Jason’s Vineyard: No, It’s Not a Pirate Ship           June 24, 2017

http://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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Ancient Greek ships, like the Argo, had painted on eyes to help navigate.

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The ship-shaped bar even has a mast and sail, and the ceiling is painted to look like the sky.

Anyone unfamiliar with Greek mythology could be forgiven for thinking, when they sighted the ship-shaped bar, complete with mast and furled sail, that it was supposed to resemble a pirate ship.  However, the design of the bar—and of the ship on the wine labels—is meant to evoke the great ship the Argo, which set off with its crew of heroes, led by Jason, to find the Golden Fleece.  Jason Damianos, the son of the owner of Pindar and Duck Walk, was clearly quite pleased with his namesake hero, and not only designed his bar to resemble the Argo but also named some of his wines after elements of the heroic voyage and opted to raise sheep (golden fleece, get it?) on his property.  Sadly, Jason was killed two years ago in a car accident.  However, the family has continued to own and run his vineyard and his small herd of sheep (plus at least one llama).

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The llama–and the sheep, we were told–had all recently been shorn.

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Jason’s is a fairly large facility, with an expansive outdoor covered porch where a singer was entertaining guests the day we came (but so loudly that we opted to stay inside).  The servers keep track of your tasting by giving you a pile of tokens, taking one away each time they serve a taste.  That works well for large groups, which they do welcome.  The menu offers a flight of five wines for $10.  Since they have thirteen different wines, we decided to do two tastings, one of whites and then another of reds, which we clarified with our server after a bit of discussion.  As we thoughtfully considered each wine, our server became more and more enthusiastic about helping us, pouring a couple of “extras.”  As a result, the only wines we did not try are the two rosés.

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One view of the porch.

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There were no signs about whether or not they allow outside food, so I assume they do.  They also had a small selection of cheeses and crackers in a refrigerated case.  By the way, I only have vintages for a few of the wines.  The menu doesn’t mention them and neither did our server, who whisked most bottles away before I could check.

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The winery building is quite attractive.

  1. Golden Fleece                 $18.95

Apparently, this was a wine Jason meant to be his signature one, a blend of 41% chardonnay, 24% seyval blanc, 21% Cayuga, and 9% vidal blanc.  Noting this unusual collection of grapes, we asked if any of them came from Upstate.  Yes, said our server, she thought the Cayuga did, but wasn’t sure about the rest. However, according to the winery web page the Cayuga is actually grown locally. Tasting it, we were wondering whether this would be a collection of wines we would even want to taste, as it was much too sweet for us.  The menu describes it as “crisp,” but it made me think of candied or canned pears in syrup.  The aroma had combined minerality with floral and cat pee notes, so I was hoping the wine would be more interesting than it proved to be.IMG_3926

  1. Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

I have to say that this had a rather unpleasant smell, like rotting garbage, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  That’s one of the aspects of wine that fascinates me—how the smell and the taste can be so different.  Anyway, this one WAS crisp, and rather nice, dry, with tastes of lemon and mineral.  It would pair well with oysters.

  1. Pinot Blanc $34.95

We liked this one, too. The smell combined a funky, forest-floor element with a metallic scent, and the taste had lots of citrus.  I was thinking blood orange, with end notes of pineapple, and found it mouth-watering.  It would complement spicy food nicely, like maybe a shrimp fra diavolo.

  1. Chardonnay $29.95

In general, I’m not a fan of oaked chardonnays, and this one did not convert me, though it was not too heavily oaked.  As my tasting buddy said, “It’s neither here nor there.”  Aromas of vanilla and almonds, tastes of butterscotch and lemon, and a rather thin mouth feel.  Our server informed us that this was the last of the 2012 vintage, on sale for only $12.95 a bottle, or $100 a case.  A good buy, but not enough to tempt us.

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The servers use these tokens to keep track of how many tastes you get.

  1. White Riesling $27.95

What, we wondered, is a white riesling?  Aren’t all rieslings white?  Our usual server was occupied elsewhere, and the cheerful young lady who poured this one for us had no idea why this one was labeled “white.”  In any event, we dumped most of the glass, as it was unpleasantly sweet.

  1. 2006 Merlot $26.95

The servers rinse your glass with water between tastes, which is nice—except when they don’t dump out all the water.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with scents of cherry, wood, and tobacco and a taste of cherry, though with a somewhat bitter finish.

  1. 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95

The cabernet sauvignon is aged 24 months in new French oak, “unfined and unfiltered,” according to the menu.  Though the aroma is lovely, of black cherry and dark chocolate, the taste is disappointing.  My husband characterizes it as a pizza wine, though I would prefer a nice Chianti. We think it is at the end of its useful life, and so must the winery, since this is also on sale for $100 a case.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

This is our first “extra.”  Our server suggests we compare it to the 05, and is interested to see what we think of it.  Much better!  The aroma has hints of something spicy, like maybe A-1 sauce, and the wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and a taste that reminds me of a dried fruit compote.

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Hercules…and…

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Hercules! The wine is named for this cute pooch.

  1. Hercules $28.95

According to the menu, this is a unique wine, a “late harvest blend of merlot and cabernet.”  “Late harvest” would imply great ripeness and sweetness, and the label calls it a “sweet red.”  However, it is not as sweet as we were afraid it would be, and we actually liked it.  I said it was sweet on top and tart on the bottom, which I know makes no sense, but that was what I felt.  We agreed we’d love to try it with a nice piece of chocolate cake.  Hercules, by the way, is named not just for the great hero who went on the Argo (in addition to his famous twelve labors), but also for Jason Damianos’s dog.  Check out the photo…

  1. Meritage $28.95

Meritage is the North Fork’s version of Bordeaux wines, a blend in this case of merlot, cabernet, malbec, and pinot noir.  Very nice—not surprising, since Jason studied wine-making in France.  It smells pleasantly of sweet dark fruits, and tastes like cherries, other fruits, and some pepper.

  1. 2010 Malbec $28.95

As my Grandma Ruthie would say, “This one beats the bunch.”  Definitely the star of the day, this has a delicious aroma of dark fruit, plums, and chocolate and tastes quite fruity as well, while still being dry.  If we had decided to sit on the porch and listen to the singer, this is the wine I would have chosen to have in my glass.

  1. Dessert Wine $28.95

Yes, that is what it is called on the menu.  Our server offers us this “on me,” she says, having enjoyed serving people who are interested in the wine and not just in “getting drunk.”  Thanks!  At 19.5% alcohol, this is definitely an after-dinner drink, really a Port wine, with its sweetness balanced by dryness.  Quite yummy, it would be pleasant to sip this while cracking walnuts and almonds.

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Some snacks are available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  fun to see the bar shaped like a ship; the pinot blanc and the malbec; the Hercules and the Dessert Wine are good if you’re looking for an after-dinner sweet sipper; you can see—but not feed—the sheep and the llama.

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A portrait of Jason Damianos hangs on the wall. We met him a number of years ago, before he opened the winery, at a shop on Love Lane. We got into a discussion and he told us how excited he was to open his own winery. Nice guy. We were sad to hear he had died.

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Kontokosta Winery: Absorbing the Crowds May 28, 2017

http://kontokostawinery.com/

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The grey skies meant many people opted for wineries rather than beaches.

We should have known better than to try to go to a winery on a non-beach Sunday over Memorial Day weekend.  But we had friends visiting, and we wanted to take them to Croteaux for a tasting.  As we headed east, we passed winery after winery where the parked cars had spilled over onto lawns and roadsides.  Uh oh.  And indeed, Croteaux was filled, with Michael Croteau outside, waving off cars trying to cram into his small lot.  Where to go?  Our friends hadn’t been to Kontokosta since shortly after it opened, and we figured that as far east as it is, and as big as the tasting room is, we would be able to get in there.

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There was plenty of room when we arrived, but by the time we left all the seats were filled.

We were right, and even though parking there had also extended to a grassy area, there was room at one of the long tables in the tasting room for us to sit and enjoy our tasting.  However, by the time we left, it was SRO!  We also observed many people who had chosen to take a glass of wine out onto the expansive lawn and wander down to the Long Island Sound, visible in the distance.

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You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

A tasting consists of any three wines from the menu for $12, so we decided to get three whites and three reds, not tasting the rosé or a few of the others, while our friends opted to share a tasting.  Maybe next time we’ll check out the others.  We also got a couple of bags of my favorite chips—North Fork Potato Chips.  If you haven’t tried them, do.  They are crispy kettle-fried chips, and totally addictive.  Kontokosta also has a menu of cheeses and charcuterie, plus non-alcoholic drinks.  The server poured out our nine tastes, explaining each one, and we took our glasses to a table.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

We were talking about getting some oysters later, so we decided to start with what is often a perfect oyster wine.  This wine smelled great—like mango and flowers—and tasted pretty good, too.  We found it tart, with some nice kiwi and vegetable tastes, with a pleasant finish.  One nice detail—it was not served too cold!

  1. 2015 Viognier    $25

Sometimes I think I like to order this wine because the name is fun to say.  In any event, I don’t think I would choose this particular viognier.  My husband’s first judgement was “restrained flavors,” to which I added “undistinguished.”  It has a bit of a wet basement smell, though also some minerality.  The taste is very light and uncomplicated.

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The server lining up our tastes of the whites.

  1. 2015 Field Blend             $22

Our friend also ordered this one, and she immediately categorized it as a “dessert wine.”  It is on the sweet side, though not cloyingly so.  A blend of 47% riesling, 41% viognier, and 12% sauvignon blanc, it has a candy and honeysuckle aroma and tastes like peaches.  We decided it could go with spicy Thai food, where the fruit of the wine would match well with the coconut and peppers of Thai, but not so well with Indian dishes.  You could also have it with charcuterie.

  1. 2014 Merlot      $34

The server tipped the end of the bottle into our glass, which meant we ended up with a fair amount of sediment.  Oh well.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry tastes, pleasantly dry, with some tastes of tobacco and chocolate.  Nice.

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The reds (of course).

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $29

We liked this one better, with lots of dark fruit tastes like purple plums and berries, plus some tannins.  It is more complex than the merlot, though the finish is quite short.  Dry.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $40

Though, as is often the case with Long Island reds, we felt it was not worth the price—and our friends, who also tried this, agreed—it is very nice indeed, with fruity aromas and soft tannins.  We tasted raspberries and a touch of spice, like pepper.  If I were to get a glass with which to wander down to the water, I would choose this.

  1. 2013 Anemometer Red                $50

Our friends also tried this one, and said it was very good.  A Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and merlot, it has lots of oak and cherry tastes.

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Snack menu. I highly recommend the North Fork Potato Chips!

 

Reasons to visit:  a pretty location next to Long Island Sound, walking distance from Greenport; the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet sauvignon; an attractive modern tasting room with a soaring ceiling and long tables; usually not too crowded, even on busy days—except not this past weekend!

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In the background you can see their wind turbine, an increasingly frequent sight on the North Fork.

 

 

Sherwood House Vineyard: Sip and Shop May 12, 2017

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

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

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I happened to snap this at a sunny moment.

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

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

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The shop adjoins the tasting room.

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

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

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We enjoyed the music.

  1. 2014 Oregon Road Chardonnay SH                       $19

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

  1. 2015 HT Estate Chardonnay     $24

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

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  1. 2013 Estate Chardonnay SH        $35

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

  1. 2015 Estate Rosé HT       $22

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

  1. Oregon Road White Merlot SH   $19

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

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

  1. 2013 Oregon Road Red Blend SH              $19

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

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc HT              $28

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

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

  1. 2012 Merlot SH               $38

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

  1. 2015 Merlot HT               $28

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

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon HT      $28

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

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc SH               $45

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

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  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor SH           $45

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

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

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More art from the gallery.

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

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We think these crates can be used to store wine.

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Peconic Bay: Not your Typical Tasting April 29, 2017

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This sign lured us in.

The last time we went to Peconic Bay for a tasting was in 2008.  Then it closed.  Or did it? They continued to make wines, marketing them through the store they opened in Tanger Mall, Empire State Cellars.  We loved that store, which was amply stocked with wines from many of the Long Island wineries, as well as beers and liquors and other items from all over New York State.  Unfortunately, they closed.  Or did they?

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The door was open, so we walked in.

Recently we noticed that Peconic Bay had hung out a sign saying “Open,” and touting a new sparkling wine, so we decided to check it out.  We walked into an empty tasting room on a sunny day when every winery we drove past seemed to have a large complement of limos and cars.  We were enthusiastically greeted by a woman who seems to be the manager of the place as well as its only employee.  Over the course of our tasting, we learned various bits of information about Peconic Bay, but not why it closed and opened—and may or may not close again.

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The ciders we could have tasted.

The tasting, which includes four wines, is free.  (!) Each taste is small, served in tiny plastic cups.  They also offer a tasting of ciders for $5, but we decided not to do that.   On the counter were also a dish of Backyard Brine bread and butter-style pickles and another of pretzel sticks with Herlocher sweet mustard for dipping.

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As we sipped, we learned that the tasting room had been re-opened by the owner with the mission of selling out his stock of wines.  Then they decided to recreate a mini-Empire State Cellar experience, and stocked a variety of New York State beers and other products, including Twin Stills moonshine, an apple-based gin, Greenhook Gunsmith whisky, various ciders, and more.  Now they may or may not have “switched gears,” in the words of our friend behind the counter, to continue to sell Peconic Bay wines and other local drinks—or not.  We’ll keep our eyes on them!

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We were sorry when they closed.

  1. 2012 Peconic Bay Riesling          $10

Riesling is a wine I never want to buy unless I’ve tasted it, since it can be sweet or dry or somewhere in between, and taste good or…not so good.  This is a very nice riesling, dry, with a bit of that cat pee smell, and a taste of grapefruit and unripe peach.  Not to be sipped on its own, but it would be fine with food, and the price is certainly alluring.

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  1. 2011 Blanc de Blancs $25

This sparkling wine, made using the sparkling wine bottle-sealing facility at Lenz, is made from their own chardonnay grapes.  It has a bit of a yeasty caramel aroma and is pleasant, dry, and not complex.  They make it using the méthode champenoise.

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  1. Atwater Estate Bubble Pinot Noir $16

From an upstate Seneca Lake winery, this is a pink sparkling wine made from 85% pinot noir and 15% Cayuga grapes.  It has a bit of the strawberry taste you’d expect from a rosé, and is less sweet than I had feared.  It’s light, and would be a fine casual wine if you wanted to take a sparkler on a picnic.

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  1. Brotherhood New York Red       $10

Another upstate wine, this one from the Hudson Valley area, this is a light, steel-fermented red blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and baco noir (which I had to ask her to spell for me).  She described this as a “Beaujolais style picnic wine,” and I agree.  It would be perfect with a croque monsieur, for example, and I think I would like it chilled.  You can taste the cherry from the merlot, and also a somewhat piney taste.

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  1. 2014 Saperavi $30

Yes, I said four wines, but given our interest and seriousness, she felt we should try one additional wine.  A silver medal winner from Standing Stone winery, this is a light, pleasant red, dry, with some tastes of pomegranate and other fruits.  It’s a dark red, so I expected it to be richer than it was, but maybe it needs more aging.  I researched the grape a bit, and learned it is a cold-weather tolerant grape, originally from Georgia—the country, not the state.

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Reasons to visit:  a quiet place (unless others figure out that they’re open again); a free tasting; some very inexpensive wines (we bought both the riesling and the Brotherhood New York Red for everyday drinking, which she gave us in a nice canvas Empire State bag); a large choice of a variety of artisanal beers and other New York State drinks.  Note:  don’t depend on finding them open!  It they’re closed, I recommend you go across the street to Coffee Pot Cellars.

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We had the room to ourselves.

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Some of the many brands available there.

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Mattebella: Food Friendly Wines April 23, 2017

http://mattebella.com/main

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

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

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

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

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First snack.

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

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

  1. 2014 Steel Chardonnay              $21

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

  1. 2012 Famiglia Chardonnay         $21

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

  1. 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay         $23

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

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  1. 2012 Reserve Chardonnay          $28

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

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

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

  1. 2014 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

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

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The sparkling wine is in front.

  1. 2014 Riesling     $22

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

  1. 2015 Rosé          $21

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

  1. 2015 Off-Dry Sparkling Rose       $28

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

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Bottle carrier

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

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  1. Famiglia Red     $24

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

  1. 2011 Old World Blend   $43

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

  1. 2012 Old World Blend   $40

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

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Second round of snacks!

  1. 2008 Old World Blend   $48

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

  1. 2009 Old World Blend   $46

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

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

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

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The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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The sign seems clear enough…

  1. 2016 Suhru Sauvignon Blanc      $20

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

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  1. 2016 Nappa White Pinot Noir   $19

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

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  1. 2014 Suhru Dry Riesling               $18

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

  1. 2016 Nappa New York Riesling   $18

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

  1. 2012 Suhru Shiraz           $25

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

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  1. 2016 Nappa Bordo Antico           $22

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

 

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc         $30

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

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  1. 2014 Nappa Nemesis Pinot Noir               $35

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

  1. 2013 T’Jara Merlot         $28

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

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

  1. 2013 Nappa Tredici        $35

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

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

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

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Lots of magnums!

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

Sannino Bella Vita: Safe Choices April 8, 2017

http://www.sanninovineyard.com/

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We didn’t have any wines we disliked here, nor did we have any that excited us.  I see Sannino Bella Vita’s wines as safe choices.  My husband’s word was “tame.”  I will say that everyone around us certainly seemed to be enjoying their tastings, and the Sanninos do a great job of engaging with visitors and helping them choose the best options for their personal preferences from the list of twelve wines.  A standard tasting is six tastes for $18, all presented to you on a tray, which you label with the numbers of your wines from the menu.  Most of the wines are quite reasonably priced.  They also offer some snacks, like a cheese tray.

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Snack menu

They give an interesting piece of advice to their guests as to how to do a tasting, suggesting that you leave a tiny bit in each glass so you can go back and do comparisons and so that you remember what you liked.  I indicated my notebook and said, “I don’t forget anything!”

Though the bar area is cozy, they also now have a back room with tables, plus an outdoor area.  In addition to the winery, the Sanninos also run a bed and breakfast and offer various wine education classes.

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Our tray of tastes. We had already started on the first one!

 

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc    $20

We decided to begin with their sauvignon blanc, which is steel fermented.  The aroma includes something floral and a hint of green, like asparagus—which should soon be available at the farm stands.  As we sipped, I decided that we needed to try asparagus on the grill with sauvignon blanc.  The taste is light and refreshing, and might also go well with barbequed chicken.  Well, it is spring.

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  1. 2016 Chilly Day Chardonnay       $20

Although this is also steel fermented, it comes on a bit sweet, though the finish is quite dry.  My tasting buddy and I had some disagreements about this one, since I said it tasted like unripe pear and he said cotton candy.  It is a bit tart for those who like sweet wines, but if you like a touch of sweetness in an un-oaked chardonnay you’ll like this.  The aroma is characteristically of honeysuckle.

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A candle made from a wine bottle!

  1. 2016 Viognier    $20

I thought I detected a bit of a basement smell in this one, as well as some minerality, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  It is again a bit sweet at the beginning, but nicely dry at the end.  I’m thinking it tastes a bit of peaches or apricots.  It would be nice to sip chilled, with some charcuterie and hard cheeses.  And just as I’m saying that, the couple next to us get the cheese board with some sliced sausage and cheeses including parmigiana and a smoked gouda about which there was much enthusiasm.

  1. 2013 Syrah         $30

Now we switch to the reds.  However, there’s a caveat here.  Most of the 2014s have not yet been bottled, but will be soon, so there may very well be some differences from my notes if you go later in the season.  Based on our experience, though, you’ll not find any wines to dislike if you do.  Again, we had some disagreement, this time on the smell.  I said red candy, and he said motor oil.  Really?  Anyway, we agreed on the taste—not much fruit, a bit of spice (like nutmeg), and very dry.  The menu says “soft tannins” and “jammy,” and we agree with the former but not the latter.

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I always find it very educational to talk with the owners.

  1. 2013 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot     $50

Mr. Sannino and I got into a bit of a discussion over our mutual affection for petit verdot, which is more often used as part of a blend than on its own:  hence the name he gave it.  He wanted to put petit verdot in the “spotlight” for a change.  The aroma is lovely, of berries and bramble, and the taste is nice too.  Fruity and again quite dry, with blackberry and some promising tannins.  If I bought a bottle I’d want to cellar it for a couple of years.  On the other hand, at $50 I wasn’t ready to spring for a bottle.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon           $38

This wine and the previous one have, according to the menu, won various silver medals.  And it is very drinkable, with an aroma of black cherry and nice fruit tastes.  My husband and I turn to each other and discover that I have written “not challenging” just as he says “tame.”  Again, a safe choice.

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I wonder who does all these blackboards?

  1. 2014 Francesco               $45

Wait, you only get six tastes, right?  Well, when it is clear you are appreciative of and thoughtful about wine sometimes you get something a little extra.  As they say in New Orleans, a “lagniappe.”  Mr. Sannino offers us this taste of his blend of five grape types, heavy on the petit verdot, which is not exactly a Bordeaux blend because it includes at least one variety they don’t use there. It is named for his father.  I smell tobacco and chocolate, and the taste is the most interesting of the day, with some depth.  Speaking of family, we learn that of his four children, three are interested in wine making, including a daughter studying viticulture at Cornell, and one may be interested in oysters.  I opine that those oysters would go well with his sauvignon blanc!

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The bar area is cozy and includes a small selection of wine-related gifts.

Reasons to visit:  personal attention from the owners; a cozy bar setting; the Francesco ’14, the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Petit Verdot.

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Shinn Winery: Sophisticated Rusticity February 19, 2017

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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

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

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Food menu. The mixed nuts were very good.

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

 

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

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Windmill

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

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  1. 2016 Coalescence          $16

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

  1. 2010 Sparkling Brut        $40

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

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  1. 2014 Estate Merlot                       $26

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

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  1. 2016 First Fruit                $22

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

  1. 2013 Wild Boar Doe       $32

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

  1. 2013 Haven       $35

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

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

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc      $38

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

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An array of some of our choices.

  1. 2014 Nine Barrels           $32

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

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc             $35

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

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  1. Julius Drover Apple Brandy         $55

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

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

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

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They have a few “agritainment” activities.

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

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Resident laid-back pooch.

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

http://www.jamesportwines.com/

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

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

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

Also room at the tables...

Also room at the tables…

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

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  1. 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc      $21.95

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

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  1. 2013 Estate Riesling (Dry) $25.95

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

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  1. 2014 East End Cinq Red $18.95

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

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  1. 2014 Thiméo Reserve $74.95

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

My favorite of the day, the syrah.

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

  1. 2014 East End Syrah $18.95

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenz Winery: A Matter of Style December 4, 2016

http://www.lenzwine.com/Home.htm

In warmer weather, this courtyard might be a nice place to relax.

In warmer weather, this courtyard might be a nice place to relax.

“Eric,” said our server, referring to Eric Fry, the winemaker for Lenz, “prefers a more austere style, with salty minerality.”  We agree.  If you want to understand the difference a winemaker’s choices can make, then you should definitely include Lenz in your tastings.  For example, back in October we tasted Pugliese’s 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature, a rosé made from pinot noir grapes, and at Lenz we tasted their 2014 Blanc de Noir, also made from pinot noir grapes.  Of course, they are different vintages, but look at the difference in taste:  my notes for Pugliese (just down the street from Lenz) note a vegetable taste and aroma, while my notes for Lenz highlight a smell of minerals and salt and mushed up fruit and a taste of red grapefruit.  Same grape, same “terroir,” different winemakers, different tastes.  Both, I might add, quite good.

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The Lenz tasting room is in an attractive wooden building with a long bar along one side and a nice array of wine-related gifts and art for sale along the other sides.  They have room for tables, but don’t have any, which might be a good addition, though I did note some picnic tables in the courtyard.  On this sunny winter Sunday, there were several small groups and couples at the bar, tasting the wines, chatting, and listening to the soft jazz and pop music on the sound system.  I heard Frank Sinatra, among others.

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Some of their gift options

Some of their gift options

The tasting menu features an Estate tasting of five wines for $12 or a Premium tasting of five of their better wines for $15, plus a few additional wines available for individual tastes, such as their sparkling wine and the rosé.  Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable server suggested that he could also do an all white and/or all red tasting for us, and we decided that it would be perfect to share an all white and then an all red tasting.  Together the two were $27.

Pretty color, too.

Pretty color, too.

  1. 2014 Blanc de Noir Rosé               $24

As I noted above, we smelled a salty minerality plus mushed up fruit (a description I’m sticking to, even if that’s not a “wine word”) and agreed that this is a very dry, French-style rosé with nice acidity and a citrusy taste like red grapefruit.  Though you wouldn’t want to sip it on its own, it would be a very nice summer aperitif with a cheese tray, especially if you had some brie and creamy goat cheese on it, perhaps from Catapano.

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  1. 2012 Pinot Gris $25

Our server describes the style of this white as “Alsatian, with no residual sugar.”  I get the idea of austere here also, as this is a very dry wine with a vegetal aroma and an almost cabbage-y taste.  My husband compares it to Brussels sprouts, one of his favorite vegetables.  Again, though not a sipping wine, this would go well with certain foods, such as a charcuterie platter.  Nice acidity.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Gewürztraminer $30

And now, as they say, for something completely different.  2010 was a hot dry year, and, according to our server, a good year for gewürztraminer.  He may be onto something.  This is a delicious wine, with lots of aromas including lychees in syrup and tropical fruits.  This is again a dry wine, though gewürztraminers are often somewhat sweet, and it has some sweetness and a taste like roasted pear.  I observe that it would be perfect with turkey, and then flash on a memory of a number of years ago when we came to Lenz in order to buy several bottles of their gewürztraminer for Thanksgiving.

You can buy hand-decorated bottles to bring to a friend's house.

You can buy hand-decorated bottles to bring to a friend’s house.

  1. 2013 White Label Chardonnay $15

Two years ago when we came here we bought a couple of bottles of their White Label Chard, which was $15 then, so it is quite the bargain now.  This is a steel-fermented chard, with an almost candy-like aroma and a dry, crisp, gooseberry taste, with a touch of pineapple.  You could sip this with or without food, and it would go with any white-wine friendly dish.

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  1. 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30

When Lenz says “old vines,” they’re not kidding, as they first planted their grapes in 1978, which makes them practically ancient by Long Island standards.  Our server says that Eric wants you to “taste the year,” so ages the wine in neutral oak barrels.  This is a good chardonnay to give someone who thinks they don’t like chardonnay, as it is a lovely wine.  The aroma is of peaches with some vanilla, and the taste is crisp and dry with just a bit of sweetness and a taste of not-quite-ripe pear.

Lovely dark color

Lovely dark color

  1. 2013 Estate Selection Malbec $40

We get a fresh glass and switch to the reds.  This is a “pre-release” wine, not yet on the tasting menu.  Lots of wineries use Malbec in their blends, but not as many use it by itself.  The label notes it is “unfined and unfiltered,” as are several of their reds, which goes along with the philosophy on their website of trying not to interfere too much with the natural process of turning grapes into wine.  We smell lots of fruit aromas plus an undercurrent of something my husband describes as medicinal and I think of as Band-aids.  Mouth-watering taste, with lots of tannins, dry, with dark ripe prune plum taste.  Their tasting notes say chocolate, but I’m not getting that.  Yum.  Interesting wine.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

Now I get chocolate—this one smells like those chocolate-covered cherries.  This is also good, with lots of dark fruit tastes and a nice acidity that would complement lamb very well.  The tasting menu mentions cedar, and my tasting buddy objects, “I hate eating cedar.”  Ha.  I do get some woodiness.  Not complex, but good enough that if we had room in our cellar we would buy some to hold for a couple of years.

Unlike some places, the labels actually give you information about the wine.

Unlike some places, the labels actually give you information about the wine.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50

This one also could use some aging, though it is already very good, with a slightly funky aroma that is mostly of red fruit.  As we sip we note a complexity, with layers of flavors, including raspberry and other dark fruits.  2010 was a good year for reds, and this one is no exception.

  1. 2012 Estate Selection Merlot $30

Though this is mostly merlot, it also has some cabernet franc and malbec and petit verdot in it.  We get the typical cherry aroma and taste of Long Island merlots.  Judging by the tannins, we think this could also age well.  Good.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65

Always fun to taste the same grape from different years to see how they compare.  Our server enthuses that the ’93 and ’97 merlots are still very good, noting that this one should also age well.  “Don’t drink it right away,” he warns, if you buy it.  We don’t—not convinced it is worth the price—but I think it would be hard to resist drinking it sooner than later, as it is another winner.  Aromas and tastes of chocolate and cherry and tobacco greet us, but it is not a “fruit bomb.”  Nicely dry.

You can see some of the paintings for sale, and also a sign on the beam that never fails to amuse my husband.

You can see some of the paintings for sale, and also a sign on the beam that never fails to amuse my husband.

Reasons to visit:  a nicer than usual selection of gifts, including original paintings; a lovely calm setting and knowledgeable and enthusiastic servers; all the wines if you like them dry, but especially the Old Vines Gewürztraminer, the Old Vines Chardonnay, the Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Old Vines Merlot. 

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You can enter and exit the courtyard through this tunnel--or go around it!

You can enter and exit the courtyard through this tunnel–or go around it!

That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs...

That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs…