Kontokosta Winery: Absorbing the Crowds May 28, 2017

http://kontokostawinery.com/

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

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

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

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

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You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

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

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

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

  1. 2015 Viognier    $25

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

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The server lining up our tastes of the whites.

  1. 2015 Field Blend             $22

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

  1. 2014 Merlot      $34

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

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The reds (of course).

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $29

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

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $40

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

  1. 2013 Anemometer Red                $50

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

McCall Wines: Feeling Rustic May 21, 2017

http://mccallwines.com/

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Although they are right off Main Road, when you pull around to the back you feel as though you are in the country.

Although they are right off the Main Road, there is a rustic feeling to the McCall Wines tasting room and property, a sense of peace and quiet—at least when it is not crowded.  Part of this is due to the tasting room itself, located in a former horse barn, with the stables repurposed as tasting alcoves, and the other part is the lawn outside, dotted with picnic tables and adjacent to the vines.

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Inside tasting area, in a repurposed horse stall.

On this sunny afternoon, we shared the place with several other couples and small groups.  We could have stood at the bar or sat inside at a table, but we decided that the sun had been making a rare enough appearance that we needed to sit outside and enjoy the pretty day.  Mrs. McCall brought us our tastes, except when we decided to pop in and get them ourselves.  She served them two at a time, in a two-ounce pour that felt quite generous.

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Part of the outside area, with a view of the vines.

The menu offers four choices:  Blancs, four whites for $12; Corchaug, four reds for $16; Premium, a mixture of two whites and two reds for $14; and Estate, four of their higher priced wines for $20.  They also offer a small menu of cheese and crackers, and request no outside food on Fridays-Sundays.  We decided to do a shared tasting of the whites and then the Corchaug reds (named for the Native American name for Cutchogue).  We had high hopes for the reds, since McCall had started out only making red wines, but we were also pleasantly surprised by how much we liked the whites.

  1. 2016 Marjorie’s Rosé    $18

Yesterday we attended a Case Club event at Croteaux Vineyards, our standard for North Fork rosés, so we had a recent comparison in mind when we tasted this mostly merlot pink wine.  It was quite different from the two Croteaux wines we had sampled, but fine in its own way.  The aroma had almost as much minerality as strawberry smell, and the taste also balanced minerals and sweetness, though a bit sweeter than we like.  My husband said it reminded him of pancakes with strawberry syrup.  Well, maybe not that sweet.  This is a rosé one could enjoy sipping well-chilled, though I prefer the leaner style of Croteaux.  (The wine is named for Mr. McCall’s mother.)

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  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc    $24

Mrs. McCall informed us that this was made in the French style, like a Sancerre wine (think sauvignon blanc=Sancerre and chardonnay=Chablis).  Good choice.  Although it did not have much aroma, it had some lovely tastes of citrus and kiwi and maybe gooseberry as well, plus some minerality and even a bit of salt.  Refreshing, was my tasting buddy’s summation.  We liked it.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay Unoaked        $18

This is a pretty typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with citrus tastes and just a touch of sweetness.  The aroma reminded me of wet rocks, with almost a chemical note.  It’s a fairly tasty steel chardonnay, and might overpower a delicate fish.  However, it would have gone well with the fillets I made the other day which were topped with an anchovy and onion sauce (thank you, Marcella Hazan and Braun’s fish store).

  1. 2014 Chardonnay Reserve          $39

Not surprisingly, the oaked chardonnay smelled like Werther’s butterscotch candy, and tasted rather butterscotch-y as well.  Not my favorite, but I could appreciate that it has layers of flavor.

  1. 2013 Pinot Noir               $30

When I told my husband this was a light red that would pair well with roast chicken, he told me I needed to think of another food pairing.  Okay, I said, pork chops.  This reminded me of a Beaujolais, a picnic wine, though it has a bit of a tannic tingle that makes it a touch more interesting.

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These two Pinot Noirs look similar, but taste different.

  1. 2013 Pinot Noir Hillside               $39

When Mrs. McCall brought us our first red tastes, along with fresh glasses, she explained that this one is called “Hillside” because…the grapes are grown on a hillside.  Really.  But that’s not as simplistic as it sounds.  Because of the hilly location, this part of the vineyard has better drainage, which concentrates the flavors of the grapes.  Although it is similar to the other Pinot, the aroma is stronger and the taste features more dark fruit and is somewhat mellower, with a longer finish.  My husband noted that he wasn’t wearing socks, but if he were, they would not have been knocked off by this wine.  Good, but not exciting.

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  1. 2012 Merlot Reserve     $24

Does anyone still know what Cheracol is?  It was a cherry-flavored cough syrup I became quite familiar with in my pre-tonsillectomy youth. Fortunately, though this merlot smells like Cheracol, it doesn’t taste like it!  The wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and not a ton of fruit, with a long finish.  We’re thinking it could even use more time to age, and, as my tasting buddy opined, it “shows promise.”  If we had room in the cellar (well, we just bought a case of Croteaux rosé), we might have bought a bottle to keep for a few years.

  1. 2010 Merlot Reserve     $39

2010 has a reputation as a great year on the North Fork, especially for reds, and Mrs. McCall was quite enthusiastic about this wine—deservedly so.  I think the technical term is “yummy.”  The tannins are relatively soft, so my guess is one should drink it now.  The aroma is of cherry tempered by wood, and the taste has lots of complex fruits, while still being dry.  If we had stayed on and ordered some cheese to go with a full glass of wine, this would have been my choice (Instead we went home and sat on our porch with wine—a lovely Meritage from Coffee Pot Cellars–and cheese from Love Lane Cheese shop!).

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The tasting barn.

Reasons to visit:  lovely bucolic setting; calm place that limits groups; unusual tasting room; the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2010 Merlot Reserve; nice picnic tables for during the week if you want to bring some snacks.

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Pindar: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day February 20, 2016

http://www.pindar.net/

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

A beautifully deep rich voice singing “sunshine on a cloudy day” greeted us as we entered Pindar’s large tasting room, and that seemed like an appropriate message.  It was a cloudy day, and, as the French say, “A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.”  Pindar often offers musical entertainment, and is often crowded.  Today, however, there were only a few couples at the bar and the tables in a room that, according to their web site, can accommodate 3,000 (!).  Because of the crowds, we hadn’t been there in a few years, but this visit reminded us that we like many of their wines, though not all.  Their prices also are quite reasonable, which may have something to do with the economies of scale, as they say they are the largest vineyard on Long Island.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

The menu offers 5 tastes for $10, out of 14 choices, including four characterized as “sweeter” and two dessert wines, plus another list of three “limited” wines at $3 per taste, and a sparkling wine.  The list is further divided into reds, whites, and “proprietary blends,” so it took us a while and some discussion to decide what to do.  We finally decided to share two tastings, first the whites, including two of the proprietary blends (marked with an * in my review), and then five of the reds.  We chose to skip the rosés, as we tend to find no one’s measure up to Croteaux’s.   Since the pour is rather generous, we were glad we chose to share.  They also offer a selection of cheeses and crackers, and do not allow outside foods.

One view of the bar--one of the bars!

One view of the bar–one of the bars!

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc    $14.99

In general, we feel Long Island sauvignon blancs tend to go better with food, as they tend to be too lemony to just sip, and that’s true of this one as well.  The aroma is of mineral and peach.  Very refreshing, I could see having this with lobster, as its tartness would offset the crustacean’s richness.  My husband notes that the end is too lemony for too long for his liking, especially sans food.

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  1. *Autumn Gold $10.99

This is a blend of Cayuga, Seyval, and chardonnay grapes, our server informs us, as will be our next choice, though in different proportions and different residual sugar amounts. We ask if the Cayuga is from upstate, since it is an upstate grape, and are informed that they grow all their grapes in their own vineyards.  We like this better than the first wine.  It has a touch of sweetness and a bit of funkiness which are well balanced with green apple and citrus tastes.  I also smell some minerality.  This is a very buyable wine, and we get a bottle of it to take home.

  1. *Winter White $10.99 for 750 ml., $17.99 for 150 ml.

“Our most popular white,” notes our server as he pours this blend.  We smell tropical fruits, and are ready to like this one but find it much too sweet for our tastes. The menu describes it as “semi-dry,” which makes us wonder about the wines they categorize as “sweeter.”   You could serve it to someone who actually would prefer soda—or maybe with Thai food.  We dump it.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera's favorite bird.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera’s favorite bird.

  1. 2013 Peacock Chardonnay          $9.99

There’s a pretty peacock on the label, so we ask (as we did two years ago) about the name of the wine.  Still no answer!   This spends eight months in French oak, and we do smell a bit of that woody smell.  We don’t really care for this one, either.  The taste reminds me of over-ripe bananas plus a really tart grapefruit—they say “citrus rind”—and then too much sweetness.  We don’t dump, but we also are not fans.

  1. 2013 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

Why sunflower?  This time we get an answer—a sunflower appeared spontaneously in the midst of the vineyard.  The menu describes this as “100% new barrel” fermented, from a “special 3.9 acre vineyard block.”  Sniff—vanilla and grape juice.  This has more body than any white so far.  I say nice.  My tasting buddy says it is “not offensive at the end.”  One could sip this, and it would also be good with a seafood diavolo, since it has some sweetness to it, but not too much.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $21.99

Now we switch to reds, and get a new glass.  Our server tells us this was just released.  Hmmm…smells good.  Berries, forest floor, maybe wet leaves.  Tastes light, more of a roast chicken or game bird red than a steak red. It would have gone well with the quail from Feisty Acres we bought at the Riverhead Farmer’s Market and had for Valentine’s Day dinner.  But it is soft, pleasant, and quite drinkable.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

Another pretty label, this one with Pegasus, the flying horse, on it, reminds us that Pindar is named for the Greek poet and owned by the Damianos family, who are Greek.  The wine spends two years in American oak barrels, and has just been out for six months.  I like the aroma, which has a bit of a black olive smell.  This is another fairly light red, dry, with some tannins and tastes of stewed prune and spice, maybe allspice.  My husband thinks it could use more time.

Pegasus, the flying horse

Pegasus, the flying horse

  1. 2013 Merlot $18.99

Merlot is the most popular red wine grape around here, and this is a fairly typical example of a merlot, though with more of a café au lait aroma than most.  My tasting buddy says it reminds him of Hopjes candy.  I’m thinking mocha.  Again, nice and soft, dry at the end, with some nice fruit flavor, but not particularly interesting.

Another Greek reference--the Argo, Jason's chip.

Another Greek reference–the Argo, Jason’s ship.

  1. 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $34.99

“This,” says our server enthusiastically, “is my favorite!”  Yes, I can see why.  It is quite good.  Oak (two years in French oak), cherry, and tobacco aromas, with lots of berry tastes, this would have gone well with the lamb chops we had last night.  Very drinkable.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $34.99

The menu informs us that these grapes were hand-picked and the wine spent two years in French oak.  We smell black cherry and dark plum and taste lots of dark fruit tastes.  Yes, it is better than their other merlot.  Then again, everyone says 2010 was a very good year, especially for reds.

Lots of snacks

Lots of snacks

Reasons to visit:  big room that accommodates a crowd (which might also be a reason not to go!); frequent music performances; good prices for Long Island; the Autumn Gold, Sunflower Chardonnay, 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 Reserve Merlot; they sell cheese and crackers and other snacks; lots of choices; wines that non-wine drinkers may prefer.

Plenty of room at the bars

Plenty of room at the bars

Me

Pretty stained glass window

Pretty stained glass window

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Clearly they've won lots of awards.

Clearly they’ve won lots of awards.

Mattebella Vineyards: Science Experiment! August 9, 2015

The small tasting cottage

The small tasting cottage

http://www.mattebellavineyards.com/

“So first you’re going to try the 2009 chardonnay and the 2013 steel chardonnay,” our charming server explains, pointing out the ways in which they compare.  She also sets down in front of us two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie, about which more later.  Mattebella gives you the opportunity to make side by side comparisons of their wines, and in the process you can learn some interesting aspects of wine making, which I’ll tell you along with my discussion of each wine.  We started to compare our experience with doing a fun science experiment.

What amazing hydrangeas!

What amazing hydrangeas!

Another attractive feature of the winery is their beautiful outdoor patio setting, with a variety of comfortable seating surrounded by lush hydrangea and rose bushes.  The tasting “cottage” itself is quite small, so this is a place we reserve for beautiful days when we can sit outside and relax while being served.  Others clearly think so, too, for though the patio was very quiet when we arrived, several groups walked in shortly after we did and all seemed to be enjoying the experience, including one group of young people who entered into a lively discussion with Mr. Tobin, the owner (with his wife, who was also there) of the winery.  It is quite a family place, as evidenced by the active participation of the owners in the tasting room, the name of the vineyard—named for their two children—and the name of most of their wines: Famiglia, Italian for family.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Service is warm and personal, and the wine tasting includes some small tastes of food, since they believe that food affects how wines taste.  The menu has two main options:  the Light Flight is $17 for 6 whites and 2 rosés, or the Red Flight, $19 for five reds.  (Note—they do not accept American Express, though they take other cards.)  You can also order individual tastes for $2-$6, glasses of any of the wines, or a glass of their wine cocktail or sangria for $14.  Non-drinkers can order their house-made lemonade or water.   We decide to share one of each flight, so we can try all the wines.  Though there are a lot of tastes on the menu, our server tells us that it is a one ounce pour, so we figure we can handle it!

Light Flight

  1. 2009 Chardonnay            $21

We thought the server might have been a little confused when she set two glasses down on the table, but she soon explained that she was serving two wines side by side so we could compare them.  The 09 is an oaked chard from a cold season, she noted, which made it fairly “crisp and sharp” and an interesting foil for the 2013 steel-fermented chardonnay.  She also set down a pretty pottery plate with two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie.  She recommended that we experiment by tasting each wine, then taking a bite of the cheese, and then sipping the wine again to see how having it with the creamy cheese changed the effect of the wine.   Okay!  The ’09 has a perfume-y aroma of pear and citrus, with, says my husband, “a fair amount going on.”  Once we take a bite of the cheese, we note more vanilla and baked pear tastes, as well as a surprising amount of citrus for an oaked chard.  On to the ’13.

Double cream brie on baguette.  Yum.

Double cream brie on baguette. Yum.

  1. 2013 Steel Chardonnay $21

The aroma is faintly grassy, the taste good, with some fruit but fairly dry, maybe a touch of bitter orange.  We don’t see as much change with this one after the bite of cheese as the other, but it is a good complement to the cheese.  Usually I think of red wine with cheese, but with a soft rich cheese I will now consider whites as well.

  1. 2010 Chardonnay $21

Now we are asked to consider another pairing of the same grape, treated similarly (both lightly oaked, this one 20% oak and 80% steel fermented), but from very different years.  2010 is generally considered to have been a very good year on the North Fork, with warm dry weather which led to great ripening of the grapes.  No surprise, this is a lovely rich chard, with great depth of flavor, the aroma grassy, fruity, and sweet.  If we needed a white at the moment, we’d buy it.

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  1. 2011 Chardonnay $21

In contrast, 2011 was a very rainy year, and so the grapes contain a lot of water.  Wow—this wine is waterier!  Although it is only 5% oaked, the taste has lots of oak in it, perhaps because there’s not as much chard taste to counteract it.  We smell the expected woodsy vanilla aroma, and the taste is quite light, almost evanescent.  Our server characterizes this as a sipping wine.  I think if you put an ice cube in it on a hot day you could almost forget you were drinking wine.

  1. Famiglia 2012 $21

Now we get to try two wines from the same vintage year, same grape, but treated differently.  This is fun, we tell each other.  2012 was another good year.  The Famiglia is 20% oaked, with aromas of vanilla, baked pear, and butterscotch.  It is lighter than one might expect of an oaked chard (so for those of you who say “I don’t like chardonnay,” you need to try a bunch of differently treated chards), with some sweetness at first taste which then dissipates.  Fine, but we like the 2010 better.

  1. Reserve 2012 $28

This chardonnay has been 38% aged in French oak, and we have no trouble telling which is which just on appearance, since this wine has a darker gold color than the other.  Mmm…smells good and tastes good, too.  Lots of oak and fruit tastes, mouth-watering, “softer and sweeter,” opines my drinking pal.  Very easy to drink.  It would be good with spaghetti and fresh clam sauce or sautéed scallops, though you wouldn’t want it with anything too creamy.

  1. 2014 Rosé $20

Mrs. Tobin stops by to say hello and give us a bit of background on the rosé.  It is 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc and chardonnay, she tells us; the merlot is a Pomerol, the 181 clone also used by Croteaux.  The grapes are picked when they are still “crunchy.”  We smell and taste strawberry, green apple, and a touch of lime.  Very light.

The

The “fun, party” sparkling rose.

  1. 2014 Sparkling Rosé $27

We get a new glass for the sparkling rosé, a tall slim one.  This is a fun wine, Mrs. T. tells us, not at all serious, and the syrah grape juice accidentally spent too long on the skins, hence its dark pink color.  Lots of over-ripe strawberry smells and tastes, almost soda-pop-y, this is much too easy to drink.  I decide to dub it the bachelorette party wine, and indeed I observe the young woman at the next table order a full glass of it, while her companion opts for a glass of sangria.

Red Flight

  1. Famiglia Red         $23

In 2012 we bought the Famiglia Red for $15, and last year it was $21, but prices do tend to rise, even on the non-vintage wines, though this is still a bargain compared to their other reds.  This is a good everyday wine, and goes with pizza and pasta, as our server tells us.  It spends a year in French oak, and then is put into steel to stop the aging.  (By the way, Mattebella is one of the vineyards that uses the facilities at Premium Wine Group to produce their wines.)  We smell leather and fruit, taste some cherry.

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  1. 2008 Old World Blend $44

With this wine a small plate arrives with pairs of treats—fig jam and gorgonzola on baguette, bacon jam and grana cheese on baguette, and little bits of brownie—which we are advised to pair with our next wines.  These are all Bordeaux blends, with varying percentages of the grapes.  The ‘08 is 86% merlot, 7% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon (The petit verdot didn’t ripen in time, we hear.)  We smell dark fruits, though the wine is on the light side.  The taste improves after a bite of the yummy fig jam and gorgonzola, a combo I will definitely try at home.

More yummy snacks!

More yummy snacks!

  1. 2009 Old World Blend $41

Since I asked about the percentages on the last wine, our intelligent server makes sure to tell me these:  93% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 3% petit verdot, 1% cabernet sauvignon.  Remember, this was a cold, rainy year.  The wine is fairly tannic, with aromas of earth and minty candy, not very complex.   Having it with a bite of bacon jam and grana cheese does help.  Then again, what wouldn’t be helped by bacon jam!?

  1. 2010 Old World Blend $48

If you come here for a tasting, you will definitely understand the difference a year makes.  We tend to forget that winemaking is farming, dependent on earth and weather, but this progression of vintages makes that clear.  If their “biodynamic” farming methods are as effective in the fields as they are on the huge hydrangeas we are admiring, they must work amazingly well.  The blend here is 88% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot, and we are also advised that this could be cellared for 4-5 years.  We smell dark fruits, taste lots of cherry, a touch of chocolate, good tannins, though not a lot of complexity.  It is good with the brownie!

  1. 2007 Old World Blend $63

84% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 2% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petit verdot.  Of course, they saved the best for last—and also the costliest.  The aroma is delicious and so is the taste, with a “nice mouth feel,” says my pal.  It is very good, but we have had the privilege of tasting world-class Bordeaux, which this is not—on the other hand, it doesn’t cost as much as they do, either!

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful outdoor setting with friendly table service; the fun of experimenting with tasting wine with and without food (and where else is food included in your tasting?); the fun of comparing vintages and methods of winemaking; a chance to learn about the influence of weather on grape crops and hence on the wines; the 2010 chardonnay; the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay; the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink; the Famiglia Red; the 2010 Old World Blend.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you'll notice that they don't use herbicides.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you’ll notice that they don’t use herbicides.

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Premium Wine Group A. K.A. Bridge Lane A.K.A. Lieb Cellars August 5, 2015

http://premiumwinegroup.com/

http://liebcellars.com/

http://bridgelanewine.com/

lieb entrance

No, this winery has not entered the witness protection program or committed a crime; rather they have diversified their offerings to include both the lower priced options from Bridge Lane and their slightly higher end wines bearing the Lieb name.   Premium Wine Group—which appears prominently on the sign outside the tasting room—designates the facility attached to it where various wine makers on the North Fork come to use the production facilities, rather than make the rather hefty investment in their own.

At the far end of the building you can see the entrance to the wine-making facility.

At the far end of the building you can see the entrance to the wine-making facility.

What’s unique about the Bridge Lane wines is that they are offered for sale by the bottle, the box, or the keg, giving a whole new dimension to the term “kegger.”  A keg holds the equivalent of 26 bottles and, according to our server, is particularly popular for weddings and other large parties.  Just to give you a sense of relative costs, a bottle of Bridge Lane Chardonnay is $15, while a box is $40 and a keg is $240.  In the tasting room the Bridge Lane wines are poured from the tap, like beer, rather than the bottle.  You might think that this all indicates a lesser quality of wine, but we would be perfectly happy to drink most of them.  Busy Russell Hearn, who also has his own small label SuHru, is the winemaker for all the wines.

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

The tasting room is small, set up like a lounge (or, as a certain four year old—non-drinking—visitor  opined, “like a living room” ) with a bar on one side and banquettes around the walls.  We were there late on a week day, and had the space mostly to ourselves.  There are also picnic tables and comfortable Adirondack-style chairs outside.  The menu offers five Bridge Lane wines for $12 or five “featured” wines (Lieb label) for $12.  We opted for one tasting of each, so we could sample all of them.  Packages of crisp skinny bread sticks are on the bar for palate cleansing, and the four-year-old quite approved of them.

I list the tastes here in the order we had them, with the Featured selections second, marked with an *.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Merlot                               $16

White merlots have become more popular on the North Fork lately, and this one reminds us a bit of Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, though it is lighter.  It is tart and citrusy, a good summer quaff.

  1. *NV Rumor Mill Hard Cider $9

Yes, that’s $9 per bottle!  And you could serve this to wine lovers who would be quite happy to drink it.  It is made, as our server informed us, “from ten different varieties of apples,” all grown on the North Fork.  It does not taste particularly like a cider, and is tart, crisp and light, with a slight trace of bubbles.

lieb white

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Chardonnay $15

A steel-fermented chard, this has the fairly typical veggie aroma, and tastes citrusy and grassy and tart.

They can't call it champagne...

They can’t call it champagne…

  1. *2010 Lieb Cellars Blanc de Blanc $30

Made from pinot blanc grapes in the Méthode Champenoise, this is their entry in the sparkling wine category.  I smell a bit of yeasty bread, taste some green olive taste.  It is very dry, and pretty good, though I’d probably get a Cava or Prosecco rather than spend $30 for this level of sparkle.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend $16

A mixture of 29% chardonnay, 26% pinot blanc, 16% riesling, 14% viognier, 9% sauvignon blanc, and 4% gewürztraminer—everything except the kitchen sink, observes my husband—this is a quite pleasant drink, with a good balance of sweet and tart.  When I came here with a group, this one was very popular.  The aroma has a bit of the forest floor funk, but the taste is not at all funky.

  1. *2014 Lieb Pinot Blanc $22

Our server proudly informs us that Lieb has the largest planting of pinot blanc in the United States, which they started in 1983.  In any event, this is a delicious wine, with some baked pear aromas and flowery, pineapple-y tastes.

The rose sure looks pretty.

The rose sure looks pretty.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Rosé                 $18

They make their rosé from a blend of cabernet franc and merlot, and we smell the typical strawberry aroma, taste some fruit.  Not complex, no finish, still no competition for Croteaux, but certainly drinkable.

lieb red

  1. *2013 Reserve Merlot $24

This is also very drinkable, a dry soft, very cherry merlot.  It spends 10 months in Hungarian oak, which, our server notes, is milder than French oak.  No tannins.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Red Blend $16

For $16, this is quite a good everyday red, which I could see enjoying with spaghetti and meatballs any night of the week.  It is a Bordeaux-style blend of 46% merlot, 37% cabernet sauvignon, 12% petit verdot, and 5% malbec, with a touch of earth and forest floor as well as dark fruit aromas and good fruit tastes, not sweet.  We notice that if one buys three bottles of any wine one tasting is free, and decide three bottles of the Red Blend would be a worthwhile investment.  Unfortunately, the red is served a bit too cold, perhaps a result of the tap system.

  1. *2013 Lieb Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

By the way, calling a wine “reserve” means whatever the winery wants it to mean, but usually means they think this is a particularly good wine.  They would be correct with this one, which we would buy for our cellar if we had room at the moment.  Lots of dark fruit, interesting tannins, it’s a delicious dry red that could stand up to steak.

lieb board

Reasons to visit:  you can buy a keg of wine, how cool is that?; wine on tap; a pleasant calm tasting room (or go to their Oregon Road room if you want to get further off the beaten track); almost all the wines, but for fun the Rumor Mill Cider; more seriously the Reserve Cabernet Franc; for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend.

lieb array

Here you can see the taps from which they dispense the Bridge Lane wines.

Here you can see the taps from which they dispense the Bridge Lane wines.

Sannino Bella Vita: Small Place, Big List June 27, 2015

This used to be the Ackerly Pond Vineyard, and, though none of the wines are labeled Ackerly, the sign is still there.

This used to be the Ackerly Pond Vineyard, and, though none of the wines are labeled Ackerly, the sign is still there.

http://www.sanninovineyard.com/

The sign outside Sannino Bella Vita says no groups of over six without a reservation, and that’s a good idea, because this small venue really can’t handle a big influx, as we saw when a group with a Groupon and another group there for Anthony Sannino’s wine tour arrived at the same time.  However, the cheerful and hard-working tasting room staff did their best to compensate, and we were in no hurry anyway.  Our youthful server was new to the winery, and actually learned a few facts from us, but she was so charming we didn’t mind at all.

Anthony Sannino off to give a tour.

Anthony Sannino off to give a tour.

This is a great spot if you hope to interact with an owner, as Anthony Sannino is usually on site.  In addition, for a small winery they have an interesting range of choices, with a menu of eleven different wines to choose from for a tasting.  Since their standard tasting is six wines for $18, we decided to share two tastings, thus getting to sample all the wines (except one that is off the menu).  They generally set up all of your tastes on a tray, but with the influx of the groups they asked if we would mind getting our tastes one at a time, since they were worried they would run out of glasses!  No problem.  We also could have ordered a cheese and meat tray for $18.

One side of the room

One side of the room

We opted to sit on stools at the bar, but most other people sat outside on the side patio.  The room has, according to one of the servers, “a certain rustic charm,” and we agree.  There’s also a small selection of amusing wine-related gifts, and the Sanninos run a B and B next door to the winery.  They are just down the street from Greenport Harbor Brewery’s Peconic location, where mass quantities of people were flocking for a barbeque cook off.  We decided to give it a miss.

Some gift items

Some gift items

bella bib

  1. 2014 Chilly Day Chardonnay $18

There’s an interesting vegetable aroma which we note in several other of their wines.  Maybe asparagus?  Also a touch of baked pear, even though this is a steel-fermented chard.  The taste is a touch sweet for a steel chard, but ends with a tart lemony flavor.  Nice, and quite buyable.  We also note that the whites are served at a good temperature—not too cold.

  1. 2013 Off-Dry Riesling                    $17

“Bronze Medal in the FLI,” says the menu, which we later learn stands for Finger Lakes International.  We’re somewhat iffy on rieslings, but this one is quite nice, with green plum aromas and tastes, plus a touch of citrus.  It’s not too sweet, and would be a nice chilled summer sipper or an accompaniment to Thai food.

bella bottles

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $22

“I’d definitely have this with oysters,” I say.  Lots of not-overly-ripe pineapple taste, tart, lemon at end, with a touch of cabbage in the aroma.  Also worth buying, I think.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $20

The menu says this is “fermented in steel and accented in oak,” and though at the moment there was no one to tell us exactly what this meant, we can figure it out, as this is an only lightly oaked chard.  We smell honey and almond butter, but the taste is dry and crisp.  If you find steel chards a bit too crisp and oaked chards too buttery, you’d probably like this one.

Pretty color

Pretty color

  1. Bianca White Merlot $16

This is a rosé, of course, so, as always, we compare it to Croteaux.  The color is a pretty dark pink, with sweet strawberry aromas with again a touch of that vegetable scent.  It’s good, though sweeter than Croteaux’s 314, and with less going on.

  1. 2014 Bianca Dolce $15

Our server confidently informs us that this is their sweetest wine, and notes that “people come in just for it.”  I get that.  This has a lighter color than the Bianca, and is quite sweet, almost enough to be a dessert wine.  However, it is light and not cloying. Might be nice over ice.

bella second

  1. 2nd Bottle Red $20

Why 2nd Bottle?  Because this is a wine you serve second, because “nobody cares by the second bottle.”  A non-vintage blend of varietals, this is a fine barbeque wine, with no depth and not a lot of fruit, but quite drinkable.  Something in the aroma reminds me of a black olive tapenade, like the one we sampled earlier in the day at Vines and Branches in Greenport.

  1. 2012 Merlot $25

Another FLI Bronze Medal winner, this 100% merlot spends 22 months in French and Hungarian oak.  We smell plums and a hint of smoke and taste cherry.  Neither sweet nor dry, this is a passable merlot, though my husband says he “would not go out of my way for it.”

  1. 2012 Prima Rossa $34

50% cabernet sauvignon, 33% cabernet franc, 17% merlot, we inform our eager-to-learn server, means this is a Left Bank Bordeaux-type blend.  It’s also quite good, with aromas of coffee, cigars, and grape juice and lots of dark fruit tastes.  This one is also aged for 22 months in French and Hungarian oak.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $34

Ooh, this wine won a Silver Medal in the FLI.  The menu describes it as “elegant.”  Well, there is something restrained about it.  Quite dry, with a bit of a woody aroma, it would be okay with lamb, but we liked the Prima Rossa much better.

Our favorite of the reds

Our favorite of the reds

  1. 2012 Spotlight Petit Verdot $42

We opt to get two tastes of this one, to complete our twelve, and decide that was a good choice, as we like this the best of the reds.  A blend of 85% petit verdot and 15% cabernet sauvignon, aged 22 months in French and Hungarian oak, this wine has lots of dark fruit aromas with just a touch of smoke, and tastes very good.  Lots of fruit, maybe some jam—I could see this with the Crescent Farm duck breasts I served with a strawberry-rhubarb sauce last week.  It certainly merited its Silver Medal in the FLI.

This serious-looking canine statue stands guard over the parking lot.

This serious-looking canine statue stands guard over the parking lot.

Reasons to visit:  you like an intimate setting, with the chance to chat with an owner (if he’s not giving a tour—or you could sign up for the tour!); the Chilly Day Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Prima Rossa, the Spotlight Petit Verdot; a cute selection of gifts.

bella baby

The vines are in full leaf now.

The vines are in full leaf now.

Croteaux: Still the Best Rosé May 9, 2015

http://www.croteaux.com/

cr yard

If you only do one thing, it is best if you do that one thing well, and Croteaux does.  All they make is rosé, and they make the best rosés on the North Fork.  Paul and Paula Croteaux are likely to greet you as you walk through the small entry area and out into the lovely outdoor yard, where you are seated by a cheery hostess in one of the flowing tops they also sell in the charming boutique.  Paul, slim and gray-haired, is often behind the bar, setting up tastings, while Paula, blonde and round-faced, operates the cash register and circulates throughout the yard to be sure all is going well.  It is.

cr yard too

We have settled into comfortable Adirondack chairs, perused the menu, and decided we will each get a tasting of their six rosés (for $15).  We could also have opted for three sparkling rosés for the same price.   Their small menu of snacks is well chosen and homemade, but we’re planning an early dinner so we decide not to this time.  The atmosphere is relaxed yet lively, with small groups clustered around the tables or in pairs of chairs (no limos or drop-offs allowed).  A dog enters with his humans and is carefully vetted by Sergeant, the resident little pooch.  At one point the hostess brings the visiting canine a doggie dish of water—and she’ll provide humans with bottles of water as well.

The three numbered rosé clones are each $19 per bottle, and the three named ones are $25, while the sparking rosés are $28 each.  All vintages are the current year, as last year’s wines sold out!

Your entire tasting is delivered to your table.

Your entire tasting is delivered to your table.

  1. Merlot 181

A sniff reveals aromas of flowers—honeysuckle—and fruit, possibly melon.  The taste is quite tart, with even a bit of a tingle, and reminds me of pink grapefruit with a touch of minerality.  At the end I get lemon.  This, I say, would go well with goat cheese, like the one we picked up at Catapano this morning.

  1. Merlot 314

In the past this has been our favorite, so we have our fingers crossed that it is as good this year.  Yum!  Happy taste buds.  We smell strawberries and tangerines, taste apricot.  Though the wine has lots of fruit, it is not sweet.  “This would go with most everything,” opines my husband.  We plan to buy a case.

Menu

Menu

Case club benefits

Case Club benefits

  1. Merlot 3

A blend of three clones—181, 314, and 3—this is also a good wine, though we still prefer the 314.  It is a touch sweeter than the others, though still dry, with good fruit and also a fair amount of mineral taste and some saltiness.  My tasting buddy says it is “not as bright” as the 314.

  1. Sauvage

Now we’ve moved on to the slightly more expensive wines.  Sauvage is also made from the 181 clone, but with wild yeast, which means the winemaker has given up a bit of control.  The aroma reminds us of asparagus—which we also picked up this morning and plan to grill later—and the taste is quite different from the 181, though still quite good.  It has more minerality and is quite light.  We like it better than the 2014 Sauvage.

You can see that Chloe is so light that it looks like a white wine.

You can see that Chloe is so light that it looks like a white wine.

  1. Chloe

This is “the white wine lover’s rosé,” suggest the tasting notes.  Made from sauvignon blanc grapes that spend a short amount of time on the skins, this is so pale that it looks white.  We smell lemon/lime and wet ferns.  The taste is quite tart and lemony, which would make it a perfect foil for oysters (No, we’re not having any of those tonight!).  It is a touch less crisp than the usual sauvignon blanc.

Jolie, on the other hand, is much darker than the other roses.

Jolie, on the other hand, is much darker than the other roses.

  1. Jolie

So if Chloe is the white wine lover’s rosé, this is “the red wine lover’s rosé,” made from the cabernet franc grape in the Bordeaux style.  Strawberry rhubarb pie aroma—just like the pie we got at Briermere this morning—and some strawberry taste, as well as a touch of espresso at the end and maybe red blackberries.  Yet it is still tart, though fruitier than the others.  Maybe it would go with the lamb steaks we bought at Eight Hands Farm today (new place—they sell pastured lamb, pork, and chicken, plus more).

They also have the prettiest bottles.

They also have the prettiest bottles.

Reasons to visit:  rosés that will make you fall in love with them, even if you thought you didn’t like rosés; a comfortable, pleasant outdoor tasting area; good snacks; the case club!—buy a case and you’re in the club, your first tasting is free, and you can get a free glass of wine every time you stop into the winery, plus discounts and other benefits.

Sergeant on guard!

Sergeant on guard!

Pretty setting for pretty wines.

Pretty setting for pretty wines.

Croteaux: Voyage to Provence July 27, 2014

http://www.croteaux.com/

The entrance to the tasting garden.

The entrance to the tasting garden.

Croteaux is our favorite place for relaxed outdoor summer sipping of rosés.  The pretty garden is surrounded by flowering bushes and studded with Adirondack chairs and wooden picnic tables with comfortable wire chairs around them.  The winery’s practice of limiting groups to eight and banning buses and limos ensures that the atmosphere stays calm and peaceful.

One of the surprisingly comfortable chairs.

One of the surprisingly comfortable chairs.

We know they practice good conservation techniques, since we ran into Paul Croteaux at the Southold dump, recycling a load of empty bottles, though the bottles are so pretty it seems a shame to throw them out.  Paula Croteaux presides over the tasting garden with charm and grace, and the service is always excellent.  The wines are quite good, too.  I thought I disliked rosés until I tried theirs, and on this trip my cousin underwent a similar conversion, as we convinced him and his wife and my brother and sister-in-law to accompany us to Croteaux (well, we were driving, so they didn’t have that much choice).

We all opted for the rosé tasting, six rosés for $15.  We could also have had three sparkling rosés for the same price or a glass for $10-13, depending on variety.  The first three wines on the list are each $19 a bottle, and the last three are $25, with 10% off if you buy a case.  Buying a case means you are automatically a member of the case club, which gets you several benefits—not least of which is plenty of rosé, perfect for summer meals.  After you order, the waitress brings you a round flower pot bottom with the first three wines, and then another with the next three, each round-bottomed glass sitting on a label so you know in which order to drink them.  A request for water brought a bottle and fresh glasses.

One round

One round

The Croteaux web site describes their wines as “dry, crisp, and fruit-filled,” and I agree.

1) 181 French Pomerol

Alas, this wine is already sold out, so you can taste it but not take it home, which is too bad as it is a lovely strawberry-scented light rosé, with notes of lemon and perhaps walnut at the end.

2) Merlot 314

Named for the clone of merlot that is used to make it, this is our favorite of their wines.  Though it has less scent than the 181, it has more body and is fruitier, though still dry.  We decide it would be perfect with lobster, a theory we prove later that night over lobsters my cousin buys at Braun’s.  We buy a case and a half…

 

3) Merlot 3

Why 3?  Because it is a blend of 181, 314, and 3.  We taste more citrus in this lighter wine, and would pair it with goat cheese (a crock of which you can get at the winery, with slices of baguette).  A bit too light, I think.  “I wouldn’t kick it out of bed,” notes my brother, though he also characterizes it as a “crowd pleaser.”

We sip and chat.

We sip and chat.

4) 181 Sauvage

Fermented using wild yeasts, this is a wine that will vary year to year, and I liked last year’s version better.  We smell lots of strawberry (“The technical term is schnozz,” jokes my husband), but the wine itself tastes a bit thin and unfinished.  One person tastes melon, my cousin suggests celery, I offer minerality.  It would be better paired with food.  This is the first of the more expensive set of three.

5) Chloe

A blend of sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc, this wine is, one of us offers, “a white wine lover’s rosé.”  I smell burnt pear and fresh cut grass.  I’d like this with oysters, as the dryness and fruit would complement the salinity of the bivalves.

6) Jolie

This wine is also sold out.  In fact, if you want some of Croteaux’s rosés I suggest you get over there quickly, as they typically are sold out by the end of the season.  True to its name, this is a pretty wine, both in looks and taste, sweet at the beginning with a dry finish and a wonderful aroma of roses.  Unlike Chloe, this is a wine I’d be happy sipping, maybe even in a spritzer on a hot day.  My cousin, getting into the spirit of the day, suggests serving it with Velveeta.  Maybe not.

Pretty bottles

Pretty bottles

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful garden setting with a peaceful atmosphere; rosés that will change your mind about rosés; the 314, the Chloe, and the Jolie; oh, and I forgot to mention, they have a lovely boutique with interesting items my cousin’s wife wanted to explore.

This may not be true for roses, but it is for friends.

This may not be true for roses, but it is for friends.

 

Flowers line the garden

Flowers line the garden

Ten Venues for Outdoor Wining

Memorial Day Weekend means summer really is beginning, so I thought this would be the right time to tell you about my favorite places for outdoor sipping on the North Fork.  There is something very civilized about sitting in the sun (or under an umbrella), sipping a lovely chilled white or rosé, or even a well-rounded red, enjoying the warm breezes, possibly snacking on some bread and cheese.  If that experience includes a pretty view over farm fields and vineyards, so much the better.

Almost all of the tasting rooms augment their indoor seating with outdoor areas in the summer, from Jamesport’s capacious lawn to Waters Crest’s two umbrella tables in the parking lot, but some are pleasanter than others.  Following this you will find a list of my favorites, starting with a few I particularly enjoy, and then others in no real order.  I also mention a wine or two I particularly recommend for sipping, but in a few cases it has been a year or more since I went there, so you may not find the same vintages on offer.  Note that some places encourage you to bring your own picnic, while others discourage or forbid it, so I suggest you check the web sites before you go.  The ones which don’t allow you to bring your own snacks generally sell their own.  If you’re putting together a bread and cheese picnic, you won’t do better than Love Lane Cheese Shop in Mattituck, which carries a wide variety of excellent cheeses and baguettes from Tom Cat bakery.  Stop at Harbes for some berries or Wickham for peaches and you’re set.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

1)       Croteaux

This is absolutely my favorite outdoor tasting area, plus all the wines are perfect for summer sipping.  You go through the tiny tasting room into a tree and flower-filled patio area, with comfortable Adirondack chairs and shady nooks.  Two of my favorite rosés are the Merlot 314 and the Violet, but any of them would work.  I also recommend their snack of goat cheese and baguette.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux's yard.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux’s yard.

2)      Old Field

If you like a rustic setting, this is the place!  Calico cloths on the tables plus chickens and ducks roaming around the old barns on the property really make you feel you are far from city life.  Though I don’t think any Long Island rosés are better than Croteaux’s, the Cacklin Rosé 09 (probably will be a new vintage by now) was lovely.

3)      Mattebella

Picnic tables and umbrella-shaded tables dot an expansive patio area looking out over the grape vines.  We liked the ‘08 Chardonnay and the ‘08 Old World Blend.  The last time we were there, small snacks accompanied some of the wines on the tasting menu.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

4)      Jamesport

Jamesport is the perfect place to come if your group includes children who would like some space to roam around, or even dogs (as long as they are on the leash).  Their large backyard lawn, with a variety of seating or picnic areas, some in shade and others in the sun, is perfect, and they sell thin crust pizzas made in an outdoor stone oven and freshly opened oysters, among other treats.  Their Sauvignon Blanc goes particularly well with oysters.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

5)      Pellegrini

Here the outdoor seating varies from pleasant spots out on the lawn or the interior courtyard to a few tables overlooking the vineyard.  What makes this a good place for an outdoor tasting (rather than just a glass of wine) is that they will give you your entire tasting on a tray, carefully labeled, so you can sit and sample at your leisure.  If you’re going for just a glass, we really like their Petit Verdot, which would pair well with brie and baguette.

6)      Paumanok

Paumanok is another place that often features oysters, though not as reliably as Jamesport.  They have a pleasant porch out back of the tasting room which looks out over the vines and fields.  The 2011 Festival Chardonnay was a good match for the oysters, though they may have a new vintage by now.

The deck at One Woman

The deck at One Woman

7)      One Woman

This is a small winery with a small porch which wraps around the tiny tasting room.  You are surrounded by the vines and a large field of grass as you sit and taste.  We found the One Woman Tribute ’11 to be a good sipping wine, and we are in love with the 2012 Grüner Veltliner.

8)      Comtesse Thérèse

This is another winery with a bit of a French accent, and outdoor tastings are in the charmingly disheveled intimate garden behind the Comtesse Thérèse Bistro.  Though the setting is pleasant, we found the service a bit lackluster our last time in the garden, though that could certainly have changed.  The 2011 Chardonnay was a super sipper.

9)      Shinn

Although it was too chilly to sit outdoors on the day we went there, we did admire Shinn’s remodeled outdoor seating area, with comfortable-looking chairs and a nice little snack menu. I’d recommend First Fruit for a sipping wine.

Outdoor area at Shinn

Outdoor area at Shinn

10)   Pugliese

With a pretty little pond and trellis-shaded picnic tables, Pugliese has created a very attractive outdoor seating area.  If it’s not overrun with limo groups, I’d recommend you go there with some cheese and crackers and get the Bella Domenica, a summery red.

Pretty pond at Pugliese

Pretty pond at Pugliese

P.S.  Just visited Mattebella for the first time in two years and their improved outdoor area means they should be added to this post!  (See review for details.)

 

Which Wineries to Visit: A Summary

After several recent requests for specific guidance as to which winery to visit, I realized that, while my blog does detail my week-by-week impressions, I had given no summary of recommendations.  So, here are some suggestions:

If you are going East with a group, and you are interested in a party atmosphere, with a likelihood of live music (though many places now feature live performers, some are more likely to than others—check their web sites), two good choices would be Peconic and Vineyard 48.  Both have some good wines and both are often quite crowded on the weekends, with a number of vans and buses in the parking lot.  The last time we were at Peconic (in February of 2011) we liked the La Barrique Chardonnay 07 and the 08 Merlot.  We also visited Vineyard 48 that February, and liked the Sauvignon Blanc and the 05 Merlot Reserve.  We tend to visit these crowded places in the winter, as you may deduce.

If you will have children with you, Martha Clara is probably your best bet, as they do quite a bit of agritainment and they have a farm with interesting animals—llamas!—you may visit.  We haven’t been there in a few years, so I can’t really recommend any wine in particular, though I do remember being favorably impressed with their sparkling wines.  Pellegrini would also be okay, if it is nice weather, as you may take your tray of tastes outside and the children can play on the lawn.  A few wineries, such as Diliberto’s, specifically say no children.

If it is a beautiful day and you would like to relax in a pretty courtyard setting—and you like rosés (though if you’re not, Croteaux may make a rosé convert of you)—Croteaux is a lovely place to spend some time.  French music plays in the background, and it has comfortable Adirondack chairs and a laid-back atmosphere.  Another good outdoors spot is Old Field, with its mis-matched calico tablecloths and country farm background, though seating is not as comfy.

On the other hand, if what you are interested in is possibly chatting with the winery owner or a server who is very knowledgeable about the wines, and you like a small intimate setting, there are several wineries we like very much.  One is Diliberto’s, which we have been to frequently, though not recently.  It is just down Manor Lane from an apple orchard, so you can combine apple-picking (or just buying a bag of apples and a pie) with your winery visit.  On occasional Sundays, “Grandma” (a.k.a. Sal Diliberto himself) does cooking demos, making pizza or pasta, tastes of which he then distributes. He also sometimes has a singer and/or musician in. The room is small, painted in trompe l’oeil fashion to resemble the town square of a little Italian town, and we tend to like his reds.  Water’s Crest, which I have reviewed in the blog, is also a small intimate space, as are One Woman, McCall’s, Sannino Bella Vita, and Mattebella.  Though we’ve never encountered an owner at Shinn’s, it also has a cozy tasting room a bit off the main roads, though we only liked a couple of their wines.

Jamesport has some nice whites, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc, and often sells local oysters to consume with them.  We have been there on nice days when it feels like a big family party, with children playing on the lawn and musicians performing under a tent.  One time we were there and the guitarist played Blues Sonata, one of my favorite jazz pieces.

There are a couple of wineries I do NOT recommend (lest you think I like everything).  One is Duck Walk, which despite multiple tasting rooms on both the North and South Forks and the presence of crowds every weekend, had several wines we actively disliked, and a rather coldly commercial atmosphere.  The other is Raphael, which has a beautiful tasting room they often rent out for weddings and other parties, but which again had wines we did not particularly care for.  However, they do have a nice selection of wine-related gifts.  Baiting Hollow, also not one of our favorites, sells real food and lots of gift items, if that is what you are looking for.

Finally, there is one rather all-purpose winery which is probably our favorite:  Pellegrini.  We like most of their wines, and they tend to do a rather better job with reds than many North Fork wineries.  In addition, you can either stand at the bar and talk with the servers (especially Judy, who is quite passionate about the wines and knows everything about them) or take your carefully arranged tray of tastes to an inside or outside table.

To me, an ideal fall day on the North Fork would start with breakfast at Erik’s, go on to pumpkin or apple picking at Harbes or another farm and/or a stroll on a beach (Even if you’re not a resident, you can now park since it is after Labor Day. Head south on Cox Neck Road, go towards Cooper’s Farm stand—best eggs ever—and on to Breakfront Beach for a good walking beach.), then lunch at Love Lane Kitchen, a visit to a winery such as Diliberto’s, a walk around Greenport to check out the galleries and antique stores, and then another winery stop at Pellegrini’s or Old Field before stopping at Briermere to buy a pie and then heading home—or to Riverhead for dinner at Tweed’s.

Well, there’s much this leaves out, but you get the idea!  Enjoy.