Sannino Vinveyard: Another Denizen of Peconic Lane July 13, 2018

www.sanninovineyard.com/

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As you near the southern end of Peconic Lane, you come to Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard, formerly Ackerly Pond.

Here’s another place where you can often talk to the winemaker or a member of his family.  On this beautiful Friday afternoon we were served our wine by a daughter of Anthony Sannino, who has clearly absorbed much of her father’s love of winemaking.  I enjoy these discussions, as I always learn something new about wine and wine-making.

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This view encompasses most of the tasting room.

The cozy Sannino tasting room is in a converted barn, and they also have a pleasant outdoor area with some shade-giving canopies.  Since we had the place to ourselves, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the warm—but not too hot—afternoon.  Our decision was facilitated by the fact that they serve all of your tastes at once, on a tray with circles where you can indicate your choices.

A tasting is $18 for six tastes, or $3.50 per taste.  As we perused the menu of thirteen wines (plus two that are sold out), Ms. Sannino gave us some useful information about the choices.  Most of the whites are new this year, the 2017 vintage, except for a couple of oaked ones.  The reds are about to be supplanted by a new vintage, so we may have to come back to try the rest of them.  She’s particularly enthusiastic about the 2015 reds, she told us, as it was a good year for reds.

She also offered us a cheese and charcuterie tray, but we had had lunch, so we declined.  It did sound very nice.  By the way, they don’t allow outside food or drinks.  She also proudly pointed out a number of their wines which had recently won awards.  We will be looking forward, in a few years, to see the result of an experiment they are trying:  they have planted three acres with several different varieties of grapes which no one else on the North Fork is growing.

We finally decided to try all six of the 2017 whites in a shared tasting.  How about the reds?  We were going to come back another day, but then, after we finished the whites, we decided to go ahead and add the four reds on the menu. (My husband, the designated driver, gallantly offered to have just one sip of each while I finished the rest of the glass.  It’s a tough job…)  On her own, Ms. Sannino added a taste of the 2015 cabernet franc, which will soon be on the menu.

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Five whites and one rose

  1. 2017 Gewürztraminer                 $24

Since gewürztraminer can often be sweet, I was wondering why this was first on the menu.  One sip told me why—it’s not sweet!  The menu describes it as “elegant,” which is not a bad summary, though it doesn’t really tell you much about the wine.  The aroma is quite floral and the taste combines spice and fruit and some minerality, plus a touch of grapefruit.  Overall it is dry and light, without the veggie taste you sometimes get in a gewürztraminer.

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Another couple of months and they’ll be wine.

  1. 2017 Chilly Day Chardonnay $24

The menu also includes an oaked chard, but I tend to prefer steel, so I stuck with this one.  There’s not much aroma, though I detect a hint of forest floor.  However, it tastes better than it smells, with a toasty warmth and a touch of lime.  “Serviceable,” says my tasting buddy.  I think it would be good with bluefish.

  1. 2017 Fresco White Blend $20

Our server notes that since this is a blend of the other wines we have in the tasting, it might be fun to taste back and forth, trying to detect the traces of each in this one.  It’s a blend of 55% chardonnay, 15% gewürztraminer, 15% riesling, and 15% sauvignon blanc.  I like the aroma, which is sweet and complex, with something a bit funky (like the chardonnay) and minerality.  The taste, however, is relatively simple, but dry, with notes of salt and, believe it or not, cucumber.  It’s nice to sip outside on a warm summer day.  If we hadn’t just replenished our whites I could see buying a bottle.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

The menu describes this as “off dry,” which sometimes means too sweet for us, but though this does have some sweetness I find it balanced enough that I like it.  The aroma is very attractive, and reminds me of 7 Up, of all things.  There are tastes of mango and pineapple, but the sweetness dissipates fairly quickly so you get other flavors as well.  I think it would pair well with charcuterie, and when I note this to our server she tells us how this wine came to be.  Her father, the winemaker, called her one day to say that the wine had, on its own, stopped fermentation.  Happy with the result, he left it as is.  Good decision.

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  1. 2017 Riesling $22

On the other hand, the riesling is too sweet.  It smells like clover honey and tastes like sweet oranges with some spice.  It might be okay with Thai food.

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The rose is a pretty color.

  1. 2017 Bianca Dolce $16

“Gentle pink roses” says the menu of this rosé.  I’m not sure what a gentle rose is, but this is a very pleasant rosé, made from 100% merlot with the “free run juice” which comes right off the grapes.  Typical strawberry aroma and flavor, this is another dry, light wine.  I still prefer Croteaux.

  1. 2014 Merlot $25

Now we get a fresh tray of reds, labeled on the paper with the number on the menu of the wine.  2014 was not a great year for reds, and this is a fairly light merlot, with typical cherry flavor and aroma.  Just okay.

  1. 2014 Syrah $30

This is from their “certified sustainable” vineyard.  It has some tannins and nice fruit, but almost no aroma.  This is not a big wine, but would be okay with lamb chops.

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  1. 2014 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot $35

Why “spotlight”?  Because, she explains, most wineries use petit verdot as a blending wine, but in this case they wanted to put the spotlight on the petit verdot, just blending in 15% cabernet sauvignon.  After the fruity aroma I was expecting a bigger wine, but this is good anyway.  My husband notes that it starts stronger than it ends.  Perhaps it needs to age more, as we do detect some tannins.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon          $30

I insist this smells like grape Jell-O.  I am doubted.  In any event, this is another dry, rather light red, with some cherry berry tastes.  It wouldn’t stand up to a steak, but could go with pork chops.

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An array of bottles bearing awards

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $?  (Not on the menu, but the sold-out 2014 was $34)

Power of the book, as we often say, but also, I like to think, of our sincere interest in the wines:  we get an extra taste.  And this is the best of the reds, for sure.  I swear it smells like bread and butter pickles, as well as fruit.  The wine has lots of tannins but is rather smooth and certainly has potential, perhaps with more aging.  Good.  I enjoy drinking it.  Pairing?  How about a marinated strip steak with chimichurri sauce?

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Some wine-related gifts. I bought one.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant small winery with the chance to talk with the winemaker or a family member; on Peconic Lane, so it could be part of a winery walking tour; the Fresco White Blend, the sauvignon blanc, the 2015 cabernet franc; nice outdoor area; small selection of wine-related gift items, including t-shirts and candles.  They also offer wine-making classes, tours of the winery, and overnights at their small inn.

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Though they’ve sold out all the Ackerly Pond wines, they keep the sign up out of respect for their predecessor at the site.

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Shinn Estate Vineyard: New Owner, Eager to Please July 3, 2018

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The new patio looks great, but it was too hot to sit out there.

“We’re actually here for the air-conditioning,” we only partially joked with our server, as we arrived at Shinn in the midst of a heat wave.  And even though the outside patio area has been beautifully re-done and expanded since our last visit, no one was tempted to sit outside.

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There’s also seating out in the yard, but the parking lot is quite small for the number of seats at the winery.

We were particularly curious to check out Shinn, a winery we like for several reasons, since it is under new ownership for the first time since it was founded.  As we sipped and discussed the wines and I wrote in my notebook, the new owner, Randy Frankel, entered and introduced himself.  He was talking to everyone in the room, but he was evidently intrigued by my notebook and asked what we thought of the wines so far.  We had just finished our flight of three whites and a rosé, and my husband summarized our opinion by saying we found the wines, “Safe.”  Randy seemed a bit perturbed by that description and he said, “Wait, the winemaker is right here.  Tell him.  Patrick!”

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One side of the tasting room

As we discussed the fact that we found the wines quite drinkable but rather light and simple, he suggested that we try the other rosé, not the one we had chosen from the menu.  And indeed, we liked it better, and found it more interesting.  We discussed Croteaux, and lamented the closing of their garden, and he eagerly informed us that they would be hosting a Croteaux pop-up event at their winery that week.

Then he suggested we check out the new party room he was having remodeled, just across the patio from the tasting room.  As we walked over, we noticed that the patio was even larger that we had seen at first, with some comfortable-looking seating. Not quite as pretty as Croteaux’s garden, but with a few more flowers it would come close.  The room he led us to has comfortable leather couches and a big fireplace.  My husband said, “It reminds me of Sherwood House.”  Randy introduced us to the designer, who was there, and who also designed Sherwood’s tasting room!  Good eye, dear.  Randy then gave another couple the same tour. We have learned that if you take your tasting seriously, especially if you take notes, you often get extra attention from servers.

We finally confessed to our server that I write a blog, and she insisted we try a taste of their most expensive wine.  Then, as we bought two bottles of wine, she comped us our tastings.  Plenty of places will comp your tasting if you buy a certain number of bottles, but I assume this was in response to my being a blogger. (Full disclosure!)

The wine menu lists ten wines under the heading “Traditional Wine Tasting,” of which you can choose four for a $16 tasting, and five “Small Production” wines, of which you can choose four for a $24 tasting.  They also have two brandies and an eau de vie available by the glass, at $15 for the brandies and $10 for the eau de vie.  You get all of your tastes at once, identified by little labels, so you can easily have your tasting at a table inside or outside.  They do not allow outside food, and have a small menu of snacks, including North Fork doughnuts and a charcuterie platter.  We got a dish of mixed nuts for $5.

By the way, Shinn also has a four-room B and B at the winery, which Randy said has also been remodeled, and they offer tours of the winery for $35 if you book ahead.

  1. 2017 Coalescence          $19

A blend, this is the perfect illustration that the year matters.  In the past we have alternated liking and not liking this wine.  This time we liked it!  36% sauvignon blanc, 34% chardonnay, 2.6% riesling, 2.5% semillon, and 1.5% pinot blanc is the blend.  I got a faint whiff of cat pee aroma, but mostly honeysuckle and minerals.  The taste is light and lemony, dry yet mouth-watering.  It would be great with bluefish.

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Our tasting of three whites and a rose.

  1. 2017 First Fruit $22

The menu labels this as made with “aromatic sauvignon blanc,” but we don’t find it particularly aromatic.  It is also very light, maybe too light.  As my tasting pal notes, one could guzzle this and not even notice.  I feel as though I taste some toasted coconut, though he disagrees.

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New label design

  1. 2016 Riesling $22

We wondered whether this was made with local grapes or grapes from upstate, since the menu identifies it as coming from the “Robert Schreiber vineyard.”  No, we are told, the vineyard is just down the street.  Though I detect a bit of cotton candy aroma, there is no sweetness to this very dry riesling.  In fact, opines my husband, he would not even think it was a riesling, it is so dry and light.  “It’s almost not there,” he says.

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Particularly welcome on this hot day, a bottle of chilled water comes with the tastings.

  1. 2016 Rosé $19

According to our server, this is the less sweet of the two rosés, so we choose it.  100% merlot, it smells like strawberry-rhubarb pie and has some strawberry taste, but again, it is very light and the taste quickly evanesces.

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The bottle of Rose Hill

  1. 2017 Rose Hill Rosé $24

As I noted above, this is an extra taste we were given, and I’m glad we were.  The color of this is very light, almost white, but the taste is much more interesting than the other rosé.  It is a blend of merlot, chardonnay, and riesling, and Patrick informs us that it spends very little time on the skins, hence the light color.  We get lots of fruit tastes plus refreshing minerality.  They have it on tap at the winery!  We decide we will buy a bottle.

  1. 2017 Cabernet Franc $30

Now we line up four reds to taste, starting with this one, which is steel fermented and has no sulfites.  It was made at the request of a restaurant, and then the winery decided to make some for themselves as well.  As you would expect from a steel-fermented red, this is fruity, with cherry flavor and not much else.  No tannins.  “Undistinguished but pleasant,” says my husband.  I could see making it into sangria.

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We were so deep in conversation that we had made inroads on the nuts and the reds before I remembered to take a picture.

  1. Non-Vintage Red Blend $19

Lots of wineries have a wine like this, a blend of various wines from various years.  Some attempt to produce some sort of consistent taste from year to year, and others just try to make a drinkable wine.  Not sure what the philosophy is here, but it is quite a nice wine.  A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot, it has a fruity aroma and taste with some pleasant tannins.  It would be good with lamb chops.  We buy a bottle of this, too, as we are always on the lookout for everyday dinner wines.

  1. 2015 Estate Merlot $30

Cherry aroma and taste define this as a rather typical North Fork merlot.  Nothing wrong with that.  This one is a bit on the light side, with some soft tannins.

  1. 2015 Seven Barrels $38

Guess how many barrels of this they’ve made.  93% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% petit verdot:  I summarized this one as “cherry berry.”  This is the most interesting of the wines so far, with some tannins and minerality, very drinkable.  It would be good with a wide range of foods, including steak.

  1. 2013 Grace $90

Yes, that’s $90 a bottle.  We generally don’t spend that much for a bottle of wine unless it’s for a very special occasion, but this is a very good wine.  Maybe someday.  A blend of 66% cabernet franc, 31% merlot, and 3% cabernet sauvignon, there are only three barrels of it.  It smells delicious, complex, with layers of flavor.  There’s fruit, but also tannins that make me think it could age well.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasantly rustic room and patio a bit off the beaten path; the Rose Hill Rosé, the 2013 Grace, the 2017 Coalescence, the Non-Vintage Red Blend, the Seven Barrels; small menu of snacks; they serve a bottle of chilled water with your tasting; I didn’t ask the current owners, but in the past they allowed dogs on the patio; an inn where you can spend the night.

Suhru Tasting House: New(ish) Kid on the Block June 10, 2018

https://www.suhruwines.com/

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We arrived in time for the grand opening!

Although Suhru wines have been around for a while (We first tasted them at The Winemaker’s Studio.), they didn’t have their own tasting room—until now.  They have opened up their own place in the small building in Cutchogue which briefly housed Waters Crest’s tasting room.  As soon as we walked in, we noticed that they had done a very nice job of renovating the space, expanding the room and decorating it in a breezy, beachy style.  Our server informed us that they soon hope to be able to display work by local artists.  They also have a small outdoor area in the back, which faces their parking lot.

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The back yard

We happened to enter during the Grand Opening, so a table in the rear of the room held cheese and bread and sausages from Touch of Venice, which we were urged to sample.  In the future, they hope to have a menu of snacks from that restaurant, which is right across the street.  Good idea!

Suhru—the name is an amalgam of Susan, Russell, and Hearn, for Susan the owner, Russell the winemaker, and Hearn, their last name—joins the club of wineries which are the personal products of winemakers who work for large wineries, like Coffee Pot Cellars and Anthony Nappa.  They also have another label, T’Jara, which they own with another couple.  That name is a nod to where they are from, which is Australia, and literally means “place where I’m from” in the aboriginal language.  By the way, they are careful to emphasize the “h” in the winery’s name, since Suru is the name of a Japanese saki company! We were given all this information by our cheery and friendly server—who also happens to be Susan and Russell’s daughter.  She was helped at the bar by her mother, so this is quite a family affair.

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In future iterations of the label, the H (which now looks like a football goalpost) will be in white, to emphasize that it is part of the name.

The menu offers several options:  a tasting of three Suhru wines for $9, a tasting of two whites and a rosé from both labels for $8, or a red wine tasting of three, again combining both labels, for $11.   But, we said, we want to try all eight varieties on offer (two wines are not available for tasting, only by the bottle).  No problem, Ms. Hearn replied, and carefully set us up with two tastings of three each, plus one extra of each, which would cost less than buying eight individual tastes.  Wines are also available by the glass.  She also delineated the order in which to taste the wines and made useful comments on each.

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We liked the calm, beachy décor. The other end of the tasting room has some comfortable couches.

  1. 2016 Pinot Grigio           $24

“This is the wine which started it all,” said Ms. Hearn.  I can see why.  It is a light, bright, dry white with tastes of citrus and green apple and a pleasantly flowery aroma.  I felt it needed food, and a bite of bread and cheese showed me that I was right.  It would also be good with charcuterie.

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We were so deep in conversation, I forgot to take a picture until we had drunk everything except the rose. The reds are served the same way.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

Her parents met while hiking in New Zealand, so this is a nod to the New Zealand style of sauvignon blanc, noted Ms. Hearn, though it is not exactly like them.  After all, the climate and terroir here are different.  The aroma has a whiff of chemicals, but the wine itself is quite nice, dry, with some citrus, though my husband finds it a bit too fruity for him.  Again, it benefits by being tasted along with a bite of bread and cheese.

  1. 2014 Dry Riesling $25

The grapes for the riesling come from the Finger Lakes region, she tells us, and we get into a discussion of the relative merits of grapes from the two areas.  Susan Hearn joins in, and I tell them how last fall we were in Beacon and went to a winery which used some grapes from Long Island!  This riesling also includes some gewürztraminer.  It is very dry, not at all sweet, and tastes of ripe pear and minerals.  Cat pee aroma, I note!

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  1. 2017 T’Jara Rosé $25

A combination of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc, this is a very light, almost watery rosé, not fruity or at all sweet. Though it is a refreshing summer drink, it would not replace Croteaux for us.  (By the way, the Croteaux tasting room is closed, due to a problem with the town, though you can still buy their wines online or at local stores.)

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  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $33

Now we move on to the reds, and a new tray of nice, round-bottomed glasses.  The labels for T’Jara wines, by the way, feature designs inspired by aboriginal art.  The vineyard for the reds is in Mattituck, where Bordeaux grapes are grown.  This is a very drinkable red, with soft tannins and dark fruit tastes, dry, with very little aroma.

  1. 2012 Ember $27

This is their Bordeaux blend, predominantly merlot plus cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot.  I really like this, and we buy a bottle.  Again, very drinkable, food friendly as Ms. Hearn says, with red current aroma and some minerality as well as dark fruits.  It would be good with a beef stew.

  1. 2012 Shiraz $30

Again, this name is a nod to their Australian roots, since the grape is called shiraz in Australia and syrah elsewhere, so in America winemakers can choose either.  She tells us this is a “cool climate inspired” wine.  It’s good, but fairly light for a shiraz.  I wouldn’t pair it with a steak, but maybe with veal or pasta.  Again, it has soft tannins and lots of fruit.

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The array of reds. Note the aboriginal art-inspired designs on the T’Jara labels.

  1. 2015 T’Jara Merlot $33

Unlike most North Fork merlots, this one has no cherry taste.  It is more like a cabernet franc, I would say.  I think it might improve with age, but right now it is quite young and not particularly distinguished.

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Lucky us, the grand opening included free snacks!

Reasons to visit:  pretty little tasting room that so far is not crowded (We had started out to go to Shinn, but couldn’t even get into the parking lot!); the pinot grigio, the Ember, the sauvignon blanc, the cabernet franc; the chance to chat with the owners and get deeply into the wines; they serve your tastes on a tray, so if you are with a group you can take it to a table and sit and sip; snacks (at some point soon) from Touch of Venice.

The Winemaker Studio: Cozy Room April 7, 2018

http://winemaker-studio.com/

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Anthony Nappa is the winemaker for Raphael, but he also has his own label, which he sells through the tasting room on Peconic Lane.  Peconic Lane, by the way, is one of the few places on the North Fork where you don’t need a car to visit multiple wineries.  If you start on Sound Avenue and head south, you can visit The Winemaker Studio, Peconic Cellar Door right next door, Sannino Bella Vita near the end, and finish with Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s tasting room, where you can also get snacks or a meal, on the corner of Main Road.

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As you look down the street, you can see Peconic Cellar Door right next to The Winemaker Studio.

The Winemaker Studio is housed in a cozy little store front site, augmented by a few outdoor tables in the summer.  Some nice local art is hung on the walls.  This is not a place for large groups, but if you want to taste some interesting wines with a couple of friends, this is a good spot.  The menu offers five tastes for $15, and $3.50 for any additional tastes.  They also always have a couple of local beers on tap, rotating the selections seasonally.  Today they had one from Moustache Brewery in Riverhead and another from Greenport Harbor down the street.  As our congenial and genial server noted, if he ran out he wouldn’t have far to go for a new keg.

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The beer taps and a sign about their club. A member came in for a pick-up while we were there.

We decided to share one tasting, which was fine, as the servings were generous.

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There were some interesting choices on the men we did not try. Maybe next time…

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  1. 2016 Shared Table Sauvignon Blanc       $22

Why the name, I wanted to know.  Our server replied that this is a limited production wine, with only enough produced for wine club members and those who come to the Studio.  The fruit is from Raphael.  Nappa doesn’t have his own vineyard, and so he buys his grapes from several different growers.  This wine is made from 90% sauvignon blanc and 10% semillon grapes.  The aroma is vegetal, with me suggesting asparagus and my husband suggesting Brussels sprouts.  The wine itself is dry, with lots of minerality and a touch of citrus at the end.  My tasting buddy says that this is the style of sauvignon blanc he likes.  Steel fermented, it would make a great summer wine to drink with oysters.

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As you can see, this looks like a rose.

  1.  2017 White Pinot Noir               $19

The menu describes this as a white wine made from red wine grapes.  Or one could call it a rosé.  They used to call it Anomaly, until a winery of that name in California sued them.  The wine has more heft than the usual rosé, with a slightly funky aroma with some candy smells.  The taste combines strawberry and citrus and minerals.  We decided it would be better with food than by itself, and could stand up to more flavorful foods than a typical rosé.  We buy a bottle to have with barbeque this summer.

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  1. 2017 Bordo Antico $25

We were interested to taste this one for several reasons.  It is made from certified organic grapes, grown in Calverton, though the wine itself is not completely organic, since they do add some sulfites.  Also, it is aged in steel rather than oak.  Made from 100% cabernet franc grapes, it is a light refreshing red and would, we suggested, be perfect with barbequed chicken.  Our server agreed, and noted that he sometimes serves this chilled, like a white.  The aroma is intriguing, with a touch of forest floor.  The wine is dry, with some minerality, and not tons of fruit.

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  1. 2014 Nemesis Pinot Noir $35

Served in a bottle with an ominous black label, the wine is simply named nemesis because the pinot noir grape is notoriously difficult to grow on Long Island.  If you’re interested in learning about growing conditions on Long Island, and why it is better or worse for certain grapes, you might enjoy reading the page on the Winemaker web site titled “Growing Conditions.”  On it, Nappa evaluates in detail each season since his arrival here in 2007.  The grapes for this one come from Macari and Peconic Bay (which no longer makes its own wines).  We like the aroma, which combines dark fruit and spice and tobacco.  We also like the wine, which had some cherry flavor.  It’s also a tad on the light side, so I wouldn’t pair it with steak, but it has some acidity and spice with might go well with lamb chops.

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  1. 2013 Tredici Cabernet-Merlot $35

To say 2013 and Tredici is somewhat of a tautology, since the name refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested.  And a very good year it was.  A blend of 67% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, 18% cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak, this is my favorite wine of the day.  Fruity kazooty, I say.  Well, I did mention that the servings were generous.  Lots of rich fruit flavors and enough tannins that I’m sure, as our server points out, it could age for several more years.  I could drink a lot of this.  Yum.  We buy a bottle.

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In the summer they put tables and chairs like this outside.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant intimate setting; all the wines, but especially the White Pinot Noir and the Tredici; no food, but you can go down the street to the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company afterwards; beer for a non-wine-drinking friend; dogs are allowed outside in the summer; knowledgeable and genial server with a real passion for the wines; we are served glasses of water along with our tasting, a nice touch; Peconic Lane and its mini winery-walking tour.

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Organic wines!

Pugliese Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser March 10, 2018

http://pugliesevineyards.com/

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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.

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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.”)

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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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.

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Pellegrini Vineyards: A Favorite March 1, 2018

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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

http://www.raphaelwine.com/

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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  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.”

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  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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018

https://www.pindar.net/

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Snacks to have with your wine.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

Lenz Winery: The Older the Better January 11, 2018

https://lenzwine.com/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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The vines are bare now.

http://macariwines.com/visit/mattituck/

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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.

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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.

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Our favorite local pickles!

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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!).

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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.”

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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.

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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/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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