Lenz Winery: A Touch of Paris March 29, 2019

https://lenzwine.com/

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As our server explained a couple of times, the winemaker at Lenz likes the French style; hence their pinot gris, not pinot grigio, for example. But they recently changed their winemaker, so it will be interesting to check back in a couple of years and see if the wines are any different.

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The vines are still bare, but we’ve seen a few signs of spring on the North Fork: robins on the lawn, rolled up snow fences in the fields, signs promising to open soon.

On this gray, drizzly late March day there was only one other group at the winery, so we were able to have a nice chat with the very well-informed server, who seemed to have a real appreciation for the wines.  Because she had to open fresh bottles for us, she carefully sniffed a small portion of each one before she poured, actually rejecting one bottle as not quite right.

The attractively barn-like tasting room has plenty of room for groups, and a small selection of wine-themed gifts, as well as local art for purchase.  They offer a Catapano cheese tray, and, though they currently allow you to bring in snacks, they may expand their food offerings in the future and limit outside foods, so check their web site before you go.  My husband thinks it is amusing that a couple of lower beams have signs warning “Please Watch Your Head!,” a feat he deems impossible without a mirror.  And that was before we had a drink.

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As we sipped and chatted, we discussed the changeover at many wineries from cork to screw top.  Screw tops have several advantages over corks, although, as our server explained to us, if you use a top end supplier, as many NoFo wineries do, they’re actually not all that much cheaper. However, there is less chance for a wine to become “corked,” among other problems.  On the other hand, if you have a wine you want to age, aging happens more quickly with the breathability of a cork.

On the menu are three options: Library, of their highest end wines, $15 per taste or $20 for two; Estate, five of their middle label wines for $16; or Premium, five of their higher end wines for $20.  Since Lenz is one of the older wineries on the North Fork, first established in 1978, they can label some wines “Old Vines” without exaggeration.  Though many of their wines are reasonably priced, the price tags on some of the Library wines gave us pause.  $125?  Wow.  I don’t know whether they’re worth that much, and I also haven’t tried them!

We opted for the Estate flight.

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  1. 2014 Pinot Gris               $25

We liked this French style expression of the grape, with its aromas of yeast and citrus and tastes of kumquat or mandarin orange.  My tasting buddy said it has a creamy mouth feel.

  1. 2014 White Label Chardonnay $15

One reason we picked this flight was because the Premium flight featured an oaked chard, and though I have had oaked chards that were unobjectionable, in general I prefer steel fermented.  This one is steel fermented, but has a small amount—about 5%–of oaked chard added “to soften” it.  We liked this wine, too.  The aroma includes lemon and a touch of cedar, and the taste is mildly lemony, like a Meyer lemon, plus a little pear.  We are a bit short on whites in the cellar, so we decide to buy two bottles of this one.

  1. 2016 Blanc de Noir $24

This rosé is made from 100% pinot noir (hence the name, though I bet someone thought it was amusing to call this “white of black”), and is left on the skins for just three and a half hours.  Again, this is a French style rosé, so quite dry, with the expected aroma of strawberries, though also quite minerally.  Like a bunch of sliced strawberries without added sugar, perhaps early in the season before they get very sweet and fruity.

  1. 2014 Estate Selection Cabernet Sauvignon $35

Our server explains that they make the Estate Selection wines from the better vintages.  This is a “typical Long Island cab,” she adds, “lighter, less tannic, fruit driven.”  I’d agree.  I really like the smell, which has lots of berry and cherry.  It tastes like plums, and is pleasant, but rather monochromatic, I tell my husband, just as he turns to me and opines that it is “not complex.”  So we are in agreement.

  1. 2014 Estate Selection Merlot $35

Although it is called merlot, our server informs us that it is 10-20% cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.  There’s a touch of the earthiness you find sometimes in NoFo merlots, which I don’t care for.  Although the wine is not bad, I like it the least of the ones we’ve tasted.  It does have that black cherry taste of merlot.  I think it might do better if it ages a while longer.  My husband says it “lacks gravitas,” one of his favorite phrases recently.  I could see having it with lamb chops.

Reasons to visit:  a good-sized tasting room whether you are with a group or just a couple, with an outdoor area for summer seating; small selection of gift items and local art for sale; the Pinot Gris and the White Label Chardonnay; they have some serious wines.

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We admired the chalk drawings, and were told that a local woman, named Patty, does them, changing them with the seasons.

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Lenz Winery: The Older the Better January 11, 2018

https://lenzwine.com/

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Lenz is justifiably proud of being one of the oldest wineries on the North Fork.

“We’re the second oldest winery on Long Island,” our server proudly told us.  Most people know that certain wines improve with age, but I’ve also learned that grape vines do, too.  As the vines get older, their roots go deeper and get stronger, and the grapes also get better.  The first modern winery on the North Fork was Hargraves, now Castello di Borghese, founded in 1973.  Lenz started in 1978, but didn’t harvest their grapes for wine until 1988.  Now in their fortieth year, they have some really good wines on their list.

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Plenty of room at the bar during the week in the winter.

We had been housebound by snow and cold, and it was still rather chilly when we set out to do a tasting.  A quick walk around Greenport revealed a very quiet town, with many stores and restaurants closed for the season or open with limited hours or days.  However, we were able to stop into the book store to pick up a copy of On Tyranny and into The Weathered Barn to drop off dead light bulbs for recycling.

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One side of the tasting room.

Then we headed back west to Lenz.  The barn-like Lenz tasting room was quiet as well, as we were the only customers.  However, that meant we were able to have some in-depth discussions with our server on wine and the tastes of the ones we chose.

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And the other side.

The menu offers two choices: five Estate wines for $14 or five Premium wines for $18.  She also offered to customize an all red or all white tasting for a dollar or two more, and described the Estate choices as “lighter.”  We decided to share a tasting of the Premium wines, and were quite happy with all six of the wines we tried (Thanks to the power of the book, we got a sixth taste!).

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Lenz also has some wine-related items for sale, and a small gallery of art, also for sale.  They offer Catapano cheese for a snack, and do allow people to bring their own snacks.

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  1. 2015 Blanc de Noir Rosé            $24

We always compare rosés to Croteaux, and this one can stand up to the comparison.  It’s made from pinot noir grapes and has an aroma of strawberry.   It’s dry, but mouth-watering, with some nice citrus tastes.  I think blood orange, rather than lemon.  It’s not really a rosé for sipping on its own, but would be great with food.

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Cute label, too.

  1. 2014 Tête à Tête $25

As a blend, this changes from year to year.  This is a good one.  It blends 45% sauvignon blanc, 35% chardonnay, and 20% gewürztraminer for a dry, minerally and lemony white that would be great with lobster or Peconic Bay scallops.  We joked about gooseberries and other more obscure fruit comparisons, but I insisted that it did smell like gooseberries.

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  1. 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30

Lenz makes three different chardonnays, so at some point I’ll have to try their others, one of which is steel fermented and the other spends eleven months in oak.  This is sort of in the middle of those two, spending three months in neutral oak.  You can smell a bit of the oak, and also a light floral aroma.  This might be a good wine for someone who finds steel chards too lemony, but doesn’t like that big oaky taste of oaked chards.  Although there is a slight note of vanilla, what I mostly taste is green apple, plus some other flavors that make this a relatively complex white.  We decide it would be perfect with bluefish, or some other assertive fish.

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  1. 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50

We get a clean glass as we move on to the reds.  Cabernet sauvignon is a grape that takes longer to ripen than, say merlot, so it doesn’t do well every year.  However, 2010 had a long warm season, and was a good year for North Fork reds—including this one.  Blended with merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec, this is a very dark red with lots of dark fruit flavors including black cherry and a touch of tobacco.  It was aged two years in French oak.  It has the tannins to stand up to steak or roast lamb.  Another good one.

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  1. 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65

We like this one, too, though not as much as the cab sauv.  It is somewhat austere, a bit light for a red at this price point, with a purple plum and cherry flavor.  Not much aroma.  Our server tells us this could age 20 years, and tells about some of the older Lenz wines she has tasted.  We get the last of the bottle, so there’s a bit of sediment at the bottom of the glass. They don’t filter their wines.

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The one we took home.

  1. 2014 Estate Select Merlot $30

Extra!  Having noticed our preferences in the wines we’ve tasted, our server offers us a taste of her favorite of their reds, a new release.  Good move, as we buy a bottle and date it to be drunk in a few years.  The merlot is blended with cabernet franc and petit verdot and aged in French oak.  We like it much better than the Old Vines Merlot, and especially prefer the price.  It has more fruit, layers of flavor, and good tannins.

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Reasons to visit:  lots of good wines; a good compromise between the big commercial wineries and the smaller boutique ones, as it has characteristics of both; in the summer, they have an outdoor courtyard; the Estate Select Merlot, the Tête à Tête, and the Old Vines Chardonnay in particular, but we liked all the wines.

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Sometimes the vines in the snow remind me of dancers. In this case, they are hip deep in old snow.

Comtesse Thérèse February 17, 2013

photo (23)http://www.comtessetherese.com/index.html

It was what Winnie-the –Pooh calls a “blustery day” (This is what happens when you hang out with a 21-month-old.), and we thought we’d check out the Jazz on the Vine program at Jamesport Vineyard.  When we couldn’t find a place to park, we left and headed a little way down the road to Comtesse Thérèse, a combination bistro and winery.  We had only been there in the summer, when the tasting room is a charmingly disheveled back patio, with cast iron furniture and a view of the herb garden (and of the chef as he steps out of the kitchen to pick some herbs), so we weren’t sure what to expect.  The wind blew us around the front and through the door of the restored old house, where we quickly found ourselves in a cozy bar with a friendly and accommodating bartender.  Fortunately, since we had promised our granddaughter music, there was quiet jazz playing in the background.  The four of us settled into a corner of the bar and looked over the menu.  The option of 4 tastes for $8 sounded good, and the bartender intelligently figured out how to give us tastes of 8 wines—four and four—so we could sample a wider selection.  Although we didn’t stay for a meal, we have eaten there in the past and been very pleased with its French bistro-style food and emphasis on local produce.

  1. 2011 Chardonnay                             $13

The bartender starts us all off with their steel-fermented chardonnay, which is on sale.  An aroma of fresh-cut grass heralds a taste of steel and green apple, with some honey notes.  It is surprisingly mellow for an all-steel chard, and a bit unctuous, according to our son-in-law.  Very buyable, which we both accomplish.

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  1. Russian Oak Chardonnay 2009                   $22

Ooh, nice legs, we say.  This chard spends 4 months in oak, and we do detect an oaky aroma.  The flavor is light, with some notes of Meyer lemon—or maybe lemon dots!

  1. 2011 Sauvignon Blanc                                    $28

I think I smell a trace of something metallic as well as the more typical honeysuckle.  Nicely dry and a bit grassy, all we need now is a dozen local oysters!

  1. 2011 Rosé                                                            $22

Well, Croteaux remains the standard of excellence for NoFo rosés.  This one has a nice raspberry aroma, but has not much character and is somewhat monochromatic.  Well chilled on a hot day it might be fine, and the finish is nice.

  1. 2011 Blanc de Noir                                          $24

We like this rosé better, with its apricot aroma and edge of citrus flavor, though it is a bit sweet for our taste.

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  1. 2008 Hungarian Oak Merlot        $24

My notes for this wine are somewhat obscured by a 21-month-old’s “decoration,” but then I gave her a page from my notebook and another pen so she could take notes just like grandma.  Although this wine doesn’t have much aroma, it has a pleasant cherry flavor with some earthiness at first and tannins at the end.

  1. 2007 Aquebogue Estate Merlot                 $25 (for the 08)

Noticing our serious approach to the tasting, the bartender gives us the 07 Merlot rather than the 08 because, he says, it is better.  We do like it.  It has nice fruit with some acidity to add interest.

  1. 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon               $30

This one is a favorite with our daughter and son-in-law, who buy a bottle.  It has aromas and tastes of black fruits, like plums.  It would be good with lamb, because it has enough acidity to cut the fat.

  1. 2007 Canadian Oak Cabernet Sauvignon                               $32

And we prefer this one, and buy a bottle!  This is somewhat heavier than the Estate Cab Sauv, with more complexity and cherry flavors as well.  It would pair well with steak.  The bartender informs us that they are the only winery in the area to use Canadian oak.

Before she opened her own tasting room, we met “Comtesse Thérèse”—actually Tree Dilworth, an attractive young woman—at The Tasting Room, now The Winemaker’s Studio.  We had a delightful conversation with her, and were impressed with her passion for wine, but no, she is not actually a “Comtesse”!

Reasons to visit:  Cozy attractive bar area in the winter, charming garden in the summer; 2011 Chardonnay,2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 06 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 07 Canadian Oak Cabernet Sauvignon; you can go on after the tasting to have a meal in the pretty, intimate bistro.  Oh, and if you want to take notes, they have lots of feather pens.