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

http://www.raphaelwine.com/

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

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

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

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The attractive room is often used for weddings.

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

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  1. 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc            $39

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

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Nice sized pour!

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

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

  1. 2014 First Label Chardonnay      $39

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

  1. 2015 White Primo Reserve          $45

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

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  1. 2012 Malbec Reserve     $69

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

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The line-up of reds.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $69

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

  1. 2012 Petit Verdot Reserve          $69

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

  1. 2012 Primo Reserve       $72

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

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One view of the large circular bar.

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

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A touch of Italy

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Raphael: Better for an Event than a Tasting? December 26, 2015

IMG_2346http://www.raphaelwine.com/

With their beautiful building, modeled after an Italian monastery, and spacious tasting room, Raphael is often in use as a venue for private events.   This time of year the room sparkles with Christmas lights, so it is no surprise to note that it will be closed New Year’s Eve for such an event.  In fact, if you plan to go for a tasting make sure to check their web page first to make sure they are open.  You may also choose to go or not depending on whether they have musical entertainment planned.  The performers we heard were all quite talented and we liked their music, but not the sound level, which made conversation difficult.  The other difficulty we encountered was that the servers were clearly understaffed, having to cater to a crowd around the circular bar plus many people sitting at the tables, drinking glasses of wine and listening to the music.

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The menu lists 18 choices, all priced by the taste, glass, or bottle.  We happened to have a coupon for two free tastings, which entitled us to three tastes each, which would have cost us $17 for the six tastes.  Since we knew we already liked the Portico—which proved to be a popular after-Thanksgiving-dinner drink—we decided to focus on the standard whites and reds, skipping the reserves, the rosés, and the dessert wines.  The menu mentions ratings by both Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate in the high 80s and low 90s for a number of the wines.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                   $22

We decided to start by trying their two sauvignon blancs side by side, and our request for information about the wines was referred by our server to another one who was more knowledgeable.  This is the less expensive of the two, steel fermented for a shorter time, and not the preference of our server.  We agree, though it is a fine example of Long Island sauvignon blanc, with lots of minerality and soft lemon taste at the end, and a refreshing acidity.  It would go well in the summer, or well-iced with oysters.

  1. 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc             $28

The tasting menu informs us that this one is “made from our oldest sauvignon blanc vines,” and it is fascinating to see that it is quite different from the previous wine, with more interesting aromas and flavors.  We smell a touch of funk in the aroma, plus various fruits.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness at the end but plenty of mouth-watering acidity.  It would complement pasta with cream sauce, we decide.

  1. 2014 Chardeaux $22

A mixture of 80% chardonnay and 20% sauvignon blanc, this wine is more interesting than a straight chardonnay, with lots of citrus and minerality, and some tastes of unripe peach.  It’s a good chard for people who think they don’t like chard, and would go well with chicken kabobs.

Not sure if you can tell from this picture, but the two rieslings looked quite different.

Not sure if you can tell from this picture, but the two rieslings looked quite different.

  1. 2013 First Label Riesling $26

There are two rieslings on the menu, and since one is described as “semi-sweet” we order the other one, not being a fan of sweet wines (except when we’re talking dessert wines).  As we take our first sniffs and tastes we note a chemical aroma and that it is quite sweet for a supposedly dry riesling.  We get the attention of the more knowledgeable server and discover that, indeed, we have accidentally been served the sweet riesling.  We put that glass aside and happily enjoy the correct pour.  Really good, with kumquat orange tastes and some leather notes in the aroma.  My husband—whose identification of the first pour as the wrong wine has deeply impressed our server—notes that he would not buy this for our usual use for a riesling (to go with spicy food), but that though he likes it he would prefer a riesling with more interest.

La Fontana and the fountain

La Fontana and the fountain

  1. 2012 La Fontana $28

Now we switch to reds, and by the way we get a new glass with each taste, a practice I appreciate.  La Fontana is their Bordeaux blend—merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet franc—but no one has information on the proportions, including the web page.  A glance at the Raphael label will give you a cue as to the source of this wine’s name—a drawing of the fountain which graces the middle of the parking lot in front of the entrance.  We like this one, too.  The smell reminds me of cassis—the menu says blackberry and eucalyptus –and I taste some nice fruit, with oak at the end and some layers of flavor.  However, compared with a French Bordeaux this is a bit on the thin side.

  1. 2010 First Label Merlot $40

Like the Fontana, this is aged 18 months in French oak, and you can smell the oak when you sniff, as well as cherries.  As it sits in the glass we start to like it better.  It is fairly dry and tannic but with nice fruit.  By the way, I would have liked a cracker to cleanse my palate between the whites and reds but, although there are bowls of them around the bar, there are none anywhere near us and no one offers us any.  As I said, they’re busy.

The fountain--and the Italian flag!

The fountain–and the Italian flag!

Reasons to visit:  you like to admire a beautiful room; the well-stocked gift shop; the First Label Sauvignon Blanc, the Chardeaux, the First Label Merlot, the Portico.

Tis the season

Tis the season

Father Christmas was guarding the well-stocked gift shop, which included food items as well.

Father Christmas was guarding the well-stocked gift shop, which included food items as well.

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Another view of the bar

Another view of the bar

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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