Channing Daughters: SoFo, So Good September 14, 2018

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https://www.channingdaughters.com/

Friends often ask me, “What’s your favorite winery?”  I have various answers—rosés at Croteaux, whites at One Woman, reds at Pellegrini, Mattebella for sitting outside, Sherwood for the fireplace in the winter, etc.—but really, Channing Daughters is my favorite.  Unfortunately, it is on the South Fork, so we don’t get there as often as we like.  However, we had an errand that could only be done in Southampton, so off we went.  The errand finished, we took a walk around Sag Harbor, got a bite of lunch at the Golden Pear (really good sandwich), and headed to Channing Daughters.

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This line-up of bottles shows just some of the wines Channing Daughters makes.

So why do we like this winery so much?  It is the most creative, interesting winery on Long Island, growing about two dozen different grapes and mixing and matching them in unusual ways.  And we like almost all their wines. That’s why we joined their wine club, despite the inconvenience of having to be home to sign for the UPS delivery.

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Part of the outside area.

The tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and a few barrels on which to rest your tastes, plus some outside tables in the summer.  They carry a small selection of wine-related gifts, and offer some plain crackers as palate cleansers.  However, we’ve never been there without having interesting conversations with both the people at the bar and the servers, who are very well versed in the wines and eager to share what they know. For really complete analyses of the wines, check out their web site.

 

A tasting consists of six wines for $18, and though the wines in the tasting are listed on a chalkboard, we overheard the servers customize tastings for people based on what they like or don’t like.  As wine club members, we could have tasted any wines, but I wanted to taste the two wines which had just come in our shipment.  So we did the standard tasting plus those two.  Although we each could have had our own tasting, we decided to share in the interests of sobriety.

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The upside down tree is their logo, and references one of Walter Channing”s skills, which is carving.

  1. 2015 Vino Bianco           $20

A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 26% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Tocai Friulano and 23% Chardonnay, this is a basic good white wine.  Dry and refreshing, it has, observed my husband, “lots of taste.”  Citrus, flowers, spice, fruit—I agree.  They age some of the wine in steel, some in old oak, some in new oak, then blend it all together.  As I said, they are creative!  We buy two bottles, and think about having some the next time we buy oysters.

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  1. 2016 Rosato di Sculpture Garden $25

This is one of the rosés they make.  A number of years ago, they had seven, the result of late heavy rains which made them reluctant to use the red wine grapes for reds, as the flavor would be too diluted.  So instead they made rosé.  Good move.  The rosés were so popular, they now make a bunch every year.  This one is a field blend, of 91% merlot, 6% teroldego, and 3% blaufrankisch.  Really nice.  The aroma is somewhat earthy and minerally, and it has the strawberry taste you expect plus a really nice minerality and maybe some nutmeg.  Good.

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Orange wine!

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  1. 2014 Meditazione $40

Pronouncing the name with Italian verve, our server explained all about orange wine.  This is a white wine made using the red wine method of fermenting the juice with the skins, hence the orange color.  A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 21% Muscat Ottonel, 14% Chardonnay, 13% Tocai Friulano, 7% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Pinot Bianco and 4% Gewurztraminer, this is not an easy wine to drink on its own.  We have it with a couple of crackers, which improves the experience.  It smells like baked oranges and tastes like apples and spices.  They suggest pairing it with game birds or sausages, and that makes sense to me.

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  1. 2017 Rosso Fresco $22

Fresh red?  Yes, because this is a light, bright red, more along the lines of a Beaujolais.  I could see serving on the deck with hot dogs.  It’s another blend, of 76% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 8% Blaufrankisch, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Teroldego, and is barely aged.  They even suggest serving it slightly chilled.  It would make a great summer red.

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  1. 2017 Petillant Naturel Rosato $28

I usually eschew sparkling pink wines.  Fortunately, I did not skip this one.  Wow, is it good!  Mouthwatering, bubbly, dry, with some strawberry aroma and flavor, this wines makes a good case for never dismissing any type of wine before you taste the iteration in front of you.  The servers were going into great detail on the methods used to create this wine, which included freezing the tank at one point and fermenting it in the bottle.  Just another Channing Daughter original.

 

  1. VerVino Vermouth (500 ml) $28

Yes, the tasting ends with one of the vermouths they make.  This is a somewhat sweet one, and would make a fine aperitif or dessert wine.  There’s a somewhat chemical aroma—maybe petroleum? —but fortunately the vermouth doesn’t taste like gasoline.  I get sweet apples, pears, and other fruit flavors.  Vermouth is made by adding various herbs and other ingredients to wine, and at Channing they vary them by season.  This one includes such fall produce as apples, Asian pears, pumpkin, butternut squash, calendula, sage, borage etc.

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The “wild child” name references the use of wild yeast.

  1. 2015 L’Enfant Sauvage $38

This is one of the wines in our current shipment, so I added it to the tasting.  A chardonnay made with wild yeasts, this wine has varied over the years.  Sometimes it’s my favorite, and other times…not so much.  This iteration is yummy.  Although it spends fifteen months in French oak, it doesn’t have that buttery taste I dislike in oaked chards.  I do detect a bit of that woody flavor, which reminds me of when I was a kid and I would sometimes bite my pencils, but I also get lime and baked pear.  You could have it with very assertive dishes, like spicy Chinese food, or even as an aperitif.  We buy a bottle to add to the one we already have, aging in our cellar.

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  1. 2016 Dornfelder

I wonder if this is a wine which would improve with age, since of all the wines we tried today this is my least favorite.  But they do suggest aging it in the bottle, so we will see.  A blend of 85% dornfelder and 15% pinot noir, it has red fruit aromas and flavors, but is not a really deep big red.

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Lots of choices!

Reasons to visit:  some of the best and most creative wines on Long Island; the Vino Bianco, the Rosato, the Petillant Naturel Rosato, L’Enfant Sauvage, and more; there’s always something new to try; one of the few wineries on the South Fork, so well worth a visit if you find yourself in Sag Harbor.

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Mr. Channing’s sculptures decorate the tasting room and the grounds.

 

Channing Daughters: The Best of the South Fork December 7, 2017

Channing Daughters: The Best of the South Fork

https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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The entrance to Channing Daughters.

It had been over a year since we’d been to one of our favorite wineries, so it was time to make the trek to the South Fork.  We took the ferry from Greenport to Shelter Island, and then from Shelter Island to Sag Harbor, as wind whipped the usually calm Gardiner’s Bay into waves and sea spray hit our windshield.  Despite the loss of the Sag Harbor movie theater to fire, the town looked much the same as ever, though new boutiques are gradually replacing some of the quirkier shops.  Happily, we noted that the Sag Harbor Variety Store and the Wharf Shop are still there.

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One of the wood sculptures made by Walter Channing.

And so is the Channing Daughters tasting room, down a pebbled driveway off Scuttlehole Road, sitting amidst vineyards and wood sculptures made by the owner.  The tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and no tables, though in the summer there are some outside.  A standard tasting is five wines for $16, or you can order a glass of wine for $15.  Simple crackers are put out as palate cleansers.

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This is the standard tasting–which is not what we had!

We had the room to ourselves on this sunny but blustery winter day, so we had the full attention of the genial and very well-informed server.  He was delighted to hear that, after having resigned from the wine club last spring due to various changes in our lives, we were ready to rejoin it.  The wine club involves accepting six shipments of two bottles each per year, and then you get free tastings of any wines you like to try plus invitations to various events during the year and discounts on other purchases.

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The tasting room is small, but augmented in the summer by outside tables.

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A view of the outside patio.

As a result of rejoining the club, our tasting was free, and we tasted quite a few wines—so many that we ended up dumping parts of the last few tastes, just so we could stay on our feet.  And even after trying eleven wines we had not begun to exhaust the panoply of wines on offer, a truly varied and impressive array for a small winery.  One of the reasons we love Channing, and rejoined their club despite living on the North Fork and having access to so many other wineries, is their willingness to experiment and try new ideas all the time.  Check out their web site to see all they offer and to read about their philosophy of wine making.  According to the web site, they make almost three dozen different wines!

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  1. 2016 Scuttlehole Chardonnay   $18

Of all the chardonnays on Long Island, this remains our favorite, a steel-fermented beautiful expression of the fruit.  We taste some pineapple and minerality, with aromas of pear and citrus.  Yum.

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Our favorite chardonnay. The upside down tree on the label represents one of Mr. Channing’s sculpture techniques, using an entire tree turned upside down.

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A sculpture made from an entire tree turned upside down.

  1. 2014 Sylvanus $24

A combination of muscat ottonel, pinot grigio, and pinot bianco, the name recalls the Roman god of the fields and agriculture (like Pan or Bacchus) for a very good reason.  It is what is called a “field blend,” which means it is a blend of various grapes all of which were grown together in one field.  So they share the same terroir, yet the taste varies from year to year, depending on how each variety grows.  As we discussed with our server, this is more like the way people grew grapes in the past, planting whatever vines they got wherever they fit.  And the vineyard in which it grows is named Sylvanus. In any event, this year’s iteration is quite good, a light, delicate dry white with just a touch of wood.  He thinks it would be good with appetizers, perhaps a charcuterie platter.

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An image of Sylvanus, god of fields and harvests.

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  1. 2015 Cuvée Tropical $23

This is another blend, of 78% chardonnay, 8% tocai friulano, 8% pinot grigio, and 8% muscat ottonel.  As I said, they like to experiment.  The name comes from the flavor, which has notes of tropical fruits, like lychee and guava and pineapple.  In the past I really liked the fruitiness of this wine, and this iteration is less fruity, a bit more austere, so though he recommends it with spicy food, I don’t think that’s necessary.

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I love the image on this label, of vines in the snow.

  1. 2014 Clones $29

Why Clones?  Because this wine includes ten different clones of chardonnay, plus gewürztraminer, tocai friulano, pinot grigio, and sauvignon blanc.  Now here comes the experimentation—some of the wine is aged on the skins for a little while, they use wild yeast, and it spends twelve months in old French oak barrels (plus maybe more I forgot…).  Another good one.  Dry, with just a touch of the oak, with citrus flavors of lime more than lemon, and some interesting complexity.  Our server recommends it with smoked trout or bluefish, and we recommend that he check out the North Fork Smoke House the next time he’s in Greenport.

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  1. 2014 Mosaico $29

Again, the name relates to how the wine was made. This is another field blend, but this time the vines are literally planted in a mosaic pattern, and include pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscat ottonel, tocai friulano, and gewürztraminer.  Whew.  Another winner.  Aromas of celery, citrus, and herbs and maybe chamomile, and a complex flavor that includes pear, pineapple, and citrus.  Because the juice also spends some time on the skins, the color is a deeper gold than usual.

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  1. 2014 L’Enfant Sauvage

The “wild child” is a reference to the use of wild yeast, sometimes a risk for the winemaker, and this time, I have to say, not as successful for me as in the past.  I have loved earlier versions of this white, but this one is more minerally than fruity.  That’s not necessarily bad, but I liked the fruit in the past.  This is 100% chardonnay, aged in new French oak and also Slovenian oak, so maybe the Slovenian oak is a taste I don’t care for.  The aroma is of over-ripe apples and something chemical.  My husband says it has a “strong backbone.”

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Yes, this wine is orange.

  1. 2014 Ramato $25

You can only get this wine if you are in the wine club.  It’s an orange wine, which means it was fermented on the skins for quite a while until it has an orange hue, and was made from 100% pinot grigio.  Our server tells us the grape itself has a pinkish hue, which adds to the color.  It is tart and dry, with some taste of apricot.

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A sparkling wine you can open with a beer bottle opener!

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  1. 2016 Bianco Petillant Naturel $28

What is this, you wonder, especially as you look at the bottle, which is sealed with a bottle cap and has a layer of sediment on the bottom.  This is a lightly fizzy sparkling wine which does not taste at all like champagne, nor does it try to.  Instead of the méthode champenoise, this is the méthode ancestrale, in which the yeast remains in the bottle and is not disgorged.  This is a blend of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and tocai friulano and tastes like a great wine for a meal—light and fizzy and good to complement food.  That’s the way they drink Cava in Barcelona, where we saw people ordering an inexpensive bottle to go with lunch or a few tapas.

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I love doing side by side tastings of related wines.

  1. 2013 Dorn and Blau $28

At this point we said we would share a taste, so our server poured this red and the next one at the same time so we could compare them.  These German grapes—a combination of 62% dornfelder and the rest blaufrankish—are also grown in the Sylvanus vineyard.  If you’re thinking you haven’t heard of these grapes as growing on Long Island, you wouldn’t be mistaken.  As far as I know, Channing is the only one that has them.  This is a fairly light and dry red, with aromas of red fruit and tobacco and something funky.  It is another wine with more minerality than fruit.  I could see it with something rich, though my tasting buddy finds it a bit too austere.

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  1. 2014 Blaufrankish $28

Reverse the proportion of grapes, and you get 62% blaufrankish and the rest dornfelder, and then, just to see what happens, use grapes from a different vineyard, in this case the Mudd vineyard on the North Fork.  We like this one much better!  The aromas are of dark fruits plus minerals or wet rock, and the taste is of red berries and plums with layers of flavor, including some minerality.  Both of these wines have soft tannins, so I’m not sure how they would age, but they’d be fine to drink right now.

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  1. 2015 Petit Verdot $38

I often like petit verdots, and this one is no exception.  Though the aroma is somewhat smoky and funky, the taste is delicious, with depth of flavor, including blueberries, blackberries, and spice.  Our server is willing to keep going, but since we have to get back in the car we decline.

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An array of bottles and a view into the cellar.

Reasons to visit:  the most interesting wines on Long Island, with something new every year; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Cuvee Tropical, the Clones, the Mosaico, the Blaufrankish…actually, you can’t go wrong with any of their wines; and we didn’t even get to the rosés, which we’ve had and enjoyed in the past; you’re looking for a winery in the Hamptons that’s less formal and pricey than Wölffer (which does have the advantage of tables where you can sit and snack on their cheese, etc.), and did I mention they also make really good vermouths, which are excellent just over ice as an aperitif.

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Vermouth!

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There are a few wine-related gifts for sale, though they no longer carry the bottle collars we like, which you put around the neck to catch drips.

 

 

 

Waters Crest: A Learning Experience October 18, 2015

http://www.waterscrestwinery.com/

One view of the cozy tasting room

One view of the cozy tasting room

“This was a great year for whites, but probably not for reds,” opined our enthusiastic and knowledgeable server, Adam, at Waters Crest winery, one of the semi-hidden gems of the North Fork.  I love to listen to people talk about something they are passionate about, and Adam certainly fit that description.  Though he is working for Waters Crest at the moment, he hopes someday to have his own winery, and meanwhile the good part about working for a small place like this is “you get to do everything.” The good part for those of us who are curious about various aspects of wine making is that the servers here have always been able to do a great job of answering our questions.

Though you can see the wine-making facility through a window in the tasting room, you may wonder where the vines are.  Jim Waters buys his grapes from local North Fork vineyards, then makes the wines himself.  When we first arrived we had the room to ourselves, but then a couple of small groups came in, all clearly regular customers who knew exactly what they wanted, including which cheese from the small refrigerator to get and which pizza they wanted heated up.

The tasting room is hidden in a strip of stores off Sound Avenue, with the entrance on Cox Lane, just to make finding it even harder, but they hope to soon have a spot on the Main Road, which will be great.  We have been a fan of this tiny place ever since our first visit, as the wines tend to be both tasty and interesting.  The room is small, but newly furnished with comfortable leather stools and chairs.  The tasting menu offers all seven of their wines for $15, and so we opted to share a tasting.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25.99

“We treat this more like a Sancerre,” noted Adam, using cold fermentation and no oak.  The aroma is quite floral, with notes of pineapple and lemon, which also describes the taste.  As is often the case with this grape, it would be perfect with local oysters.

Two of the whites

Two of the whites

  1. 2013 Pinot Blanc $24.99

What is “indigenous yeast” and how does it work?  If you want to know, ask Adam! Most winemakers will treat their grapes with SO2 when they come in from the field in order to kill off the naturally occurring yeasts so that they can then introduce the yeasts they have bought, thus controlling the effect of the yeast.  With this pinot blanc (and also, as we discussed, Channing Daughters’ L’Enfant Sauvage and Roanoke’s The Wild!) the natural yeasts were allowed to stay on, which also meant that fermentation took longer.  The wine was fermented mostly in steel, with just a touch of oak.  The result?  Lovely.  Aromas of green apple and minerals, with a touch of funkiness preceded a taste of tart green apple and pear salad, with some nice minerality.

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $24.99

Dry?  Bone dry!  This wine is made with grapes from upstate, from Gold Seal Vineyards, but it is not at all sweet.  .025 residual sugar, says Adam.  Interesting flavor, with notes of citrus and stone and a touch of funkiness.  Unlike most rieslings, which I would choose to have with spicy food, this would go better with duck, sausage, or, suggests Adam, knockwurst.  Good call.

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay $23.99

After a time of steel fermentation, this gets six months in new French oak, so it is not too buttery.  You do get some typical butterscotch flavors, along with lemon and other citrus.  Good, a not untypical chard.

  1. 2012 Red Blend $19.99

The mixture of 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc is blended in the bottle after being independently fermented.  This has my favorite label, inspired by the famous painting by Charles Demuth which was inspired by his friend William Carlos Williams’s poem “The great number 5.”  The aroma is typically cherry, like a merlot, and so is the taste.  It is fairly dry, and the tasting notes suggest some rhubarb in the flavor.  In any event, it is a good barbeque wine, and would be great with burgers.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

  1. 2008 Cabernet Franc $39.99

“Now you can see how our wines age,” notes Adam.  “The tannins have fallen off.”  This has a very distinct taste, combining black pepper, tobacco, and smoke with the fruit flavors, and is balanced and mellow.  I start to say roast chicken, and then we agree it would be great with lamb.  The 08 is almost all gone, as they found a few cases forgotten in the warehouse!

  1. 2010 Merlot Grand Vin $59.99

After three days on the skins (which is fairly long) the wine spends two years in new French oak.  It was worth waiting for!  2010 was a great year for reds on the North Fork, and this one, which garnered 90 points in Wine Spectator, is excellent, with lots of tannins, black cherry , and a delicious aroma.  It could stand up to a good steak.

Nice color

Nice color

  1. 2010 and 2007 Campania Rosso $56 for the ‘07

If you’re counting, you know we should be done, but as a reward for our intense interest in the wines, Adam gives us small tastes of two Bordeaux blends from two different years just to show what else they can do.  These are Right Bank blends of mostly merlot, plus cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  Though the only difference in the wines is how long they have aged and the year of harvest, they are quite different.  The 2010 is dark red, while the ’07 is more of a garnet color.  The ’10 is really good, with tannins which finally make sense to me of the term “chewy tannins” and lots of layers of flavors.  The ’07 is almost over the hill, with asparagus in the aroma and a lack of depth.   Though it is not bad, I would definitely choose the ’10, and drink it soon!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Reasons to visit:  a chance to talk to knowledgeable servers (one time it was Jim Waters himself) and learn all about the wines; the Pinot Blanc, the Red Blend, the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot Grand Vin, the 2010 Campania Rosso; no crowds on a busy weekend (though this may change once they move to a more public spot).

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