Shinn Estate Vineyard: New Owner, Eager to Please July 3, 2018

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The new patio looks great, but it was too hot to sit out there.

“We’re actually here for the air-conditioning,” we only partially joked with our server, as we arrived at Shinn in the midst of a heat wave.  And even though the outside patio area has been beautifully re-done and expanded since our last visit, no one was tempted to sit outside.

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There’s also seating out in the yard, but the parking lot is quite small for the number of seats at the winery.

We were particularly curious to check out Shinn, a winery we like for several reasons, since it is under new ownership for the first time since it was founded.  As we sipped and discussed the wines and I wrote in my notebook, the new owner, Randy Frankel, entered and introduced himself.  He was talking to everyone in the room, but he was evidently intrigued by my notebook and asked what we thought of the wines so far.  We had just finished our flight of three whites and a rosé, and my husband summarized our opinion by saying we found the wines, “Safe.”  Randy seemed a bit perturbed by that description and he said, “Wait, the winemaker is right here.  Tell him.  Patrick!”

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One side of the tasting room

As we discussed the fact that we found the wines quite drinkable but rather light and simple, he suggested that we try the other rosé, not the one we had chosen from the menu.  And indeed, we liked it better, and found it more interesting.  We discussed Croteaux, and lamented the closing of their garden, and he eagerly informed us that they would be hosting a Croteaux pop-up event at their winery that week.

Then he suggested we check out the new party room he was having remodeled, just across the patio from the tasting room.  As we walked over, we noticed that the patio was even larger that we had seen at first, with some comfortable-looking seating. Not quite as pretty as Croteaux’s garden, but with a few more flowers it would come close.  The room he led us to has comfortable leather couches and a big fireplace.  My husband said, “It reminds me of Sherwood House.”  Randy introduced us to the designer, who was there, and who also designed Sherwood’s tasting room!  Good eye, dear.  Randy then gave another couple the same tour. We have learned that if you take your tasting seriously, especially if you take notes, you often get extra attention from servers.

We finally confessed to our server that I write a blog, and she insisted we try a taste of their most expensive wine.  Then, as we bought two bottles of wine, she comped us our tastings.  Plenty of places will comp your tasting if you buy a certain number of bottles, but I assume this was in response to my being a blogger. (Full disclosure!)

The wine menu lists ten wines under the heading “Traditional Wine Tasting,” of which you can choose four for a $16 tasting, and five “Small Production” wines, of which you can choose four for a $24 tasting.  They also have two brandies and an eau de vie available by the glass, at $15 for the brandies and $10 for the eau de vie.  You get all of your tastes at once, identified by little labels, so you can easily have your tasting at a table inside or outside.  They do not allow outside food, and have a small menu of snacks, including North Fork doughnuts and a charcuterie platter.  We got a dish of mixed nuts for $5.

By the way, Shinn also has a four-room B and B at the winery, which Randy said has also been remodeled, and they offer tours of the winery for $35 if you book ahead.

  1. 2017 Coalescence          $19

A blend, this is the perfect illustration that the year matters.  In the past we have alternated liking and not liking this wine.  This time we liked it!  36% sauvignon blanc, 34% chardonnay, 2.6% riesling, 2.5% semillon, and 1.5% pinot blanc is the blend.  I got a faint whiff of cat pee aroma, but mostly honeysuckle and minerals.  The taste is light and lemony, dry yet mouth-watering.  It would be great with bluefish.

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Our tasting of three whites and a rose.

  1. 2017 First Fruit $22

The menu labels this as made with “aromatic sauvignon blanc,” but we don’t find it particularly aromatic.  It is also very light, maybe too light.  As my tasting pal notes, one could guzzle this and not even notice.  I feel as though I taste some toasted coconut, though he disagrees.

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New label design

  1. 2016 Riesling $22

We wondered whether this was made with local grapes or grapes from upstate, since the menu identifies it as coming from the “Robert Schreiber vineyard.”  No, we are told, the vineyard is just down the street.  Though I detect a bit of cotton candy aroma, there is no sweetness to this very dry riesling.  In fact, opines my husband, he would not even think it was a riesling, it is so dry and light.  “It’s almost not there,” he says.

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Particularly welcome on this hot day, a bottle of chilled water comes with the tastings.

  1. 2016 Rosé $19

According to our server, this is the less sweet of the two rosés, so we choose it.  100% merlot, it smells like strawberry-rhubarb pie and has some strawberry taste, but again, it is very light and the taste quickly evanesces.

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The bottle of Rose Hill

  1. 2017 Rose Hill Rosé $24

As I noted above, this is an extra taste we were given, and I’m glad we were.  The color of this is very light, almost white, but the taste is much more interesting than the other rosé.  It is a blend of merlot, chardonnay, and riesling, and Patrick informs us that it spends very little time on the skins, hence the light color.  We get lots of fruit tastes plus refreshing minerality.  They have it on tap at the winery!  We decide we will buy a bottle.

  1. 2017 Cabernet Franc $30

Now we line up four reds to taste, starting with this one, which is steel fermented and has no sulfites.  It was made at the request of a restaurant, and then the winery decided to make some for themselves as well.  As you would expect from a steel-fermented red, this is fruity, with cherry flavor and not much else.  No tannins.  “Undistinguished but pleasant,” says my husband.  I could see making it into sangria.

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We were so deep in conversation that we had made inroads on the nuts and the reds before I remembered to take a picture.

  1. Non-Vintage Red Blend $19

Lots of wineries have a wine like this, a blend of various wines from various years.  Some attempt to produce some sort of consistent taste from year to year, and others just try to make a drinkable wine.  Not sure what the philosophy is here, but it is quite a nice wine.  A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot, it has a fruity aroma and taste with some pleasant tannins.  It would be good with lamb chops.  We buy a bottle of this, too, as we are always on the lookout for everyday dinner wines.

  1. 2015 Estate Merlot $30

Cherry aroma and taste define this as a rather typical North Fork merlot.  Nothing wrong with that.  This one is a bit on the light side, with some soft tannins.

  1. 2015 Seven Barrels $38

Guess how many barrels of this they’ve made.  93% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% petit verdot:  I summarized this one as “cherry berry.”  This is the most interesting of the wines so far, with some tannins and minerality, very drinkable.  It would be good with a wide range of foods, including steak.

  1. 2013 Grace $90

Yes, that’s $90 a bottle.  We generally don’t spend that much for a bottle of wine unless it’s for a very special occasion, but this is a very good wine.  Maybe someday.  A blend of 66% cabernet franc, 31% merlot, and 3% cabernet sauvignon, there are only three barrels of it.  It smells delicious, complex, with layers of flavor.  There’s fruit, but also tannins that make me think it could age well.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasantly rustic room and patio a bit off the beaten path; the Rose Hill Rosé, the 2013 Grace, the 2017 Coalescence, the Non-Vintage Red Blend, the Seven Barrels; small menu of snacks; they serve a bottle of chilled water with your tasting; I didn’t ask the current owners, but in the past they allowed dogs on the patio; an inn where you can spend the night.

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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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Kontokosta Winery: Sounds Good to Me January 17, 2016

http://kontokostawinery.com/

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

It was time to revisit Kontokosta Winery, with its lovely location overlooking the Long Island Sound, and we found the perfect reason to go there.  We recently learned that old friends of ours had bought a house near Greenport, but, what with work on the house and not much time for other activities, had yet to visit a winery.  Well, we said, it is high time to remedy that situation, and they were happy to go with Nofowineaux to a winery so close to their house.

Proving that you can’t rely on last year’s review, a major change in the menu switched the Anemometer white and red from their least expensive wines to their priciest—and they weren’t even on the regular tasting menu, but needed a supplement of $5 each to taste.  So I can’t tell you if they’re worth it, but many of the other wines are.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

The menu offers five whites for $15 or four reds for $15, so we opted to share one of each, and our friends chose to follow our lead.  Since it is a carefully metered one-ounce pour, that was fine.  They also have a menu of snacks and sweets and non-alcoholic drinks (called “Sound Bites,” a play on their location and their motto of “Sound Wines”), and forbid outside foods.

The tasting room is a high-ceilinged large space, with tables and a bar, where we opted to stand.  Considering it is January, we were impressed by how many people were there, but it was a three-day weekend.  Our server did a good job of keeping track of where we were in our tasting, and, as she saw our seriousness, began to give us more information on each wine.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

  1. 2014 Orient Chardonnay              $22

Like many North Fork tastings, this one began with their steel-fermented chardonnay, which our friend compared to a “non-sweet Limoncello.”  Not a bad comparison, since this had plenty of lemon flavor and aroma, plus some nice minerality, and maybe even a salty tang.  Good.

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  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25

As we sniffed the aroma of mango and citrus, one of our friends compared it to “Joe Malone perfume.”  Not being familiar, I can’t confirm or deny this, but the wine does have a lovely flowery scent.  The taste is equally pleasant, with good grapefruit and pineapple and other tropical fruits, plus mouth-watering acidity.  When we comment that this would be good with oysters, a discussion of North Fork oysters and where to get them ensues.  When the Old Mill Inn re-opens in the spring, we’ll have to meet there for their happy hour oysters.

  1. 2014 Viognier $25

Getting into the spirit of commenting on each wine, our friends describe the viognier as “more restrained and less dramatic” than the first two wines, and we agree.  The aroma is a bit sweet, with some mineral or rock and maybe a spice.  Cinnamon?  Nutmeg?  We can’t decide.  But this is another very drinkable wine, again on the tart, dry side, and would be good with creamy clam chowder.

  1. 2014 Field Blend $22

63% viognier and 37% sauvignon blanc.  Why?  Because they had that much of each left over last year, and only one vat in which to ferment them!  Nice to be able to drink your experiments, though we don’t like this as much as the previous wines.  It is quite light, and smells just like the viognier.

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

Dry!  Just .2% residual sugar, says our server, and we believe her.  It tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than their sauvignon blanc, very tart, with lots of acidity.  If you like a fruity somewhat sweet riesling, or even if you are thinking of a riesling to complement spicy food, this is not it.

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  1. 2008 Blum Merlot $19

A year ago we had the 07 Blum Merlot, and was told this was the last of it, but I guess they had one more year of these vines before Ray Blum’s vineyard was sold to Sparkling Pointe, which tore out the merlot vines.  The aroma has lots of sweet cherry in it, and none of the barnyard which we detected in the 07.  Our friend thinks there’s a bit of a whiff of creosote, which is possibly from the French oak it was aged in.  It tastes less fruity than it smells, with some woody notes but no vanilla.  We get new glasses for the reds, by the way.

  1. 2013 Estate Merlot $34

We like this merlot much better, and all agree that we taste and smell lots of blackberry, plus minerals and flowers.  “Easy on the tongue,” opines our friend.  That may be the tannins, since the end taste is quite dry.  This one is aged in Hungarian oak, as are the rest of the reds.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

As our server pours this, she brings out another bottle and two fresh glasses and pours us another wine, the 2012 Cab Sauv (about which more in a moment).  Our friends are impressed with what I call the power of the book.  Often, when wineries see you are serious about the wine, they give you a little something extra.  Sometimes it is another taste of a wine not on the menu, or other times just some extra attention and more stories about the making of the wine.  I appreciate both.  We like this one, as it has lots of rich fruit flavors and aromas but is still pleasantly dry.

Our special extra taste!

Our special extra taste!

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

I should really label this 8A, since it is an “extra.”  Our server explains that she thinks we should try this, as there are only a few cases left, and she thinks it is really excellent.  She’s right.  It is similar to the ’13, but mellower and smoother and fruitier.  We buy a bottle.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $40

“Hmmm,” muses our friend, “I think I detect a note of Robitussin.”  Ha ha.  But it does taste of dark fruits, perhaps plums, again with some nice minerality and some promising tannins.  We get into a discussion of the meaning of “terroir,” and wonder if Kontokosta’s wines have more minerality than some others because of their location on the Sound, which we can see out of the windows.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Reasons to visit:  you are in or near Greenport and don’t want to travel too far; almost all of the wines, but especially the Orient Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Estate Merlot, and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (but hurry before they sell out); the location on the Sound (maybe some time we’ll get there in the warm weather so we can stroll towards the water).

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The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

Shinn Estate Vineyards: Country Road December 20, 2015

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

The Farmhouse B & B

The Farmhouse B & B

As we drove slowly along Oregon Road I began humming “Country roads, take me home…”  We had just paid our first of what I hope will be many visits to the East End Mushroom Company, and two baskets of mushrooms sat in the back seat, awaiting culinary inspiration.  Meanwhile, we were enjoying the bucolic scenery along Oregon Road, on our way back to Shinn’s tasting room after more than a year away.

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I like the cozy rustic look of the tasting room, and today we had it to ourselves for a while, and then later a few other small groups arrived.  No buses are allowed here, and limos or groups of more than six by appointment only, which makes sense, given the small room.  Check out their web site for info on their B and B in the adjoining farmhouse.

But we are here to taste some wine.  The menu offers four wines for $14 out of a menu of 16, plus a few other choices which cost $7 per taste, including their brandy, about which more later.  We decided to do one tasting of whites and another of reds, not sharing tastes because I have a bit of a cold.  I’ll tell you about the whites first, then the reds.  We sit at a small table for two and are served each wine as we choose it.

  1. Sparkling Brut 2012                        $40

Given the festive season, I decided to start with their sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise and fermented in the bottle.  The first pour is from a bottle that has been open and is clearly somewhat flat, so our server quickly opens a fresh bottle.  Ah, nice frothy bubbles!  Typical yeasty aroma, then a nice dry light taste, with good acidity.  I recently learned that acidity is what makes your mouth water, and this one does.  I like it better than Sparkling Pointe’s sparklers.

I liked the glasses.

I liked the glasses.

  1. Coalescence 2014           $16

I liked Coalescence, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a touch of riesling, the first time I had it, then didn’t care for it the second time, and now I have to say third time is not the charm.  Although it has a pleasant aroma of gooseberry and honey, the taste has a funky forest floor edge that does not appeal to me.  Not that it’s bad, and I think it would be nice with a plate of salumi, but it’s just not for me.

  1. Pinot Blanc 2014 $35

I’m happy that the server gives me a new glass, since I don’t want the taste of Coalescence to influence the next one, which turns out to be a happy choice, since I like it very much.  This wine spends eleven months in new oak, we are informed, and it has a bit of that oaky vanilla scent.  However, the taste is quite nice, with some interesting layers of flavor, a bit tingly on the tongue.  It has just a touch of sweetness, especially at the end, and is sippable on its own, but would be even better with some Catapano goat cheese.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

  1. Veil “Sherry” 2009 $48 (for a small bottle)

Why is sherry in quotation marks, I wonder?  Because it is not fortified, they can’t actually call it a sherry, we are told.  However, it does taste very like a medium dry sherry and smells like sherry, too.  Made from late harvest savoy, sauvignon blanc, and semillon grapes, it is fermented for so long that a “veil” forms on the top of the wine, hence the other part of the name.  19% alcohol, this would make a great aperitif.  I would drink it!  It has tastes of baked pear and a bit of oak, and would be perfect with some toasted almonds or manchego cheese.

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  1. Estate Merlot 2012       $26

My husband admires the beautiful dark color of the wine, which seems to be typical of all their reds.  Not much aroma, he says, and a spicy tart taste, ending with black cherry.  Somewhat mono dimensional, he adds, with not much tannin and over the top on acid.  (Acid does not mean bad, remember!)

  1. Estate Merlot 2009 $32

Always fun to compare different vintages of the same grape, we say, and our server agrees.  This merlot has more aroma than the 2012, with some notes of forest and wood, plus sweet cherry, with more tannin and less acid.  It would be good with a meat that was not too flavorful, like a filet mignon.

  1. Wild Boar Doe 2012 $32

Say the second two words quickly and you’ll get the joke.  Yes, this is a Bordeaux blend, of 40% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in oak for 20 months.  When my tasting buddy sniffs, he says he smells toast, which must come from the oak aging, plus some fruit.  Again, it has a beautiful dark color, but, he adds, it lacks gravitas.  If you compare it with a French Bordeaux, he says, you’ll say the French is better, but there’s nothing wrong with this.  It would pair well with a veal chop, since it does not have too much acid or body.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $40

This has just been released, we are told, and again, this is a pleasant if not complex wine.  There’s “more at the end,” my husband notes, than the other reds.  Overall, I think the whites fare better than the reds.

The brandy

The brandy

  1. Julius Drover Alembic Brandy $75

We have some discussion about this additional taste ($7), since there are several “hard” liquor options to try, and settle on this brandy.  It is named for owner David Page’s maternal grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger in Wisconsin during Prohibition.  Since it is 86 proof, we are perfectly happy with the very small taste, which I give my companion first.  Mmm, mellow.  Smells like brandy, with some vegetable and wood aromas.  Dried fruit taste.  Warms the cockles (whatever those are) I say.  Doesn’t bite you back, says my pal.

Another view of the room

Another view of the room

Reasons to visit:  a chance to drive down a country road; the Sparkling Brut, Pinot Blanc, Wild Boar Doe, Veil “Sherry,” and Julius Drover Alembic Brandy; a winery that is quiet and relaxing; their use of wind and solar power and biodynamic farming (check out their web site for details); the chance to taste some types of drinks not made in other places, like the brandy, eau de vie, and “sherry.”  And do stop and get some mushrooms from East End Mushroom Company on Cox Lane: http://www.theeastendmushroomcompany.com/ .

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they'll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they’ll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

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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.

Shinn Estate Vineyards: For Earth Lovers April 26, 2014

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

The Farmhouse at Shinn

The Farmhouse at Shinn

Hidden away on Oregon Road, Shinn includes both a lovely rustic tasting room and their own inn, called the Farmhouse.  Considering that the owners also own the restaurant Home in New York City, I’ll bet the food is good there!  However, we had come for a tasting after our disappointing attempt to visit Vineyard 48.  As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed a huge windmill, and I remembered that I read that they powered the winery using solar and wind power only.  The outside area has been attractively redone, with rustic benches and natural stone walls, but it was too chilly to stay outside, so in we went, where we found a warm welcome, a happy crowd, and Panda, the resident black and white dog.  Rocks anchor the menus to the bar, inspirational words painted on weathered wood line the walls, and a blackboard notes that they are now open until 8 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Windmill

Windmill

Outdoor area

Outdoor area

A tasting is $10 for any four wines, chosen from an interesting menu that includes six whites and five reds, plus Wickham’s pear cider, their own “sherry,” eau de vie, and grappa.  We decide to share two tastings, three whites, four reds, and the “sherry.”  (They also sell their own vinegar and granola, and have a small snack menu outside.)  One of the servers gives us detailed information about each wine, while the other does not, but the menu gives some guidance.

Dog in residence

Dog in residence

1)      2013 Coalescence            $16

We have liked and bought this blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling in the past, so we opted to start with it.  Aromas of pear and fresh cut grass and tastes of baked pear and citrus, maybe lemon grass, with some tangerine at the end, was how we described this to each other.  Though not for sipping, it would be okay with seafood in a cream sauce.  However, we don’t like it as much as we did in the past, which shows the importance of tasting new vintages before you buy.

2)      2013 First Fruit                   $22

This is a lovely wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, with faint honeysuckle and orange aromas and lots of fruit, a bit petillant on the tongue.  The initial sweetness of the taste could be off putting to some, but overall it is not too sweet, especially at the end.  I could see sipping this on the porch if summer ever comes!

3)      2012 Pinot Blanc              $35

An unfiltered barrel-aged (11 months) wine, you can see the cloudiness in the glass.  They serve it at room temperature so you can savor the taste.  Wow. Interesting.  This has a very full mouth feel, almost as if you could chew it.  I don’t know that I’d want it with food, but it would be fun to include it in a tasting and see what people thought of it.  We smell pine or forest floor and taste some vanilla.

Clouds!

Clouds!

Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass!

Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass!

4)      Red Blend           $16

One of the servers cleaned up the glass that was to be used for our red tasting, so our server rinses our glass with some of the bottle of water they give each group.  As the name indicates, this is a blend, of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  Though it was made using grapes from 2011 and 2012, it is not a vintage wine, and the menu describes it as “medium bodied.”  I would agree:  this is an ordinary wine, with lots of tannins, a bit on the thin and bitter side, with tastes of berries and sour apple.

5)      2010 Estate Merlot          $26

This is a fairly typical Long Island Merlot, with a sweet berry aroma and taste.  My husband says “baked sweet potatoes.”  Maybe.  Good.

6)      2010 Wild Boar Doe                         $32

Again, this is a blend of all five of their estate grown reds, with a pleasant aroma of fresh hay and berries and a delicious taste that is reminiscent of a French Bordeaux (no surprise, given the name!).  This is a very appealing wine and would be good for a special occasion, with steak or lamb or pasta with a red sauce. photo (52) 7)      2010 Cabernet Franc                       $38

A bit of a barnyard odor and tastes of berry but also some burnt toast with honey.  It doesn’t bowl me over, but my husband likes it more than I do.

8)      2009 Veil “Sherry”            $48 for a 375 ml bottle

Made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon late-harvest grapes, this is a sweet and herbal sherry-like drink with notes of honey and a bit of goldenrod scent.  Pleasant, though we prefer Spanish sherries; it would make a nice before-dinner cocktail, maybe on ice or mixed with something else.

Some of the more exotic items on the tasting menu.

Some of the more exotic items on the tasting menu.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room in the midst of scenic farm fields; the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe; the chance to taste some other types of drinks like their sherry (we’ll have to return to try the eau de vie and the grappa!); the chance to support a vineyard that cares about the Earth as well as the earth. photo (46)     9)

Raphael: A Trip to Italy December 21, 2013

http://www.raphaelwine.com/

Note the Italian flag, which flies to one side of the winery.

Note the Italian flag, which flies to one side of the winery.

62 degrees on the first day of winter felt quite appropriate as we approached Raphael’s Italian-style tasting room, with its red tile roof and light stucco walls.  The welcome inside, through the propped-open door, was as warm as the day.  We hadn’t been to Raphael in a long time, partly because every time we went past we saw a sign that they were closed for an event, which is not surprising given the expansive size of the attractive tasting room, with its central bar and dramatic staircase.  Indeed, as we were doing a tasting we noted a prospective bride and groom being given a tour of the place, and our server remarked that an additional room can hold up to 200 guests and that from spring through fall they are often closed for weddings.

r room

We also had not been enthusiastic about the wines, but they seem to have improved over the past several years, and we liked some of them quite a bit.  In addition, we could easily return and taste a completely different group of wines, as the list includes five whites, two rosés, six reds, and a dessert wine.  We limited ourselves to seven tastes, about as many as we can handle, especially because the pour is quite generous.  There is no set menu for a tasting.  The server hands you a list of wines, and you pay for your choices by the taste, which vary from $2.00 to $4.00 each.  Glasses of wine go for $7 to $15, with most around $8.  Both servers were very knowledgeable and chatty, and we enjoyed the afternoon with them.  Our server was also very accommodating.  Since I felt the beginnings of a cold coming on, we didn’t want to share a glass, so he kindly provided a fresh glass for each taste.

After the tasting, we browsed a bit in their larger than usual gift shop, which has many wine-related items, including some that were quite nice.

The gift shop items included this oversized flask and glass.

The gift shop items included this oversized flask and glass.

1)       2012 Chardeaux                               $24

Yes, that is a made-up word, but Nofowineaux likes it!  This blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp and refreshing steel-fermented white, with aromas of citrus and mineral.  We also taste lemon and mineral, plus some unripe pear.  The server compares it to a Pinot Grigio.  Maybe.  In any event, it would go very nicely with a plate of local oysters.

r white

2)      2011 First Label Sauvignon Blanc              $26

Why “First Label”?  Because it is made from fruit from some of their older vines.  Though this, like the previous wine, is served too cold, once it warms up a bit we quite like it.  We smell some kiwi in the complex bouquet, as well as citrus and herbs.  The taste also includes some citrus and herbs, and is pleasantly complex, especially for a steel-fermented wine.  “Not a simple sipper,” my husband observes, and adds that it would go well with a veal and peppers dish I sometimes make, or perhaps an array of Italian cheeses.

3)      2012 Riesling                     $28

I find it fascinating that Rieslings can taste so different from one vineyard to another, even when they are in close geographic proximity.  Raphael’s Riesling has a complex aroma of flowers and minerals, and is dry, though with a bit of sweeter citrus at the finish, and one wouldn’t immediately peg it as a Riesling.  We must be hungry, because I keep thinking about what foods to have with each wine, and I’m thinking about a simple pork chop dish with this one.

4)      2010 La Tavola                   $20

Now we move over to the reds, and opt to start with their basic table wine, which is a Bordeaux blend, though it is mostly—70%–Merlot.  It also has 6% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot, and 4% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.   There’s a bit of smoke in the aroma, but also lots of dark fruit.  It smells really good!  The taste is pleasant, but rather light for a Bordeaux, and this is, as the server noted, a good pizza and pasta wine.  I’m thinking roast chicken on a picnic…told you I was hungry.

r bottle

5)      2010 La Fontana                                $30

We decide to try this wine next, as our server points out that it will make an interesting comparison with La Tavola, since it usesmostly the same grapes, though in different proportions:  36% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Very interesting, indeed.  This one “could pass as a real Bordeaux,” my husband notes, sipping it appreciatively.  When it is my turn to try, I note a lovely aroma with a trace of smoke and forest floor and taste delicious dark fruits.  “Nice legs,” we note, and good tannins too, and we decide to buy a couple of bottles to cellar for a few years.  (I ask our server if this is named for the elaborate fountain out front, and he nods yes.)

The La Fontana fountain.

The La Fontana fountain.

6)      2010 Estate Merlot                          $22

Long Island Merlots do tend to have a bit of a barnyard smell, and so does this one, but not overly so.  We also smell some tobacco and blackberry.  The tasting notes say “thyme,” but my husband jokes he can’t smell time.  This is fermented in a combination of oak and steel, and I would say it is a typical North Fork Merlot.

7)      2010 First Label Merlot                 $38

2010 was a great year for North Forth wines, and we can see that in all the 2010 wines we’ve tried, including this one.  Aged 18 months in oak, this new release has mineral and dark fruit aromas, with no trace of barnyard, and has lots of fruit tastes.  I bet this one would age well, too.

8)      2007 Primo Winemaker’s Edition

Yes, I said we’d do seven tastes, but, seeing our serious devotion to the tasting process, the servers give us a small taste of this special wine, as there is only a small amount left in the bottle anyway.  Wow, read my notes, and wow again.  This is a wine you can only get if you are a member of the wine club, and we are briefly tempted to join, but no, there are only so many clubs one can join!

Primo is primo

Primo is primo

Reasons to visit:  an attractive and roomy tasting room; a good gift shop; interesting wine choices, especially the Chardeaux and the La Fontana; you’re scouting locations for a large party or wedding; you like having lots of tasting options.

Decorated for the season

Decorated for the season

Dramatic chandelier over the central bar

Dramatic chandelier over the central bar