Kontokosta Winery: Absorbing the Crowds May 28, 2017

http://kontokostawinery.com/

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The grey skies meant many people opted for wineries rather than beaches.

We should have known better than to try to go to a winery on a non-beach Sunday over Memorial Day weekend.  But we had friends visiting, and we wanted to take them to Croteaux for a tasting.  As we headed east, we passed winery after winery where the parked cars had spilled over onto lawns and roadsides.  Uh oh.  And indeed, Croteaux was filled, with Michael Croteau outside, waving off cars trying to cram into his small lot.  Where to go?  Our friends hadn’t been to Kontokosta since shortly after it opened, and we figured that as far east as it is, and as big as the tasting room is, we would be able to get in there.

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There was plenty of room when we arrived, but by the time we left all the seats were filled.

We were right, and even though parking there had also extended to a grassy area, there was room at one of the long tables in the tasting room for us to sit and enjoy our tasting.  However, by the time we left, it was SRO!  We also observed many people who had chosen to take a glass of wine out onto the expansive lawn and wander down to the Long Island Sound, visible in the distance.

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You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

A tasting consists of any three wines from the menu for $12, so we decided to get three whites and three reds, not tasting the rosé or a few of the others, while our friends opted to share a tasting.  Maybe next time we’ll check out the others.  We also got a couple of bags of my favorite chips—North Fork Potato Chips.  If you haven’t tried them, do.  They are crispy kettle-fried chips, and totally addictive.  Kontokosta also has a menu of cheeses and charcuterie, plus non-alcoholic drinks.  The server poured out our nine tastes, explaining each one, and we took our glasses to a table.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

We were talking about getting some oysters later, so we decided to start with what is often a perfect oyster wine.  This wine smelled great—like mango and flowers—and tasted pretty good, too.  We found it tart, with some nice kiwi and vegetable tastes, with a pleasant finish.  One nice detail—it was not served too cold!

  1. 2015 Viognier    $25

Sometimes I think I like to order this wine because the name is fun to say.  In any event, I don’t think I would choose this particular viognier.  My husband’s first judgement was “restrained flavors,” to which I added “undistinguished.”  It has a bit of a wet basement smell, though also some minerality.  The taste is very light and uncomplicated.

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The server lining up our tastes of the whites.

  1. 2015 Field Blend             $22

Our friend also ordered this one, and she immediately categorized it as a “dessert wine.”  It is on the sweet side, though not cloyingly so.  A blend of 47% riesling, 41% viognier, and 12% sauvignon blanc, it has a candy and honeysuckle aroma and tastes like peaches.  We decided it could go with spicy Thai food, where the fruit of the wine would match well with the coconut and peppers of Thai, but not so well with Indian dishes.  You could also have it with charcuterie.

  1. 2014 Merlot      $34

The server tipped the end of the bottle into our glass, which meant we ended up with a fair amount of sediment.  Oh well.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry tastes, pleasantly dry, with some tastes of tobacco and chocolate.  Nice.

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The reds (of course).

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $29

We liked this one better, with lots of dark fruit tastes like purple plums and berries, plus some tannins.  It is more complex than the merlot, though the finish is quite short.  Dry.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $40

Though, as is often the case with Long Island reds, we felt it was not worth the price—and our friends, who also tried this, agreed—it is very nice indeed, with fruity aromas and soft tannins.  We tasted raspberries and a touch of spice, like pepper.  If I were to get a glass with which to wander down to the water, I would choose this.

  1. 2013 Anemometer Red                $50

Our friends also tried this one, and said it was very good.  A Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and merlot, it has lots of oak and cherry tastes.

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Snack menu. I highly recommend the North Fork Potato Chips!

 

Reasons to visit:  a pretty location next to Long Island Sound, walking distance from Greenport; the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet sauvignon; an attractive modern tasting room with a soaring ceiling and long tables; usually not too crowded, even on busy days—except not this past weekend!

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In the background you can see their wind turbine, an increasingly frequent sight on the North Fork.

 

 

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Kontokosta Winery: Sounds Good to Me January 17, 2016

http://kontokostawinery.com/

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

Windows line the walls of the tasting room.

It was time to revisit Kontokosta Winery, with its lovely location overlooking the Long Island Sound, and we found the perfect reason to go there.  We recently learned that old friends of ours had bought a house near Greenport, but, what with work on the house and not much time for other activities, had yet to visit a winery.  Well, we said, it is high time to remedy that situation, and they were happy to go with Nofowineaux to a winery so close to their house.

Proving that you can’t rely on last year’s review, a major change in the menu switched the Anemometer white and red from their least expensive wines to their priciest—and they weren’t even on the regular tasting menu, but needed a supplement of $5 each to taste.  So I can’t tell you if they’re worth it, but many of the other wines are.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

Our server was proud to point out that they had won some gold medals.

The menu offers five whites for $15 or four reds for $15, so we opted to share one of each, and our friends chose to follow our lead.  Since it is a carefully metered one-ounce pour, that was fine.  They also have a menu of snacks and sweets and non-alcoholic drinks (called “Sound Bites,” a play on their location and their motto of “Sound Wines”), and forbid outside foods.

The tasting room is a high-ceilinged large space, with tables and a bar, where we opted to stand.  Considering it is January, we were impressed by how many people were there, but it was a three-day weekend.  Our server did a good job of keeping track of where we were in our tasting, and, as she saw our seriousness, began to give us more information on each wine.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

A few gift items, including olive oil, are offered.

  1. 2014 Orient Chardonnay              $22

Like many North Fork tastings, this one began with their steel-fermented chardonnay, which our friend compared to a “non-sweet Limoncello.”  Not a bad comparison, since this had plenty of lemon flavor and aroma, plus some nice minerality, and maybe even a salty tang.  Good.

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  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25

As we sniffed the aroma of mango and citrus, one of our friends compared it to “Joe Malone perfume.”  Not being familiar, I can’t confirm or deny this, but the wine does have a lovely flowery scent.  The taste is equally pleasant, with good grapefruit and pineapple and other tropical fruits, plus mouth-watering acidity.  When we comment that this would be good with oysters, a discussion of North Fork oysters and where to get them ensues.  When the Old Mill Inn re-opens in the spring, we’ll have to meet there for their happy hour oysters.

  1. 2014 Viognier $25

Getting into the spirit of commenting on each wine, our friends describe the viognier as “more restrained and less dramatic” than the first two wines, and we agree.  The aroma is a bit sweet, with some mineral or rock and maybe a spice.  Cinnamon?  Nutmeg?  We can’t decide.  But this is another very drinkable wine, again on the tart, dry side, and would be good with creamy clam chowder.

  1. 2014 Field Blend $22

63% viognier and 37% sauvignon blanc.  Why?  Because they had that much of each left over last year, and only one vat in which to ferment them!  Nice to be able to drink your experiments, though we don’t like this as much as the previous wines.  It is quite light, and smells just like the viognier.

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

Dry!  Just .2% residual sugar, says our server, and we believe her.  It tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than their sauvignon blanc, very tart, with lots of acidity.  If you like a fruity somewhat sweet riesling, or even if you are thinking of a riesling to complement spicy food, this is not it.

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  1. 2008 Blum Merlot $19

A year ago we had the 07 Blum Merlot, and was told this was the last of it, but I guess they had one more year of these vines before Ray Blum’s vineyard was sold to Sparkling Pointe, which tore out the merlot vines.  The aroma has lots of sweet cherry in it, and none of the barnyard which we detected in the 07.  Our friend thinks there’s a bit of a whiff of creosote, which is possibly from the French oak it was aged in.  It tastes less fruity than it smells, with some woody notes but no vanilla.  We get new glasses for the reds, by the way.

  1. 2013 Estate Merlot $34

We like this merlot much better, and all agree that we taste and smell lots of blackberry, plus minerals and flowers.  “Easy on the tongue,” opines our friend.  That may be the tannins, since the end taste is quite dry.  This one is aged in Hungarian oak, as are the rest of the reds.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

As our server pours this, she brings out another bottle and two fresh glasses and pours us another wine, the 2012 Cab Sauv (about which more in a moment).  Our friends are impressed with what I call the power of the book.  Often, when wineries see you are serious about the wine, they give you a little something extra.  Sometimes it is another taste of a wine not on the menu, or other times just some extra attention and more stories about the making of the wine.  I appreciate both.  We like this one, as it has lots of rich fruit flavors and aromas but is still pleasantly dry.

Our special extra taste!

Our special extra taste!

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

I should really label this 8A, since it is an “extra.”  Our server explains that she thinks we should try this, as there are only a few cases left, and she thinks it is really excellent.  She’s right.  It is similar to the ’13, but mellower and smoother and fruitier.  We buy a bottle.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $40

“Hmmm,” muses our friend, “I think I detect a note of Robitussin.”  Ha ha.  But it does taste of dark fruits, perhaps plums, again with some nice minerality and some promising tannins.  We get into a discussion of the meaning of “terroir,” and wonder if Kontokosta’s wines have more minerality than some others because of their location on the Sound, which we can see out of the windows.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Yes, that is the Long Island Sound in the background.

Reasons to visit:  you are in or near Greenport and don’t want to travel too far; almost all of the wines, but especially the Orient Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Estate Merlot, and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (but hurry before they sell out); the location on the Sound (maybe some time we’ll get there in the warm weather so we can stroll towards the water).

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The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

The day was cold and grey, with the first snow of the season, but the welcome was warm.

Kontokosta Winery: Simply Good March 28, 2015

http://kontokostawinery.com/

kont building

Kontakosta’s motto—“Sound Life.  Sound Wine.”—is a nice play on words, since they are situated on a high bluff overlooking Long Island Sound and they also follow ecologically sensitive practices—such as generating their electricity through the use of a windmill.  The wine is, in general, quite nice.  We also speculated whether some of the briny, mineral tastes in the wines might come from their waterfront location.

One side of the tasting room

One side of the tasting room

The tasting room is a beautifully spare space, all white and black, with large windows looking out over the vineyards.  There’s a bar at one end and long tables for those who prefer to sit, plus an upper balcony.  Our group of four opted for the bar, where we found very informative and engaging servers.  The tasting menu offers two flights, one of five whites for $14 and another of five reds, also $14.  We decided that each couple would do one of each, sharing as we went.  We also shared a cheese tray, which consisted of a very generous and tasty block of Toussaint raw cow milk cheese and a sleeve of crackers for $12.

Looking up to the balcony

Looking up to the balcony

We started with the whites.

  1. NV Anemometer White                              $16

This is their table white, made from sauvignon blanc grapes from various vintages.  Our friend said it smelled like a lemon bar, which was quite accurate.  We also detected some vegetable aromas and some minerality.  The taste was also somewhat lemony and mineral, tart but not terribly crisp.  We all agreed it would go well with oysters.  (The name anemometer, by the way, refers to a device that measures wind speed, an indirect homage to their windmill.)

The Anemometer White

The Anemometer White

  1. 2013 Orient Chardonnay $22

Before we could ask, our server volunteered the information that it is called Orient because the grapes come from Sargon Vineyard, out in Orient.  A steel-fermented chard, this has typical honeysuckle and orange aromas and some gooseberry flavor.  My husband found it too mineral, with some wet rock flavors (whatever that tastes like), but the rest of us liked it.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $25

“This is made in the Sancerre style,” volunteered our server, “And it won a gold medal!”  We sniff and agree:  pineapple and mango on the nose and in the mouth.  Nice, though a bit sweet, but it goes well with the cheese.

We took home about a third of the cheese

We took home about a third of the cheese

  1. 2013 Viognier $25

“This is my favorite wine to go with that cheese,” enthuses our server, and we agree with her wholeheartedly.  The aroma reminds me of these wonderful cantaloupe-type melons called Hand Melons we used to get upstate, and the wine also has some cantaloupe tastes.

  1. 2012 Viognier

Observing how serious we are about our tasting, our server pours us each an extra taste, of the 2012 Viognier, which is almost sold out, and which she says is her favorite of the whites.  Interestingly, this has a sweeter aroma and taste than the 2013, though still lots of cantaloupe, with more floral notes.  It’s a more challenging wine, observes my husband.

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $22

This has only .06% sugar, we are told, which means it is most definitely a dry riesling.  They used to have an off-dry riesling for those who come in and request “the sweetest white you have,” but they no longer make it.  This is definitely a dry riesling, with a touch of that cat pee smell (an observation which causes some hilarity among our cat-owning friends) and a simple but pleasant taste.  Delicate, notes our friend.

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  1. Anemometer Red Table Wine $16

Now we move on to the reds, for which we are given new glasses.  This is a blend of 60% cabernet franc and 30% cabernet sauvignon, from various vintages.  We discuss the varying implications of saying an inexpensive table wine vs. a cheap red, and decide this belongs in the former category—especially when we learn they are running a special of 50% off for a case of the red and the white Anemometers.  Our noses detect a hint of ripe olives and “wet laundry,” says my husband, as well as some fruit.  The wine itself is light but “very acceptable,” with lots of nice fruit flavor.  We decide to get a case of eight reds and four whites.

  1. 2007 Blum Merlot $19

Ray Blum had a vineyard in Southold planted in merlot vines, which has since been bought by Sparkling Pointe, which tore out the merlot vines, so this is the last anyone will have of the Blum Merlot.  It’s a fine, fairly typical North Fork merlot, with a touch of barnyard odor and black cherry taste.  Very nice.

  1. 2010 Estate Merlot $34

Yum.  Aged six months in French oak and six months in steel, this is a really good merlot, with lots of black cherry taste plus a touch of vanilla.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

This one is aged in Hungarian oak.  What’s the difference?  Hungarian oak is cheaper, gives a milder flavor, and is more tightly grained so there’s less evaporation (the “angel’s share”).  This is also yum!  Brambly aroma, lots of layers of flavor, including blackberry.  This is one that could be saved for future drinking.  “Or buy two,” suggests our server, “and drink one now and save the other for later.”

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $40

Silver Medal winner in the San Francisco Wine Challenge competition, we are told.  Hmmm.  This is a dry red, with aromas of pepper and nutmeg and mixed berry tastes.  “It has no gravitas,” opines my tasting buddy.

The bar

The bar

Reasons to go:  Beautiful tasting room overlooking the Sound, which you can walk to in good weather; knowledgeable servers; the Anemometer wines if you need to buy some decent table wines for everyday drinking; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Viognier, the Estate Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon.  They also sell olive oil—not made locally!  However, we are headed to Greenport to check out Vines and Branches’ new digs, so we decline to try the olive oil.

They have a small selection of gift items.

They have a small selection of gift items.

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The room is reflected in the sign about their excellent sale.

The room is reflected in the sign about their excellent sale.

Kontokosta Winery June 23, 2013

http://www.kontokostawines.com/

Kontokosta building

One great aspect of choosing to write about North Fork wineries for a blog is that there is not much risk of running out of material.  Not only do wineries change their offerings with each new harvest—necessitating return visits—but new wineries are constantly springing up.  Case in point, as Rod Serling liked to say, Kontokosta Winery in Greenport, which opened its very attractive doors on June 12th.  As you head east towards Orient Point on Sound Avenue you pass a flashing light, where you could turn to head into Greenport.  Instead, stay straight and you’ll come to a gate on your left, which leads to a long gravel drive and then to a parking lot next to a large imposing building, bracketed by vines, a view of Long Island Sound, and a tall windmill, about which more later.Kontokosta insideKontokosta interior

Inside, the spacious tasting room is sleekly modern in style, with a serene black and white color scheme. We note several tables where a happy party is taking photos of themselves and a long tasting bar.  We find a space at the bar, where a lovely young woman explains the choices to us.  All the servers are clad in black shirts with the Kontokostas logo on the chest, a discreet three red bars.  One of the servers is a gentleman we recognize from several other venues, including the Tasting Room and Empire Cellars, and he assures us we are about to experience some terrific wines.  A tasting consists of four one ounce pours for $10, chosen from a menu of ten wines, five white and five red.  There’s also a three-pour tasting and wines by the glass.   We opt for two four-wine flights, one of white and then one of red, both of which we share, skipping the rosé and the Blum Merlot.

Kontokosta white

  1.  NV Anemometer White                                              $16

Why Anemometer, we ask, noticing the representation of a spinning anemometer on the bottle?  The winery is very proud of its use of wind power, our server notes, and in fact everything on the property is powered by wind.  Our friend from other venues notes that on a very windy day you can see the electric meter spin backward, so that LIPA ends up owing them money.  On to the wine, which is a blend, though primarily sauvignon blanc.  Refreshing, we agree, with an aroma of Meyer lemon and mineral, with tastes of citrus and honeysuckle at the end.  This would be good for summer sipping, and also would go well with turkey dishes.  Very buyable!

2.  2009 Orient Chardonnay                               $17

The grapes for this wine come from a vineyard in Orient, hence the name.  A lightly oaked chard, this is just okay, and a bit sour.  There’s plenty of orangey-lemon tastes, and some oak at the end, but we don’t find it particularly pleasant.

3.  2012 Sauvignon Blanc                                    $25

Not surprisingly, we find this wine reminds us of the Anemometer White, though with some different tastes.  Overall it is a bit sweet for us, with aromas of honeysuckle and green plum and tastes of wildflower honey with a vegetal note at the end.  My husband says green beans…not sure I agree.  This is the first wine they made here.

4.  2010 Viognier                                    $25

Bedell is the only other North Fork winery to use this grape, so we are interested to see how it compares.  At Bedell we had their 2011 Viognier, which we found very pleasing, with complex spicy fruit and citrus flavors.  This one has aromas of blood orange and peach, with peachy tastes and some tannins, but not so complex.

Kontokosta red

5.  Anemometer Red 2006                 $19

I would expect this to be a blend, but it is 100% syrah, we are told.  The aroma has some of that East End barnyard smell, plus red berry, and the taste reminds us of red sucking candy.  While not for sipping, this would be okay with food, such as pork chops.

6.  2010 Cabernet Sauvignon            $22

We smell ripe berries and plums, and not much earth, and taste lots of fruit, with a nice dry finish.  I’d love this with a nice medium-rare duck breast, and it could stand up to steak as well.

7.  2007 Merlot                                       $29

Again we smell that earthy barnyard aroma, plus some mineral.  This is just okay—dry, with decent fruit, but a bit of a chemical acetone taste at the end.  You could have this with a rich pork dish and it would be fine, but it is overpriced for what it is.

8.  2007 Cabernet Franc                       $29

“This is one of my favorites,” enthuses our server, and we can see why, as it is definitely the best of the reds, with lots of fruit and a lovely aroma of ripe berries, not too sweet but not too dry, either.  Oh, she adds, all the reds are aged in new French oak.

After we finish the wines, we are offered tastes of three olive oils they are selling—all for $28—an extra virgin, a Minneola tangelo and a jalapeῆo lime.  They’re nice, but we’ll stick with Vines and Branches.  We also learn that the winery is proud of its use of recycled materials in its construction, which is partly reflected in their slogan, “Sound Life, Sound Wine,” or as they say on their FaceBook page, “Registered with the USGBC under the LEED New Construction 2009 rating system, our winery has been designed to meet the gold certification level. To meet these high standards, the building is constructed of 100% recycled steel and reclaimed wood siding, and will be powered by wind energy.”

The windmill!

The windmill!

We enjoy the view out the large window to the Long Island Sound on this lovely June day as we wrap up our visit with the purchase of a bottle of the Anemometer White.

Kontokosta view

Reasons to visit:  You’re in Greenport without a car and you’d like to go to a winery; you’ve tried all the others and are looking for a new winery; Anemometer White and 07 Cabernet Franc; the chance to appreciate a lovely view while doing a tasting; you’re on your way to the Hellenic and have some time to kill before dinner.