Pugliese Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser March 10, 2018



The pergola and pond make a pretty outdoor setting–but not in the winter!

We’ve driven past Pugliese many times in the summer, noting the crowds at the outdoor tables and the many limos (by appointment only) in the parking lot, and given it a pass.  But we figured a March Saturday would be safe, and indeed, when we entered, there was only one other couple there.  However, as we were leaving the first of what the servers told us would be several groups arrived, a bunch of bachelorettes in matching burgundy sweatshirts emblazoned with wine-related quips, with the bride-to-be in a matching white sweatshirt.  “Rise and wine,” read the one on a cheery woman, who informed us that this was already (at 2 PM) their third winery.


The limos were starting to gather.

If we hadn’t been on our way out, I would have recommended that they start with the sparkling Blanc de Noir, which was one of the wines we did like, and would have been a suitably festive start to their tasting.  But I would guess that many of the wines on the Pugliese menu are crowd-pleasers, as they are generally un-challenging and easy to drink, as well as moderately priced.


For $12 you can choose any four wines on their extensive menu of four sparkling wines, seven whites (including one rosé), seven reds, and five dessert wines.  We decided to share two tastings, trying one sparkler, the rosé, two whites, and four reds.  As we sipped we admired the view out the window of Pugliese’s pretty grounds, with a vine-covered pergola and a fountain-centered pond.  It would be a nice place to bring a picnic in the summer, though they discourage food in the tasting room itself (and a sign on the door admonishes “No Pets”).  (One server remembered a group that brought a huge cake with them, and left “crumbs everywhere.”)


One view of the tasting rooms.

The tasting room itself is not huge, but there is a side room with tables.  That space is lined with tables laden with gift baskets, which feature the pretty flower-decorated bottles of Pugliese wines and hand-painted wine or champagne glasses, all wrapped up in cellophane.  If you need to pick up a gift basket in a hurry, this is the place.  They also have a selection of matted photographs, mostly of local nature scenes, for sale at reasonable prices.


Nice bubbles in the bubbly

  1. 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature         $25.99

Made from 100% pinot noir grapes (all their grapes are grown on their estate, we were informed), this has the typical yeasty aroma of a champagne.  It is a pleasant sparkler, not complicated, with nice bubbles and a bready flavor.  It would work for a toast (no pun intended!).


We enjoyed the view as we sipped.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $17.99

At first, I didn’t detect any aroma, but on a second sniff I decided it smelled like clover honey, plus minerals.  It also tastes a bit like honey that has somehow had the sweetness removed from it, or like a tart dish that has been flavored with honey.  My husband complained that it was “watery,” and I agreed that it was very light.  Not a sipper, it needs to go with food, maybe charcuterie, though it has so little flavor most food would overwhelm it.


  1. 2015 Veronica’s Rosé $17.99

Why Veronica?  “I wanted to name a wine after my niece,” said one server, who was most likely a member of the Pugliese family, since they are generally in the tasting room.  This is another light, dry wine, with typical strawberry aroma and flavor, again not complex.  It has a pretty pink color from the merlot grapes.


I commented on the pretty labels, and was thanked. On a previous visit I was told that Pat Pugliese painted the design.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay Gold $14.99

They have an oak-fermented chard, but we decided to go with the steel, since we tend to prefer those.  I was also thinking if we liked it we’d buy a bottle, to go with the fish we planned to buy at Braun’s later.  However, we cancelled the trip to Braun’s when we realized we’d be stuck in the Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day parade, and, though we found the chardonnay pleasant, we didn’t like it enough to buy it.  (Instead we stopped at 8 Hands Farm and picked up some of their delicious bratwurst.)  Though the chard is a bit sweet, it is balanced by good fruit flavors of citrus, mango, and pineapple.  My tasting buddy says it would have gone well with a dish I made a couple of days ago, called Chicken Veronique, chicken breasts cooked with grapes and mushrooms.


The grape is the one used to make chianti, but this is not a very chianti-like wine.

  1. 2012 Sangiovese $16.99

I was interested to taste this, as it is advertised on the menu as “Long Island’s only chianti.”  I like chianti.  I wouldn’t have necessarily identified this as a chianti, however, and, considering that 2012 was supposed to have been a good year for reds on the North Fork, this was a rather disappointing wine.  However, it is drinkable, with no tannins, very light and dry.  Not much fruit.  My husband says it has “no oomph,” sort of a “generic wine.”  It would be okay with pizza.


  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $16.99

Their reds certainly are reasonably priced for the North Fork.  This is another light, easy to drink wine, with no tannins.  You get a bit of fruit with the first sip, but the taste soon evanesces.  You could pair this with pasta with a not-powerful sauce.


  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99

Nice aroma of dark fruit and berries precedes a taste also of dark fruit and berries, with a touch of tannins.  It’s the best red so far, but again has no depth and is rather light.


  1. 2013 Sunset Meritage $34.99

Why sunset?  “It’s just a name.”  You need a non-varietal name for a blend, which this is, a mixture of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon.  It’s the best red of the day, which is not saying much.  Again, it is a relatively simple, light wine, “tame,” according to my drinking pal.  It is pleasant, but not worth the price.


Entrance–the little signs say no food inside and no pets inside–which I assume means both are okay outside.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting for sitting outside; very crowd-friendly if you’re coming with a limo (which I actually did one time); lots of choices on the menu; the Blanc de Noir, the Chardonnay Gold, the Sunset Meritage; you prefer light, easy-to-drink wines with no complexity; lots of gift baskets and hand-painted glasses.





McCall Wines: Feeling Rustic May 21, 2017



Although they are right off Main Road, when you pull around to the back you feel as though you are in the country.

Although they are right off the Main Road, there is a rustic feeling to the McCall Wines tasting room and property, a sense of peace and quiet—at least when it is not crowded.  Part of this is due to the tasting room itself, located in a former horse barn, with the stables repurposed as tasting alcoves, and the other part is the lawn outside, dotted with picnic tables and adjacent to the vines.


Inside tasting area, in a repurposed horse stall.

On this sunny afternoon, we shared the place with several other couples and small groups.  We could have stood at the bar or sat inside at a table, but we decided that the sun had been making a rare enough appearance that we needed to sit outside and enjoy the pretty day.  Mrs. McCall brought us our tastes, except when we decided to pop in and get them ourselves.  She served them two at a time, in a two-ounce pour that felt quite generous.


Part of the outside area, with a view of the vines.

The menu offers four choices:  Blancs, four whites for $12; Corchaug, four reds for $16; Premium, a mixture of two whites and two reds for $14; and Estate, four of their higher priced wines for $20.  They also offer a small menu of cheese and crackers, and request no outside food on Fridays-Sundays.  We decided to do a shared tasting of the whites and then the Corchaug reds (named for the Native American name for Cutchogue).  We had high hopes for the reds, since McCall had started out only making red wines, but we were also pleasantly surprised by how much we liked the whites.

  1. 2016 Marjorie’s Rosé    $18

Yesterday we attended a Case Club event at Croteaux Vineyards, our standard for North Fork rosés, so we had a recent comparison in mind when we tasted this mostly merlot pink wine.  It was quite different from the two Croteaux wines we had sampled, but fine in its own way.  The aroma had almost as much minerality as strawberry smell, and the taste also balanced minerals and sweetness, though a bit sweeter than we like.  My husband said it reminded him of pancakes with strawberry syrup.  Well, maybe not that sweet.  This is a rosé one could enjoy sipping well-chilled, though I prefer the leaner style of Croteaux.  (The wine is named for Mr. McCall’s mother.)


  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc    $24

Mrs. McCall informed us that this was made in the French style, like a Sancerre wine (think sauvignon blanc=Sancerre and chardonnay=Chablis).  Good choice.  Although it did not have much aroma, it had some lovely tastes of citrus and kiwi and maybe gooseberry as well, plus some minerality and even a bit of salt.  Refreshing, was my tasting buddy’s summation.  We liked it.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay Unoaked        $18

This is a pretty typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with citrus tastes and just a touch of sweetness.  The aroma reminded me of wet rocks, with almost a chemical note.  It’s a fairly tasty steel chardonnay, and might overpower a delicate fish.  However, it would have gone well with the fillets I made the other day which were topped with an anchovy and onion sauce (thank you, Marcella Hazan and Braun’s fish store).

  1. 2014 Chardonnay Reserve          $39

Not surprisingly, the oaked chardonnay smelled like Werther’s butterscotch candy, and tasted rather butterscotch-y as well.  Not my favorite, but I could appreciate that it has layers of flavor.

  1. 2013 Pinot Noir               $30

When I told my husband this was a light red that would pair well with roast chicken, he told me I needed to think of another food pairing.  Okay, I said, pork chops.  This reminded me of a Beaujolais, a picnic wine, though it has a bit of a tannic tingle that makes it a touch more interesting.


These two Pinot Noirs look similar, but taste different.

  1. 2013 Pinot Noir Hillside               $39

When Mrs. McCall brought us our first red tastes, along with fresh glasses, she explained that this one is called “Hillside” because…the grapes are grown on a hillside.  Really.  But that’s not as simplistic as it sounds.  Because of the hilly location, this part of the vineyard has better drainage, which concentrates the flavors of the grapes.  Although it is similar to the other Pinot, the aroma is stronger and the taste features more dark fruit and is somewhat mellower, with a longer finish.  My husband noted that he wasn’t wearing socks, but if he were, they would not have been knocked off by this wine.  Good, but not exciting.


  1. 2012 Merlot Reserve     $24

Does anyone still know what Cheracol is?  It was a cherry-flavored cough syrup I became quite familiar with in my pre-tonsillectomy youth. Fortunately, though this merlot smells like Cheracol, it doesn’t taste like it!  The wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and not a ton of fruit, with a long finish.  We’re thinking it could even use more time to age, and, as my tasting buddy opined, it “shows promise.”  If we had room in the cellar (well, we just bought a case of Croteaux rosé), we might have bought a bottle to keep for a few years.

  1. 2010 Merlot Reserve     $39

2010 has a reputation as a great year on the North Fork, especially for reds, and Mrs. McCall was quite enthusiastic about this wine—deservedly so.  I think the technical term is “yummy.”  The tannins are relatively soft, so my guess is one should drink it now.  The aroma is of cherry tempered by wood, and the taste has lots of complex fruits, while still being dry.  If we had stayed on and ordered some cheese to go with a full glass of wine, this would have been my choice (Instead we went home and sat on our porch with wine—a lovely Meritage from Coffee Pot Cellars–and cheese from Love Lane Cheese shop!).


The tasting barn.

Reasons to visit:  lovely bucolic setting; calm place that limits groups; unusual tasting room; the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2010 Merlot Reserve; nice picnic tables for during the week if you want to bring some snacks.