Peconic Cellar Door: Good Things Come in Small Packages December 7, 2018
I recently picked up a postcard with a map of North Fork wineries which labeled them as either “petit” or “grand” wine houses. Peconic Cellar Door is definitely one of the most petit of the petit places, a sliver of a storefront with room for a couple of tables and a narrow bar with four stools. A sign on the door warns that they will not accept groups of more than six, adding, “Sorry, arriving in more than one car doesn’t count as separate groups.” I suppose what you could do is have one part of your group go to the Winemaker Studio, which is right next door, connected to Cellar Door by an open doorway.
That’s not a bad idea, actually, since both tasting rooms offer similarly intimate experiences, and the ability to taste some interesting boutique wines. Peconic Cellar Door is something different on the North Fork, as it is one of the few wineries owned and run by women (One Woman is the only other one I can think of, since Comtesse Therese closed a few years ago.). In fact, if you go on their web page and click on “Meet the Cru,” you might notice that the entire crew is female.
When we entered on a chilly Friday afternoon, we were warmly greeted by Robin Epperson-McCarthy, who remembered that we’d been there before (a year ago), and introduced us to her charming three-year-old daughter, who soon left in the arms of her baby-sitter. No one else was there, so we had a lovely time chatting with Robin and exchanging bits of wine country gossip as well as in-depth discussions of the wines.
She and her partner, Alie Shaper, have four different labels between them: Saltbird Cellars, Brooklyn Oenology, As If, and Haywater Cove. Alie is gradually transitioning her label to almost all Haywater Cove, a reference to a place on the North Fork, though she will continue to make a couple of her most popular Brooklyn Oenology (BOE) wines. Robin explained that they don’t have a reserve label, so the As If line functions somewhat like that. And Saltbird is Robin’s label, named for the sea birds she loves.
There are twenty-five (!) wines on the menu, plus a new sparkling wine that isn’t even there yet, but they offer a “Winemaker’s Flight” of five wines for $18, highlighted on the menu in blue ink, so we decided to go with those choices. However, the first item on the menu, a keg wine called Fizzi Rosé, was not available, so Robin instead gave us a taste of the newest As If wine, Gratitude, which is also a sparkler.
- 2018 As If Gratitude $28
This is a petillant naturel, which goes through some of its fermentation in the bottle and is sealed with a bottle cap. Interestingly, it is made from gewürztraminer grapes, which I don’t recall ever seeing before, which are fermented into an orange wine before it becomes a bubbly. The color is a cloudy yellow with a slight orange tint. It has a sweetish aroma, like flowers, but also something like pickle juice. It’s a light, refreshing, sparkler, which, we agree with Robin, would go well with charcuterie.
- 2017 Saltbird Chardonnay $20
I discuss with Robin my—and her—preference for steel-fermented chardonnays, and she tells how she has served this wine to people who think they don’t like chardonnay, not realizing that what they don’t like is an oaked chard. They like her Saltbird chard. I smell gooseberries and lots of minerality, plus some citrus. She explains that part of the fermentation happens “sur lies,” which means on the dead yeast or bits of grape particles, which adds some depth to the taste. It is very dry, and has plenty of mineral taste. I think it needs food, like something in a cream sauce.
- 2016 As If Courage Rosé $28
Alie named her wines Serendipity, Courage, Persistence, and Gratitude to chart her progression in the wine business—the way serendipity led her into winemaking as a career, the courage it took to continue, the persistence it took to stick with it, and the gratitude she feels for being able to do this. It takes no courage to drink this French-style rosé, a dry pink wine with tastes and aromas of strawberries and minerals. Like most North Fork rosés, this is a good summer wine, and would go well with a salade niçoise or some nice Catapano goat cheese.
- BOE 2014 Broken Land $30
As we learned the last time we were there, broken land is a reference to the original Dutch meaning of Brooklyn. This is an orange wine, made with gewürztraminer grapes from the Finger Lakes region. It sits on the skins for ten days, Robin tells us, which gives it that lovely orange color. I wonder whether it is the color that makes me think it tastes like blood oranges, but Robin assures me that she tastes orange too, though she thinks of tangerines. The label, like all BOE wines, features a work of art by a Brooklyn artist. This one is a representation of a box.
- Saltbird Cellars 2016 Harbinger Red Blend $36
A blend of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon, this has the cherry aroma and flavor we have come to expect of North Fork merlots, somewhat ameliorated by the cabernet sauvignon. It’s a light, bright red which Robin says benefits from a bit of aeration.
Reasons to visit: an intimate setting in which to taste some nice wines and chat with the winemakers; the Broken Land orange wine (we buy a bottle), the Gratitude sparkling wine; it’s right next door to the Winemaker Studio, so you can do two tasting in one stop. The tasting room is on Peconic Lane, so you could do a winery walking tour by adding on Sannino Bella Vita (which may be moving in the future), ending in the Greenport Brewing Company restaurant on the corner for lunch or a snack and a sampling of excellent brews.