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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Random Restaurant Notes

“You will never know hunger,” believe it or not, was the message I got in a fortune cookie just as I embarked on a series of restaurant reviews for a newspaper in Pittsburgh. The reviews were based on the premise that it was useful to point out at least one good dish in each place, regardless of the rest of the menu. That fortune became the logo of the column, and would not be a bad slogan for this post as well.

No winery this week, so instead I thought it would be fun to write about some of the restaurants on the North Fork.  This is, like my post on the farm stands, totally idiosyncratic, and not really reviews, but just some notes on places we like.  A few weeks ago a friend asked for restaurant recommendations on the North Fork, and after going on for about half an hour on the phone I thought it would have been so much more convenient if I could have sent her to my blog—as I did for wineries!  I’ve organized them by town.  Oh, and though I usually use my own iPhone snaps for the photos, here I’ve borrowed pictures from the websites.

Riverhead:

Tweeds Restaurant and Buffalo Bar

http://www.tweedsrestaurantriverhead.com/

Since it is right in the middle of Riverhead, on East Main Street, the easiest way to access this restaurant is to go to the municipal parking lot (free) off Peconic Avenue.  When you pull into the lot, head to the left corner, where you will see the back entrance to Tweeds.  In an old hotel that has been there since 1896, Tweeds’ narrow room has lots of charm, and is particularly cozy on cold winter nights when there is a fire in the fireplace.  We love all the bison dishes, made from bison raised nearby on a farm owned by the restaurant’s owner, and I’m a big fan of the bison burger.  The first time I had it, I had one portion for dinner…and lunch…and dinner.  Thank goodness for “doggy bags.”  The bison hangar steak is also delicious, but be sure to get it rare or medium rare. With very little fat, bison well-done is not a good idea.  As you dine, you can contemplate a huge shaggy bison head, allegedly the last one shot by Teddy Roosevelt.  There are plenty of other menu items (in case looking at an animal’s head while you eat its relative creeps you out), including local seafood and fish, and the salads are very good.  A bit pricey, but worth it.

Greenport:

Hellenic Snack Bar

http://www.thehellenic.com/

On the North Fork, “snack bar” actually translates as diner, or informal restaurant.  I love that the Modern Snack Bar has décor that immerses you in the 1950s.  The Hellenic, out past Greenport, is worth the trip.  In the summer they have lots of outdoor seating, though the dining room is quite plain.  The food is great, and served in such generous portions that we invariably take home enough for one or two more meals.  Anything Greek is worth getting, from the various spreads—hummus, taramasalata, etc.—to the grilled fish to the Greek salad.  If you want to get the spreads, I suggest you go with a party of at least four, because your meal will seem somewhat superfluous by the time you devour them.  Everything comes with piles of toasted pita. Nofowineaux is happy to report that the wine list features quite a few local wines.   Reasonably priced.

Noah’s

http://www.chefnoahschwartz.com/

It’s fun to sit at one of the sidewalk tables and watch the passing parade on Greenport’s Front Street.  The small plates here could easily add up to a meal.  We don’t care as much for the inside, which feels somewhat cold and can be noisy.

Mattituck:

aMano Osteria and Wine Bar

http://www.amanorestaurant.com/

Upscale Italian food is their specialty.  I particularly love the carbonara with local smoked duck and the roasted beet and Catapano Farms goat cheese salad.  My husband is a fan of the lasagna.  They have a lovely menu that is worth reading just for the salivary factor, and feature local wines as well as many local ingredients.  They also make very nice thin-crust pizzas.  They can get quite crowded, especially on weekends in the summer, and during the summer they don’t take reservations for small parties, so if you go then you may have to wait in the crowded bar area.

Crazy Fork

http://crazyforkny.com/

This is the newest place we’ve tried.  The restaurant itself, across the street from the Mattituck shopping center, is very plain, so you might prefer to get take-out.  They specialize in seafood, much of it fried, but very well done. We have fallen for the Rhode Island-style calamari, fried, mixed with hot pepperoncini peppers, and served with a marinara dipping sauce.

Love Lane Kitchen

http://lovelanekitchen.com/

Love Lane Kitchen

This is a popular spot, and you’ll see crowds there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (dinner on weekends).  It is particularly nice in the summer to sit outside and have lunch while you watch people pass by on Love Lane.  They feature all sorts of local produce and products, and everything I’ve had there has been good.  Inside, the restaurant can get a bit noisy, so I prefer to go there in the winter, when it is less crowded.

Michelangelo’s Pizza (also spelled Michael Angelo)

No web page of their own!

A local chain, with several places on the North Fork, this is one of those typical storefronts with a brightly-lit pizza eatery and take-out place in front, and a more formal restaurant in the back.  The one in Mattituck, in the Waldbaum’s shopping center, is particularly nice, especially since they expanded the back part.  We generally get the pasta dishes, and don’t bother with an appetizer since the house salad that comes with the entrees provides that for us.  This is a place where one dinner often produces enough leftovers for a second dinner, so the reasonable prices become even more reasonable.  There’s nothing refined or fancy about the food, but it’s always good.

Old Mill Inn

http://www.theoldmillinn.net/

We’ve been here for dinner, which is fine, though the service tends to be slow, but what we generally come here for is oysters.  From 3-5 p.m., the bar serves fresh local oysters for $1 each.  We each get a dozen and a glass or two of wine.  Lovely way to while away an afternoon.  They’re closed in the winter, so if you’re going you need to go soon—or wait for the spring.  If you come for dinner, try to sit near the windows so you can look out on the water of Mattituck Inlet.  I don’t recommend the outside tables once the mosquitoes have hatched…

Southold:

A Lure Restaurant and Oyster-ia

http://www.alurenorthfork.com/

As you might guess from the name, this is owned by the same people as aMano, but concentrates on seafood.  What is nice here is that you can sit at dinner and look out at the water, as it is located in Port of Egypt Marina.  Recently they had a special of a whole grilled sea bass that was delicious.  You can also get that roasted beet salad here!

Founder’s Tavern

http://www.founderstavern.com/

With one side a popular Irish-style pub, and the other side a nice family restaurant, Founder’s is great for many reasons.  I’ve had specials there that were really good (I’m thinking of the tuna steak with wasabi mashed potatoes, for example.), but we often just get the same dishes each time:  a shared order of Buffalo wings, the Tavern Burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos, the home-made potato chips (themselves worth a detour, as the Michelin Guides say), and beer on tap.  Reasonably priced, too.

North Fork Table and Inn

http://www.nofoti.com/

The best—and priced accordingly. With Manhattan-level prices and food quality, the best bet here is to get the tasting menu, especially since it includes dessert, which is spectacular.  We’ve gone here a few times for special occasions and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the service.

O’Mally’s

http://www.omallysisopen.com/

O’Mally’s main claim to fame is that when other places close, they are still open (note their URL), with a kitchen open until midnight, unusual on the early-to-bed North Fork.  They have a huge burger menu, and though theirs are not as good as Founder’s, they’re not bad.  Plenty of other options, plus a nice list of local wines by the glass or beers on tap, make this a good casual place.

 

New Suffolk:

Legends

http://www.legends-restaurant.com/

Legends has a split personality.  To the right of the entry foyer is an informal sports bar, with a menu of burgers, salads, and other snack-type foods, while to the left is a lovely little restaurant with fusion dishes they call New American, such as shrimp and vegetable spring rolls with ginger pineapple dipping sauce.   When I recently made a reservation for eight, they asked somewhat anxiously if the party included children, so I would guess they prefer that children dine on the right side.  All eight of us, by the way, were happy with our entrees (except for one that came out cold—twice—and was eventually comped).  If you check out the on-line menu you’ll see that they have interesting dishes, plus there are specials.  We’ve been happy eating on either side!  The sports bar side does have one advantage—the big windows give you a nice view of the somewhat scruffy waterfront of New Suffolk.