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.

be room

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.

be viognier

  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.

be muse label

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

Premium Wine Group A. K.A. Bridge Lane A.K.A. Lieb Cellars August 5, 2015

http://premiumwinegroup.com/

http://liebcellars.com/

http://bridgelanewine.com/

lieb entrance

No, this winery has not entered the witness protection program or committed a crime; rather they have diversified their offerings to include both the lower priced options from Bridge Lane and their slightly higher end wines bearing the Lieb name.   Premium Wine Group—which appears prominently on the sign outside the tasting room—designates the facility attached to it where various wine makers on the North Fork come to use the production facilities, rather than make the rather hefty investment in their own.

At the far end of the building you can see the entrance to the wine-making facility.

At the far end of the building you can see the entrance to the wine-making facility.

What’s unique about the Bridge Lane wines is that they are offered for sale by the bottle, the box, or the keg, giving a whole new dimension to the term “kegger.”  A keg holds the equivalent of 26 bottles and, according to our server, is particularly popular for weddings and other large parties.  Just to give you a sense of relative costs, a bottle of Bridge Lane Chardonnay is $15, while a box is $40 and a keg is $240.  In the tasting room the Bridge Lane wines are poured from the tap, like beer, rather than the bottle.  You might think that this all indicates a lesser quality of wine, but we would be perfectly happy to drink most of them.  Busy Russell Hearn, who also has his own small label SuHru, is the winemaker for all the wines.

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

The tasting room is small, set up like a lounge (or, as a certain four year old—non-drinking—visitor  opined, “like a living room” ) with a bar on one side and banquettes around the walls.  We were there late on a week day, and had the space mostly to ourselves.  There are also picnic tables and comfortable Adirondack-style chairs outside.  The menu offers five Bridge Lane wines for $12 or five “featured” wines (Lieb label) for $12.  We opted for one tasting of each, so we could sample all of them.  Packages of crisp skinny bread sticks are on the bar for palate cleansing, and the four-year-old quite approved of them.

I list the tastes here in the order we had them, with the Featured selections second, marked with an *.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Merlot                               $16

White merlots have become more popular on the North Fork lately, and this one reminds us a bit of Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, though it is lighter.  It is tart and citrusy, a good summer quaff.

  1. *NV Rumor Mill Hard Cider $9

Yes, that’s $9 per bottle!  And you could serve this to wine lovers who would be quite happy to drink it.  It is made, as our server informed us, “from ten different varieties of apples,” all grown on the North Fork.  It does not taste particularly like a cider, and is tart, crisp and light, with a slight trace of bubbles.

lieb white

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Chardonnay $15

A steel-fermented chard, this has the fairly typical veggie aroma, and tastes citrusy and grassy and tart.

They can't call it champagne...

They can’t call it champagne…

  1. *2010 Lieb Cellars Blanc de Blanc $30

Made from pinot blanc grapes in the Méthode Champenoise, this is their entry in the sparkling wine category.  I smell a bit of yeasty bread, taste some green olive taste.  It is very dry, and pretty good, though I’d probably get a Cava or Prosecco rather than spend $30 for this level of sparkle.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend $16

A mixture of 29% chardonnay, 26% pinot blanc, 16% riesling, 14% viognier, 9% sauvignon blanc, and 4% gewürztraminer—everything except the kitchen sink, observes my husband—this is a quite pleasant drink, with a good balance of sweet and tart.  When I came here with a group, this one was very popular.  The aroma has a bit of the forest floor funk, but the taste is not at all funky.

  1. *2014 Lieb Pinot Blanc $22

Our server proudly informs us that Lieb has the largest planting of pinot blanc in the United States, which they started in 1983.  In any event, this is a delicious wine, with some baked pear aromas and flowery, pineapple-y tastes.

The rose sure looks pretty.

The rose sure looks pretty.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Rosé                 $18

They make their rosé from a blend of cabernet franc and merlot, and we smell the typical strawberry aroma, taste some fruit.  Not complex, no finish, still no competition for Croteaux, but certainly drinkable.

lieb red

  1. *2013 Reserve Merlot $24

This is also very drinkable, a dry soft, very cherry merlot.  It spends 10 months in Hungarian oak, which, our server notes, is milder than French oak.  No tannins.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Red Blend $16

For $16, this is quite a good everyday red, which I could see enjoying with spaghetti and meatballs any night of the week.  It is a Bordeaux-style blend of 46% merlot, 37% cabernet sauvignon, 12% petit verdot, and 5% malbec, with a touch of earth and forest floor as well as dark fruit aromas and good fruit tastes, not sweet.  We notice that if one buys three bottles of any wine one tasting is free, and decide three bottles of the Red Blend would be a worthwhile investment.  Unfortunately, the red is served a bit too cold, perhaps a result of the tap system.

  1. *2013 Lieb Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

By the way, calling a wine “reserve” means whatever the winery wants it to mean, but usually means they think this is a particularly good wine.  They would be correct with this one, which we would buy for our cellar if we had room at the moment.  Lots of dark fruit, interesting tannins, it’s a delicious dry red that could stand up to steak.

lieb board

Reasons to visit:  you can buy a keg of wine, how cool is that?; wine on tap; a pleasant calm tasting room (or go to their Oregon Road room if you want to get further off the beaten track); almost all the wines, but for fun the Rumor Mill Cider; more seriously the Reserve Cabernet Franc; for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend.

lieb array

Here you can see the taps from which they dispense the Bridge Lane wines.

Here you can see the taps from which they dispense the Bridge Lane wines.