Diliberto Winery: A Trip to Sunny Italy February 2, 2019

Diliberto Winery:  A Trip to Sunny Italy                   February 2, 2019

https://www.dilibertowinery.com/

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The murals help you imaging you’re in Italy.

To celebrate Groundhog Day, we decided to take a trip to Italy—or at least as close as you can get on the North Fork.  We love the décor at Diliberto’s winery, where the trompe l’oeil effect of the murals reminds us of sitting in a café in a small Italian town’s main square, one of our favorite activities in Italy.  The sounds of Italian opera or pop music and the video on the screen over the piano showing scenes of the Italian countryside add to the immersive effect, a nice antidote to the recent sub-zero wind chills we’ve experienced.

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Note the sign on the “building”: Trattoria Diliberto.

In addition, the room was filled with the delicious scent of freshly made pizza, which every table but ours was enjoying.  The kitchen is almost as big as the tasting room, and they have a pizza oven where they make thin crust pizzas as well as other Italian treats (no outside food allowed).  The only problem with the pizzas was that I had trouble smelling the wines over its aroma.

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The screen shows “Visions of Italy,” a series of flyovers of Italian cities and countryside, originally produced for PBS.

The tasting room is quite small, but in the summer they have a sizeable outside area, as well as a plastic-enclosed porch for mild days.  No big groups allowed, and, most emphatically, no children. In the winter, they are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, but check their web page, since on some Sundays they feature “Sundays with Grandma,”  which involves a four-course Italian meal and live music.

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There are real roses on the tables, a classy touch.

The menu has five wines, and oddly offers three tastes for $16, or $6 per taste.  Our server, who was simply a server, with not much to say about the wines, first asked if we wanted to do two $16 tastings, until we pointed out that there were only five wines.  “Oops,” she said, “I forgot we don’t have the rosé any more.”  So we paid $28 for our five tastes, which were delivered to our table all at once, in nice little round-bottomed glasses.  She did come back to our table periodically to check on how we were liking the wines and offer us some water.

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Our panoply of tastes–we had already taken a couple of sips of the chardonnay.

Now that the prognosticating groundhogs haven’t seen their shadows, perhaps soon we’ll be enjoying some warm, Italian-like weather.

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  1. 2017 Chardonnay $32

This is a lightly oaked chardonnay, which spends five months in oak barrels, so it is not too butterscotchy.  The taste reminds me of thyme honey, which is herbier than clover honey, plus a touch of lemon.  Not bad, but not a style of chard I particularly like.  My husband says he could see it as a summer sipper on the deck.

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  1.  2017 Sauvignon Blanc                $30

We like the pretty bright yellow color of this wine, which is steel fermented.  It’s a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with crisp green apple and lemongrass flavors, a good oyster wine.  By the way, you may notice that the prices are a bit high here. My guess is that, as such a small winery, they lack the advantage of larger scale places, which can distribute the cost of winemaking over more bottles.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $32

In general, I think Diliberto does better with his reds.  This merlot is rather light, with lots of that typical cherry flavor and some tannins.  It is served a bit too cold.  According to the menu, it is aged just one year, in a mix of new and used French oak, which might account for why it seems so light.  It seems not quite balanced to me, though it would be a fine wine to have with pizza, especially one made without tomato sauce.

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  1. 2016 Cantina $30

A cantina is usually a bar, or an informal kind of restaurant, and this wine would go fine in such a place.  A blend of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc, it combines the cherry and pepper tastes of the two, with some hints of blackberry.  Though it has more body than the merlot, I find the finish evanesces, though the menu says it has a “smooth, lingering finished” (sic—we used my pen to correct our copies).  It’s another perfectly fine wine, and again would go well with pizza or pasta.

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Even the labels are a nod to the Dilibertos’ Italian heritage.

  1. 2015 Tre $42

If I were ordering pizza and a glass of wine, this is the one I would get, even though it is $17 per glass.  As you might guess from the name, this is a blend of three grapes:  65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  It has a lovely dark color and an aroma of tobacco, spice, and candy.  It tastes good, with cherry and dark chocolate flavors and enough tannins that I think it could age some more and be even better.  It could even stand up to steak or lamb chops.

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They also lead tours of Italy.

Reasons to visit:  you like a small, intimate setting; you want to pretend you are in Italy; you like listening to opera while you sip; you appreciate a child-free setting; the Cantina and the Tre; you want a thin-crust pizza for lunch.

 

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The grounds include a room for overnight stays.

Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser January 26,2019

Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser              January 26,2019

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https://www.pindar.net/

We thought it was safe, on this cold day in January, to go to Pindar for a quiet tasting.  Nope.  When we entered, a group of young women were having a wonderful but excruciatingly loud time at one end of the bar.  However, we could see that they were almost done, so we stayed and prepaid (as requested) for two tastings.  Halfway into the first five tastes, they left—only to be replaced by two bus loads!  Our server apologetically explained that one group had arrived early for their reservation, while the other arrived late, hence the crowd of almost forty women around the bar.

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Don’t let the serenity of this image fool you. Just off to the right there’s a noisy crowd at the bar.

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We decided we could see why Pindar is popular with the limo group.  The pour is generous, the bottles are reasonably priced, and most of the wines are easy to drink and rather on the sweet side.  That is also true of the other wineries owned by the Damianos family:  Duck Walk and Jason’s.  Though the founder, referred to fondly by staff as “Dr. Dan,” has passed, clearly his legacy lives on.

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The tasting room is large, with several oval bars plus a number of tables, at one of which two women were attempting to enjoy their glasses of wine and a game of Scrabble.  We commiserated about the noise.  By the way, if you need the restroom you need to walk out of the tasting room and across the outdoor porch to find it.

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A tasting consists of five wines for $12, selected from a list of over two dozen wines.  We chose our ten tastes with some help from the well-informed but sorely over-worked server.  He clearly would have liked to hang with us and discuss what we did and did not like, but once the third group arrived, he had plenty of work on his hands.    Not wanting to prolong the experience, we decided not to order a cheese tray, which consists of a cheese you choose from their cooler plus crackers for $10.

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Looks like a fairly pedestrian selection of cheeses.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

I generally think of North Fork sauvignon blancs as perfect matches for Peconic Bay oysters.  This one had a promising aroma of Granny Smith apples and lemons, and an initial tart flavor, also of lemon and green apple.  However, it ended a bit too sweet.  We liked it enough to imagine drinking it as an aperitif on a hot day, or pairing it with New England clam chowder, but it lacked that minerality we like with oysters.

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The pretty label has quite a story behind it.

  1. 2017 Viognier $21.99

Not that many NoFo wineries feature viognier, so we knew we wanted to try this one.  The aroma was somewhat funky, and my tasting buddy compared it to wet cardboard.  Fortunately, it tasted better than it smelled, though the taste was rather simple.  “It tastes like white wine,” he declared.  Ha ha.  Basically, it has a sort of generic white wine taste, with some unripe peach flavor.  The label is very pretty, a painting of flowers made by a quadriplegic patient of Dr. Dan.  She made it by holding a brush in her mouth!  Quite an achievement.  Her art also adorns the Syrah.

  1. Autumn Gold $12.99 (or $18.99 for a quart)

Our server explained that this blend of seyval blanc, Cayuga, and chardonnay is “like a pinot grigio.”  That sounded good, since I like pinot grigios.  However, I felt it mainly tasted like a typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with a combination of citrus and a touch of peach.  Drinkable.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $16.99

Made from pinot meunier grapes, this is a rather sweet rosé.  It has the typical rosé aroma of strawberries, though in this case it reminded me of the smell of a bunch of strawberries macerating in sugar in preparation for being made into strawberry shortcake.  The taste also reminded me of strawberry shortcake, cut with a touch of lemon.

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I should have known that I wouldn’t like this one, based on the description. Oh well.

  1. Spring Splendor $12.99

I was curious to try this because the menu describes it as “fermented with natural American cranberry.”  It has a pretty pink color, tastes like a slightly alcoholic cranberry juice, and I suppose one could use it to make a wine-based cocktail. Too sweet. We dumped the rest of our taste.

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This label reminds us of the 20s-inspired labels at Duck Walk.

  1. 2016 Gamay Noir $18.99

If you are out to dinner and one person orders fish or chicken and the other orders meat, but you want one bottle of wine, this would work.  It is a very light red, like a less fruity Beaujolais.  It is dry, with no tannins, and rather mono-dimensional.  Drinkable.

  1. Pythagoras $16.99

The name of this wine and the name of the winery are nods to the Damianos family’s Greek roots, in case you were wondering why a wine is named for that annoying theorem you had to memorize in high school geometry.  This is their Bordeaux blend—cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, and petit verdot.  The fragrance reminds me of stewed prunes, and the taste also has some purple plum notes.  The wine is dry, with soft tannins, and is good but not deep or complex.  My husband says it is a “teeny tiny Bordeaux.”

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Another pretty label, and our favorite wine of the day.

  1. 2015 Syrah $16.99

This one, as my grandma used to say with the birth of each grandchild, beats the bunch.  Though our server apologetically explains that is it “not as bold or peppery” as some syrahs, we quite like it.  I say it smells like blueberries, and my husband says blackberries.  It tastes of those berries and plums, with nice tannins.  It would go well with lamb—or, we decide, as we buy a bottle, with the eggplant parmesan I’m making for dinner.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

I say it smells like “forest floor,” and my husband adds “auto repair shop.”  Really?  Then I sniff some more and get it:  rubber, metal, some sort of chemical spray.  Our server notes that he just opened the bottle, and it probably needed more time to breathe.  (Given how many people he is serving at once, he could probably use some time to breathe as well!)  It tastes pretty good, however.  We get dark fruits, cherries, spice, and chocolate.

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

We get a new glass for this special wine, which is aged 32 months in French oak and made with grapes from 40-year-old vines.  It smells delicious.  It has the dark cherry taste of North Fork merlots, plus blackberry and a touch of vanilla.  Though it is not complex, it is good.  We decide overall we prefer the reds to the whites.

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If you like raspberry soda, you might like this sparkler.

  1. Raspberry Bubbly (sparkling wine) $21.99

No, this is not a special extra because of the book.  The menu highlights it as a free taste.  It is listed as “’méthode champenoise with raspberry dosage,” and, having noted our likes and dislikes, our server offers this somewhat apologetically.  It tastes like raspberry soda, and one sip is enough for us.  We leave the rest of the taste in the glass, thank our server, and go buy a bottle of the syrah.

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We found this calico cat sunning herself on Pindar’s porch.

Reasons to visit:  it is winter and you are hoping for a quiet tasting—but don’t count on it; the sauvignon blanc, the syrah, the cabernet franc, Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot; they also serve you need a place that will accommodate a large group.

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Not sure if you can read this, but this hand-written sign was at the entrance to the Pindar driveway.

 

 

 

Clovis Point: First of the New Year January 4, 2019

Clovis Point:  First of the New Year          January 4, 2019

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Even the bare vines have a stark beauty.

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

All the leaves are gone from the vines, leaving the rows looking like lines of bent-legged dancers.  For our first winery of the year, we decided to return to Clovis Point on a Friday afternoon.  The tasting room was empty the entire time we were there, but on weekends, when they feature live music and artist talks, it is livelier.

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Artist talks?  Yes, every six weeks the winery invites an artist to come in and hang their works, setting aside one day when the artist can come in and talk to the people assembled there about the art. (Check their web site for times and performers.)  We admired this week’s art, large photographs of natural scenery by Leonardo Vatkin, as we perused the menu.

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The current art exhibit, which changes every six weeks, consists of photographs by Leonardo Vatkin.

The menu offers four options:  Cold, $18 for four whites and a rosé; Red, $12 for three reds; Complete, $28 for all of Cold and Red combined; and Premium, three of their best reds (one is actually a port) for $5 per taste.  We decided to share one Complete, which was plenty of wine for us both.

As we sipped and chatted, we also admired the roomy tasting room, still decorated with lights and poinsettias for the holidays.  There’s also a large porch area off to one side, which is enclosed with plastic windows for the winter.  They have a menu of snacks, which we only realized when our tasting was almost over and I happened to turn over the wine menu.  Had our server pointed it out, we might have bought something.  I was also surprised that she didn’t try to promote their wine club, which often happens when we reveal that we are locals.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

This is a somewhat typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, which is not a bad thing.  They say you should drink local wines with local foods, and this would go perfectly with a plate of Peconic Bay oysters.  With aromas of minerals and rocks and tastes of green apple, lemon/lime, and minerals, this is a pleasantly refreshing white.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Although this is simply called chardonnay, it has 3% gewürztraminer, which adds a note of complexity.  Steel fermented, it has a lemon drop candy aroma with a touch of funkiness.  The taste also has some citrus, plus lots of pineapple and a bit of nutmeg.  They recommend pairing it with melted brie.  Sounds good to me.  A popular party snack used to be melted brie coated with sliced almonds.  Hmmm…

  1. 2016 Black Label Chardonnay $28

Although this is partially oaked, it is only 30% French oak fermented, so it is not too oaky.  It smells like thyme honey, with a touch of something vegetal, plus some butterscotch.  I think it would taste better with food, but my tasting buddy comments on its “freshness.”  We like its combination of lemon zest and just a touch of butter.  By the way, in a classy touch, our server rinses our glass with a bit of each new wine, so as not to contaminate the taste with the previous one.

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Our line-up so far.

  1. 2017 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $35

Oh, guess what, this is barrel fermented (I miss one closed winery’s creative nomenclature.).  Although the aroma is VERY butterscotchy, the taste is not as buttery as I had feared.  Instead, it is a comparatively light oaked chard, with tastes of honey and pineapple, balanced with citrus.  Roast chicken with gravy, is what I’m thinking.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $22.50

Made from 100% cabernet franc, this has a strong aroma of strawberry shortcake.  My husband jokes that the smell is “presumptuous.”  However, the taste is not super fruity.  In fact, we agree that blindfolded, not seeing the pretty light pink color, you might not guess this is a rosé. It does finish with that characteristic strawberry taste, after initial impressions of minerality and citrus.  I often like to pair rosés with Chinese food, but I think this would go better with charcuterie.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

Now we get a fresh glass for the reds, starting with a wine listed simply as merlot, but which is 85% merlot, plus 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon.  The first thing that strikes me about this wine is the aroma, which is so strongly perfumed that I might be tempted to dab it behind my ears.  Instead, we sip, and discover, in addition to the expected cherry taste, lots of tannins.  Although this is already four years old, I think it might need more aging.  The tasting notes assert it has an “unforgettable velvety finish.”  We agree that “velvety” is not a word we would choose.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $35

Again, this is a bit of a blend, 96% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot.  We sniff and get blueberries and a funky forest floor, mossy smell.  The taste is pleasant, with, in contrast to the merlot, not a lot of tannins, and tastes of purple plums and other fruit.  Though it is not complex or deep, it is good, and could go with a steak or lamb chops.

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Note the small battle, which makes this a rather expensive wine.

  1. 2015 Syrah $34 for 500 ML (a small bottle)

88% syrah, 10% merlot, and 2% cabernet sauvignon.  Our server explains that this comes in a small bottle because they “don’t grow much” syrah.  My tasting pal jokes that it “tastes like wine,” but I get what he means.  It has sort of a generic red wine taste, with some tannins and a hint of pepper at the end.  The aroma is a bit funky, with some pine.  Though again not deep, it is good, and would go well with short ribs or other fatty meats.  After this, the server asks if we want to buy a taste of any of the premium wines, but we decline, and decide, though we liked everything, not to buy any.  Like many small wineries (they only have ten acres, and buy some grapes from other North Fork vineyards), they lack economy of scale, so their prices are a bit high for what you get.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, more consolidation of wineries happens.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room; live music many weekends plus art shows; good wines, especially the sauvignon blanc, the Black Label Chardonnay, the merlot; if I were to get a glass to sip during a performance, I would get the cabernet franc, which is very drinkable on its own.

Osprey’s Dominion: Taking Flight(s) December 22, 2018

Osprey’s Dominion: Taking Flight(s)         December 22, 2018

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Don’t let the blue sky deceive you…it was cold!

https://ospreysdominion.com/

You really need to have two flights to begin to sample the breadth of Osprey’s Dominion’s list of wines, so…we did.  I valiantly offered to drink more of each taste than my husband, the designated driver.  A flight of five tastes is $12, so we did one with five whites and another of five reds, but we could go back and do another two tastings of all different wines, if you include the “Reserve Collection.”

On this pre-Christmas Saturday of frantic last-minute shopping (we did a few errands in Riverhead and were happy we did them early, as we saw the traffic quickly increasing), the expansive tasting room at Osprey’s was an oasis of calm.  We had useful attention from our server, who quickly noted our likes and helped us tailor our tasting accordingly, avoiding their sweeter wines.

What’s nice about Osprey is it has something for everyone, from the lower priced Richmond Creek wines to the expensive Reserves, from the sweet Regina Maris Chardonnay to the minerally Sauvignon Blanc.  They also carry a nice selection of wine-related gifts.  The one area I would fault them on is in the snack category.  After our morning of erranding I was ready for a snack, but the “cheese tray” on offer for $10 was a cellophane-wrapped very small package of a few slices of Boar’s Head salami and cheese, plus a little baggie of crackers.  No thanks.

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That Boar’s Head “cheese tray” was quite inadequate.

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Nice sized pour

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $19

Both the aroma and the taste of this sauvignon blanc are complex and interesting, and somewhat different than the usual North Fork s.b.  We sniff and get something funky, something vegetal—maybe cabbage?  The taste has lots of minerality and salt, plus pink grapefruit. Good. The tasting menu says “refreshing acidity.”  I would agree.  My husband says it is “not shy.”   Some day it might be fun to line up a bunch of different sauvignon blancs and see how they differ.

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  1. 2014 Fumé Blanc $19

Well, here’s one way they can differ.  This wine uses the same grape, but aged in 15% new French oak, on the lies for a while, for a somewhat smoky taste.  The aroma is again a bit funky, but also smells like ripe melon.  It has a richer mouth feel than the first wine and a nice long finish.  Lots of good acidity.  We like this one, too.

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  1. 2017 Reserve Pinot Gris $24

Our server steers us to this one, instead of our original plan of just going in order on the list of whites, since we had said we did not care for sweet wines.  The aroma of this one lets me trot out my new vocabulary word:  petrichor.  That’s the “scent of rain on dry ground,” which is also the smell you get when you walk past apartment buildings in New York in the summer after the doorman has been hosing down the sidewalk, or the smell of this wine.  It tastes like tangerines and pineapple, plus again some minerality, and is another winner.

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  1. 2014 Reserve Chardonnay $22

Although our server says this is the least sweet and least oaky of the oaked chardonnays, it’s not my favorite of the wines so far.  100% barrel fermented, the aroma is of something floral plus pencil shavings.  My tasting buddy identifies a “theme” in the wines, which we decide is a combination of minerality and acidity.  Those qualities help balance the sweetness of this chard.  I could see having it with Chinese food.

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  1. 2013 Gewürztraminer $19

As is typical of this grape, we get lots of floral smells, like honeysuckle, plus spice.  “It smells like a garden,” says my husband.  Though we prefer the gewürztraminer at One Woman, this is nice, with some gingery notes as well as fruit.  A touch sweet.

 

  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend $14

Now we get a fresh glass for the reds.  This is a left bank Bordeaux blend of 42% cabernet sauvignon, 11% pinot noir, 26% cabernet franc, and 23% merlot.  As I sniff, I’m reminded of a gift I once got of a box of chocolate covered cherries.  Add to that a touch of tobacco and you have the aroma of this mellow, smooth, and very drinkable red.  It tastes remarkably like those chocolate covered cherries, too.  Really good for the money, and we’ve often bought it at Vintage, our local liquor store.

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  1. 2013 Meritage “Flight” $30

I love this kind of juxtaposition.  Here’s another Bordeaux-style blend, this time of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petit verdot.  At twice the price of the Richmond Creek blend, is it worth it?  Well, maybe.  It is definitely better in that it is more complex, with aromas and flavors of prunes, fruit, raspberries, and tobacco, with tannins that indicate you could probably cellar it for a few years. I wouldn’t buy it for every night drinking, but maybe for a special occasion.  The word “flight,” by the way, refers to the owner, who is a pilot.

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  1. 2014 Carménère $30

According to the tasting notes, Osprey is the first winery on Long Island to plant the Carménère grape, another grape used in Bordeaux wines.  We like this wine, too.  We smell pencil shavings again, like the smell you get from a pencil sharpener, and taste purple plums and spice, perhaps nutmeg.  It has “lots of taste,” we agree.  I think this is another wine that could age.

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  1. 2014 Malbec $30

In Cahors, we are told by the tasting notes, malbec is blended with merlot and tannat grapes, as is the case here as well.  The notes also recommend serving this with a grilled steak, and I can see that.  The aroma reminds me of picking blueberries and blackberries at Patty’s Berries and Bunches in August, an activity I heartily recommend for small children.  I had fun doing that, too.  This wine is also enjoyable, juicy and yummy.

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  1. 2013 Reserve Petit Verdot $30

The server and I agree that we like petit verdot.  This one is very good, with aromas of nutmeg and other spices, and a long finish.  It tastes like blackberry jam with seeds, and is very tannic. If I were adding wine to my cellar for aging, I would get this one.

Reasons to visit:  something for everyone, with a wide variety of wines at various price points and tastes; large attractive tasting room, where they often have music and other events; most of the wines, especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the Reserve Pinot Gris, the Richmond Creek Red Blend, the Meritage “Flight,” the Carménère, the Malbec, and the Reserve Petit Verdot.  However, don’t rely on them for snacks.

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Note the windmill, an increasingly frequent sight on the North Fork.

 

Coffee Pot Cellars: Puppy Love December 1, 2018

Coffee Pot Cellars: Puppy Love   December 1, 2018

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What you can’t quite see is the “winasaur” made from used corks.

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

As you enter Coffee Pot Cellars’ cozy tasting room, you will be greeted by Beasley, Laura Klahre’s adorable, friendly, and tiny black pug dog.  The day we went, Beasley was sporting a set of monarch butterfly wings, to help promote their merlot to monarch campaign.  For every bottle of merlot they sell, they will, with the cooperation of the Girl Scouts of America, plant a milkweed seed.  Milkweed, though deemed a weed by most people, is crucial for the survival of the monarch butterfly, whose caterpillars will only feed on it in their early lives.  So of course before we left we had to buy a couple of bottles of merlot, bringing the running tally on the blackboard to 731 bottles sold.

Laura, who is also a beekeeper and lover of nature, was pleased.  She and her husband Adam Suprenant own Coffee Pot Cellars, a tiny winery named for the distinctive lighthouse out near Orient Point.  She also runs Blossom Meadow Farm, where she not only makes honey, but also makes various beeswax products, such as candles, and promotes the usefulness to pollination of carpenter bees.  If you would like to host some carpenter bees on your property, you can buy bee houses for them from Laura.  We bought a little jar of her newest product, a raspberry jam.

In addition to a line-up of very good wines, Coffee Pot has an asset in the person of Laura, who is friendly and talkative, full of stories about bees and wine and Beasley.  If you happen to go there the weekend of December 8-9, you will be in time for the celebration of Beasley’s twelfth birthday, which will be marked by the release of their 2015 Beasley’s Blend—of which we had a preview.  And if you have ever been there before, Laura will remember you and greet you like an old friend.

The menu features six tastes for $12, but as long as they still have the Cyser (about which more in a moment), Laura will pour you seven tastes, so you don’t have to make any decisions.

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The Cyser is a sparkling hard cider made with honey, and it’s quite yummy.

  1. Cyser                    $19.99

Hard cider is made with sugar, and is often too sweet for me.  Mead is made with fermented honey, and can be sweet as well, but this cyser is hard cider made with Blossom Meadow honey, and the Coffee Pot version is delicious—dry and sparkling, made with the méthode champenoise, hand disgorged by Adam.  Laura informed us and another couple at the bar that it was made with 50% Liberty apples, 25% Black Twig, 10% Granny Smith, and 15% Crisp Golden, all from the local Breeze Hill Farm.  It tastes like a slightly apple-flavored champagne, and would be lovely with charcuterie.

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  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc   $21.99

We already miss summer, so perhaps that’s why we envisioned sipping this wine with a summery salad dinner, perhaps salade niçoise.  It is fruitier than many North Fork sauvignon blancs, with an aroma of minerals and honeysuckle.  Good.

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Though the chardonnay is oaked, it is so lightly done so that I like it.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay    $19.99

As she rinses our glass with a bit of the next taste, Laura informs us that this wine was fermented in thirteen-year-old oak barrels.  I’m happy, because I don’t generally care for oaked chardonnays, but when they are fermented in old—called neutral—oak, the taste is different from a steel-fermented chard, but not buttery.  There is s slight taste of the oak, but I mostly taste and smell apples and tropical fruits, with some nice acidity.  It would go well with fish tacos, which I am making for dinner tonight with locally caught cod.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer   $21.99

Although this is just called gewürztraminer, it is also 12% riesling.  The aroma is quite flowery.  I taste lychees and pineapple, but it is a bit too sweet for me.  However, it would go well with spicy food.

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If you buy a bottle of merlot, you will also be helping the monarch butterflies!

  1. 2012 Merlot    $19.99

Now we get a new glass for the reds.  The famous merlot-for-monarchs merlot is aged eighteen months in French oak, and we smell cherries and spice and smoke.  It’s a light, dry red, a Friday-night-hamburger wine, suggests Laura.  We agree, liking the hint of spiciness which balances the cherry taste.

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Note the portrait of Beasley, standing guard on the lighthouse. Watch out, he might lick you to death!

  1. 2015 Beasley’s Blend    $23.99

All the labels show the Coffee Pot lighthouse, but this one also shows Beasley standing guard on the upper level of the lighthouse. Though it will be officially released next weekend for Beasley’s birthday, Laura gave us a preview taste.  It’s a blend of 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot, and we can smell the cherry of the merlot when we take a whiff.  We taste dark fruit—cherries, plums—and nutmeg.  A soft, dry red with nice tannins, this would be drinkable on its own.  Good work, Beasley!

  1. 2014 Meritage    $27.99

Another blend, this one is  a Bordeaux-style 56% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon, and it’s also really good, though given the tannins I think it would be better in a few years.  It is fairly complex, with layers of flavor, including that merlot cherry flavor plus blackberries and spices, and would stand up to steak or lamb chops.

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They have some little tables for two on the porch, in case you come in the summer.

Reasons to visit:  Laura and Beasley; the chance to taste some lovely wines, especially the Cyser, the sauvignon blanc, the Beasley’s Blend, and the Meritage; all sorts of interesting gift items you won’t find other places, like the carpenter bee houses, beeswax candles and other products; the opportunity to support monarch butterflies by buying the merlot; and I haven’t even mention the “winasaur” they’re building from used corks on the front lawn (Laura says when it’s done she’s going to make herself a dress from corks!).

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After spending an afternoon with Beasley, it seemed appropriate that on the way home we saw the solar phenomenon known as a sun dog!

 

 

 

 

Laurel Lake: Chile But Not Chilly November 18, 2018

Laurel Lake:  Chile But Not Chilly               November 18, 2018

www.llwines.com

The weather outside was chilly, and the winemaker is from Chile, but our welcome was quite warm when we walked into the Laurel Lake tasting room on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Our server, Maureen, recognized us from previous visits—especially the notebook—and had time to chat with us, exchanging bits of wine country gossip.  She also introduced us to the charming Chilean winemaker, Juan Sepúlveda, who was pleased to discuss his wines with us.

 As we stood at the bar, we noticed that behind us a large party was happily sharing a meal and some bottles of wine, and another group was out on the enclosed porch.  One of those groups was a club of classic Cadillac owners, whose cars were lined up in the parking lot. Maureen told us that they also host a group of Corvette owners who come once a year, and we remembered one time when we had thought to stop in but found the parking lot filled with Corvettes. Now we knew why.

All of these Cadiallacs were not in the parking lot by coincidence.

 The last time we were here it was a warm day in September,and the food truck was in operation. However, the winery is coping with Southold Town’s crackdown on food trucks, so now if you want food they will order it for you from CJ’s restaurant, just down the street in the Mattituck shopping center. 

A standard tasting consists of four wines for $16, and we decided to share a tasting, which means we could go back and do another tasting and have all different wines.  We were, however, perfectly happy with our choices.

  1.  2016Pinot Gris               $22.99                                                                               I smell citrus and flowers.  The wine tastes fruitier than some pinot gris(a.k.a. pinot grigio), but still dry and light. It is soft and tasty enough to sip on its own. 
  2. 2017Sauvignon Blanc                 $22.99

This is another light white, dry and citrusy, and, like most North Fork sauvignon blancs, would go well with oysters.  We had thought to taste the gewürztraminer, but Maureen warned us that we might find it too sweet.  She also mentioned that their best-selling white is the somewhat sweet riesling, which is why they keep a supply next to the cash register.

They keep a supply of their best seller–the reisling–next to the cash register.

3.  2014 Merlot Estate         $21.99

I feel that if there is a merlot, one should try it, since it is such a basic North Fork red.  The aroma combines the expected cherry plus a touch of smokiness.  This is a relatively light merlot, with tastes of cherry, prunes, and vanilla.  Relatively simple, it is a good burger wine.

4. 2012Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve          $28.99

Aged in French oak, this had a lovely fruity aroma and taste, with a long finish and some complexity.  It has enough tannins that I think you could age it a bit longer, and it could stand up to a nice steak.  Very drinkable, we conclude.

5.  2013 Meritage                 ($59.99on the menu for the 2010)

I know, the menu says four tastes, but once again the book and our seriousness get us an extra.  The Meritage is a combination of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, sangiovese, and syrah, and she pours our taste out of an unlabeled bottle because officially the wine is still in the barrel.  Wow.  My notes characterize the aroma as “yummy.”  I taste lots of fruit, some nutmeg, and cassis.  Lots of tannins.  It is worth the price, especially if you keepit for a few years, but we are currently not in the market for a fancy red.

This is their most expensive wine, and no, they are not pouring tastes of it!

Reasons to visit:  Pleasant tasting room, and lovely outdoor area in the summer; we liked all the wines, but especially the pinot gris and the cabernet sauvignon reserve; the chance to chat with the winemaker if he is around; dogs are allowed in the outdoor area; small but amusing selection of wine-related gifts.:

They have a small selection of wine-related gifts.
This was my favorite one.
You can see the porch off to the side, and in addition in warm weather there’s a shaded outdoor area.

Martha Clara Vineyards: Change Is Coming November 8, 2018

Martha Clara Vineyards:  Change Is Coming                        November 8, 2018

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https://www.www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

Until recently, Martha Clara Vineyards, named for the matriarch of the family, was owned by the Entenmanns.  Now it has been sold to the Rivero-González family, so changes will be coming.  A year from now the wines could be quite different, because right now the wines have been overseen by the Entenmanns’ winemaker, but the next vintage will be the product of a new one.  Our chatty and knowledgeable server is hopeful that the changes will all be good.  Meanwhile, the tasting room already looks different, with most of the décor stripped away, and the shop objects also seems to have been winnowed down, with many fewer items for sale.  Should be interesting to come back next year.

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One side of the frequently bustling tasting room.

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The other room for tastings, where they used to serve food.

On this warm November day, the tasting room was practically empty, with only a few people stopping by, some to pick up wine club packages and others to do a tasting.  During the summer Martha Clara can be mobbed, so it was nice to taste in a quiet setting.  It’s not that I don’t like people—I’m just not fond of crowds.

The menu offers three options, the Aromatic tasting, of four whites for $15; the Northville tasting, of four reds for $15; and the Vintner’s Reserve, of two whites and two reds from their estate selections, for $17.  We decided to share an Aromatic and then a Northville, thus giving us the greatest variety of tastes.  We weren’t hungry, but there was no menu of food on offer, though the shop has a refrigerated case of cheeses, etc., and packages of crackers and other snacks.

  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blanc $19

Generally, when a local wine has a name other than a variety of grape, that means it is a blend, and so this is—a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and semillon.  It has a pretty golden color, and an aroma of honeysuckle and tropical fruit.  Though it is slightly sweet, we like it.  The wine is nicely balanced, with some complexity, and flavors of pineapple and minerals.  I think it would be fine to sip on its own, but my husband disagrees.  However, we both think it would go nicely with seafood in a cream sauce.  Hmm…Peconic Bay scallops are in season.

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  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc $22

The aroma is metallic and vegetal.  My tasting buddy thinks it smells like his favorite fall vegetable, Brussels sprouts.  Maybe.  The wine is dry, tart, and very light, tasting of lemon peel.  It is so light that if you drank it with food that had lots of flavor it would disappear.  Maybe oysters.

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  1. 2014 Chardonnay $20

This chardonnay is steel-fermented, like all the other whites in our tasting, and we like it.  I smell slate or rock and gooseberry, and taste citrus and tropical fruit.  It is nicely tart and dry.  We also notice that it is on sale, 30% off if you buy two bottles, so we do.

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The steel-fermented chardonnay is currently on sale.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Hang on a second, you might say, I thought all the whites in your tasting were steel fermented, but this one is oaked.  Yes, I say, power of the book.  We get a little side-by-side sample of the oaked chard, courtesy of our server, with whom we have been having a nice chat.  Unfortunately, we don’t care for it.  The aroma is rather funky, with lots of woody smells.  Though it is not too buttery, there is something about the taste I find off-putting.  Cedar?  Pencil shavings?

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Our “extra”–a taste of the oaked chardonnay. When you take tasting seriously, servers like to see what you think of various wines.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

She warns us that this will be semi-sweet, and she’s right to warn us.  Though it’s very aromatic it is much too sweet for us, and we dump the rest of our taste.  Maybe with Thai food…

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Northville Tasting

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $27

Now we switch to the reds, and get a clean glass.  Our server describes this as a bit smoky, and says it goes with red meat.  I’d say this is a roast chicken red, as it is rather thin.  It has a red fruit aroma but the taste is not very fruity.  I get nutmeg and some tannins.  No finish.  By the way, all their wines come in screw top bottles.

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  1. 2014 Malbec-Merlot $27

51%-49% (sort of like many of the vote percentages in the recent elections), this has the cherry aroma and taste of the merlot, but not much else.  No depth. Dry. We decide this is a burger red.

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  1. 2013 Northville Red                  $27

A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, this is, unusually for a red, steel fermented.  I tell our server that I have a catchphrase for her to use with this wine—It’s a white-wine-drinker’s red wine.  It is pleasantly fresh-tasting, with some red plum and cherry flavors, very light.  A ten-minute wine—not to be discussed, just to be drunk.  It is also on sale, but we decide not to get any.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

We like this the best of the reds.  It has aromas of spice and red candy.  Dry, with some nice tannins, though it has no depth it has some nice plummy flavors.  I could see having it with lamb chops.

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I found this little guide to wine tasting quite interesting, in that it seems to indicate that many of their customers are new to wine tasting.

Reasons to visit:  last chance to taste the Martha Clara style wines before the new winemaker takes over; you can bring your dog to the outside tasting area; the Northern Solstice Blanc, the Chardonnay, and the Cabernet Sauvignon; reasonably priced wines.

Lagniappe:  As we were driving home, we passed a movie crew outside the Mattituck Motel, which will be one of the North Fork sites used in the Netflix movie of the Gilgo Beach murders.

 

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels October 25, 2018

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels               October 25, 2018

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The tasting room used to be a farm house, and it still has a homey feel.

https://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

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

What happens when a vineyard is bought by new owners, who want to make their own style of wine, but the previous owners still use the same grapes for their wines?  You get Sherwood House and Hound’s Tree wines, made from the same grapes but in different styles.  Sherwood’s winemaker, Gilles Martin, likes the French style, while Hound’s Tree’s owners, who are from Oregon, use a West Coast style.  Confusingly, the vineyard is located on the North Fork on Oregon Road.

The last time we were here, the server set us up with parallel tastings, but this time, in the absence of her suggestions, we did a tasting of the Sherwood Classic wines, and then the Hound’s Tree ones.  There are actually four tasting options, but the two we did had no overlap.  In addition to the set tastings, they will also craft an all white or all red tasting on request.

Since the room is so pleasant, and we realized we’d be there a while, we decided to get a small cheese tray, put together by Lombardi’s Market.  $15.  Did we want crackers with that?  As opposed to what, eating the cheese by hand?  That will be an additional $3 for a small sleeve of Carr’s Water Crackers.  That seems a bit chintzy to us, especially since the cheese tray is rather meager.

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The cheese tray is adequate for two, if neither of them is very hungry.

We settled at a table, in sight of the fire in the fireplace, and brought our tastings and our cheese to the table ourselves.  Two other couples came in and took glasses of wine to sit on the couches by the fireplace.  Through an open doorway we could see into the William Riis gallery, where art, sculpture, and antiques are for sale.  Not a bad way to while away an afternoon.

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The first five wines are the Sherwood Classics Flight, $30 for a fairly generous pour.

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The sparkler and the chard

  1. 2016 Blanc de Blancs    $45

This is only the second time they have released a sparkling wine, so it is new to us.  Made from chardonnay grapes, it has a slightly vegetal aroma and is a pleasant dry sparkler.  It has a slightly yeasty taste, and is light.  You could definitely have this with a meal or some charcuterie.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $3

Our server describes this as “lightly oaked,” and I agree that it is not overly oaky or buttery or butterscotchy.  On the other hand, it is fairly nondescript, I say.  Undistinguished, adds my tasting buddy.  Bittersweet, with just a trace of butterscotch, even with the cheese it is just okay.

  1. 2010 Merlot $38

Better than the average North Fork merlot is our assessment of this dry and elegant red.  It has aromas and tastes of cherry, as expected, but also some interesting layers of flavor.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $40

Although this has a nice aroma of brambles and blackberries, there’s not much taste.  It’s a soft red, with no tannins, and some minerality.  Not a sipping wine, it would be okay with a burger.

  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor $45

The tasting ends with their Bordeaux blend, of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  The menu describes it as “preciously aged”—whatever that means—in French oak.  I smell plums and other red fruit, but it is too cold to taste much, so I warm it in my palm.  Ah, now I can taste it.  This is quite good, a wine for steak, dry, with various fruit flavors.  It’s also nice with the Marcona almonds on the cheese plate.

 

Each taste comes in its own glass, by the way.  Now we move on to the Hound’s Tree Flight, $25 for five tastes.  We snack on our crackers and cheese a bit to clear our palates.

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  1. 2016 Rosé         $22

The aroma is slightly funky, and smells like fermented berries.  Yum.  This has more taste than the average rosé, though it is served too cold, of course.  It is a blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 15% cabernet sauvignon.  We taste fruit and minerality, but it’s not overly fruity.  This would be a good summer sipper.

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When wine is too cold, try warming it with your palms.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $26

What is acacia aged?  The server has told us that this is aged in steel and acacia, but she can’t answer what that means.  We sniff and get minerals and just a touch of citrus.  My husband sips and says, “Watery.”  It is very light.  I say it is “not unpleasant,” which is not exactly high praise.

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Pretty labels.

  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

By the way, we find the labels for the Hound’s Tree wines quite attractive.  Although this has almost no aroma, it has, says my husband, “a distinctive taste which lingers in your mouth.”  It’s dry, almost tart, with not much fruit at all and some tannins.  Perhaps it needs to age longer.

  1. 2015 Merlot $29

Unlike the Sherwood merlot, which had lots of cherry aroma, this has almost no aroma.  It is quite dry, with some tannins but no depth, and is drinkable but not at all complex.  Innocuous, is a word we agree on.

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  1. 2015 Cornus Reserve $45

Why “Cornus”?  She doesn’t know, and the web site doesn’t even list this wine.  In any event, it is their Bordeaux blend, of 62% cabernet sauvignon, 19% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 3% malbec.  Of all the wines we tried today, this is our favorite.  It has red plum aromas, and a somewhat complex taste with red fruits and tobacco.  The tannins make me think it could improve with age.  It would pair well with lamb or mutton chops.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant, cozy tasting room with a fireplace and comfy couches; the chance to compare two different styles of winemaking using the same grapes (with very different results); the Sherwood Merlot and Manor; the Hound’s Tree Rosé and Cornus Reserve; you can shop the interesting items in the next-door gallery.  If I came there to sit by the fire and sip a glass of wine while listening the

 

 

music, I would get a glass of the Cornus.

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Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines October 3, 2018

Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines                   October 3, 2018

http://mattebella.com/main

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Heading to the tasting garden from the parking area…

Most of the time, my husband and I are the only ones doing a tasting for my blog.  However, we love to take visitors with us to wineries.  Aside from the pleasure of their company, it is fun to compare notes on each wine and discuss what it tastes and smells like and what we would serve it with.  We also try to think of wineries our guests would like.

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We like to support places that care about the environment.

My brother and sister-in-law like to bring their dog with them, so a dog-friendly place was the first requirement.  Then, I thought about how they care about conservation, organic and local foods, and the environment, so I wanted to bring them to a winery that farmed sustainably.  I also wanted a place with wines we like.  Finally, it was a rare lovely day, so we could sit outside, with a pretty garden setting a plus.  And thus we chose Mattebella, which turned out to be perfect on all counts.

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Comfy seating in the gazebo.

As we settled ourselves on comfy cushioned seats inside a gazebo, a friendly server came over with menus and an offer of water for the dog.  We were off to a good start.

The menu offers five different flights, including an interesting one of all chardonnays, but we decided each couple would share a Vintner’s Select Flight, $30 for eight wines.  Our server put a tray full of glasses down in front of us, with each wine labeled, and poured the five whites, promising to return with the reds when we were ready.  She returned shortly with a small piece of slate on which perched two pieces of toasted baguette with a slice of brie on each, to go with the wine.  They used to give several different snacks with the wine, but now it is just the one.   Still, that’s nicer than the dry crackers which a few wineries offer.

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The first round of tastes.

  1. 2015 Steel Chardonnay               $21

The aroma is of minerals and green apples, and the taste is very lemony.  Our server suggests we compare it with a sauvignon blanc, and I see why.  It is the type of light, citrusy wine which goes great with oysters.  It could also be drunk as an aperitif, a “sipper on the patio,” we decide.

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Free snack!

  1. 2014 Famiglia Chardonnay        $22

“Why Famiglia?” we ask.  We don’t really get a clear explanation, but it has something to do with the winemaker being Italian and the word for family.  In any event, this is an oaked chard, with an aroma of wood and green apple.  Words that come up as we discuss the taste:  honeydew, butterscotch, lemony at end.  At this point we take a nibble of the brie and decide this is a wine that needs to go with food.  “Pleasant but not fascinating,” someone says.

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  1. 2013 Founder’s Reserve Chardonnay $38

My sister-in-law likes this one better than I do, but it’s fine.  The aroma combines basement smells with a chemical I identify as turpentine or gasoline.  Fortunately, it doesn’t taste the way it smells.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness.  I get some grapefruit and pear tastes.  They say it could age, and I see that.

 

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

I find riesling somewhat problematical.  In general, I don’t buy one unless I know how it tastes, since they seem to vary widely.  Some rieslings are too sweet, but some I really like.  This one, from a vineyard in Jamesport, is not sweet, but I don’t care for it.  It has a somewhat piney taste, which my brother compares to the bark on a tree.  He’s not fond of it, but my sister-in-law likes it, which proves what people often say, that wine likes and dislikes are very personal.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $21

This is a nice summer sipper, light and lemony, with some strawberry taste and aroma.  90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc.

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  1. Famiglia Red $24

There is no vintage on this wine, since it is a blend they try to keep consistent from year to year, so if you order it in a restaurant or buy a bottle you will know what to expect.  This particular blend is mostly merlot, with some cabernet franc.  Our server characterizes it as “a good wine to bring to a friend’s house.”  The aroma combines plums, cherry pits, and leather handbags.  Fruity, soft, and very drinkable, this is a serviceable food wine, good with pizza and pasta.  Someone says this is what should be called a “ten-minute wine,” a wine you just drink, rather than discuss.

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  1. 2011 Old World Blend $50

That’s quite a price jump, and we are wondering whether the wine is worth it.  Sniff.  Rotting banana and dried fruit compote.  Sip.  Good!  Lots of complex fruit flavors with light tannins, we taste raisins and prunes.  It would go well with lamb roasted with rosemary. The wine is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  If you care about such things, you might like to know that Robert Parker gave it 90 points.

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The drawing on the labels is of the owners’ children, Matt and ‘Bella.

  1. 2013 Old World Blend $65

OMG.  Really good, in other words.  This is another blend, of merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, aged in French oak.  It has lots of tannins, with aromas of leather and dark fruits.  It is not as fruity as the 2011, but we decide it is more elegant.  It has enough power to stand up to steak.

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Look how dark that Old World Blend is!

As we discuss our overall impressions of the wines, which we characterize as smooth, soft, and drinkable, my sister-in-law is perusing the menu.  She notices that we have not tried any of their sparkling wines, so we ask the server which one we should try.  She brings us two.

 

  1. 2017 White Sparkling Wine        $24

Our server says we should think of this as similar to a prosecco.  It’s not bad, but too sweet for us.

  1. 2017 Dry Sparkling Rosé $28

We prefer this one, which is refreshingly dry, with light fruit tastes.  This is another one to sip on the back deck.

Reasons to visit:  pretty outdoor setting, but the indoor area is quite small; comfy seating; lots of nice wines, especially the Steel Chardonnay, the Famiglia Red, and the 2013 Old World Blend; dogs are allowed; no outside food, but they do have various crostini on offer, plus they bring you one for free; they farm sustainably.

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We were tempted to taste the grapes, but the netting discouraged us as well as the birds.

Bridge Lane Wine: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My! September 23, 2018

Bridge Lane Winery: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My!

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http://bridgelanewine.com/

If you ever want to have a wine kegger, Bridge Lane is the winery for you.  Or let’s say you want to take a can of wine to the beach.  Yes, they have those.  And boxes of wine.  Oh yes, bottles, too.  Bridge Lane is the less-expensive, more populist line of wines made by Lieb Cellars.  Their wine maker, Russell Hearn, also has his own line-up of wines which you can sample at his tasting room in Cutchogue, Suhru Cellars.  (https://www.suhruwines.com/ ) He must be a busy man!

 

Last September we went with friends to Lieb Cellars’ tasting room on Oregon Road, and tasted both the Lieb label wines and the Bridge Lane wines.  We much preferred the Lieb wines.  In June we went to the newly opened Suhru Cellars and liked their wines even better.  However, there is nothing wrong with the Bridge Lane wines, if you want simple, light inexpensive wines.  All of Bridge Lane’s wines cost $20 per bottle.  (A keg holds 130 glasses for $240 and each can provides two glasses for $9.)

Fittingly, not only do all the wines cost the same, the taste profile is remarkably similar.  In fact, my husband observed that he would be hard pressed to tell one white from another.  They are all citrusy and minerally and light.

The differences among the wines of the three venues extend to the tasting rooms, as well.  Bridge Lane’s is a simple square, with a bar along one wall and banquettes along two others, with brightly painted picnic tables outside.  Lieb Cellars’ tasting room is more elegant, with table service and a deck overlooking rural Oregon Road.  Suhru’s newly opened “tasting house” is in what had been a house, and is homey and beachy.  Bridge Lane allows picnics and dogs, while the other two do not (except at Lieb on the outside patio).  Suhru offers snacks from Touch of Venice restaurant across the street, and Lieb has an extensive menu of snacks, while Bridge Lane offers only a few snacks.

We arrived at Bridge Lane on a September Sunday afternoon, when many of the wineries were crowded and traffic clogged the approach to Harbes Orchard.  At Bridge Lane we encountered a large party of women—not sure if it was a group of friends or a bachelorette celebration—and one other couple who decided to brave the September chill to take their tastes outside.  After the large group left, it was quite quiet.

A tasting consists of five tastes for $15.  You can also taste a few of the Lieb Reserve wines at $4 per taste, or opt for a glass or bottle.   They serve you three and then two of your tastes at once, on a clearly labeled round tray in nice rounded-bottom glasses.  There’s a self-serve container of water at one end of the bar.

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  1. White Merlot

We get a very faint citrus aroma from this white wine made from red merlot grapes.  The taste is of grapefruit and minerals, and is pleasant and light.  It would be fine with some Peconic Bay scallops.

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Wine on tap.

  1. Chardonnay

A steel-fermented chard, this actually smells a bit metallic.  I taste pineapple, though the tasting notes say stone fruit and green apple.  Maybe a little green apple…but if by stone fruit they mean peaches and apricots, I don’t get it.  My tasting buddy asserts that “ten seconds in, it gets sweet.”

  1. Sauvignon Blanc

Another light, tart, citrusy, easy-to-drink white, this one would go well with oysters.  Maybe barbequed oysters?

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  1. Rosé

As one would expect, the rosé has an aroma of strawberry, but sweeter, more like strawberry jam.  There’s also a touch of smokiness.  Again, this is light, with the citrus this time reminiscent of pink grapefruit.  I could see having it with an herbed goat cheese from Catapano.

 

  1. Red Blend

This is their Bordeaux blend, of 65% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 6% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, aged six months in Hungarian oak.  It smells like a combination of cherries, smoke, and wood.  When we sip, we decide we can taste the wood as well, plus a fair amount of tannins which make us wonder if this would be better after a couple of years.  We also taste black cherry.  My husband describes it as “sour.”  Not a great red, but easy to drink, it could go with lamb chops.

Lieb Cellars Reserve 2015 Petit Verdot  $35

I want to end with something better, so we order a taste of the Lieb Petit Verdot.  As the server opens the bottle, I notice that it has a screw cap.  The Bridge Lane wines had been on tap, so I ask her if all the wines have screw tops.  Yes, they do.  The Petit Verdot is aged ten months in Hungarian oak, and has an aroma of blackberries and dark fruit.  It tastes of black cherry with a greater depth of flavor than the Red Blend.  There’s a pleasant softness to it, and enough tannins that I think it could be aged.  My husband and I simultaneously decide it would go well with barbequed ribs.

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The outdoor picnic area is somewhat screened from the traffic on Sound Avenue. The multicolored stripes are part of the whole light-hearted ethos of the spot.

Reasons to visit:  You want somewhere to take your picnic lunch where you can sit outside and drink some inexpensive wines; you are having a big party and need a keg of wine, or maybe a couple of boxes; you want to take a four-pack of cans of wine on your boat; the chardonnay, or any of the wines if you want something light and uncomplicated.

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Bridge Lane shares its location with Premium wine Group, a wine-making facility shared by many of the smaller wineries which lack their own wine-making equipment.

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As I watched crushed grapes being loaded here, I solved a mystery. All along Cox Neck Road I had seen a line of grapes by the side of the road. Where did they come from? Aha, I realized, they have fallen off those open carts which bring the grapes to Premium Wine Group!