Castello Borghese: On a Winter’s Day February 9, 2020

https://castellodiborghese.com/

IMG_7499

All the leaves are brown…

IMG_7515

…and the sky is grey.

It’s been a quiet, damp winter out here on the East End of Long Island. The farm stands have all been closed since Christmas, some restaurants have signs reading “See you in the spring,” and there’s no traffic on the roads. On the other hand, the Riverhead Farmer’s market on Saturday was quite lively and busy, and we were happy to find our favorite pickle man there, as well as fresh eggs and other treats. It’s a nice time of year to visit the wineries—though you do need to check they are open, particularly during the week—since you can often have the undivided attention of your server. On the other hand, if you want a livelier atmosphere, you can check out the Winterfest web page (https://longislandwinterfest.com/) to see where you can find musical performances.

IMG_7500

For most of the time, we had the tasting room to ourselves.

We decided to head to Castello Borghese, which we hadn’t been to since August 2018. It is now under the control of Ann Marie and Marco Borghese’s son, after their untimely deaths in 2014. We were very sad when we heard that news, especially since we had had some pleasant chats with Ann Marie in the tasting room. However, Peter, our server, more than made up for that loss, by being very well-informed and passionate about the wines. It didn’t hurt our experience that, charmed by our discussion of our likes and dislikes and by my notebook, he gave us several extra tastes.

IMG_7514

Sometimes they have musical performances in this room.

The main tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and a couple of barrels for extra stand-and-taste space, with an adjacent room with small tables and chairs and a large party space. Outside, there are a few picnic tables. It is very much a winery for serious tasters, and Peter described with some amusement how it served as a refuge for those who accidentally went to Vineyard 48 (since closed for being an out of control party place).

The menu offers five different flights: five whites for $20, five reds for $25, three rosés for $15, a “Classic Flight” of a variety of wines for $20, or “Battle of the North Fork,” a comparison of two whites and two reds. As we discussed which option to take, I announced that I often did not like oaked chardonnays, which Peter took as a challenge, and led to our first “extra.” We decided on the Classic Flight. (I’ve marked the extras with an asterisk.)

IMG_7503

They give you a rather generous pour.

  1. 2018 Chardonnay $20

The flight starts off with the 2018 chardonnay, a fairly classic North Fork chard, with aromas of pear, flowers, and minerals and tastes of green apple, mineral, and lemon. It’s very good, and would be perfect with oysters, like the ones we had here one time in the summer.

IMG_7504

We were fascinated by the difference in color between the two chardonnays. The one on the left is oaked.

  1. * 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

“Try this,” urged Peter, “it may change your mind.” Well, not totally, though I liked it more than I thought I would, which was explained when I learned it was aged in neutral oak (which means old oak, rather than new, and so is less oaky). It didn’t have that big buttery taste I have come to dislike. Peter told an amusing story about a woman who ordered a glass of this chard, took it outside to drink with her friends, and came back in to complain that she’d been given the wrong wine. Turned out she was from California, where the chardonnays tend to be big and buttery, but Peter was able to match her with a wine she liked. Anyway, this is a bit woodsy, with an aroma of crushed ferns, rather lean and elegant.

IMG_7505

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24

I’m not counting this as an extra, but it is not the SB on the flight menu, but rather a different one that Peter thought we’d prefer. Meanwhile, this is light and bright, tart and lemony, with an aroma of cucumbers and a touch of funkiness. I could see pairing it with scallops.

IMG_7506

  1. Rosé of Merlot $18

Peter offers us brief descriptions of each rosé, and we decide to stick with the one on the flight menu. Ever since the changes at Croteaux, we have been on the lookout for good NoFo rosés. This is pretty good, with a slight aroma of strawberry and the flavor of macerated strawberries. It is nicely dry, and we buy a bottle to drink some time in the near future.

IMG_7507

  1. *2018 Pinot Noir $50

“You have to try the Pinot Noir,” says Peter, and we do not disagree. It is a French style pinot, he explains, lean and dry rather than big and jammy like a California pinot. We like it, and if not for the price might have bought a bottle. It has a dark fruit aroma and taste, with slight tannins.

IMG_7509

  1. 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

This has a lovely garnet color, but a slight chemical odor which one sometimes gets with reds out here. However, the taste is fine, though at the end it evanesces. We taste dark berries and cherries and tobacco, with some nice acidity. We wonder whether this would improve over time.

  1. *2018 Merlot Select $35

Now we discuss the popularity of merlot and the influence of the movie Sideways, which led to a dip in sales. It is the most popular red grape on the North Fork, and with good reason. This has aromas and tastes of cherry, with a taste that lingers after you sip. 2018 was a very good weather year locally, and so growers expect good things from this vintage. This is also dry, with some tannins. I suggest pairing it with lamb, Peter suggest rib eye, and my husband agrees with us both.

IMG_7510

  1. 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44

Good way to end our tasting, this is another tasty red, with lots of fruit and some minerality. I like it a lot. Like all their wines, it tends to be elegant and lean rather than big and very fruity. It could also stand up to a steak, or even go with roast pork.

IMG_7511

Many of their wines have won awards.

Reasons to visit: serious tasting room with serious wines; the chardonnay, the Rosé of Merlot, the pinot noir, the cabernet sauvignon reserve; a generous pour.

Laurel Lake: Not Their Fault, But… February 1, 2020

http://www.llwines.com/

We have had several prior visits to Laurel Lake which we enjoyed, including once in the early fall when we sat outside with some friends and experienced good table service and a leisurely afternoon, and another time in the winter when we had the tasting room mostly to ourselves and had a lovely chat with the winemaker. However, this time a very noisy crowd of women having a bachelorette party, succeeded by an even noisier group celebrating a birthday, made it hard for us to relax and enjoy our tasting. Part of the problem is that the room is all hard surfaces, promoting echoing sounds. Not anyone’s fault, but it did color our appreciation of the wines.

IMG_7489

IMG_7490

The room looks empty, but off to the left there’s a large and rather noisy group.

There’s plenty of room for groups—which must reserve ahead—at Laurel Lake, especially if you include the outside area, but the main tasting room is a middle size. We decided to sit at a table, and get up to ask for each of our four tastes. The menu offers four tastes for $16, from a menu of six whites and eight reds (minus the sauvignon blanc, which was used up). With some guidance from the servers—one of whom, Maureen, amazingly recognized us from our visit over a year ago—we chose our four.

 

  1. 2018 Pinot Gris $23.99

A good place to start, this is a relatively simple, direct white, the French version of pinot grigio. The wine doesn’t have much aroma, just perhaps a touch of flowers and minerals. It is dry, with tastes of unripe pear, salt, and minerals. It would be fine with a delicate fish dish.

IMG_7488

  1. 2018 Gewürztraminer $23.99

The menu wisely includes a little pronunciation guide to this wine, which people might otherwise hesitate to order! And order it they should, as it is very likely a crowd pleaser. It has enough fruit to make it easy to drink, but not so much sweetness that we were put off by it. The aroma is of thyme honey and oak, and it tastes like peaches and apricots. It would be fine to sip on its own, but even better with kung pao chicken.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $22.99

I was thinking of getting their red blend, called Wind Song Red, but the server warned me that it is “semi-sweet.” So, no. Instead I got the cab franc, which had a very promising aroma of fruit, leather, nutmeg, and plums. It is, she informed me, their most popular red. We found it pleasant, but one-dimensional, light-bodied, with slight tannins and nice acidity. I taste purple plums and maybe a touch of black olive. I could see how people would find it easy to drink. The tasting notes suggest pairing it with grilled tuna, and I agree.

IMG_7492

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $29.99

The word “reserve” can mean anything a winery wants it to mean, but generally it denotes their higher end wines. All of Laurel Lake’s wines are moderately priced, with this the most expensive one on the menu. It is a dry, smooth, pleasant (there’s that word again—am I damning with faint praise?) red, with light tannins, tasting of dark fruits and berries. The menu describes it as having an “intense aroma,” but we thought not. Interestingly, the last time we were here we tried the 2012 iteration of this wine, and liked it very much. Just shows the importance of tasting each vintage.

IMG_7493

Reasons to visit: pleasant tasting room, if it’s not filled with noisy groups; nice outside area for warm weather; at the moment they allow outside snacks; the gewürztraminer and the cabernet franc, small selection of amusing wine-related gifts.

 

RG/NY: A Shared Aesthetic January 17, 2020

https://rgnywine.com/

IMG_7452

Don’t be fooled by that blue sky–it was cold!

The starkly simple sign outside leads you into an entry area that is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. The tasting room is similarly pared down to essentials, as are the wines. Even the bottles share this aesthetic, looking like examples of modern art. Our friendly and well-informed server, Tina, tells us that an attractive stair-step design on the labels has a symbolic meaning. The wines are named “Scielo,” which a neon sign, the only décor in the tasting room, informs us means Heaven. The steps are a route to the heaven you find in the bottle.

The Rivero González family bought this winery and vineyard from Martha Clara in 2018, but they have been winemakers in Mexico since 1998. We had waited to check them out until we figured they had time to make their own wines, which they have. The only hold-overs from Martha Clara are some of the reds—and Tina herself, who greets arriving wine club members like old friends. She tells us that the new owners want to keep the family-friendly atmosphere of Martha Clara, while putting their own stamp on the wines and décor. For example, dogs will be allowed outside on the grounds (though today there is one in the tasting room! Well, it is certainly too cold to hang around outside.).

IMG_7440

This pooch was so well-behaved we didn’t even realize she was there until someone greeted her.

I ask Tina about snacks, and she shows me a menu which is available on weekends in the winter, and every day in season. (No outside food.) Meanwhile, there is a refrigerated case and various snack items in the shop area, so you can make a DIY snack. We decide we are not that hungry, and anyway, each tasting comes with a little dish of very tasty crackers.

IMG_7443

The snack menu, which is available on weekends in the winter.

The tasting menu offers a choice of three different flights: the Scielo selection of four wines for $17, four whites for $20, or RG Selection of higher-level wines, four for $22. The final choice on that menu is a Martha Clara red, but Tina, noting that we have been to Martha Clara, says she could substitute the RG Tinto if we prefer. We decide to go with the Scielo flight.

IMG_7437

IMG_7439

  1. 2018 Scielo Chardonnay $25

I am happy to learn that this is a primarily steel-fermented chard, with just 2% oaked. I find in general that I prefer steel chards, but a little bit of oak adds depth and a nice mouth feel. It has an aroma of ripe apples and flowers, and tastes like a Granny Smith apple as well. There’s also a touch of lime. My tasting buddy insists that it is slightly sweet, but after some discussion we realize that his taste is influenced by some residual sweetness from the cracker he munched. He says this would be a good seafood wine, and I agree, though I think a seafood in cream dish would go best.

IMG_7441

  1. 2018 Riesling $24

Before we opted for this flight, I asked if the riesling was sweet or dry, and Tina reassured me that it was dry. She wasn’t kidding. It is bone dry, and very light. The aroma is of honeysuckle and metal, and there’s a touch of metal in the taste as well. Like touching your tongue to a pole? Well, I’m not that dumb. I also taste pears. We get into a discussion about how the new wines are very dry, whereas the Martha Clara wines tended to be more on the sweet side. Some former customers are unhappy with the new taste, while we prefer it.

IMG_7442

The stair step pattern on the label has a symbolic meaning.

  1. 2018 Scielo Rosé $22

Yum. This is a blend of 48% merlot, 32% malbec, and 20% cabernet franc, and the complexity of that blend shows up in the flavor, which is more interesting than a standard rosé. Tasty, says my husband. It has the strawberry aroma one would expect, and in addition to some strawberry flavor a definite note of lychee. We decide to get a bottle to go with the scallops we bought earlier at Braun’s.

  1. 2018 White Merlot $32

Power of the book—she was pouring this for someone else, so she offered us a taste of this white wine made from merlot grapes. Nice. It tastes like a cross between red and white, light and drinkable, with an aroma of wood and leather and white cherry taste.

IMG_7444

  1. 2018 Tinto $30

Our server compares this to a Beaujolais, and it is light like a Beaujolais, though it is made from a Bordeaux blend: 43% merlot, 37% cabernet sauvignon, 10% petit verdot, and 10% cabernet franc. I would guess that they were in a hurry to get out a red of their own, because we think this could benefit from more aging. It has a nice cherry aroma and taste, but no depth and some tannins. It is very young, and I could see drinking it with meatloaf or hamburgers.

IMG_7445

  1. 2018 Cabernet Franc $37

There’s just a little bit left in this bottle, not enough to give anyone a regular taste, so Tina asks if we’d like a sip of this. Of course, we would. I get spice and leather, not much fruit. Again, I think this would benefit from more time, and we resolve to come back in a year or so to see how the wines have developed.

IMG_7446

There’s a very large side room.

Reasons to visit: A chance to try a new place; very roomy surroundings, in case you are with a group; the rosé, the White Merlot. One note—the bar has almost no overhang, so there’s nowhere to put your knees when you sit there, and the stools are rather uncomfortable. Perhaps they will fix that in the future.

IMG_7433

From the outside, you con’t tell that there are significant changes both inside the building and inside the bottles.

IMG_7451

But there are still some Martha Clara wines available for purchase.

IMG_7448

The gift shop has many fewer items than it used to have.

 

 

Peconic Cellar Door: Women Rule December 20, 2019

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

IMG_7352

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

IMG_7356

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

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

IMG_7366

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

IMG_7355

  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

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

IMG_7359

I thought this label was particularly pretty.

  1. 2017 Saltbird Migratus $27

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

IMG_7360

This rose is almost like a light red.

  1. 2016 As If Courage $28

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

IMG_7362

  1. 2016 Saltbird Harbinger $36

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

IMG_7367

The array of our tasting.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

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

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

IMG_7357IMG_7369

 

Coffee Pot Cellars: Consider Yourself at Home November 3, 2019

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

IMG_7248

Why a huge mural of a monarch butterfly? Read the review and find out!

The name may seem a bit misleading—it refers to the nickname of the Orient Point lighthouse—but the building in which this winery is housed is totally appropriate. It is a house, and you will feel as though you are a guest in Laura Klahr’s living room as soon as you enter the intimate, yellow-walled space.

IMG_7239

If you’ve ever been there before, she is likely to recognize you (even if you are not, as she and her husband, winemaker Adam Suprenant, figured out, a wine blogger like me). And even if you are visiting for the first time, you will get a warm welcome and soon feel at home, as you learn about Laura’s bee hives and Blossom Meadow farm, the delicious wines, and Beasley, the resident red-wine loving pug.  Beasley, by the way, has recently been joined by Molly, a chardonnay-sipping goldfish. (Never fear, the pets’ wine preferences are part of Laura’s quirky sense of humor.)

IMG_7234

That’s the wine-o-saur.

Out on the front lawn is the wine-o-saur, a dinosaur of wire “fleshed out” with wine corks, many of them contributed and decorated by fans of Coffee Pot. Laura promises to finish it, now that jam-making season is over. She also called our attention to a wall hanging made by her mother, which illustrates, using colored yarn, the daily temperatures in 2015. Other wall décor calls attention to the Merlot for Monarchs campaign, which teams up with the Girl Scouts and others to plant milkweed every time a bottle of merlot is bought—1,821 so far—which helps support the endangered monarch butterflies. We bought a bottle of the merlot, but not just because of the campaign. It’s good!

IMG_7237

As we were discussing with Laura the phenomenon of people who are winemakers for large wineries—Adam is the winemaker for Osprey’s Dominion, whose wines we also like, and of which he is also proud—also having their own label, Adam entered, bearing what I bet was a lunch for his wife. He agreed that it is interesting, and they both talked about the benefit of having the freedom to do what you like. (There are other winemakers on the East End who do the same, like Anthony Nappa, who has his own label in the Winemaker’s Studio and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Roman Roth, who makes the Grapes of Roth as well as Wölffer Estate wines.) For both their jams and their wines, Laura and Adam like to be “true to the fruit.”

A complete tasting consists of all six wines for $12, so we opted to share one tasting.

IMG_7240

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $21.99

Laura explained that this is aged in steel barrels, rather than vats, which gives it a more concentrated flavor. When I opined that it was “zippy,” she smiled and said that was a word Adam would never use, but she liked it. This has a floral aroma, of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass, and tastes lemony, with, as she noted, more depth of flavor than your typical sauvignon blanc. We buy a bottle.

IMG_7241

  1. 2015 Chardonnay $19.99

I wondered whether I would like this, since it is oaked, but after Laura explained that it is aged in fourteen-year-old oak for just six months, I was ready to taste it. She characterized it as their fall/winter chard, and I can see why. It has more body than a steel chard, but is not heavy or oaky or buttery. I taste wood and honey and citrus. They get most of their grapes, by the way, from a vineyard in Jamesport, plus some from other vineyards.

IMG_7242

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $21.99

Gewürztraminer is a wine that becomes rather popular in November, since many people like it as an accompaniment to turkey. I can see that. This is a blend of gewürztraminer plus 12% riesling, steel fermented, and nicely fruity. My tasting buddy says it is sweet, but I disagree. What he sees as sweet I see as tropical fruit flavors. In fact, it even smells like lychee fruit. I also get pineapple and a touch of nutmeg.

IMG_7243

  1. 2013 Merlot $21.99

This is their newest release, and Laura proudly informs us that it just got 91 points and an Editor’s Choice award from Wine Enthusiast. I don’t give scores (as a retired English teacher, I am DONE giving grades), but I can see why this was highly rated. It has the cherry aroma and taste I have come to expect from North Fork merlots, but also more depth of flavor than many, with a touch of smokiness that is just enough to add interest. We buy a bottle, and not just to support the monarch butterflies. It’s delicious.

IMG_7244

  1. 2015 Beasley’s Blend $23.99

Beasley is featured on the label of this blend of 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot, and he certainly has good taste. This has aromas of dark fruit and tobacco, with tastes of black raspberry and dark chocolate, plus enough tannins that I think it could age well. By this time Adam has joined us, and he agrees.

IMG_7245

  1. 2014 Meritage $27.99

Adam tells us that he calls 2014 the “immaculate summer,” in that the weather was perfect for grape-growing, with cool nights and warm sunny days, and just the right amount of rain. Viticulture is, of course, farming, though those of us who just deal with the finished product don’t often think about that. (In fact, I think that might be the first time I’ve ever written that word!) He’s justly pleased with the way this blend has turned out, and we agree that it could also age well. We buy a bottle of this and label it to wait a couple of years in the cellar. He also discusses the use of petit verdot in this blend of 56% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon. It adds dark color and some blueberry flavor, he notes. This is another yummy wine, with aromas and flavors of dark fruits, like blackberries, plus cocoa and spice.

Reasons to visit: intimate atmosphere for tasting, with personal attention; Laura; all six wines, but especially the sauvignon blanc, the merlot (save the monarchs!), and the Meritage; Beasley, the official greeter and employee of the month; jam and honey and other bee-related products for sale. Laura also described to us the fun of a honey tasting, where you put out several varieties of honey and taste the differences amongst them, since honey gets its flavor from the flowers the bees visit. I do have one suggestion: perhaps at some point in the future they could replace the bar stools with more comfortable seating options.

IMG_7238

Macari Vineyard: No Tricks, Several Treats October 30, 2019

http://macariwines.com/

IMG_7216

It was the day before Halloween, and oddly warm, when we drove over to Macari. We had the tasting room to ourselves, so it wasn’t surprising that there were no pre-made cheese trays available. (No outside food allowed.) However, we could have bought any package of cheese on display, plus some crackers, and our server would have supplied us with a knife and cheese board.  We decided to content ourselves with a bag of very tasty black truffle-flavored potato chips. Then I worried that they were interfering with the tasting, so I requested a glass of water, which was quickly forthcoming.

The tasting room on Bergen Road is large, with a beautiful stone fireplace on one side, and ample displays of their wines all around. There is also a second large room filled with tables, and seating on a veranda off to one side. We stood at the bar and shared an Estate tasting, of five wines for $30. The other flight is called Vintage, and also includes five wines for $30. My tasting buddy complained that it was a small pour, though I noted that the glass was large.

IMG_7218

The main tasting room.

When you stand at the bar you have a clear view of the huge steel vats in the wine-making area, and we watched with interest as a worker tethered himself with a safety harness before checking on one vat. Makes sense, I suppose. What a way to go, drowned in a vat of wine!

In general, we have liked Macari wines, and often buy a bottle with dinner in local restaurants. Today was no exception, though in general we liked the whites better than the reds, and really liked the rosé we tried.

IMG_7221

  1. 2018 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $24

Why Katherine’s Field? All our server could tell us was that the grapes for this wine all came from an area of the vineyard called Katherine’s Field, and that it is the part closest to Long Island Sound. Perhaps that closeness to the water accounts for the slight note of saltiness I detected. The wine is light and easy to drink, with tastes of green apple, mineral, and pineapple. Like many NoFo sauvignon blancs, it would go well with local oysters. Good.

IMG_7227

  1. 2017 Dos Aguas White $22

Dos Aguas is, of course, a reference to the two waters which surround the North Fork: the Sound and Peconic Bay. This is a blend of 52% grüner veltliner, 27% viognier, 10% sauvignon blanc, 7% pinot gris, 3% friulano, and 1% gewürztraminer. It smells very much like honeysuckle, which I think might be due to the grüner, and also gets some of its fruitiness from that. My husband thinks it is too sweet, but I argue what he’s tasting as sweet is actually fruitiness. It has some lemon taste, as well as gooseberry. I would buy it, and it would go well with spicy food, but he doesn’t like it as much as I do.

IMG_7228

Even visually, you can tell this rose is more robust than most.

  1. 2018 Lifeforce Rosé $28

The term “lifeforce” in the title of a Macari wine refers to the fermentation method used. Instead of steel or wood, these wines are fermented in a concrete “egg.” They used to explain that egg on their website, but I couldn’t find that information now. In any event, this rosé is made from cabernet franc grapes, and was described by our server as their “fall rosé.” It is heavier and darker than a typical rosé, and as we discussed it he told us that what had happened was that in 2018 they were not happy with the way the cabernet was turning out, so rather than make a red from it they decided to turn it into a rosé. We are happy they did, as we quite liked it. Though it has some typical strawberry aroma and flavor, it has more oomph than many rosés. We bought a bottle. I think it will go great with seared rare duck breasts, which we get at Bayview farm stand.

IMG_7229

By this time our server–a bright young man–had figured out how I like to pose these photos. We had a nice chat about how he has learned to like wine.

  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve $40

Our server tells us this in aged twenty months, 9% in new French oak, so it is not super oaky or tannic. It smells fruity, like black cherries. The taste is soft and pleasant, but rather unidimensional. At that price, I’d want a more exciting wine. However, it is quite drinkable.

IMG_7230

  1. 2016 Dos Aguas $35

This is another blend, this time a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 62% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec, 8% petit verdot, and 6% cabernet franc. I like the aroma of red raspberries, but again the taste is good but not exciting. Dry, soft, with no tannins, this is an everyday type of red that you could even have with roast chicken. It would not stand up to a steak.

IMG_7217

Reasons to visit: spacious tasting room; the sauvignon blanc, the Dos Aguas white, and the Lifeforce Rosé; we often get the Sette in restaurants, a nice blend of half and half cabernet franc and merlot; no food allowed, but they do have a large selection of snacks and will do cheese trays on busier days.

IMG_7233

The grapes have been picked, and soon the leaves will be gone as well, leaving the vines bare until spring.

Kontokosta Winery: Close to Greenport October 4, 2019

https://www.theharborfrontinn.com/kontokosta-winery

IMG_7108

The flowers are being blown sideways by the wind.

We had errands to run in Greenport (oil and vinegar at Vines & Branches, for one), so we decided to visit the closest winery to Greenport, Kontokosta. As we got out of our car, a gust of wind reminded us that the Long Island Sound is in sight of the tasting room, and we noted the vanes of the windmill spinning rapidly. No shortage of wind energy here!

IMG_7116

That’s my new notebook in the corner of the photo. I filled the old one!

The tasting room is large and airy, and, mostly empty on this October Friday, seemed somewhat echoey. Since we’d spent some time walking around Greenport, we decided we wanted to sit, so we took our tastes over to one of the long wooden tables. We also, feeling a bit peckish, ordered a round of St. Stephen’s 4 Fat Fowl cheese, which was $17, plus $2.50 if we wanted crackers with it. It seemed a bit chintzy to us to charge separately for crackers, but they do offer gluten free crackers as an option. No outside food allowed. The cheese was quite delicious, and more than enough for the two of us, so we had the server wrap up our leftovers to take home.

While in Greenport we amused ourselves by figuring out from what angle the pictures of Greenport were taken which appear in the new TV series “Emergence.” It’s mostly shot in New Jersey (one look at the beach where a plane crashes makes it clear it was not shot on the North Fork), but it is set in Southold and Greenport and uses shots of Front Street and Main Street for atmosphere.

A tasting consists of three one-ounce pours for $16, so we decided to do one tasting of three of the four whites, and another of three of the four reds. The servers gave us basic information on the wines, and the tasting menu had a few brief notes, but otherwise we were on our own.

IMG_7115

Our flight of whites.

  1. 2018 Orient Chardonnay $22

This is a fairly classic example of a North Fork chard, steel-fermented, with a floral aroma and a lemony, fruity, minerally taste. We also detected a slight salty note in this and some other wines, and wondered if the vineyard’s location so close to the Sound caused that. It went well with the soft, creamy cheese.

IMG_7109

That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance.

  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $25

Another easy-to-drink white, this smells to me like thyme honey. The taste is a touch sweet, but not too sweet, with some pineapple taste. Sometimes sauvignon blancs have a lot of lemon taste, but this one does not. It does have a touch of minerality.

IMG_7117

Each glass was labeled with the wine in it, so we would know which we were tasting.

  1. 2018 Field Blend $22

As I’ve mentioned before, the name field blend implies that it is made from various grapes which all grow in the same field. This one is 50% riesling, 33% viognier, and 17% chardonnay. I detect the riesling in the aroma, which had a bit of that cat pee smell, as well as honeysuckle. We like it the best of the whites, as it is more interesting than most. I think it tastes like a Granny Smith apple, and he agrees.

IMG_7119

The reds.  We did not try the rose, which you can see off to one side.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $29

I return our three empty glasses to the bar and order our three reds. To make sure we know what we’re drinking, the server uses a white marker of some sort to put the initials of each wine on the base of the glass. Clever. This is aged four months in Hungarian oak, she tells me. The aroma is jammy, like blackberry jam. The wine tastes like dark figs, with some nice acidity, but it is rather lean, with no finish.

IMG_7118

The cheese was delicious, and went well with the wines.

  1. 2015 Merlot $34

Typically, merlots around here taste and smell like cherries, and this is no exception. It has no depth, and is rather monochromatic, says my tasting pal. I agree that it would be a good pizza/pasta wine, if not for the price. I also note that it was served too cold, a common fault.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

Aged twelve months in Hungarian oak, this wine finally has some tannins. I smell black olives and pine, maybe something a bit funky. My poor husband is suffering from a major allergy attack, perhaps brought on by pollens blown on that brisk breeze, so he’s not much help in the what-does-it-smell-like department. His comment on this one is, “I can taste that it’s wine.” They do say that smell is a crucial element in taste. I taste purple plums, but I agree that it’s not very complex, though, like all the wines here, very drinkable.

IMG_7120

Perhaps if we’d stood at the bar we could have had more discussions about the wine.

Reasons to visit: it’s close to Greenport, which is getting quite popular these days; large tasting room with a view of Long Island Sound; menu of good cheeses (though I think the crackers should be included in the cost. What are you going to do, spread the cheese on your fingers?); all the wines are pleasant, if unexciting, but we especially liked the Field Blend white and the cabernet franc.

IMG_7121

Pretty view out the window.

IMG_7125

The grapes, covered with netting to keep critters out, look about ready to harvest. At some wineries we pass, they have already been picked.

Old Field Addendum September 7, 2019

https://theoldfield.com/

IMG_7054

Our picnic, with cheese from Love Lane Cheese Shop and pate from 8 Hands.

“Next time, bring a picnic,” urged the very hospitable server the last time we were at Old Field.  So we took her advice, and brought some friends who were thinking of joining their wine club plus some crackers and cheese, melon with prosciutto, plus a slice of paté and some shishito peppers we picked up at 8 Hands enroute to the winery. 

IMG_7051

We had a lovely time and enjoyed trying two wines which had not been available the last time we were there.  Our friends loved the laid-back family atmosphere of the farm, and admired the chickens and ducks.  We strolled the grounds and looked again at the ice house.  They tried a tasting of the reds, with which they were very happy.   And yes, they joined the wine club, which meant our tastings were free.  We’ll be back!

1.        2016 Blush de Noir        $25

Perry—one of the owners—explained to us that the pinot noir grapes hadn’t met their standards for red wine, so they made them into this lovely rosé.  We quite liked it, and it went very well with the charcuterie we had brought with us.  It is a light, dry wine with just a bit of fruit.

IMG_7052

Just four hours on the skins means that this is a very light colored rose.

2.       2014 Cabernet Franc    $36

We liked this wine so much that we bought a bottle for the cellar.  A new release, it has nice tannins, more depth than many North Fork reds, and was just overall delicious.

IMG_7059

On our stroll, we noted the view of the bay just beyond the vines.

P.S.  Perry came out of the vineyard and offered us a taste of merlot grapes.  They were not quite ready to be picked, she told us.  We liked the taste of the little, thin-skinned grapes, despite the seeds.
IMG_7060

Not quite ready to be picked!

IMG_7063

IMG_7064

Croteaux: Back to the Garden August 16, 2019

https://www.croteaux.com/home/

IMG_6966

IMG_6967 (1)

After you enter, turn right to find parking on the grass.

IMG_6940

To get to the garden, you go through the door and are then escorted to a seat.

It was a perfect August day—sunny, 80 degrees, blue sky with puffy white Magritte clouds—so we decided to check out the newly re-opened (under new ownership) Croteaux garden.  The good news is that it is still a lovely setting in which to sit in the shade on a summer afternoon, surrounded by flowering shrubs, enjoying table service.  Unfortunately, we were not as happy with the wines, except for one which is still a favorite.  We also got the herbed cheese and baguette basket, which came as before with a sprig of fresh mint.  However, that too disappointed.  Previously, the cheese was goat cheese mixed with fresh herbs, while now it is a cream cheese mixed with dried herbs.  So much for nostalgia.

On the other hand, the many groups seated at the rustic tables seemed quite happy, hanging out and chatting, enjoying the afternoon.  So if you prefer rosés that are so light they could pass for whites, this may be the place for you.  Like the other winery bought by the Frankel family, the general goal seems to be to make safe, easily accepted, wines.

A tasting of all six still rosés is $18, and all three sparkling rosés is also $18.  We opted to share one of each, which was plenty of wine.  The still tastes come in nice little round-bottomed glasses, on carefully labeled little trays, and the sparklers are served in tall glasses.  All wines are the 2018 vintage.

 

IMG_6945

Our first three tastes, with the basket of cheese and baguette in the back.

1.        Merlot 181 Rosé            $28

Croteaux uses three clones of merlot, labeling the wines accordingly.  This one looks almost clear, with just the faintest tinge of pink (color and taste are determined both by the grape and by how long the juice sits on the skins).  It smells like cut grass and flowers, and tastes like a citrusy white with a touch or berry flavor.

2.       Merlot 314 Rosé             $20

This has always been our favorite, and still is.  We like its aroma of melon and mineral, and its strawberry flavor.  It may be a touch sweeter than in the past.  It would be a lovely aperitif wine, and is also good with food.

3.       Merlot 3 Rosé   $20

I get a bit of a funky smell, but my husband, who, it must be said, is suffering from an allergy attack, says the smell is “neutral.”  This is very like a white, with lots of lemon flavor.  The tasting notes say it has a “zippy finish.”  I say it does not taste like a rosé.  It definitely needs food, like scallops in cream sauce or a lobster roll.  This is a blend of all three clones:  181, 314, and 3.

IMG_6946

Second group.

4.       Sauvage 181 Rosé           $25

I’m always intrigued when winemakers decide to use the wild native yeasts—hence “sauvage”—giving up some of the control over the outcome of the wine.  It definitely has some of the strawberry taste I associate with rosés, plus some minerality and citrus.  Like all the wines, it is dry.  The end taste is a bit harsh, and my tasting buddy’s word for this is “meh.”

5.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé       $25

The tasting notes describe this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can’t argue with that.  Not surprisingly, this tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé, so it would go well with local oysters.  It has a “touch of cabernet franc,” but I don’t taste it.

IMG_6947

Jolie is, indeed, pretty.

6.       Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé            $25

Jolie means pretty, and this is the prettiest looking wine of the day, and also my favorite, along with the 314.  It has more depth than the others, and good strawberry taste with just a touch of citrus.  However, the menu describes it as a “red wine lover’s rosé,” which I don’t see.  I think it’s just a rosé lover’s rosé!

IMG_6948

The sparkling wines.

7.       Cuvée Merlot 3 Sparkle                $32

After we finished the six still rosés, we still had some cheese and baguette left, so we decided to check out the three sparkling wines as well.  They arrived well chilled, with a laminated sheet of tasting notes.  I smell melon, and think this might taste lovely.  However, as my husband notes, it tastes more like seltzer than like a sparkling rosé.  He says it has overly aggressive bubbles, and we chuckle over the image of attack bubbles.  It is refreshing, but so is Schweppes seltzer. 

IMG_6951

You can see that Chloe looks just like a white wine.

8.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Sparkle   $35

Though this uses cabernet franc skins to give it some color and taste, our conclusion is, not so much.  It should be like a champagne or a prosecco, but again, this tastes to us like seltzer.  There is a slight yeast aroma.  I guess this is a sparkling wine for those who don’t like wine. 

IMG_6950

Well, it looks pretty.

9.       Jolie Sparkle      $32

“Benign,” is the best my tasting pal can come up with to describe this final taste.  It smells like strawberries, plus some red wine smells, and has more taste than the previous two sparklers.  It is neither sweet nor tart, with some strawberry taste, but I don’t find it very appealing.  For years I’ve been comparing every other North Fork rosé to Croteaux, as the gold standard, but, alas, that is no longer true.  They do still have the prettiest bottles.

IMG_6954

Reasons to visit:  still a really lovely garden setting, with relaxing table service; the 314 and the Jolie Cabernet Franc; they have a nice menu of snacks, although the cheese is not as good as it used to be.

IMG_6965

They often sell out by the end of the season. If you buy a case, you become a member of their case club. with special deals.

Shinn Estate Vineyards: It Pays to Take the Back Road July 25, 2019

https://shinnestatevineyards.com/

IMG_6885 (1)

The sign tells you that your trip to Oregon Road has successfully landed you at Shinn.

As the couple at a nearby table on the Shinn Vineyard’s new and very nice patio noted, it took some searching to find Shinn, but they were glad they had persisted, having wended their way to Oregon Road.  We already knew our way, but we were glad we were there, too.  In 2017, Shinn was bought by the Frankel family, and they have made some attractive changes, though the place has a less funky vibe than it used to.

IMG_6883

As you enter, drive past the B and B, and go around to the back, where the tasting room is located.

On arrival, we were offered seats inside—in the A/C—or outside on the patio.  Though it was a warm day, it was not oppressively so, and the patio offered shaded areas.  We ended up spending almost an hour there, doing a leisurely tasting plus a couple of other tastes and sharing a delicious cheese board.  Reggae music played in the background—I remember one verse mentioning “island sun”—and it was easy to forget we were on Long Island and imagine we were on a tropical island.

The tasting menu offers many options, from a rosé flight for $16, which includes a couple of Croteaux rosés, to our choice, the Winemaker’s Picks, of five of their higher end wines for $28.  Why, you may wonder, do they feature Croteaux rosés?  Because the Frankel family recently bought Croteaux as well, and have reopened the tasting room and garden there.  Our server assured us that they are keeping the Croteaux rosés the same as they were.  We’ll have to check that out!

Our server brought the wines to us, the three whites first and then, when we had finished them, the two reds, carefully placed on a little mat which had labeled spots for each wine.  She also brought us a glass bottle of water and two plastic cups, a nice touch.

IMG_6875

The bottle of cold water was quite welcome.

After we finished the five wines in our tasting, we still had quite a bit of cheese left of the $14 cheese board, so we each added one more taste, which I have put at the end of the listing.  These also came on tiny round coasters with labels for what they were.

IMG_6877

1.       2018 Concrete Blonde   $40

Why this name?  The sauvignon blanc is aged in a concrete “egg” made, we are informed, from “French soil,” instead of in steel or oak.  Macari also uses this method, and you can find a discussion of the concrete egg in my entries on that winery.  The aroma of the wine is lovely, floral, like a bouquet of summer flowers.  The wine is more reminiscent of a chardonnay than a sauvignon blanc, almost creamy, with a citrus taste that is like a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon.  It doesn’t really complement the cheese, but would be quite nice with charcuterie.

IMG_6879

This was a fairly generous cheese platter, though I never feel as though they give you enough crackers.

2.        2016 Haven                     $35

What, I wondered, is referenced by the name of this blend, of 70% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 10% pinot blanc?  Haven is a reference to the type of soil on the farm, we were told, a combination of sand and loam.  This one is aged more traditionally, in oak, and I can scent a touch of the oak when I sniff.  Then I get flowers.  The wine is softer than a usual sauv blanc, with some depth and a touch of spice, perhaps nutmeg.  It’s a good food wine. 

3.       2016 Pinot Blanc             $35

Now we’re back in experimental territory, as puncheon (i.e. big) barrels of neutral oak were used to age this wine, for eight months.  The aroma is faint, with a touch of honeysuckle, but, on the other hand, as my husband notes, it has a lot of taste.  Again, I think of this wine as soft, not tart but not sweet, with some nice fruit tastes.  It would make a lovely aperitif wine, as it is very easy to drink on its own.

4.       2018 Mojo         $26

In 2014, Shinn had such a copious harvest of cabernet franc that they ran out of oak barrels, and so decided to make an unoaked cab franc.  Then they were so pleased with the result that since then they have made it that way on purpose.  The menu describes this wine as “bright, fresh,” and I agree.  They serve it chilled, which is nice on a hot day.  The aroma has a touch of funkiness, perhaps pine or forest floor, plus minerality.  This pleasant, fruity wine would be great for sangria. 

5.       2016 Wild Boar Doe       $42

Of course, this is their Bordeaux blend:  59% merlot, 21.5% cabernet franc, 12.5% petit verdot, and 7% malbec.  The merlot gives it a cherry aroma and taste, but I’m not sure what the other grapes add.  “It could be more assertive,” asserts my tasting buddy.  I get some light tannins, and the wine is dry, but, again, the word that keeps coming to mind is soft.

IMG_6880

IMG_6888

6.       Non-vintage Red Blend                $19

We needed a bit more beverage to go with the rest of our cheese, so my husband opted to try a red we’d be likely—based on price—to buy.  This is a light, refreshing summer red, a simple table wine.  It’s a blend of 61% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 2% petit verdot, and tastes, as you’d expect, of the merlot cherry flavor.  We bought two bottles.

IMG_6881

I like cognac, and this one was quite delicious.

7.       Alembic Brandy               $65

Brandy?  Yep, they actually have a menu of four brandies, labeled Julius Drover Brandy.  Our server gave me a rundown of the four.  Divine is made from semillon grapes combined with the alembic; Eau de Vie is made from whatever scraps of grapes they have around and is only aged for one year, so it’s pretty forceful; Apple Brandy is like Calvados, and is made from apples and pears; and Alembic Brandy is made from chardonnay grapes, aged four years.  If you like cognac, you’ll like the Alembic, which I quite enjoyed.  The taste made me think I should be drinking it after dinner, perhaps with a good cigar and a bowl of walnuts for cracking (just kidding about the cigar). 

IMG_6867

Reasons to visit:  Off the beaten track, so less crowded and quieter than the big places, especially in the summer, as our new friends on the patio noted; lovely outdoor patio; nice menu of snacks; certified sustainable (a landmark for locating them is their tall windmill); the Concrete Blonde in particular, but all the wines are very drinkable, if not exciting.