Paumanok Vineyards:  Poetry and the Vines        September 29, 2017

https://www.paumanok.com/history.html

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As a lover of poetry, I can’t help but be attracted to a winery that not only uses the Native American name Walt Whitman adopted for Long Island, but also quotes his poetry on their labels.  Their pleasant outdoor deck overlooking the vines is another reason to go there, and some of the wines are not bad, either!

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It was a perfect day to sit on the outdoor deck.

We went there with my brother and sister-in-law and their large well-behaved dog on a warm sunny day in September, and were happy to discover that they allow leashed dogs on the deck.  Our table was next to a bush full of Monarch butterflies, and my sister-in-law informed me it was a butterfly bush.  Aha.  We did have to walk inside for each new taste, but that also gave us a chance to chat with the servers, who were all quite pleasant, including one young woman from France, who informed us that Paumanok has an internship program with her school in Toulouse.  So that explains why the last time I was there I also had a French server.

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If you look closely, you’ll see the butterflies all over this butterfly bush.

The menu offers a flight of four whites or four reds, each for $12, so we decided each couple would share a flight of the whites and then the reds.  Because my brother bought at least four bottles of wine, the tastings were free.  The menu includes other options, which let you taste their sweet wines, their rosés, and their “Grand Vintage,” or premium wines.  Almost all of their wines have screw tops, so if you are cork-averse, these are a good option.

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The servers were all quite pleasant and helpful.

We also decided to get the Lombardi cheese and salami board for $20, which included a small loaf of bread, olives, dried apricots, and fig cake.  They have a small menu of other snacks, and don’t allow outside food.

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Our snack tray, moment before we decimated it. No outside food is allowed.

  1. 2016 Chenin Blanc         $28

Our server proudly pointed out that this is their signature wine, and that theirs is the only completely estate-grown chenin blanc in New York State.  They have reason to be excited about this wine, which we all really liked.  The aroma is grassy and herbal, and the taste starts fruity with citrus at the end, plus notes of minerality.  My brother said it was “like a mountain stream running over granite.”  We decided it would be good with food, and found that to be true that evening when we had it with scallop ceviche and grilled striped bass.  We bought the fish at Braun’s, of course.

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  1. 2015 Festival Chardonnay $18.99

As I surmised, given its position in the flight, this is their steel-fermented chard.  My sister-in-law found the aroma sweet, and I thought maybe like orange blossoms.  My brother agreed, but added steel pipes.  It’s quite dry and light, and evanesces quickly.  I said like putting your tongue on a flagpole.  We had some disagreement as to how much we liked it, though we thought it would be good with food.  My husband suggested mac and cheese, I mentioned carbonara, and my brother said it reminded him of an Italian wine.  My sister-in-law didn’t like the after-taste.

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The menu says the pour is a half to one ounce, but it seemed more generous than that to me.

  1. 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

Because they use neutral French oak barrels for the eight months of fermentation, this is lighter and not as strongly butter-scotchy as some oaked chards.  We found if quite pleasant, with aromas of vanilla and butterscotch and a taste that we compared to caramel cone ice cream with a lemony finish.  Of course, it would go well with roast chicken.

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  1. 2016 Dry Riesling $22

One of the servers was particularly well-informed, and she let us know that this riesling has no residual sugars.  The shorter the fermentation time, she told us, the drier the riesling.  We liked this white, too.  The aroma combines honeysuckle with a touch of something chemical, perhaps camphor.  It hits the tongue with tart fruit, including greengage plums and some apricot.  You wouldn’t necessarily identify it as a riesling from taste alone, we decided, and you wouldn’t want it with spicy food.  But it might be very good with charcuterie.

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  1. 2015 Festival Red $19.99

Now we switched to the reds, which they poured into the same glasses we had used for the whites.  This is a blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon and 48% merlot, with aromas of cherry and black current, plus spice.  Nutmeg?  It’s very dry and light, and our comments included “not much there,” “not enough fruit,” and “no complexity.”  My sister-in-law detected something “chalky” at the end.  We were not excited, though it is drinkable.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $28

Ooh, we liked this one much better.  Aromas of plums, leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate and tastes of complex fruits made this our favorite of the reds.  It has some tannins, and is elegant, not earthy.  We thought it would go well with venison, and my brother bought some bottles of it.

  1. 2013 Merlot $28

As usual, the merlot smells like black cherry and tastes like cherries and other dark stone fruits.  First my brother said it would be a good burger wine, but then he said, “The more I drink it the less I like it.”  My husband joked, “That doesn’t sound like a good business plan.”  The wine is light and rather monochromatic.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $28

The aroma is similar to the cabernet franc, but the taste is not as good.  No depth, we agree, and though it has dark fruit tastes there is no complexity.  My sister-in-law says it has a “watery” finish.  Meh.

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The tasting room is nice, but rather small.

Reasons to visit:  lovely outdoor deck with views over the vineyards; pleasant servers; the Chenin Blanc and, to a lesser extent, the other whites; the Cabernet Franc; you can bring your dog if you sit outside.

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The prettily rustic entrance

 

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Do the surroundings influence how a wine tastes? We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

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We enjoyed the view across the vines.

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She’s much too polite to ask for any, but my sister-in-law and brother’s dog thought the cheese tray smelled pretty good.

The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017

http://winemaker-studio.com/index.html

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To celebrate April 15 NOT being tax day, we decided to return to The Winemaker Studio, where winemakers who work for some of the big wineries experiment with their own labels. It does fascinate me that people whose job is winemaking feel the need to express more of their ideas about wine with their own experiments—but when the results are as good as this, why not?  On this day, the Studio was featuring the wines of Anthony Nappa, who owns the place and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Russell Hearn, who is the winemaker for Lieb.  Hearn actually has two different labels available:  Suhru for one line, and T’Jara for wines whose grapes all come from one vineyard.

We stood at the bar and enjoyed chatting with our server, who seemed to know everything about all the wines.  On that day, the menus offered any five of Nappa’s ten wines for $15, and all five of Hearn’s wines, also for $15.  We decided to do one of each, alternating as we went, with some guidance from our server as to sequence and choices from Nappa’s list.  We could also have ordered cheese or other snacks, which come from the little food store attached to the tasting room.  Before we started, the server gave us glasses of chilled water, which he regularly replenished.

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The room is simple. The tables are sometimes inside and sometimes outside.

One other couple entered, and we enjoyed chatting with them about where they had been that day and their love of Key West.  Then a large group came in, and though they don’t usually permit groups without a reservation, since it was so quiet the server agreed to take care of them, and seated them in the food store room.  We were concerned we’d lose our source of information, but he competently took care of everyone!

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The sign seems clear enough…

  1. 2016 Suhru Sauvignon Blanc      $20

We decided it was best to start with what was likely the lightest of the wines, and we were right.  This is a really nice light sauvignon blanc, with some aromas of cat pee and asparagus.  It’s a bit fruity for a sauvignon blanc, and also has lots of minerality and some saltiness.  Very refreshing.  Good summer sipper, or to have with clams or oysters.

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  1. 2016 Nappa White Pinot Noir   $19

White pinot noir?  Isn’t that the wine that used to be called Anomaly?  Well, yes.  Apparently there was some sort of allegation of copyright infringement from a winery in Napa Valley, so Anthony Nappa had to rename his wine.  The first time we had this we really liked it, then not so much the next time, but this time it was back into the plus file.  The aroma combines strawberry—like a rosé, which this basically resembles—with a touch of funkiness that adds some interest.  The wine is somewhat dry, with some strawberry taste as well.  It would pair well with a stinky cheese, like an aged blue.

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  1. 2014 Suhru Dry Riesling               $18

Not sure why, but my tasting buddy insisted the smell reminded him of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  It is a strong aroma, with a touch of mineral or metal.  If you like a dry riesling, this is for you.  The server noted that it had .7% residual sugar, quite a contrast to the Nappa riesling we were going to taste next.  I always enjoy these side by side tastings, where you try the same grapes made in different ways.  Like the Suhru sauvignon blanc, this also has a bit of a salty tang, with some gooseberry taste.

  1. 2016 Nappa New York Riesling   $18

So different!  Made with grapes from upstate’s Sheldrake vineyard, this riesling has 1.9% residual sugar.  Although it is much sweeter, it is well balanced, and would be fine with something really spicy, like Thai food.  “Almost candy,” says my husband, but I get tropical fruit and spices like nutmeg, and a complex aroma that is rather alluring.

  1. 2012 Suhru Shiraz           $25

Although the scent promises lots of dark fruit, the wine itself is rather light for a shiraz.  I could see this with roast chicken, not steak.  Nice tannins, so maybe it will age well.

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  1. 2016 Nappa Bordo Antico           $22

If you care about such things, you might like to know that this wine is certified organic.  It is made from cabernet franc grapes, steel fermented.  It smells like forest floor, with a bit of a mushroomy funk.  The taste is good, fruity, direct and simple.  I might pair it with duck breasts.

 

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc         $30

Here we go again—same grape, different preparation—though this is a bit of a blend, 87% cabernet franc with 10% merlot and 3% cabernet sauvignon.  This is oak fermented, and has lots of fruit tastes like dark plums, and a long finish.  Delicious.  It would complement lamb chops.

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  1. 2014 Nappa Nemesis Pinot Noir               $35

Why “Nemesis”?  We learn that pinot noir is notoriously hard to work with, so the danger is that it could prove to be the winemaker’s nemesis.  Not in this case, though it is not our favorite of the day.  Made with grapes from Macari and Peconic Bay, this is a light, dry, slightly fruity red.

  1. 2013 T’Jara Merlot         $28

A blend of 92% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc, and 2% malbec, the wine is aged 20 months in Hungarian oak and tastes to us more or less like a typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry flavor.  Very nice.

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Both the design on the label and the name of the label come from Australian Aborigines. Hearn is from Australia.

  1. 2013 Nappa Tredici        $35

Tredici?  As in three grapes:  67% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 18% cabernet sauvignon?  Nope, as in 2013—named for the year.  And why not, since it was a very good year.  We smell cherries, and the taste is very much of the merlot, but with more interesting flavors than the Hearn blend.  It has lots of tannins, and if we had room in the wine cellar (we really must drink more of our wine!) we might have bought a bottle to age for a few years.

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There are wines from a variety of winemakers available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to taste wines you won’t find elsewhere; an intimate setting with knowledgeable servers (not just this time, but every time we’ve come); the Nappa White Pinot Noir (formerly Anomaly) and Tredici; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc and T’Jara 2012 Cabernet Franc; lots of availability of magnums, if you happen to want to buy one!

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Lots of magnums!

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The Studio is on Peconic Street, where you will also find a nice little food store and a gift shop.

Waters Crest: New Digs November 19, 2016

http://www.waterscrest.com/

The new home of Waters Crest looks quite homey.

The new home of Waters Crest looks quite homey.

What a difference a year makes!  Last fall we visited Waters Crest’s tiny tasting room in a drab strip of shops around the corner from the Southold town dump and had the room to ourselves; this fall we encountered a limo full of 20-somethings on their way into a cozy cottage on the Main Road that had been transformed into a comfortable bar and groupings of tables and chairs.  Over near the windows, a group was celebrating one person’s birthday, cake and all.  Next to us at the bar we got into a conversation with two men who turned out to also be bloggers and a very friendly young woman who owns a nearby bed and breakfast (the Sunny Side Up Bed and Breakfast, closed now for the season, but check them out next June), who is also quite knowledgeable about local wine and food.

There were several sets of comfy chairs.

There were several sets of comfy chairs.

The advantage of being the only ones in the tasting room last year was that we had the exclusive attention of Adam, the very well-informed server who gave us all sorts of information about the wines.  This time, we again encountered Adam, and had occasion to admire his ability to multi-task as he handled the crowd (with the help of Mrs. Waters and her daughter), and, after things calmed down a bit, again talked with us seriously about the wines, about which he is clearly passionate.  And he has much to be proud about, as we liked all the wines, some more than others.  Jim Waters doesn’t have his own vineyard, but produces his wines from grapes he buys from various growers, such as Jamesport.  Clearly, he chooses well.

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The tasting menu offers eight different wines—four whites and four reds—all of which you can sample for $20, a bargain.  Or you can pick only a few, at $4 per taste.  Since I have a cold, and we wanted to try all eight, we decided the way to share a tasting was to get two glasses and have my husband pour half the taste into my glass.  Once Adam realized what we were doing, he very courteously shared out each tasting between the two glasses, and we certainly had plenty to drink.

  1. 2015 Dry Rosé                   $24.99

According to the menu, the rosé is made from a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc using the “saignée” method, in which the juice is taken from red grapes at an early stage, when it is still light in color, and can then be mixed with white grape juice.  We note a faint aroma of unripe strawberries and then sip.  If I was blindfolded, opines my tasting pal, I would think this was a sauvignon blanc.  I see what he means, because this is quite dry with a bit of a citrus edge, but also some strawberry flavor like a rosé.  It would certainly pair well with oysters.

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  1. 2015 Dry Riesling $24.99

This is just the type of riesling we like—dry, crisp, and mineral. I think it smells like honey, and my husband adds leather.  The taste reminds me of a nice crisp pear, and I think it would be perfect with lobster bisque.

  1. 2014 Reserve Chardonnay $23.99

If you are ambivalent about whether you like your chards oaked or unoaked you might like this one.  The wine is fermented in steel, then spends three months in used French oak, so it gets just a hint of the vanilla the oak imparts.  This particular wine is already sold out (except for what they keep for the tasting room) and I can see why.  The little bit of oak smooths out the edges of the wine, which is dry with green apple tastes and some minerality and really nice acidity.  Lemongrass “on the nose,” as they say.

Not drunk, just trying a different angle!

Not drunk, just trying a different angle!

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

Adam explains that this is actually an orange wine, which means that though it is a white it has a faint orange tone from the grape skins.  If you’re expecting an Australian-style sauvignon blanc you’ll be disappointed, but if you come with an open mind you’ll probably be happy.  It has a bit of a butterscotch taste and aroma, and would complement a plate of charcuterie beautifully.

  1. 2014 “5” Red Blend $29.99

As we transition to the reds, Adam rinses both our glasses with a bit of the red, a good idea.  This bottle has my favorite label, a version of the famous Charles Demuth painting of the “Great Number Five” which was inspired by a poem by William Carlos Williams (check out the painting for “secret” clues to their friendship).  It is almost all merlot, with 11% cabernet sauvignon and 4% malbec.  We enjoy it, but my husband adds, “This wine lacks gravitas.”  Yes, it is a rather light red, with some aromas and tastes of plum jam.  Good for casual drinking, maybe with roast chicken.

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  1. 2013 Merlot “Grand Vin” $59.99

This is one of a number of Waters Crest’s wines with high ratings from Wine Enthusiast.  Personally, as a retired teacher, I am not into assigning grades, but if you find that helpful, there it is.  Adam suggests that this wine, though it has been aged 22 months in new French oak, would benefit from further aging.  There are plenty of tannins, so I think he had a point. Both the aroma and the taste have notes of spice, and if you drank it now I would pair it with lamb chops.  I recommend you check out the meats from Eight Hands Farm—all pasture raised and quite delicious.

We liked the ceiling lights, like mini-barrels.

We liked the ceiling lights, like mini-barrels.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc “Grand Vin” $59.99

You could age this one for ten years, suggests Adam, but if you bought it you probably would drink it sooner than that.  It is quite delicious, and our new friend-with-the-bed-and-breakfast’s favorite of the wines.  After aging 22 months in new French oak, it has lots of dark fruit tastes, plenty of tannins, plus notes of chocolate, leather, raspberries, and spices.  It could stand up to a steak, maybe from Wayside Market.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Vin” $59.99

We discuss the season of 2013, which was a long hot one, leading to lots of ripeness in the reds.  This one smells to me like chocolate bark with almonds and berries, and the taste is more blackberry than chocolate.  Though Adam says again this could be aged 15 or more years, we find it quite smooth, almost velvety.  This one spent 23 months in American oak before being bottled.

One part of the bar area.

One part of the bar area.

Reasons to visit: pleasant new tasting room conveniently located across the street from Wickham’s Fruit Farm stand and Touch of Venice (where, if you bring a bottle of Waters Crest wine, they waive the corkage fee);they have a roomy parking lot in the back; the Dry Riesling, Reserve Chard, and Sauvignon Blanc among the whites; the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Vins”; Adam if he’s serving in the tasting room; the pleasant back yard (in the warmer weather).    

We might have to come back on a Friday and get a glass of cabernet.

We might have to come back on a Friday and get a glass of cabernet.

Or in the summer, to experience the back yard.

Or in the summer, to experience the back yard.

Waters Crest: A Learning Experience October 18, 2015

http://www.waterscrestwinery.com/

One view of the cozy tasting room

One view of the cozy tasting room

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

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

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

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25.99

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

Two of the whites

Two of the whites

  1. 2013 Pinot Blanc $24.99

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

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $24.99

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

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay $23.99

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

  1. 2012 Red Blend $19.99

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

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

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

  1. 2008 Cabernet Franc $39.99

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

  1. 2010 Merlot Grand Vin $59.99

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

Nice color

Nice color

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

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

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

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

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

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Paumanok: A Bit of a French Accent 8/29/15

https://www.paumanok.com/

Watch for the oyster sign!

Watch for the oyster sign!

“We have the only chenin blanc in New York State,” asserts our server, so we are interested to taste the wine made from this French grape.   But more about that later.  On this beautiful late summer afternoon, the outside deck is filled with small groups enjoying the weather and Paumanok’s menu of raw oysters ($25 for a dozen) or large variety of cheese or charcuterie plates from Catapano goat farm and Lombardi’s Market.

Most people elected to sit outside on this beautiful day.

Most people elected to sit outside on this beautiful day.

The tasting room is small, but we manage to find room at the bar where we assess our choices.  The tasting menu lists nine options, from one taste of their sparkling wine to four whites or four reds for $12 each flight.  We opt to share one of each, but that still does not get us tastes of all their wines, in particular most of the Festival line.  Maybe next year.  The sign outside says “Winery of the Year,” but I’m not sure what that is based on.  However, it is a pleasant place, especially in the good weather when you can sit outside; the wines, while none of them send us into outer space, are fine; and I have to favor a place that quotes Walt Whitman on their labels (Walt, born on Long Island, liked to use the Native American name for Long Island—Paumanok—in his poetry.).  The gift area has a small selection of t-shirts and other gift items, but no volumes of Whitman’s poems!

The menu of tastings

The menu of tastings

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                    $24

If we had decided to have oysters, this is the wine I would have chosen to have with them.  The aroma is grassy and minerally, the taste tart and lemony with some tropical fruit notes.  Excellent.

Our first two tastes

Our first two tastes

  1. 2014 Chenin Blanc $28

I suppose because the bar is crowded, our server pours our tastes two at a time, which is good, because the wines are too cold, so our deliberate style of tasting—sniff, discuss, take notes, swirl, taste, discuss, take more notes—gives them time to warm up a bit. This is also a pleasant wine, a touch sweeter than the Sauvignon Blanc, with not much smell.  We decide we taste some sweet orange, perhaps tangelo.  A nice light summer wine, and you wouldn’t want to pair it with any food that was too assertive, as it would get lost.

A good oaked chardonnay if you don't like oaked chardonnays.

A good oaked chardonnay if you don’t like oaked chardonnays.

  1. 2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

Our charmingly French-accented server points out that they have a steel-fermented chard on the Festival list, as we discuss the differences between steel versus oak and what we like about each.  We also notice that almost all the wines have screw caps, a boon to the corkscrew-use-challenged.  This is not overly oaky, with a toasty aroma and some vanilla taste, but not too sweet.  “A crowd pleaser,” we decide.  I think it would pair well with shrimp.

The riesling about which we disagreed.

The riesling about which we disagreed.

  1. 2014 Dry Riesling $22

My husband, a riesling fan, doesn’t particularly care for this one, which he finds not “riesling enough.”  I like it.  It has a bit of that cat pee aroma, plus some apple.  Our server says it has green apple tastes, and we agree, and would add a touch of Key lime citrus.  Simple and refreshing, this is a good riesling if you are not particularly a riesling fan.

  1. 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling $20

If you are counting, you realize that this is our fifth out of four white wine tastes, which we get courtesy of our server who, noticing our seriousness, wants us to try a different style of riesling and gives us a small sample of a wine from a different flight.  This is fairly sweet, almost candy-like, also relatively simple, and not to our taste—but it might go well with Thai food.

pau fest red

  1. 2012 Festival Red $20

The label says this “should be enjoyed with red meat,” but I would say not too red.  Maybe pork chops or veal or a cheese plate, as it would not stand up to a big steak.  A blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon and 48% merlot, this has a slightly piney aroma and is quite drinkable.  It is mellow, not complex, with a touch of tannin.  “I get a tingle on my tongue,” says my drinking pal.

  1. 2012 Merlot $24

Eh.  No aroma, not much taste,rather underwhelming.  Pischochs, I say, which my husband says I can’t use in a review.  It’s a Yiddish term meaning…watery.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $30

One of the servers gives us some more information on this wine, noting that 2013 was a very good year, and that this wine, a combination of mostly cabernet franc with “a touch of merlot,” drinks more like a pinot noir than a cab.  I would agree.  It is another nice wine, with a bit of a funky and blackberry smell and cherry and berry taste.  It’s not powerful, though it has some depth.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Our server, who reveals she is from Toulouse, is pleased when we note that this is actually a Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 16% merlot, 2% petit verdot, and 86% cabernet sauvignon.  After she steps away we add to each other “Bordeaux light.”  Aromas of cherry, oak and red candy; tastes of red fruit, maybe plums, pleasantly dry.  Not a serious wine, we decide, but like almost all the wines we tried, fine.

At this point, we notice that there is no tip jar, which is too bad, since we would definitely have left a nice tip.  If we had elected to buy four bottles the cost of one tasting would have been deducted from the total, but we decide we don’t want any of the wines enough to buy four bottles.  However, there is nothing wrong with any of them (except that merlot!), so I wouldn’t cross this winery off your list if you were planning a visit.  It is particularly a good place to sit outside and get one of their food items with a glass of wine.  I’d recommend the Sauvignon Blanc with oysters or the Festival Red or Cabernet Sauvignon with a cheese or charcuterie plate.

I love that they quote Walt Whitman on the label!

I love that they quote Walt Whitman on the label!

Reasons to visit:  the Sauvignon Blanc, the only Chenin Blanc in New York State, the Festival Red, the Cabernet Sauvignon; a nice outside deck where you can enjoy their cheese or charcuterie or oysters with a glass of wine; labels that quote Walt Whitman.

One view of the outside deck.

One view of the outside deck.

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Jamesport Vineyards: Summer time! May 10, 2015

http://www.jamesportwines.com/

The entrance to Jamesport Vineyards

The entrance to Jamesport Vineyards

Jamesport Vineyards is a great place to go in the summer because they have a huge back yard area.  When we were there on Mother’s Day a bunch of kids had started an impromptu baseball game (with a plastic bat), a singer-guitarist played folkie/pop songs, and groups lingered at the picnic tables scattered on the grounds.  However, since their tasting policy is “one taste at a time,” it is best to go there when you plan to order a glass of wine—I suggest the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc or the Cinq Blanc—and a plate of oysters, rather than go for a tasting if you want to hang out outside.  (They start serving oysters soon, when they also fire up the outdoor oven to make flatbreads.)

One view of the spacious back yard

One view of the spacious back yard

We did both—a tasting inside at the bar, then a glass each to sip as we relaxed outside.  Since our son was with us, we decided to share two tastings, which are $15 for five tastes, chosen from their menu of wines.   We coordinated our choices, so you’ll get to read about ten of their wines.  There were a few we didn’t get to sample, such as their rosé, which, after being at Croteaux the day before, we decided not to try.

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You can peek at some of the wine-making equipment from the tasting room.

You can peek at some of the wine-making equipment from the tasting room.

  1. East End Chardonnay                    $16.95

90% steel fermented, 10% oak, means that this is a somewhat crisp chardonnay, though it is a tad sweet for us.  The aroma is of citrus and roasted pear.

If you order certain wines, you support aquaculture on the East End.

If you order certain wines, you support aquaculture on the East End.

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  1. East End Cinq Blanc $16.95

Cinq means five, and this is a blend of five grapes:  chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and pinot blanc.  The aroma is interesting, as is the taste.  We smell a bit of a funky, wet forest smell, and taste kiwi and key lime.  We like this wine, and pronounce it “piquant.”

  1. 2012 Dry Riesling $25.95

Our son was thinking of trying their other riesling, but we persuaded him to try the dry one, as the other is described as sweet.  Then when we smelled it we thought we’d be sorry, since the aroma is quite funky and musty.  However, it tastes better than it smells, though the taste carries a bit of that funkiness.  Mostly it is dry and crisp, with lots of lemon and a touch of wet rock.  (Okay, so I’ve never tasted a wet rock, but if you go outside in Manhattan and take a good whiff of the air after a doorman has rinsed the hot sidewalk on a hot summer day, then imagine what that would taste like, you’ll get what I mean.)

  1. 2013 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc $27.95

Nice.  Flowery honeysuckle aroma and a nice mouth feel with a fair amount of fruit, especially barely ripe cantaloupe, make this a good one.  You can sense a bit of oakiness.

jam cinq red

  1. East End Cinq Red $16.95

As we switch to reds, we get new glasses, a nice touch.  Cinq again refers to five grapes, in this case cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, pinot noir, and petit syrah.  The aroma is quite sweet, like red candy but with a touch of tobacco smokiness.  I say it is tart, while my two companions insist on saying sour.  Okay, so how about with a rich lasagna made with hot sausage?  That would work, they agree.

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  1. 2010 Mattituck Cabernet Franc $30

“Mattituck” refers to their vineyard in that town, and we think it must be a good one.  The wine smells delicious—chocolate, tobacco, and ripe plum—and tastes pretty good too, though it is quite tannic.  Think about how a strong cup of tea without milk makes your tongue feel…

  1. 2010 Mélange de Trois $34.95

Ha-ha, we get it, like a ménage à trois only with three wines.  41% cabernet sauvignon, 23% cabernet franc, and 31% merlot is the combo here.  Funky aroma again, lots of blackberry tastes, pretty tannic:  we like it!   It would pair well with lamb or beef stew.

  1. 2010 MTK Syrah $30

I tend to like syrahs, and this is no exception.  Lovely smells of black cherry and spice, tastes of red cherry, cocoa, and a touch of tobacco.  I could see this with a nice pork roast.  Oh, and MTK is the abbreviation for Mattituck.

The tasting room is fine, but we wanted to be outside.

The tasting room is fine, but we wanted to be outside.

  1. 2007 Jubilant Reserve $34.95

A Bordeaux blend, this wine has 68% cabernet franc, 18% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 2.5% syrah, and 2.5% petit verdot—and a fruity aroma.  However, it is surprisingly light, and would not stand up to a big steak.  However, I like it, and compare the taste to dried cranberries, which at first surprises my companions and then they nod their heads in agreement.

  1. 2007 “SIDOR” Syrah Reserve $34.95

We manage to get the very busy server to stop for a moment and explain the name of this wine; “It’s for the name of the farmer who owns the land,” she says, before hurrying off to fill the next glass.  Although it is called syrah, this is actually a blend of 62% syrah, 18% cabernet sauvignon, 9% cabernet franc, 9% merlot, and 2% petit verdot.  The smell is…not good.  Musty basement, I opine, and they agree.  The taste is dry, of cherries, but also a tad funky.  Our son likes it but wouldn’t particularly buy it.

That yard is calling.

That yard is calling.

After the tasting we each get a glass—the Cinq Blanc for our son (plus he buys a bottle to take home), and the Mélange de Trois for us—and sit outside to savor the beautiful weather, the laid-back scene, the wine, the music, and the company of each other.

Bud break has happened!

Bud break has happened!

Reasons to visit:  the lovely back yard area where you can bring a picnic or buy oysters or flatbreads or other snacks; the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, the Jubilant Reserve.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

Kontokosta Winery: Simply Good March 28, 2015

http://kontokostawinery.com/

kont building

Kontakosta’s motto—“Sound Life.  Sound Wine.”—is a nice play on words, since they are situated on a high bluff overlooking Long Island Sound and they also follow ecologically sensitive practices—such as generating their electricity through the use of a windmill.  The wine is, in general, quite nice.  We also speculated whether some of the briny, mineral tastes in the wines might come from their waterfront location.

One side of the tasting room

One side of the tasting room

The tasting room is a beautifully spare space, all white and black, with large windows looking out over the vineyards.  There’s a bar at one end and long tables for those who prefer to sit, plus an upper balcony.  Our group of four opted for the bar, where we found very informative and engaging servers.  The tasting menu offers two flights, one of five whites for $14 and another of five reds, also $14.  We decided that each couple would do one of each, sharing as we went.  We also shared a cheese tray, which consisted of a very generous and tasty block of Toussaint raw cow milk cheese and a sleeve of crackers for $12.

Looking up to the balcony

Looking up to the balcony

We started with the whites.

  1. NV Anemometer White                              $16

This is their table white, made from sauvignon blanc grapes from various vintages.  Our friend said it smelled like a lemon bar, which was quite accurate.  We also detected some vegetable aromas and some minerality.  The taste was also somewhat lemony and mineral, tart but not terribly crisp.  We all agreed it would go well with oysters.  (The name anemometer, by the way, refers to a device that measures wind speed, an indirect homage to their windmill.)

The Anemometer White

The Anemometer White

  1. 2013 Orient Chardonnay $22

Before we could ask, our server volunteered the information that it is called Orient because the grapes come from Sargon Vineyard, out in Orient.  A steel-fermented chard, this has typical honeysuckle and orange aromas and some gooseberry flavor.  My husband found it too mineral, with some wet rock flavors (whatever that tastes like), but the rest of us liked it.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $25

“This is made in the Sancerre style,” volunteered our server, “And it won a gold medal!”  We sniff and agree:  pineapple and mango on the nose and in the mouth.  Nice, though a bit sweet, but it goes well with the cheese.

We took home about a third of the cheese

We took home about a third of the cheese

  1. 2013 Viognier $25

“This is my favorite wine to go with that cheese,” enthuses our server, and we agree with her wholeheartedly.  The aroma reminds me of these wonderful cantaloupe-type melons called Hand Melons we used to get upstate, and the wine also has some cantaloupe tastes.

  1. 2012 Viognier

Observing how serious we are about our tasting, our server pours us each an extra taste, of the 2012 Viognier, which is almost sold out, and which she says is her favorite of the whites.  Interestingly, this has a sweeter aroma and taste than the 2013, though still lots of cantaloupe, with more floral notes.  It’s a more challenging wine, observes my husband.

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $22

This has only .06% sugar, we are told, which means it is most definitely a dry riesling.  They used to have an off-dry riesling for those who come in and request “the sweetest white you have,” but they no longer make it.  This is definitely a dry riesling, with a touch of that cat pee smell (an observation which causes some hilarity among our cat-owning friends) and a simple but pleasant taste.  Delicate, notes our friend.

kont bottle

  1. Anemometer Red Table Wine $16

Now we move on to the reds, for which we are given new glasses.  This is a blend of 60% cabernet franc and 30% cabernet sauvignon, from various vintages.  We discuss the varying implications of saying an inexpensive table wine vs. a cheap red, and decide this belongs in the former category—especially when we learn they are running a special of 50% off for a case of the red and the white Anemometers.  Our noses detect a hint of ripe olives and “wet laundry,” says my husband, as well as some fruit.  The wine itself is light but “very acceptable,” with lots of nice fruit flavor.  We decide to get a case of eight reds and four whites.

  1. 2007 Blum Merlot $19

Ray Blum had a vineyard in Southold planted in merlot vines, which has since been bought by Sparkling Pointe, which tore out the merlot vines, so this is the last anyone will have of the Blum Merlot.  It’s a fine, fairly typical North Fork merlot, with a touch of barnyard odor and black cherry taste.  Very nice.

  1. 2010 Estate Merlot $34

Yum.  Aged six months in French oak and six months in steel, this is a really good merlot, with lots of black cherry taste plus a touch of vanilla.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

This one is aged in Hungarian oak.  What’s the difference?  Hungarian oak is cheaper, gives a milder flavor, and is more tightly grained so there’s less evaporation (the “angel’s share”).  This is also yum!  Brambly aroma, lots of layers of flavor, including blackberry.  This is one that could be saved for future drinking.  “Or buy two,” suggests our server, “and drink one now and save the other for later.”

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $40

Silver Medal winner in the San Francisco Wine Challenge competition, we are told.  Hmmm.  This is a dry red, with aromas of pepper and nutmeg and mixed berry tastes.  “It has no gravitas,” opines my tasting buddy.

The bar

The bar

Reasons to go:  Beautiful tasting room overlooking the Sound, which you can walk to in good weather; knowledgeable servers; the Anemometer wines if you need to buy some decent table wines for everyday drinking; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Viognier, the Estate Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon.  They also sell olive oil—not made locally!  However, we are headed to Greenport to check out Vines and Branches’ new digs, so we decline to try the olive oil.

They have a small selection of gift items.

They have a small selection of gift items.

kont doors

kont mist

The room is reflected in the sign about their excellent sale.

The room is reflected in the sign about their excellent sale.

Waters Crest: A Small Gem February 1, 2014

http://www.waterscrestwinery.com

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“Has it been that long?!” exclaimed Jenny, when we admitted that we hadn’t been there since August of 2012.  If you want a truly personal experience at a winery, Waters Crest is one of the places to go.  Despite its unfortunate location—in a commercial strip on Sound Avenue and Cox Lane, just around the corner from the Southold Transfer Station (a.k.a. town dump, with its complex odors of rotting garbage and recycled paper)—the tasting room is quite cozy and the wines worth trying.

Jim Waters does not have his own vineyard, and so buys his grapes from North Fork vineyards, plus Riesling grapes from upstate, near Seneca Lake.  However, according to his web site he “hand chooses” the grapes, and he is certainly very hands-on when it comes to making the wines.  His general style seems to be to go for dry wines, which we tend to like.

The tasting menu lists seven wines, three whites and four reds, and you can taste all of them for $15.  In addition, if you buy four bottles of wine your tasting is free.  We opted to share a tasting, and noticed that the wines are served in Reidel glasses, a luxury touch that Jenny admitted made her a bit anxious when it came time to hand dry them.  You can also buy a few wine-related gifts, including handsome cloth wine gift bags hand-made by Jenny’s mother.  We also learned that we just missed a chance to visit with Jim’s father, who was hanging out in the tasting room during our last visit.  As I said, it’s a personal experience!

Jenny packs the wines we bought.

Jenny packs the wines we bought.

1)       2012 Chardonnay            $19.99

This is their steel-fermented Chard, with typical aromas of apple, pear, and grass.  We taste a lot of lemon—perhaps too much lemon.  Not a wine for sipping, though it might be better with food.

2)      2012 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc   $29.99

After steel fermenting, this one spends two months in oak to mellow it a bit.  We can sense a touch of that caramel, but it is not too oaky.  This is also dry and rather light, with lots of green apple tastes.  In a nice touch, Jenny rinses the glass with a drop of the new wine before pouring the taste.

3)      2012 Dry Riesling             $24.99

Jenny agrees with us when we decide this is our favorite of the whites.  The aroma is very flowery, with lots of honeysuckle, as is not uncommon with upstate fruit.  However, it avoids the over-sweetness I often sense with upstate grapes, and has a pleasant minerality and citrus taste.  It would be great with oysters!  Time for a new glass as we switch to the reds.

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4)      “5” Red Blend                   $16.99

As soon as I see the label I exclaim that it reminds me of the famous painting by Charles Demuth of “The Great Number Five,” which was inspired by a poem by his friend William Carlos Williams.  If you look at a reproduction of the painting, you’ll see references to Demuth’s pal Williams in it.  Jenny confirms that the label was designed to evoke this painting, but the name was inspired by the idea that this is a “five days a week” wine, perfect for casual weeknight dinners.  We agree, and enjoy the blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the very cherry aroma and the dry light taste.  One could have this with anything from salmon steaks to burgers.

5)      2009 Merlot                       $34.99

Another typical Long Island Merlot, this has aromas of blackberry and eucalyptus and nice fruit taste, with a tart finish.

6)      2009 Campania Rosso                    $49.99

Jim Waters changes the blend on this wine from year to year, depending on which grapes he chooses.  The ’08, which was listed on the tasting menu, was a classic Bordeaux blend, but this one is 78% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Franc.  ’09 was a difficult year for red grapes.  There’s a bit of a funky aroma, but the taste is good, with plenty of fruit, and we guess it will age fairly well and end up tasting better.  Nice legs.

7)      2008 Cabernet Franc                       $39.99

The Cab Franc spends 20 months in French oak, and we can taste a bit of that woody flavor.  I smell a bit of funkiness here, too, but also plenty of cherry.  It’s a nice wine, though not worth the price, we decide, though Jenny suggests that this, too, would benefit from a couple of years of bottle aging.  The reds are suffering in comparison to a very expensive French red we shared during the week with a friend, so we have to banish that wine from our memories in order to appreciate Long Island reds for themselves.

We decide to get two bottles of the Riesling and two of the “5” for everyday drinking, and then discover that the tasting is thus free.  If we had only opted for three bottles, Jenny says she would have informed us of the deal!

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Reasons to visit:  an intimate, personal experience; the 2012 Dry Riesling and the “5” Red Blend; a free tasting if you buy four bottles.