Wölffer Estate: Trés Elegante     August 2, 2017

http://www.wolffer.com/

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The Wölffer Estate building is quite attractive.

We had an errand to run on the South Fork, one which couldn’t be put off until the winter, so we decided that as long as we would have to brave the traffic on Route 27—and there was a lot of it—we would make a day of it.  So we visited the Parrish Art Museum (great installation of gigantic photos and videos of waves) and then headed to the Wölffer Estate tasting room in Sagaponack.  We arrived there around lunch time, and a very pleasant hostess showed us to a table on the pretty back porch overlooking the vineyard.

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We perused the menu, and were immediately struck by the prices.  Well, we were in the Hamptons.  They offer two tastings, each featuring four wines for $25, the Summer Flight and the Grand Flight.  Figuring it would be a long time before we came back, we decided to get one of each, sharing tastes along the way—a decision facilitated by the fact that the wines in the two flights are well matched.  Each one has a rosé, a chardonnay, and two reds.  I was disappointed to see that All Summer in a Bottle, their popular rosé, was not in either tasting, though it was available by the glass.  Wines by the glass range in price from $10 to $28, and bottle prices go all the way up to $110.  Whew.

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We thoroughly enjoyed this cheese tray.

Since it was lunch time, we also ordered a cheese board from their well-curated menu of snacks.  We got very generous servings of our selections—Humboldt Fog, St. André, and Lamb Chopper—plus crackers (and more crackers when we used up our allotment) and a blob of guava paste for $25.  Our flights arrived at the table in a series of carafes, lined up on nice slate trays, clearly labeled as to each wine, which we then poured at our leisure into our big wine glasses.  And I do mean at our leisure, as we took our time, sipping and munching, for over an hour.  It was a beautiful day, and we felt as though we were on vacation—a feeling facilitated by the view over the vines, the excellent cheeses, and the group at a nearby table conversing in French!

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We also liked the back patio.

If you check out their web site, you will learn that the property also includes a horse farm—and the named wines are all named for horses from Wölffer’s barns—and this note in all caps:  No Bachelorette Parties.  When it was time to head home, we decided that it was worth it to take the ferries back to the North Fork rather than sit in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on 27.  Good decision.  The “Grand” tastes are marked with an *.

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The Grand flight.

  1. Rosé Table Wine 2016                 $42

Our waitress gave a quick run-down of all the wines when she brought over our flights, so my notes are somewhat sketchy.  She also spoke really quickly!  However, I did glean that this rosé is a blend of merlot and I believe she said chardonnay.  In any event, it is a very light dry rosé, so light that with your eyes closed you might think it was a sauvignon blanc, despite the faint strawberry aroma.

  1. *Grandioso Rosé 2016 $54

This rosé spends a little time in oak, which you can slightly sense, and which gives this one a bit more complexity than the other.  Again, it is very dry, with some nice fruit, and was good with the cheeses.  But for my money, I’d rather have any Croteaux rosé.

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The chardonnay is a pretty color.

  1. Chardonnay 2015 $36

A chardonnay for those who think they don’t like chardonnays, according to the waitress, this is mostly steel fermented and is very light and dry, with citrus tastes and a smell of lemon grass.  You could have it with seafood in a cream sauce.

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  1. *Perle Chardonnay 2015 $54

At this point in the tasting, we began to discuss the prices of the Wölffer wines and the fact that they have some of the few Long Island wines that are often rated in wine magazines.  Perhaps, I theorized, if you charge a lot for something, people tend to think it must be superior.  Our waitress had described this chard as her favorite, and I can see why.  Though it is oaked, it is not too oaky or buttery, with a very distinctive aroma.  We discuss the smell, and conclude that there’s a metallic edge to it.  The taste reminds me of baked pear.  It does not complement the cheeses.

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The summer flight

  1. Classic Red Blend 2014 $38

My husband insists that it smells like “wet paper,” as well as cherries, and I don’t disagree.  He also opines that this blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon has “all the requisite elements” of a red blend.  It is on the dry side, with not much by way of tannins, and some nice fruit tastes.  The waitress had mentioned that it was aged in both steel and oak, and that it might even be nice lightly chilled.

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Now you know why there are horses on the labels.

  1. *Fatalis Fatum Red Blend 2014 $58

A fairly classic Bordeaux-style blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot, this is my favorite of the day.  Dry, with good tannins, it has lots of cherry and other dark fruit/berry tastes, though an almost non-existent finish.  It evanesces!  My tasting buddy notes that it is not as complex as a French Bordeaux can be, but it would stand up to a steak.

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You can see that the pour is rather generous.

  1. Caya Cabernet Franc 2014 $58

There’s something I can’t quite identify about the aroma of this one, but also prune plums and tobacco scents.  There’s a bit of a tingle on the tongue when you start to drink it.  It’s dry, with nice tannins, and lots of dark fruit taste.  I think it would go well with grilled lamb chops.

  1. *Christian’s Cuvée Merlot 2013 $110

Yes, you read that price right.  This Long Island merlot, named for the founder of the Wölffer estate, is over $100 a bottle.  It comes from the oldest vines on the estate, and, according to our waitress, Christian said it is a wine one should savor with one’s eyes closed, the better to focus on the taste.  The fruit fly that flew into my glass seemed to like it…until it drowned and I fished it out.  Not sure how they justify the price on what seemed to us a pretty typical Long Island merlot, with lots of cherry taste, which “doesn’t dance in my mouth,” according to my husband.

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According to their web page, they use these juniper berries on the property to make their gin.

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork and you want to visit a winery and sit outside and relax (but if you just want a tasting, I’d recommend Channing Daughters); the Fatalis Fatum Red Blend; the cheese tray.

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We didn’t get to try any, but they also make ciders.

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I think I wanted to try this just because the bottle is so pretty. But it wasn’t in the tasting.

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The inside room also seems nice.

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Resident cat

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On the ferry heading home–how to get around the traffic on Route 27!

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Channing Daughters: Secret Favorite November 5, 2016

http://www.channingdaughters.com/

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

I have a confession to make.  Though my blog is titled Nofo for North Fork, my favorite East End winery is actually on the South Fork, just outside Sag Harbor, to be exact.  Why do I like Channing Daughters so much?  For one thing, I’ve never had a wine of theirs that I disliked.  We joined their wine club years ago (we get the wine delivered) and are fascinated by the wide variety of different wines they offer, especially for such a small winery.  According to their web site, they have “three dozen different bottlings.”  Their web site is worth visiting, to learn about the interesting experiments they do.  When they introduced rosés, they made six or seven different ones.  I bought a case of six varieties, and we enjoyed them all.  They also started making vermouths a few years ago, using local herbs where possible. They do a better job with reds than many Long Island wineries, and their Scuttlehole Chardonnay is the one against which we measure all other steel-fermented chards.  In fact, we served it at our daughter’s wedding.

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We also like the intimacy of the tasting room, which is augmented in the summer by some outside tables.  And in the tasting room, we’ve always found the servers to be knowledgeable about the wines, happy to answer any questions guests pose to them.  Certainly our server on this visit fit that description, discussing both the wines and the business of a winery with well-informed intelligence.  For example, we started talking about the contrast between summer and fall crowds, especially in the Hamptons, and he discussed the challenges of staffing a tasting room for a seasonal spike in visitors.

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Because we are wine club members, we did not have the regular tasting.  Instead, our server made sure that we got to try some of their newest releases, including the bottles that had arrived in our most recent shipment.  A regular tasting consists of six wines for $14, and the pour is on the generous side.  Even though I won’t be writing about most of the wines on the regular tasting menu, I don’t hesitate to recommend that people go there.  You won’t be disappointed.  And while you’re on the South Fork, you can also visit Wölffer Estate, if you want a second winery visit.  (However, I don’t recommend Duck Walk.)  Then you can drive into Sag Harbor and walk up and down Main Street, checking out the art galleries, book store, and boutiques, and ending with dinner at Il Cappuccino (or one of the other restaurants).  We haven’t been there recently, but we used to be quite enamored of the garlic knots.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

  1. 2015 Scuttlehole Chardonnay   $18

As I said, this is our favorite East End chard, named for the street on which the winery is located.  It is a crisp, dry, steel-fermented wine, with lots of lemon tastes and, as they say, mouth-watering acidity.  It goes great with food, especially fish and seafood, like Peconic Bay scallops.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $23

There is a little tocai fruliano (8%) mixed in with the sauvignon blanc, and both are slightly oaked.  The aroma is interesting, almost candy-like, with some floral notes, and the taste is equally complex.  We discuss, and identify stone or mineral and peach and peach pit.  Because it is only slightly oaked it is still quite crisp, and, like their wines in general, dry.  Nice.

Envelope has a rich color.

Envelope has a rich color.

  1. 2012 Envelope $42

Why “Envelope”?  Because the idea was to “push the envelope” of what a chardonnay could be.  Though “pushing the envelope” could describe what they do with many of their wines (like Research Cab, or Over and Over, or L’Enfant Sauvage), the results with this one are quite good.  It is what is called an “orange” wine, though it is not quite orange, because it spends more time on the skins, giving it a deeper color than your average white.  A blend of 66% chardonnay, 26% gewürztraminer, and 8% malvasia bianca, it has an almost vegetable-like aroma, which my husband compares to his favorite veggie:  Brussels sprouts.  Not a sipping wine, it would go great with charcuterie, where its tart edge would complement the richness of the meats.

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  1. 2015 Rosso Fresco $20

This one is also on the regular tasting menu, and is their sort of all-purpose red blend, a mixture this year of 47% merlot, 30% blaufrankisch, 10% syrah, 10% dornfelder, and 3 % cabernet franc.  Now that’s a blend I bet you won’t find anywhere else!   I compare the aroma to funky cherry pie.  The taste is of plums and other dark fruits, and is again dry, with some tannins.  My tasting buddy thinks it would go well with a stew, and now that the weather is turning colder perhaps I’ll make one.  Our server also mentions that the winemaker used to be a chef, so he is very attuned to making wines that go well with food.

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  1. 2014 Petit Verdot $32.40 (for wine club members)

I tend to like petit verdots, so I was eager to taste this one, and I was not disappointed.  Our server described it as “smoky, dark, and full-bodied,” and suggested it was a good wine to cellar.  I agree.  The taste makes me think of dark chocolate with a cherry inside, but it is quite tannic and I think would benefit from some aging.

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  1. 2015 Muscat de Boom $30 (for a small bottle)

Funny name for a really delicious after dinner wine, this is made with muscat ottonel grapes which are partially fermented and then dosed with grape brandy.  It is slightly viscous, like a thin honey, but not cloyingly sweet, and would pair well with dark chocolate and almonds.  Almond Joy?  Why not!

Menu

Menu

Reasons to visit:  it’s one of the best wineries on Long Island; you’re on the South Fork and want to visit a winery or you’ve decided on a day trip to Montauk and want to stop at a winery on your way; the wood sculptures made by Mr. Channing; a wide variety of wines to suit every taste; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Envelope, the Rosso Fresco, the Petit Verdot…actually, all their wines!

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More of the array of wines.

More of the array of wines.

 

Waters Crest: A Learning Experience October 18, 2015

http://www.waterscrestwinery.com/

One view of the cozy tasting room

One view of the cozy tasting room

“This was a great year for whites, but probably not for reds,” opined our enthusiastic and knowledgeable server, Adam, at Waters Crest winery, one of the semi-hidden gems of the North Fork.  I love to listen to people talk about something they are passionate about, and Adam certainly fit that description.  Though he is working for Waters Crest at the moment, he hopes someday to have his own winery, and meanwhile the good part about working for a small place like this is “you get to do everything.” The good part for those of us who are curious about various aspects of wine making is that the servers here have always been able to do a great job of answering our questions.

Though you can see the wine-making facility through a window in the tasting room, you may wonder where the vines are.  Jim Waters buys his grapes from local North Fork vineyards, then makes the wines himself.  When we first arrived we had the room to ourselves, but then a couple of small groups came in, all clearly regular customers who knew exactly what they wanted, including which cheese from the small refrigerator to get and which pizza they wanted heated up.

The tasting room is hidden in a strip of stores off Sound Avenue, with the entrance on Cox Lane, just to make finding it even harder, but they hope to soon have a spot on the Main Road, which will be great.  We have been a fan of this tiny place ever since our first visit, as the wines tend to be both tasty and interesting.  The room is small, but newly furnished with comfortable leather stools and chairs.  The tasting menu offers all seven of their wines for $15, and so we opted to share a tasting.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25.99

“We treat this more like a Sancerre,” noted Adam, using cold fermentation and no oak.  The aroma is quite floral, with notes of pineapple and lemon, which also describes the taste.  As is often the case with this grape, it would be perfect with local oysters.

Two of the whites

Two of the whites

  1. 2013 Pinot Blanc $24.99

What is “indigenous yeast” and how does it work?  If you want to know, ask Adam! Most winemakers will treat their grapes with SO2 when they come in from the field in order to kill off the naturally occurring yeasts so that they can then introduce the yeasts they have bought, thus controlling the effect of the yeast.  With this pinot blanc (and also, as we discussed, Channing Daughters’ L’Enfant Sauvage and Roanoke’s The Wild!) the natural yeasts were allowed to stay on, which also meant that fermentation took longer.  The wine was fermented mostly in steel, with just a touch of oak.  The result?  Lovely.  Aromas of green apple and minerals, with a touch of funkiness preceded a taste of tart green apple and pear salad, with some nice minerality.

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $24.99

Dry?  Bone dry!  This wine is made with grapes from upstate, from Gold Seal Vineyards, but it is not at all sweet.  .025 residual sugar, says Adam.  Interesting flavor, with notes of citrus and stone and a touch of funkiness.  Unlike most rieslings, which I would choose to have with spicy food, this would go better with duck, sausage, or, suggests Adam, knockwurst.  Good call.

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay $23.99

After a time of steel fermentation, this gets six months in new French oak, so it is not too buttery.  You do get some typical butterscotch flavors, along with lemon and other citrus.  Good, a not untypical chard.

  1. 2012 Red Blend $19.99

The mixture of 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc is blended in the bottle after being independently fermented.  This has my favorite label, inspired by the famous painting by Charles Demuth which was inspired by his friend William Carlos Williams’s poem “The great number 5.”  The aroma is typically cherry, like a merlot, and so is the taste.  It is fairly dry, and the tasting notes suggest some rhubarb in the flavor.  In any event, it is a good barbeque wine, and would be great with burgers.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

  1. 2008 Cabernet Franc $39.99

“Now you can see how our wines age,” notes Adam.  “The tannins have fallen off.”  This has a very distinct taste, combining black pepper, tobacco, and smoke with the fruit flavors, and is balanced and mellow.  I start to say roast chicken, and then we agree it would be great with lamb.  The 08 is almost all gone, as they found a few cases forgotten in the warehouse!

  1. 2010 Merlot Grand Vin $59.99

After three days on the skins (which is fairly long) the wine spends two years in new French oak.  It was worth waiting for!  2010 was a great year for reds on the North Fork, and this one, which garnered 90 points in Wine Spectator, is excellent, with lots of tannins, black cherry , and a delicious aroma.  It could stand up to a good steak.

Nice color

Nice color

  1. 2010 and 2007 Campania Rosso $56 for the ‘07

If you’re counting, you know we should be done, but as a reward for our intense interest in the wines, Adam gives us small tastes of two Bordeaux blends from two different years just to show what else they can do.  These are Right Bank blends of mostly merlot, plus cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  Though the only difference in the wines is how long they have aged and the year of harvest, they are quite different.  The 2010 is dark red, while the ’07 is more of a garnet color.  The ’10 is really good, with tannins which finally make sense to me of the term “chewy tannins” and lots of layers of flavors.  The ’07 is almost over the hill, with asparagus in the aroma and a lack of depth.   Though it is not bad, I would definitely choose the ’10, and drink it soon!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Reasons to visit:  a chance to talk to knowledgeable servers (one time it was Jim Waters himself) and learn all about the wines; the Pinot Blanc, the Red Blend, the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot Grand Vin, the 2010 Campania Rosso; no crowds on a busy weekend (though this may change once they move to a more public spot).

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Channing Daughters Winery February 2, 1213

http://www.channingdaughters.com/

We decided to celebrate Groundhog Day with a visit to the South Fork, especially since such a trip is easy in the winter, when we don’t have to contend with the traffic on Route 27.  We started with a visit to the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill.  Designed to be reminiscent of a typical Long Island potato barn, it is a long one-story building, with a soaring roof and multiple skylights, letting in plenty of sunlight on this cold but bright day.  Parrish Art Museum

We particularly enjoyed a gallery devoted to William Merritt Chase and his lovely paintings of Long Island scenes as well as his classic portraits.  Another room full of Fairfield Porter paintings was also interesting.  We then headed to our favorite winery, Channing Daughters.  I did write about a visit there last summer, but then we only concentrated on their roses.  This time we decided to do a standard tasting.

Channing Daughters is located on Scuttlehole Road, a charmingly rural road just outside of Sag Harbor (which we used to call the un-Hampton, though it is getting more and more Hamptonized).  Down a pebbled driveway one comes to the small cozy tasting room, which looks out one side to the vineyard and the other into the cellar, where one can see the huge vats of future wine.  The owner of the winery, Walter Channing, named it for his four daughters.  He also has decorated the tasting room and the grounds with his wood sculptures, many of them made from whole trees, with the roots on top, carved into various shapes.  Here’s one from the parking lot:

Tree sculpture

On this cold winter day, there were only a few small groups in the tasting room.  The very well-informed servers noted that they do not allow bus-loads!  The standard tasting that day included six wines for $10.  As wine club members our tasting was free, and we could have chosen any wines from a list of about 20, but we decided not to.

1)  2010 Sylvanus     $24

Sylvanus is named for the legendary Green Man, the Roman equivalent of Pan, the god of woods and fields, and also for the field where this wine’s grapes are grown.  One of the aspects of Channing Daughters we like is their interest in experimentation, and for this wine they used all grapes grown in one field, for a blend of 60% muscot, 30% pinot grigio, and 10% pinot bianco.  An aroma of oranges and perfume precedes a nicely dry wine with pleasant fruit and a hint of almond flavor.  I would like this wine better with food, rather than as a sipping wine, and it would pair well with local oysters or other briny seafood.

2) 2010 Tocai Friuliano     $24

Fermented almost completely in stainless steel, with only a hint of oak, this lovely wine has an almost honey-like texture with a hint of grapefruit at the end.  I could see sipping this on a nice summer afternoon, perhaps with some tomato crostini.  We also notice that, unlike some places, the wines here are not too cold, and the servers confirm that this is indeed the policy.  We like this because when a wine is too cold you can miss the nuances of its taste.

Channing white

3) 2010 Ramato     $34

As a transition from white to red, we sample what is called an “orange” wine, a white pinot grigio fermented on its skins to give it a subtle orange color and interesting complexity.  I detect a faint aroma of orange candy and, not surprising given its 6 months in oak, a taste of oak.  We decide its somewhat unctuous texture does not make it our favorite, though it would pair interestingly with lemon curd or lemon meringue pie (which, my husband notes, he never eats!).

4)  2010 Due Uve     $22

Due uve means two grapes, and that is what this wine contains–syrah and merlot.  Because of Long Island’s climate, you’re never going to get “big hot wines,” says the server, and agrees that this wine exhibits the typical local earthiness which some people “go crazy for” and others dislike.  We like some earthiness, but not when it overwhelms.  This wine has nice fruit–berries–and some hints of black pepper, and just a hint of earth.  It spends 16 months in oak.  I’m thinking it would be good with pasta with a short ribs sauce.

5)  2008 Sculpture Garden     $27

Given that there actually is a sculpture garden on the grounds (ask the server for directions), and that the oldest vineyard (planted in 1982) is named Sculpture Garden, it was perhaps inevitable that one wine would be named this.  Plus the merlot grapes in it come from that vineyard. I could see wandering the sculpture garden on a nice warm day with a glass of this easy-drinking wine in hand, but it’s too cold today!  A blend of 95% merlot and 5% blaufrankisch, this wine has a pleasant berry aroma and cherry tastes, with some earthiness, some pepper, and not a lot of depth.

6)  2007 Mudd     $40

No, the name is not a misspelling of mud!  This wine’s grapes come from the North Fork vineyard run by Steven Mudd, a well-known vineyard manager who works with a number of wineries.  Terrific wine!  This is a Bordeaux blend of 60% merlot, 21% syrah, 9% dornfelder, 5% cabernet franc and 5% blaufrankisch with an aroma reminiscent of a pine forest, and lots of black fruits and plum flavors.  Definitely yummy, and would be good with roasted lamb shanks, as its dryness would cut the fat of the lamb while it has enough fruit not to be overwhelmed.

Channing red

Extra!  Because he has it out, the server asks if we would like to try the Over and Over.  We would.

7)  Over and Over–Variation 5      $37

It is hard to explain the method used to make this wine, so perhaps the best I can do is refer you to Channning Daughters own web site, where it is explained in detail, but basically this is made using the “solera” method, where some wine from various years is combined with wine from other years and then fermented together.  We had tried one iteration (probably 3 or 4, muses the server) we did not care for, but this one is definitely a success, with blackberry flavors and aromas.  Nice.

http://channingdaughters.com/wine_order/index.php

Reasons to visit:  One of best wineries on Long Island, with lots of interesting experiments.  In addition to the above listed wines, I also love their L’Enfant Sauvage, made with wild yeast, their Scuttlehole Chardonnay, which is basically our “house” white, and their Research Cab, a good red.  

Channing Daughters Winery

7/7/12

http://www.channingdaughters.com/

Okay, so Channing Daughters is not actually a North Fork winery, though they do get some of their grapes from fields on the North Fork, but it is our favorite winery.   In fact, their Scuttlehole Chardonnay is more or less our house white, and is what we served at our daughter’s wedding.  We are here today (after two ferries and a pleasant drive across Shelter Island) because a relative with a house in East Hampton has invited us for a visit, so we intend to get a bottle of wine to bring and to buy a case of Scuttlehole Chard for ourselves.  The tasting room is small but pleasant, and the staff is always very knowledgeable.   You can also check out the interesting sculptures, often made from tree roots, by the owner.  We decide to try their four rosatos (roses), which all cost $20 per bottle.

1)  2011 Rosato di Cabernet Sauvignon

According to our server, all the rosatos spend about 15 minutes on the skins, and then are steel fermented.  They all are drink-now wines, not keepers!  This one is good, with a pleasant cherry/strawberry taste and some nice spiciness to it.

2)  Franconia 2011

This one uses blaufrankish grapes, and would make a nice aperitif wine, with again some cherry flavor and a tart, lemony finish.

3)  Petit Verdot 2011

The aroma reminds us of unripe cantelope, with a flavor reminiscent of pink lemonade–but without much sugar.  There is some complexity.

4)  Lagrein 2011

This is the best of the four, with sweeter notes at the end and a strawberry aroma and flavor.  We buy this one to bring to the party!

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork but you want to visit a winery; great wines, including our favorite Long Island chardonnay, their Scuttlehole chardonnay; they experiment all the time with new wines and new methods, so it’s fun to explore.

Addendum:  On a recent visit, all the roses bore “sold out” signs, so if you’re interested in buying them I suggest you get there early next year!