Sherwood House Vineyard: Sip and Shop May 12, 2017

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

https://www.hounds-tree.com/

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I happened to snap this at a sunny moment.

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On a cool spring day, when clouds and sun took turns dominating the sky, we stopped into Sherwood House’s tasting room, which we had not been to in almost two years.  Though the tasting room looks much the same, with its cozy fireplace, there have been a number of changes in the winery itself.  We immediately noticed that there were three options on the tasting menu: a Sherwood House flight of five wines for $16, a Hound’s Tree Estate flight of five wines for $16, and a flight of four Library and Estate wines for $24.  We decided to go with one flight of Sherwood House wines and one of Hound’s Tree, tasting them side by side, since there seemed to be comparable choices on both menus.

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The friendly and helpful server explained that Hound’s Tree was a new winery that had bought the Oregon Road vineyard from Sherwood House and was making wines in a West Coast style, in partnership with Appoloni Vineyards, a winery based in Oregon (the state, not the road!).  Meanwhile, the owner and winemaker of Sherwood house planned to go on making their wines in their own style, which is influenced by French methods.  What a nice opportunity to compare styles!

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The shop adjoins the tasting room.

After our tastings we browsed the beautiful shop which adjoins the tasting room.  It used to be called Material Objects, and is now called William Ris East.  It features fine art, sculpture, and antiques (according to their sign), plus jewelry and pottery.  We saw many pieces we liked, and if you are looking for some real art it is a good place to go.  One caution:  the pour in the winery is fairly generous, so don’t make any decisions on buying art if you’re not compos mentis!

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Although the Sherwood House web page mentions music on Saturday afternoons, on this quiet Friday a singer/guitarist set up in a corner and serenaded us with Beatles tunes, among others.  A party of women at a table, who were sharing a bottle of rosé and a cheese tray (bought at the winery and provided by Love Lane cheese shop), seemed to enjoy his performance very much, as did we.  As we chatted with the server, she took note of my notebook and asked directly if we wrote for any publication, so we admitted that I did a blog.  As a result, she gave us two extra tastes.  I’ve labeled the Sherwood House choices SH and the Hound’s Tree choices HT.

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We enjoyed the music.

  1. 2014 Oregon Road Chardonnay SH                       $19

This is a pretty typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with aromas of pears and minerals and tastes of unripe pear.  It is both sweet and tart, so well-balanced, with a nice long finish.  It is definitely a good food wine.  This, like the other whites, is served too cold (not their fault—wineries are obliged to set their refrigeration at a specified temperature), but we warmed the glass in our palms to get a better sense of the wine.

  1. 2015 HT Estate Chardonnay     $24

Really different!  We get a vegetable aroma—roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts—and maybe a slight burnt smell.  The taste is also quite different, with some vegetal notes and lots of rock and minerality and even salt, as well as some pear.  However, we like this one, too, and it would also be good with food.  Maybe something rich, like a roast chicken, while the SH chard might do better with scallops.

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  1. 2013 Estate Chardonnay SH        $35

Nope, you won’t find this on the regular tasting menu, but our server thought we should try their one oaked chardonnay.  70% oak, she said, which explained why, though it has some of that butterscotch smell, it does not taste overly oaky.  It had a touch of sweetness, but “not unpleasantly so,” opined my husband.  Though not a sipper, this would stand up to many different foods.  I could see having it with pork chops.

  1. 2015 Estate Rosé HT       $22

A blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, this rosé has a deep pink color and a sweet aroma that I insist smells like red Twizzlers.  My drinking pal suggests “fireplace” and cherry juice.  In any event, it is a very dry rosé, with more citrus than strawberry taste.  I wouldn’t choose it as a sipper, but I think it could be very nice paired with some charcuterie.

  1. Oregon Road White Merlot SH   $19

When we saw “white merlot” we immediately thought of Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, which is a white pinot noir (no longer called Anomaly), but this is quite different.  I described it as “evanescent,” as it is very light and the taste seems to dissipate very quickly.  The aroma is of strawberries, salt, and minerals, and I actually think it would be fun to drop a few strawberries into a glass for summer sipping.

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The two rose style wines provided quite a contrast in both taste and color.

  1. 2013 Oregon Road Red Blend SH              $19

We agreed that this was the perfect price point for this very nice red table wine, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon.  My guess is the blend is heavy on the merlot, as I got lots of cherry in the smell and taste.  My husband pronounced it a “perfectly acceptable” dinner wine.  It is fairly dry.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc HT              $28

Eh.  Not particularly a fan of this one, which we felt was rather “tame,” in my husband’s opinion.  Light for a cabernet franc, it is not a red you’d want to pair with a steak or other hearty meat.  Maybe veal.

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Though these two reds may look similar, they actually taste quite different.

  1. 2012 Merlot SH               $38

This one we like better than the previous wine. It has mouth-watering tannins, lots of cherry taste and aroma, and also some scents of forest.

  1. 2015 Merlot HT               $28

Again, we prefer the Sherwood House style, as we find this red just okay, with not a lot of fruit or depth.  It’s not bad, just not very interesting.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon HT      $28

Aromas of dark fruits, like plums and berries, good tannins, dry, and tastes of dark fruit.  Again, not exciting, but perfectly acceptable.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc SH               $45

I like this one the best of the reds so far, although it has almost no finish.  The aroma is a tad funky, with some notes of forest floor as well as dark fruits.  Another nicely dry wine, it would go well with a cheese platter.

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  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor SH           $45

This is our other extra taste, and a good one it is.  It’s the most interesting wine of the day, with lots of varied flavors and aromas and tannins that make us think it would continue to age well.

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One time when we came here they were selling oysters on the porch.

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More art from the gallery.

Reasons to visit:  cozy tasting room with a fireplace that is in use in the winter; the opportunity to browse a gallery with beautiful pieces; the Oregon Road Chardonnay, the Sherwood House Estate Chardonnay, the Hound’s Tree Estate Rosé, the Oregon Road Red Blend, the Sherwood Manor; music even when it isn’t scheduled.

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We think these crates can be used to store wine.

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Mattebella: Food Friendly Wines April 23, 2017

http://mattebella.com/main

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A view to the outdoor patio, which is even prettier in the summer when the hydrangea are in bloom.

The sun finally appeared, so we decided to head to one of our favorite outdoor tasting areas.  In fact, Mattebella is almost all outside area, so I suggest that you only go there in nice weather. They have a small tasting cottage and another small indoor area, plus some covered gazebo-like seating places, but most of their seating is on the rustic patio, where you are immediately greeted, shown to a table, and handed a menu.

As soft rock played in the background (think James Taylor), we perused our choices.  There are three flights:  Red, which is five tastes for $20; Light, which is seven whites, a rosé, and a sparkler for $20; and Total Vertical Red, which is the same as the red flight with the addition of their most expensive red, for $26.  We decided to share the basic red and the light, starting with the light.

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Our very well-informed server brought a tray to our table with nine glasses on it, six of which he turned right side up in order to pour our first six tastes.  He also set down a little slate tray with two slices of baguette covered with double cream brie.  As far as I know, Mattebella is the only winery around here to give you actual food to go with your tasting—not just a few crackers.  What’s nice about this is that you can think about how well each wine goes with food.  We concluded that Mattebella’s wines are very food friendly, even the ones we were not too sure of on their own.  It’s a good idea to ration your nibbles, so you can experiment with how each wine goes with the cheese and baguette.

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First snack.

The first six tastes are all chardonnays, but from different years or treated differently in terms of steel or a combination of steel and oak.  Our server also explained that for the chardonnay grape there’s not a lot of difference year to year, so the ways the wines vary totally depends on how they are treated.

(Two FYIs:  they don’t take American Express cards, and the restroom, at least for the moment, is a port-a-pottie.)

  1. 2014 Steel Chardonnay              $21

A sniff reveals scents of mineral and cucumber, and the taste is very tart and sour lemony.  We immediately decided this wine needed food, and after a bite of brie we liked it much better.  I could see having it with something like Coquilles St. Jacques, while my husband theorized that lobster thermidor would also work.

  1. 2012 Famiglia Chardonnay         $21

This one and the next one are both fermented 20% in oak, and the rest in steel, so if you don’t like oaked chardonnays this one will be just fine.  It has a slight aroma of honeysuckle and what my tasting buddy insisted was shoe polish.  Mineral or metal, maybe.  The taste is somewhat citrusy, not sweet, and rather subtle.  Again, not a sipper, but would go well with food.

  1. 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay         $23

We like this one better.  It has more aroma and tastes of fresh mandarin orange (when you bite into the whole fruit, rind and all), mineral, and salt.  Again, not too oaky.  “A wine to think about,” opined my husband.

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  1. 2012 Reserve Chardonnay          $28

The next three wines are all fermented 40% in oak, so they are definitely oakier than the former two, though still not too oaky.  It has a pleasant aroma of apricots and butterscotch candy with lots of tastes.  I decide on bosc pear and gala apple!

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

This one has a slightly funky smell and the taste is just okay, with still plenty of minerality despite the oak.  Again, this one benefits from being sipped with a bite of brie.

  1. 2014 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

I would say pretty much the same comments about this wine as the previous one, just adding that it smells a little like sweat, though not in a bad way, and has more of a citrus flavor that that one.

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The sparkling wine is in front.

  1. 2014 Riesling     $22

Now our server comes out with another three bottles (carried in a milkman-like metal carrier) and fills our next three glasses.  This is their first riesling, and he explains that the winemaker wanted to make a dry riesling, but found the brix content of the grapes to be too high.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brix )  As a result, he decided on an “off-dry” riesling.  We don’t particularly care for this one, which is both too sweet for us but also has a metallic taste I don’t like—like touching your tongue to steel or iron.  Maybe next year’s vintage will be better.

  1. 2015 Rosé          $21

Pleasant, we agree, is the word for this rosé, made from merlot grapes.  It spends 5-6 hours on the skins, we are informed.  I think it has a bit of a smell like parmesan cheese!  We taste citrus, strawberry, salt, and mineral.  Crisp and nice.

  1. 2015 Off-Dry Sparkling Rose       $28

If you follow me at all, you can probably tell just by the name that I’m not going to care for this sparkler, and you would be right.  Too sweet!  Made from syrah grapes, it has a distinct green vegetable aroma, maybe fresh peas, plus some chocolate.  The taste reminds me of sweet cherries.

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Bottle carrier

Now we order a red flight, and get a fresh tray with five little glasses on it.  Again, the wines are very similar, all being blends in varying proportions of some combination of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and/or petit verdot.  With this round we each get a little plate with two slices of baguette, one topped with balsamic fig jam and gorgonzola cheese, and the other with bacon jam and grana padana, plus specific instructions on which goes with which wine.  Yum.

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  1. Famiglia Red     $24

As their non-vintage selection, Mattebella aims for consistency with this wine, trying to have it taste pretty much the same year to year.  Not a bad goal, since we like this wine very much.  It’s a perfect spaghetti/pizza wine, with characteristic merlot cherry tastes, dry yet fruity.

  1. 2011 Old World Blend   $43

We smell cherry, like a merlot, though this is a blend.  2011 was a difficult year, because of Hurricane Irene, but since Mattebella harvests by hand, they were able to pick and choose and get enough grapes to make their wine, though fewer cases than usual.  I would say this is fairly straightforward, with soft tannins, and very pleasant to drink.

  1. 2012 Old World Blend   $40

This one has no cabernet sauvignon, and instead more petit verdot, making it spicier and more interesting as far as I’m concerned.  Definitely we smell and taste cherry, but also red blackberry and some minerality.  Another good one.

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Second round of snacks!

  1. 2008 Old World Blend   $48

No petit verdot in this one!  We are instructed to have it with the balsamic fig jam/gorgonzola-topped baguette slice, which is a great pairing.  The wine is good, but better with the food.  We smell and taste chocolate and tobacco in addition to some cherry and dark fruit.

  1. 2009 Old World Blend   $46

Now we get to have the other baguette with jam and cheese, also a nice pairing.  This wine definitely smells like a Bordeaux, with lots of interesting fruit.  The taste has dark fruit and a touch of earthiness, and we like it very much.  Excellent!

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The winery is named for the owners’ children, pictured on the label.

Reasons to visit: an attractive outdoor seating area; the chance to compare the same grape or grapes over different years or treatments; free snacks!; the 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay; all the reds.

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The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017

http://winemaker-studio.com/index.html

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To celebrate April 15 NOT being tax day, we decided to return to The Winemaker Studio, where winemakers who work for some of the big wineries experiment with their own labels. It does fascinate me that people whose job is winemaking feel the need to express more of their ideas about wine with their own experiments—but when the results are as good as this, why not?  On this day, the Studio was featuring the wines of Anthony Nappa, who owns the place and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Russell Hearn, who is the winemaker for Lieb.  Hearn actually has two different labels available:  Suhru for one line, and T’Jara for wines whose grapes all come from one vineyard.

We stood at the bar and enjoyed chatting with our server, who seemed to know everything about all the wines.  On that day, the menus offered any five of Nappa’s ten wines for $15, and all five of Hearn’s wines, also for $15.  We decided to do one of each, alternating as we went, with some guidance from our server as to sequence and choices from Nappa’s list.  We could also have ordered cheese or other snacks, which come from the little food store attached to the tasting room.  Before we started, the server gave us glasses of chilled water, which he regularly replenished.

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The room is simple. The tables are sometimes inside and sometimes outside.

One other couple entered, and we enjoyed chatting with them about where they had been that day and their love of Key West.  Then a large group came in, and though they don’t usually permit groups without a reservation, since it was so quiet the server agreed to take care of them, and seated them in the food store room.  We were concerned we’d lose our source of information, but he competently took care of everyone!

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The sign seems clear enough…

  1. 2016 Suhru Sauvignon Blanc      $20

We decided it was best to start with what was likely the lightest of the wines, and we were right.  This is a really nice light sauvignon blanc, with some aromas of cat pee and asparagus.  It’s a bit fruity for a sauvignon blanc, and also has lots of minerality and some saltiness.  Very refreshing.  Good summer sipper, or to have with clams or oysters.

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  1. 2016 Nappa White Pinot Noir   $19

White pinot noir?  Isn’t that the wine that used to be called Anomaly?  Well, yes.  Apparently there was some sort of allegation of copyright infringement from a winery in Napa Valley, so Anthony Nappa had to rename his wine.  The first time we had this we really liked it, then not so much the next time, but this time it was back into the plus file.  The aroma combines strawberry—like a rosé, which this basically resembles—with a touch of funkiness that adds some interest.  The wine is somewhat dry, with some strawberry taste as well.  It would pair well with a stinky cheese, like an aged blue.

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  1. 2014 Suhru Dry Riesling               $18

Not sure why, but my tasting buddy insisted the smell reminded him of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  It is a strong aroma, with a touch of mineral or metal.  If you like a dry riesling, this is for you.  The server noted that it had .7% residual sugar, quite a contrast to the Nappa riesling we were going to taste next.  I always enjoy these side by side tastings, where you try the same grapes made in different ways.  Like the Suhru sauvignon blanc, this also has a bit of a salty tang, with some gooseberry taste.

  1. 2016 Nappa New York Riesling   $18

So different!  Made with grapes from upstate’s Sheldrake vineyard, this riesling has 1.9% residual sugar.  Although it is much sweeter, it is well balanced, and would be fine with something really spicy, like Thai food.  “Almost candy,” says my husband, but I get tropical fruit and spices like nutmeg, and a complex aroma that is rather alluring.

  1. 2012 Suhru Shiraz           $25

Although the scent promises lots of dark fruit, the wine itself is rather light for a shiraz.  I could see this with roast chicken, not steak.  Nice tannins, so maybe it will age well.

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  1. 2016 Nappa Bordo Antico           $22

If you care about such things, you might like to know that this wine is certified organic.  It is made from cabernet franc grapes, steel fermented.  It smells like forest floor, with a bit of a mushroomy funk.  The taste is good, fruity, direct and simple.  I might pair it with duck breasts.

 

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc         $30

Here we go again—same grape, different preparation—though this is a bit of a blend, 87% cabernet franc with 10% merlot and 3% cabernet sauvignon.  This is oak fermented, and has lots of fruit tastes like dark plums, and a long finish.  Delicious.  It would complement lamb chops.

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  1. 2014 Nappa Nemesis Pinot Noir               $35

Why “Nemesis”?  We learn that pinot noir is notoriously hard to work with, so the danger is that it could prove to be the winemaker’s nemesis.  Not in this case, though it is not our favorite of the day.  Made with grapes from Macari and Peconic Bay, this is a light, dry, slightly fruity red.

  1. 2013 T’Jara Merlot         $28

A blend of 92% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc, and 2% malbec, the wine is aged 20 months in Hungarian oak and tastes to us more or less like a typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry flavor.  Very nice.

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Both the design on the label and the name of the label come from Australian Aborigines. Hearn is from Australia.

  1. 2013 Nappa Tredici        $35

Tredici?  As in three grapes:  67% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 18% cabernet sauvignon?  Nope, as in 2013—named for the year.  And why not, since it was a very good year.  We smell cherries, and the taste is very much of the merlot, but with more interesting flavors than the Hearn blend.  It has lots of tannins, and if we had room in the wine cellar (we really must drink more of our wine!) we might have bought a bottle to age for a few years.

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There are wines from a variety of winemakers available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to taste wines you won’t find elsewhere; an intimate setting with knowledgeable servers (not just this time, but every time we’ve come); the Nappa White Pinot Noir (formerly Anomaly) and Tredici; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc and T’Jara 2012 Cabernet Franc; lots of availability of magnums, if you happen to want to buy one!

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Lots of magnums!

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The Studio is on Peconic Street, where you will also find a nice little food store and a gift shop.

Shinn Winery: Sophisticated Rusticity February 19, 2017

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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Away from the Main Road and Sound Avenue wineries, on rural Oregon Road, Shinn’s tasting room is housed in a grey weathered wood building that seems rustic.  However, the wines, the service, and their philosophy are all quite up to date.

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We went there with two small distractions, ages five and two, so my notes are somewhat less detailed than usual, but we enjoyed our visit anyway, highlighted by a nice dish of mixed nuts we ordered, and a small plate of crackers for the little ones we had not (Shinn asks that you not bring in outside food, and has a small menu of their own.).  The resident doggie also came in for a bit of attention.  As we entered, a server asked that one member of our party of four adults not do a tasting, in order to supervise the little ones, but we managed to slip her some sips as we sat at a comfortable table for six.

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Food menu. The mixed nuts were very good.

The last time we came here, also in the winter, it was deserted, but this time it was Presidents’ Weekend and the weather was unseasonably warm, and quite a few people were there.  As a result, we learned that they have an additional tasting area in amongst the stainless-steel vats where they could accommodate the overflow crowd.  When we arrived, there were even some hardy souls sitting outside on their pretty patio area.

 

The first sight you have of the winery is, appropriately enough, the tall windmill which, along with solar panels, provides power to the winery and the attached farmhouse inn.  The owners are very ecologically conscious, and use the “biodynamic” method to grow their grapes, which you can read about on their web site.  Even the dishes used for their snacks are “compostable” and “made from fallen leaves.”

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Windmill

A tasting includes any four wines from their menu for $15.  The three of us made some diverse choices, and we ended up not tasting the wines in the perfect order (as all wineries specify on their menus), so I’ll just list them in the order in which I tasted mine and theirs!  Fortunately, the first thing they put on our table was a nice big bottle of water and some cups, so I was able to cleanse my palate between tastes.  We also tasted their apple brandy and grappa, about which more later.

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  1. 2016 Coalescence          $16

I started with their white blend, a steel-fermented mixture of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and riesling.  The first time I had it I loved it, the second time not so much, but I guess the third time’s the charm, because this time I really enjoyed it.  It is a pleasantly dry white with nice minerality but also a touch of fruity sweetness, most likely from the riesling.  We bought a bottle.

  1. 2010 Sparkling Brut        $40

Our guest opted to start his tasting with this, and given that he has toured the Champagne region of France, I was quite impressed that he liked this.  He said it was like a traditional blanc de blanc, and both toasty and juicy—but not worth the price.

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  1. 2014 Estate Merlot                       $26

My husband chose to do all reds, and started with their merlot, which he said would be “okay with spaghetti.”  It is dry, and, he noted, does not have much fruit.

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  1. 2016 First Fruit                $22

Although this is made from sauvignon blanc grapes, it definitely has a cat pee smell, but also some green apple aromas.  Fortunately, it tastes like green apple, and again is dry and a bit tart.

  1. 2013 Wild Boar Doe       $32

Yes, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of “all five red varietals we grow”—that is, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec.  I’m not sure who ordered this one (I think I was distracted by being asked to admire a “Water Wow” creation.), but we agreed that it definitely has a raspberry smell and is very dry with lots of tannins.  We decided that if one bought it, one should cellar it for a few years.

  1. 2013 Haven       $35

I chose this one from the list of “small production” whites, and it is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes, kept on the skins overnight and then barrel fermented and aged.  As a result, it has a lovely golden color and a taste of vanilla and toast and caramel.  It’s a bit too sweet for me, though I liked it, and I would order it if I was having a spicy dish.

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The Haven is a lovely color. It is named for the field where the grapes are grown.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc      $38

Our guest was so taken with this wine that he bought a bottle to give as a gift to a friend.  It has lots of tannins and some vegetal notes.  My notes say broccoli!  He said it was not earthy, and would benefit from some aging.  My husband also had this one, and said it would be good with lamb, maybe like the delicious marinated lamb roast from Eight Hands Farm we had Sunday night.

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An array of some of our choices.

  1. 2014 Nine Barrels           $32

They make—you guessed it—nine barrels of this wine, which is their reserve merlot.  My husband said it was “not that interesting,” and ventured the opinion that their winemaking was rather “tame.”

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc             $35

For my final taste, I chose another from the “small production” list, a wine that is aged for 11 months in neutral oak barrels.  It has a nice aroma with some vanilla, and is a smooth, pleasant wine with no rough edges.

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  1. Julius Drover Apple Brandy         $55

Shinn has their own distillery where they make several different liquors.  The apple brandy is made from local apples and is aged for four years.  A very small taste is $7, but really, you wouldn’t want too much, as the alcohol hits you right away. 80 proof!  It tastes very like brandy, and not much like apples, but our guest is making a small study of apple brandies and bought a bottle.  Julius Drover, by the way, refers to the owner’s grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger during Prohibition.

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  1. Shinn shine, Grappa                     $47 for 375 ml.

So the brandy was 80 proof, but this is 122 proof!  One of us described it as rubbing alcohol poured through grape skins.  It is powerful.

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They have a few “agritainment” activities.

Reasons to visit:  You want to get away from the main road wineries and try somewhere intimate and laid back; you’re interested in their liquors (in addition to the above, they make an eau de vie and another brandy); the Coalescence, the Cabernet Franc, the Sparkling Brut, the Haven; you want to support their earth-friendly philosophy.

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Resident laid-back pooch.

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Jamesport Vineyards: Brrr, It’s Cold Outside December 16, 2016

http://www.jamesportwines.com/

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On the coldest day so far this winter, we ventured forth to do some errands and a wine tasting.  We paid our final visits until spring to Bayview (potatoes and Brussels sprouts) and Briermere (last pie for months to come, a yummy blackberry apple), and then headed to Jamesport for a tasting.  In the past, we’d been there in warm weather and had enjoyed sitting outside on their pretty patio, watching families frolic in the capacious back yard and enjoying oysters.  Some day, we decided, we’d have to return to try the flatbreads from their outdoor wood-fired oven.  But now it was winter, very quiet, and rather chilly.  The only other occupants of the tasting room were a small party enjoying a bottle of wine at one of the tables. There are a few small tables and a long bar along one side.  Not much is on offer by way of merchandise aside from the wines.  We stepped up to the bar, and eventually the pleasant young woman behind it came over and asked us if we wanted to do a tasting.

Plenty of room at the bar on this cold winter Friday.

Plenty of room at the bar on this cold winter Friday.

Also room at the tables...

Also room at the tables…

We did, but first we needed some time to peruse the menu.  A tasting consists of any five of their wines for $18, so we decided to share one, even though that meant we had to skip many of the wines.  The menu offers nine whites (including one sparkling), seven reds (which includes a rosé, though some places list the rosé with the whites), two dessert wines, and a non-alcoholic verjus.  No guidance from the server being on offer, we made up our own minds.  As Christmas music tinkled in the background, we signaled her that we were ready for our first taste.

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  1. 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc      $21.95

In the past we’ve enjoyed their steel fermented East End Sauvignon Blanc with our oysters, so we decided it was time to try their other sauvignon blanc, one that is also steel fermented but spends some time in “oak puncheons.”  The aroma is mostly vegetal, with a hint of cat pee.  The server describes it as “New Zealand style.”  We sniff and sip.  Nicely dry, with a touch of sweetness on the tongue. I taste pineapple, and my tasting buddy says he can taste the oak.  Maybe a little.

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  1. 2013 Estate Riesling (Dry) $25.95

Described on the menu as “trocken”—which means dry in the German style—and by our server as having “no residual sugar,” this is indeed quite dry.  In fact, I find it rather sour.  My husband disagrees, though he agrees with my assessment that this is not my favorite riesling.  I think it smells somewhat chemical, with a whiff of apricot pits (arsenic, anyone?).  I taste hard green apricots and not ripe apple.  He likes it better than I do, though in general we both favor dry rieslings.

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  1. 2014 East End Cinq Red $18.95

Now we move to the reds, and get a clean glass.  By the way, we like their glasses very much—stemless and round-bottomed, they work well to warm the wines which, as in many places, are all served too cold.  If you know French, you may already have guessed that this is a blend of five grapes—cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and pinot noir.  Our server disappears to take a phone call before we can ask her about the proportions.  The bottle was just opened, which might account for a smell my husband characterizes as gasoline.  I’m not sure I agree (we seem to have more differences of opinion than usual today!), but I do get a bit of a sweet chemical aroma in addition to the expected red fruit smells.  We do, however, agree that the wine has more aroma than taste, and it is dry but not at all tannic.  I think it is a bit unbalanced, though I like the slightly peppery note at the end.  I would say just okay, a red you could have with roast chicken or lamb chops but not with Italian food or steak.

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  1. 2014 Thiméo Reserve $74.95

“How is this pronounced?” we ask our server before she can disappear again, “And where did the name come from?”  She replies, “Timeo, and it is named for the grandson of the French man who makes our barrels, Jean Louis Bossuet.  We collaborated with him to make this wine.”  While we have her, we ask about the grapes.  “75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc,” she replies, and is off to the far end of the bar before we can ask her why this one is so expensive.  Oh well.  It smells good; we detect lots of cocoa and some of the oak.  We try warming the glass in our palms to try to get a better idea of the taste, since we find it nice but not $75 nice.  Lots of tannins, so perhaps it would age well.  I decide to use a phrase I’ve seen lots of times, “It shows promise.”  My husband says you’d have to have an awful lot of faith in promises to buy it at that price.

My favorite of the day, the syrah.

My favorite of the day, the syrah. We also liked the glasses.

  1. 2014 East End Syrah $18.95

Finally, a wine I really like!  The menu—and our server—describe this as having been made in the “feminine style,” and therefore “not jammy.”  The aroma is of warm spices, like cardamom, and dark fruit, the taste is dry but fruity.  This would also pair well with lamb chops (maybe from 8 Hands Farm), but you wouldn’t want it with a very strong-flavored entrée, since it would be overwhelmed.  If we needed a red, I could see getting a bottle of this.

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Reasons to visit:  come in the summer, when you can sit outside and enjoy music and snacks, like their wood-oven-baked flatbreads; the East End Syrah; in the past, we’ve liked their East End Sauvignon Blanc.

Plenty of room in the summer for families, dogs, and picnicers.

Plenty of room in the summer for families, dogs, and picnickers.

Through a window in the tasting room you can peep in to see the vats.

Through a window in the tasting room you can peep in to see the vats.

Channing Daughters: Secret Favorite November 5, 2016

http://www.channingdaughters.com/

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

I have a confession to make.  Though my blog is titled Nofo for North Fork, my favorite East End winery is actually on the South Fork, just outside Sag Harbor, to be exact.  Why do I like Channing Daughters so much?  For one thing, I’ve never had a wine of theirs that I disliked.  We joined their wine club years ago (we get the wine delivered) and are fascinated by the wide variety of different wines they offer, especially for such a small winery.  According to their web site, they have “three dozen different bottlings.”  Their web site is worth visiting, to learn about the interesting experiments they do.  When they introduced rosés, they made six or seven different ones.  I bought a case of six varieties, and we enjoyed them all.  They also started making vermouths a few years ago, using local herbs where possible. They do a better job with reds than many Long Island wineries, and their Scuttlehole Chardonnay is the one against which we measure all other steel-fermented chards.  In fact, we served it at our daughter’s wedding.

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We also like the intimacy of the tasting room, which is augmented in the summer by some outside tables.  And in the tasting room, we’ve always found the servers to be knowledgeable about the wines, happy to answer any questions guests pose to them.  Certainly our server on this visit fit that description, discussing both the wines and the business of a winery with well-informed intelligence.  For example, we started talking about the contrast between summer and fall crowds, especially in the Hamptons, and he discussed the challenges of staffing a tasting room for a seasonal spike in visitors.

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Because we are wine club members, we did not have the regular tasting.  Instead, our server made sure that we got to try some of their newest releases, including the bottles that had arrived in our most recent shipment.  A regular tasting consists of six wines for $14, and the pour is on the generous side.  Even though I won’t be writing about most of the wines on the regular tasting menu, I don’t hesitate to recommend that people go there.  You won’t be disappointed.  And while you’re on the South Fork, you can also visit Wölffer Estate, if you want a second winery visit.  (However, I don’t recommend Duck Walk.)  Then you can drive into Sag Harbor and walk up and down Main Street, checking out the art galleries, book store, and boutiques, and ending with dinner at Il Cappuccino (or one of the other restaurants).  We haven’t been there recently, but we used to be quite enamored of the garlic knots.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

  1. 2015 Scuttlehole Chardonnay   $18

As I said, this is our favorite East End chard, named for the street on which the winery is located.  It is a crisp, dry, steel-fermented wine, with lots of lemon tastes and, as they say, mouth-watering acidity.  It goes great with food, especially fish and seafood, like Peconic Bay scallops.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $23

There is a little tocai fruliano (8%) mixed in with the sauvignon blanc, and both are slightly oaked.  The aroma is interesting, almost candy-like, with some floral notes, and the taste is equally complex.  We discuss, and identify stone or mineral and peach and peach pit.  Because it is only slightly oaked it is still quite crisp, and, like their wines in general, dry.  Nice.

Envelope has a rich color.

Envelope has a rich color.

  1. 2012 Envelope $42

Why “Envelope”?  Because the idea was to “push the envelope” of what a chardonnay could be.  Though “pushing the envelope” could describe what they do with many of their wines (like Research Cab, or Over and Over, or L’Enfant Sauvage), the results with this one are quite good.  It is what is called an “orange” wine, though it is not quite orange, because it spends more time on the skins, giving it a deeper color than your average white.  A blend of 66% chardonnay, 26% gewürztraminer, and 8% malvasia bianca, it has an almost vegetable-like aroma, which my husband compares to his favorite veggie:  Brussels sprouts.  Not a sipping wine, it would go great with charcuterie, where its tart edge would complement the richness of the meats.

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  1. 2015 Rosso Fresco $20

This one is also on the regular tasting menu, and is their sort of all-purpose red blend, a mixture this year of 47% merlot, 30% blaufrankisch, 10% syrah, 10% dornfelder, and 3 % cabernet franc.  Now that’s a blend I bet you won’t find anywhere else!   I compare the aroma to funky cherry pie.  The taste is of plums and other dark fruits, and is again dry, with some tannins.  My tasting buddy thinks it would go well with a stew, and now that the weather is turning colder perhaps I’ll make one.  Our server also mentions that the winemaker used to be a chef, so he is very attuned to making wines that go well with food.

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  1. 2014 Petit Verdot $32.40 (for wine club members)

I tend to like petit verdots, so I was eager to taste this one, and I was not disappointed.  Our server described it as “smoky, dark, and full-bodied,” and suggested it was a good wine to cellar.  I agree.  The taste makes me think of dark chocolate with a cherry inside, but it is quite tannic and I think would benefit from some aging.

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  1. 2015 Muscat de Boom $30 (for a small bottle)

Funny name for a really delicious after dinner wine, this is made with muscat ottonel grapes which are partially fermented and then dosed with grape brandy.  It is slightly viscous, like a thin honey, but not cloyingly sweet, and would pair well with dark chocolate and almonds.  Almond Joy?  Why not!

Menu

Menu

Reasons to visit:  it’s one of the best wineries on Long Island; you’re on the South Fork and want to visit a winery or you’ve decided on a day trip to Montauk and want to stop at a winery on your way; the wood sculptures made by Mr. Channing; a wide variety of wines to suit every taste; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Envelope, the Rosso Fresco, the Petit Verdot…actually, all their wines!

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More of the array of wines.

More of the array of wines.

 

Martha Clara: Playground or Winery? September 3, 2016

https://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

The capacious "backyard" of Martha Clara.

The capacious “backyard” of Martha Clara.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

The parking attendant waved us on to the “additional parking” area, so we had a good view of the activities going on in back of the Martha Clara tasting room and barns.  Children and dogs were running around, a couple played Frisbee, many people tossed beanbags into a whole line of targets, and a wagon hitched to horses waited to give rides.  The delicious smell came from an old-fashioned Airstream camper that had been turned into a food truck.  And that was a good thing, since Martha Clara no longer allows you to bring in outside food, preferring that you buy your own from their menu, catered by Noah’s Restaurant in Greenport.

Food truck!

Food truck!

Noah's menu

Noah’s menu

We were there with a friend who is a member of the Marth Clara wine club, so we first headed to the Tasting Barn with its sign outside limiting it to wine club members.  However, it was full, so we headed on into the main building and, not feeling like standing at the bar in the crowded main tasting room, sat at a table in the table service area.  At first the server said we’d have to pay full price, but after assuring her that we had been turned away from the members-only barn she said okay—which resulted in a significant saving for our four tastings.

No room in the Members Only barn

No room in the Members Only barn

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

The sleekly bound menu offers four options for tastings, plus a variety of wines by the glass or bottle, and a bunch of snacks.  The four flight menus are labeled Aromatic, Sustainable, Northville, and Vintners, and range from $14-$17 for five generous tastes (or $5-$7 for wine club members).  The tables were all set with napkins, wineglasses, and water glasses, which we used both for water from the large bottle the server delivered to our table and as a dump bucket.  But more on that later.

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I opted for the Northville flight, mostly because it included their Syrah, a wine I often like.  The two men in the party chose the Vintage flight, and our friend the wine club member decided on the Aromatic because it is all whites, and that’s what she was in the mood for.  The Sustainable has a combination of reds and whites, as do the other options.  I will tell about my tasting first, and then about the other wines, not all of which I tried myself.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer Estate Reserve   $27

Gewürztraminers are tricky, because they can be very sweet or dry, with a lot or not much fruit, depending on how they are handled.  This one is steel fermented, so I had hopes, but then the server explained that it was on the sweet side, and she liked it as an after dinner drink or with “spicy Thai food.”  The aroma combines flowers, mineral, and creosote—you know, that smell you get from the railroad tracks on a hot summer day.  Fortunately it doesn’t taste like what I imagine creosote would taste like, but rather like lychees in sugar syrup with some minerality at the end.  This wine also began the Vintage tasting, and we all found it too sweet.  In fact, we all dumped at least part of our serving.  But if you like a sweet wine, you’d probably like this one.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc      $27

A light ruby color, this wine is also light in body, with a red candy and wet rock aroma, and a plum taste.  It would be a good burger or roast chicken wine.  Aged 14 months in oak.

  1. 2013 Merlot $24

Merlot does well on Long Island, and this is no exception, a nice, light, dry red with some fruit.  I like it.  It smells rather oak-y, even though it only spends 12 months in oak.

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  1. 2012 Syrah (Cote Rotie Style) $24

I would be very happy drinking a full glass of this one.  It has aromas of red fruit and pepper, with lots of red fruit tastes, some tannins, and a dry finish.  It could pair well with lamb or duck.  It’s my favorite of the day, too.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Again, you can definitely smell the oak.  This is somewhat dry, with lots of cherry taste and a nice long finish.

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And that was the end of my tasting.  However, here are some notes on the other flights.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Lots of aromas on this one, including vanilla and nutmeg, which is the first on the Vintage list.  It is aged “sur lie” for ten months.  If you like a smooth buttery chard, this is one for you.

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  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blend $18

I liked the bottle for this, featuring an image of a sun, which my friend saw as appropriate for this first on the Aromatic list, since it is, she said, “a perfect summer sipper.”  It is a blend of about four or five grapes which the server rattled off too quickly for me to catch.  We all sniffed it and agreed that it smelled like ripe pineapple, and my friend said it was “crisp and refreshing” with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $22

This is a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with honeysuckle aroma and lemon tastes, though it is a touch sweeter than some sauvignon blancs.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $22

And this is another great summer wine, said my friend, with some peach tastes and a touch of bubbles on the tongue.  It was her favorite of her tasting.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

We were all intrigued by the smell of this one, identifying vanilla sugar cookie (even though it is steel fermented) and wet rock.  Unlike the gewürztraminer, this escapes over-sweetness, and is a light and almost bubbly with some mineral taste.  The Aromatic tasting should have ended with the Gewürztraminer, but my friend decided to forego it since she had already tasted it and felt she had had enough wine.  As I said, the pour is generous, and we actually dumped some tastes we liked.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir $37

The Vintner tasting includes some of their higher priced wines, and we got into a discussion of value vs. cost, which I may revisit some time this winter when I don’t have a winery to review.  My husband informed us that this was a Burgundy-type wine, but a bit sharp for a Burgundy.  It had aromas of plum and prune, and a somewhat grapey (I know, shocking) taste.  Good, but not complex.

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  1. 2013 Northville Red (Bordeaux style) $27

Again, the server listed the grapes in this too quickly for note taking, but it is a Bordeaux-style blend we all liked very much.  In fact, my notes include “yum,” “delicious,” “very drinkable,” “layers of flavor,” and “really nice.”  We were happy when our friend bought us a bottle!

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Merlot $35

The menu informs us that this was rated a 90 by Wine Advocate.  Maybe.  It has a touch of that barnyard smell we always used to get from local merlots and hardly ever sense any more, but it tastes nice, with good fruit, some cherry flavor, and is dry.

Here's something not every winery has--a Tiki Bar!

Here’s something not every winery has–a Tiki Bar!

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Reasons to visit:  Lots of space to play and a relaxed, welcoming vibe; some agritainment; the Northern Solstice Blend, the Pinot Grigio, the Syrah, the Northville Red; lots of choices ; catering by Noah’s (We didn’t have any, but I like the food in the restaurant!).

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The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

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Croteaux: Still Our Favorite Garden August 26, 2016

http://www.croteaux.com/

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It’s a hot Friday afternoon, but in Croteaux’s shady garden it is just pleasantly warm.  We settle into the pair of Adirondack chairs the hostess indicated, and peruse the simple menu.  We have plenty of time to do so, since service is a bit overwhelmed by what is clearly a larger-than-expected crowd in the garden, but when our waitress appears we order two tastings of all six of their still rosés for $15 each, plus a basket of delicious herbed goat cheese and fresh baguette slices for $10.  They have a few other snack items as well, which is good since they don’t allow outside food.  We could have ordered a tasting of three of their sparkling rosés, also $15.  The first three on the list are $20 per bottle and the last three are $25.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, all they make is rosé.  The name also hints at the style of rosé, which is lean and flinty and dry, in the manner of French rosés.  All their wines are steel fermented and made to be drunk young.  We just finished the last of the case we bought last year, and we are here to decide whether or not to get a case this year.  As you will see, vintage clearly matters, as we found some of the wines quite different from last year.  Another difference—they used to have a rather extensive boutique with clothes, jewelry, etc., but that is no longer so.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

This old barn used to house a boutique.

  1. Merlot 181 (Pomerol)

“181” refers to the clone of merlot used for making this, the lightest of their rosés.  The aroma has a hint of strawberry, and also flowers and, believe it or not, asphalt.  No, really.  There is a distinct chemical smell.  The wine itself is dry, mineral-y, and salty, with not a lot of fruit.  It is very refreshing, with a long finish of the mineral and salt flavor, but not our favorite.

All our tastes at once!

All our tastes at once!

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

This one is so light it looks like a white wine.

  1. Merlot 314 (St. Emilion)

Sniff.  “Auto repair shop,” opines my tasting buddy.  I counter with one of my favorite aromas, though not one usually associated with wine:  “hardware store.”  For the last few years 314 has been our favorite rosé on the North Fork and we’ve bought cases of it.  Not this year.  It’s not bad, despite that aroma, but it is very tart and subdued, with very little fruit.  Some might even say sour.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

The map of France across from the cash register reminds everyone of the inspiration for these wines.

  1. Merlot 3

This is a blend of three clones:  181, 314, and 3.  More fruit “on the nose,” as wine people like to say, though it always conjures for me an image of someone balancing a glass of wine on his or her nose.  It would be a mistake to limit your use of this wine to a balancing act, as it is quite nice.  Still there are notes of mineral and salt, but not overwhelmingly so, with nice strawberry flavor.  “More interesting than the usual rosé,” says my husband.  I agree that it has layers of flavor, and we both agree that we’ll get a case of this.

Just barely pink

Just barely pink

  1. Sauvage (Merlot 181)

“Sauvage” means wild, or savage, and this wine is made with wild yeasts.  We like it better than the other 181.  Though it has a touch of that chemical smell, it is much fruitier and sweeter than the other wines, with just a touch of minerality.  Red candy, I say.  It would pair well with spicy food, like Thai duck salad.

  1. Chloe (Sauvignon Blanc with Cabernet Franc skins)

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and indeed it is more like a sauvignon blanc than like a rosé.  It has a sweet pine smell, like a Christmas tree, and tastes a bit like pine as well.  Quite dry, it would pair well with oysters, which gives us an idea.  When Happy Hour comes we will head to the Old Mill Inn for their dollar oysters and $3 glasses of wine.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

One of the better-kept secrets of the North Fork is the Old Mill Happy Hour, every day during the week. But if you want to go, better hurry. They close down for the winter.

  1. Jolie (Cabernet Franc)

Bright pink, this looks more like what one expects a rosé to look like than the other types.  The aroma is somewhat vegetal, maybe like a salad, but also with some fruit.  The wine is still dry, but with a fuller flavor.  A “red wine lover’s rosé,” they call it.  There’s a touch of Meyer lemon on the finish.  I like it, but my tasting companion does not.  I think you could sip this by itself, though of course it would be fine with roast chicken (as are many wines).

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance--it is quite pretty.

Jolie lives up to its name in appearance–it is quite pretty.

Reasons to visit:  all rosé all the time; a very pleasant garden setting where you can relax and sip at your leisure; better-than-average snacks; prettiest bottles on the North Fork; they allow dogs; the Merlot 3 and the Jolie.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

This pooch waited patiently for its owners to finish.

They've created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

They’ve created a wall of bottles with their very attractive bottles. The empty ones, of course.

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Palmer Vineyards: Fun Hanging Out August 20, 2016

http://www.palmervineyards.com/

The entrance to Palmer's tasting room is in the second building on their property.

The entrance to Palmer’s tasting room is in the second building on their property.

Our plans for a garden-setting wine tasting having been scuttled by a completely un-forecast deluge, we decided to head to Palmer Vineyards, which has a cozy tasting room with pub-like booths and an expansive covered veranda.  We settled on the veranda where, our guests were happy to learn, their very well-behaved dog was welcome to join us.  When a singer/guitarist with a folksy sixties-ish repertoire began to play, we settled in for a relaxing afternoon.

We enjoyed his performance.

We enjoyed his performance.

The tasting menu offers four different flights, ranging from $15-$18 for four tastes each.  We (three couples) decided each couple would share first a flight of whites and then a flight of reds.  We gave the flights labeled “Sweet” and “Steel vs. Oak” a pass.  Maybe next time.  They also have a couple of local beers on tap, plus coffee.  My cousin bought a $16 “charcuterie platter” for the table, which was fine but rather meager for the six of us, consisting of a few slices of two different sausages and I believe two different cheeses, plus Carr’s Water Crackers and a few other odds and ends.  Since they don’t allow outside food, I think they could do a better job with their edible offerings.  We didn’t try the “brick oven pizza.”  However, we had an enjoyable afternoon tasting the wines, listening to the music, and chatting about everything.

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The "charcuterie platter" and some whites.

The “charcuterie platter” and some whites.

  1. 2015 Albariῆo   $27.99

The server informs my brother that they are the only vineyard on the North Fork to use this grape, and he may be right.  Albariῆo is one of my go-to wines when I order just a glass of wine, as it is generally fairly dry with good fruit tastes, and this is no exception.  Although there is some disagreement around the table, I find it delicious, with a touch of lemon at the end and tastes of apricot and apple.  It smells like honeysuckle, peach, and minerals.  Having it with a bite of cheese helps smooth out the sourness of the citrus at the end.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

“Great nose,” opines my brother.  “It smells like lantana flower,” says my sister-in-law.  I don’t know what that smells like, unfortunately, but there is definitely a flowery aroma.  The taste is rather orange-y, perhaps like a minneola.  “Just lovely,” says my Canadian cousin-in-law.  “It’s got some strength to it,” says my cousin.  We all agree that this has the best balance of any of the whites, and would be good to sip by itself or with the scallop ceviche my brother and sister-in-law intend to make for dinner.

The bar on the veranda

The bar on the veranda

  1. 2014 Viognier $24.99

Our server (we send a representative to the bar to pick up each round) thinks they are also the only ones to use this grape on the North Fork, but I happen to know at least four or five other vineyards use it.  In any event, this is not a crowd pleaser.  “Not a lot of character on the nose,” asserts my brother.   I smell minerality and not much else.  This is a light dry wine, with some earthiness.  We discuss whether it would be good with the oysters we also plan to pick up, but decide maybe not.

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc $21.99

We all smell and taste pineapple this time.  Someone smells vanilla, and someone else says the smell is “earthy.”  “Not integrated,” says my brother.  I think it would be better with food, and take a bite of sausage.  Yes, that does improve it.  However, the overall opinion of the whites is “fine, but no home runs.”

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  1. 2014 Syrah $24.99

Syrah is my other wine-by-the-glass standby, and this one is an acceptable version, though not my favorite.  I like syrahs to be bigger and bolder, and this one is a touch thin.  It may need more time to age.  The aroma is sweet, almost like a sherry.  The server told my brother that this spends two years in oak, and they add a bit of viognier to “lighten it up.”  It is lighter than most syrahs, with almost no finish.  You wouldn’t want it with steak, but it might be nice with some Crescent Farms duck breast.

The indoor space is particularly nice in the winter.

The indoor space is particularly nice in the winter.

  1. 2014 Merlot $24.99

As I explain to my guests, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, a generally reliable red.   My brother characterizes this one as “an art opening wine,” and I see what he means.  Not distinguished, but also not offensive, it has some cherry tastes with a medium body and medium tannins.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

Mmm.  The aroma is brambly and peppery and the taste is sweeter and fruitier than expected.  Soft tannins.  We also note some herb and fig tastes.  Yum.  Just then the singer starts “Here Comes the Sun,” and indeed it does appear.  A bachelorette party forms a line on the wet grass with the veiled guest of honor in the middle for a photo shoot.

The bachelorette party organizing for a photo.

The bachelorette party organizing for a photo.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $28.99

Dark figs and earth and peppers with just a “soupçon of paint thinner.”  Not so sure about that last bit!  I like it, and it’s very nice with one of the last bits of cheese, which lends it some creaminess.  It is also a wine one could sip on its own.  My husband thinks it might have needed to breathe longer.  We all agree it is good, and has “the most character.”

Rainy day!

Rainy day!

Our tasting is done, the sun is out, so we leave to take a walk on the beach.

I wonder what the pooch would have said about the nose.

I wonder what the pooch would have said about the nose.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room with cozy booths for the winter time and a breezy veranda for the summer; the sauvignon blanc, the cabernet sauvignon, and the cabernet franc; dogs are allowed on the veranda.

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I like this pattern on the side of the bar.

I like this pattern on the side of the bar.

Pellegrini Vineyards: Refuge from the Rain August 10, 2016

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

The thunder was ominous, and we barely made it into the tasting room before a deluge poured from the sky.  However, the menacing weather meant that on this Wednesday afternoon we had the tasting room to ourselves (though a couple of other groups arrived later).  With no urgent business, we stayed for almost two hours, snacking on hummus and pretzel chips we had brought with us and chatting with our friends who confessed they were neophytes to wine tasting—though not to wine drinking.  “I’m a virgin,” my friend joked, explaining that though she’d been to wineries for events she’d never actually sat down for a tasting.

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In that case, I was glad I’d chosen to take our friends to Pellegrini, where you can have your tray of tastes delivered to your table and spend as long as you like discussing the wines.  Our discussions ranged from the personal to the political, but we did devote some attention to the wines, which our friends generally enjoyed.  They had some favorites, and others they didn’t finish, about which more later.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

A tasting includes any three wines you choose from the menu printed on a placemat, which then becomes your guide to the order in which to drink the wines, plus a sample of their rosé, for $12. Since we are wine club members, our tastings were free.  We all chose a variety of different wines, so I’m going to comment on my choices first, with some briefer notes on other options.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

  1. 2015 Rosé           $19.99

We decided we would all start with this, since it was one wine we had in common, so we could discuss both this particular drink and also how to think about the aroma and taste of wine.  A steel-fermented blend of 35% merlot, 32% cabernet sauvignon, and 33% cabernet franc, this is a light dry rosé with a distinctively citric taste we decided was more like tangerine than lemon.  It had only a faint bit of the strawberry aroma many rosés have, and lots of minerality.  My friend particularly liked the pale pink color.

A tray of whites.

A tray of whites.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

As in the past, I like this wine.  It’s a crisp steel-fermented sauvignon blanc with a bit of a gooseberry aroma and nice balance of mineral and lemony citrus.  I would have it with local oysters.  My friend said she would too—if she liked oysters.  Well, then, with scallops?  Oh, yes.

  1. 2014 East End Select BBQ Red $18.99

What kind of wine do you want to serve at a barbeque?  Probably something uncomplicated and easy to drink that goes well with burgers and doesn’t cost too much.  Hence BBQ Red.  Made from steel-fermented petit verdot, this is simple and direct and light and dry.  You could even have it with hot dogs.

Mostly reds

Mostly reds

  1. 2011 Petit Verdot $29.99

If you want to understand the difference between a wine that has been steel-fermented and one that has been aged 20 months in French oak, you might want to follow the BBQ Red with this petit verdot.  This remains one of my favorite North Fork reds, with rich flavors of blueberry and other berries and dark plums, pleasantly tannic and dry.  It can stand up to a steak.  Our friend agrees, and this is the only glass he, who is not much of a drinker, empties.

Now here are a few notes on other wines, in no particular order, though we did spend some time explaining why the order in which you sample a tasting matters.  Basically, you want to go from the lightest to the most flavorful, so you can appreciate each one as it comes.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

  1. 2014 Medley White $21.99

I wasn’t sure my friend would like this one, since she is not fond of sweet wines and this blend includes 5% gewürztraminer as well as 55% sauvignon blanc and 40% chardonnay, and I was right.  She was not a fan, describing both the taste and smell as “pungent.”  It did have a bit of that cat pee smell you sometimes get.  She did not finish her glass, but much preferred her next taste.

  1. 2015 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $19.99

A fan of pinot grigio, our friend liked this dry, citrusy chard, which she described as “mild.”  I like it too, better than their oaked chard.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $19.99

Although this is a blend of 80% oaked chard (8 months aged) and 20% steel chard, we felt this was still too oaky for our taste.

  1. 2010 Merlot $29.99

My friends were not fond of this merlot, which they felt could have been fruitier.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $29.99

Actually a Bordeaux blend of 84% cabernet franc, 7% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, this red also was not a favorite with our friends, who perhaps found it too tannic for their taste.  I think a few more years of aging would be useful.

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

Reasons to visit:  as I’ve said before, a good all-around winery, with plenty of good choices in both white and red and reasonable prices;  nice place to go with friends, as you can sit at a table with your tastes and bring your own snacks; the steel chardonnay, the sauvignon blanc, the petit verdot, the BBQ Red.

We couldn't resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.

We couldn’t resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.