Bedell Cellars: Price/Quality Question September 8, 2018

Bedell Cellars:  Price/Quality Question    September 8, 2018

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https://www.bedellcellars.com/

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

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

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

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1.        2017 Sparkling Rosé      $45

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

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The label is certainly pretty.

2.       2017 Viognier    $30

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

3.       2016 Taste White            $40

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

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4.       2016 Cabernet Franc      $45

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

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It is a fairly generous pour.

5.       2016 Malbec     $50

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

 

On to Corey Creek!

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

 

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

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

 

1.       Syrah

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

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Our Corey Creek tastes

2.       Cabernet Franc

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

 

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

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Look how big those grapes are getting!

Bedell Cellars: Artistic Elegance  July 6, 2017

https://www.bedellcellars.com/

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The weather man was predicting rain, so we decided to take our guests to Bedell, rather than opt for a winery where we would sit outside.  As it happened, the sun came out, but we did not regret our choice.  Bedell has some lovely and interesting wines, and the most artistic labels on Long Island.  As we’ve been told before by servers, the owner is on the board of the Museum of Modern Art, and he commissions labels from various modern artists.  Given the prices on the wines, maybe they could include little reproductions of the artwork with the purchase of each bottle!

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Each label is also a work of art.

The tasting room is small and simply elegant, with a high ceiling and a black and white color scheme. There is also a covered porch to one side.  We settled down at a table for four and perused the flight menu—which didn’t take long, as they have simplified their options.  Now there is only one choice—a flight of five wines for $20.  Each couple opted to share a tasting, which worked out fine.  They also have a small snack menu, with one unusual choice:  an individual serving of North Fork honey.  We had brought some mixed nuts, which helped us appreciate at least one of the wines, as you will see.

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Their menu of snacks.

  1. Sparkling Rosé 2016      $45

What a perfect way to start our tasting, especially since we were also celebrating my husband’s birthday.  A pretty pink—“Nice color for a bridesmaid’s dress,” opined our friend—with an aroma of strawberries, this is made from a mixture of 60% merlot and 40% cabernet sauvignon.  Unlike the sparkling white we had here last time, this is made by injecting CO2, not by the méthode champenoise.  While not complex, the taste is delicious, crisp and dry and fruity.  One of us threatened to drink a whole bottle…

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  1. Taste White 2015 $50

Our server informed us that this was the “wine of the month,” and was therefore on sale at half price.  Noting the vintage, I opined that they wanted to clear out the stock to make space for a newer wine, as many whites are better drunk young, not aged.  Both the blend of grapes and the aroma intrigued us.  It is a combination of 65% albariño, plus chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, and is steel fermented.  We kept sniffing and discussing the smell, which we described variously as mineral, burnt cork, funky, and garden mulch.  The taste was equally complicated, with fruit, mineral, metal, and citrus notes.  We liked it, but were wondering about food pairings, since it has an unusual flavor and would overwhelm something delicate, like sole.  I’m thinking it might have gone well with the grilled swordfish topped with tomato relish my friend had later for dinner at ALure.

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  1. Gallery 2014 $75

That’s quite a price for a Long Island white, and though we enjoyed the wine we did not feel it was worth it.  A combination of 65% chardonnay and 25% viognier aged in oak, plus 10% steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, we thought it was slightly reminiscent of a California chardonnay, though not as oaky.  The taste was complex, with notes of citrus and salt and mineral and some butterscotch.  We felt it was a bit too sweet, though I think that may have been the fruitiness rather than the sweetness.  When we ate some nuts and then tasted it again, we liked it better, so it is definitely a food wine.

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There are not many wineries where the wine labels could also double as art museum labels.

  1. Merlot 2014 $35

We got clean glasses for the reds.  Mmm, this smelled delicious, with lots of fruity, plummy, cherry aromas.  It also tasted quite good, dry, but with lots of fruit and a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  Nice tannins.  It might age well.  You could have this with steak and be quite happy.  Or bison, which, as our server informed us, is what it was paired with in 2009 at a Presidential inauguration lunch.

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  1. Cabernet Franc 2014 $45

“This sends nine months in neutral oak,” our server told us, and we felt pretty neutral about the wine as well.  Just okay, was my judgement.  Definitely tasted red plums and other fruits in this dry red, but it was not as full-bodied as the merlot, which we all preferred.

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One side of the bar.

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A table, with a view out to the porch.

Reasons to visit:  attractive tasting room and covered porch; the pretty labels; the Sparkling Rosé, the Taste White, and the Merlot.  I also noted a trend I’ve seen in more and more tasting rooms—you can buy a bottle to drink there, but it will cost you more than if you buy a bottle to take home.  $10 more in this case!

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Bedell Cellars: High Art October 17, 2015

http://www.bedellcellars.com/

The bottles feature works of art by contemporary artists.

The bottles feature works of art by contemporary artists.

“Our owner is on the board of the Museum of Modern Art,” explained our well-informed server when we commented on the art on the wine bottle labels.  “He commissioned Chuck Close to do that one,” she added, as we admired the bunch of grapes on one label.  Wow.  And the prices of the wines also elicited a wow, including the Musée 2010, which is $125 a bottle.  You can learn more about the artists and the labels on Bedell’s web page, so I’m just going to discuss what’s in the bottles.

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And what’s in the bottles is quite good—though I’m not sure it’s $125 good.  The tasting menu offers two options:  five Estate wines for $15, or five Premium wines for $20, both featuring three whites and two reds.  We decide to share a Premium tasting, which turns out to be a good idea, as the pour is generous.  We also decide to return later in the winter to try the other menu.

One view of the large porch tasting room.

One view of the large porch tasting room.

We are standing at the bar, our favorite place for tastings, as this gives us the chance to chat with the servers and observe the scene.  This part of the tasting room is not very large, but an enclosed porch off to one side is much bigger, and is where most of the people doing tastings have congregated on this brisk sunny fall day.   It looks to us as though they could use more help behind the bar as it gets quite busy, but the servers do a good job of keeping us in mind, and we’re impressed that they never stop smiling.

This is my favorite label

This is my favorite label

  1. Blanc de Blanc 2010 $60

We start off with a 100% chardonnay sparkling wine, fermented in the bottle using the Méthode Champenoise.  Whoa, this is REALLY dry, also crisp and quite good, with a nice minerality and lots of flavor.  The aromas include yeast, mushrooms, and celery.  As it sits in the glass we get some hints of sweetness.  Definitely lighter than a California sparkling chardonnay, it would pair well with goat cheese or a mushroom terrine.  Mushrooms are on our mind lately, since we hope soon to check out the local mushroom growers whose storefront always seems to be closed.

  1. 2014 Viognier $40

Mmm, this smells nice, maybe some sticky peach, and my husband says French toast.  Maybe.  Light, dry, with what the tasting notes call “flinty minerality,” and also some peach tastes, this is a delicate wine that would go well with local flounder lightly sautéed in butter.

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  1. 2013 Gallery $75

This is a blend of 70% chardonnay, 24% viognier, and 6% sauvignon blanc, and is described by our server as a “white wine for red wine lovers.”  I want to ask her why, but she’s called away at that moment.  Perhaps it is because of the complexity of the flavors or the richness of the taste.  The wine is first fermented in steel, then spends ten months in new French oak, so it does have some buttery vanilla notes, but not too much.  We taste unripe peach, minerals, “hay” (according to my husband), and a touch of something chemical.  This starts off seeming quite tart, then gets sweeter, with a slight tingle on the tongue, and I could see drinking it as an aperitif.  It would also be fun to give this to people at a tasting and see what they make of it.

Merlot art

Merlot art

  1. 2013 Merlot $35

We get a new glass for each red.  The merlot spends ten months in French oak, so not very oaky.  We smell some chocolate, maybe Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, then taste.  Briermere blueberry crunch pie, my tasting pal insists.   Hmmm.  It is very soft, not at all tannic, though dry, and does not have lots of the cherry flavor you usually get in a Long Island merlot.  It’s okay, but I see no reason to buy it over many other merlots.

I guess you could soak off the label and say you own a Chuck Close print.

I guess you could soak off the label and say you own a Chuck Close print.

  1. Musée 2010 $125

A Right Bank Bordeaux blend, this is 65% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, 3% petit verdot, and 2% syrah, and features the Chuck Close label.  Though the price somewhat takes our breath away, this is a pleasure to drink.  It is aged 14 months in French oak, and has lots of layers of fruit flavors, with very soft tannins.  Nice mouth feel, and the aroma reminds us of raisins or Craisins.  We have had the opportunity to taste very high end French Bordeaux, and this does not quite equal those (at least in memory—don’t know what we’d think in a head to head tasting), but it is quite good.

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Reasons to visit:  the chance to admire some very artistic labels; the Blanc de Blanc, the Gallery, the Musée.

Patient pooch on the porch

Patient pooch on the porch

Another view of the porch

Another view of the porch