Macari Vineyards: Award Deserved? October 25, 2014

http://www.macariwines.com/

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Macari had been named the “Winery of the Year” at the 2014 New York Wine & Food Classic, so we were curious to see why.  According to the Classic website, the “award is presented to the winery with the best overall showing based on the level and number of awards in relation to entries.”

Macari has two tasting rooms, and on a previous try the one on Sound Avenue was too full to find a place at the tasting bar, so this time we tried the one on the Main Road.  Since it was a beautiful October day and every winery we passed seemed to have a full parking lot, we thought we’d have to put off our visit until the winter, but we were pleasantly surprised—though as we left it seemed the crowds were arriving!  Both tasting rooms are spacious and pleasant, with a nice selection of wine-related gifts and snack items.  Our servers were kept busy, but were very efficient and observant, and we never had to wait more than a moment or two for our next taste.  Also, as you will see, they noticed our seriousness about the wines and added a few extras, which turned out to be a great idea.

A view out the windows, with some of the gift items visible

A view out the windows, with some of the gift items visible

The tasting menu features three options:  a white flight of four wines for $8, a red flight of 4 wines for $15, and a Vintage flight of 5 wines for $20, with a combination of whites and reds.  Since we noticed that three of the Vintage wines were included in the other two tastings, we decided to opt for one white and then one red, sharing as we went along.

The tasting bar was crowded, but the servers did a good job of taking care of everyone.

The tasting bar was crowded, but the servers did a good job of taking care of everyone.

1.        Sauvignon Blanc 2012    $23

As usual, the tasting started off with their lightest white, a lemony and tart sauvignon.  The night before we had had an excellent Italian sauvignon, so we were making comparisons.  The Macari had, we felt, too little fruit taste to balance the acidity.  “Undistinguished,” said my husband, and I agreed.  It might be better with food.

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2.       Chardonnay Estate 2011               $19

This is their 100% stainless steel chard, so no oakiness.  We smell and taste ripe pear, though it doesn’t have tons of fruit taste.  It’s a good chard, reasonably dry, and would go well with a Long Island clam chowder.

3.       Collina Chardonnay                         $9.50

Noticing the price, we wonder whether this would be one to buy for everyday drinking.  Nope.  Though the aroma had pleasant notes of mineral and honeysuckle, the taste is actually bitter.  It is fermented 25% in oak, and the rest in steel, but we taste none of the buttery or vanilla notes one would expect.  We dump most of the taste!

4.       Riesling 2011                      $25 per carafe

The 2011 Riesling has not yet been bottled, so they’re serving from carafes.  Made from Finger Lakes grapes, it has some of that upstate taste I find hard to describe.  It smells like white grape juice!  Taste is not overly sweet, with some mineral and gooseberry notes, though it is fairly monochromatic.  My husband had recently been to a wine tasting of German and Long Island Rieslings, and felt this one did not measure up to the others he had had.

Our first "bonus" wine

Our first “bonus” wine

5.       Rosé 2013            $17

In the first indication that our seriousness has been observed, one server asks us if we like rosés, and then offers us a taste of theirs.  A blend of cabernet franc, pinot noir, and merlot, it has the usual strawberry aroma and taste, with again a fair amount of minerality.  There’s something flowery about it as well.  Though not as good as Croteaux, it is a fine rosé.

6.       Collina Merlot                    $9.50

New glass for the reds.  Our server calls this a “pizza pasta burger” wine, which the price would surely indicate.  “It’s not terrible,” says my tasting companion.  Talk about damning with faint praise!  But it is a very light red, with no depth or interest or finish.  It’s just there. We were, however, intrigued by the aroma, which I characterized as a cherry-flavored cigar.

Sette.  The size of the pour varied a bit.

Sette. The size of the pour varied a bit.

7.       Sette                     $19

This is their red blend, of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc—not seven wines, as I thought based on the name.  Sette actually refers to the town Settefrati, a small town south of Rome, which is the home town of the Macari family.  Our server calls it their best seller, and I can see why.  The aroma is of dark brambly fruits, and the wine itself is light but very drinkable, perhaps with “Sunday gravy.”  By the way, it was served too cold, so we warmed the glass in our palms, which helped bring out the taste.

8.       Cabernet Franc 2008                       $35

I’ve heard people refer to a brininess as an expression of the Long Island terroir, but I never experienced it quite as forcefully as with the aroma of this wine.  Sea air!  Fortunately it does not taste salty, but rather of dark plums, and is our favorite so far.  Some tannins, a touch of oak.

9.       Dos Aguas 2008                 $27

Here the name refers to the two waters of the North Fork—Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.  This is Macari’s Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 70% merlot, 17% cabernet sauvignon, 4% cabernet franc, 8% malbec, and the rest petit verdot.  Yes, I’d like this with steak frites, please.  It is our server’s favorite.  Not particularly complex, but good and quite drinkable, with plenty of fruit and spice aromas and flavors.

A line-up of reds.

A line-up of reds.

10.   2007 Merlot Reserve                      $36

So if you’re counting you realize that our tasting should be over, but after asking us what we thought of the Dos Aguas, our server decides we should try two more wines.  This is certainly better than most merlots, and 2007 was a good year.  We taste lots of dark fruits, and the aroma is delicious.

11.   2010 Bergen Road            $46

This one beats the bunch, as my grandmother used to say with the birth of each grandchild.  Another Bordeaux blend, or a Meritage, of 56% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 2% petit verdot, this one has aromas of Belgian dark chocolate and dark fruits.  OMG I say when I taste it.  Complex, with lots of tannins and yummy fruit.  We buy a bottle to put in the cellar!

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Reasons to visit:  you want an all-purpose winery with space for a large group or the intimacy of a conversation at the bar; you need to pick up a wine-related gift or buy a snack;  the 2010 Bergen Road; the 07 Merlot Reserve, the 08 Dos Aguas, the 08 Cabernet Franc;  did I mention the 2010 Bergen Road…

The Main Road building

The Main Road building

What a beautiful day.  In Greenport, every restaurant's outside tables were filled, and plenty of people opted for an outdoor tasting.

What a beautiful day. In Greenport, every restaurant’s outside tables were filled, and plenty of people opted for an outdoor tasting.

Roanoke Vineyards and Brooklyn Oenology: Face Off! August 9, 2014

http://www.roanokevineyards.net/

http://www.brooklynoenology.com/

One corner of the tasting room

One corner of the tasting room

“Wow, that was fun,” we agreed, as we left the Roanoke Vineyards Tasting Bar on Love Lane in Mattituck.  We had arrived about 3:30, not knowing that a pop-up event was about to happen, pairing Roanoke wines with wines made by Brooklyn Oenology (BOE).  Though the event was due to start at 4, we were able to do the tasting early, and, because the room was fairly calm at the moment, we had lots of attention from Roanoke’s Robin and BOE winemaker Alie Shaper.

Normally, Roanoke features wine from Grapes of Roth and Wölffer Estates (on the South Fork) as well as their own, and they offer a menu of choices from each.  I would have liked to taste some of the Wölffer wines, as it had been years since I’d tried them, but the only Wölffer selections on offer were hard ciders.  However, once we realized we could do the Roanoke vs. BOE face-off, we knew what we had to do.  For $20 we got to taste eight wines, four from each, paired for similarity of grape and type.  I love tasting two wines made from the same grape, grown in the same region, and seeing how they differ.

The Tasting Bar is a small storefront, augmented by tables on a petite patio in the back and some tables for two along the side of the building, and includes the tasting bar and some small tables and a few comfortable chairs where it would be nice to sit and sip a glass.

As we tasted each selection, Robin and Alie alternated telling us about each wine, how it was made, and so on.

The whites

The whites

  1. Roanoke Vineyards (RV) 2013 The Wild                 $20

Why “The Wild”?  This is made with, said Robin, “indigenous yeast,” or in other words naturally occurring yeast, using chardonnay grapes from a Mudd vineyard which was originally planted in 1982.  They’re not sure which clone it was, but it may have been a muscat, which would account for some of the sweetness in the wine.  We detect an aroma of cedar shavings with tastes of pineapple and mango.  It reminds me a bit of Channing Daughter’s L’Enfant Sauvage, which is also made with wild yeasts.  Yum, in any event!  I could happily sip this wine on the deck on a summer night.

2.  BOE 2013 Social Club White         $18

I guess this is paired with the wild because it is a similar weight white, but this is a blend of grapes from Upstate and the North Fork (Alie joked that she would love to have permission to plant vines in a park in Brooklyn, but that’s, alas, not likely.) The blend is 60% chardonnay, with smaller amounts of pinot gris, pinot blanc, Vidal blanc, riesling, and gewürztraminer.  I hadn’t heard of Vidal blanc before, and Alie noted that it is a Finger Lakes grape, as are the riesling and the gewürztraminer and the pinot gris.  With all those Finger Lakes grapes I was expecting sweet, but this is a lovely dry wine with some citrus aromas and a bit of a taste of tangerine.

The roses--note the pretty label and pretty colors

The roses–note the pretty label and pretty colors

3.  RV 2013 Derosa Rosé $19

Poetically, my husband compares the aroma to a “forest after the rain,” and I do agree that it has some flowery sweetness—in the taste as well as the aroma.  It’s not a bad rosé, and many people would probably like it, but we prefer it drier.  The name, by the way, is after the family’s Grandma Rose.

4.  BOE 2013 Cabernet Franc Rosé $18

I have to give the prize in this comparison to the BOE wine, which is made with wild yeast and uses Finger Lakes grapes.  The color is very pretty, the aroma is very strawberry, and the taste is a bit reminiscent of a berry sorbet—so, too sweet for us, but more complex and interesting than the Roanoke.  I admire the beautiful label, and Alie enthusiastically tells us that all her labels are designed by Brooklyn artists, with a special peel-off feature if you want to save the pretty pictures.  This particular one was designed by Patricia Fabricant, and after they chose her design they learned that she is the daughter of Florence Fabricant, who writes about food and wine for The New York Times.

5.  RV 2010 Bond $19

We get fresh glasses for the reds, a nice touch.  Their Bordeaux blend, this wine varies its composition from year to year, depending on the qualities of the grapes.  This one is mainly merlot, and spends 10 months in neutral oak casks, then stainless steel.  We smell cedar and berries, and taste blackberry.  Though not a bad wine, it is a bit thin, and lacks depth.

6.  BOE 2012 Social Club Red $20

So I had to ask, “Why Social Club?”  Alie explains that when she moved to Brooklyn (the winery’s tasting room is located in Williamsburg, of course) she noticed all the immigrant social clubs, and decided to name her wines for them. She liked the idea of wines that were casual and friendly.   Also a Bordeaux blend, Alie’s wine is 77%merlot, 18%, cabernet sauvignon, and 5% Corot noir.  Corot noir?  The grape is a hybrid created at Cornell, and adds a dark color to the wine, without the use of chemicals.  We like it very much, tasting plenty of fruit with a bit of side of the tongue sweetness yet dry at the end.

7.  RV 2010 Merlot $45

2010 was a great year on the North Fork, but we’re not crazy about this wine.  We smell cinnamon, plus some of that local earthiness, and taste some fruit and some smoke.  Perhaps it needs more time.

On to the reds

On to the reds

8.  BOE 2010 Merlot $25

Okay, same grape, same year, though BOE adds 4% petit verdot, sourced from Onabay’s vineyard in Cutchogue.  Again, we smell cinnamon, some earthiness, but the taste differs.  It has more fruit , a dry finish, and is softer, with no smoke.  We like it!

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We buy a bottle each of the BOE Merlot and the RV The Wild and browse the small selection of gifts.  They have the Govino glasses, which we have bought as gifts in the past.  They’re a high quality plastic, nice on a picnic or a boat.  Oh, and as to who won the face off?  I’d have to say we did, because we got to sample wines from two wineries and only had to travel to one!

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Reasons to visit:  convenient tasting room in the middle of the North Fork on Love Lane, which is itself a destination with its cheese shop, Bookhampton book store, Love Lane Country Kitchen, and more; The Wild; the chance to taste wines from other vineyards as well.

The back patio

The back patio