Pugliese Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser March 10, 2018



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

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


The limos were starting to gather.

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


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


One view of the tasting rooms.

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


Nice bubbles in the bubbly

  1. 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature         $25.99

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


We enjoyed the view as we sipped.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $17.99

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


  1. 2015 Veronica’s Rosé $17.99

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


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

  1. 2016 Chardonnay Gold $14.99

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


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

  1. 2012 Sangiovese $16.99

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


  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $16.99

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


  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99

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


  1. 2013 Sunset Meritage $34.99

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


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

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





Pellegrini Vineyards: A Favorite March 1, 2018



The news was threatening an apocalyptic storm, so after a trip to the supermarket for a few essentials (milk, bread, toilet paper, and guacamole ingredients) we headed to Pellegrini to pick up our wine club shipment.  When I looked in my notebook, I realized that, although we had been to Pellegrini many times and sampled wines, we hadn’t done a recorded tasting since 2016.  As wine club members, we can do free tastings at any time, and since pick-ups happen four times a year, we often combine picking up our three bottles of red with either a glass of something or a full tasting.


The tasting room is not huge, but certainly adequate in the winter.

We chose the reds because Pellegrini does a better-than-North-Fork-average with them, though we like some of their whites as well.  We also like Pellegrini because it is a pleasant setting in which to taste wine.  Though the tasting room itself is small, there’s plenty of room in and around the courtyard, where we have often sat in the summer.  It is a good place to bring guests because you can get your whole tasting on a tray and bring it to a table, where you can share snacks you’ve brought with you.  The only food they sell is North Fork chocolate, though they do include a little bag of oyster crackers with each tasting.


They have a few tasting options, but the main ones are either three one-ounce pours at the bar for $8 or three two-ounce pours which you take to a table on a tray for $14.  The latter option also includes a one-ounce pour of a wine they select, which this time was their rosé.  When you get there, they hand you a menu on which you circle your three choices out of a possible fourteen wines.  My husband and I decided to do three whites and three reds for our two tastings, sharing them, as usual.  The room was empty on this winter mid-week day, so we opted to take our trays to a table by the window where we could take our time and chat as we sipped.


Pellegrini was having a good sale on their rosés, so though we prefer Croteaux, we decided to get the three bottles for $33.

  1. 2016 Rosé         $19.99

This is a very pale pink rosé, with the typical strawberry aroma, plus a touch of petrol or some chemical.  It is made from a blend of 66% cabernet franc, 24% cabernet sauvignon, and 20% merlot.  Compared to Croteaux rosés, it is very light, almost more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé.  It is very dry, and drinkable but not one you would want to sip by itself.  It could go with charcuterie.

  1. 2015 Gewürztraminer $24.99

I find gewürztraminers a little tricky, since sometimes I like them and other times I find them too sweet.  I would hesitate to buy a gewürztraminer or a riesling I didn’t know.  This one smells, I assert, “gewurzty”—floral, perfumey, ferny.  I like the taste, which reminds me of ripe pineapple with a touch of lemon.  Despite all the fruitiness, it has only a touch of sweetness, with a nice long finish.  My tasting buddy suggest pairing it with mac and cheese, and I counter with weisswurst, since it is after all a German grape.


Our tray of whites. As you can see, the rosé, in the upper right corner, is almost as pale as the whites.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $19.99

Though they have a couple of oaked chardonnays, I opt for the steel-fermented one, since I generally tend to prefer steel over oak.  This one smells like honeysuckle and fruit salad, but the taste is very minerally, with not much citrus, and some green apple.  It is so dry that some might find it harsh.  Though it is not a sipper, I could see drinking it with something like a barbequed salmon burger.


Pellegrini often has special sales. Today they had one on the chardonnay and one on the rosé. We opted to get the rosé.

  1. 2016 Rejoyce $24.99

Because we’re not standing at the bar, I can’t ask about the origin of this name, but since it is a blend—of 58%chardonnay and 42% sauvignon blanc—I assume they had to give it a non-grape name.  In any event, we like it.  The aroma is lovely, with notes of pine needles and forest and what I insist is sweat (which doesn’t sound so good, but I liked it).  It does not taste at all like the smell, notes my husband, saying it is more like lime than lemon.  It is a good food wine, and if he catches any bluefish next summer (or we buy some at Braun’s) I may get a bottle to go with it.


The vines are bare now, but spring is coming. My chives are starting to grow.

  1. 2014 Merlot $29.99

Now we switch to the reds, which, because they have been sitting on our tray for half an hour, are at perfect room temperature.  This merlot is in our shipment, so we are interested to try it.  It is actually a bit of a blend, 90% merlot plus 7% cabernet sauvignon and 3% cabernet franc.  It is a nice, not atypical Long Island merlot, with dark cherry aroma and flavor, more soft than tannic, with not a lot of fruit and some mineral and salt flavors.  We like it, but more as a picnic red than as one to stand up to red meats.  We decide that when we get home we will label it for drinking this year, rather than holding on to it for any length of time.


  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $29.99

“Not a killer cab,” opines my drinking pal, though he also says it is a pleasant wine.  It is aged 19 months in oak, and has an aroma of dark fruit and tastes of ripe purple plums.  It may not be hefty enough at this point to go with a steak, but one could certainly pair it with pork or lamb chops.  It has enough tannins that we decide to label it for a year from now when we stow away our wine club selections.

  1. 2012 Petit Verdot $39.99

I have high hopes for this wine, since 2012 was a good year for reds on the North Fork and I often like petit verdot, and I am not disappointed.  Yum.  The aroma is like macerated raspberries, and it tastes like black raspberries.  It is dry, with lots of tannins, and could definitely stand up to a steak.  Their website describes the taste as “dark and brooding.”  I don’t know about that, since I never saw a wine brood, but we like it.


In the summer I often try to angle my photos so I don’t include too many people. Not a problem today!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room with ample outside space for summer tastings; outside food is allowed, so you can bring your own snacks; you can bring the tastings to a table so it is a nice place to sit with friends; the gewürztraminer, the Rejoyce, the cabernet sauvignon, the petit verdot.  One note on the tray of tastes—in general, you want to go from whites to reds, and from top to bottom and from left to right.


We’ve often been here when they were setting up for weddings in the courtyard, when it is covered with a white tent.

Raphael Winery: High Ambitions February 19, 2018



Even the sign shows the winery’s Italian roots.

As you drive into the parking lot for Raphael, the Italian roots of the owner are immediately apparent.  The red-tile-roofed building with the fountain in front would not look out of place in Tuscany.  In case you had any doubts, notice the Italian flag flying next to the American flag.  However, the wines are very much Long Island wines.




That partly open door leads to a large party room.


The tasting room is quite large, with an equally large party room off to one side, so it is no surprise that we often notice that Raphael is closed for private events. They have a fairly large selection of wine-related gifts.  We walked up to the circular bar in the center and, after ordering our first tasting and a snack, were directed to a nearby table where we could quietly enjoy our tasting.  Raphael does not permit outside foods, but they have a menu of snacks.  We ordered the Grandma Flatbread with house-made mozzarella ($8.95), which was basically pizza, with a red sauce and too much oregano, but functioned to take the edge off our late-afternoon hunger.


The menu offers three tasting options each for whites and reds, all of which offer four tastes.  There is a mixed tasting, an estate white or estate red, and a sweet white, all for $16, or a premium tasting, of whites or reds, for $20.  In general, their wines are pricy for the North Fork, with their least expensive white at $27 and their premium reds costing $72.  However, the menu does point out that quite a few of their premium wines, and a couple of others, have scores of 90 or better from Wine Advocate or Wine Enthusiast, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

We decided to do as we often do, and share two tastings, first of the premium whites and then of the premium reds.  Our server carefully placed our glasses over their listings on the menu, so we could see which was which.  She was quite knowledgeable about the wines, and informed us that when they do wine club events, she is the one who runs them—sets up the tastes and discusses each wine.  She was curious as to our reactions to the wines, having noted my notebook, and we found we agreed on some and disagreed on others.  Interestingly, this was one of the few wineries where my husband and I had fundamental disagreements on a couple of the wines.  As the French say, “Chacun à son goût.”


  1. 2016 First Label Sauvignon Blanc            $39

Interesting aroma.  We agree on pine and citrus peel.  The wine itself is dry and very light, pleasant, but with not much to it.  I taste lime, and my husband insists on pear.  It would be fine with oysters or simply sautéed scallops.

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

When I ask why “virgin berry,” our server says “because it sounds nice.”  If I had a dump bucket, I would dump this one, as it both smells and tastes like gasoline, or “petrol,” as our server says.  I think they went overboard on making this riesling dry and lemony.  On the other hand, my husband likes it!  We agree we would not, blindfolded, identify this as a riesling, but he thinks it would be good with a dish like shrimp scampi.  “Chacun à son goût.”


  1. 2014 First Label Chardonnay $39

This is their oaked chardonnay, half of it aged in new French oak, so I’m not expecting to like it.  However, I do!  It’s not very oaky, though I do smell butterscotch and vanilla. It has lots of fruit flavor and a pleasant finish, though not much depth.  I don’t think it is worth what they’re charging, however.

  1. 2015 White Primo Reserve $45

A blend of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 49% riesling, aged in both steel and oak, this is my favorite of the four.  It has a lovely floral aroma of orange blossoms.  Again, this is a dry white with some minerality.  Though it is almost half riesling, it does not have the gasoline aroma of the last taste.  All their whites have a similarity of style, which I would characterize as lean, not big.  By the way, our server says the previous year’s riesling was quite different, and she liked it better.  We agree that you have to try wines every year, and can’t rely on what you liked from a previous vintage.


  1. 2013 Petit Verdot Reserve $72

Now my husband thinks he smells petrol.  Nope, I say, macerated berries.  “Chacun à son goût.”  Well, we both like it.  It has tannins which make us think it could still age more, and lots of tastes of really ripe blackberries.  It is 90% petit verdot and 10% merlot, but I don’t get any cherry taste.  Nice long finish.  This would be good with a nice juicy steak.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $72

“I’d be happy to drink this if someone else was paying,” says my husband, and I agree.  The aroma has a touch of forest floor funkiness as well as fruit, and it has lots of dark fruit tastes, though it’s not as big as the petit verdot.  Barbequed butterflied leg of lamb is what I would make if you were bringing me a bottle of this.


The server put these cute labels on the glasses so we could carry them back to our table.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $72

This is another nice but not incredible red, with some good fruit tastes.  It could have more depth, and the finish is rather soft.  Perhaps it needs to age some more.

  1. 2013 Primo Reserve $72

Finally, we try their not-Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 54% merlot, 27% malbec, 16% petit verdot, 2% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% cabernet franc.  I’m not happy with the aroma, which reminds me of rotten eggs.  My husband agrees that the smell is funky, but not that it’s rotten eggs.  It tastes fine, though it is not complex.  It has some tannins, so it would be good with lamb.


Reasons to visit:  beautiful tasting room; nice menu of snacks; the First Label Chardonnay, the White Primo Reserve, the Petit Verdot Reserve; big selection of wine-related gifts.




Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018



You might guess from the red tile roof that there is some Mediterranean culture behind this winery. You’d be right.

I have been to wineries where the server knew just enough to spout a brief memorized description of the wines, and to others where the winemaker him or herself was there to tell me everything I could possibly want to know about the wines.  Both models work, but there’s another way: a well-informed server who knows the wines and is enthusiastic about them, without getting too technical.  The last is the type we encountered on a cold day in January in the almost empty tasting room at Pindar.


Don’t let that sunny blue sky fool you. It was COLD!

Since the tasting room is quite large, and obviously set up to serve many people, it felt kind of funny that there were at most two couples at any one time during the hour or so we were there.  But it did mean that we got plenty of individualized attention from our excellent server.  We learned some interesting details about the wines and some of the labels, and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.


Plenty of room for more people.

Pindar is both one of the older and larger wineries, and their prices reflect the economies of scale, being lower in general than many of the other places.  The wine list offers 27 different varieties, with almost all of them available for the basic $10 for five tastes.  The menu is divided into the categories of White Wines and Dry Rosé, Red Wines, Proprietary Blends, On the Sweeter Side, Dessert Wines, and Limited Production.  We quickly decided to eliminate the Sweeter Side category and also that we needed to share two tastings in order to get any sense of their offerings.  Since the Red Wines category included eight wines, we also decided to focus our attention there, and only try three of the four regular whites.  Due to the power of the book, we ended up getting a few extra tastes, as our server appreciated our enthusiasm and began to grok our taste.  As the pour is rather generous, I ended up having to drink more of each taste as the afternoon went on, since I was not the driver.  Tough job…


Pindar requests that you not bring in outside food, and offers a selection of cheeses to which they will add crackers, etc.  They also have a modest selection of wine-related gift items.


Snacks to have with your wine.


Some of the gift items for sale.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

We started at the top of the menu with their sauvignon blanc, a wine we find often pairs well with oysters or clams.  This one would do so, too, but has an assertive enough flavor that it could also go with bluefish.  The aroma has a touch of cat pee, plus a fruit the menu identifies as white peach.  The taste is pleasant, with a touch of sweetness, and some citrus and mineral notes.


The beautiful art is supposed to reflect the taste of the wine.

  1. 2016 Viognier $18.99

“What a beautiful bottle,” we said, and learned that it had been painted by Sylvia, a former patient of the founder of Pindar, Dr. Dan Damianos.  We also found out that she was a quadriplegic who painted with a brush in her mouth, and that she designed the pretty pastel floral image to reflect the taste of the wine.  Wow.  Viognier is a grape you don’t find too often on Long Island (a quick search of my blog found three or four other wineries that had it), and our server told us that they didn’t bottle it every year, since the grapes did not always meet their standards.  We’re glad it was on the menu this time.  Though not a sipper, it is a really nice wine, with lots of tart pear and some woody/mineral tastes.  She suggests serving it with shrimp or lobster, and I bet it would go well with Peconic Bay scallops, too.  We decided to buy a bottle.


I love looking at the fields of sunflowers in the summertime on the North Fork.

  1. 2015 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

We were going to try the Peacock Chardonnay, but our friend warned us that it had been reformulated and was on the sweet side.  We had been reluctant to have the Sunflower, since the menu said it was 100% new barrel fermented, and we tend not to like really oaky chardonnays.  However, she reassured us that it was not like that, but rather tasted mostly of pineapple.  She was exactly right.  She said that the particular clone of chardonnay that was used for this wine tended more towards tropical fruit flavors.  Interesting.


  1. Pythagoras $16.99

Now we moved on to the reds, getting a clean glass for these tastes.  The name of this wine, the images on several of the bottles, and the name of the winery, reference the Damianos family’s Greek heritage.  (We went to a class on Greek wines several months ago, and were quite pleased to discover that they were no longer limited to retsina and harsh reds, but included many wines we enjoyed. Wines occupy an important role in Greek mythology, and not just because they have a god of wine!)  This is their Bordeaux blend, and varies from year to year.  It likely includes some combination of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and Malbec, and was described as a “good pizza wine.”  That it is, and has lots of fruit with a touch of tannins.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably heavy on the merlot.


Another image made to hint at the flavor of the wine.

  1. 2014 Syrah $16.99

Here’s another label painted by Sylvia, which is supposed to convey the “stormy and dark” taste of the wine.  Not so sure about the stormy part, but it is certainly dark, with black cherry flavor, a bit of oak, and nice tannins. It smells a bit like nutmeg.  It is not complex, but is very good, and we also plan to buy a bottle of this one.  It would go well with a soup and bread and cheese dinner.


A beautiful stained glass window in the tasting room.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

We were going to give this one a pass, but now it seems we will be trying all of the reds.  Our server has poured out a glass of one of the Limited Production wines, to let it breathe while we taste the others.  The cabernet franc has lots of tannins, with some tastes of fruit, spice, and wood, and would be okay with food.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

2014 was a good year for reds on the North Fork, so we’re not surprised that we like most of the reds we taste.  This is a very drinkable red, not very deep or complex, with a pleasant fruity aroma.


Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology.

  1. 2014 Merlot $18.99

Oops.  Finally one we don’t particularly like.  The smell is a bit funky and earthy, the wine rather thin. We dump the rest of this taste.


We like the image of the Argo, the boat for Jason and the Argonauts, better than the wine inside.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $21.99

Like a number of the other reds, this is aged two years in French oak.  We do detect a bit of oak in the aroma, plus purple plum and toast.  The wine is quite yummy, though not complex, tasting of plums and cherries.  It would be overpowered by red-sauce Italian foods, but would be good with meat loaf.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $16.99 (on sale, was $21.99)

This one could be on the edge of going over the edge, we decide.  It also has a somewhat funky aroma, and has a slight cherry taste.  Just okay.


  1. 2014 Mythology $27.99

Their Meritage blend, this is 40% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 10% petit verdot, and 10% Malbec.  Nevertheless, my notes say “not much to it.”  I swear it smells like cheese, though the menu says it has “cassis, bing cherry and raspberry on the nose.”  It is dry, with some tannins and dark fruit tastes.


A wine well worth buying.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014       $24.99

After Dr. Damianos died, his children decided to make some special wines in his memory.  They did a great job with this one, the special taste our server had set aside to breathe for us.  Given the price point, it is quite impressive, with lots of delicious dark fruit tastes and some complexity.  The tannins are strong enough that we feel it could age several years and get even better, so we decided to get a bottle of this and label it to be drunk a few years from now.  It could stand up to steak or lamb chops, for sure.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot 2014       $24.99

Well, she had a bottle of this open and had served a taste to the other couple at the bar, so we might as well try it, too.  We like this better than their other merlots.  It tastes of black cherry and spice, perhaps nutmeg, with tannins that could let this one age as well.



Reasons to visit:  big place that can accommodate a crowd (which it definitely gets in the summer); lots of different wines at good prices; despite the mass appeal, many of the wines are quite good; the Viognier, the Syrah, Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in particular, plus many of the other wines; dogs are allowed on the back deck in the summertime.


Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

Lenz Winery: The Older the Better January 11, 2018



Lenz is justifiably proud of being one of the oldest wineries on the North Fork.

“We’re the second oldest winery on Long Island,” our server proudly told us.  Most people know that certain wines improve with age, but I’ve also learned that grape vines do, too.  As the vines get older, their roots go deeper and get stronger, and the grapes also get better.  The first modern winery on the North Fork was Hargraves, now Castello di Borghese, founded in 1973.  Lenz started in 1978, but didn’t harvest their grapes for wine until 1988.  Now in their fortieth year, they have some really good wines on their list.


Plenty of room at the bar during the week in the winter.

We had been housebound by snow and cold, and it was still rather chilly when we set out to do a tasting.  A quick walk around Greenport revealed a very quiet town, with many stores and restaurants closed for the season or open with limited hours or days.  However, we were able to stop into the book store to pick up a copy of On Tyranny and into The Weathered Barn to drop off dead light bulbs for recycling.


One side of the tasting room.

Then we headed back west to Lenz.  The barn-like Lenz tasting room was quiet as well, as we were the only customers.  However, that meant we were able to have some in-depth discussions with our server on wine and the tastes of the ones we chose.


And the other side.

The menu offers two choices: five Estate wines for $14 or five Premium wines for $18.  She also offered to customize an all red or all white tasting for a dollar or two more, and described the Estate choices as “lighter.”  We decided to share a tasting of the Premium wines, and were quite happy with all six of the wines we tried (Thanks to the power of the book, we got a sixth taste!).


Lenz also has some wine-related items for sale, and a small gallery of art, also for sale.  They offer Catapano cheese for a snack, and do allow people to bring their own snacks.


  1. 2015 Blanc de Noir Rosé            $24

We always compare rosés to Croteaux, and this one can stand up to the comparison.  It’s made from pinot noir grapes and has an aroma of strawberry.   It’s dry, but mouth-watering, with some nice citrus tastes.  I think blood orange, rather than lemon.  It’s not really a rosé for sipping on its own, but would be great with food.


Cute label, too.

  1. 2014 Tête à Tête $25

As a blend, this changes from year to year.  This is a good one.  It blends 45% sauvignon blanc, 35% chardonnay, and 20% gewürztraminer for a dry, minerally and lemony white that would be great with lobster or Peconic Bay scallops.  We joked about gooseberries and other more obscure fruit comparisons, but I insisted that it did smell like gooseberries.


  1. 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30

Lenz makes three different chardonnays, so at some point I’ll have to try their others, one of which is steel fermented and the other spends eleven months in oak.  This is sort of in the middle of those two, spending three months in neutral oak.  You can smell a bit of the oak, and also a light floral aroma.  This might be a good wine for someone who finds steel chards too lemony, but doesn’t like that big oaky taste of oaked chards.  Although there is a slight note of vanilla, what I mostly taste is green apple, plus some other flavors that make this a relatively complex white.  We decide it would be perfect with bluefish, or some other assertive fish.


  1. 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50

We get a clean glass as we move on to the reds.  Cabernet sauvignon is a grape that takes longer to ripen than, say merlot, so it doesn’t do well every year.  However, 2010 had a long warm season, and was a good year for North Fork reds—including this one.  Blended with merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec, this is a very dark red with lots of dark fruit flavors including black cherry and a touch of tobacco.  It was aged two years in French oak.  It has the tannins to stand up to steak or roast lamb.  Another good one.


  1. 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65

We like this one, too, though not as much as the cab sauv.  It is somewhat austere, a bit light for a red at this price point, with a purple plum and cherry flavor.  Not much aroma.  Our server tells us this could age 20 years, and tells about some of the older Lenz wines she has tasted.  We get the last of the bottle, so there’s a bit of sediment at the bottom of the glass. They don’t filter their wines.


The one we took home.

  1. 2014 Estate Select Merlot $30

Extra!  Having noticed our preferences in the wines we’ve tasted, our server offers us a taste of her favorite of their reds, a new release.  Good move, as we buy a bottle and date it to be drunk in a few years.  The merlot is blended with cabernet franc and petit verdot and aged in French oak.  We like it much better than the Old Vines Merlot, and especially prefer the price.  It has more fruit, layers of flavor, and good tannins.


Reasons to visit:  lots of good wines; a good compromise between the big commercial wineries and the smaller boutique ones, as it has characteristics of both; in the summer, they have an outdoor courtyard; the Estate Select Merlot, the Tête à Tête, and the Old Vines Chardonnay in particular, but we liked all the wines.



Sometimes the vines in the snow remind me of dancers. In this case, they are hip deep in old snow.

Macari Vineyards: A Quiet Winter Day December 20, 2017


The vines are bare now.



It’s pretty quiet on the North Fork now. There’s a skim of ice on the shallow parts of the Mattituck Inlet and almost all of the farm stands have closed. A few wineries are closed for the season, while others are only open on weekends. Macari’s tasting room on the Main Road is closed, but its other location, on the corner of Bergen Road and Sound Avenue, is open every day, so that’s where we went on this chilly day.

The large tasting room was decorated for Christmas with lights and pine branches, and if we had wanted to buy gifts of local or other gourmet jams, pickles, etc., we could have found plenty of choices on the shelves near the entrance, where they also have cheeses, charcuterie, and crackers for sale. (No outside food allowed.) There was only one other couple at the bar, and one table of people in the adjoining room, so we had plenty of time to chat with the enthusiastic and well-informed server.


Our favorite local pickles!


No outside food allowed, but they have plenty for sale.

The menu offers three different flights of five tastes each: the Estate Flight for $20, the Cuvée Flight for $25, or the Vintage Flight for $30. There’s also a dessert wine flight, or, the server offered, she could custom build a flight if, for example, you only liked reds. As you might expect, as the flights increased in price, so did the wines in each one. We decided to share the Cuvée Flight, and the pour was generous enough that we felt that was plenty (plus we got a couple of extra tastes, courtesy of my notebook!).

After the tasting we bought one bottle of red wine and a jar of our favorite local pickles, Backyard Brine’s “Dill Death do us Part.”

1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $24
As our server poured this first taste, she enthused about what a great summer wine it is. No argument there. It is a steel-fermented, crisp, lemony white, with an aroma of mineral and gooseberry. It would go well with a big plate of chilled oysters.

2. 2016 “Lifeforce” Sauvignon Blanc $28
But now, she added, at this time of year, she prefers this version of the grape, and poured us an “extra” taste. Instead of being fermented in steel or wood, they use a concrete “egg” as a vat, and the result is quite a different wine. Though still somewhat citrusy, it is not nearly as lemony, and has some tropical fruit flavors, like pineapple. The aroma is almost woodsy or yeasty. There is definitely more going on in the taste of this one, and it could be sipped on its own. It is called Lifeforce because the egg shape causes the wine to stir itself. She showed us a whole explanation of the effects of using concrete, some of which is on this page of their web site: http://macariwines.com/wine/2016-sauvignon-blanc-lifeforce/


An explanation of the concrete “egg.”

3. 2015 Chardonnay Estate $24
This is a fairly typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with a touch of sweetness, some citrus, and a bit of roasted pear taste. Nice finish. It would be good with charcuterie.


An array of whites.

4. 2016 Rosé $20
Made from cabernet franc and merlot grapes, this is a very light, dry, almost white, rosé. The aroma does not have the expected strawberry scent, but is almost chemical, like a band-aid. However, it tastes fine, less fruity than some of Croteaux’s rosés, with plenty of citrus. I could see having it with lobster bisque or some other creamy, buttery seafood dish.


The rose is a very light pink.

5. 2013 Merlot Reserve $40
Now we move on to the reds, and she rinses our glass with a bit of red wine. We decide this is better than the average North Fork merlot. Aged sixteen months in new French oak, it has a delicious aroma of dark fruits and complex tastes of black cherry and cherry pie, dry, with good tannins. It could probably age well.


Our favorite of the reds, the Dos Aguas.

6. 2013 Dos Aguas $32
The name of this one is a nod to the two waters of the North Fork—the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. A blend of 50% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec, it is only made in good years, which 2013 clearly was. We really like it! We smell cherry, tobacco, and other dark fruits, and taste them as well. Lots of tannins. Dry, it would go well with steak or lamb chops, and we decide to buy a bottle and keep (or try to keep!) it for a couple of years.


If you are serious and thoughtful about your tasting, sometimes you get extras!

7. 2014 Syrah $45
We are so enthusiastic about the Dos Aguas that our server wonders if we would like to try their syrah. Sure, I reply, I often really like syrahs. I like this one, too, with its spicy aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg and soft tannins. I see that I have written good twice in my notes.


Plenty of room at the bar in the winter, but it is often crowded in the summer.


There are many tables in the next room, plus more outside.

Reasons to visit: A good all-around winery, with a long bar and ample tables; a good selection of cheeses, etc., so you can put together a snack, plus some local gourmet items; the Lifeforce Sauvignon Blanc, the Merlot Reserve, the Dos Aguas—actually, we liked all the wines, but those were especially interesting; two locations, so in the summer, if one is overcrowded you can try the other.


When you stand at the bar, you can look into the wine cellar.

Osprey’s Dominion: And It’s Quite an Extensive Dominion            November 11, 2017




The entrance

We decided it would be fun to go to Osprey’s Dominion this week, having gone to Coffee Pot Cellars last week.  Why?  Because Adam Suprenant is the winemaker for both wineries, with Coffee Pot his own label.  Would there be differences between his personal wines and those he made for a larger entity?  We did find some differences, but both places have some really good wines.


Just one side of the expansive tasting room.

In contrast to the cozy quarters of Coffee Pot, Osprey’s tasting room is quite large, and was fairly crowded for November, with a serpentine bar along one side and plenty of tables both inside and outside.  Despite the chilly weather, there were quite a few people sitting on the sunny terrace, enjoying some live music, a food truck, and a fire pit.  (They ask that you not bring food into the tasting room, and sell wine cupcakes, among other snacks.)


Despite the chilly weather, plenty of people opted to be outside. Note the wind vane!

The tasting menu is quite extensive, reflecting their 90 acres of grapes.  A tasting is either three choices for $8 or five choices for $12, and you have the freedom to pick any you like from their menu.  With eight whites (including one sparkling wine), one rosé, nine reds, plus five reserve wines and four dessert options, we actually needed some guidance!  Our server kept good track of where we were in our tasting, providing a clean glass for each taste, and helped us choose when we asked.  We decided to share two tastings of five, starting with the whites.  Glasses of wine range in price from $6-$10, and if you’re heading outside with a glass, they give it to you in a plastic cup.



Lots of options on the white wine menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $17

We started at the top of the whites menu with the steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, a dry wine with more acid than fruit.  My husband said it was “strong.” Although the menu opined that it tasted of melon, I tasted more grapefruit than melon, or maybe even sour apple candy.  That said, though it is not a sipper, it would probably pair well with chicken or fish in a creamy sauce, or with New England clam chowder.  We liked Coffee Pot’s sauvignon blanc better, but then, it is from a different year.


  1. 2014 Fumé Blanc $17

Fumé blanc is basically sauvignon blanc that has been fermented in oak. I described this one as mouth-watering, with the acid balanced by some sweetness.  It didn’t have much aroma, though we detected a trace of vanilla from the oak.  I think it would pair well with escargots in garlic sauce, the thought possibly inspired by the French name of the wine.

  1. Regina Maris Chardonnay $13

Why the name, and why the ship under sail on the label?  Our server wasn’t sure, but did opine that the name had belonged to a ship that sailed out of Greenport.  In any event, this is a chardonnay that combines steel and oak fermented juice half and half.  The aroma is grassy, with a hint of wood.  Though it is not overly oaky we did find it too sweet for our tastes, comparing the tastes to apple sauce and honeydew melon.  My tasting buddy found it “cloyingly sweet.”  As a result, we asked for some guidance as to where to go next on the menu, and she suggested we look at the reserve menu.


We liked the label more than the wine, though if you like a sweeter chardonnay you might disagree.


The reserve menu

  1. 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris $24

Good choice!  Though it was served a tad too cold, as we warmed it in our hands we smelled a faint aroma of orange peel plus a touch of funk.  It is aged “sur lies” for six months, which may account for the layers of flavor we noted.  It has a nice balance of tart and fruit, with some tastes of tangerine.  It would be good with charcuterie.  I used to think you needed red wine with cured meats, but now I think certain whites work better.


  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend $12

Rather than continue with the whites, which we were concerned might be too sweet for us, we decided to flip to the red side of the menu for the rest of our tastes.  We were particularly eager to try this one, since it was on special at $75 for a case, and we’re always looking for inexpensive reds for daily consumption.  This is a Bordeaux-style blend of 42% cabernet sauvignon, 11% pinot noir, 26% cabernet franc, and 23% merlot.  We could definitely smell the cherry from the merlot, plus a touch of something chemical—they suggest eucalyptus.  The taste is quite nice, combining cherry and other dark fruit with some spice, perhaps nutmeg, and maybe a bit of chocolate.  Good pasta/pizza wine, like with the pizza my husband made the other day, topped with eggplant and black olives.  Yum.  Definitely buyable.


Go soon if you want to take advantage of the sale!

  1. 2013 Petite Verdot $28

We went back to the reserve menu for our next taste, guided as to its position in our tasting by our server.  Another good choice.  The aroma is of wood and dried fruit.  The wine is very dry, with lots of tannins, which made me think it could age well.  Though it does not have much fruit, it is very tasty, with enough acidity to cut through the fat of a steak or lamb chops.


  1. 2012 Meritage “Flight” $28

Another Bordeaux-style blend, of 39% merlot, 36% cabernet franc, 17% carménère, 4% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, this is also a really good red.  Apparently, Wine Enthusiast agrees, giving it a grade of 90, we were told.  I never actually know what to make of those grades.  My husband felt the tannins “stick out,” so maybe it needs more aging.  It tastes of cherry and purple plum and spice.  We liked both this one and the Coffee Pot Meritage, which has a different composition and which we liked a little more.


My husband’s home-made pizza, which tastes as good as it looks, and would go well with the Richmond Creek Red Blend.

  1. 2014 Carménère $28

I was eager to taste this one, since Osprey is the only vineyard on Long Island that grows this grape, and it is more usually used in blends.  The aroma is funky—basement, I say.  Fortunately, it doesn’t taste like a basement!  It is good—interesting, say my notes—very tannic, with spicy tastes of blackberry and pepper.  Not a big fruity wine, but with a nice amount of fruit.



Some interesting information on the label.


  1. 2013 Malbec $28

The menu says this is a “tribute to the great wines of Cahors.”  To me it seems more like a Long Island merlot—which is not a bad thing.  Another good, tannic, dry red with some cherry flavors.

  1. 2014 Pinot Noir $40

Since this is the most expensive wine on the menu, we expected it to be something special, especially since we were informed that it won “Best Pinot Noir in New York State in 2016.”  To me, it seems comparable to a Beaujolais, a light, pleasant red.  Easy to drink, it would be okay with roast chicken, but I doubt I’d give it a medal (though I’d have to see how it compared with the competition).


Reasons to visit:  big, social winery with entertainment and good wines; the Fumé Blanc, the Reserve Pinot Gris, the Richmond Creek Red Blend, the Meritage Flight, the Carménère; very reasonable prices, especially for Long Island reds, especially when they’re on sale.  We bought a case of the Richmond Creek Red Blend.


We heard there was also beer on offer outside.

Hudson Valley Visit:  Nofowineaux Takes a Trip October 7-13

We decided to take a trip north to see art museums and galleries, visit relatives, and take some hikes in the beautiful Hudson Valley countryside.  No surprise, we also made time for some tastings, visiting one brewery and two wineries.


Storm King and DIA Beacon have both been on my bucket list for a while, so now I can cross them off.  Both are well worth the visit, Storm King in particular (but be sure to go when the weather is nice, and try to arrive early in the day).  We also enjoyed sauntering up and down Beacon’s main street, popping in and out of little galleries and antique/gift shops.  The Roundhouse Hotel is pricey for the area, but comfortable and well run.


One view from Storm King.

Another place worth traveling to is Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, New York, where we hiked around the lake with my brother and sister-in-law.  It’s a beautiful place, with the garden aspects integrated into the natural landscape, providing scenic views at every turn.  And if you’re in Kingston, you should make time for the Maritime Museum, with its emphasis on the history of the boats and industries along the Hudson River.


Innisfree Garden, an amazingly beautiful place.

Our final hike of the week was in the John Boyd Thacher State Park outside Albany, where the scenery reminded us very much of the movie Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  Alas, we did not see him running bare-chested through the trees.  If you go, be sure to stop into the new visitor center.


So, now on to our tastings…

Hudson Valley Brewery, October 8, 2017

Beacon, New York



Before they put out the tables, we had trouble spotting the brewery.

Finding the brewery was a bit of a challenge, as it is located in the midst of a huge parking lot behind an apartment building, and only a small sign on the door indicates that you have arrived.  We walked past before they opened, and then when we returned there were picnic tables set up outside and the garage-style door had been swung open.  Inside, it is very industrial chic, reminding us that Beacon is sometimes referred to as “Brooklyn north.”  The bar is not very long, so we decided to take our tastes to a picnic table across from it.  We would have sat outside, but all those tables were filled, primarily with a young crowd.


Industrial chic room

They offer eight different beers, a four-ounce pour in attractive stemmed glasses at $2-$3 per taste.  The chipper server informed us that they only give two tastes per person per time at the bar, so we each took two and then returned for the final four.  We left our credit card to run a tab, thinking we would get a whole glass of whichever beer we liked best, but as it happened there were none we liked enough to get a glass of.  Their beers generally have a sour, fruity flavor profile, which is not a taste I like.


  1. Pillow Hat IPA

The aroma is very grapefruity, with a touch of something funky.  The taste is super citrusy, and it is the kind of beer I could see downing on a hot day after working in the garden.


Our second group of tastes

  1. Feel No Way Pilsner

Cement basement aroma, with a touch of sauerkraut.  The taste is sour, oaty and grainy, and reminds my husband of Kix cereal!

  1. Little Memory IPA

This one also smells like grapefruit juice, plus pineapple juice.  I dislike it so much that we don’t finish the taste. It is sour but also fruity.

  1. Plateaux IPA

Okay, this one we decide is like a beery orange juice or an over the hill cider that has gone sour.  If you don’t actually like beer, you might drink this with a burger.


Our first group of tastes

  1. Amulet Sour Farmhouse

Blueberry pie aroma?  Certainly fruity.  The taste reminds me of very sour candy.  I say bleh; my husband says maybe after a run.  I’d rather drink water in that case!

  1. Flying Colors Sour Farmhouse

By this time, we have invested $2 in a bag of cracked pepper and sea salt chips, which helps us get through the tasting.  This is another fruity-tooty beer, and rather sweet.  As we discuss the tastes, my tasting buddy comments that we are treating this more like a wine tasting in terms of all the aromas and flavors we are finding, which is true.


  1. Phase Delay Sour Farmhouse

This one smells like an IPA, very citrusy, and tastes rather like sucking on a lemon.  Super sour, say my notes.  At least this one is not objectionably sweet, and is drinkable if what you want is a beer-like lemonade.

  1. Silhouette Brunch Style Sour Beer

Their own tasting notes compare this to a Tropicana juice box, though I again think it resembles a sweet and sour lemonade.  I find it barely potable, and, as with several of the other beers, we don’t finish our taste.


There are snacks one can buy. Our little bag of chips cost $2.

Reasons to visit:  you’re in Beacon and you want to go to a beer tasting (but I wish we had tried the other brewery in town); you don’t actually like beer that tastes like beer.  That evening we had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant on Main Street which had Singha beer on tap, and much preferred that to any of the beers we had at Hudson Valley.



Benmarl Winery October 9, 2017

Marlboro, New York


Entrance to Benmarl winery


Finding Benmarl Winery would also have been a challenge, if not for Google maps, which easily directed us to this mountain-top site, about twenty minutes outside of Beacon.  They are part of the Shawangunk Wine Trail (who knew?), which includes about fifteen wineries along the Shawangunk Mountains.  We considered visiting one or two more, but many of them were closed on Monday, and others were a bit further than we wanted to venture on this rainy, foggy afternoon.


Resident kitty

Benmarl has a pleasantly rustic tasting room, and the servers were enthusiastic and chatty.  Outside we noted a large tent set-up, and learned that the day before they had had a special grape-stomping event.  Oh my.  Our server informed us that “Benmarl” means “Hill of Slate,” and the farm is allegedly the “oldest vineyard in America.”  On their 37 acres they grow Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Muscat, then get the rest of their grapes from the Finger Lakes and…Long Island!  The North Fork, to be exact.  Ha.  I had said as we were on our way there that I was interested in comparing their wines to Long Island wines, but, no surprise, they tasted rather familiar.


For $10 you get to try six (out of 17 or more—they were out of some) of their wines, and since the pour was rather small for a shared tasting and I was curious to try it, we paid an additional couple of dollars to try the Baco Noir.  If you want to keep your glass, your tasting is $12.


There were lots of options on the menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $20

The grapes for this wine are from the North Fork, and it has the characteristic honeysuckle aroma and a taste that combines citrus and minerality.  Good, though a tad sweeter than I like.


  1. 2016 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $15

Our server told us about how she likes to recommend this wine to anyone who insists they don’t like chardonnay, since what they don’t like is probably the oak-aged buttery California style of chard.  We agree, and like this citrusy light white, with flavors of gooseberry and mineral.  Quite pleasant.  We buy a bottle, which matches well with a pasta and salmon dish my sister-in-law makes for us when we arrive at their house.  These grapes are from Seneca Lake.


  1. 2016 Traminette $18

This is one of their sweeter wines, but not cloyingly so, with a candy aroma and some tropical fruit tastes.  I could see having it with spicy food.  Finger Lakes grapes.


  1. 2016 Merlot $20

As we switch to the reds, she gives the glass a quick rinse with some of the wine.  This, I observe, tastes very like a North Fork merlot.  Not surprisingly, since that is where the grapes come from.  You can smell the oak (aged 16 months in French oak) and cherry, and it also has lots of cherry taste, plus maybe a bit of tobacco.

  1. 2015 Slate Hill Red $20

A Bordeaux blend, this is 48% North Fork merlot, 42% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 10% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak.  The aroma is fruity, but also mushroomy, with a hint of something chemical—but that may be due to the cellar, the door to which was opened behind us as we stood there, and from which emanated a basement/chemical smell.  In any event, we didn’t much care for this wine, which had a sour aftertaste and not a lot of fruit.


  1. 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve $33

Another blend, this is 30% North Fork merlot, 20% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 50% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 24 months.  We like it much better than the Slate Hill.  It has lots of fruit—dark plums, cherry, blackberry, coffee—and is pleasantly tannic and dry.


  1. 2015 Baco Noir $35

I really wanted to try a wine made from estate-grown grapes, and this is all theirs, from vines first planted in 1958.  The aroma is great, with lots of fruit, very plummy, but the taste does not have as much fruit as the smell promised.  It is dry and tannic, but not particularly complex.


Reasons to visit:  you are traveling up the Hudson Valley and want to do a wine tasting; the sauvignon blanc, stainless steel chardonnay, merlot, and Proprietor’s Reserve; pretty reasonable prices for a small winery; beautiful mountain setting; you want to support a winery that practices “sustainable” agriculture, with no spraying.



Millbrook Vineyards and Winery October 11, 2017

Millbrook, New York



After the flatness of Long Island, it was refreshing to be in the Catskill Mountains.  We enjoyed the various vistas as we traveled the back roads with my brother and sister-in-law to this winery with its spectacular views over the hills.  Although we felt we had gone rather far off the “beaten path,” a busload of tourists who arrived shortly after we did showed us that we were not as isolated as it had seemed.  Fortunately, Millbrook is well set up to handle a crowd, and we enjoyed our tasting.


This is only one small part of the winery’s space.

Our bright and well-informed server informed us that John S. Dyson, the founder of the vineyard, was responsible for the “I (heart) NY” logo, which also appears on their glasses (which you get to keep after your tasting).  In addition to the property in Millbrook, the winery also owns vineyards in California (fortunately so far not affected by the fires) and Italy, which expands the varieties of wine they can offer.  One challenge of growing wines this far north is the winter.  They can get temperatures as low as minus fourteen, and anything lower than minus five can give certain grape vines trouble.



A couple of the wines we did not get to try.


The shop has a few items, many from Italy.

The Millbrook building is large and attractive, with various areas, including an upstairs lounge and balcony, where one can (and we did) take a bottle or glasses and look out over the scenery while sipping.  Not all of their wines are available for tasting every day, and on this week day our only option was the Portfolio Tasting, of six wines for $12.50.  You pay the cashier when you enter, and then are assigned a spot at one of the bars.


  1. 2016 Hunt Country White          $16

This is their white blend, a mixture of riesling, tocai friulano, traminette, and pinot grigio, some of which comes from California.  The aroma is of apricots and minerals, and it tastes quite good, of peaches and melon, with a nice long finish.  My brother characterizes it as a “backyard wine,” and my sister-in-law says she has “no complaints.”


  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano Proprietor’s Special Reserve $18

According to our server, Millbrook was the first winery in the United States to grow this particular grape, which is related to sauvignon blanc.  We like it very much, with its aroma of roasted pears and soft tastes of pears and red grapefruit.  I think it is softer than an Italian tocai, which is flintier, but we like it enough to buy a bottle to take home.


I peeked into a room where they store wine.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay $18

Just when I think I’ll finally get to compare an upstate chard with a North Fork chard, we are told that one third of the grapes for this wine come from Pellegrini Vineyard on the North Fork!  Other grapes come from the Finger Lakes and from Millbrook’s estate.  In any event, it is a typical not-too-oaky oaked chardonnay.


  1. 2014 Villa Pillo Borgoforte $19

In case you’re wondering about the Italian name, it comes from Millbrook’s Italian vineyard near San Gimignano, a fascinating town not far from Florence.  This, we are told, is a “Super Tuscan,”  (whenever I hear that term I picture a wine bottle with a heroic cape flying out behind it), a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot grapes.  In any event, it is delicious, with lovely fruit aromas and complex tastes including dark fruits, tobacco, and more.  It is dry and tannic, and we buy two bottles, one to give to my other brother and another to bring to our daughter’s house when we go there for dinner.


Italian wine in a New York State winery? Yes, when the owner of the winery also owns property in Tuscany.

  1. Hunt Country Red $18

Since this is their blend, it changes year to year, and the current iteration is a mix of 55% cabernet franc, 40% merlot, and 5% syrah, with again some grapes coming from California.  The server says he defines this wine as a wine to have on “any day that ends with a y.”  Ha.  It is their top selling red, and we can see why, as it is an easy to drink, fruity red, with lots of cabernet franc flavors like blueberry and plums.  I say a good pizza wine, and my brother says “good with stuff.”


Looks like a hunt on the label…

  1. 2013 Merlot Proprietor’s Special Reserve $25

Pellegrini strikes again—all the grapes for this wine are from there.  We decide this is a wine that needs to be served with food, and just then our server brings out a little plate of bread cubes and olive oil (which they just happen to sell there).  Definitely better with food, but still rather earthy, with a chemical basement smell.  Not our favorite.


We had the upstairs lounge to ourselves.


The view from the upstairs balcony

Reasons to visit:  you are in the Catskills and you’d like to find a nice winery for a tasting; the Tocai Friulano, the Villa Pillo Borgoforte, the Hunt Country Red; a pleasant outdoor upstairs balcony where you can sip a glass of wine while looking at beautiful scenery.

Paumanok Vineyards:  Poetry and the Vines        September 29, 2017


p sign

As a lover of poetry, I can’t help but be attracted to a winery that not only uses the Native American name Walt Whitman adopted for Long Island, but also quotes his poetry on their labels.  Their pleasant outdoor deck overlooking the vines is another reason to go there, and some of the wines are not bad, either!

p deck

It was a perfect day to sit on the outdoor deck.

We went there with my brother and sister-in-law and their large well-behaved dog on a warm sunny day in September, and were happy to discover that they allow leashed dogs on the deck.  Our table was next to a bush full of Monarch butterflies, and my sister-in-law informed me it was a butterfly bush.  Aha.  We did have to walk inside for each new taste, but that also gave us a chance to chat with the servers, who were all quite pleasant, including one young woman from France, who informed us that Paumanok has an internship program with her school in Toulouse.  So that explains why the last time I was there I also had a French server.

p bush

If you look closely, you’ll see the butterflies all over this butterfly bush.

The menu offers a flight of four whites or four reds, each for $12, so we decided each couple would share a flight of the whites and then the reds.  Because my brother bought at least four bottles of wine, the tastings were free.  The menu includes other options, which let you taste their sweet wines, their rosés, and their “Grand Vintage,” or premium wines.  Almost all of their wines have screw tops, so if you are cork-averse, these are a good option.

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The servers were all quite pleasant and helpful.

We also decided to get the Lombardi cheese and salami board for $20, which included a small loaf of bread, olives, dried apricots, and fig cake.  They have a small menu of other snacks, and don’t allow outside food.

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Our snack tray, moment before we decimated it. No outside food is allowed.

  1. 2016 Chenin Blanc         $28

Our server proudly pointed out that this is their signature wine, and that theirs is the only completely estate-grown chenin blanc in New York State.  They have reason to be excited about this wine, which we all really liked.  The aroma is grassy and herbal, and the taste starts fruity with citrus at the end, plus notes of minerality.  My brother said it was “like a mountain stream running over granite.”  We decided it would be good with food, and found that to be true that evening when we had it with scallop ceviche and grilled striped bass.  We bought the fish at Braun’s, of course.

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  1. 2015 Festival Chardonnay $18.99

As I surmised, given its position in the flight, this is their steel-fermented chard.  My sister-in-law found the aroma sweet, and I thought maybe like orange blossoms.  My brother agreed, but added steel pipes.  It’s quite dry and light, and evanesces quickly.  I said like putting your tongue on a flagpole.  We had some disagreement as to how much we liked it, though we thought it would be good with food.  My husband suggested mac and cheese, I mentioned carbonara, and my brother said it reminded him of an Italian wine.  My sister-in-law didn’t like the after-taste.

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The menu says the pour is a half to one ounce, but it seemed more generous than that to me.

  1. 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

Because they use neutral French oak barrels for the eight months of fermentation, this is lighter and not as strongly butter-scotchy as some oaked chards.  We found if quite pleasant, with aromas of vanilla and butterscotch and a taste that we compared to caramel cone ice cream with a lemony finish.  Of course, it would go well with roast chicken.

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  1. 2016 Dry Riesling $22

One of the servers was particularly well-informed, and she let us know that this riesling has no residual sugars.  The shorter the fermentation time, she told us, the drier the riesling.  We liked this white, too.  The aroma combines honeysuckle with a touch of something chemical, perhaps camphor.  It hits the tongue with tart fruit, including greengage plums and some apricot.  You wouldn’t necessarily identify it as a riesling from taste alone, we decided, and you wouldn’t want it with spicy food.  But it might be very good with charcuterie.

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  1. 2015 Festival Red $19.99

Now we switched to the reds, which they poured into the same glasses we had used for the whites.  This is a blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon and 48% merlot, with aromas of cherry and black current, plus spice.  Nutmeg?  It’s very dry and light, and our comments included “not much there,” “not enough fruit,” and “no complexity.”  My sister-in-law detected something “chalky” at the end.  We were not excited, though it is drinkable.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $28

Ooh, we liked this one much better.  Aromas of plums, leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate and tastes of complex fruits made this our favorite of the reds.  It has some tannins, and is elegant, not earthy.  We thought it would go well with venison, and my brother bought some bottles of it.

  1. 2013 Merlot $28

As usual, the merlot smells like black cherry and tastes like cherries and other dark stone fruits.  First my brother said it would be a good burger wine, but then he said, “The more I drink it the less I like it.”  My husband joked, “That doesn’t sound like a good business plan.”  The wine is light and rather monochromatic.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $28

The aroma is similar to the cabernet franc, but the taste is not as good.  No depth, we agree, and though it has dark fruit tastes there is no complexity.  My sister-in-law says it has a “watery” finish.  Meh.

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The tasting room is nice, but rather small.

Reasons to visit:  lovely outdoor deck with views over the vineyards; pleasant servers; the Chenin Blanc and, to a lesser extent, the other whites; the Cabernet Franc; you can bring your dog if you sit outside.

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The prettily rustic entrance


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Do the surroundings influence how a wine tastes? We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

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We enjoyed the view across the vines.

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She’s much too polite to ask for any, but my sister-in-law and brother’s dog thought the cheese tray smelled pretty good.

Lieb Cellars: A Beautiful Setting                September 12, 2017


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The Lieb Cellars tasting room is located on bucolic Oregon Road.

In many ways, September is the best month on the North Fork, and our guests agreed.  We had gone for a walk to Love Lane and a swim in the Peconic Bay, and now we were seated on the attractive patio of Lieb Cellars on Oregon Road, gazing out at beautiful farm fields.  Later we planned to barbeque chicken from 8 Hands, plus eggplant and zucchini and corn from a farm stand.  Perhaps we could cap off that menu with a bottle of wine from Lieb.  However, we didn’t find any wine that we wanted to take home for that meal.

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It was a warm day, so we appreciated the bottle of cool water we were given.

On the other hand, we enjoyed our tasting, if not so much the wines themselves, which was brought to us on trays so we could sit and sip and discuss and enjoy the lovely setting.  The very enthusiastic and well-informed server, a young man who is really studying wine, gave us a quick (maybe too quick!) rundown on the wines we had ordered, and then left us to ourselves, just checking back periodically to see if we had any questions.

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The menu includes snacks, plus drinks for your designated driver.

The menu offers three options:  four whites plus the rosé for $16, five reds for $18, or six Reserve wines for $20.  You can also get cheese and charcuterie plates, but we knew we had a lovely selection of cheeses from the Love Lane Cheese Shop waiting for us at home, so we opted not to get anything.  They don’t allow you to bring your own food, but they do permit dogs on the outside patio.  We decided to share one white flight and one red flight.  The good-sized servings came out in attractive round-bottomed glasses, and we also were given a bottle of chilled water plus glasses for the water.  Some of the wines are labeled Bridge Lane and others Lieb Reserve, which I abbreviate BL and LR.

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The whites and the rose. Each glass sits on a coaster which identifies the wine and the order in which to drink them.

  1. 2016 BL White Merlot   $18

This is a white wine made from merlot grapes by not giving them any time on the skins.  The aroma was nice—sweet, spicy, a bit minerally—but we found the wine itself lacked character.

  1. 2015 LR Pinot Blanc $22

They are very proud of their Pinot Blanc, but we were underwhelmed.  It is very citrusy and tart, with not much fruit and a slightly chemical aroma.

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We liked the patio, which we had to ourselves on this mid-week day. One time we arrived on a weekend and had to leave, as it was full.

  1. 2016 BL Unoaked Chardonnay $16

We like this the best of the whites, finding it had a better balance than the others, with some richness.  I liked it.  It has a honeysuckle aroma and nice lemony notes.  It would go well with food, though we felt it would not stand up to the spicy barbeque sauce we planned.

  1. 2016 BL Sauvignon Blanc $18

Our server cautioned us that this was not like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  It was not at all floral, and my brother pronounced it “tame.”  It smells almost like candy, with some minerality, and the taste is very light, almost evanescent.

  1. 2016 BL Rosé $18

Pink?  Not so much.  Another very light wine, this had no strawberry aroma.  It is available in an eight gallon box.

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  1. 2016 BL Red Blend $20

Our server was very proud that he could inform us this was like a right bank Bordeaux, a blend of 44% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 13% petit verdot, 12% malbec, and 9% cabernet sauvignon.  You can sense in the taste that this spent a little time in oak—six months.  It’s very soft, with a taste in which cherry predominates.  I said it was okay for casual drinking, but my brother opined it was “completely uninteresting, like a person without a face.”  Ouch.

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Note the dogs in the background.

  1. 2015 LR Merlot $24

As we sipped this somewhat classic merlot, we got into a humorous discussion of the movie Sideways, and the damage it did to merlot sales.  Nothing wrong with a good merlot, I said, but my brother felt this was a “Kool-Aid version of merlot.”  Well, it would be fine with a burger.

  1. 2015 LR Cabernet Franc $30

I thought this cabernet franc was not bad, with dark fruit tastes of blackberry and plum, dry, with some tannins though overall rather soft.  But I had to agree with my brother that it had no depth.

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The Petit Verdot looks as good as it tastes.

  1. 2014 LR Petit Verdot $35

Finally, a wine we could agree on.  We all liked the petit verdot, made of 98% petit verdot and 2% “mystery grapes,” according to our server.   2014 was a hot season, so it was a good year for ripe red grapes.  This wine is interesting, with a distinctive earthy, piney aroma and layers of flavor.  We speculated that another brother would like it, since he favors “odd duck” wines.  Long finish.  If I were to sit and have a glass of wine here, this is the one I would get.

  1. 2015 LR Meritage $35

And here is their left bank Bordeaux style:  47% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 17% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 2% malbec.  We made our server check the math!  It worked out.  The aroma is fruity, the taste less so.  Given the tannins, it may age into something better, but for the moment it is a bit disappointing for the price.  It would be okay as a $12 wine, opined my brother.  Well, that’s a problem with North Fork wineries in general—because of the small size of their production, they can’t achieve the economies of scale from other places.  Nevertheless, we like to support the local wineries.

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The inside room is attractive and comfortable.

Reasons to visit:  beautiful setting on a back road, surrounded by farm fields; the Unoaked Chardonnay, the Lieb Reserve Petit Verdot; you can bring your dog.

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