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.

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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!

Kontokosta: The Far East August 28, 2018

Kontokosta: The Far East              August 28, 2018

https://kontokostawinery.com/

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Don’t be fooled by the weathered barn look; this is a fairly recently built tasting room.

East of Greenport sits the last winery on the North Fork wine trail:  Kontokosta.  We were there on yet another of the ridiculously hot and humid days of this hot and humid August, but a small contingent of our party braved the heat to hike the property to a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound.  Then they returned to the tasting room, red-cheeked and sweaty, to be revived with Kontokosta’s own sparkling water and grape soda.  It may have been the effect of the heat, but one member of our party who describes herself as a “grape soda connoisseur” said it was the best grape soda she’d ever had.

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That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance. It was really hot out there!

 

The rest of us stayed inside and shared tastings and glasses of wine, enjoying the air-conditioning and the company of each other—and the wine.  We sat at one of the long tables in Kontokosta’s airy, modern tasting room, transporting our tastings to the table ourselves.  A tasting consists of your choice of any three of their twelve wines for $16.  My husband and I decided that we would share a tasting of three whites and another of three reds, since it is a one-ounce pour.  So clearly, we could return for a completely different set of six tastes, which we may yet do.

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Part of the bar area.

They also offer a menu of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.  No dogs or outside food allowed.

  1. 2017 Viognier   $25

The aroma is sweet, of honeysuckle and peach, and the taste has some peachiness as well.  One friend described it as an “unctuous peachiness,” and we went on the discuss its appropriateness as an aperitif.  “It’s a crowd pleaser,” he said.  We also thought it would pair well with a chicken dish that had either a white sauce of something citrusy, or perhaps charcuterie.  It’s a refreshing, pleasant white.

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Our three whites. We took the glasses to a table.

  1. 2016 Field Blend $22

A field blend means just what it sounds like—a blend of various grapes, all grown in the same field.  This one blends 50% riesling, 30% viognier, and 20% sauvignon blanc.  The aroma is mostly mineral, and the wine itself is super dry, rather tart, with not much fruit.  It really needs to be drunk with food, but since we had just had a big delicious lunch at the Olive Branch café in Greenport, we were not about to buy any snacks.  We were not particularly fond of this one.

  1. 2014 Anemometer White $35

Another blend, this time of 45% chardonnay, 40% sauvignon blanc, and 15% viognier, Anemometer (the name a reference to the windmill which provides much of their power) is aged in neutral French oak, so it is not too oaky.  There is a subtle vanilla aroma, but also minerality.  One friend compares it to a Chablis, not surprising given the chardonnay in it.  The taste combines minerality, pineapple, some tropical fruit, and a touch of saltiness.  I don’t usually like oaked chardonnays, but this one has only a hint of butteriness.  Our friend says it is rather rich for a white, and could actually go with a steak, albeit not one with a lot of taste.  Maybe a filet mignon with a sauce that included some of the wine?

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The reds.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $29

Now we move on to our second group of three, the reds.  We asked the server for her recommendations, not having any reason to choose one red over another, and this was her first pick, as she noted it scored 90 points in Wine Enthusiast.  It’s good, fairly light for a red, with lots of fruit aroma and dried fruit tastes, with some tannins.

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One part of the tasting room, looking towards the door.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve $40

I often wonder about wines labeled “reserve,” and priced higher than the same grape from the same place.  However, this wine is actually better than the previous one.  The aroma combines dark fruits like black cherry, plus pepper.  It has more character than the other cab franc, and is softer and less tannic.  It would go well with duck, like the duck breasts from Bayview we plan to barbeque that evening.

  1. 2014 Anemometer Red $50

When they first opened, the anemometers were their least expensive wines, but now they are the most expensive.  This one is a blend of 40% cabernet franc, 22% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 18% syrah, which makes it their Bordeaux type.  Meh.  I much prefer the Cabernet Franc Reserve.  Not a lot of fruit to this one, nor is it at all complex.  One friend notes that it is “not challenging to drink,” and reminds him of a rioja.  Lots of tannins, so maybe given time…

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Now there’s something you don’t see at every winery.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting on the shore of Long Island Sound; modern, airy tasting room; menu of snacks; the Viognier and the Cabernet Franc Reserve; the grape soda.

Castello di Borghese: Old Favorite August 16, 2018

Castello di Borghese:  Old Favorite          August 16, 2018

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You can glimpse the outdoor seating area off to the side.

https://castellodiborghese.com/

When I say old, I’m not kidding.  Borghese took over the oldest vineyard on the North Fork—Hargraves—and is as serious about their wines as the Hargraves were.   Though we have been there when they had music—a French Edith Piaf-type singer—or oysters or art exhibits (like the current one, curated by and featuring local women artists), the emphasis here is definitely on the wines.

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So I spotted one interesting name on the list of artists contributing to the show at Borghese…

The tasting room has a bar along one side, and then wine barrel tables where you can stand and taste.  They also have some outdoor picnic tables, though it was (once again) much too hot to sit outside.

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One side of the tasting room.

Though they have several tasting options, for $20 or $15, featuring from five to seven wines, we ended up getting a more or less custom tasting, since we were the only people there and our server appreciated the serious way we went about our sniffing and sipping.  The pour is fairly generous, so sharing seven tastes was plenty for us.

They have a few wine-oriented gift items.

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A few of the gift items–or you could buy a work of art from the gallery.

  1. 2016 White Meritage    $60

Meritage on the North Fork usually refers to red wines, so we were interested to taste this white blend.  It includes semillon, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay, and is a dry, citrusy—more lime than lemon—crisp wine.  Our server informed us that the wine originated one year when they had a fair amount of semillon grapes, but not enough to bottle on their own.  The menu notes this is a “limited release,” which means it won’t be made every year or in large quantities.  I decided it is a very summery wine, with a faint aroma of peach.

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  1. 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $28

We got this taste because, as I perused the menu, I noted that I would certainly not taste the barrel fermented chard, as I tend not to like them.  “This one is on me,” insisted the well-informed and chatty retired gentleman who was our server.  “I think you’ll like it because it is not like most oaked chardonnays.  For one thing, it is aged in neutral oak.”  “Neutral” oak barrels are barrels that have been used, so when they are re-used they do not impart as much oakiness to the wine, so you don’t get that buttery taste or unctuous mouth-feel of oaked chards that I dislike.  Well, he wasn’t wrong.  I smelled honey, but the wine itself is not at all sweet or heavy, with tastes of flowers and spice and pineapple.  “It’s unexpectedly good,” I had to admit.  Lesson learned—don’t reject oaked chards without learning more about each one.

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  1. 2016 Bianco di Pinot Noir $50

“Ever hear of the saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” asked our server.  We had.  “Well,” he continued, “this is an example of that.”  In 2016 there was a nor’easter that literally blew the skins off one section of pinot noir grapes (Borghese grows, harvests, and makes all their wines.)  What to do?  This is the result—a white wine with just a tinge of pink and a taste that is more like a red than a white.  The wine smells subtly piney, and tastes like those white cherries that have about a one-week season.  A touch of citrus at the end.  I could see having this with prosciutto and melon.  It is good to be reminded that wineries are basically farms, at the mercy of the whims of nature.

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  1. 2015 Pinot Noir Reserve $68

At this point we have put ourselves totally into the able hands of our server, and let him choose our wines.  This, he tells us, is, like most Borghese wines, made in the Old World style, aged in new French oak barrels.  We discuss the observation that the Long Island has terroir has more in common with Europe than with California, which is not surprising when you consider both border the Atlantic Ocean—and were once, eons ago, part of the same continent.  (When the idea of Pangea was advanced, I’m sure I’m not the only person who thought back to that time in elementary school when you looked at a globe and thought about how those curves of the South American eastern coast would fit perfectly into the African western coast.)  Back to the wine, which is quite nice.  We smell forest and plum, and taste blackberry.  Some tannins.  I think it would go with blue cheese, and he suggests lamb chops.  Yup.  Nice finish.

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We get a new red-wine-friendly glass with the reds.

  1. 2017 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon $25

A 50/50 blend, this is a good summer red, comparable to a Beaujolais, with no tannins.  The aroma is cherry and tobacco (unsurprisingly), and tastes like cherry, too. Dry.  It would go well with burgers.

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  1. 2014 Select Merlot $30

This is a good example of a somewhat typical North Fork merlot, with cherry aromas and flavors.  It would go great with pasta Bolognese.

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  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Franc $44

We like this one the best of the reds.  The aroma is somewhat earthy, with lots of dark fruit tastes.  It lacks the depth of a really good Bordeaux, though the menu says it is a “Bordeaux type” wine.

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The actual truck–of which this is a painting–sits along Route 48, advertising Castello di Borghese.

Reasons to visit:  you are serious about wine and want to go somewhere that values that seriousness (as opposed to the “sup”—shut up and pour—places); the merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend (we buy a bottle), the Bianco di Pinot Noir, the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (for those who don’t like barrel fermented chards); the art exhibits.

Palmer Vineyards: Sold! August 10, 2018

Palmer Vineyards:  Sold!              August 10, 2018

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This is the building with the tasting room, not to be confused with the first building you come to, which is the wine-making facility.

https://www.palmervineyards.com/#established-1983

The big news locally for those who are interested in wineries was that Paumanok Vineyards bought Palmer Vineyards.  My review will apply to the wines for the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the future brought some changes.  According to one article I read, Paumanok’s winemaker will take over at Palmer.  It will be interesting to return in a couple of years to see how they’re doing.

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Meanwhile, this was our first visit to Palmer since 2016, since a couple of times we stopped by and found the place too noisy and crowded for our comfort.  So we decided to try a Friday afternoon, and found we had the place to ourselves, aside from a few people out on the covered porch area. The last time we came we sat out there, since we were with relatives who had brought their dog with them, and we also shared a cheese platter.  We didn’t get one this time, but do note that they do not allow outside food.

After discussing the menu with the manager and each other, we decided to share two tastings, one of the whites and one of the reds, and settled into a booth.  We enjoy the décor at Palmer, which reminds us of our favorite British pubs, with cozy booths and old signs.  We only wish we liked the wines better.  They are all drinkable, but only one was a standout as far as I’m concerned.  The menu offers three options, all for four wines for $16 to $18.  My husband characterized the pour as “micro”:  each taste was just that, about two sips per person.

  1. 2016 Viognier                 $24.99

Only a few North Fork wineries offer viognier, which is too bad, as I tend to like wines made from this grape.  This one is dry, with an aroma of baked pear, and some nice fruit tastes plus minerality.  The menu says it tastes like quince.  Maybe.

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Small pour!

  1. 2016 Aromatico            $24.99

Often when a wine has a name other than the varietal it is a blend, and that is true of this one, which the manager tells me is, he thinks, 60% muscat and 40% malvasia.  Steel fermented.  When I hear muscat I wonder whether it will be sweet, but this one is not.  It’s fairly interesting, not your average Long Island white, with, according to my tasting pal, “lots of body for a white.”  There’s a taste of gooseberries and a tanginess to it that would make it a good match for the scallops we picked up earlier at Braun’s.

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  1. 2016 Gewürztraminer $23.99

Uh-oh.  The manager describes this as “semi-sweet.”  Too sweet for us!  It smells like honey and nutmeg, but actually doesn’t have much flavor.  There’s a trace of a chemical flavor I dislike, and we dump the last little bit of the small taste.

  1. 2017 Sparkling Rouge Rosé $21.99

He pours this from a partly used bottle with one of those champagne re-sealing corks in it, and at the end I ask him if perhaps it had lost its sparkle by the time he poured our taste.  No, he replies, it’s just not a very bubbly sparkler.  My husband says it has NDA—no detectable aroma.  Not even the strawberry one would expect from a rosé.  It is at least dry, but if you want a sparkling rosé I suggest you seek out Croteaux’s.  Vintage liquor store in the Mattituck shopping center carries all of their wines now.

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Not very sparkling and not very rose.

  1. 2015 Merlot (No price on the menu, but the 2014 is $24.99.)

As I told my brother the last time we were here, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, the reliable grapes that almost everyone grows (despite the opprobrium they got in the movie Sideways).  As expected, it has a cherry aroma and flavor, plus maybe some purple plum.  Dry, with faint tannins and a short finish, it is aged twelve months in French oak.  You could have this with lamb chops, or even roast chicken, but it would not stand up to a steak.

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  1. 2013 Old Roots Merlot $34.99

Why Old Roots?  Not surprisingly, because these grapes come from the oldest vines on the property, dating back thirty-five years.  The grapes are hand harvested, and aged for eighteen months, leading to a slightly more intense merlot experience than the previous taste.  Lots of cherry flavor, but no depth, is our verdict.  Maybe you could have it with grilled sausages, like the ones 8 Hands Farm makes.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

According to the menu, the tastes for this include “subtle cigar box.”  Not sure what that is, but there is a smokiness to the aroma.  Not complex, it has lots of fruit flavor and is pleasant enough to be a wine one could sip as an aperitif.

 

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $28.99

The previous wine is aged for twelve months, while this one ages for eighteen, and it is more complex.  The aroma includes fruit and tobacco, and we taste plums and other dark fruits.  Not much tannin.  I remember a dish I used to make, of tongue in a pickle sauce, and think this would go with that.

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A glimpse of the covered porch. We decided to stay in the air conditioning!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room which looks like an English pub, plus a wide covered porch for outside tastings; the Aromatico and the Cabernet Franc; they serve pitchers of water if you ask; dogs are allowed outside.  Note—the first building you come to is a “self-guided” tour of the winemaking facility, so pull around to the back for the tasting room.

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This is the first building you see, but the tasting room is around the back.

Roanoke: A Highlight of Love Lane July 25, 2018

Roanoke:  A Highlight of Love Lane          July 25, 2018

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

We had some visitors who had never experienced the delights of Love Lane, so we gave them a little guided tour, from the funky Broken Down Valise bar across from the train station to the excellent Village Cheese Shop, with stops along the way to admire the Sweet Shop and Lombardi’s Market and the wall murals.  Then we settled down on the shaded back patio (which would be a nicer setting if it didn’t look out on the parking lot) for a tasting at the Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar.

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One view of the back patio area

You used to be able to go to the Roanoke winery itself (on Sound Avenue just off Roanoke Avenue), but now the only way to taste their wines is in their wine bar on Love Lane, as the winery itself is only open to members of their wine club and their guests.  I particularly remember one chilly winter evening when we were the only people at the winery and had a tasting of red wines and chocolates.  Yum.  However, the wine bar is conveniently located in the middle of the North Fork.

The room itself is rather small, with a bar along one side and a few tables and some comfortable chairs, and so is the back patio.  But even in July, Wednesdays are rather quiet on the North Fork, and for much of our time there we were the only customers.  As has been the rule this week, the weather alternated between rainy and steamy, but we were comfortable on the patio and enjoyed sipping and chatting with our friends.

The tasting menu used to be more extensive, but at the moment there is only one option:  four tastes for $14.  We decided each couple would share one taste, which the server brought out to us one at a time, quickly adapting to our slow and thoughtful pace.  You can also buy bottles of wine from a few other wineries, including our favorite, Channing Daughters, and also Wölffer Estates, Red Hook, and Grapes of Roth.

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  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Pinot Blanc     $24

Our friend’s initial reaction to the aroma of this wine was “pungent!”  And yes, it has a rather sharp aroma of pineapple, with a whiff of some sort of chemical.  A blend of 95% pinot blanc and 5% viognier, this is a light, dry summery wine with tastes of pineapple and citrus.  It would be good with clams or oysters.

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Pretty labels

  1. 2017 Infinite Possibility $22

Just consider all the possibilities of taste and aroma you can get from a blend, in this case of 60% sauvignon blanc, 39.5% chardonnay, and .5% muscat and malvasia.   Our server describes this wine as smelling sweeter than it tastes, and she’s not wrong.   It smells like honeysuckle and tropical fruits, but the taste is dry and lemony, with hints of guava and spice.  Tasty.

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We liked the concept and the label better than the wine for this one.

  1. 2017 Site Specific Chardonnay The Wild! $22

Yes, that is the exact name of this wine, including the italics and the exclamation point.  Made from a muscat clone and steel-tank fermented with wild yeasts, you would never think this was a chardonnay if not for the name.  A year ago we liked it, and the friend we were with bought a bottle.  This year, not so much.  There’s something verging on the unpleasant in the taste, which our friend describes as “yeasty.”  We also get minerals and a touch of the nuttiness we liked last year, though this time it is more like bitter almond.  And that’s why we have to go back every year!

  1. 2016 (Greater Than)  $22

The only red in the tasting, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of 53% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 17% cabernet franc.  It has a pleasant aroma of cherry and other fruit and also tastes of the cherry one would expect with a merlot.  It is very dry, with some nice tannins, and would be good with a juicy hamburger (It is getting close to supper time!)  We are intrigued by the name, and discover that it has a dual meaning.  One is that, as a blend, it is greater than the sum of its parts.  The other involves a dispute over the previous name of the wine, which was Bond.  It turned out a California winery had a prior claim to the name, so the new name is a quiet dig at them…this one’s greater than yours!  We bought a bottle.

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This leafy alley leads to Love Lane on one side and the parking lot on the other.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location amid the shops and restaurants of Love Lane; pleasant backyard patio; Greater Than; you can buy bottles of wine from other wineries; they have a variety of special events for members.

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The back patio is a relaxing place to spend some time drinking wine.

McCall’s Winery: Here’s the Beef July 21, 2018

http://mccallwines.com/

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Why the reference to beef?  Because in addition to running a winery, the McCalls also raise Charolais cattle, and sell their grass-fed meat at the winery when it is available.

If you look on their website, you will see that they care about the environment and have taken steps to protect and improve it.  They also are careful with their grapes, and, while not certified organic, they do try to minimize the use of chemicals.  They focus mostly on red wines, though they do now have some whites.

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We went there on a breezy Saturday afternoon, and had a debate about whether to sit inside or outside.  Though we ended up inside, quite a few people were sitting under the trees on the lawn.  We did note that as they were served with cheese trays several crackers were gone with the wind.

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“Inside” is a converted stable, where you can actually sit in a cozy former horse stall or at a table in the central area.  We noticed all sorts of horse-related objects—saddles, bits, etc.—hanging on the walls, and a large mural showing the original Native American occupants of the land.

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Next time I go I will ask about that mural.

The menu offers three options:  Blancs, three whites and a rosé for $12; Noble, two whites and two reds for $15; and Reserve, four of their better reds for $19.   Knowing they pride themselves on their reds, we decided to share a tasting of the Reserve wines.  They do a two ounce pour, so sharing one tasting was plenty for us.  Mrs. McCall happened to wait on me, and she was happy to give details on each wine as we took them two by two to our table.  In the past we have also chatted with Mr. McCall, and they are both very pleasant and interesting to talk to.

  1. 2013 Hillside Pinot Noir              $48

Mrs. McCall informed me that they leave these grapes on the vines longer than for their other pinot noir, making for a richer wine.  These particular vines are located on a sloping piece of their property, hence the name.  The East End of Long Island is quite flat, but there are some small hills, including one as you approach Greenport that may not be steep but is long, as I recall every time I ascend it on my bicycle.  Back to the wine.  The aroma is fruity, with some cherry and other dark fruit.  The wine is dry, with some tannins, and pleasant fruit tastes, but is overall rather light, especially in this price range.  I think it would be better with food, and my husband opines that is it “closed,” which he defines unhelpfully as “not opened up.”  Maybe it needs more aging.

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Our first two tastes, plus a view of the lawn.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $48

The vines for this wine are thirty-five years old, and the older the vines the better the wines.  This is certainly a cut above the usual Long Island reds.  I think you could even pass this off as a French wine.  It has some layers of flavor and nice fruit, plus enough tannins that you could probably age it.  On the other hand, it has very little aroma.

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The bottles for the Reserve tasting

  1. 2010 Merlot Reserve $48

Like most Long Island merlots, this has distinct cherry flavors and aromas.  I also think I get a faint whiff of pine, or forest.  This is another pleasant wine that doesn’t seem worth the price, though we like it.  Not much tannin.

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Ben’s Blend has a beautiful dark color.

  1. 2013 Ben’s Blend $54

Ben was their original winemaker, who sadly died rather young, so they commemorate him in the name of their Bordeaux blend.  It is 50% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, plus smaller amounts of cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot.  The wine has a beautiful dark color, but is not as rich as one might expect.  The aroma is fruity, with also some funkiness like a forest floor.  The taste is good, not great, but again, maybe it could still age some more.  It feels like it doesn’t quite come together.  My husband thinks it would have gone well with our dinner last night of spaghetti with Italian sausage–or maybe with a steak from the McCalls’ herd.

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Beef

Reasons to visit:  uncrowded setting (limos only by appointment) with a pleasant outdoor area and interesting indoor setting;  the reds, especially the cabernet franc; you can also buy grass-fed beef to take home; no outside food on the weekends, but they do offer a generous cheese tray for $20 (and if a few crackers blow away they bring you extras).  I didn’t ask about dogs, but we saw one couple bringing theirs to the outside area.

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

www.sanninovineyard.com/

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

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

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This view encompasses most of the tasting room.

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

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

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

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

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Five whites and one rose

  1. 2017 Gewürztraminer                 $24

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

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Another couple of months and they’ll be wine.

  1. 2017 Chilly Day Chardonnay $24

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

  1. 2017 Fresco White Blend $20

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

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

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

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  1. 2017 Riesling $22

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

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The rose is a pretty color.

  1. 2017 Bianca Dolce $16

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

  1. 2014 Merlot $25

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

  1. 2014 Syrah $30

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

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  1. 2014 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot $35

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

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon          $30

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

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An array of bottles bearing awards

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

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

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Some wine-related gifts. I bought one.

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

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

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

https://www.suhruwines.com/

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We arrived in time for the grand opening!

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

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The back yard

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

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

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

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

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

  1. 2016 Pinot Grigio           $24

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

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

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

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

  1. 2014 Dry Riesling $25

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

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  1. 2017 T’Jara Rosé $25

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

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  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $33

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

  1. 2012 Ember $27

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

  1. 2012 Shiraz $30

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

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

  1. 2015 T’Jara Merlot $33

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

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Lucky us, the grand opening included free snacks!

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

The Winemaker Studio: Cozy Room April 7, 2018

http://winemaker-studio.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. 2016 Shared Table Sauvignon Blanc       $22

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

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As you can see, this looks like a rose.

  1.  2017 White Pinot Noir               $19

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

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  1. 2017 Bordo Antico $25

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

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  1. 2014 Nemesis Pinot Noir $35

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

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  1. 2013 Tredici Cabernet-Merlot $35

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

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

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

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Organic wines!