Shinn Winery: Sophisticated Rusticity February 19, 2017

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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Away from the Main Road and Sound Avenue wineries, on rural Oregon Road, Shinn’s tasting room is housed in a grey weathered wood building that seems rustic.  However, the wines, the service, and their philosophy are all quite up to date.

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We went there with two small distractions, ages five and two, so my notes are somewhat less detailed than usual, but we enjoyed our visit anyway, highlighted by a nice dish of mixed nuts we ordered, and a small plate of crackers for the little ones we had not (Shinn asks that you not bring in outside food, and has a small menu of their own.).  The resident doggie also came in for a bit of attention.  As we entered, a server asked that one member of our party of four adults not do a tasting, in order to supervise the little ones, but we managed to slip her some sips as we sat at a comfortable table for six.

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Food menu. The mixed nuts were very good.

The last time we came here, also in the winter, it was deserted, but this time it was Presidents’ Weekend and the weather was unseasonably warm, and quite a few people were there.  As a result, we learned that they have an additional tasting area in amongst the stainless-steel vats where they could accommodate the overflow crowd.  When we arrived, there were even some hardy souls sitting outside on their pretty patio area.

 

The first sight you have of the winery is, appropriately enough, the tall windmill which, along with solar panels, provides power to the winery and the attached farmhouse inn.  The owners are very ecologically conscious, and use the “biodynamic” method to grow their grapes, which you can read about on their web site.  Even the dishes used for their snacks are “compostable” and “made from fallen leaves.”

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Windmill

A tasting includes any four wines from their menu for $15.  The three of us made some diverse choices, and we ended up not tasting the wines in the perfect order (as all wineries specify on their menus), so I’ll just list them in the order in which I tasted mine and theirs!  Fortunately, the first thing they put on our table was a nice big bottle of water and some cups, so I was able to cleanse my palate between tastes.  We also tasted their apple brandy and grappa, about which more later.

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  1. 2016 Coalescence          $16

I started with their white blend, a steel-fermented mixture of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and riesling.  The first time I had it I loved it, the second time not so much, but I guess the third time’s the charm, because this time I really enjoyed it.  It is a pleasantly dry white with nice minerality but also a touch of fruity sweetness, most likely from the riesling.  We bought a bottle.

  1. 2010 Sparkling Brut        $40

Our guest opted to start his tasting with this, and given that he has toured the Champagne region of France, I was quite impressed that he liked this.  He said it was like a traditional blanc de blanc, and both toasty and juicy—but not worth the price.

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  1. 2014 Estate Merlot                       $26

My husband chose to do all reds, and started with their merlot, which he said would be “okay with spaghetti.”  It is dry, and, he noted, does not have much fruit.

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  1. 2016 First Fruit                $22

Although this is made from sauvignon blanc grapes, it definitely has a cat pee smell, but also some green apple aromas.  Fortunately, it tastes like green apple, and again is dry and a bit tart.

  1. 2013 Wild Boar Doe       $32

Yes, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of “all five red varietals we grow”—that is, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec.  I’m not sure who ordered this one (I think I was distracted by being asked to admire a “Water Wow” creation.), but we agreed that it definitely has a raspberry smell and is very dry with lots of tannins.  We decided that if one bought it, one should cellar it for a few years.

  1. 2013 Haven       $35

I chose this one from the list of “small production” whites, and it is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes, kept on the skins overnight and then barrel fermented and aged.  As a result, it has a lovely golden color and a taste of vanilla and toast and caramel.  It’s a bit too sweet for me, though I liked it, and I would order it if I was having a spicy dish.

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The Haven is a lovely color. It is named for the field where the grapes are grown.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc      $38

Our guest was so taken with this wine that he bought a bottle to give as a gift to a friend.  It has lots of tannins and some vegetal notes.  My notes say broccoli!  He said it was not earthy, and would benefit from some aging.  My husband also had this one, and said it would be good with lamb, maybe like the delicious marinated lamb roast from Eight Hands Farm we had Sunday night.

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An array of some of our choices.

  1. 2014 Nine Barrels           $32

They make—you guessed it—nine barrels of this wine, which is their reserve merlot.  My husband said it was “not that interesting,” and ventured the opinion that their winemaking was rather “tame.”

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc             $35

For my final taste, I chose another from the “small production” list, a wine that is aged for 11 months in neutral oak barrels.  It has a nice aroma with some vanilla, and is a smooth, pleasant wine with no rough edges.

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  1. Julius Drover Apple Brandy         $55

Shinn has their own distillery where they make several different liquors.  The apple brandy is made from local apples and is aged for four years.  A very small taste is $7, but really, you wouldn’t want too much, as the alcohol hits you right away. 80 proof!  It tastes very like brandy, and not much like apples, but our guest is making a small study of apple brandies and bought a bottle.  Julius Drover, by the way, refers to the owner’s grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger during Prohibition.

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  1. Shinn shine, Grappa                     $47 for 375 ml.

So the brandy was 80 proof, but this is 122 proof!  One of us described it as rubbing alcohol poured through grape skins.  It is powerful.

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They have a few “agritainment” activities.

Reasons to visit:  You want to get away from the main road wineries and try somewhere intimate and laid back; you’re interested in their liquors (in addition to the above, they make an eau de vie and another brandy); the Coalescence, the Cabernet Franc, the Sparkling Brut, the Haven; you want to support their earth-friendly philosophy.

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Resident laid-back pooch.

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Raphael Vineyards and Winery: On a Winter’s Day January 27, 2017

http://www.raphaelwine.com/

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Greenport was quiet. Some stores had their “closed for the season” signs up, while others had signs saying they would open at 11, but were still closed at 11:10.  As a woman in one shop said to me last winter, when I asked about her neighboring shop not being open, “It’s winter in Greenport.”  Indeed it is, as a chilly wind reminded us.

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The architecture says Italy, but the weather says January in New York.

After a few errands, including a stop at Eight Hands Farm to pick up some free-range chicken, we headed to Raphael Winery, hoping it was not closed for a private party, which is often the case.  It is not surprising that Raphael is a popular venue for weddings and other events, since they have a very spacious and attractive facility.  Our enthusiastic and very well-informed server told us that we should come by on Sundays, since they don’t schedule parties on that day and often have free entertainment as well.

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The attractive room is often used for weddings.

On this blustery Friday we were the only people there, so we were able to have great chats with our server, who had answers for all our questions and some good ideas of his own, especially about food pairings.  No surprise, he revealed that he had worked in restaurant kitchens.  The menu offers a number of options, including a mixed tasting of reds and whites and two premium tastings.  The white premium tasting offers four whites for $20, and the red has four reds, also for $20.  We decided to get one of each and share.  Our server lined up the glasses on the counter and poured all four whites, and then all four reds so they could warm up and breath a bit before we had them.  We learned that our complaint about the wineries serving the whites too cold was not their fault, as they had to maintain a certain temperature in case of a food inspector’s visit.  Ah-ha. Speaking of food, Raphael does not allow outside food, and suggests you check out the “wide variety” of snacks they offer in their shop.  Their gift shop has a more extensive selection of items than many other places.

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  1. 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc            $39

85% sauvignon blanc and 15% Semillon grapes make this a very nice drink, tart but with good fruit; lemony as one would expect, but more like lemongrass than a strong lemon flavor.  The aroma has notes of minerals and toasted almonds.  Steel fermented, it would pair well with local oysters.

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Nice sized pour!

  1. 2014 First Label Riesling (Virgin Berry)    $39

So our first question was, what does “Virgin Berry” mean?  No, it’s not Sir Richard Branson’s latest venture.  It means that some of the grapes don’t happen to get fertilized, and these small seedless berries are hand harvested and used to make this Riesling. We end up having a long discussion about this wine, because it is quite tart for a Riesling, actually for any wine, and we wonder about food pairings.  I say corn chowder, and our server suggests roast pork with a sweet glaze, and my husband opts for lobster bisque.  The aroma is earthy, with some of that cat pee smell you expect, and also cut grass.

  1. 2014 First Label Chardonnay      $39

For an oaked chardonnay, this is pretty good.  The menu says it is aged 50/50 in French oak and new oak, which somewhat mellows the oakiness.  The aroma is vanilla and Werther’s butterscotch, the taste is quite buttery with a long finish, more like a California chard.  Our server suggests it would go with linguini with clam sauce, putting a bit of the wine in the sauce.  We also discuss that they no longer make Chardeaux, a chardonnay/sauvignon blanc blend we had liked.  That’s why you have to try each winery every year, we say, because things change.

  1. 2015 White Primo Reserve          $45

At first sip I’m not impressed, but as I warm the glass in my palms a lovely Granny Smith apple taste begins to bloom.  This is a blend of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% Semillon, and 49% Riesling, fermented in both stainless steel and oak.  The aroma is sweet and flowery, the taste is tart, but an easier to take tart than the Riesling, very crisp.  Our server suggests that the cooler temperature is good for sipping, while the warmer is good to go with dinner.

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  1. 2012 Malbec Reserve     $69

The prices of the reds somewhat take our breath away (though they have less expensive wines on the other menu), and we get into a discussion of the economies of scale and the problems of pricing wines when you don’t make enough for a mass market.  In any event, our server suggests that all of the reds would benefit from a few years in the cellar, which would make them a better investment.  The aroma is of prune plums, and so is the taste, with some cherry as well.  It’s nicely dry, with plenty of tannins, which probably means it would age well. It would, we agree, go well with pork or lamb chops, both of which we saw at Eight Hands.  (We urge our server, as someone who appreciates good food, to pay them a visit.)

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The line-up of reds.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $69

The aroma is the expected blackberry, and also some wood.  I say it’s a nice aroma, while my husband says “fireplace logs.”  It’s good but a bit simple and a touch sour at the end and quite tannic.  “Chewy,” says our server, and we agree it could probably use a couple of years of aging.  It could certainly hold its own against a steak.

  1. 2012 Petit Verdot Reserve          $69

I discover that our server and I share a love of Petit Verdot, and he tells of the time he was able to taste the 2005, and how great it was.  2012 should be a good year, and if our cellar were not full we might have considered a bottle, despite the price.  The smell is lovely, with dark fruit and maybe some chocolate, and it tastes good.   We see some sediment at the bottom of the glass, and he notes that the wines are not filtered.  Again, the tannins are strong, and we agree it could use more time in the bottle.

  1. 2012 Primo Reserve       $72

Our favorite of the reds, this is a blend of 64% merlot, 17% Malbec, and 19% cabernet franc.  We smell wood and something vegetal—asparagus!  Dry, but not as tannic as the others, it has nice fruit tastes and a lovely finish.  You could drink this with boeuf bourguignon and be a happy camper.  If I came to sit, listen to music, and have a glass of wine this is what I’d choose.

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One view of the large circular bar.

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful tasting room that is reminiscent of an Italian villa or monastery; a gift shop with lots of items; the First Label Sauvignon Blanc, the White Primo Reserve, the Petit Verdot Reserve, the Primo Reserve; a great server (if he’s on duty when you go!).

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A touch of Italy

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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.

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.