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

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

https://www.dilibertowinery.com/

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The murals help you imaging you’re in Italy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. 2017 Chardonnay $32

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

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  1.  2017 Sauvignon Blanc                $30

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

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  1. 2014 Merlot $32

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

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  1. 2016 Cantina $30

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

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

  1. 2015 Tre $42

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

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They also lead tours of Italy.

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

 

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The grounds include a room for overnight stays.

Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?            October 27, 2017

Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?

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The entrance to the indoor space. They also have an outdoor patio.

 

http://dilibertowinery.com/

The yeasty, tomatoey scent of baking pizza filled the small tasting room at Diliberto winery.  Most of the people there seemed to have come for a glass or two of red wine and one of Sal’s thin-crust pizzas.   Well, it was around one p.m. on Friday, so I guess it was lunch time.  The pizza certainly smelled and looked good, and one of the customers told us as she was leaving that it tasted good, too, recommending that we get one.  However, we were not hungry, so we settled on just a tasting.

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I waited until people left so I could get a good shot of the mural.

The tasting room at Diliberto is small, but very pretty, with trompe l’oeil paintings on the wall to give you the sensation that you are sitting in an Italian piazza.  The Visions series films, aerial views of Italy, play on the flat screen TV over the piano, and when it is quiet you can hear music from Italian operas playing in the background.  What you won’t hear is the voices of children, since Diliberto’s has a strict “No one under 21” policy, with the addendum “including children.”  They also do not allow outside food, but since most people seem to come for the $19 pizza, that’s not a problem.  The menu includes a few other food items, and on Sundays they feature a full meal—details on their web page.

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The wine menu features six wines, at $4 per taste or $10 for any three tastes.  Wines are also available by the glass or bottle, with an additional charge if you want to drink the bottle in the winery.  (For example, the Chardonnay is $22 for a bottle, but $27 if you want to drink it there.)  The wines cost $8-$12 for a glass.  We decided to try all six wines, or two tastings, which the server brought to our table all at once.

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In the past, we’ve always spent time chatting with Sal Diliberto, but this time he was not in the winery.  The young woman who was waiting on the tables was very pleasant, but clearly her job was not to discuss the wines.  My guess is that he is there on Sundays, since the dinner includes a cooking demo, and he used to do those for free on the weekends.

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This sign reminded me of how my Italian friends like to reminisce about Sunday family dinners, always with “gravy”–a.k.a. spaghetti sauce.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay          $22

This is an oaked chardonnay, and, according to the menu, spends “five months in French oak,” so I was expecting lots of butterscotch and vanilla.  Not so.  I wonder if he mixes it with steel-fermented chardonnay, since it has a fair amount of citrus flavor.  My husband describes it as “refreshing.”  It is surprisingly tart, with only a hint of vanilla.  Very drinkable, and would be nice with some charcuterie.

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Our two flights were delivered all at once, and the server carefully pointed out which wine each one was.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $19

I would have put this first in the tasting, since it is steel-fermented and quite light.  It has some asparagus aroma, and tastes more like an orange or tangerine than a lemon.  It also has a fair amount of minerality and saltiness.  “Fire Island on the beach,” began my tasting buddy, waxing poetic as he sometimes does.

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  1. 2016 Rosé $17

Now it was time for the menu writer to get poetic, describing this wine as perfect for “life on the patio with friends.”  Well, yes, if your friends are not particularly interested in taste, since this rosé has very little.  There’s nothing objectionable about this light, minerally rosé, with its taste of unripe strawberry and citrus, but we felt the aroma and taste were equally undistinguished.

  1. 2013 Merlot $19

All along I’ve been complaining that it is hard to decide how the wine smells because the aroma of pizza is so strong.  Now I think this one smells like mushrooms, and I’d think it was because of the pizza, but there are no mushrooms on it.  In any event, this is an okay merlot, rather tannic and even a bit harsh, with some black raspberry and nutmeg flavor.  No cherry taste!  We must have gotten the last glass in the bottle, as our taste has some sediment at the bottom.

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There’s some sediment on the bottom of our glass of merlot.

  1. 2014 Cantina $22

Phew, this one is much better.  A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this has aromas of cherry and tobacco and tastes of fruit and spice—more spice than fruit.  Light and not complex, this is the sort of red that goes well with roast chicken (like the one I am planning to make with an 8 Hands chicken tonight) or pizza and pasta.

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At Diliberto, you don’t stand at the bar for a tasting. They bring it to your seat.

  1. 2014 Tre $26

According to the menu, this one is only made in the best vintage years, of a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  I swear it smells like eggplant, though perhaps that’s because I’m trying to decide what I will make with the lovely eggplant I bought at a farm stand this morning.  Anyway, the wine is quite good, with lots of black cherry and purple plum tastes.  Dry, with some tannins, we think it might get better with age.  My husband says it has “the backbone to deal with food,” and I suggest osso buco as a possible dish.

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The flat screen TV shows scenes of Italy. I hear the piano gets used for various musical events.

Reasons to visit:  you have a hankering for a glass of red (I suggest the Tre) and a pizza; you want a quiet, intimate setting for a tasting; the Sauvignon Blanc and the Tre; you don’t mind that they don’t allow children or outside food; you like relatively simple but well-priced wines.

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The warm weather could fool you into thinking it is still summer, until you look at the vines and see that most of the grapes have been harvested.

Diliberto Winery: Sal’s Place April 16, 2016

http://dilibertowinery.com/

A view to the vines, still pretty bare.

A view to the vines, still pretty bare.

Hang out in Diliberto’s tasting room for more than about ten minutes and you are likely to meet Mr. Salvatore Diliberto himself.  He may emerge from the kitchen with a dusting of flour on his shirt from the thin-crust pizza he makes or enter from the cellar, where he has been guiding a barrel tasting.  We’ve been there enough times that he recognizes us, so he sat down at our table to chat for a few minutes.  He’s a friendly guy, and passionate about his wine-making.

The room feels like a piazza in Tuscany--almost.

The room feels like a piazza in Tuscany–almost.

He also loves Italy, as you can tell from the moment you enter the cozy tasting room (augmented by a semi-enclosed outdoor patio) with its trompe l’oeil murals of a “Tuscan hill town” and its sound track of Italian pop music or opera.  Scenes from an aerial film of Italy are projected on a flat screen TV over the piano which is sometimes used for performances of live opera, on occasion sung by Sal himself.  In addition, he guides tours of the Campania region of Italy.  We think it might be fun to go on one of his tours, as we have enjoyed several cooking demos he has given in the tasting room.

It's fun to look over at the video and try to identify which town is being shown.  Oh look, that's Siena!

It’s fun to look over at the video and try to identify which town is being shown. Oh look, that’s Sienna!  A marble quarry?  Pisa and its Leaning Tower!

Your wine tasting, which is brought to your table in attractive round-bottomed glasses, is accompanied by a snack of your choice from the menu.  We had olives and cheese and crackers.  You can choose three wines for $13 or five for $21.  There are six wines on the menu, so we opted to share a tasting of five, which today did not include the rosé.  We also noted that glasses of wine are $10, so if you wanted to come for a lunch of pizza and a glass of wine you could have lunch for $37—which we saw two twenty-something couples doing (note that the winery is adults-only, no children allowed).  Not a bad deal for the North Fork.

Snack!

Snack!

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

We like the pleasantly flowery aroma and dryness of this steel-fermented wine.  It is lemony with nice acidity, and tastes better once our snack arrives and we drink it with the provolone and crackers.

The line-up

The line-up

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $30

This oaked chard is described on the menu as “buttery,” and we agree.  In general I prefer un-oaked chards, but this one is nice.  You can smell the vanilla from the oak casks, and the wine is a bit sweet, so we think lots of people would like it.  I would not advise eating olives with it, however, as the two tastes do not enhance each other.

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  1. 2013 Merlot $29

Soft, is the first word I think of to describe the aroma of this rather typical merlot, and green is what I think of the taste.  It’s a bit thin, a bit tannic, and overall just okay.  We notice some sediment in the glass, and would like to ask Sal about it, but he has disappeared into the kitchen from which two freshly baked pizzas soon emerge.

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  1. 2014 Cantina $27

If you think of a casual red and white checked tablecloth Italian restaurant, you will be right on track for the taste of this wine.  We like it, and think it would pair beautifully with pizza or pasta.  The aroma has a slight note of hay or grass, the taste of this mixture of half merlot, half cabernet franc is more rounded than the merlot by itself.  My husband says “balanced,” and I agree, though he disputes my thought of sweet stewed prunes for the taste.  It goes great with the cheese.  We buy a bottle.

  1. 2013 TRE $37

Tre means three, and there are three grapes in this Right Bank Bordeaux-style wine:  65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  At first we’re not bowled over, but actually as the wine sits we like it better.  Perhaps it needs more aging, as the menu suggests.  We smell black cherry, but the taste lacks depth.  Not bad, but not worth the price.

Array of bottles

Array of bottles

Reasons to visit:  a calm, pretty room in which to sip wine or enjoy lunch; the sauvignon blanc and the Cantina; the pizza; snacks; you can pretend you’re in Italy; Sal.

View to the patio

View to the patio

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Diliberto Winery: Intimate and Friendly, Plus Pizza 12/13/14

http://www.dilibertowinery.com/

The entrance to the tasting room

The entrance to the tasting room

The strains of Italian opera waft out into the cold December air as we open the door to Diliberto Winery.  A trompe l’oeil street scene of an Italian village greets our eyes as we are warmly welcomed to the small tasting room (expanded in summer by a wrap-around patio).  We had been here fairly frequently in the past, but even though it’s now been over a year, Sal Diliberto remembers us and stops by our table to chat.  He’s been sitting at another table with a couple of friends who have been eating one of his thin-crust pizzas for lunch.  A man who loves cooking and good food as much as he loves making wine, Sal Diliberto is fun to talk to.  We share stories of eating in Italy.

Christmas decorations, and bags of home made Italian food to prepare at home

Christmas decorations, and bags of home made Italian food to prepare at home

At our table, we contemplate the menu of tastings.  There are two choices:  The Regular Tasting, of four wines for $12 or the Premium Tasting, of three wines for $15.  There is also a menu of pizzas ($17 each), cheese trays, or olives.  (No outside food is allowed—and no children, either.  When Sal and Maryann’s grandchildren run in for a moment, they are affectionately but quickly shooed out.)  We opt to do one tasting of each, alternating as we go.  I’ll indicate the Premium wines with a *.

  1. 2009 Chardonnay $26

We like the aroma—of sugar cookies and cinnamon—better than the taste, which has quite a lot of acidity and lemon flavor.  Although we don’t find it appealing, it might be better with food.

  1.  *2003 Sauvignon Blanc                $29

On the other hand, we like this, the only other white on the menus, very much.  The wine appears a bit hazy in the glass, so I’m not sure whether or not it has been filtered.  We get layers of flavor—the oak it was aged in, but also traces of sweetness.  Gooseberry pie flavored with vanilla, I say, at which my husband challenges me to say when I ever had a gooseberry.  No really, I did, once.  It would be lovely with salmon, or with somewhat spicy chicken.  We buy two bottles and get a bit of a discount, since we had done the tastings.

Art on the label--at first, I thought they were looking at cell phones!

Art on the label–at first, I thought they were looking at cell phones!

  1. *2013 Cantina                 $27

This is a new release, a 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc.  We scent spice and berries, with some earthiness, though not that barnyard flavor.  It is a good pasta or pizza wine.

  1. 2012 Merlot                     $27

Aroma of cherry and a taste of not really ripe cherry make this just an average Long Island merlot.

  1. 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

Up to now we’ve been served our wines in pairs—with a fresh glass each time, always a nice touch—but this time we opt to just take one, since our next two tastes will be the two vintages of Tre.   We like the cab sauv, though it lacks depth.  It has lots of fruit smells, and tastes of plums that are not quite ripe.  I could see this with lamb chops, hot from the grill.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2012 Tre $34

Here is their Bordeaux blend, a Right Bank style, because it is primarily merlot.  It is 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  A sniff reveals aromas of wood and fruit, perhaps pine and berries.  Though there aren’t many layers of taste it is very nice, with some tannins.

  1. *2013 Tre $37

This blends the same wines in the same proportions as the 2012, but what a difference!  It is clearly our favorite of the day, with yummy fruit and a beautiful balance of flavors. It is not at all tannic, so I’m not sure how long it would last, but at the moment it is delicious.

The piano is used for live music--which sometimes includes Sal, a true Renaissance man, singing opera.

The piano is used for live music–which sometimes includes Sal, a true Renaissance man, singing opera.

Reasons to Visit:  the best-looking tasting room, especially if, like us, you love Italy; the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre; the warmth and friendliness of Sal and Maryann; Sal’s pizza (we didn’t have it this time, but we’ve sampled it in the past).  Oh, and they have a little apartment they rent for $250 per night.d sign

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy.

Diliberto Winery April 13, 2013

The trompe l'oeil murals make you feel like you're in Italy.

The trompe l’oeil murals make you feel like you’re in Italy.

http://www.dilibertowinery.com/

“April is the cruelest month,” according to T.S. Eliot, and the weather has certainly borne that out, with a couple of warm days followed by cold and rain. Today is at least sunny, though a bit on the cool side, as we head over to Diliberto’s Winery, one of the places we’ve been to fairly frequently, though not recently.  We look forward to sitting in his cozy tasting room with its trompe l’oeil mural of an Italian street scene, listening to Italian opera, and pretending we’ve gone to warm sunny Italy for a day.

The room is presided over by Sal Diliberto himself and his wife Maryann, though Sal is in and out of the room as he ducks into his big kitchen to prepare his homemade pizza and other treats.  A table of wine club members is getting wines by the glass and two pizzas for a late lunch or early cocktail hour treat, and we know from past tastes that the pizza is good, with a crisp thin crust and fresh ingredients ($15, and there’s also a cheese platter available).  Sometimes, especially in the winter, Sal (also a lawyer, with a practice in Queens) has held cooking classes, showing a room full of tasters how to make pizza, pasta, or gnocchi.  He calls this “Sunday with Grandma,” though HE is “grandma”!

In the past we’ve also liked his wines, especially his reds, which tend to complement Italian food very well (no surprise).  However, this time our response is rather mixed.  Perhaps he’s had an off year or two, since we were last here in 2011—though he does recognize us.  The drill here is to order at the small bar, then sit at one of the ten or so tables—more in the summer, when the patio is open—and wait while the server brings each glass.  The menu lists four wines for $12, and/or two premium wines for $9, and we opt for one of each, and I’ve marked the premium wines with *.  As we sip, we listen to Sal visit with the customers, many of whom are clearly regulars, and to recorded opera (sometimes Sal himself sings, or has a performer in) and watch “Visions of Italy,” a public television show that features aerial views of the cities and countryside of Italy.  One could be in a sidewalk café in an Italian village, especially when he emerges from the kitchen with freshly made pizzelles, a little free treat.

  1.  2008 Chardonnay                            $19

An aroma of wet cardboard and acetone greets our nostrils, but we hope the wine tastes better than it smells.  This is a very tart, lemony chardonnay, with some notes of unripe pineapple, making it a tough chardonnay to like, though it would probably be okay with oysters or with seafood in a rich white sauce.

Wines are served in good glasses.

Wines are served in good glasses.

2. *2007 Tre                                            $39

A blend of three wines—hence the name—including 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc, this should be similar to a Bordeaux.  We had really enjoyed the 03 Tre, so we had high hopes for this one.  Eh.  Brambly aroma, some earthiness, a taste of prunes, some tannin.

3. 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon            $25

Hmmm…is wet laundry a wine word?  Because that’s what this wine smells like!  It is dry, with some blackberry, but would not enter the pantheon of great cabernets, especially as the finish is somewhat sour.

4. 2009 Cantina                                      $18

We’ve liked Cantina in the past, as it is a good Italian table wine, a blend of half merlot and half cabernet franc.   A few years ago we signed up for a barrel tasting with Sal and found ourselves and our guests—my brother and sister-in-law—as the only customers.  We got into such intense and interesting conversations about wine that my notes stop after the first barrel, the 07 cabernet franc, but we really liked that.  However, we find this Cantina somewhat on the thin side, with some earthiness, some tartness, and some fruit.  It would be better with pasta than as a sipping wine.

5. *2002 Merlot                                     $31

The tasting menu proudly proclaims that this is a New York State Gold Medal winner, and indeed it is our favorite of the wines we’ve tasted so far, despite a definite aroma of acetone again. We note a good berry taste, nice legs, and not much tannin.  It also seems to get better as it sits in the glass, and we like the second taste better than the first.

6. 2009 Syrah                                          $20

This wine would also, we decide, be better with food than as a sipping wine, as it lacks some of the richness and depth one expects from a syrah.  The aroma is metallic, and I taste pomegranate.  However, we opt to buy a bottle of this and one of the Cantina, as buying two bottles means the tasting is free, and we often need reds to go with Italian food.

Reasons to visit:  Sal’s cooking and the chance to chat with him about his wines or food or any other subject; a pretty tasting room; opera instead of the usual folk/rock/jazz music; the 2002 Merlot.  An apple orchard is right down the street, and we highly recommend both their apples and their warm cider.  One note: prominent signs indicate No Children and No One Under 21 Allowed, so be forewarned. 

The piano is not just for show, but gets used by performers.

The piano is not just for show, but gets used by performers.