Winemaker Studio: Nappa, not Napa December 15, 2019

http://winemaker-studio.com/

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Note the wine geeks sign, pointing to the entrance to Peconic Cellar Door, which we are also due to visit.

Anthony Nappa may have the perfect name for a winemaker, but I do wonder how often he has to explain that his name is not a reference to the famous wine region in California. In actuality, he is both the winemaker for Raphael Vineyards and for his own label, which he sells in the Winemaker Studio, a small tasting room which adjoins Peconic Cellar Door, another small label, in a shopfront adjacent to the LIRR train tracks on Peconic Lane. Like several other winemakers, he seems to enjoy making his own wines, even though his “day job” is making wine.

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Maybe some day he’ll add some comfortable seating!

According to our very knowledgeable and informative server, Nappa buys his grapes from several different vineyards, including Raphael. This year he is offering several wines made from organically grown grapes, but may not in the future, since the grower has decided to make his own wines. We were just at Raphael on December 7th, so it was interesting to compare the two places. We decided that we much prefer the styles of the wines Nappa offers under his own label. But, as we discussed with our server, taste in wine is a very personal thing, so my preferences clearly are not those of other people.

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Shared Table Farm belongs to Anthony and Sarah Nappa, who have added kimchi, honey, and jam to their wine offerings.

Our visit this year proves yet again that it is a good idea to try each year’s vintage, since wines can be quite different from harvest to harvest. This is particularly true here, since Nappa clearly likes to experiment and try varying combinations. For example, his sparkling wine, labeled Frizzante, is quite different from previous years.

A tasting consists of any five wines from a menu of twelve for $15. We consulted with our server over our choices and, power of the book, got two extra wines for an intriguing side-by-side comparison of different vintages. That turned out to be a good move, as we bought a bottle of one of the extras!

  1. NV Frizzante $20

The last time, several years ago, that we tried Nappa’s sparkling wine, it was made from pinot noir, riesling, and gewürztraminer and was a rather conventional yellow color. This time it is composed of 51% pinot noir and 49% viognier, and is an orange wine with a pleasant fizz. The aroma is somewhat vegetal—Brussels sprouts, maybe?—and yeasty. The taste is pleasantly dry, with a touch of fruitiness. I don’t know if the color is influencing my thoughts, but I think it tastes a bit like oranges, maybe kumquats. At this price, one could drink it as an everyday wine, and I think it would go well with charcuterie. (NV means non-vintage.)

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The sauvignon blanc is light in both color and taste.

  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $22

This wine uses sauvignon blanc grapes from Raphael for 88%, and 12% semillon from another vineyard. The aroma is somewhat floral, unlike the Raphael sauvignon blanc, which was citrusy. This does have a tart, lemon/lime flavor, similar to Raphael’s, but is lighter in both color and flavor. It would be better with food, like a nice dish of local oysters or scallops. Alas, the scallop harvest this year is dreadful, as there was a die-off earlier in the season, when the water was too warm. Darn global climate change.

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  1. 2018 La Strega               $29

Made from organic malbec grapes, this is called the witch because malbec is notoriously difficult to deal with here. Aged mostly in steel, and only six months in French oak, this is a very light red, with fruity aromas of currents and blueberries. No tannins. When our server asks, I say I would characterize this as a red wine for white wine drinkers, and he concurs, noting that he had actually bought a bottle for someone who usually only drinks whites and she had liked it.

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  1. 2014 Quattordici Cabernet-Merlot $35

A blend of 63% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, and 25% cabernet sauvignon, this Bordeaux-style wine is quite lovely. I smell cherries, black licorice, and fruit salad, and taste black raspberries and maybe a touch of black olives. My tasting buddy disputes that last assertion, but adds that it has a “lotta fruit.” We agree on that. It has a surprisingly long finish. I could see this with a nice slice of rare leg of lamb.

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I feel like I learn so much about wine when we do one of these parallel tastings.

  1. 2012 Merlot $48

Now comes the treat! Because he happens to have a bottle of the 2012 merlot open for wine club members, with one of whom we have been having a pleasant chat, our server asks if we would like to taste the three different vintages of merlot they have on offer. Of course we would! They are encouraging the wine club members to drink this wine now, and I can see why. It still has the merlot cherry aroma and taste, but the taste has become more minerally, with few tannins. No finish. It’s fine—and we like it better than any of the Raphael $72 bottles of red—but definitely is at the end of its life.

  1. 2014 Merlot $40

In 2014, they got their merlot grapes from Shinn, unlike the other two vintages. This is also dry, with more tannins, and an aroma of cherries and olives.  It does have a mouth-watering acidity, and could go well with barbequed pork chops.

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This window allows easy communication with the next-door tasting room, which included some friendly banter.

  1. 2015 Reserve Merlot $40

This one “beats the bunch,” as my grandma would say with the birth of each new great-grandchild. It has an interesting complexity of flavor, and the type of tannins that makes us think it would do well after a couple of years.  Of course, it has cherry flavors and aromas, but there is more to it that just cherry, more depth. We decide to buy a bottle and put it in the cellar for a couple of years, “we should live so long,” as my grandma would also say.

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Reasons to visit: intimate setting where you can discuss and savor the wines at leisure with a well-informed server (he remembered we had been there before); well-priced wines; the Frizzante for casual sparkling wine drinking; the Quattordici, the 2015 Reserve Merlot. Note that they used to be connected to a store which sold cheeses, etc., but it is now another tasting room, the Peconic Cellar Door. Next time we’ll try the rosés and the other reds.  They also have for sale honey, jam, and kimchi made at their Shared Table Farm.

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We bought a jar of their kimchi, which turned out to be quite excellent.

The Winemaker Studio: Studying Wine May 16, 2015

http://www.anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

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Proving once again that regular visits to all wineries are essential, we noted several changes at Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker Studio since our last visit there in July.  For example, the emphasis has gone from looking at the wines of many winemakers to a focus on Nappa’s own wines, although others are available, including for purchase.  Today, the choice is between a set menu of five wines for $10 by Russell Hearn, under his SuHru and T’Jara labels, or any of fourteen wines by Nappa at $2 per taste.  After some serious discussion, we decide to share two tastings, one of the Hearn wines and the other of five wines from Nappa’s list.  We also could have had a beer from Greenport Brewing Company or hard cider or espresso.

Note the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company tap.

Note the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company tap.

The building is over 100 years old, which contributes to the cozy feeling of the place, and is divided into two halves, with one half the tasting room with a bar and some little tables and chairs, and the other half a store called Provisions, which offers both a selection of groceries and a menu of sandwiches and snacks.  While we were there we saw one party enjoying some paninis—which smelled delicious—with their wine.  We could also have bought wines by the bottle from Leo Family, Race Wines, Coffee Pot Cellars (which now has their own place), and Influence Wines.

You can see Provisions through the window.

You can see Provisions through the window.

Some of the snack choices

Some of the snack choices

Our server, by the way, was quite pleasant and very knowledgeable, and we overheard her giving a pair of North Fork novices some good advice as to which wineries they would and would not like.  Based on their preferences, we suggested their next stop should be One Woman Winery.    I’ll list the wines as we drank them, with the Anthony Nappa wines second.

One view of the room

One view of the room

  1. SuHru Pinot Grigio         $17

Nice way to start a tasting.  This is a bright, citrusy white with a slightly funky, mineral aroma.  Though somewhat too dry to be a sipper, it would go great with oysters.

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  1. 2013 Frizzante                 $20

As you may have guessed from the name, this is a sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise from pinot noir, riesling, and gewürztraminer.  Because it is unfiltered, it is somewhat cloudy.  Given the grapes it is made from, I thought it might be sweet, but, though it has a touch of sweetness, it is dry, with aromas of pear and orange flower.  Our server compares it to a Prosecco, and says she likes it with sushi.  I think it would be great with some charcuterie!  And given the price, one could drink this without waiting for an occasion.

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  1. 2013 SuHru Sauvignon Blanc $19

As I’m sniffing and thinking, hmmm…toast, lemon peel, minerals, my husband says, “This is very like a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, and so anyone who liked that would like this.”  I’ll have to do some research to verify that, but meanwhile I taste lemon and gooseberries.

  1. 2013 Anomaly $19

The Anomaly is Nappa’s signature wine, a white made from red pinot noir grapes, and it is quite nice, though we liked it better the first time we had it.  The aroma is a tad funky, with some minerality and a smell like raw yeast dough.  It is fairly crisp, and we taste sour cherries.

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  1. 2010 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $30

New glasses for the reds.  Aged in oak, this has aromas of asparagus, coffee beans, and cherry juice, with tastes of spice and dark fruit.  It’s quite good, and we like the finish, and think it would pair well with veal Milanese.  Since Russell Hearn used to be the winemaker for Pellegrini, and we like their reds, it’s logical that we would like the reds he makes under his own label.

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

I kind of expected this to be a Bordeaux, based on the name, but it is made from steel-fermented cabernet franc.  Our server describes it as a “rustic Italian” wine, and says, among other flavors, that it has tastes of calamata olives.  We agree, and also think we taste dark plums and raisins, plus maybe some black cherry.  Although there’s lots of fruit tastes, it is relatively simple, in that there aren’t layers of flavor.  In any event, it would go great with pizza or pasta!

We really liked the clean, simple, modern style of Nappa's labels.

We really liked the clean, simple, modern style of Nappa’s labels.

  1. 2010 T’Jara Merlot $25

Just as my husband noted that the barnyard odors we used to sense frequently in North Fork wines are mostly gone, and I reminded him that it was merlots that featured it, we sniff this and find just a touch of barnyard.  Otherwise, lots of berry aromas and sour plum tastes in this somewhat tannic red.  Not at all soft, it would go well with pasta with a rich meat sauce.

  1. 2012 “dodici” $35

Named for the vintage year, this is a blend of 67% merlot, 28% cabernet franc, and 5% cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak for 18 months.  A Right Bank Bordeaux, says my drinking pal.  Aroma:  Captain Black tobacco, chocolate, red fruits.  Taste:  cherry, dry yet soft, with some tannins.  Compared with how it tasted a year ago, we decide it has aged well so far, though it could be overwhelmed by a big steak dinner.

I love doing side by side comparisons.

I love doing side by side comparisons.

  1. 2007 T’Jara Reserve Merlot $35

Also aged in French oak, this is, despite the name, a bit of a blend:  89% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, 2% malbec, 2% cabernet sauvignon.  “Unripe peach pit,” opines my pal, as he sniffs.  Really?  Okay, maybe.  Also currants, perhaps.  We taste and agree on dried fruits and unsweetened cocoa.  In a head to head with dodici, we choose the T’Jara.

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  1. 2012 Blackbird $40

Why Blackbird?  Because merlot is the French word for blackbird, says the server.  Well, close, it is “merle,” and this is Nappa’s Reserve Merlot.  Red cherry taste, quite tannic, not much aroma:  we think it would be better with food, but are not thrilled with this wine.  Not bad, mind you, but not worth the price.

One corner of the room.  The furniture is cute, but could be more comfy.

One corner of the room. The furniture is cute, but could be more comfy.

Reasons to visit:  the chance to taste and buy wines from more than one winemaker; some offbeat choices like the Frizzante and the Anomaly; the lovely food from Provisions; a relaxed atmosphere; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc, the Bordo, the T’Jara Reserve Merlot, the Dodici; freshly made espresso or cappuccino for those who have had enough wine.

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The Winemaker Studio: Wine as Art? July 4, 2014

http://www.anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

Rainy Fourth of July!

Rainy Fourth of July!

The rain washed out our barbeque, but not our determination to do a wine tasting, so off we set in a tropical downpour to the welcoming environs of The Winemaker Studio.  Odd name for a tasting room, you are probably thinking, especially since it occupies the premises previously called The Tasting Room, a more obvious name.  However, as Anthony Nappa, the proprietor, discussed with us on a previous visit, the idea is to provide a space where a variety of winemakers can showcase their wares, and to also have the space function as an art gallery, with art for purchase on the walls.

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Many of the winemakers carried here are also—or have been—winemakers for larger wineries, such as Raphael or Osprey’s Dominion, but felt they wanted to make wines their own way, under their own label.  Like art, these are labors of love.  As you can tell by the site’s URL, Anthony Nappa makes his own wines, and his selections dominate the tasting menu of fifteen wines, all available for $2 or $3 a taste.  In addition to selling wine by the glass they also feature Greenport Harbor beer on tap and a number of local hard liquors—gin, vodka, whiskey—plus espresso and cappuccino and a menu of sandwiches crafted by Nappa’s wife, Sarah Evans Nappa, a chef who previously worked at the North Fork Table and Inn.  They also run a small store attached to the tasting room called Provisions, which stocks a variety of both local and imported foods, including cheeses, pastas, and charcuterie.  Like many places with their own food, they ask you not to bring your own snacks, but are happy to sell you cheeses, etc.

Some of the provisions at Provisions.

Some of the provisions at Provisions.

The room is small, simple, and rustic, with a wooden bar and small tables with folding chairs both inside and outside.  Sometimes you find a dog or two around, but today they had been left home because the thunder was freaking them out.  Our friends, animal lovers, were disappointed that the dogs were not in residence, but happy about the wines they tasted.  Frequent North Fork visitors, they had not heard of The Winemaker Studio, but will now add it to their list.  We each made a variety of choices from the menu, with each couple sharing one tasting, a good decision since the pour was quite generous.  We were left on our own to decide the order of tastes.  I’ve marked the Anthony Nappa wines with an AN at the end.

Tasting menu

Tasting menu

1)       2013 Frizzante Sparkling                              $20

It had been a year since we were here, and there were quite a few new wines, including a sparkling wine made from riesling, pinot noir, and gewürztraminer, and not filtered, so it has an intriguing cloudy look.  We smell and taste lots of minerality, plus unripe pineapple and some lemon.  We envision drinking it on the deck with charcuterie, and our friend suggests using it in a cocktail with Limoncello and some raspberries.  Sounds good!  AN

Frizzante--note the cloudiness.

Frizzante–note the cloudiness.

2)      2013 Reminisce                 $22

This is their sauvignon blanc, and it spends three days on the skins, giving it lots of complex flavors, including ripe grapefruit.  Good!  AN

3)      2013 Spezia Gewürztraminer                      $25

Spezia means spicy, a good name for this spicy dry gewürztraminer, with its pleasant honeysuckle aroma.  Though it lacks depth (We prefer One Woman’s gewürztraminer.), it is a good wine.  Pair it with stinky cheeses, they suggest.  AN

It's a fairly generous pour.

It’s a fairly generous pour.

4)      2012 Dodici                         $35

So a year ago we had the 2010 Dieci, which this replaces (brush up on your Italian numbers to decipher the names).  A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc, this Bordeaux type is another good wine.  Mouthwatering fruit flavors.  AN

5)      2012 Black Bird Reserve Merlot                  $40

Though we are told that this is a wine made only in good years, spending 18 months in the barrel, we are unimpressed.  There’s a touch of that earth smell you sometimes get in North Fork merlots, some dark cherry taste, and not much else.

6)      Red Blend by Greg Gove of Race Wines      $22

This is another Bordeaux-type blend, of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot.  Again, just okay—and fairly oaky, too.

Our friends also tried and really like Nappa’s Anomaly, a white wine made from red grapes, which we have liked in the past, and they enjoyed as well.  They bought a bottle of the Frizzante, perhaps to try that cocktail idea in the near future!  Then we browsed a bit in Provisions, and, though we didn’t find anything we needed for that night, having shopped already, we did make mental notes of things we would buy.

Part of the Provisions menu

Part of the Provisions menu

Reasons to visit:  a chance to try a variety of wines not readily available elsewhere; the Frizzante, the Dodici, the Reminisce; the opportunity to shop at Provisions; art on the walls; the availability of other drinks and food for those who aren’t wine drinkers.  We haven’t tried it, but they have Happy Hour from 5-7 every day, with 30% off on glasses of wine.

Not a great day for sitting outside...maybe next time!

Not a great day for sitting outside…maybe next time!