Lieb Cellars: Well, the Setting is Pleasant April 27, 2019

http://liebcellars.com/lieb-cellars-tasting-room/

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In warm weather, it is pleasant to sit on the patio. Plus you can bring your dog there.

The small, nicely decorated tasting room was almost full when we got there at 1:30, so we were concerned that we hadn’t made a reservation.  But the hostess showed us to a small table made from a wine barrel topped by glass, with high stools for seats.  By the time we left an hour later, every seat was taken, including the stools at the bar.  Well, there was music, by a pleasant duo called The Second Hands, and weekends are starting to get more crowded on the North Fork, but we were underwhelmed by the wines.

I remembered that the last time we had been there we had sat outside on the lovely patio overlooking rural Oregon Road, with one of my brothers and his wife, and my brother had characterized the merlot as “Kool-Ade wine.”  Still not an unjust description.

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By the time we left, all the seats were taken.

The crowd seemed to skew slightly older than some other wineries, with larger groups sitting on comfortable couches around coffee tables.  Many people were getting snacks from the somewhat upscale menu of cheeses and meats and other nibbles.  A large party occupied a separate room, where they seemed to be getting some sort of wine tutorial or private tasting.

The menu offers three options:  four whites for $12, four reds for $15, or six Estate wines for $20.  As we perused the list, we noted that the white and red options included a number of the lower-priced Bridge Lane wines, which we had tasted at Lieb’s more casual tasting room on Cox Neck Road back in September, so we opted to share an Estate flight.  There’s also a list of higher priced wines only available as single tastes or glasses.

Our server brought us all six tastes on small round trays, clearly labeled as to variety and order of tasting, and gave a quick, almost robotic run through of their characteristics.  Though she checked back on us at regular intervals, my husband felt the lack of those wine discussions we so enjoy having.  One nice touch—they bring to each table a carafe of water and glasses, useful for palate cleansing.

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Nice touch–fresh flowers on the tables.

(Note:  no outside food or drink.  Dogs are allowed on the outside patio, but not inside.)

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  1. 2013 Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc $38

It’s always nice to start with a sparkling wine, since it sets a festive tone.  Our server informed us that it was “fermented in the bottle, in the traditional method.”  It was served so cold that at first we could barely taste it, so by the time it warmed up the nice little bubbles had mostly dissipated.  I don’t know whether the bottle had been open for a while, or whether the bubbles just don’t have much staying power.  The wine smells of metal and honeysuckle, with tastes of roasted pear, butterscotch or toast, and minerals.  It’s dry, so could go with charcuterie, but not tasty enough to go on its own for a toast.

  1. 2018 Estate Pinot Blanc                            $22

This is our signature grape, our server announced.  I can see why.  This is a nice, very drinkable white.  The aroma I described as a combination of orange blossoms and asparagus is characterized in the tasting notes as lemon blossom.  Again, this is a dry wine, with some light citrus taste plus maybe gooseberries and, according to my tasting buddy, celery.  Also some minerality.  It could be good with lobster or seafood in a cream sauce.

  1. 2018 Estate Chardonnay $24

Our server described this one as “70% oaked, with nice creaminess” so I was not looking forward to it, but the tasting notes on the tray said “neutral oak.”  Whew.  It was pretty strongly citrusy for an oaked chard, with aromas of pencil shavings (cedar, they say) and a touch of cat pee.  The notes also said melon, but I would say unripe melon. Definitely not the butterscotchiness you sometimes get with oaked chards. My husband liked it the best of the three, but I was not as pleased with it.  He thought it would go well with oysters, while I was thinking veal chops (though I’ve pretty much stopped eating veal).

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Note the schedule of music events: though we were underwhelmed by the wines, it is still a nice place to sit and hear music.

  1. 2017 Estate Merlot $30

This is the wine my brother described as “Kool-Ade.”  You get the merlot cherry aroma and taste, plus some nutmeg, but it is a soft, tanninless red with a flavor that evanesces.  The notes call it medium bodied, but I would say light.

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We enjoyed the music of The Second Hand.

  1. 2017 Estate Cabernet Franc $35

I would also call the cab light-bodied, with very slight tannins.  The aroma is slightly funky, with some scent of plums.  I described the taste as raspberry, but my pal said he would agree only if I twisted his arm and held him down.  Ouch.

  1. 2017 Estate Petit Verdot $35

As we hear at every NoFo winery that makes a petit verdot, we are told that this grape is most often used in blends, where it lends a nice rich color.  I happen to often like petit verdots, and this one is no exception.  In fact, I like it the best of the wines we tasted.  It has a lovely fruity aroma, and, though dry, has tastes of sweet dark fruits.  Again, short on tannins.  Anti-tannic, opines my husband.  However, if we were going to stay and have a glass of wine while listening to the music, this is the wine I would get.  Would it stand up to a steak?  I don’t think so.

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Cans of Bridge Lane wines are available for purchase.

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I almost missed the small display of local art.

Reasons to visit:  nice location on rural Oregon Road, with a pleasant outdoor space in warm weather and a classy tasting room; good menu of snacks; the Pinot Blanc and the Petit Verdot; you can also buy the reasonably priced Bridge Lane wines there, available in cans as well as bottles, etc.

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Jamesport Vineyards: No Pizza Today February 3, 2018

wehttp://www.jamesportwines.com/

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Don’t let the sunshine fool you–It was COLD!

In the summer, Jamesport has a wood-fired oven on the back patio, where they make thin-crust pizzas.  They also often serve local oysters, and we have enjoyed sitting outside there with a glass of white wine and a plate of oysters in the summer sun, listening to music.  However, this was the day after Groundhog Day, the icy parking lot made it clear there would be no sitting outside today, and when a couple came in seeking pizza they were referred to the restaurant Grana, just down the street.  They were offered a cheese and charcuterie plate ($42), which a couple of large parties were having at their tables. (Jamesport does not allow pets or outside food, and allows children only outside in the back yard, not in the bar area.)

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In the summer it is lovely to sit out here and enjoy music, oysters, and pizza from the wood-fired oven.

While some people might have been disappointed at the lack of pizza, they would not be disappointed in the wines.  We tried ten (well, actually eleven) and liked most of them.  The tasting menu offers any five wines for $20 from a list that includes six whites, six reds, three petillant naturels (sparkling wines), and a verjus.  We decided to share two tastings, starting with the whites and then doing reds.

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The nice-sized barn-like tasting room was surprisingly full for a mid-week winter day, but the lone server bustled about and was able to attend to everyone’s needs, including chatting with us about the wines and customizing our tasting.  I am often so impressed with the people who serve in the wineries, with their ability to keep everyone’s tastings straight, recommend wines for varying tastes, and stay cheerful throughout.

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  1. 2015 East End Chardonnay        $18.95

Through a window in the wall of the tasting room you can see the steel vats in which this chardonnay is fermented.  We sniff and identify citrus, orange, flowers, and another smell and taste we can’t quite identify until our server suggests almonds.  Yes, bitter almond it is.  We like this chardonnay, with its full taste and long finish, not too sweet, with a bit of minerality.  We discuss what to pair it with, and settle on tuna, like the lovely tuna steaks we bought at the Riverhead Farmers Market last week.

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What’s the difference between East End and Estate? At Jamesport, the former is their less expensive line. Legally, I’ve been told, “estate” doesn’t mean anything, so wineries can define it as they like.

  1. 2015 Estate Chardonnay $22.95

Oaked chards are not my favorite, but this one is not too oaky, with some lime and pear tastes, and almonds again.  Both chards have a long finish.  The tasting notes say “honey,” which I identify as the mouth feel of the wine.  I could see having this with a spicy Italian seafood dish, like a fra diavolo.

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  1. 2014 Sauvage Reserve $30.95

Our server is able to tell us that this wine uses sauvignon blanc clones, but not whether or not the word “sauvage” refers to wild yeast.  In any event, this is another nice wine, a bit on the light side even though it is aged in oak, with a taste that reminds me of a fruit salad seasoned with a bit of liqueur.  If I were here in the summer and having oysters, I’d get a glass of this, though we are told that a new vintage of this will be coming out soon, so I’d try a taste before I committed to a glass.

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See my notes before you decide which riesling to try.

  1. 2013 Estate Riesling $22.95

There are two rieslings on the menu, and we choose this one because the other is called Demi-Sec, and is described as slightly sweet.  Interestingly, this one is actually sweeter, as we discover when we tell our server it is too sweet for us.  Here, he says, try a little taste of the 2013 Demi-Sec Riesling ($22.95).  We like it better.  It is less cloying and lighter, with an aroma that reminds us of cider.  The menu describes the Estate Riesling as “crisp.”  Nope.

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By this time, we were friends with the server, so when he noted the bottle was almost empty he gave us the rest in our taste.

  1. 2015 East End CINQ Blanc $18.95

No surprise, this is a blend of five whites: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, albariño, and pinot blanc.  We describe this as a good, everyday table wine, and our friend the server agrees.  It has a touch of sweetness, but not too much, with tastes of kiwi and peach and some minerality.  You could have it with an omelet in the morning, he suggests, which leads to various humorous comments about a day that starts like that.  How about with a quiche, I offer.  If I needed some whites at home, I might have bought this one.

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  1. 2014 East End CINQ Red $19.95

New glass as we switch to our red tasting, starting with another blend of five, this time of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and pinot noir.  I decide it smells like a Bordeaux, and if I had to guess I would bet that it has more cabernet sauvignon than merlot.  It smells like dark fruits and berries and tastes like that, too.  It is a somewhat light red, with no depth and some tannins, and would make a perfect picnic wine.

  1. 2013 Merlot Estate $27.95

This is another easy to drink wine, with the expected cherry aroma and taste, plus some hints of dark chocolate.  It would go well with lamb or pork, but is not big enough to have with steak.

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The sign tells you how many bottles of wine you can get per acre of grapes. An acre can yield about 300 bottles!

  1. 2015 Estate Syrah $24.95

I tend to like syrahs, and I like this one, too.  I smell and taste dark fruits, especially purple plum, plus some spice, perhaps pepper.  Really dry, this has strong tannins that make me think it could age.  This wine would be fine with steak.

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  1. 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc $32.95

And aging is what I think this cab needs.  It doesn’t have much aroma.  Lots of tannins, and it is dry, but the fruit seems underdeveloped to me.  Just okay.

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  1. 2014 Mélange de Trois $34.95

If you know French, you can deduce that this is a blend of three grapes and a play on “ménage à trois”:  cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc.  It is aged for two years in French oak, and then another two years in the bottle.  We get into a discussion of the various grapes in this wine, and our server tells us how cabernet sauvignon does not do well every year.  In fact, last year rather than use their cabernet sauvignon grapes in their own wine, they felt they did not meet Jamesport’s standards and sold the whole crop to Premium Wine Group.  We like this wine, too, though it is more austere than luscious.  Dry, with good tannins, it has blackberry and spice tastes.  I could see having this with leg of lamb or steak frites.

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Seems like a nice selection of cheeses.

Reasons to visit:  in the summer, a big outdoor area with music and wood-oven pizza and oysters; in the winter, a cozy tasting room with cheese trays; the East End Chardonnay, the Sauvage Reserve, the East End CINQ Blanc and Red, the Mélange de Trois.  We didn’t get to try the sparkling wines, but they have three if you were interested to try them.