Castello di Borghese: A Perfect Pairing     July 8, 2017

https://castellodiborghese.com/

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The Harvest Moon Shellfish Company truck is a sign that you should stop by Castello di Borghese for some oysters and wine.

I headlined this entry “A Perfect Pairing,” thinking about the Harvest Moon oysters we had with the Borghese 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, but it could also apply to the couple we went there with—our son and daughter-in-law.  We all enjoyed the oysters, which are on offer every weekend until October 1, for $28 a dozen, and the wine, which went perfectly with them.  The oysters were small, but sweet and briny and creamy, and the lemon in the wine complemented them beautifully.  It was a perfect July day, and we were happy to sit outside near the vines and enjoy our bottle of wine and plates of oysters.  Unfortunately, they don’t do tastings outside, so we had to go in when we decided we wanted to do a tasting as well.  (I also would urge the winery to install an attractive fence to screen the hose, etc., along the wall of the building.)

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A view of the outside seating area.

When we went in to examine the tasting menu, we found two options:  five Estate wines for $15, or five Reserve wines for $25.  We decided each couple would share one of each, so we could taste most of their wines, though we did miss a few.  Our server was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, happy to share both what he knew and what he liked about each wine.  The tasting room is about medium in size, with a bar along one wall and barrels with tops one can stand around on the other, so if you want to sit for a tasting this is not your place.  Also, they don’t allow outside food (at least at the moment, when they are featuring the oysters).  This is a winery which takes its wine very seriously, and is happy when visitors do the same. After all, the Borgheses bought the vineyard from the Hargraves, who were the first to plant a vineyard on the North Fork, back in 1973.  The Estate wines are marked with an *.

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The expert shucker from Harvest Moon.

  1. .* 2015 Chardonnay $18

A good place to begin a tasting is this steel fermented chardonnay which is so light and lemony you might mistake it for a sauvignon blanc.  We smelled mineral and peach and toast aromas and one of us suggested it tasted like star fruit.  Our daughter-in-law, who is thoughtful about food and wine pairings, thought it would go well with Greek food or a corn salad.  We agreed.

  1. 2016 Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $29

This is not the Sauvignon Blanc we had with our oysters—that one is cheaper and we actually liked it better.  This one is fermented half in oak and half in steel.  It is light and dry, with some citrus and melon tastes and a long finish.  “Blue cheese,” we agreed, would go well with it.

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  1. .*2014 Riesling $26

Not unexpectedly, this smells like flowers and cat pee.  Though our server described it as “off dry,” we all found it too sweet for our taste.  Our son and daughter-in-law said it tasted just like “sweet lime,” which I’ve never had, but I trust their taste buds, and thought it could pair well with watermelon juice and tequila in a margarita-type cocktail.

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  1. 2014 Pinot Noir Select $50

We switched to the reds on the Reserve list, as there were no other whites we wanted to try and they have quite a few reds.  The aroma is nice, of dark fruits, and the taste is also pleasant, with some notes of black pepper as well as plums.  It reminded us a bit of a Chianti, and so we thought it would go well with pasta.

  1. .*Rosé Pinot Noir $20

At the urging of our server, our tasting companions sampled this rosé (we had been given a sip of another one as we were trying to choose a wine to go with our oysters).  However, they were “not excited” about it.  Steel fermented, this is an uncomplicated dry rosé, with a taste of macerated strawberry that, I said, “evanesces.”   We then began to apply that word to all sorts of things.

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  1. 2015 Merlot Reserve $36

We found lots of aromas in this one—spice, pomegranate, charred wood, prunes, and, believe it or not, barbequed chicken were some of our comments.  So then of course we decided it would pair well with barbequed chicken, one with a fruity sauce.  Nice finish.

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  1. .*2014 Cabernet Franc $35

Good one!  With aromas of prune plum and cedar, and tastes of blueberry and spice, this one got us thinking of food pairings again.  We thought lamb chops, and then our daughter-in-law offered flank steak with chimichurri sauce or spiced chick peas (for vegetarians).  Also good ideas.

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  1. .*2015 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon $25

A Bordeaux-style blend of 53% merlot, 44% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% pinot noir, this is, according to our server, a very popular wine.  We can see why.  The aroma is earthy and herbal, with scents of chestnuts and fruit, and the taste is equally appealing, with lots of fruit, and just the right amount of dryness.  Food pairing?  How about spaghetti with mussels in a tomato sauce.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

You can definitely smell that this was aged in oak, with its cedar/oak aroma, plus fruit, spice, and something funky like mushrooms.  I decide it is mouth-watering.  It has lots of flavor, with dark fruits, and would go well with duck.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44

Our server now gets into the whole food pairing thing we’ve been doing, and suggests this would go well with “a porterhouse on the grill.”  We talk it over, and once again our daughter-in-law has the perfect pairing idea—hamburger with truffle fries.  One of us compares the aroma to “dusty closet.”  Not sure about that.  However, this is another pleasant red, with nice fruit, though not very complex.

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The winery also has an art gallery.

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The art in the gallery.

Reasons to visit:  a place to get serious about wine; oysters from Harvest moon until October 1; the winery also has an art gallery where you can view and buy local art; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir Select, the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, the Cabernet Franc Reserve.

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Kontokosta Winery: Absorbing the Crowds May 28, 2017

http://kontokostawinery.com/

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The grey skies meant many people opted for wineries rather than beaches.

We should have known better than to try to go to a winery on a non-beach Sunday over Memorial Day weekend.  But we had friends visiting, and we wanted to take them to Croteaux for a tasting.  As we headed east, we passed winery after winery where the parked cars had spilled over onto lawns and roadsides.  Uh oh.  And indeed, Croteaux was filled, with Michael Croteau outside, waving off cars trying to cram into his small lot.  Where to go?  Our friends hadn’t been to Kontokosta since shortly after it opened, and we figured that as far east as it is, and as big as the tasting room is, we would be able to get in there.

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There was plenty of room when we arrived, but by the time we left all the seats were filled.

We were right, and even though parking there had also extended to a grassy area, there was room at one of the long tables in the tasting room for us to sit and enjoy our tasting.  However, by the time we left, it was SRO!  We also observed many people who had chosen to take a glass of wine out onto the expansive lawn and wander down to the Long Island Sound, visible in the distance.

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You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

A tasting consists of any three wines from the menu for $12, so we decided to get three whites and three reds, not tasting the rosé or a few of the others, while our friends opted to share a tasting.  Maybe next time we’ll check out the others.  We also got a couple of bags of my favorite chips—North Fork Potato Chips.  If you haven’t tried them, do.  They are crispy kettle-fried chips, and totally addictive.  Kontokosta also has a menu of cheeses and charcuterie, plus non-alcoholic drinks.  The server poured out our nine tastes, explaining each one, and we took our glasses to a table.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

We were talking about getting some oysters later, so we decided to start with what is often a perfect oyster wine.  This wine smelled great—like mango and flowers—and tasted pretty good, too.  We found it tart, with some nice kiwi and vegetable tastes, with a pleasant finish.  One nice detail—it was not served too cold!

  1. 2015 Viognier    $25

Sometimes I think I like to order this wine because the name is fun to say.  In any event, I don’t think I would choose this particular viognier.  My husband’s first judgement was “restrained flavors,” to which I added “undistinguished.”  It has a bit of a wet basement smell, though also some minerality.  The taste is very light and uncomplicated.

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The server lining up our tastes of the whites.

  1. 2015 Field Blend             $22

Our friend also ordered this one, and she immediately categorized it as a “dessert wine.”  It is on the sweet side, though not cloyingly so.  A blend of 47% riesling, 41% viognier, and 12% sauvignon blanc, it has a candy and honeysuckle aroma and tastes like peaches.  We decided it could go with spicy Thai food, where the fruit of the wine would match well with the coconut and peppers of Thai, but not so well with Indian dishes.  You could also have it with charcuterie.

  1. 2014 Merlot      $34

The server tipped the end of the bottle into our glass, which meant we ended up with a fair amount of sediment.  Oh well.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry tastes, pleasantly dry, with some tastes of tobacco and chocolate.  Nice.

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The reds (of course).

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $29

We liked this one better, with lots of dark fruit tastes like purple plums and berries, plus some tannins.  It is more complex than the merlot, though the finish is quite short.  Dry.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $40

Though, as is often the case with Long Island reds, we felt it was not worth the price—and our friends, who also tried this, agreed—it is very nice indeed, with fruity aromas and soft tannins.  We tasted raspberries and a touch of spice, like pepper.  If I were to get a glass with which to wander down to the water, I would choose this.

  1. 2013 Anemometer Red                $50

Our friends also tried this one, and said it was very good.  A Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and merlot, it has lots of oak and cherry tastes.

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Snack menu. I highly recommend the North Fork Potato Chips!

 

Reasons to visit:  a pretty location next to Long Island Sound, walking distance from Greenport; the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet sauvignon; an attractive modern tasting room with a soaring ceiling and long tables; usually not too crowded, even on busy days—except not this past weekend!

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In the background you can see their wind turbine, an increasingly frequent sight on the North Fork.

 

 

Raphael Vineyards and Winery: On a Winter’s Day January 27, 2017

http://www.raphaelwine.com/

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Greenport was quiet. Some stores had their “closed for the season” signs up, while others had signs saying they would open at 11, but were still closed at 11:10.  As a woman in one shop said to me last winter, when I asked about her neighboring shop not being open, “It’s winter in Greenport.”  Indeed it is, as a chilly wind reminded us.

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The architecture says Italy, but the weather says January in New York.

After a few errands, including a stop at Eight Hands Farm to pick up some free-range chicken, we headed to Raphael Winery, hoping it was not closed for a private party, which is often the case.  It is not surprising that Raphael is a popular venue for weddings and other events, since they have a very spacious and attractive facility.  Our enthusiastic and very well-informed server told us that we should come by on Sundays, since they don’t schedule parties on that day and often have free entertainment as well.

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The attractive room is often used for weddings.

On this blustery Friday we were the only people there, so we were able to have great chats with our server, who had answers for all our questions and some good ideas of his own, especially about food pairings.  No surprise, he revealed that he had worked in restaurant kitchens.  The menu offers a number of options, including a mixed tasting of reds and whites and two premium tastings.  The white premium tasting offers four whites for $20, and the red has four reds, also for $20.  We decided to get one of each and share.  Our server lined up the glasses on the counter and poured all four whites, and then all four reds so they could warm up and breath a bit before we had them.  We learned that our complaint about the wineries serving the whites too cold was not their fault, as they had to maintain a certain temperature in case of a food inspector’s visit.  Ah-ha. Speaking of food, Raphael does not allow outside food, and suggests you check out the “wide variety” of snacks they offer in their shop.  Their gift shop has a more extensive selection of items than many other places.

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  1. 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc            $39

85% sauvignon blanc and 15% Semillon grapes make this a very nice drink, tart but with good fruit; lemony as one would expect, but more like lemongrass than a strong lemon flavor.  The aroma has notes of minerals and toasted almonds.  Steel fermented, it would pair well with local oysters.

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Nice sized pour!

  1. 2014 First Label Riesling (Virgin Berry)    $39

So our first question was, what does “Virgin Berry” mean?  No, it’s not Sir Richard Branson’s latest venture.  It means that some of the grapes don’t happen to get fertilized, and these small seedless berries are hand harvested and used to make this Riesling. We end up having a long discussion about this wine, because it is quite tart for a Riesling, actually for any wine, and we wonder about food pairings.  I say corn chowder, and our server suggests roast pork with a sweet glaze, and my husband opts for lobster bisque.  The aroma is earthy, with some of that cat pee smell you expect, and also cut grass.

  1. 2014 First Label Chardonnay      $39

For an oaked chardonnay, this is pretty good.  The menu says it is aged 50/50 in French oak and new oak, which somewhat mellows the oakiness.  The aroma is vanilla and Werther’s butterscotch, the taste is quite buttery with a long finish, more like a California chard.  Our server suggests it would go with linguini with clam sauce, putting a bit of the wine in the sauce.  We also discuss that they no longer make Chardeaux, a chardonnay/sauvignon blanc blend we had liked.  That’s why you have to try each winery every year, we say, because things change.

  1. 2015 White Primo Reserve          $45

At first sip I’m not impressed, but as I warm the glass in my palms a lovely Granny Smith apple taste begins to bloom.  This is a blend of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% Semillon, and 49% Riesling, fermented in both stainless steel and oak.  The aroma is sweet and flowery, the taste is tart, but an easier to take tart than the Riesling, very crisp.  Our server suggests that the cooler temperature is good for sipping, while the warmer is good to go with dinner.

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  1. 2012 Malbec Reserve     $69

The prices of the reds somewhat take our breath away (though they have less expensive wines on the other menu), and we get into a discussion of the economies of scale and the problems of pricing wines when you don’t make enough for a mass market.  In any event, our server suggests that all of the reds would benefit from a few years in the cellar, which would make them a better investment.  The aroma is of prune plums, and so is the taste, with some cherry as well.  It’s nicely dry, with plenty of tannins, which probably means it would age well. It would, we agree, go well with pork or lamb chops, both of which we saw at Eight Hands.  (We urge our server, as someone who appreciates good food, to pay them a visit.)

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The line-up of reds.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $69

The aroma is the expected blackberry, and also some wood.  I say it’s a nice aroma, while my husband says “fireplace logs.”  It’s good but a bit simple and a touch sour at the end and quite tannic.  “Chewy,” says our server, and we agree it could probably use a couple of years of aging.  It could certainly hold its own against a steak.

  1. 2012 Petit Verdot Reserve          $69

I discover that our server and I share a love of Petit Verdot, and he tells of the time he was able to taste the 2005, and how great it was.  2012 should be a good year, and if our cellar were not full we might have considered a bottle, despite the price.  The smell is lovely, with dark fruit and maybe some chocolate, and it tastes good.   We see some sediment at the bottom of the glass, and he notes that the wines are not filtered.  Again, the tannins are strong, and we agree it could use more time in the bottle.

  1. 2012 Primo Reserve       $72

Our favorite of the reds, this is a blend of 64% merlot, 17% Malbec, and 19% cabernet franc.  We smell wood and something vegetal—asparagus!  Dry, but not as tannic as the others, it has nice fruit tastes and a lovely finish.  You could drink this with boeuf bourguignon and be a happy camper.  If I came to sit, listen to music, and have a glass of wine this is what I’d choose.

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One view of the large circular bar.

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful tasting room that is reminiscent of an Italian villa or monastery; a gift shop with lots of items; the First Label Sauvignon Blanc, the White Primo Reserve, the Petit Verdot Reserve, the Primo Reserve; a great server (if he’s on duty when you go!).

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A touch of Italy

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Castello di Borghese: Oldie but Goodie July 30, 2016

Castello di Borghese:  Oldie but Goodie July 30, 2016

You can bring your own picnic to the outside tables, but no outside beverages.

You can bring your own picnic to the outside tables, but no outside beverages.

http://www.castellodiborghese.com/

“Yes,” our server said, “these grapes come from our 43-year-old vines.”  In North Fork terms, that’s ancient history, and since the older the vines supposedly the better the wines, we were quite interested in the Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc.  The Hargraves were the first to see the potential of grape vines on the North Fork, (then the Borghese family bought their vineyard) and wow, did they ever start something.  But in the wine business there is no resting on one’s laurels (or vines), so let’s see how they are doing today.

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The pleasant tasting room, with several areas, including a very large room which I would assume is mostly used for parties and such, offers two menus, of Estate and Reserve wines.  You can taste four of the Estate wines for $10 or five of any of their wines for $15.  Since there are quite a few choices on both menus, including reds, whites, rosés, and dessert wines, it took us a while to choose.  In fact, we could easily go back and do a completely different tasting in the near future.  We finally settled on one 5-sample tasting, of two whites and three reds.  Our server, though at first somewhat tentative about recommendations, began to give us some helpful guidance as we progressed.

The large back room boasts quite a gallery of art.

The large back room boasts quite a gallery of art.

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Another neat feature of the tasting room is their ever-changing display of art works.  They have a small selection of snacks for sale, but you can bring your own picnic and settle in at the outside tables.  Glasses of wine go for $9-12, depending on which you choose.

They have quite a display of awards they've won.

They have quite a display of awards they’ve won.

  1. Chardonette/CDB White             $12

Since we are always on the lookout for inexpensive whites for weekday meals, especially in the summer, we decided this would be a good place to start.  We were right.  A mixture of mostly chardonnay with some sauvignon blanc, this is a perfect light summery white, with aromas of herbs and minerals and a crisp taste with some acidity.  This is steel fermented, so don’t expect any buttery-ness.  The menu suggests matching it with hummus or “smoked beef tartare,” whatever that is.  I think it would be a nice aperitif, well iced, with some charcuterie and cheese, on the porch, in the summer.  We buy two bottles.

I think the label for the Chardonette goes perfectly with the wine.

I think the label for the Chardonette goes perfectly with the wine.

  1. 2013 Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $29

What a contrast!  The Chardonette is a very non-serious white, while this one is quite serious.  Complex, with aromas of butter and honeysuckle, this is a combination of oaked and un-oaked sauvignon blanc, with the oaked portion spending two months in new French oak.  There’s a touch of citrus at the end, plus interesting layers of flavor, including gooseberry (which, now that I bought some at Briermere a few weeks ago, my husband agrees it tastes like).

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  1. 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve                 $50

The menu said 2013 Pinot Noir, but they were sold out of that, and after we discussed that change with our server he confessed that this was his favorite of their wines.  He does have expensive taste!  He brought us a new glass for the changeover to red.  “Mmmm,” said my husband.  Anything more enlightening to say, I asked?  We smell some cherry candy, taste dark fruits such as plums, plus nice tannins, and perhaps a trace of nutmeg.  This is a Burgundy, so we decide it would go well with Boeuf Bourguignon.  Making that according to Julia Child’s recipe is an all-day affair, so I guess if I put that much work into a dish it would warrant a bottle of this wine.

  1. 2013 Merlot Reserve $33

Our server informs us that this spends 14 months in French oak, which probably accounts for the trace of smoke we smell.  We also get plum and black cherry.  The wine is dry, with lots of tannins and good fruit, so it would be a good counterpoint to a fatty meat such as lamb.  My husband observes that it is very well balanced, with a good finish.  “Yum,” I add.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

As we discuss which wine to have to end our tasting, our server volunteers that this one is quite interesting, so we go with it.  He’s right (again).  We sniff and get fruit and a trace of tobacco, then sip and decide the taste is rich.  We taste dark cherries with a trace of smoke at the end, but not overwhelming, plus good tannins.  They suggest pairing with game, and I could see it with venison steaks.

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Bunches of lavender for sale.

Bunches of lavender for sale.

Reasons to go:  A nice calm tasting room plus picnic tables outside; the Chardonette, the Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir Reserve; art on the walls.

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McCall’s Winery: Vintage Matters 5/2/2015

http://www.mccallwines.com/

The tasting barn

The tasting barn

It was a beautiful spring day, so we opted to sit at a picnic table in the sunny yard outside McCall’s tasting barn (and it is a barn, with the horse stalls converted to seating areas) for our tasting.  In the past, we had really liked their wines, especially the reds, so we opted to share two tastings, one of their whites and another of their Estate reds.  We hadn’t been to McCall’s since the summer of 2013, and this visit confirmed what we’ve often thought—that you need to taste each vintage to know whether or not you like a particular wine.  In this case, we were less impressed than we have been in the past.

One of the converted horse stalls used as a seating area

One of the converted horse stalls used as a seating area

The tasting menu offers four options of combinations which let you taste their twelve wines.  Each flight offers four two-ounce tastes:  White Flight for $12, Cellar Master for $12, Premium for $14, and Estate for $16.  As we sipped, we watched children run around picking dandelions and other groups snack on picnics they had brought with them.  Our server was friendly and efficient, and if there were any questions she couldn’t answer she quickly found out the answers for us.

I was wondering why no one on the North Fork makes dandelion wine.

I was wondering why no one on the North Fork makes dandelion wine.

I’ll start with the White Flight.

  1. 2014 Marjorie’s Rosé    $18

Okay, so a rosé is not exactly a white, but it’s not a bad way to start a white flight.  This wine is named for the owner’s mother, and is a very light-colored wine.  Instead of the expected aroma of strawberries, we smelled rising dough, more like a champagne.  The taste was tart and lightly citrusy—“a summer wine,” noted our server.  The end taste was more mineral than citrus, and fairly tart.  “Like a sour candy,” noted my tasting buddy.  Though it was not unpleasant, it was just okay.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay $18

“This is our steel-fermented chardonnay,” said our server, adding, “and another good summer wine.”  Indeed, it is fairly light and citrusy, with again a doughy aroma.  Had it undergone malo-lactic fermentation?  She wasn’t sure.  We guessed yes.  She returned to tell us that indeed it had.  We decided the taste reminded us of the key lime pie my husband had enjoyed the night before at A Lure.  I’m not a fan of key lime pie.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée Nicola $24

McCall’s doesn’t grow sauvignon blanc grapes, so this wine is made from grapes from One Woman’s vineyard, and this was the first time McCall’s offered this wine.  Good decision, as this is their best white.  The aroma and taste both remind me of apricots—sort of like apricot fruit leather, with some spice and citrus notes at the end.  It would be good with blue cheese or pasta in a white sauce.  Sippable.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay Reserve $39

No surprises here—this is a typical North Fork oaked chardonnay (nine months in the barrel, we are told), with aromas of vanilla and oak and some fruit tastes as well as some vanilla.  Of course, I say it would go with roast chicken.

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Now we move on to the Estate Flight of reds.  We are not brought fresh glasses, but we do appreciate that our server has opted to give us two glasses, dividing the taste between us rather than having us share one glass, as we generally do.  I should also note that many of their bottles use twist off caps rather than corks.

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir                $28

What a pretty color this wine has—a light red.  We smell blueberries and wet forest ferns, with maybe a touch of barnyard.  Alas, the color is the best aspect of the pinot, since the taste is rather sour and unappealing.  What a disappointment, since my comments on the 2010 pinot noir include “mmmmm.”

The setting feels quite bucolic.

The setting feels quite bucolic.

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir Hillside $39

Well, perhaps we’ll like this one better.  It spends about 3-4 weeks longer on the vine and three months longer in the barrel.  Okay, definitely better.  Again a blueberry pie aroma (Which reminds us that tonight we’ll be having a blueberry crunch pie from Briermere.) with a touch of cocoa.  The taste has more fruit and more subtlety, but no depth and a fair amount of tartness.  Again, we’re not loving it.  Also, the reds are all too cold, though that may not be anyone’s fault, as the tasting room is quite chilly.

  1. Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012    $39

Nice aroma—plums, some oak—but with a touch of something metallic.  This wine comes from 30-year-old vines, our server tells us proudly, from a vineyard originally planted by the Gristina family says our server (Does she mean Galluccio?), and though the property is now owned by Macari, McCall’s is using the grapes.  Again, this wine is tarter than one would expect, without enough fruit to balance the dryness.  And though our server enthuses that she really likes this one, we are not pleased with it, especially with the aftertaste.

  1. 2010 Ben’s Blend $54

Finally, a wine we can like.  This is their Bordeaux blend (named for their previous winemaker, who died much too young), though the combination is quite different from the last time we sampled it.  This one is 46% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon, and 29% merlot, whereas the 07 Ben’s Blend was 60% merlot and also included some petit verdot.  In any event, we scent aromas of dark fruit, such as purple plums, and taste pleasant fruit, though it is not tannic enough to stand up to a steak.  It would be good with brie and pears.

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Reasons to visit:  the Cuvée Nicola Sauvignon Blanc, the 2010 Ben’s Blend; a pleasant relaxed setting where kids can run around and you can bring a picnic; the surprisingly elegant rest room (!).  We’ll be back when it is time for a new vintage, hoping the wines are better then, since we really liked them in the past.

The tasting barn viewed through a taste.

The tasting barn viewed through a taste.

Castello di Borghese: Wines that Go Great with Food February 21, 2015

http://www.castellodiborghese.com/

borg outside

The last time we were here, two years ago, we had a great conversation with Ann Marie Borghese, the owner, with her husband, of this excellent winery.  Since then, alas, they both have died.  However, their three children—Allegra, Fernando, and Giovanni—have committed to keeping the vineyard going.  We were wondering what the tasting room experience would be like under the new regime, and were happy to find the same careful, well-informed, personal, and cheerful service as before.  Whew.  The wines were also pretty good!

The tasting room is divided into two areas, one with the bar and a few gift items, and the other with tables and chairs, an art gallery, and a small stage.  Alas, Marguerite Volans, a frequent musical performer, was not there.

The stage for performers.

The stage for performers.

Our enthusiastic and well-versed server explained the menu choices to us.  For $10 you can choose any four wines from the Estate wines side of the menu, and for $15 you can choose any five wines from either the Estate side or the Reserve side.  Since if we each tried five wines we would be able to cover most of their choices, we decided to go with that option, which would also let us taste some similar wines side by side.  We opted to skip the rosé, since we are such Croteaux fans, and a few others.  In addition to the menu items, we were also offered the opportunity to taste some newly bottled examples of the 2013 vintage.  I’ll mark the wines from the Reserve menu and the new vintages with an *.

Walking into the bar area.

Walking into the bar area.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay            $18

The steel-fermented chard got our tasting off to a good start.  We got lots of pineapple smells, as well as a bit of grapefruit.  Typical of a steel chard, this is crisp and fairly tart, with nice citrus flavors.  Kumquat, says my husband, and I agree, kumquat with the skin on.  Good with scallops, suggests our server.

  1. *2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $26

I don’t always like oaked chards, but this one only spent six months in oak, so it is still fairly delicate, with butterscotch aromas and some wheat toast flavors as well as fruit.  2012 was a great year on the North Fork, with a dry September that allowed grapes to really ripen.  It was also interesting to taste these two very different wines made from the same grape.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $24

Yum, another good white.  This wine is also steel-fermented, with an aroma that reminds me of white grape juice.  How odd, a wine that smells like grapes…This is also dry, with citrus taste dominated by grapefruit, and I could be very happy pairing it with some local oysters.

  1. *2013 Founders Field Sauvignon Blanc $24

How interesting.  Still some of that grape juice smell, with a bit of butterscotch from its two months in oak, but the taste is quite different, almost funky, with a bit of a metallic tang.  “Austere,” says my husband.  I think it needs to be drunk with food, I counter, and our server agrees.  Maybe seafood in a cream sauce, like a New England clam chowder, would be a good idea.

borg wine

  1. *2013 Bianco di Pinot Noir $50

I always like to try something new, so I suggest we try two whites which sound interesting.  This one is made from pinot noir grapes, which are usually used to make red wines.  In this case, they took the skins off in order to make a white wine.  Hmmm…it smells really nice.  Chocolate, suggests my tasting pal, and I have to agree.  But it smells better than it tastes, tart, with a very short finish, and not complex.  It’s good with cheese and crackers, we are told, and I can see that.

  1. *2012 White Meritage $60

Usually, Meritage means a red blend, so I’m intrigued.  This is a mixture of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, and in contrast to the previous wine has more and better taste than aroma.  It smells somewhat like acetone (phenols, says my scientific companion) but has some good citrus and grapefruit tastes.

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir                $30

Now we switch to reds, and get new glasses, always a nice touch.  Pinot noir is the Burgundy grape, lighter than Bordeaux, and so it is.  The menu says “soft tannins,” but I don’t sense any.  I smell raspberry and a woodsy aroma and taste lightly fruity berries.  I could see this slightly chilled on a summer picnic with roast chicken.  Speaking of chilled, we were pleased that none of the wines were served too cold, which often happens, and which makes it harder to really taste the wines.

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  1. *2013 Pinot Noir Reserve $55

This is one of the new releases, and we are interested to see how it compares with the 2012 Pinot.  Again, we get a woodsy and raspberry aroma, with some additional fruit smells.  We like this one much better (though maybe not $25 better).  It has lots of cherry flavor, not much in the way of tannins, and is also a fairly light red.  We are told that pinot noir is a “heartbreak grape,” as it can be finicky and doesn’t always deliver on its promise.  We are also told that the snow is actually good for the vines, as it acts as almost a blanket for the dormant vines.

  1. *2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

This is also a new release, and we are advised to try it before the cab sauv.  The aroma is again a bit funky, but with lots of red fruit to it.  We like it, but again think it would benefit by being served with food.  It is dry, with some nice fruit tastes, and would complement a barbeque very nicely.  I envision digging our Weber out from the snow bank it currently inhabits.  Not gonna happen!

Some of the gift items for sale

Some of the gift items for sale

  1. *2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44

I think this wine demonstrates the risk of serving a newly bottled wine, as we feel it would benefit from more time.  It’s closed, says my husband, who has been reading wine magazines for years.  It has some good tannins and dark fruit—black cherry in particular—tastes.  We think it might be good in a few years, and if we had room in the cellar might have given it a chance.  Time to drink some more reds from the cellar!

The lovely Allegra

The lovely Allegra

  1. 2010 Allegra $36

If you’re counting, you realize that we should be at the end of our tasting, but our server, noticing our seriousness and my note-taking, asks if we want to try anything else.  Well, I ask, is there anything we should try?  Okay, she says, you have to try our dessert wine, made from chardonnay grapes.  A new, smaller glass appears, and we get a taste.  Very delicious!  Aromas of honeysuckle and freshly cut grass, tastes of honey and apricot, but not too sweet, not at all cloying, we agree, and we buy a bottle.  Then, all the way home, we discuss what to have it with.  I think if we did a dessert course of Catapano goat cheese and local peaches it would go beautifully.  Or if we had an appetizer course of paté…It was named, by the way, for Allegra Borghese, on the occasion of her 16th birthday.  She must be a lovely person!

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Reasons to visit:  you want to try an all-around good winery that is not inundated with buses; you’re curious about the oldest vineyard (it was originally Hargreaves) on the North Fork; some interesting choices; the 2013 steel Chardonnay, the 2012 Barrel Chardonnay, the 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve, the 2010 Allegra; servers who really know the wines.

borg sign

The vines enjoy their blanket of snow.

The vines enjoy their blanket of snow.