Peconic Cellar Door: Women Rule December 20, 2019

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/peconic-cellar-door

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Unlike most wineries on the North Fork, Peconic Cellar Door is owned and run by women: Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy. It is another of the very small tasting rooms, and in fact adjoins last week’s site, The Winemaker Studio, but is even smaller. Despite its small size, however, it offers quite an array of wines to taste, under four labels: As If Wines, Brooklyn Oenology, Haywater Cove, and Saltbird Cellars. All the wines are now under the umbrella name Chronicle, with the tag line, “Every bottle holds a story.” Ask Robin (or whomever is behind the counter) about the logo, because it tells a story, too.

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Robin was our server, and since there were no other customers, we had time to chat. There were a couple of visitors who came by just wish Robin and Alie happy holidays. Robin told us about her travels around the world to learn the craft and art of wine-making, particularly her six months in New Zealand, which influenced the style of some of her wines. She is clearly passionate about wine-making, and she and Alie have their own original ideas about it. We enjoyed all of their experiments.

The menu offers two flights, the Cellar Door flight, of five wines for $15, and the Signature Flight, of five higher-priced wines for $20. We decided to share the Signature Flight, and perhaps return for the Cellar Door, though Robin cautioned us that they change the options every month. Given that the price list includes 28 wines, I guess they can come up with quite a few permutations. We may have to go back more than once…

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Though they don’t allow outside food (or pets), the only snack on offer is packs of cookies from local baker Ali Katz. I do recommend a visit to her little bakery and food shop in Mattituck (only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). We’ve only been there a couple of times, but found her baked goods excellent.

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  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

If the name of this wine describes how it came to be, it was a fortunate accident indeed. A blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and viognier, it is aged more than one expects for a white, particularly on the North Fork, where most whites are from the most recent vintage. This wine has a floral and mineral aroma, and is nicely dry. Some notes of lemony citrus, but also more depth than one expects from a white. As we sip, I find the viognier taste, which I quite like, coming through.

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I thought this label was particularly pretty.

  1. 2017 Saltbird Migratus $27

Of course, I have to ask about the name of this wine, which comes in a bottle with a very pretty painting of birds in flight. Robin explains that it is a reference to her own migrations, away from the North Fork and back, but also to the birds she loves. The making of this wine was influenced by her time in New Zealand. Though plenty of cheap sauvignon blanc comes here from there, the wines they keep for themselves tend to be made like this one, spending six months on the lees and aged in oak. When I note a faint oak taste, she mentions that “one of the barrels” was new oak, so it came out a bit oakier than she wanted. Overall, it is a good wine, with a nice mouth feel and a taste my drinking buddy compares to “drinking flowers.” Well, it does have an aroma that combines something vegetal with flowers.

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This rose is almost like a light red.

  1. 2016 As If Courage $28

Robin calls this a rosé made from a Meritage blend. I guess it does take courage to make a rosé from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and syrah, a classic Bordeaux blend. She compares the aroma to buckwheat honey, and I agree. This is almost as much a very light red as it is a rosé. It has some strawberry and citrus tastes, but more depth (again) than your typical rosé. She suggests serving it with a pork roast, an excellent idea.

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  1. 2016 Saltbird Harbinger $36

A blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this is a wine they only make in good years, so there is no 2018 but will surely be a 2019. I’ve heard in several tasting rooms that this was a very good year on the North Fork, with the right amount of warm days and rain. It has some cherry taste, but is not really fruity, dry, with some tannins. Nice legs, if that means anything!

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The array of our tasting.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

I’m glad they persisted with making this wine, a blend of cabernet franc, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon. Despite the price, we decide to buy a bottle to save in the cellar for a special occasion. I think it could age a few more years, but it is also delicious to drink now. Fruitier than the previous wine, it has some interesting flavors, and could stand up to a steak.

Reasons to visit: another small winery, where you can talk to the winemakers and learn about what inspired them and how they made each wine; we liked all the wines, but especially the Serendipity and the Persistence; they change their offerings periodically, so you can go more than once; though they don’t allow groups larger than six, if you happen to be with a group you can split up, with some going to the Winemaker Studio, connected by an open doorway and a window in the wall.

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Peconic Cellar Door: Good Things Come in Small Packages December 7, 2018

Peconic Cellar Door: Good Things Come in Small Packages            December 7, 2018

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/

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This sign shows the way to Peconic Cellar Door.

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.

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This is literally half the room.

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.

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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.

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The name of this wine is, among other things, an homage to Alie’s mother, who died last year.

  1. 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.

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Saltbird Chardonnay and its creator.

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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Now that’s orange!

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This is the art on the BOE label. Can’t tell what it is? Neither could we. Apparently, it’s a box.

  1. 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.

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For the red we switched to this elegant glass.

  1. 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.

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Roanoke Vineyards: Satellite Spot July 26, 2015

http://www.roanokevineyards.net/

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Roanoke’s main tasting room and vineyard are located on the western edge of the North Fork, but their satellite spot, which they call their “wine bar,” is in the heart of wine country, on Love Lane in Mattituck.  As I found out, their main room will close this winter to all except wine club members, so you might as well plan to go to their Love Lane place—especially since Love Lane itself is worth a visit for the Village Cheese Shop, Lombardi’s Italian market, and Love Lane Kitchen restaurant, among others.

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

The wine bar is a small room, but it is well laid out, with a bar along one side and comfy chairs around tables, as well as a small piazza out the back, overlooking the Love Lane parking lot.  We happened by on a Sunday afternoon, when local Pearl River oysters were on offer, so we decided to partake of some after our tasting ($20 for a dozen).  In addition to their own wines, they also carry bottles by Wölffer Estate (on the South Fork) and Brooklyn Oenology.  In fact, the last time we were there they were doing a side-by-side tasting with Brooklyn Oenology, which we quite enjoyed.  They also carry their own verjus, a non-alcoholic drink people sometimes use in salad dressing or cooking.

We didn't get to try this Wolffer Estate wine, but we really liked the bottle.

We didn’t get to try this Wolffer Estate wine, but we really liked the bottle.

Their menu offers three options, the “Round Trip,” featuring a white, a rosé, and two reds for $12; Whites, four whites for $12; or Reds, four reds for $14.  We opted for one each of the white and the red, so we could try all their wines.  The pour is fairly generous.  Our server was enthusiastic and friendly, fairly well-informed.  In addition, she did a very nice job gift-wrapping a pretty bottle of a Wölffer wine for another customer.

The server helping another couple choose some wines to bring as gifts.

The server helping another couple choose some wines to bring as gifts.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                   $19

This is a bit tarter than the usual North Fork sauvignon blanc, with a bit of a woodsy aroma and some tastes of kumquat and lemon.  My husband immediately plans to have this when he gets his oysters, but I’m not sure I like this.  I think I like the Jamesport sauvignon better.

  1. 2014 Rosé $19

The server informs another couple at the bar that this is their top seller, at least this summer, and I can see why.  It is a very light rosé, a blend of 75% merlot and 25% “wild” chardonnay (about which more in a moment), with an initial “rush of sweetness,” according to my tasting buddy.  I taste not fully ripe cantaloupe, which is in my mind because that’s what we got at a farm stand this week.  Good, but we still prefer Croteaux.

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  1. 2014 The Wild! $20

What is wild here is the yeast, meaning that the wine is fermented using only naturally occurring yeasts, a process I find fascinating, since the winemaker gives up a bit of control over the process by doing this.  I quite like this one, though the aroma is a touch musty, with maybe a hint of pencil shavings.  The taste is a little sweet, with some honey and citrus, but not too sweet.  I decide I’ll have this with my oysters, even though the sauvignon is actually a better fit.

I really liked their label designs.

I really liked their label designs.

  1. 2014 Brio $24

Since brio means vivacity or verve, I’m interested to see whether this wine has these qualities.  It is a blend of 66% chardonnay, 14%viognier, 8% malvese, and 20% muscat canelli, according to the menu.  That doesn’t quite compute, according to my math-challenged mind, but the result is interesting.  The aroma is complex, with a touch of toffee, a bit of funk, plus more.  “Lots going on,” says my husband, who doesn’t particularly like the wine.  I disagree.  I taste apricot and gooseberry, and like it.  I also like that the whites are not served too cold.

Nice size pour

Nice size pour

  1. 2012 Merlot $24

Now we switch to reds, and get a fresh glass.  According to the menu, this merlot is “blousy,” and after some hilarity with clothing puns, we decide we have no idea what that means in terms of this wine.  The wine spends 20 months in French oak.  Aroma has a touch of barnyard, but also cherry, and the taste is the typical cherry taste of North Fork merlots, with a bit of tannin at the end.

Another view of the room, featuring bags of Vines and Branches' very popular truffle popcorn.

Another view of the room, featuring bags of Vines and Branches’ very popular truffle popcorn.

  1. 2012 Marco Tulio $24

I figure there must be a story behind this name, and indeed there is.  The wine is named for the owner’s father, who recently passed away at the age of 99.  “He drank wine every day!” our server informs us.  Sounds like quite an endorsement for wine drinking.  This is a wine one could easily drink every day, with an aroma of cherry and dark fruit and a light delicate taste.  It is a blend of 59% merlot, 39% cabernet franc, and 9% petit verdot, and spends 14 months in French oak.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $34

Although this is labeled cab franc, the menu informs us that this too is a blend, of 79% cab franc, 20% merlot, and 1% petit verdot.  There’s some cherry in the aroma, thanks to the merlot, but also plums and spices, perhaps allspice.  This is very good, and I could see drinking it with boeuf bourguignon—soft, with lots of fruit and a bit of woodiness.

Another cool label design

Another cool label design

  1. 2013 Bond $20

One more blend—63% cabernet franc, 22% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petit verdot, and 6% merlot—and the fact that it is a blend and the choice of the name are both appropriate.  They called it “Bond” to commemorate their opening on Love Lane, as a thank you to the other local merchants and how welcoming and friendly they were.  We actually saw that friendliness in action when we ordered the oysters.  The owner of Pearl River asked my husband if he wanted lemon, and then offered a squeeze of “Realemon,” which my husband declined.  Before we had a chance to eat any, he reappeared with some lemons which Lombardi’s had given him and which he quickly sliced for us.  How nice.  And so were the oysters—oh, and so is Bond!  I really liked it, though our server opined that it would be even better in a year or two.  The aroma is quite fruity and the taste has a good balance of fruit and tartness.

Pearl River oysters for sale on Love Lane

Pearl River oysters for sale on Love Lane

Reasons to visit:  a convenient location on Love Lane—you can buy a bottle and then stop in to the cheese shop and put together a picnic (I recommend Bond to go with your cheese.); The Wild!, Brio, Marco Tulio, Cabernet Franc, and Bond; oysters on Sunday afternoons; you can buy bottles of Wölffer Estate and Brooklyn Oenology wines as well.

Our oysters, waiting for the lemon to arrive.  I had The Wild!, but I have to admit that my husband's choice of the Sauvignon Blanc was a better match.

Our oysters, waiting for the lemon to arrive. I had The Wild!, but I have to admit that my husband’s choice of the Sauvignon Blanc was a better match.

Stroll Love Lane in Mattituck and you can visit some cute shops for gifts, food, cheese, and wine.

Stroll Love Lane in Mattituck and you can visit some cute shops for gifts, food, cheese, and wine.

Roanoke Vineyards and Brooklyn Oenology: Face Off! August 9, 2014

http://www.roanokevineyards.net/

http://www.brooklynoenology.com/

One corner of the tasting room

One corner of the tasting room

“Wow, that was fun,” we agreed, as we left the Roanoke Vineyards Tasting Bar on Love Lane in Mattituck.  We had arrived about 3:30, not knowing that a pop-up event was about to happen, pairing Roanoke wines with wines made by Brooklyn Oenology (BOE).  Though the event was due to start at 4, we were able to do the tasting early, and, because the room was fairly calm at the moment, we had lots of attention from Roanoke’s Robin and BOE winemaker Alie Shaper.

Normally, Roanoke features wine from Grapes of Roth and Wölffer Estates (on the South Fork) as well as their own, and they offer a menu of choices from each.  I would have liked to taste some of the Wölffer wines, as it had been years since I’d tried them, but the only Wölffer selections on offer were hard ciders.  However, once we realized we could do the Roanoke vs. BOE face-off, we knew what we had to do.  For $20 we got to taste eight wines, four from each, paired for similarity of grape and type.  I love tasting two wines made from the same grape, grown in the same region, and seeing how they differ.

The Tasting Bar is a small storefront, augmented by tables on a petite patio in the back and some tables for two along the side of the building, and includes the tasting bar and some small tables and a few comfortable chairs where it would be nice to sit and sip a glass.

As we tasted each selection, Robin and Alie alternated telling us about each wine, how it was made, and so on.

The whites

The whites

  1. Roanoke Vineyards (RV) 2013 The Wild                 $20

Why “The Wild”?  This is made with, said Robin, “indigenous yeast,” or in other words naturally occurring yeast, using chardonnay grapes from a Mudd vineyard which was originally planted in 1982.  They’re not sure which clone it was, but it may have been a muscat, which would account for some of the sweetness in the wine.  We detect an aroma of cedar shavings with tastes of pineapple and mango.  It reminds me a bit of Channing Daughter’s L’Enfant Sauvage, which is also made with wild yeasts.  Yum, in any event!  I could happily sip this wine on the deck on a summer night.

2.  BOE 2013 Social Club White         $18

I guess this is paired with the wild because it is a similar weight white, but this is a blend of grapes from Upstate and the North Fork (Alie joked that she would love to have permission to plant vines in a park in Brooklyn, but that’s, alas, not likely.) The blend is 60% chardonnay, with smaller amounts of pinot gris, pinot blanc, Vidal blanc, riesling, and gewürztraminer.  I hadn’t heard of Vidal blanc before, and Alie noted that it is a Finger Lakes grape, as are the riesling and the gewürztraminer and the pinot gris.  With all those Finger Lakes grapes I was expecting sweet, but this is a lovely dry wine with some citrus aromas and a bit of a taste of tangerine.

The roses--note the pretty label and pretty colors

The roses–note the pretty label and pretty colors

3.  RV 2013 Derosa Rosé $19

Poetically, my husband compares the aroma to a “forest after the rain,” and I do agree that it has some flowery sweetness—in the taste as well as the aroma.  It’s not a bad rosé, and many people would probably like it, but we prefer it drier.  The name, by the way, is after the family’s Grandma Rose.

4.  BOE 2013 Cabernet Franc Rosé $18

I have to give the prize in this comparison to the BOE wine, which is made with wild yeast and uses Finger Lakes grapes.  The color is very pretty, the aroma is very strawberry, and the taste is a bit reminiscent of a berry sorbet—so, too sweet for us, but more complex and interesting than the Roanoke.  I admire the beautiful label, and Alie enthusiastically tells us that all her labels are designed by Brooklyn artists, with a special peel-off feature if you want to save the pretty pictures.  This particular one was designed by Patricia Fabricant, and after they chose her design they learned that she is the daughter of Florence Fabricant, who writes about food and wine for The New York Times.

5.  RV 2010 Bond $19

We get fresh glasses for the reds, a nice touch.  Their Bordeaux blend, this wine varies its composition from year to year, depending on the qualities of the grapes.  This one is mainly merlot, and spends 10 months in neutral oak casks, then stainless steel.  We smell cedar and berries, and taste blackberry.  Though not a bad wine, it is a bit thin, and lacks depth.

6.  BOE 2012 Social Club Red $20

So I had to ask, “Why Social Club?”  Alie explains that when she moved to Brooklyn (the winery’s tasting room is located in Williamsburg, of course) she noticed all the immigrant social clubs, and decided to name her wines for them. She liked the idea of wines that were casual and friendly.   Also a Bordeaux blend, Alie’s wine is 77%merlot, 18%, cabernet sauvignon, and 5% Corot noir.  Corot noir?  The grape is a hybrid created at Cornell, and adds a dark color to the wine, without the use of chemicals.  We like it very much, tasting plenty of fruit with a bit of side of the tongue sweetness yet dry at the end.

7.  RV 2010 Merlot $45

2010 was a great year on the North Fork, but we’re not crazy about this wine.  We smell cinnamon, plus some of that local earthiness, and taste some fruit and some smoke.  Perhaps it needs more time.

On to the reds

On to the reds

8.  BOE 2010 Merlot $25

Okay, same grape, same year, though BOE adds 4% petit verdot, sourced from Onabay’s vineyard in Cutchogue.  Again, we smell cinnamon, some earthiness, but the taste differs.  It has more fruit , a dry finish, and is softer, with no smoke.  We like it!

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We buy a bottle each of the BOE Merlot and the RV The Wild and browse the small selection of gifts.  They have the Govino glasses, which we have bought as gifts in the past.  They’re a high quality plastic, nice on a picnic or a boat.  Oh, and as to who won the face off?  I’d have to say we did, because we got to sample wines from two wineries and only had to travel to one!

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Reasons to visit:  convenient tasting room in the middle of the North Fork on Love Lane, which is itself a destination with its cheese shop, Bookhampton book store, Love Lane Country Kitchen, and more; The Wild; the chance to taste wines from other vineyards as well.

The back patio

The back patio