Martha Clara Vineyards: Change Is Coming November 8, 2018

Martha Clara Vineyards:  Change Is Coming                        November 8, 2018

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https://www.www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

Until recently, Martha Clara Vineyards, named for the matriarch of the family, was owned by the Entenmanns.  Now it has been sold to the Rivero-González family, so changes will be coming.  A year from now the wines could be quite different, because right now the wines have been overseen by the Entenmanns’ winemaker, but the next vintage will be the product of a new one.  Our chatty and knowledgeable server is hopeful that the changes will all be good.  Meanwhile, the tasting room already looks different, with most of the décor stripped away, and the shop objects also seems to have been winnowed down, with many fewer items for sale.  Should be interesting to come back next year.

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One side of the frequently bustling tasting room.

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The other room for tastings, where they used to serve food.

On this warm November day, the tasting room was practically empty, with only a few people stopping by, some to pick up wine club packages and others to do a tasting.  During the summer Martha Clara can be mobbed, so it was nice to taste in a quiet setting.  It’s not that I don’t like people—I’m just not fond of crowds.

The menu offers three options, the Aromatic tasting, of four whites for $15; the Northville tasting, of four reds for $15; and the Vintner’s Reserve, of two whites and two reds from their estate selections, for $17.  We decided to share an Aromatic and then a Northville, thus giving us the greatest variety of tastes.  We weren’t hungry, but there was no menu of food on offer, though the shop has a refrigerated case of cheeses, etc., and packages of crackers and other snacks.

  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blanc $19

Generally, when a local wine has a name other than a variety of grape, that means it is a blend, and so this is—a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and semillon.  It has a pretty golden color, and an aroma of honeysuckle and tropical fruit.  Though it is slightly sweet, we like it.  The wine is nicely balanced, with some complexity, and flavors of pineapple and minerals.  I think it would be fine to sip on its own, but my husband disagrees.  However, we both think it would go nicely with seafood in a cream sauce.  Hmm…Peconic Bay scallops are in season.

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  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc $22

The aroma is metallic and vegetal.  My tasting buddy thinks it smells like his favorite fall vegetable, Brussels sprouts.  Maybe.  The wine is dry, tart, and very light, tasting of lemon peel.  It is so light that if you drank it with food that had lots of flavor it would disappear.  Maybe oysters.

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  1. 2014 Chardonnay $20

This chardonnay is steel-fermented, like all the other whites in our tasting, and we like it.  I smell slate or rock and gooseberry, and taste citrus and tropical fruit.  It is nicely tart and dry.  We also notice that it is on sale, 30% off if you buy two bottles, so we do.

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The steel-fermented chardonnay is currently on sale.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Hang on a second, you might say, I thought all the whites in your tasting were steel fermented, but this one is oaked.  Yes, I say, power of the book.  We get a little side-by-side sample of the oaked chard, courtesy of our server, with whom we have been having a nice chat.  Unfortunately, we don’t care for it.  The aroma is rather funky, with lots of woody smells.  Though it is not too buttery, there is something about the taste I find off-putting.  Cedar?  Pencil shavings?

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Our “extra”–a taste of the oaked chardonnay. When you take tasting seriously, servers like to see what you think of various wines.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

She warns us that this will be semi-sweet, and she’s right to warn us.  Though it’s very aromatic it is much too sweet for us, and we dump the rest of our taste.  Maybe with Thai food…

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Northville Tasting

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $27

Now we switch to the reds, and get a clean glass.  Our server describes this as a bit smoky, and says it goes with red meat.  I’d say this is a roast chicken red, as it is rather thin.  It has a red fruit aroma but the taste is not very fruity.  I get nutmeg and some tannins.  No finish.  By the way, all their wines come in screw top bottles.

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  1. 2014 Malbec-Merlot $27

51%-49% (sort of like many of the vote percentages in the recent elections), this has the cherry aroma and taste of the merlot, but not much else.  No depth. Dry. We decide this is a burger red.

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  1. 2013 Northville Red                  $27

A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, this is, unusually for a red, steel fermented.  I tell our server that I have a catchphrase for her to use with this wine—It’s a white-wine-drinker’s red wine.  It is pleasantly fresh-tasting, with some red plum and cherry flavors, very light.  A ten-minute wine—not to be discussed, just to be drunk.  It is also on sale, but we decide not to get any.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

We like this the best of the reds.  It has aromas of spice and red candy.  Dry, with some nice tannins, though it has no depth it has some nice plummy flavors.  I could see having it with lamb chops.

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I found this little guide to wine tasting quite interesting, in that it seems to indicate that many of their customers are new to wine tasting.

Reasons to visit:  last chance to taste the Martha Clara style wines before the new winemaker takes over; you can bring your dog to the outside tasting area; the Northern Solstice Blanc, the Chardonnay, and the Cabernet Sauvignon; reasonably priced wines.

Lagniappe:  As we were driving home, we passed a movie crew outside the Mattituck Motel, which will be one of the North Fork sites used in the Netflix movie of the Gilgo Beach murders.

 

Martha Clara: Playground or Winery? September 3, 2016

https://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

The capacious "backyard" of Martha Clara.

The capacious “backyard” of Martha Clara.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

The parking attendant waved us on to the “additional parking” area, so we had a good view of the activities going on in back of the Martha Clara tasting room and barns.  Children and dogs were running around, a couple played Frisbee, many people tossed beanbags into a whole line of targets, and a wagon hitched to horses waited to give rides.  The delicious smell came from an old-fashioned Airstream camper that had been turned into a food truck.  And that was a good thing, since Martha Clara no longer allows you to bring in outside food, preferring that you buy your own from their menu, catered by Noah’s Restaurant in Greenport.

Food truck!

Food truck!

Noah's menu

Noah’s menu

We were there with a friend who is a member of the Marth Clara wine club, so we first headed to the Tasting Barn with its sign outside limiting it to wine club members.  However, it was full, so we headed on into the main building and, not feeling like standing at the bar in the crowded main tasting room, sat at a table in the table service area.  At first the server said we’d have to pay full price, but after assuring her that we had been turned away from the members-only barn she said okay—which resulted in a significant saving for our four tastings.

No room in the Members Only barn

No room in the Members Only barn

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

The sleekly bound menu offers four options for tastings, plus a variety of wines by the glass or bottle, and a bunch of snacks.  The four flight menus are labeled Aromatic, Sustainable, Northville, and Vintners, and range from $14-$17 for five generous tastes (or $5-$7 for wine club members).  The tables were all set with napkins, wineglasses, and water glasses, which we used both for water from the large bottle the server delivered to our table and as a dump bucket.  But more on that later.

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I opted for the Northville flight, mostly because it included their Syrah, a wine I often like.  The two men in the party chose the Vintage flight, and our friend the wine club member decided on the Aromatic because it is all whites, and that’s what she was in the mood for.  The Sustainable has a combination of reds and whites, as do the other options.  I will tell about my tasting first, and then about the other wines, not all of which I tried myself.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer Estate Reserve   $27

Gewürztraminers are tricky, because they can be very sweet or dry, with a lot or not much fruit, depending on how they are handled.  This one is steel fermented, so I had hopes, but then the server explained that it was on the sweet side, and she liked it as an after dinner drink or with “spicy Thai food.”  The aroma combines flowers, mineral, and creosote—you know, that smell you get from the railroad tracks on a hot summer day.  Fortunately it doesn’t taste like what I imagine creosote would taste like, but rather like lychees in sugar syrup with some minerality at the end.  This wine also began the Vintage tasting, and we all found it too sweet.  In fact, we all dumped at least part of our serving.  But if you like a sweet wine, you’d probably like this one.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc      $27

A light ruby color, this wine is also light in body, with a red candy and wet rock aroma, and a plum taste.  It would be a good burger or roast chicken wine.  Aged 14 months in oak.

  1. 2013 Merlot $24

Merlot does well on Long Island, and this is no exception, a nice, light, dry red with some fruit.  I like it.  It smells rather oak-y, even though it only spends 12 months in oak.

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  1. 2012 Syrah (Cote Rotie Style) $24

I would be very happy drinking a full glass of this one.  It has aromas of red fruit and pepper, with lots of red fruit tastes, some tannins, and a dry finish.  It could pair well with lamb or duck.  It’s my favorite of the day, too.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Again, you can definitely smell the oak.  This is somewhat dry, with lots of cherry taste and a nice long finish.

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And that was the end of my tasting.  However, here are some notes on the other flights.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Lots of aromas on this one, including vanilla and nutmeg, which is the first on the Vintage list.  It is aged “sur lie” for ten months.  If you like a smooth buttery chard, this is one for you.

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  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blend $18

I liked the bottle for this, featuring an image of a sun, which my friend saw as appropriate for this first on the Aromatic list, since it is, she said, “a perfect summer sipper.”  It is a blend of about four or five grapes which the server rattled off too quickly for me to catch.  We all sniffed it and agreed that it smelled like ripe pineapple, and my friend said it was “crisp and refreshing” with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $22

This is a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with honeysuckle aroma and lemon tastes, though it is a touch sweeter than some sauvignon blancs.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $22

And this is another great summer wine, said my friend, with some peach tastes and a touch of bubbles on the tongue.  It was her favorite of her tasting.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

We were all intrigued by the smell of this one, identifying vanilla sugar cookie (even though it is steel fermented) and wet rock.  Unlike the gewürztraminer, this escapes over-sweetness, and is a light and almost bubbly with some mineral taste.  The Aromatic tasting should have ended with the Gewürztraminer, but my friend decided to forego it since she had already tasted it and felt she had had enough wine.  As I said, the pour is generous, and we actually dumped some tastes we liked.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir $37

The Vintner tasting includes some of their higher priced wines, and we got into a discussion of value vs. cost, which I may revisit some time this winter when I don’t have a winery to review.  My husband informed us that this was a Burgundy-type wine, but a bit sharp for a Burgundy.  It had aromas of plum and prune, and a somewhat grapey (I know, shocking) taste.  Good, but not complex.

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  1. 2013 Northville Red (Bordeaux style) $27

Again, the server listed the grapes in this too quickly for note taking, but it is a Bordeaux-style blend we all liked very much.  In fact, my notes include “yum,” “delicious,” “very drinkable,” “layers of flavor,” and “really nice.”  We were happy when our friend bought us a bottle!

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Merlot $35

The menu informs us that this was rated a 90 by Wine Advocate.  Maybe.  It has a touch of that barnyard smell we always used to get from local merlots and hardly ever sense any more, but it tastes nice, with good fruit, some cherry flavor, and is dry.

Here's something not every winery has--a Tiki Bar!

Here’s something not every winery has–a Tiki Bar!

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Reasons to visit:  Lots of space to play and a relaxed, welcoming vibe; some agritainment; the Northern Solstice Blend, the Pinot Grigio, the Syrah, the Northville Red; lots of choices ; catering by Noah’s (We didn’t have any, but I like the food in the restaurant!).

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The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

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Martha Clara, Lieb, and Pugliese: Group Think June 6, 2015

Our limo at the first stop:  Martha Clara.

Our limo at the first stop: Martha Clara.

When a group of Nofo Wineaux’s friends and colleagues decided that the best way to have a celebratory get-together was to rent a limo and do a wine tour, she could not refuse to go along—especially since they asked her for some winery recommendations.

So that is how I found myself seated in a Hummer stretch limo with 14 wonderful women, traveling the North Fork wine country.  And I did enjoy myself!  Along the way, I noticed that each winery had its own method of handling a crowd, I taught some of my friends how to smell wine (stick your nose into the glass and open your mouth as you inhale), and I heard some new ways to describe wine tastes and smells.

Our limo was rented from Gold Star Limo Company, and John, the driver, was courteous and efficient, dropping us off and picking us up on schedule.  The company took care of the logistics of reserving each winery and getting us sandwich and salad lunches catered by Farm Country Kitchen.  There were a few reasons why I think our tasting tour went well.  For one, as a group we were there to relax and enjoy each other’s company, with the wine tour as a means to that end, plus a number of us were quite interested in tasting and discussing the wines.  Another reason was our judicious (if I do say so myself) selection of venues, and the fact that we limited ourselves to three places, spaced out from noon to five p.m.  And finally, the weather cooperated—warm enough to sit outside, yet not so hot that we were uncomfortable.

First stop:  Martha Clara

The menu at Martha Clara

The menu at Martha Clara

Our group organizer picked Martha Clara as a place she had been to and liked in the past, and it made a pleasant first stop (we got there about 12:15).  A young woman with a clipboard greeted us, checked our reservation and, after a brief consultation with the driver, set us up around two sides of one of the long bars in the tasting room.  She explained that they ran a tight schedule of groups, and requested that we take our places immediately.  At each place were a glass and the tasting menu, featuring a flight of five wines.  The servers assigned to us attentively filled our glasses as soon as they were emptied, and gave a brief spiel about each one.  When I requested additional information, they were able to provide some.  After we finished, we wandered outside to some picnic tables and shared a few snacks we had brought with us while some members of the group explored the pens of animals one can pet and feed.  I think a few might have visited the extensive gift shop.

We gathered around the bar at Martha Clara.

We gathered around the bar at Martha Clara.

  1. 2013 Northern Solstice Blend                    $17

This is a blend, as the title suggests, of four whites:  semillon, viognier, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.  I described the aroma as mineral.  One of my friends, newly introduced to the art of smelling wine, compared it to the smell you get when you open a bottle of vitamins, which I thought was quite right.  This is a dry, crisp, lean, steel-fermented white which we all found quite pleasant.

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

My friend with the newly enlightened nose senses a touch of rotting fruit.  I agree, but also add orange blossoms.  We all sip, and I note some apricot tastes, and also a bit more sweetness than I prefer.  Nice finish.

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  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Viognier                 $29

We had been discussing why some people think they dislike chardonnay because all they have ever tried were oak-fermented California chards when this barrel-fermented (nine months) wine was served, giving me the chance to note how different it is compared to the steel fermented blend we started with.  You can definitely smell vanilla and also spice—perhaps cardamom.  You can also get that “woody” taste you get with some oaked whites.

  1. 2010 Syrah $24

I often like syrahs for their rich fruit flavors, but I find this one a bit dry and thin.  I also smell some of that barnyard scent North Fork reds sometimes get (though more rarely lately).  It is aged 16 months in French oak.

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  1. 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $29

This red is also aged in oak, for 12 months, and I also am not enamored of it.  It’s not bad, but could use more fruit, though it is nicely dry.

Second Stop:  Lieb Bridge Lane

The entrance to Lieb, though we didn't go inside.

The entrance to Lieb, though we didn’t go inside.

Lieb actually has two tasting rooms, and we are at the one on Sound Avenue and Cox Neck Lane.  I’m a bit surprised that we have come to this one, since the other is more spacious, but fortunately it is a beautiful day and we settle ourselves at several picnic tables adjoining some grape vines.  The driver brings us the shopping bags filled with our lunches from Farm Country Kitchen and also offers us bottles of water from the limo.  As we settle in with our choices—I got a grilled veggie sandwich with a small green salad on the side, and it was good—a lovely young lady from the tasting room comes around with glasses.  Ah, we are to have the tasting as we eat our lunches.  Nice—though I do note that food changes the taste of wine.

Our view as we sipped our wine and ate lunch.

Our view as we sipped our wine and ate lunch.

What is also pleasant is that we have the place mostly to ourselves, and it is a relaxing venue to sit and chat and enjoy our lunches.  Martha Clara had been quite noisy, making conversation difficult except with the person next to one.

All the wines are from the Bridge Lane label, so I will abbreviate it BL.  Also, because I did not see a tasting menu, I can’t tell you what the cost of these wines is per bottle.

  1. 2013 BL White Merlot

As our server explains, this is a white wine made from a red wine grape, and it is totally clear, having spent no time on the skins.  It has a nice mineral aroma and a pleasant fruitiness.  It would compare favorably with Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly.

  1. 2013 BL White Blend

This blend included chardonnay, pinot blanc, riesling and viognier, and, like the blend we just had at Martha Clara, is steel fermented.  Everyone agrees that we like this one very much, with its nice balance of sweet and dry and its mineral aroma and taste.  It goes well with lunch!

  1. 2013 BL Chardonnay

For those who think they dislike chards, this is a good rebuttal:  dry and tart, with lemon and grapefruit tastes and aromas.  Steel fermented, of course.

  1. 2013 BL Rosé

After some discussion of how much rosés have improved in recent years, we try this blend of merlot and cabernet franc.  Though I still maintain that Croteaux has the best rosés on the North Fork, this one is fine—slight strawberry aroma, very dry, but with no finish.  I think it tastes a bit like unripe strawberries.

Wine and a picnic.

Wine and a picnic.

  1. BL 2013 Red Blend

I explain to my friends that this is a Bordeaux blend:  70% merlot, 15% each malbec and cabernet sauvignon, 7% petit verdot.  It is aged in neutral oak barrels, our server notes.  I think it might improve with more age, since it has some nice tannins.  Though it is not exciting, it is a very drinkable red.

Third and last stop:  Pugliese

The pond at Pugliese

The pond at Pugliese

Everyone exclaims at the lovely scenery as we pull into Pugliese—the pond, the trees, the fountain.  Charming.  We troop into the tasting room, where we admire some artistic items, including pretty prints appropriate to our surroundings, such as sunflowers.

From the gift shop

From the gift shop

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Our fearless leader soon finds us and hands each of us a sheet of four tickets, which we can exchange for tastes, and tells us to adjourn to the outside bar located under a tent next to the pond, where a musician is setting up.  As a result, we scatter, and form into small groups at the bar.  The menu is quite daunting, offering 22 choices from sparkling wines to dessert wines, with reds, whites and rosés in between.   At first the servers offer no guidance other than, “You can choose any four.”  (We expand our options by sharing a couple of tastes, which is why you see six wines mentioned here.) However, we then luck into a rather youthful server who seems to know more, and enjoys giving us information about each wine.   My good friend is a white wine drinker who would like to learn to like reds, so we decide, after one white, to focus on the reds.  For each taste we get a fresh glass—I mean small plastic cup.

The rather lengthy menu at Pugliese.

The rather lengthy menu at Pugliese.

  1. 2013 Pinot Grigio            $17.99

This steel fermented pinot has not much aroma and a tart lemony taste, with no finish, which my friend insists on calling after taste.  Which, after all, is what finish is!  It would be better with food, I think.

Pugliese serves the wine is small plastic cups.

Pugliese serves the wine is small plastic cups.

  1. 2010 Sangiovese             $16.99

Our server boasts that they are the only winery on the North Fork to use this grape, which is the gape used in Chianti.  As we sniff, we note aromas of tobacco and some fruit.  Then we taste, and promptly dump.  Well, this wine is not going to make a red wine drinker out of my friend!  Bad.

  1. 2010 Sunset Meritage                 $29.99

Whew.  This one is better!  A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, this has nice ripe fruit flavors and is just tannic enough to add interest.

One view of the tent and the pergola.

One view of the tent and the pergola.

  1. 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99

This would make a good, everyday table wine.  It has lots of fruit and my friend likes it.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $16.99

For a cab franc this is quite light, though it would be okay with lamb chops, as it has some tannins.  It could use more fruit.

My last ticket.

My last ticket.

  1. 2007 Raffaello White Port $17.99 for 375 ml.

As my final wine of the day, I decide to go for dessert, and try their white port.  Yes, it is sweet, but I think appropriately so, with lots of sweet orange, tangelo, plum, and apple flavors.  At 20% alcohol, you wouldn’t want to drink much of this, but it would be nice with a cheese and nut course.

And so I finish my foray into the world of the limos standing on the shore of Pugliese’s pond, admiring the koi, listening to music, talking to my friends, and sipping sweet wine.  There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.

No fishing!

No fishing!

Suggestions for limo users:  plan to go to just three wineries (maybe four at most, especially if you tend to dump part of each taste) and space them out over five hours so you can appreciate each one; try to go to at least one that doesn’t seem to specialize in big groups (like Lieb, which we thoroughly enjoyed); be sure to eat in between—or during—your tastes so you don’t get too drunk; take your time in each place to savor and discuss the wines; have fun.

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