We’ve driven past Pugliese many times in the summer, noting the crowds at the outdoor tables and the many limos (by appointment only) in the parking lot, and given it a pass. But we figured a March Saturday would be safe, and indeed, when we entered, there was only one other couple there. However, as we were leaving the first of what the servers told us would be several groups arrived, a bunch of bachelorettes in matching burgundy sweatshirts emblazoned with wine-related quips, with the bride-to-be in a matching white sweatshirt. “Rise and wine,” read the one on a cheery woman, who informed us that this was already (at 2 PM) their third winery.
If we hadn’t been on our way out, I would have recommended that they start with the sparkling Blanc de Noir, which was one of the wines we did like, and would have been a suitably festive start to their tasting. But I would guess that many of the wines on the Pugliese menu are crowd-pleasers, as they are generally un-challenging and easy to drink, as well as moderately priced.
For $12 you can choose any four wines on their extensive menu of four sparkling wines, seven whites (including one rosé), seven reds, and five dessert wines. We decided to share two tastings, trying one sparkler, the rosé, two whites, and four reds. As we sipped we admired the view out the window of Pugliese’s pretty grounds, with a vine-covered pergola and a fountain-centered pond. It would be a nice place to bring a picnic in the summer, though they discourage food in the tasting room itself (and a sign on the door admonishes “No Pets”). (One server remembered a group that brought a huge cake with them, and left “crumbs everywhere.”)
The tasting room itself is not huge, but there is a side room with tables. That space is lined with tables laden with gift baskets, which feature the pretty flower-decorated bottles of Pugliese wines and hand-painted wine or champagne glasses, all wrapped up in cellophane. If you need to pick up a gift basket in a hurry, this is the place. They also have a selection of matted photographs, mostly of local nature scenes, for sale at reasonable prices.
- 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature $25.99
Made from 100% pinot noir grapes (all their grapes are grown on their estate, we were informed), this has the typical yeasty aroma of a champagne. It is a pleasant sparkler, not complicated, with nice bubbles and a bready flavor. It would work for a toast (no pun intended!).
- 2014 Pinot Grigio $17.99
At first, I didn’t detect any aroma, but on a second sniff I decided it smelled like clover honey, plus minerals. It also tastes a bit like honey that has somehow had the sweetness removed from it, or like a tart dish that has been flavored with honey. My husband complained that it was “watery,” and I agreed that it was very light. Not a sipper, it needs to go with food, maybe charcuterie, though it has so little flavor most food would overwhelm it.
- 2015 Veronica’s Rosé $17.99
Why Veronica? “I wanted to name a wine after my niece,” said one server, who was most likely a member of the Pugliese family, since they are generally in the tasting room. This is another light, dry wine, with typical strawberry aroma and flavor, again not complex. It has a pretty pink color from the merlot grapes.
- 2016 Chardonnay Gold $14.99
They have an oak-fermented chard, but we decided to go with the steel, since we tend to prefer those. I was also thinking if we liked it we’d buy a bottle, to go with the fish we planned to buy at Braun’s later. However, we cancelled the trip to Braun’s when we realized we’d be stuck in the Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day parade, and, though we found the chardonnay pleasant, we didn’t like it enough to buy it. (Instead we stopped at 8 Hands Farm and picked up some of their delicious bratwurst.) Though the chard is a bit sweet, it is balanced by good fruit flavors of citrus, mango, and pineapple. My tasting buddy says it would have gone well with a dish I made a couple of days ago, called Chicken Veronique, chicken breasts cooked with grapes and mushrooms.
- 2012 Sangiovese $16.99
I was interested to taste this, as it is advertised on the menu as “Long Island’s only chianti.” I like chianti. I wouldn’t have necessarily identified this as a chianti, however, and, considering that 2012 was supposed to have been a good year for reds on the North Fork, this was a rather disappointing wine. However, it is drinkable, with no tannins, very light and dry. Not much fruit. My husband says it has “no oomph,” sort of a “generic wine.” It would be okay with pizza.
- 2014 Cabernet Franc $16.99
Their reds certainly are reasonably priced for the North Fork. This is another light, easy to drink wine, with no tannins. You get a bit of fruit with the first sip, but the taste soon evanesces. You could pair this with pasta with a not-powerful sauce.
- 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99
Nice aroma of dark fruit and berries precedes a taste also of dark fruit and berries, with a touch of tannins. It’s the best red so far, but again has no depth and is rather light.
- 2013 Sunset Meritage $34.99
Why sunset? “It’s just a name.” You need a non-varietal name for a blend, which this is, a mixture of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon. It’s the best red of the day, which is not saying much. Again, it is a relatively simple, light wine, “tame,” according to my drinking pal. It is pleasant, but not worth the price.
Reasons to visit: pretty setting for sitting outside; very crowd-friendly if you’re coming with a limo (which I actually did one time); lots of choices on the menu; the Blanc de Noir, the Chardonnay Gold, the Sunset Meritage; you prefer light, easy-to-drink wines with no complexity; lots of gift baskets and hand-painted glasses.