Kontokosta Winery: Sounds Good to Me January 17, 2016

http://kontokostawinery.com/

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

It was time to revisit Kontokosta Winery, with its lovely location overlooking the Long Island Sound, and we found the perfect reason to go there.  We recently learned that old friends of ours had bought a house near Greenport, but, what with work on the house and not much time for other activities, had yet to visit a winery.  Well, we said, it is high time to remedy that situation, and they were happy to go with Nofowineaux to a winery so close to their house.

Proving that you can’t rely on last year’s review, a major change in the menu switched the Anemometer white and red from their least expensive wines to their priciest—and they weren’t even on the regular tasting menu, but needed a supplement of $5 each to taste.  So I can’t tell you if they’re worth it, but many of the other wines are.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

The menu offers five whites for $15 or four reds for $15, so we opted to share one of each, and our friends chose to follow our lead.  Since it is a carefully metered one-ounce pour, that was fine.  They also have a menu of snacks and sweets and non-alcoholic drinks (called “Sound Bites,” a play on their location and their motto of “Sound Wines”), and forbid outside foods.

The tasting room is a high-ceilinged large space, with tables and a bar, where we opted to stand.  Considering it is January, we were impressed by how many people were there, but it was a three-day weekend.  Our server did a good job of keeping track of where we were in our tasting, and, as she saw our seriousness, began to give us more information on each wine.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

  1. 2014 Orient Chardonnay              $22

Like many North Fork tastings, this one began with their steel-fermented chardonnay, which our friend compared to a “non-sweet Limoncello.”  Not a bad comparison, since this had plenty of lemon flavor and aroma, plus some nice minerality, and maybe even a salty tang.  Good.

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  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25

As we sniffed the aroma of mango and citrus, one of our friends compared it to “Joe Malone perfume.”  Not being familiar, I can’t confirm or deny this, but the wine does have a lovely flowery scent.  The taste is equally pleasant, with good grapefruit and pineapple and other tropical fruits, plus mouth-watering acidity.  When we comment that this would be good with oysters, a discussion of North Fork oysters and where to get them ensues.  When the Old Mill Inn re-opens in the spring, we’ll have to meet there for their happy hour oysters.

  1. 2014 Viognier $25

Getting into the spirit of commenting on each wine, our friends describe the viognier as “more restrained and less dramatic” than the first two wines, and we agree.  The aroma is a bit sweet, with some mineral or rock and maybe a spice.  Cinnamon?  Nutmeg?  We can’t decide.  But this is another very drinkable wine, again on the tart, dry side, and would be good with creamy clam chowder.

  1. 2014 Field Blend $22

63% viognier and 37% sauvignon blanc.  Why?  Because they had that much of each left over last year, and only one vat in which to ferment them!  Nice to be able to drink your experiments, though we don’t like this as much as the previous wines.  It is quite light, and smells just like the viognier.

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

Dry!  Just .2% residual sugar, says our server, and we believe her.  It tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than their sauvignon blanc, very tart, with lots of acidity.  If you like a fruity somewhat sweet riesling, or even if you are thinking of a riesling to complement spicy food, this is not it.

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  1. 2008 Blum Merlot $19

A year ago we had the 07 Blum Merlot, and was told this was the last of it, but I guess they had one more year of these vines before Ray Blum’s vineyard was sold to Sparkling Pointe, which tore out the merlot vines.  The aroma has lots of sweet cherry in it, and none of the barnyard which we detected in the 07.  Our friend thinks there’s a bit of a whiff of creosote, which is possibly from the French oak it was aged in.  It tastes less fruity than it smells, with some woody notes but no vanilla.  We get new glasses for the reds, by the way.

  1. 2013 Estate Merlot $34

We like this merlot much better, and all agree that we taste and smell lots of blackberry, plus minerals and flowers.  “Easy on the tongue,” opines our friend.  That may be the tannins, since the end taste is quite dry.  This one is aged in Hungarian oak, as are the rest of the reds.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

As our server pours this, she brings out another bottle and two fresh glasses and pours us another wine, the 2012 Cab Sauv (about which more in a moment).  Our friends are impressed with what I call the power of the book.  Often, when wineries see you are serious about the wine, they give you a little something extra.  Sometimes it is another taste of a wine not on the menu, or other times just some extra attention and more stories about the making of the wine.  I appreciate both.  We like this one, as it has lots of rich fruit flavors and aromas but is still pleasantly dry.

Our special extra taste!

Our special extra taste!

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

I should really label this 8A, since it is an “extra.”  Our server explains that she thinks we should try this, as there are only a few cases left, and she thinks it is really excellent.  She’s right.  It is similar to the ’13, but mellower and smoother and fruitier.  We buy a bottle.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $40

“Hmmm,” muses our friend, “I think I detect a note of Robitussin.”  Ha ha.  But it does taste of dark fruits, perhaps plums, again with some nice minerality and some promising tannins.  We get into a discussion of the meaning of “terroir,” and wonder if Kontokosta’s wines have more minerality than some others because of their location on the Sound, which we can see out of the windows.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Reasons to visit:  you are in or near Greenport and don’t want to travel too far; almost all of the wines, but especially the Orient Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Estate Merlot, and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (but hurry before they sell out); the location on the Sound (maybe some time we’ll get there in the warm weather so we can stroll towards the water).

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The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

Kontokosta Winery: Simply Good March 28, 2015

http://kontokostawinery.com/

kont building

Kontakosta’s motto—“Sound Life.  Sound Wine.”—is a nice play on words, since they are situated on a high bluff overlooking Long Island Sound and they also follow ecologically sensitive practices—such as generating their electricity through the use of a windmill.  The wine is, in general, quite nice.  We also speculated whether some of the briny, mineral tastes in the wines might come from their waterfront location.

One side of the tasting room

One side of the tasting room

The tasting room is a beautifully spare space, all white and black, with large windows looking out over the vineyards.  There’s a bar at one end and long tables for those who prefer to sit, plus an upper balcony.  Our group of four opted for the bar, where we found very informative and engaging servers.  The tasting menu offers two flights, one of five whites for $14 and another of five reds, also $14.  We decided that each couple would do one of each, sharing as we went.  We also shared a cheese tray, which consisted of a very generous and tasty block of Toussaint raw cow milk cheese and a sleeve of crackers for $12.

Looking up to the balcony

Looking up to the balcony

We started with the whites.

  1. NV Anemometer White                              $16

This is their table white, made from sauvignon blanc grapes from various vintages.  Our friend said it smelled like a lemon bar, which was quite accurate.  We also detected some vegetable aromas and some minerality.  The taste was also somewhat lemony and mineral, tart but not terribly crisp.  We all agreed it would go well with oysters.  (The name anemometer, by the way, refers to a device that measures wind speed, an indirect homage to their windmill.)

The Anemometer White

The Anemometer White

  1. 2013 Orient Chardonnay $22

Before we could ask, our server volunteered the information that it is called Orient because the grapes come from Sargon Vineyard, out in Orient.  A steel-fermented chard, this has typical honeysuckle and orange aromas and some gooseberry flavor.  My husband found it too mineral, with some wet rock flavors (whatever that tastes like), but the rest of us liked it.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $25

“This is made in the Sancerre style,” volunteered our server, “And it won a gold medal!”  We sniff and agree:  pineapple and mango on the nose and in the mouth.  Nice, though a bit sweet, but it goes well with the cheese.

We took home about a third of the cheese

We took home about a third of the cheese

  1. 2013 Viognier $25

“This is my favorite wine to go with that cheese,” enthuses our server, and we agree with her wholeheartedly.  The aroma reminds me of these wonderful cantaloupe-type melons called Hand Melons we used to get upstate, and the wine also has some cantaloupe tastes.

  1. 2012 Viognier

Observing how serious we are about our tasting, our server pours us each an extra taste, of the 2012 Viognier, which is almost sold out, and which she says is her favorite of the whites.  Interestingly, this has a sweeter aroma and taste than the 2013, though still lots of cantaloupe, with more floral notes.  It’s a more challenging wine, observes my husband.

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $22

This has only .06% sugar, we are told, which means it is most definitely a dry riesling.  They used to have an off-dry riesling for those who come in and request “the sweetest white you have,” but they no longer make it.  This is definitely a dry riesling, with a touch of that cat pee smell (an observation which causes some hilarity among our cat-owning friends) and a simple but pleasant taste.  Delicate, notes our friend.

kont bottle

  1. Anemometer Red Table Wine $16

Now we move on to the reds, for which we are given new glasses.  This is a blend of 60% cabernet franc and 30% cabernet sauvignon, from various vintages.  We discuss the varying implications of saying an inexpensive table wine vs. a cheap red, and decide this belongs in the former category—especially when we learn they are running a special of 50% off for a case of the red and the white Anemometers.  Our noses detect a hint of ripe olives and “wet laundry,” says my husband, as well as some fruit.  The wine itself is light but “very acceptable,” with lots of nice fruit flavor.  We decide to get a case of eight reds and four whites.

  1. 2007 Blum Merlot $19

Ray Blum had a vineyard in Southold planted in merlot vines, which has since been bought by Sparkling Pointe, which tore out the merlot vines, so this is the last anyone will have of the Blum Merlot.  It’s a fine, fairly typical North Fork merlot, with a touch of barnyard odor and black cherry taste.  Very nice.

  1. 2010 Estate Merlot $34

Yum.  Aged six months in French oak and six months in steel, this is a really good merlot, with lots of black cherry taste plus a touch of vanilla.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

This one is aged in Hungarian oak.  What’s the difference?  Hungarian oak is cheaper, gives a milder flavor, and is more tightly grained so there’s less evaporation (the “angel’s share”).  This is also yum!  Brambly aroma, lots of layers of flavor, including blackberry.  This is one that could be saved for future drinking.  “Or buy two,” suggests our server, “and drink one now and save the other for later.”

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $40

Silver Medal winner in the San Francisco Wine Challenge competition, we are told.  Hmmm.  This is a dry red, with aromas of pepper and nutmeg and mixed berry tastes.  “It has no gravitas,” opines my tasting buddy.

The bar

The bar

Reasons to go:  Beautiful tasting room overlooking the Sound, which you can walk to in good weather; knowledgeable servers; the Anemometer wines if you need to buy some decent table wines for everyday drinking; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Viognier, the Estate Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon.  They also sell olive oil—not made locally!  However, we are headed to Greenport to check out Vines and Branches’ new digs, so we decline to try the olive oil.

They have a small selection of gift items.

They have a small selection of gift items.

kont doors

kont mist

The room is reflected in the sign about their excellent sale.

The room is reflected in the sign about their excellent sale.