Laurel Lake:  A Festive Day          September 23, 2017

http://www.llwines.com/

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The winery building is quite pretty.

We had been to the Greenport Maritime Festival, where we watched pint-size mermaids parade and cruised past booths offering art, food, lavender, and more.  Now it was time to continue the festive mood by bringing our guests to a winery, and we decided on Laurel Lake, which we had not been to in more than a year.  One reason we hadn’t been there sooner was that the last time we tried to go they were about to close for a wedding.  This time they were also going to close for a wedding, but we had more than an hour for our tasting, so in we went.

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The tent was being prepared for a wedding party.

The tasting room is pleasant, with an antique bar at one end and plenty of tables, all of which were empty.  We opined that everyone on the North Fork was probably at the Greenport Festival or apple picking at Harbes.  Then the server behind the bar suggested we seat ourselves near the outside bar, where we had never been.  Out we went, to find long tables in the shade, a few more customers, and a very genial server who timed his visits to our table perfectly.  A look at the attractively rustic setting made it clear why people favor Laurel Lake as a wedding venue.  A food truck run by CJ’s restaurant was parked near us, but we had already had lunch in Greenport.

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There is a food truck on the premises, so they request that you not bring your own food.

Laurel Lake offers an extensive menu, of seven whites and nine reds, and a tasting consists of four tastes for $15.  By some judicious selecting and sharing, our group of six was able to taste many of the offerings.  Each couple shared a tasting, and then we gave each other sips.  Overall, we tended to prefer the whites to the reds, but the reds do have the advantage, rare on the North Fork, of being mostly reasonably priced.  One nice touch—our server brought us clean glasses for each taste.  That’s such a great idea.  So often they either pour the next taste right into your glass, where it may be affected by the previous wine, or they rinse it with water, which runs the risk of wine that tastes like chlorine.  One other clever method is when they rinse your glass with a few drops of the next taste, though that seems a tad wasteful to me.  I hate to see wine being poured into a dump bucket!

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The tasting room.

  1. 2016 Pinot Gris              $22.99

We hadn’t yet settled on a sharing method, so two of us ordered this.  I tend to like pinot gris (a.k.a. pinot grigio), and this one was no exception.  It smells a bit like pineapple juice, and tastes a bit like it, too. It is tart, with notes of mineral and salt.  Our daughter-in-law, who is good at thinking about wine and food pairings, thought it would go well with something made with capers.  How about smoked salmon with capers, we asked.  Yes.  Very buyable.

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They give you a good-sized pour, so all six of us could share tastes.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $23.99

Their oak aged chard, this has the expected aromas of vanilla and wood or caramel, with some citrus flavors.  Interestingly, this one also tasted of pineapple, but in this case of very ripe pineapple.  Food pairing?  How about pork with pineapple.

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The outside bar.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $22.99

This new release is light, crisp, and lemony, with some tastes of grilled peaches.  A nice summer wine, it might pair well with a salad with grilled peaches.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $22.99

Our server informed us that this is their “third sweetest white.”  Though I am not a fan of sweet wines, this one is well-balanced enough that, with, let us say, spicy Thai food, it would be fine.  I smell flowers and something metallic, and taste oranges.

  1. Moscato Sparkling $24.99

One member of our group prefers sweet wines to dry, and he was very pleased with this sparkler.  It is sweet, with strawberry and melon tastes and a candy-like aroma.  Perhaps one could drink it with a chocolate soufflé?

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  1. Wind Song Red $17.99

Fair warning—we are told this is their sweetest red.  Our server explains that they make it by blending all the leftovers from other wines, and it has no vintage because it could contain juice from various years.  I would say this was not a successful blend, as it has a somewhat medicinal taste, like Cheracol cough syrup.

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  1. 2013 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

Another newly bottled release, this was aged in used oak barrels, so it does not have the flavors you get from oak.  Some say the nice aspect of this is you get the pure taste of the grape.  We find it rather flat and one-dimensional, though not unpleasant.  Perhaps one could drink this with molé, as it is a light red.  Not caring for this or the previous red, our guests try their own blend, mixing the two.  Not a success.

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My favorite of these was the Syrah.

  1. 2012 Merlot Estate $19.99

Better.  Whew.  A pretty typical oak-aged merlot, with cherry aromas and taste and some tannins.

  1. 2013 Syrah $19.99

Two-thirds of us agree that we like this one.  It has tastes of plums, pepper, and nutmeg, plus some nice tannins.  Someone suggested pairing it with moussaka.  Sounds good to me.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

Interestingly, this is aged in steel.  It is an easy to drink, fresh-tasting pizza wine, with soft tannins, and fruity aromas and tastes.

  1. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $25.99

As the afternoon progressed, our server became more and more chatty, and he described the interesting method used to make this wine.  They take two-thirds of the cab sauv to make rosé, and they take the skins from that plus the rest of the grapes to make this wine, which is then aged in used oak.  It has a “dark richness,” said someone, not sure who.  It is dry, not as fruity as you might expect given how it is made, with some nice tannins.  I wonder how it would age.

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They have a small selection of wine-related gift items.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting, inside and out; the Pinot Gris, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Syrah, the Cabernet Sauvignon; reasonably priced wines for Long Island, especially the reds; food truck.

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Our server did a good job of explaining each wine.

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The top floor of the two-level outdoor area.

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Mermaids on parade!

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One Woman Wines and Vineyard: Happy to be Back April 29, 2017

https://www.onewomanwines.com/

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Somehow we had let more than a year elapse before our return to one of our favorite wineries, so we were delighted to come back to One Woman.  One of the servers was happy to see us back, as well, remembering that we had come before in the fall!  That personal touch is no surprise at this tiny winery, which is very much the work of one woman, Claudia Purita, who, according to her web site, is totally hands on in the vineyard and the winery.  Her devotion shows in the wines, which are all well worth seeking out.

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Some ad hoc entertainment.

Out on the porch, a large group was celebrating what seemed to be one person’s birthday, and had arrived in a huge RV.  A friend of the winery serenaded them with his guitar.  They had made a reservation, which was fortunate, because the winery is very firm about no groups larger than six without a reservation.  Our friend the server urged us to come in the summer, when they have bonfires and movies on Saturday nights.  The tasting menu offers various options, and we decided to share four tastes for $10, forgoing tastes of the chardonnays and the rosé.

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The menu offers various options.

  1. 2015 Tribute     $26

A blend of all their white grapes—chenin blanc, chardonnay, grüner veltliner, and gewürztraminer—this is a perfect warm weather wine, great for sipping chilled.  It has a flowery aroma of honeysuckle and peach, and also has some peach tastes, as well as a lovely minerality.

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  1. 2015 Grüner Veltliner    $26

At the moment, they are the only winery on Long Island with this grape, though our server told us that Macari has planted some, so they may be producing a grüner too.  It smells fruity, maybe like gooseberries.  The taste is mouthwatering, dry, with some mineral and stone.  It would be good with a rich chicken dish, like a creamy casserole.  It is steel fermented.

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  1. 2015 Gewürztraminer                  $28

Mmm.  Smells so good.  Flowers, fruits, vegetables.  Delicious!  I think this may be the best gewürztraminer on Long Island, dry yet with lots of fruit taste.  The server takes pains to point out that it only has 1% residual sugar, since some people think all the fruitiness means it is sweet.  We also taste minerals and salt.  It would be great to sip, but would also pair well with food.  Our other server notes it is perfect for Thanksgiving—so we buy two bottles just in case we have turkey some time soon.

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  1. 2013 Merlot      $38

This is aged in new French oak for 18 months, and has the typical cherry flavor of local merlots.  Light and dry, with good tannins, this might benefit from further aging.

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An aerial photo shows the extent of the vineyards.

Reasons to visit:  a bunch of excellent wines; an intimate setting off the beaten track; the Tribute, the Grüner Veltliner, the Gewürztraminer.  Because we bought two bottles of wine, our tasting was free.

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Channing Daughters: Secret Favorite November 5, 2016

http://www.channingdaughters.com/

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

I have a confession to make.  Though my blog is titled Nofo for North Fork, my favorite East End winery is actually on the South Fork, just outside Sag Harbor, to be exact.  Why do I like Channing Daughters so much?  For one thing, I’ve never had a wine of theirs that I disliked.  We joined their wine club years ago (we get the wine delivered) and are fascinated by the wide variety of different wines they offer, especially for such a small winery.  According to their web site, they have “three dozen different bottlings.”  Their web site is worth visiting, to learn about the interesting experiments they do.  When they introduced rosés, they made six or seven different ones.  I bought a case of six varieties, and we enjoyed them all.  They also started making vermouths a few years ago, using local herbs where possible. They do a better job with reds than many Long Island wineries, and their Scuttlehole Chardonnay is the one against which we measure all other steel-fermented chards.  In fact, we served it at our daughter’s wedding.

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We also like the intimacy of the tasting room, which is augmented in the summer by some outside tables.  And in the tasting room, we’ve always found the servers to be knowledgeable about the wines, happy to answer any questions guests pose to them.  Certainly our server on this visit fit that description, discussing both the wines and the business of a winery with well-informed intelligence.  For example, we started talking about the contrast between summer and fall crowds, especially in the Hamptons, and he discussed the challenges of staffing a tasting room for a seasonal spike in visitors.

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Because we are wine club members, we did not have the regular tasting.  Instead, our server made sure that we got to try some of their newest releases, including the bottles that had arrived in our most recent shipment.  A regular tasting consists of six wines for $14, and the pour is on the generous side.  Even though I won’t be writing about most of the wines on the regular tasting menu, I don’t hesitate to recommend that people go there.  You won’t be disappointed.  And while you’re on the South Fork, you can also visit Wölffer Estate, if you want a second winery visit.  (However, I don’t recommend Duck Walk.)  Then you can drive into Sag Harbor and walk up and down Main Street, checking out the art galleries, book store, and boutiques, and ending with dinner at Il Cappuccino (or one of the other restaurants).  We haven’t been there recently, but we used to be quite enamored of the garlic knots.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

  1. 2015 Scuttlehole Chardonnay   $18

As I said, this is our favorite East End chard, named for the street on which the winery is located.  It is a crisp, dry, steel-fermented wine, with lots of lemon tastes and, as they say, mouth-watering acidity.  It goes great with food, especially fish and seafood, like Peconic Bay scallops.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $23

There is a little tocai fruliano (8%) mixed in with the sauvignon blanc, and both are slightly oaked.  The aroma is interesting, almost candy-like, with some floral notes, and the taste is equally complex.  We discuss, and identify stone or mineral and peach and peach pit.  Because it is only slightly oaked it is still quite crisp, and, like their wines in general, dry.  Nice.

Envelope has a rich color.

Envelope has a rich color.

  1. 2012 Envelope $42

Why “Envelope”?  Because the idea was to “push the envelope” of what a chardonnay could be.  Though “pushing the envelope” could describe what they do with many of their wines (like Research Cab, or Over and Over, or L’Enfant Sauvage), the results with this one are quite good.  It is what is called an “orange” wine, though it is not quite orange, because it spends more time on the skins, giving it a deeper color than your average white.  A blend of 66% chardonnay, 26% gewürztraminer, and 8% malvasia bianca, it has an almost vegetable-like aroma, which my husband compares to his favorite veggie:  Brussels sprouts.  Not a sipping wine, it would go great with charcuterie, where its tart edge would complement the richness of the meats.

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  1. 2015 Rosso Fresco $20

This one is also on the regular tasting menu, and is their sort of all-purpose red blend, a mixture this year of 47% merlot, 30% blaufrankisch, 10% syrah, 10% dornfelder, and 3 % cabernet franc.  Now that’s a blend I bet you won’t find anywhere else!   I compare the aroma to funky cherry pie.  The taste is of plums and other dark fruits, and is again dry, with some tannins.  My tasting buddy thinks it would go well with a stew, and now that the weather is turning colder perhaps I’ll make one.  Our server also mentions that the winemaker used to be a chef, so he is very attuned to making wines that go well with food.

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  1. 2014 Petit Verdot $32.40 (for wine club members)

I tend to like petit verdots, so I was eager to taste this one, and I was not disappointed.  Our server described it as “smoky, dark, and full-bodied,” and suggested it was a good wine to cellar.  I agree.  The taste makes me think of dark chocolate with a cherry inside, but it is quite tannic and I think would benefit from some aging.

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  1. 2015 Muscat de Boom $30 (for a small bottle)

Funny name for a really delicious after dinner wine, this is made with muscat ottonel grapes which are partially fermented and then dosed with grape brandy.  It is slightly viscous, like a thin honey, but not cloyingly sweet, and would pair well with dark chocolate and almonds.  Almond Joy?  Why not!

Menu

Menu

Reasons to visit:  it’s one of the best wineries on Long Island; you’re on the South Fork and want to visit a winery or you’ve decided on a day trip to Montauk and want to stop at a winery on your way; the wood sculptures made by Mr. Channing; a wide variety of wines to suit every taste; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Envelope, the Rosso Fresco, the Petit Verdot…actually, all their wines!

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More of the array of wines.

More of the array of wines.

 

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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Pellegrini Vineyards: Refuge from the Rain August 10, 2016

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

The thunder was ominous, and we barely made it into the tasting room before a deluge poured from the sky.  However, the menacing weather meant that on this Wednesday afternoon we had the tasting room to ourselves (though a couple of other groups arrived later).  With no urgent business, we stayed for almost two hours, snacking on hummus and pretzel chips we had brought with us and chatting with our friends who confessed they were neophytes to wine tasting—though not to wine drinking.  “I’m a virgin,” my friend joked, explaining that though she’d been to wineries for events she’d never actually sat down for a tasting.

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In that case, I was glad I’d chosen to take our friends to Pellegrini, where you can have your tray of tastes delivered to your table and spend as long as you like discussing the wines.  Our discussions ranged from the personal to the political, but we did devote some attention to the wines, which our friends generally enjoyed.  They had some favorites, and others they didn’t finish, about which more later.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

A tasting includes any three wines you choose from the menu printed on a placemat, which then becomes your guide to the order in which to drink the wines, plus a sample of their rosé, for $12. Since we are wine club members, our tastings were free.  We all chose a variety of different wines, so I’m going to comment on my choices first, with some briefer notes on other options.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

  1. 2015 Rosé           $19.99

We decided we would all start with this, since it was one wine we had in common, so we could discuss both this particular drink and also how to think about the aroma and taste of wine.  A steel-fermented blend of 35% merlot, 32% cabernet sauvignon, and 33% cabernet franc, this is a light dry rosé with a distinctively citric taste we decided was more like tangerine than lemon.  It had only a faint bit of the strawberry aroma many rosés have, and lots of minerality.  My friend particularly liked the pale pink color.

A tray of whites.

A tray of whites.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

As in the past, I like this wine.  It’s a crisp steel-fermented sauvignon blanc with a bit of a gooseberry aroma and nice balance of mineral and lemony citrus.  I would have it with local oysters.  My friend said she would too—if she liked oysters.  Well, then, with scallops?  Oh, yes.

  1. 2014 East End Select BBQ Red $18.99

What kind of wine do you want to serve at a barbeque?  Probably something uncomplicated and easy to drink that goes well with burgers and doesn’t cost too much.  Hence BBQ Red.  Made from steel-fermented petit verdot, this is simple and direct and light and dry.  You could even have it with hot dogs.

Mostly reds

Mostly reds

  1. 2011 Petit Verdot $29.99

If you want to understand the difference between a wine that has been steel-fermented and one that has been aged 20 months in French oak, you might want to follow the BBQ Red with this petit verdot.  This remains one of my favorite North Fork reds, with rich flavors of blueberry and other berries and dark plums, pleasantly tannic and dry.  It can stand up to a steak.  Our friend agrees, and this is the only glass he, who is not much of a drinker, empties.

Now here are a few notes on other wines, in no particular order, though we did spend some time explaining why the order in which you sample a tasting matters.  Basically, you want to go from the lightest to the most flavorful, so you can appreciate each one as it comes.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

  1. 2014 Medley White $21.99

I wasn’t sure my friend would like this one, since she is not fond of sweet wines and this blend includes 5% gewürztraminer as well as 55% sauvignon blanc and 40% chardonnay, and I was right.  She was not a fan, describing both the taste and smell as “pungent.”  It did have a bit of that cat pee smell you sometimes get.  She did not finish her glass, but much preferred her next taste.

  1. 2015 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $19.99

A fan of pinot grigio, our friend liked this dry, citrusy chard, which she described as “mild.”  I like it too, better than their oaked chard.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $19.99

Although this is a blend of 80% oaked chard (8 months aged) and 20% steel chard, we felt this was still too oaky for our taste.

  1. 2010 Merlot $29.99

My friends were not fond of this merlot, which they felt could have been fruitier.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $29.99

Actually a Bordeaux blend of 84% cabernet franc, 7% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, this red also was not a favorite with our friends, who perhaps found it too tannic for their taste.  I think a few more years of aging would be useful.

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

Reasons to visit:  as I’ve said before, a good all-around winery, with plenty of good choices in both white and red and reasonable prices;  nice place to go with friends, as you can sit at a table with your tastes and bring your own snacks; the steel chardonnay, the sauvignon blanc, the petit verdot, the BBQ Red.

We couldn't resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.

We couldn’t resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.

Coffee Pot Cellars: It’s the Bees Knees July 9, 2016

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

Bees feeding on honey

Bees feeding on honey

“Watch what happens when I pour some honey in here,” says Laura Klahr, leading a group of fascinated wine tasters over to the glass-fronted bee hive set into the wall of the Coffee Pot Cellars tasting room.  As we watch, the bees gather around the stream of honey, licking it up with their tiny tongues.  They seem to be enjoying their snack just as much as we enjoyed our tasting.

Laura waiting on a group

Laura waiting on a group

What, you may wonder, do bees have to do with wine?  More than you probably think, but here the fact is that Laura is a beekeeper who happens to be married to wine maker Adam Suprenant, and Coffee Pot (named for the distinctively shaped lighthouse just off Orient Point—they don’t serve coffee) is their joint venture, where you can find his wines and her honey and beeswax products, plus one item that combines both their passions.  More about that later.

As we stand at the bar in the cozy tasting room, we are treated to Laura’s stories about the wines, bees, and their adorable dog named Beasley and his opinions about wine.  More about that later, too.  Her lively presence makes us glad that we chose to bring our son and his fiancée with us on this tasting.

Laura consults with Beasley on his favorite blends.

Laura consults with Beasley on his favorite blends.

The menu offers several tasting options, but I recommend you go for all six wines for $12.  You won’t be disappointed.  Between tastes you may want to browse the bee or wine-related gift items.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc   $19.99

This is a steel-fermented white with a metal/mineral aroma, and tastes of citrus and melon with a touch of white peach.  There’s a bit of top of the mouth sweetness, but overall this is dry, and would go beautifully with seafood.  We imagine it would complement the oysters we had earlier at the rustic oyster bar in Greenport.

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  1. 2013 Chardonnay $19.99

“The grapes work so hard to grow,” says Laura, “that we just want to celebrate them.”  In order not to interfere too much with the natural flavor of the grapes, they age these in eleven-year-old oak barrels, so if you don’t care for oaked chards you may like this one.  We smell fermented pineapple, with just a touch of vanilla, and taste green apple.  Lovely summer sipper.  Our guests opine it would go well with shrimp, or maybe brie.

  1. Cyser $14.99

What, you may be wondering, is Cyser, and how did it get into the middle of this tasting?  Cyser is Laura and Adam’s fusion of their interests, a bubbly hard cider made with honey, like a mead.  I have tasted mead, and this reminds me of it a little, but it is much tarter than you would think from the ingredients and has only half a percent of residual sugar, says Laura.  Our son wants to know if malolactic fermentation has taken place, so Laura gets Adam on the phone so they can chat about this possibility.  Laura tells us that her bees helped pollinate the apple orchard where the apples were grown, and then a different type of bee contributed the honey.  Fascinating.  We enjoy it, and imagine its apple and honey taste would have gone well with the excellent pulled pork sandwich we had at First and Main—or maybe latkes!  We buy a bottle as a gift.  By the way, the Cyser was not listed on the menu as part of the tasting, but everyone in the room gets a taste.

  1. 2013 Gewürztraminer $21.99

So I’ve been saying for a while now that this or that wine tastes like gooseberries, and my husband kept saying, “I don’t know what gooseberries taste like.”  Saturday I found gooseberries at Briermere (just before I bought the obligatory pie) and brought them home so we could all taste them.  Fruit that tastes a bit like a vegetable, we decided, tart and green, but with a touch of sweetness.  And…that describes this steel-fermented Gewürztraminer.

Beasley standing guard on the Coffee Pot lighthouse.

Beasley standing guard on the Coffee Pot lighthouse.

  1. Beasley’s Blend                 $15.99

According to Laura, the name for this wine arose from a discussion about what kind of wine Beasley, their cute friendly dog, would go for.  The label features Beasley standing guard on the Coffee Pot lighthouse balcony, and the wine inside is a good pre-dinner sipper, easy to drink with pasta dishes, for example.  We smell black cherry, plum, licorice, and taste a good balance of fruit with a touch of earthiness.  Good work, Beasley!  Nice touch—she rinsed our glasses with a bit of red wine before moving from the whites to the reds.

  1. 2011 Merlot $19.99

These merlot grapes, we are informed, come from McCullough’s vineyard.  Our son detects an aroma of blueberry, and his fiancée adds pomegranate.  The taste is typically cherry, nicely dry.  Perhaps if we get some pork belly from Eight Hands Farm this would go well with it.

  1. 2010 Meritage                 $25.99

59% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 4% cabernet sauvignon; 90 points from Wine Spectator:  but statistics only tell you so much.  2010 was a good year on Long Island, and this is a lovely example of a wine from that year.  Delicious, we all agree, with lots of dark fruit, nice tannins, and a bit of a coffee aroma to add to the usual Bordeaux blend smells.  It is getting close to time to go home and cook dinner, and we must be hungry as we start to speculate about what this wine would go well with.  Lamb shish-ka-bob?  Steak?  Oh yes.  And we buy a bottle for the cellar.

Beeswax candles

Beeswax candles

Reasons to visit:  where else can you taste wine and learn everything you ever wanted to know about bees?; Laura and Adam, still wine country’s cutest couple; all the wines but especially the chardonnay, the Cyser, and the Meritage; lots of bee-related gifts (I’ve had the honey and it is excellent.).

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Osprey’s Dominion: Attention Was Paid June 10, 2016

https://ospreysdominion.com/

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One of the three servers who were quick to wait on us.

One of the three servers who were quick to wait on us.

“Have you decided which wine you want to start your tasting with?” we were asked by the third server in about 10 minutes as we studied the lengthy menu.  We had not, though we welcomed the attention because on our last two visits we had felt rather neglected.   This time the tasting room was practically empty, most likely because we had decided to come on a Friday rather than a weekend day.  The last time we tried to come to Osprey’s we couldn’t even find a place to park.

The large airy tasting room

The large airy tasting room

It’s not hard to see why Osprey’s is popular.  The tasting room is large and airy, with ample outdoor seating where you can bring a picnic or buy a snack from their limited menu. Mellow music of the Frank Sinatra type was on the sound system, but they often have live music.  In fact, for the summer they have live music on Friday nights from 5-8, and they suggest you “pack your dinner or snack.”  In addition, they offer many different wines at reasonable prices with varying taste profiles.  The tasting menu lists ten whites, nine reds, and five “reserve” wines.  A flight consists of three tastes for $8 or five for $12.  We decided to do two consecutive tastings, one of whites and then one of reds, of five tastes each.

Line up of bottles on the bar

Line up of bottles on the bar

Though the servers were pleasant and attentive, they offered only minimal comments on the wines, even when we engaged them in conversation, though one of them had more extensive discussions with us about wine preferences.  We did get some help on where to start our tasting, since we wanted to try the Pinot Gris from the Reserve menu.  She advised we start there, so we did, and she was correct.

  1. 2014 Pinot Gris Reserve               $20

The aroma is lovely and flowery, like honeysuckle and orange blossom.  We taste crisp pineapple and tangerine.  The menu informs us that the wine is aged six months “sur lies,” so we expect a bit more depth, but this is a light wine and an easy summer sipper.  (Sur lies—or lees—means the wine sits on the sediment that falls out of the juice, I’ve been told, and should lead to a more complex taste.)  It was a good place to start our tasting.

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  1. 2014 Fumé Blanc $15

This is actually 100% sauvignon blanc, fermented in oak, so you get that vanilla aroma from the wood.  I also taste a bit of vanilla.  Again, this is a light white, with less of the citrus you get from a steel-fermented sauvignon blanc.

  1. 2014 “White Flight” Edelzwicker    $15

I’m not sure why the menu calls this White Flight, but I bet it’s so that people don’t have to try to pronounce Edelzwicker!  In any event, people should try this blend of 87% pinot gris, 8% gewürztraminer, and 5% riesling.  The menu describes it as an Alsatian blend; I describe it as delicious.  The aroma includes bread dough or yeast and spice—perhaps nutmeg.  The wine has all sorts of interesting flavors, with nice fruit and just a slight touch of sweetness.  In need of whites for summer meals, we buy two bottles.

  1. 2012 Gewürztraminer    $17

Although our server describes this wine as dry, I find it a bit sweet for me, though that sweetness would make it a good match for spicy food.  The aroma is intriguing, and after saying apple, ginger, and “heavy,” we settle on apple cider doughnut.  The taste is quite fruity, and not exactly what we expected in a gewürztraminer.

  1. Cuvée Osprey Sparkling    $25

For our last white we decide to try their sparkling wine, made from 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir, using the “Méthode Champenoise,” and served in a proper champagne flute.  “Candy wine,” says my husband.  I agree.  Dump.

They were excited about their new sparkler. We were not.

They were excited about their new sparkler. We were not.

 

  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend     $12

We get a clean glass for the reds, and I clear my palate with some crackers sitting in a basket on the bar.  42% cabernet sauvignon, 11% pinot noir, 26% cabernet franc, and 23% merlot:  in other words, a Left Bank Bordeaux blend.  We’re always on the lookout for inexpensive reds for our frequent pasta dinners, so we decide to begin our red tasting by trying one of their line of less-expensive wines.   It smells good, of dark fruits and plums, and tastes quite nice, too.  I would buy this one, though I have to say it has no depth or tannins.  Still, it is a pleasant sipper and would go with a simple pasta dinner, and is quite a bargain for Long Island reds–and I do like to support the local wineries!

It's a measured pour.

It’s a measured pour.

  1. 2010 Cabernet Franc    $20

Like many Long Island wines, this one blends merlot with the dominant grape, in this case 88% cabernet franc plus 12% merlot.  The aroma combines spice, pepper, and a mellow tobacco, and the taste has lots of dark fruits plus a touch of black olive.  It would go well with, for example, lamb chops with fresh herbs.

  1. 2012 Carménère  $24

We get another clean glass to try this wine, the only Carménère on the North Fork.  I’m always interested to try new tastes.  2012 was a pretty good year, and this is a pretty good wine.  The menu describes it as “jammy”;  though I’m not sure I agree, it is a rich red with some nice tannins that could stand up to steak.

  1. 2012 Malbec    $24

So here is a perfect illustration of the necessity of trying different vintages.  The last time we were at Osprey’s in February of 2015 we bought two bottles of the 2010 Malbec, which we quite enjoyed.  This time, though the wine is not bad, we are not moved to buy it.  It has nice blueberry and pepper aromas and is a pleasantly dry red, but lacks the depth of the 2010.

  1. 2012 Petite Verdot    $35

Even though Petite (or often petit) Verdot is most often used as a part of a blend, I find I tend to like it by itself.  It has a beautiful dark color and tends to be fruity and jammy and big.  This one does not disappoint, though I think it might get better with age, as it is mouth-puckering dry.  (I know, I don’t like sweet wines; now I’m complaining about dry.  As the Greeks say, moderation in all things.)

Nice day for sitting outside.

Nice day for sitting outside.

Reasons to visit:  wide variety of wines at reasonable prices; large pleasant tasting room and outdoor area; the Edelzwicker, the Gewürztraminer, the Cabernet Franc, the Carménère, the Petite Verdot; small selection of wine-related gifts; Friday night live music and BYO food.  However, be aware that in season on the weekends it can get very crowded.

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Roses are in bloom all around the grounds.

Roses are in bloom all around the grounds.

Laurel Lake: The Personal Touch May 14, 2016

http://www.llwines.com/

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Juan sat down next to us at the bar and explained his ideas about winemaking.  Although there were several large groups at Laurel Lake, and Juan was actively helping to serve them, he and the servers behind the bar also took the time to answer our questions and solicit our opinions about the wines—which were largely favorable except for one, which I will discuss later.  Introduced to us as “our winemaker from Chile,” Juan told us that he enjoys talking to customers and finding out what they do and do not like about his wines.  “The wines reflect the personality of the winemaker,” he told us, including whether the winemaker is a man or a woman.  If so, then Laurel Lake’s wines should be outgoing and friendly and easy to like.

The main tasting room manages to be both spacious and cozy.

The main tasting room manages to be both spacious and cozy.

The menu offers flights of four tastes for $15, of a fairly generous pour, out of seven whites and nine reds.  We opted to share a flight of whites and a flight of reds, skipping, for example, the rosé and the moscato.  We also skipped the riesling, which we noticed comes in a pretty blue bottle.  That price has actually gone down from our last visit, in 2014, when it was three tastes for $15.  In general, the prices for the wines are quite reasonable.  We noticed people eating snacks brought from home, although once their food truck arrives Laurel Lake no longer permits outside snacks.

The music group on the porch, with a view of a group enjoying the warm weather outside.

The music group on the porch, with a view of a group enjoying the warm weather outside.

As we sipped, a music group set up in the large porch to one side of the attractive tasting room.  The large groups also headed outside, so the main room remained relatively calm.  We also noted a small but amusing collection of wine-related gifts.

Some of the gift items

Some of the gift items

We don't need a mouse pad, but if we did...

We don’t need a mouse pad, but if we did…

  1. 2015 Pinot Gris                                $21.99

Pinot Gris is the French equivalent of Pinot Grigio, one of my frequent choices when opting for a glass of house white, as it tends to be reliably dry.  I would be perfectly happy if I had gotten this as a glass of house wine, as it is dry and mineral-y, with a touch of sweet fruit.  It smells a bit like asparagus, we decide, wondering if our current diet of local asparagus has influenced that thought.  Lobster bisque, we decide, would be a perfect pairing.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $18.99

This is their steel fermented chard, with an aroma of not-quite-ripe pineapple and some mineral.  The taste is again a combination of dry and a touch of sweetness, and fades quickly.  Evanescent, we say.  As the wine warms a bit in the glass we also taste a hint of pineapple or tropical fruit.  We note that people coming to the bar are quite insistent about wanting their wines really cold.  We prefer wines not quite as cold, so you can really taste them.  I decide that chicken cordon bleu would be a good accompaniment.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $23.99

The tasting notes inform us that this spends 12 months in oak, and we have a discussion with one of our servers about preferences for oaked vs. non-oaked chards.  “Which do you like?” she asks, and we realize that it depends.  In general, we don’t like the really heavy buttery taste and texture of a heavily oaked chard, but a bit of oakiness is often quite pleasant.  As is this wine.  If you like Long Island chardonnays you should like this one, with its slightly vanilla smell and touch of citrus and tropical fruit taste.  Nice long finish, too.

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $22.99

It could be an aperitif wine, or a dessert wine, or a wine to have with blue cheese and charcuterie, we decide, but it is a bit too sweet to enjoy just by itself.  The tasting notes say to have this with spicy food, a frequent recommendation for sweeter wines, but we feel you’d lose some of the subtlety of this wine if you did.  The aroma is complex, as is the taste.

  1. Wind Song Red $17.99

The tasting notes say this is “like a nice Chianti.”  I don’t think so!  We feel quite misled by the note, which is an issue we take up with Juan, who sheepishly admits they were written for a previous iteration of this blend.  They needed an inexpensive red crowd pleaser for the menu, hence this wine, the only one that has us looking around for a dump bucket.  A blend of merlot, syrah and a “mystery ingredient,” which, after a guessing game, Juan admits is chardonnay (!), this is quite a sweet red.  We compare it to red candy or fruit salad.  Fresh glasses with most tastes, by the way.

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  1. 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

We’ve been on a raspberry pie kick at Briermere recently, with raspberry peach last week and raspberry plum this, and the wine smells to us like those pies.   With 18 months in oak, this has some tannins at the end, and is a fairly light red.  I could see it with veal chops.

  1. 2011 Syrah $19.99

My husband refrains from singing “Que sera, sera” when we choose this wine, for which I am grateful.  This is our favorite of the day, with delicious aromas of dark fruit and rich tastes of dried plum (a.k.a. prune) and other fruits.  It would go well with pastas and meats, and we decide to buy a bottle.

One cabernet

One cabernet

And the other cab

And the other cab

  1. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $25.99

Our server, having engaged us in various discussions of our choices, asks if we would like to divide our final taste between the steel fermented cab sauv and the oaked one.  Sure, we’re always up for that sort of interesting comparison.  The steel cab has a funky aroma and is very dry and tannic, really rather austere.  The Reserve is interesting and complex, also dry and tannic, with tastes of black raspberry and maybe a few other flavors.  We buy a bottle of that, too.

Reasons to visit:  an intimate space that also has ample room on the porch and outside for groups; the chance to chat with Juan or the very friendly and knowledgeable servers; the Pinot Gris, the Syrah, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; reasonably priced wines for Long Island.  While we were there, the owner of CJ’s American Grill came in and we noted that we like their wine policy, which is to feature local wines at a moderate price.  Oh, and yes, the wines are outgoing and friendly and easy to like.

Nice decor

Nice decor

We liked the syrah.

We liked the syrah.

We indeed felt welcome.

We indeed felt welcome.

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Sign of spring!

Sign of spring!

Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

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The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

Pellegrini: All-Around Good Place September 26, 2015

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

The entrance to the tasting room and courtyard

The entrance to the tasting room and courtyard

It was a beautiful fall weekend, which meant the agritainment business was in full swing, which meant we were stuck in traffic on Sound Avenue for a frustrating hour, which meant we decided to turn our pick-up of our Pellegrini wine club shipment into our tasting for the weekend.   Anyway, it’s been a year since I wrote about Pellegrini, one of our favorite wineries.

Wedding guests starting to gather outside

Wedding guests starting to gather outside

When we went to pull into the parking lot, we were somewhat dismayed to see a huge party bus pull in just ahead of us, but when the first passenger to get out was in a long white lace dress we realized it was a wedding party.  The large central courtyard was still in the process of being set up for the reception, while guests milled around in the tasting room and out on the lawn.  As a result, we decided to quickly share one tasting of the whites, since we get—and know we like—the reds in our subscription.  If you’re not in the wine club, a tasting consists of three two-ounce pours of your choice and one “complimentary” one-ounce pour of the oaked chardonnay for $12.  The glasses are arrayed on a labeled place mat on a tray, which helps you choose the order in which to drink them (roughly top to bottom, left to right).   Oh, and either our server was flustered by the influx of wedding guests or she forgot or they are no longer on offer, but we did not get the usual little bag of oyster crackers that comes with a tasting.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer                   $24.99

I used to think I didn’t like gewürztraminers because they were too sweet, but several of the North Fork gewürztraminers are not.  However, this one is a touch too sweet for my taste.  It has a very strong honeysuckle aroma with tastes of sweet plums—perhaps greengage?—and mineral.  My husband and I turned to each other simultaneously and said, “It would be a good choice with spicy Thai food.”  Steel fermented.

Our tray of tastes

Our tray of tastes

  1. 2014 Medley White    $21.99

The Medley White is also steel fermented, and includes 5% gewürztraminer, plus 55% sauvignon blanc and 40% chardonnay.  We like this one much better.  It has some nice complexity of both aroma and taste, and we agree that we smell something like cigar or pipe tobacco plus rock or mineral.  Though it is not very dry, it is also not too sweet, with a good balance.  We taste pear and an almost salty minerality which my causes my tasting buddy to wax poetic.  “Like salt spray on a windy day at the beach,” he opines.  Okay.

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  1. 2014 Chardonnay $19.99

This is our complimentary taste, an oaked chardonnay that spends eight months in French oak, and is 80% oaked and 20% steel fermented.  You can smell the usual woods/vanilla aroma of an oaked chard, and the taste is similarly undistinguished.

One of the outdoor tables

One of the outdoor tables

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

“It smells like a florist,” I say.  “You mean a florist shop, not the florist herself!” corrects my husband.  Well, yes.  This, like the Medley, is a well-balanced wine, with a good mix of tart and sweet, nice and crisp and lemony.  I’d have it with oysters any time.

We amused ourselves watching the caterers setting up.

We amused ourselves watching the caterers setting up.

Reasons to Visit:  a good all-around winery, with room to sit inside or outside, space for children to run around outside, good whites and reds; you can bring your own snacks; the Medley White, the Sauvignon Blanc; we didn’t try it today, but the Petit Verdot is generally excellent.

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One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room