of Cold and Red combined; and Premium, three of their best reds (one is actually a port) for $5 per taste.  We decided to share one Complete, which was plenty of wine for us both.

As we sipped and chatted, we also admired the roomy tasting room, still decorated with lights and poinsettias for the holidays.  There’s also a large porch area off to one side, which is enclosed with plastic windows for the winter.  They have a menu of snacks, which we only realized when our tasting was almost over and I happened to turn over the wine menu.  Had our server pointed it out, we might have bought something.  I was also surprised that she didn’t try to promote their wine club, which often happens when we reveal that we are locals.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

This is a somewhat typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, which is not a bad thing.  They say you should drink local wines with local foods, and this would go perfectly with a plate of Peconic Bay oysters.  With aromas of minerals and rocks and tastes of green apple, lemon/lime, and minerals, this is a pleasantly refreshing white.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Although this is simply called chardonnay, it has 3% gewürztraminer, which adds a note of complexity.  Steel fermented, it has a lemon drop candy aroma with a touch of funkiness.  The taste also has some citrus, plus lots of pineapple and a bit of nutmeg.  They recommend pairing it with melted brie.  Sounds good to me.  A popular party snack used to be melted brie coated with sliced almonds.  Hmmm…

  1. 2016 Black Label Chardonnay $28

Although this is partially oaked, it is only 30% French oak fermented, so it is not too oaky.  It smells like thyme honey, with a touch of something vegetal, plus some butterscotch.  I think it would taste better with food, but my tasting buddy comments on its “freshness.”  We like its combination of lemon zest and just a touch of butter.  By the way, in a classy touch, our server rinses our glass with a bit of each new wine, so as not to contaminate the taste with the previous one.

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Our line-up so far.

  1. 2017 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $35

Oh, guess what, this is barrel fermented (I miss one closed winery’s creative nomenclature.).  Although the aroma is VERY butterscotchy, the taste is not as buttery as I had feared.  Instead, it is a comparatively light oaked chard, with tastes of honey and pineapple, balanced with citrus.  Roast chicken with gravy, is what I’m thinking.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $22.50

Made from 100% cabernet franc, this has a strong aroma of strawberry shortcake.  My husband jokes that the smell is “presumptuous.”  However, the taste is not super fruity.  In fact, we agree that blindfolded, not seeing the pretty light pink color, you might not guess this is a rosé. It does finish with that characteristic strawberry taste, after initial impressions of minerality and citrus.  I often like to pair rosés with Chinese food, but I think this would go better with charcuterie.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

Now we get a fresh glass for the reds, starting with a wine listed simply as merlot, but which is 85% merlot, plus 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon.  The first thing that strikes me about this wine is the aroma, which is so strongly perfumed that I might be tempted to dab it behind my ears.  Instead, we sip, and discover, in addition to the expected cherry taste, lots of tannins.  Although this is already four years old, I think it might need more aging.  The tasting notes assert it has an “unforgettable velvety finish.”  We agree that “velvety” is not a word we would choose.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $35

Again, this is a bit of a blend, 96% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot.  We sniff and get blueberries and a funky forest floor, mossy smell.  The taste is pleasant, with, in contrast to the merlot, not a lot of tannins, and tastes of purple plums and other fruit.  Though it is not complex or deep, it is good, and could go with a steak or lamb chops.

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Note the small battle, which makes this a rather expensive wine.

  1. 2015 Syrah $34 for 500 ML (a small bottle)

88% syrah, 10% merlot, and 2% cabernet sauvignon.  Our server explains that this comes in a small bottle because they “don’t grow much” syrah.  My tasting pal jokes that it “tastes like wine,” but I get what he means.  It has sort of a generic red wine taste, with some tannins and a hint of pepper at the end.  The aroma is a bit funky, with some pine.  Though again not deep, it is good, and would go well with short ribs or other fatty meats.  After this, the server asks if we want to buy a taste of any of the premium wines, but we decline, and decide, though we liked everything, not to buy any.  Like many small wineries (they only have ten acres, and buy some grapes from other North Fork vineyards), they lack economy of scale, so their prices are a bit high for what you get.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, more consolidation of wineries happens.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room; live music many weekends plus art shows; good wines, especially the sauvignon blanc, the Black Label Chardonnay, the merlot; if I were to get a glass to sip during a performance, I would get the cabernet franc, which is very drinkable on its own.

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.

Paumanok Vineyards:  Poetry and the Vines        September 29, 2017

https://www.paumanok.com/history.html

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As a lover of poetry, I can’t help but be attracted to a winery that not only uses the Native American name Walt Whitman adopted for Long Island, but also quotes his poetry on their labels.  Their pleasant outdoor deck overlooking the vines is another reason to go there, and some of the wines are not bad, either!

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It was a perfect day to sit on the outdoor deck.

We went there with my brother and sister-in-law and their large well-behaved dog on a warm sunny day in September, and were happy to discover that they allow leashed dogs on the deck.  Our table was next to a bush full of Monarch butterflies, and my sister-in-law informed me it was a butterfly bush.  Aha.  We did have to walk inside for each new taste, but that also gave us a chance to chat with the servers, who were all quite pleasant, including one young woman from France, who informed us that Paumanok has an internship program with her school in Toulouse.  So that explains why the last time I was there I also had a French server.

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If you look closely, you’ll see the butterflies all over this butterfly bush.

The menu offers a flight of four whites or four reds, each for $12, so we decided each couple would share a flight of the whites and then the reds.  Because my brother bought at least four bottles of wine, the tastings were free.  The menu includes other options, which let you taste their sweet wines, their rosés, and their “Grand Vintage,” or premium wines.  Almost all of their wines have screw tops, so if you are cork-averse, these are a good option.

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The servers were all quite pleasant and helpful.

We also decided to get the Lombardi cheese and salami board for $20, which included a small loaf of bread, olives, dried apricots, and fig cake.  They have a small menu of other snacks, and don’t allow outside food.

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Our snack tray, moment before we decimated it. No outside food is allowed.

  1. 2016 Chenin Blanc         $28

Our server proudly pointed out that this is their signature wine, and that theirs is the only completely estate-grown chenin blanc in New York State.  They have reason to be excited about this wine, which we all really liked.  The aroma is grassy and herbal, and the taste starts fruity with citrus at the end, plus notes of minerality.  My brother said it was “like a mountain stream running over granite.”  We decided it would be good with food, and found that to be true that evening when we had it with scallop ceviche and grilled striped bass.  We bought the fish at Braun’s, of course.

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  1. 2015 Festival Chardonnay $18.99

As I surmised, given its position in the flight, this is their steel-fermented chard.  My sister-in-law found the aroma sweet, and I thought maybe like orange blossoms.  My brother agreed, but added steel pipes.  It’s quite dry and light, and evanesces quickly.  I said like putting your tongue on a flagpole.  We had some disagreement as to how much we liked it, though we thought it would be good with food.  My husband suggested mac and cheese, I mentioned carbonara, and my brother said it reminded him of an Italian wine.  My sister-in-law didn’t like the after-taste.

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The menu says the pour is a half to one ounce, but it seemed more generous than that to me.

  1. 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

Because they use neutral French oak barrels for the eight months of fermentation, this is lighter and not as strongly butter-scotchy as some oaked chards.  We found if quite pleasant, with aromas of vanilla and butterscotch and a taste that we compared to caramel cone ice cream with a lemony finish.  Of course, it would go well with roast chicken.

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  1. 2016 Dry Riesling $22

One of the servers was particularly well-informed, and she let us know that this riesling has no residual sugars.  The shorter the fermentation time, she told us, the drier the riesling.  We liked this white, too.  The aroma combines honeysuckle with a touch of something chemical, perhaps camphor.  It hits the tongue with tart fruit, including greengage plums and some apricot.  You wouldn’t necessarily identify it as a riesling from taste alone, we decided, and you wouldn’t want it with spicy food.  But it might be very good with charcuterie.

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  1. 2015 Festival Red $19.99

Now we switched to the reds, which they poured into the same glasses we had used for the whites.  This is a blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon and 48% merlot, with aromas of cherry and black current, plus spice.  Nutmeg?  It’s very dry and light, and our comments included “not much there,” “not enough fruit,” and “no complexity.”  My sister-in-law detected something “chalky” at the end.  We were not excited, though it is drinkable.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $28

Ooh, we liked this one much better.  Aromas of plums, leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate and tastes of complex fruits made this our favorite of the reds.  It has some tannins, and is elegant, not earthy.  We thought it would go well with venison, and my brother bought some bottles of it.

  1. 2013 Merlot $28

As usual, the merlot smells like black cherry and tastes like cherries and other dark stone fruits.  First my brother said it would be a good burger wine, but then he said, “The more I drink it the less I like it.”  My husband joked, “That doesn’t sound like a good business plan.”  The wine is light and rather monochromatic.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $28

The aroma is similar to the cabernet franc, but the taste is not as good.  No depth, we agree, and though it has dark fruit tastes there is no complexity.  My sister-in-law says it has a “watery” finish.  Meh.

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The tasting room is nice, but rather small.

Reasons to visit:  lovely outdoor deck with views over the vineyards; pleasant servers; the Chenin Blanc and, to a lesser extent, the other whites; the Cabernet Franc; you can bring your dog if you sit outside.

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The prettily rustic entrance

 

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Do the surroundings influence how a wine tastes? We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

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We enjoyed the view across the vines.

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She’s much too polite to ask for any, but my sister-in-law and brother’s dog thought the cheese tray smelled pretty good.

Old Field Vineyards:  Counting their Chickens      August 11, 2017

http://www.theoldfield.com/

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If you want to feel as though you are really out in the country, head almost all the way to Greenport and stop into the Old Field Vineyards, through the gate, past the barn and the Port-a-Pottie, to the rustic tasting room and open porch.  Old Field is one of our favorite wineries to bring guests when the summer weather cooperates, since their porch is a charming place to sit and have a tasting as you look out onto the capacious lawn and watch children and chickens running around.  Yes, chickens—and also roosters and a rather charismatic duck—have free rein of the place during the week (on weekends, when it is more crowded, they tend to be kept in the coop), and they sometimes will wander up onto the porch, where they thought my cousin’s hat straw might have been edible.

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Off in the distance you can see the picnic tables and kids running around.

It wasn’t, but the wines were quite potable.  The menu offers several options:  Sample our Rosés (2) for $4.00, Sample our Chardonnays (2) for $6.00, Sample our Reds (4) for $12.00, or Sample our Everyday Mixed Flight (4) for $10.00.  We had just eaten many oysters in Greenport at the Little Creek Oyster Farm, so we didn’t need snacks, but this is one place where you may bring a snack, or even a picnic.  One cousin, S., wanted to try one rosé and one chardonnay, and the friendly and accommodating server told her that was no problem.  The other cousin, R., opted for the red tasting, and we chose the mixed one, so we were able to try all the wines—plus one extra which was not included!

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I hope people heed this sign.

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One rooster.

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Another rooster.

We chatted with our server about the fowl, and he noted that they actually serve a purpose, providing both pest control, as they gobble up bugs, and fertilizer for the vines.  If you go on their web site, you will see that this is not the only part of their dedication to all things natural.  The vineyard also has an interesting family history, so it is worthwhile to ask about it. We were busy chatting amongst ourselves this time, so we didn’t get into those stories.  Also note that the following descriptions of the wines are not exactly in the order in which they appear on the menu, but are rather in the order in which we tasted them.

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  1. 2014 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay      $28

This was one cousin’s first taste, and she liked it.  The aroma is butterscotch-y, but the taste is not too buttery, since it is a blend of oak and steel fermented chards.  It has some light citrus notes as well.

  1. Blush de Noir $18

Our tasting began with this rosé made from pinot noir grapes.  We all agreed it was very light, with lots of grapefruit aroma and not a lot of fruit taste, and surprisingly lemony for a rosé.  My cousin thought it could go with the pesto I had made a couple of nights ago, or seafood in a rich sauce, like scallops Alfredo.

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This chicken was quite sure my cousin’s hat was edible.

  1. 2014 Rooster Tail $20

My other cousin’s tasting started with this red, a blend of mostly merlot with a little cabernet franc.  “Nice, potable, everyday wine,” was his judgment, and we all concurred.  The aroma combines cherry and tobacco with a bit of funkiness and the taste is dry, with cherry and not a lot of fruit.  We got this one in our tasting as well.

  1. 2014 Mostly Steel Chardonnay $23

Comparing this chardonnay with the other one led to lots of conversations about oak vs. steel, and their various virtues and shortcomings.  Overall, we thought this was the preferable chard here, clean and refreshing, with some green apple taste and lots of citrus. R commented on its “up front flavor.”  S laughed that she had said the other chard smelled “woody” and this one smelled “metallic.”

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The Cacklin’ Rose is quite dark, compared to their other rose.

  1. 2014 Cacklin’ Rosé $16

Venturing on her second taste, S commented that this smelled pleasantly like “old library.”  It spends 24 hours on the skins, so is a more flavorful rosé than the other one.  We all liked it, and I noted that it tastes like macerated strawberries.

  1. 2013 Merlot $26

The server mentioned that this was made from two clones of merlot, so we asked him to explain what that meant.  They used to have two different clones of merlot, each grown in a separate field, but they discovered that one grew better than the other, so the weaker one was ripped out.  As a result, this particular mixture ends as of 2015.  Too bad, because it was quite yummy.  In fact, we bought two bottles of it.  It has lots of fruit, and S said she tasted cranberry, and we added yes, and also ripe cherries.

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I love the mis-matched table clothes on the bar.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $38

We all agreed that this, from R’s tasting, was the weakest of the reds, described by R as “watery.”  It evanesces, I added, making use of my favorite word this summer.  It has an aroma of red fruits and forest floor.

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  1. 2010 Commodore Perry $38

Named for the illustrious ancestor of the current owners of the vineyard, this is a wine they only make in good years.  Cherry, tobacco, chocolate, thyme, juniper or bay leaf were some of the taste descriptors we used for this merlot.  Also, “serious legs” and “very good.”  We also learned that it was quite appropriate to name a wine for Commodore Perry, since he was known to carry wine with him on his voyages to give as gifts.

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  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Speaking of gifts, after we paid for our tastings and the two bottles we bought, our cousin gave our server a very nice tip, at which point he offered did we want to taste anything else?  We looked over the menu and realized that we had tasted every wine on it (nine in all, counting Rooster Tail twice).  Ah, he said, but how about this one that is not on the tasting menu, producing a bottle of Charging Goose Sauvignon Blanc.  S, noting that she had grown up on a farm, said it smelled like straw.  We all liked this, too, and decided its lemon flavor would have gone well with those oysters we had eaten earlier.

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Charging Goose? Maybe that’s why they have chickens and ducks, but no more geese.

Reasons to visit:  you want to really feel as though you are out in the country; you want a place where you can bring a picnic and let children run around; you like chickens; the Rooster Tail, the Mostly Steel Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, the 2013 Merlot, the Commodore Perry.

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The netting on the grapes prevents the birds from eating them.

 

Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

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The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

Paumanok: A Bit of a French Accent 8/29/15

https://www.paumanok.com/

Watch for the oyster sign!

Watch for the oyster sign!

“We have the only chenin blanc in New York State,” asserts our server, so we are interested to taste the wine made from this French grape.   But more about that later.  On this beautiful late summer afternoon, the outside deck is filled with small groups enjoying the weather and Paumanok’s menu of raw oysters ($25 for a dozen) or large variety of cheese or charcuterie plates from Catapano goat farm and Lombardi’s Market.

Most people elected to sit outside on this beautiful day.

Most people elected to sit outside on this beautiful day.

The tasting room is small, but we manage to find room at the bar where we assess our choices.  The tasting menu lists nine options, from one taste of their sparkling wine to four whites or four reds for $12 each flight.  We opt to share one of each, but that still does not get us tastes of all their wines, in particular most of the Festival line.  Maybe next year.  The sign outside says “Winery of the Year,” but I’m not sure what that is based on.  However, it is a pleasant place, especially in the good weather when you can sit outside; the wines, while none of them send us into outer space, are fine; and I have to favor a place that quotes Walt Whitman on their labels (Walt, born on Long Island, liked to use the Native American name for Long Island—Paumanok—in his poetry.).  The gift area has a small selection of t-shirts and other gift items, but no volumes of Whitman’s poems!

The menu of tastings

The menu of tastings

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                    $24

If we had decided to have oysters, this is the wine I would have chosen to have with them.  The aroma is grassy and minerally, the taste tart and lemony with some tropical fruit notes.  Excellent.

Our first two tastes

Our first two tastes

  1. 2014 Chenin Blanc $28

I suppose because the bar is crowded, our server pours our tastes two at a time, which is good, because the wines are too cold, so our deliberate style of tasting—sniff, discuss, take notes, swirl, taste, discuss, take more notes—gives them time to warm up a bit. This is also a pleasant wine, a touch sweeter than the Sauvignon Blanc, with not much smell.  We decide we taste some sweet orange, perhaps tangelo.  A nice light summer wine, and you wouldn’t want to pair it with any food that was too assertive, as it would get lost.

A good oaked chardonnay if you don't like oaked chardonnays.

A good oaked chardonnay if you don’t like oaked chardonnays.

  1. 2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

Our charmingly French-accented server points out that they have a steel-fermented chard on the Festival list, as we discuss the differences between steel versus oak and what we like about each.  We also notice that almost all the wines have screw caps, a boon to the corkscrew-use-challenged.  This is not overly oaky, with a toasty aroma and some vanilla taste, but not too sweet.  “A crowd pleaser,” we decide.  I think it would pair well with shrimp.

The riesling about which we disagreed.

The riesling about which we disagreed.

  1. 2014 Dry Riesling $22

My husband, a riesling fan, doesn’t particularly care for this one, which he finds not “riesling enough.”  I like it.  It has a bit of that cat pee aroma, plus some apple.  Our server says it has green apple tastes, and we agree, and would add a touch of Key lime citrus.  Simple and refreshing, this is a good riesling if you are not particularly a riesling fan.

  1. 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling $20

If you are counting, you realize that this is our fifth out of four white wine tastes, which we get courtesy of our server who, noticing our seriousness, wants us to try a different style of riesling and gives us a small sample of a wine from a different flight.  This is fairly sweet, almost candy-like, also relatively simple, and not to our taste—but it might go well with Thai food.

pau fest red

  1. 2012 Festival Red $20

The label says this “should be enjoyed with red meat,” but I would say not too red.  Maybe pork chops or veal or a cheese plate, as it would not stand up to a big steak.  A blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon and 48% merlot, this has a slightly piney aroma and is quite drinkable.  It is mellow, not complex, with a touch of tannin.  “I get a tingle on my tongue,” says my drinking pal.

  1. 2012 Merlot $24

Eh.  No aroma, not much taste,rather underwhelming.  Pischochs, I say, which my husband says I can’t use in a review.  It’s a Yiddish term meaning…watery.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $30

One of the servers gives us some more information on this wine, noting that 2013 was a very good year, and that this wine, a combination of mostly cabernet franc with “a touch of merlot,” drinks more like a pinot noir than a cab.  I would agree.  It is another nice wine, with a bit of a funky and blackberry smell and cherry and berry taste.  It’s not powerful, though it has some depth.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Our server, who reveals she is from Toulouse, is pleased when we note that this is actually a Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 16% merlot, 2% petit verdot, and 86% cabernet sauvignon.  After she steps away we add to each other “Bordeaux light.”  Aromas of cherry, oak and red candy; tastes of red fruit, maybe plums, pleasantly dry.  Not a serious wine, we decide, but like almost all the wines we tried, fine.

At this point, we notice that there is no tip jar, which is too bad, since we would definitely have left a nice tip.  If we had elected to buy four bottles the cost of one tasting would have been deducted from the total, but we decide we don’t want any of the wines enough to buy four bottles.  However, there is nothing wrong with any of them (except that merlot!), so I wouldn’t cross this winery off your list if you were planning a visit.  It is particularly a good place to sit outside and get one of their food items with a glass of wine.  I’d recommend the Sauvignon Blanc with oysters or the Festival Red or Cabernet Sauvignon with a cheese or charcuterie plate.

I love that they quote Walt Whitman on the label!

I love that they quote Walt Whitman on the label!

Reasons to visit:  the Sauvignon Blanc, the only Chenin Blanc in New York State, the Festival Red, the Cabernet Sauvignon; a nice outside deck where you can enjoy their cheese or charcuterie or oysters with a glass of wine; labels that quote Walt Whitman.

One view of the outside deck.

One view of the outside deck.

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Clovis Point Winery: A Touch of History 4/19/14

 

Party bus in the parking lot.

Party bus in the parking lot.

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

Clovis Point Winery touches history in two very different ways:  it is named for a prehistoric type of arrow head that was used on Long Island, and the tasting room is in a converted 1920s potato barn.  The former provides an attractive design for their bottles, and the latter a comfortably rustic space.  There is a long tasting bar plus barrel-based tables with stools, and then an outside semi-sheltered porch and an area of outdoor tables, both of which seem to be filled with groups.  Though a sign at the end of the driveway says “No Buses No Limos No Exceptions,” there are two party buses in the parking lot, so I assume the no’s apply only to those without reservations.

There was quite a crowd at the bar.

There was quite a crowd at the bar…

...but plenty of room on the porch.

…but plenty of room on the porch.

The last time we were at Clovis Point was in November of 2012, so it was time for a return visit.  That’s one great feature of reviewing wineries—every year they have new vintages, so you never run out of material!  This time we opted for two tastings:  the “Cold” menu, which includes two Chardonnays and a Rosé for $8, and the Red, which features four reds for $10.  We could also have chosen the Premium, which we had last time (check my entry for November 17, 2012), and which also has four reds, their more expensive options, for $15.  The pour, by the way, is officially one ounce according to the measured pourer, but our server was generous with us, as she saw us sharing tastes and carefully evaluating each one.  They also offer a small menu of snacks—mainly cheeses and meats and hummus—but, according to what we heard the server say to a nearby group, they are also open to people bringing in their own, as long as it’s not a whole huge meal.

She was talking to a group which included wine club members there to pick up their shipment, and we saw a number of other wine clubbers doing the same.  Surprisingly, one member of that group was chewing bubble gum throughout the tasting!  Not sure what that was about, but personally I don’t recommend it.

1)      2013 Stainless Chardonnay          $20

This continues to be an appealing wine, with 3% Gewürztraminer added to the Chardonnay for a bit of added complexity and depth.  The aroma combines honey (I say) with some citric and grassy notes, and has a tart but nice flavor that reminds me of gooseberries, with some citric flavor.   Very buyable, which we do.

2)      2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay        $25

The menu would have us taste the Rosé next, but our server suggests that we might like to taste the two Chardonnays side by side.  According to the tasting menu, this is made with 89% French oak fermented Chardonnay, 10% unoaked Chardonnay, and 1% Gewürztraminer, and it does provide an interesting contrast with the Stainless Chard.  Butterscotch and nutmeg “on the nose,” as they say, and definitely butterscotch on the tongue, ending with a touch of welcome lemon, so that it has a mixture of sweet and sour.  One could sip this if one liked oaked Chardonnays.  What to eat with it?  You’d need something assertive, like a well-flavored lobster or salmon dish.

The rose is a pretty color.

The rose is a pretty color.

3)      Rosé      $20

Again, this is a bit of a blend, which seems to be the house style:  97% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot.  My husband insists the aroma reminds him of wassail, that spiced warm red wine drink from Scandinavia.  Maybe.  The taste is pleasant, with typical Rosé strawberry flavor, tart, with a touch of sourness at the end.  A white pizza—no red sauce—would complement it.

4)      2006 Merlot       $18

76% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot are blended together to make an undistinguished typical Long Island Merlot.  Despite the blend, it lacks depth, but would be okay to drink with a burger.

Generous pour!

Generous pour!

5)      2012 Cabernet Franc       $28.50

This wine is also on the premium list, and our server is very enthusiastic about it—as she is about all the wines, I have to say.  She says this is a wine that “makes you want to have more.”  And indeed, the smell is lovely—cedar, blackberries, a touch of earthiness—but the taste?  Hmmm…not much to it, we say.  I guess it would be easy to drink.  The Cab Franc is blended with 4% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.

6)      2007 Merlot       $25

As we’ve heard frequently, 07 was a great year for North Fork grapes, and this one certainly proves that observation, as it is noticeably better than the 06.  Our server notes that she’s bringing a bottle or two of this to a friend’s house tonight!  We could bring this to a friend, too, though we’re not as happy with it as she is.  There are other Long Island Merlots, like Lenz’s, for example, that we prefer.  Nice fruit—cherries and blueberries.

Clovis Point on label...

Clovis Point on label…

...with explanation.

…with explanation.

7)      2006 Vintner’s Select Merlot      $30

Though this is a wine they “only make in good years,” we find it to be just pretty good—not a knockout.  The server describes it as “smooth,” and my drinking companion notes “the barnyard has been tamed.”  Spice and fruit aromas precede tastes of brambly fruit. The Merlot is blended with 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.

Reasons to visit:  Pleasant tasting room, often with live music (we just happened to leave before it started today); the Stainless Chardonnay.

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