Macari Vineyards: A Quiet Winter Day December 20, 2017

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The vines are bare now.

http://macariwines.com/visit/mattituck/

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It’s pretty quiet on the North Fork now. There’s a skim of ice on the shallow parts of the Mattituck Inlet and almost all of the farm stands have closed. A few wineries are closed for the season, while others are only open on weekends. Macari’s tasting room on the Main Road is closed, but its other location, on the corner of Bergen Road and Sound Avenue, is open every day, so that’s where we went on this chilly day.

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The large tasting room was decorated for Christmas with lights and pine branches, and if we had wanted to buy gifts of local or other gourmet jams, pickles, etc., we could have found plenty of choices on the shelves near the entrance, where they also have cheeses, charcuterie, and crackers for sale. (No outside food allowed.) There was only one other couple at the bar, and one table of people in the adjoining room, so we had plenty of time to chat with the enthusiastic and well-informed server.

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Our favorite local pickles!

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No outside food allowed, but they have plenty for sale.

The menu offers three different flights of five tastes each: the Estate Flight for $20, the Cuvée Flight for $25, or the Vintage Flight for $30. There’s also a dessert wine flight, or, the server offered, she could custom build a flight if, for example, you only liked reds. As you might expect, as the flights increased in price, so did the wines in each one. We decided to share the Cuvée Flight, and the pour was generous enough that we felt that was plenty (plus we got a couple of extra tastes, courtesy of my notebook!).

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After the tasting we bought one bottle of red wine and a jar of our favorite local pickles, Backyard Brine’s “Dill Death do us Part.”

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1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $24
As our server poured this first taste, she enthused about what a great summer wine it is. No argument there. It is a steel-fermented, crisp, lemony white, with an aroma of mineral and gooseberry. It would go well with a big plate of chilled oysters.

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2. 2016 “Lifeforce” Sauvignon Blanc $28
But now, she added, at this time of year, she prefers this version of the grape, and poured us an “extra” taste. Instead of being fermented in steel or wood, they use a concrete “egg” as a vat, and the result is quite a different wine. Though still somewhat citrusy, it is not nearly as lemony, and has some tropical fruit flavors, like pineapple. The aroma is almost woodsy or yeasty. There is definitely more going on in the taste of this one, and it could be sipped on its own. It is called Lifeforce because the egg shape causes the wine to stir itself. She showed us a whole explanation of the effects of using concrete, some of which is on this page of their web site: http://macariwines.com/wine/2016-sauvignon-blanc-lifeforce/

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An explanation of the concrete “egg.”

3. 2015 Chardonnay Estate $24
This is a fairly typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with a touch of sweetness, some citrus, and a bit of roasted pear taste. Nice finish. It would be good with charcuterie.

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An array of whites.

4. 2016 Rosé $20
Made from cabernet franc and merlot grapes, this is a very light, dry, almost white, rosé. The aroma does not have the expected strawberry scent, but is almost chemical, like a band-aid. However, it tastes fine, less fruity than some of Croteaux’s rosés, with plenty of citrus. I could see having it with lobster bisque or some other creamy, buttery seafood dish.

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The rose is a very light pink.

5. 2013 Merlot Reserve $40
Now we move on to the reds, and she rinses our glass with a bit of red wine. We decide this is better than the average North Fork merlot. Aged sixteen months in new French oak, it has a delicious aroma of dark fruits and complex tastes of black cherry and cherry pie, dry, with good tannins. It could probably age well.

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Our favorite of the reds, the Dos Aguas.

6. 2013 Dos Aguas $32
The name of this one is a nod to the two waters of the North Fork—the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. A blend of 50% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec, it is only made in good years, which 2013 clearly was. We really like it! We smell cherry, tobacco, and other dark fruits, and taste them as well. Lots of tannins. Dry, it would go well with steak or lamb chops, and we decide to buy a bottle and keep (or try to keep!) it for a couple of years.

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If you are serious and thoughtful about your tasting, sometimes you get extras!

7. 2014 Syrah $45
We are so enthusiastic about the Dos Aguas that our server wonders if we would like to try their syrah. Sure, I reply, I often really like syrahs. I like this one, too, with its spicy aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg and soft tannins. I see that I have written good twice in my notes.

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Plenty of room at the bar in the winter, but it is often crowded in the summer.

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There are many tables in the next room, plus more outside.

Reasons to visit: A good all-around winery, with a long bar and ample tables; a good selection of cheeses, etc., so you can put together a snack, plus some local gourmet items; the Lifeforce Sauvignon Blanc, the Merlot Reserve, the Dos Aguas—actually, we liked all the wines, but those were especially interesting; two locations, so in the summer, if one is overcrowded you can try the other.

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When you stand at the bar, you can look into the wine cellar.

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Macari: Still a Good One January 2, 2016

http://www.macariwines.com/

The entrance

The entrance

For our first winery of the new year, we headed to Macari, which we had last visited when it boasted the award of “Best Winery of 2014.”  We would have been back sooner, but cancelled our visits when the attractive tasting room proved too crowded and noisy for us.  This time, in the doldrums of January, there were still plenty of people, including a large group in the room off to one side, but we found a place at the bar and a smart and attentive server.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

The menu offers three options—Estate, of four of their lower priced wines for $10; Cuvee, of five for $15; and Vintage, of five of their best wines for $20.  Since none of the lists overlapped, we decided to share two tastings, one of the Cuvee and one of the Vintage.  Because both menus included whites and reds of varying types, we wanted to alternate so as not to try to follow a riesling with a sauvignon blanc.  Why?  As we’ve learned, if you try to taste a light dry wine like a steel-fermented sauvignon blanc after a sweeter, more substantial wine like a riesling, you won’t be as able to appreciate the lighter wine.

Our server first wanted to pour our two tastings simultaneously, but after we explained the philosophy behind our preference she quickly caught on, and made sure to pour the wines in an order that made sense.    We were particularly impressed with her ability to keep track of what we were doing since she also was serving other customers and running off to the side room as well.  She also was enthusiastic about the wines, sharing her preferences and knowledge about the wine, only once having to resort to a “cheat sheet” to give us information we requested.

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As we sipped, we admired the nicely done holiday decorations and the attractive labels on the wines, and afterwards we browsed the small but good collection of wine-related gifts. Note they don’t allow outside foods, and sell a variety of snack and cheese items.   I’m listing the wines in the order in which we had them, marking the Vintage wines with an *.

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  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14       $24

This is a steel –fermented sauvignon blanc, with an aroma that reminds me of the water in a vase after the flowers have begun to decay—which doesn’t sound all that appealing, but is fine when combined with citrus.  Good, we decide, nicely crisp, but delicate, with a touch of sweetness—perhaps more Meyer lemon than lemon.  Of course it would pair well with local oysters or clams, but if you had it with shrimp I would leave out the cocktail sauce, which would overwhelm this wine.

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  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14 (concrete egg) $27

Ooh, this is just the sort of exercise I love: Trying two wines side by side, made from the same grapes, but treated differently.  In this case, “concrete egg” refers to the egg-shaped concrete cask they use to ferment the wine, our server explains, and adds that since concrete is more porous than steel but less porous than wood, and without the flavor added by a wood cask, the results are quite different and, she thinks, better.  We agree.  The aroma is complex, with perhaps a hint of nutmeg or other spices and a taste that is a touch sweeter without being too sweet, with some acidity and a taste of greengage plums.  No finish.  Mysteriously, the label bears the word “Lifeforce.”

  1. *Dos Aguas ’13 $27

“Dos Aguas” refers to the two waters between which the vineyards are located:  Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.  Many people feel that these “two waters” contribute to the North Fork’s excellence as a grape-growing region, since they have the effect of moderating the climate.  This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, riesling, and sauvignon blanc, and is another good wine.  The aroma makes me think of sticky fruits and the taste includes minerality, figs, and tangerines.  Though the riesling does contribute some sweetness, it is well balanced with some acidity.  It would go well with one of my favorite dishes, pasta tossed with a variety of seafood.

  1. *Riesling ’13 $23

Ah yes, we are definitely glad that we tasted this one last of the whites, as its sweetness would have interfered with appreciating the others.  This is the only wine, our server informs us, that uses grapes not grown on the estate, since the riesling grapes in this come from the Finger Lakes region (not unusual for Long Island wineries, as upstate is known for its good riesling).  The aroma is honey, the taste like a green apple on the sweeter side, like a Mutsu, not a Granny Smith.  “Toot suite,” jokes my husband, as he complains that this wine is sweeter than he likes.  It is sweeter than a dry riesling, but I don’t find it unpleasantly so.  With spicy food you’d welcome that flavor.

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  1. Merlot Estate $15

Burnt sugar?  Cinnamon toast?  We discuss the smell, which in any event is not typical for a Long Island merlot.  Our server lets us in on the secret that although this wine is more than 80% merlot it also has some syrah, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, which may help explain the aroma.  It may also explain the taste, which is quite good for an inexpensive merlot, and makes this a good choice for a table wine.  It is fairly soft, with no tannins and some acid, and would go well with veal or pork, rather than steak.

Full disclosure:  We already knew we like Sette.

Full disclosure: We already knew we like Sette.

  1. Sette NV $19

We are quite familiar with Sette, since we often order it in local restaurants.  In fact, we just shared a bottle of it at Michelangelo’s last week, when it went well with eggplant parmesan and pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe.  This is a blend of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc (not of seven wines, as you might assume from the name, which instead refers to the town Settefratti, which was the home town of the Macari family).  The smell is warm, with some spice and wood, the taste cherry with again some acid but not much tannin.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

  1. *Dos Aguas Red Blend ’10 $30

Blend?  Yes, of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot.  We smell wet hay and wood, taste pleasant dark fruits. This is a soft, easy to drink red, and would be good, I opine, to sip while cooking—and ruining the food? theorizes my husband.  Ha.

  1. *Merlot Reserve ’10 $36

After aging 26 months in French oak, this wine has more tannins than the previous reds, with a typical merlot aroma of cherry plus oak.  Not powerful, but pleasant, this is a good wine if you want to introduce someone to Long Island merlots.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

  1. *Bergen Road ’10 $46

Since I ask, our server looks up the proportions of this red blend:  56% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 2% petit verdot.  A Right Bank Bordeaux.  The color is quite dark, and so is the taste, with plenty of tannin and acid and delicious dark fruits.  Yum.

Block "E" looks and tastes very like a sherry.

Block “E” looks and tastes very like a sherry.

  1. Block “E” ’12 $32 (for a small bottle)

Ice wine is supposed to be made with grapes picked after the first frost, but since that frost tends to come pretty late on the North Fork (as in it just happened), instead the grapes are picked fairly late, when they have developed quite a bit of sugar, and then frozen before being made into a dessert wine.  In both color and taste this reminds us of a semi-sweet sherry, with a bit of a honey aroma.  When I ask, we are informed it is made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec grapes.  Good dessert wine, it would be nice with some almonds.

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Reasons to visit:  good all-around winery, with plenty of tasty options and a big room with tables for groups; nice selection of gifts; reasonable prices (if we didn’t have all the wine we need at the moment we would have bought several of the wines); the “concrete egg” Sauvignon Blanc, the Dos Aguas white and red, the Merlot Estate, the Sette, the Bergen Road.

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Macari Vineyards: Award Deserved? October 25, 2014

http://www.macariwines.com/

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Macari had been named the “Winery of the Year” at the 2014 New York Wine & Food Classic, so we were curious to see why.  According to the Classic website, the “award is presented to the winery with the best overall showing based on the level and number of awards in relation to entries.”

Macari has two tasting rooms, and on a previous try the one on Sound Avenue was too full to find a place at the tasting bar, so this time we tried the one on the Main Road.  Since it was a beautiful October day and every winery we passed seemed to have a full parking lot, we thought we’d have to put off our visit until the winter, but we were pleasantly surprised—though as we left it seemed the crowds were arriving!  Both tasting rooms are spacious and pleasant, with a nice selection of wine-related gifts and snack items.  Our servers were kept busy, but were very efficient and observant, and we never had to wait more than a moment or two for our next taste.  Also, as you will see, they noticed our seriousness about the wines and added a few extras, which turned out to be a great idea.

A view out the windows, with some of the gift items visible

A view out the windows, with some of the gift items visible

The tasting menu features three options:  a white flight of four wines for $8, a red flight of 4 wines for $15, and a Vintage flight of 5 wines for $20, with a combination of whites and reds.  Since we noticed that three of the Vintage wines were included in the other two tastings, we decided to opt for one white and then one red, sharing as we went along.

The tasting bar was crowded, but the servers did a good job of taking care of everyone.

The tasting bar was crowded, but the servers did a good job of taking care of everyone.

1.        Sauvignon Blanc 2012    $23

As usual, the tasting started off with their lightest white, a lemony and tart sauvignon.  The night before we had had an excellent Italian sauvignon, so we were making comparisons.  The Macari had, we felt, too little fruit taste to balance the acidity.  “Undistinguished,” said my husband, and I agreed.  It might be better with food.

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2.       Chardonnay Estate 2011               $19

This is their 100% stainless steel chard, so no oakiness.  We smell and taste ripe pear, though it doesn’t have tons of fruit taste.  It’s a good chard, reasonably dry, and would go well with a Long Island clam chowder.

3.       Collina Chardonnay                         $9.50

Noticing the price, we wonder whether this would be one to buy for everyday drinking.  Nope.  Though the aroma had pleasant notes of mineral and honeysuckle, the taste is actually bitter.  It is fermented 25% in oak, and the rest in steel, but we taste none of the buttery or vanilla notes one would expect.  We dump most of the taste!

4.       Riesling 2011                      $25 per carafe

The 2011 Riesling has not yet been bottled, so they’re serving from carafes.  Made from Finger Lakes grapes, it has some of that upstate taste I find hard to describe.  It smells like white grape juice!  Taste is not overly sweet, with some mineral and gooseberry notes, though it is fairly monochromatic.  My husband had recently been to a wine tasting of German and Long Island Rieslings, and felt this one did not measure up to the others he had had.

Our first "bonus" wine

Our first “bonus” wine

5.       Rosé 2013            $17

In the first indication that our seriousness has been observed, one server asks us if we like rosés, and then offers us a taste of theirs.  A blend of cabernet franc, pinot noir, and merlot, it has the usual strawberry aroma and taste, with again a fair amount of minerality.  There’s something flowery about it as well.  Though not as good as Croteaux, it is a fine rosé.

6.       Collina Merlot                    $9.50

New glass for the reds.  Our server calls this a “pizza pasta burger” wine, which the price would surely indicate.  “It’s not terrible,” says my tasting companion.  Talk about damning with faint praise!  But it is a very light red, with no depth or interest or finish.  It’s just there. We were, however, intrigued by the aroma, which I characterized as a cherry-flavored cigar.

Sette.  The size of the pour varied a bit.

Sette. The size of the pour varied a bit.

7.       Sette                     $19

This is their red blend, of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc—not seven wines, as I thought based on the name.  Sette actually refers to the town Settefrati, a small town south of Rome, which is the home town of the Macari family.  Our server calls it their best seller, and I can see why.  The aroma is of dark brambly fruits, and the wine itself is light but very drinkable, perhaps with “Sunday gravy.”  By the way, it was served too cold, so we warmed the glass in our palms, which helped bring out the taste.

8.       Cabernet Franc 2008                       $35

I’ve heard people refer to a brininess as an expression of the Long Island terroir, but I never experienced it quite as forcefully as with the aroma of this wine.  Sea air!  Fortunately it does not taste salty, but rather of dark plums, and is our favorite so far.  Some tannins, a touch of oak.

9.       Dos Aguas 2008                 $27

Here the name refers to the two waters of the North Fork—Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.  This is Macari’s Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 70% merlot, 17% cabernet sauvignon, 4% cabernet franc, 8% malbec, and the rest petit verdot.  Yes, I’d like this with steak frites, please.  It is our server’s favorite.  Not particularly complex, but good and quite drinkable, with plenty of fruit and spice aromas and flavors.

A line-up of reds.

A line-up of reds.

10.   2007 Merlot Reserve                      $36

So if you’re counting you realize that our tasting should be over, but after asking us what we thought of the Dos Aguas, our server decides we should try two more wines.  This is certainly better than most merlots, and 2007 was a good year.  We taste lots of dark fruits, and the aroma is delicious.

11.   2010 Bergen Road            $46

This one beats the bunch, as my grandmother used to say with the birth of each grandchild.  Another Bordeaux blend, or a Meritage, of 56% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 2% petit verdot, this one has aromas of Belgian dark chocolate and dark fruits.  OMG I say when I taste it.  Complex, with lots of tannins and yummy fruit.  We buy a bottle to put in the cellar!

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Reasons to visit:  you want an all-purpose winery with space for a large group or the intimacy of a conversation at the bar; you need to pick up a wine-related gift or buy a snack;  the 2010 Bergen Road; the 07 Merlot Reserve, the 08 Dos Aguas, the 08 Cabernet Franc;  did I mention the 2010 Bergen Road…

The Main Road building

The Main Road building

What a beautiful day.  In Greenport, every restaurant's outside tables were filled, and plenty of people opted for an outdoor tasting.

What a beautiful day. In Greenport, every restaurant’s outside tables were filled, and plenty of people opted for an outdoor tasting.

Macari Vineyards May 18, 2013

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http://www.macariwines.com/

This weekend we went to what we call the “Irish” winery—not because it is Irish, but because a friend, hearing the name but not seeing it, thought it was McCary!  In fact, so Italian (not Irish) are they that the Macari family has given several of their wines Italian names, including Collina, for the hills on which their vineyard is located, and Sette, for Settefrati, the town in Italy from which their family emigrated.

Macari has two tasting rooms, a commodious building just off Sound Avenue and another, formerly the Gallucio Family Winery, on Main Road in Cutchogue.  We’ve been to both, but this time we went to the one on Main Road.  As you enter, you see the road forks both up the hill and down.  Both ways lead to parking lots, so you can pick either way, but the uphill one enables you to drop off passengers at the door.  Both rooms have outdoor areas far enough from the road to feel pleasantly rustic.

We had an irrational prejudice against Macari because early in our winery-visiting days we walked in right behind a group of bachelorettes who stumbled out of their limo, beer cans in hand, plastic flowers in their hair, and proceeded to be quite raucous.  Not Macari’s fault!

The Main Road tasting room is a pleasant space, with a curving copper-topped bar and a nice selection of gift items, including hand painted wine glasses and tea towels with the word Wineaux on them.  A white flight of four tastes is $8 and a red flight is $12.  They also offer artisanal cheeses and salumi for $7-10.00, including crackers.   The servers are pleasant and well-informed, though it is a bit disconcerting to hear the same spiel delivered word for word to your neighbors at the bar. By the way, if you want to go you should go soon, as they are celebrating their 15th anniversary with a very nice sale on many of their wines.

We opted to do one tasting of whites and one of reds, sharing as we went.

Macari white

  1.   2012 Sauvignon Blanc                                   $23

This bears the subtitle “Katherine’s Field,” and our server noted it is their “signature wine.”  This steel-fermented white has aromas of herbs and baked pear (they say), and we think thyme and unripe cantaloupe.  We also taste unripe cantaloupe, along with a tart acidity and not much fruit.  Not really for sipping, but it would be a good oyster wine.

2.  2010 Riesling                                                      $27

Though this uses grapes from upstate, it escapes the sometimes over-sweetness one finds with that fruit.  A flowery aroma precedes tastes of grapefruit and dried apricot which unfolds quite pleasantly on the palate.  Good finish and, we conclude, a really lovely well-made Riesling.

3.  Collina Chardonnay                                         $13

The server describes this as their “house white,” and notes that it is a combination of oak and steel-fermented wine, which should make it quite pleasant but does not.  I think of the taste and smell as reminding me of a vacation house that has been closed up too long, with a sensation of damp and slightly moldy wood.  We dump the remainder in the spit bucket, something we rarely do.  Even on sale for $10, I can’t see buying this!

  4.  2012 Early Wine                                                                $17

This is a special production of their Austrian winemaker, and is called early wine because…it is picked early.  In late August, they harvest these mostly chardonnay grapes, and age the wine not at all, yielding an almost clear liquid.  We think it will be tart, but instead it is rather sweet, with aromas of grass or hay and tastes of pear with a slight edge of lemon.  Not bad, but not for us.

Macari red

  5.  Collina 48 Merlot                                                              $13

New glass for the reds, always a nice touch.  Mostly Merlot, with 5% each of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, this is a simple table-type wine that would be better with food than just sipping.  We smell tobacco and bay leaf and taste some berry, but the taste leaves the tongue quickly and is quite dry and tart.

 6.  Sette Red Blend                                                                                    $19

Named for Settefrati (seven brothers), the village from which the Macaris emigrated, this is our favorite of the wines so far.  A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this wine smells to us like a combination of cocoa mulch (try it on your garden some time, but I warn you, every time you weed you’ll crave a chocolate bar) and green olives, with nice plum flavors.  Very buyable.

 7.   2007 Merlot Reserve                                                     $36

After 16 months in French oak, this merlot is then aged for four years, so it was just recently released.  We detect a bit of menthol in the aroma, and also berry pie (a smell you’ll recognize if you’ve ever been to Briermere while they are baking).  The taste starts sweet, then becomes quite nice, with black cherry and enough tannins that our tongues tingle.  Interesting, and quite good.

8.  2008 Dos Aguas                                                                 $27

Two waters, we ask?  For the Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, the two bodies of water that frame the North Fork, she replies.  A Bordeaux blend, Dos Aguas combines 70% merlot with 17% cabernet sauvignon, 8% malbec, 4% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot.  Strongly spicy aromas of nutmeg and berries, maybe some plum, make us anticipate a delicious wine, but it is not to be.  Really not much to this one at all.

They also have, available by the glass but not included in the tasting, a couple of rosés and some dessert wines as well as a few additional wines.  We buy two bottles of Sette and two Wineaux tea towels (how could we not?).

Macari Wineaux

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room and outside seating area in a rustic setting; 2010 Riesling and Sette Red Blend; some nice gift items; choice of two tasting rooms so if you want to go there you can be flexible as to your route.