Foodie Tour: Liquids Too September 16,2018

Foodie Tour:  Liquids Too

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For years we’d seen the posters advertising the North Fork Foodie Tour (This is the 12th annual one.), but somehow we’d never managed to go.  The dates or the weather never quite worked, but this year it was scheduled for a weekend we were free and the forecast was for a beautiful day, so we stopped in to the Mattituck Florist and bought two tickets for $25 each.

You bring your ticket to whichever stop you choose to go to first, where volunteers at a little table sign you in and give you a wrist band, which then gives you admission to the rest of the sites.

There are twenty in all.  I laid out a somewhat ambitious itinerary which we ended up scrapping, visiting only three of the stops on the tour.  However, we felt we had gotten our money’s worth.

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Our first stop was Browder’s Birds, on a back street in Mattituck. http://browdersbirds.com/

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They have a bunch of bee hives, too.

We got there in time for the 11 a.m. tour, led by Mr. Chris Browder himself.  He told us that he’s had anywhere from 15 to 50 people in past years, but this time it was just us and one other couple.  After sampling a yummy quiche made with Browder’s eggs, we set off across the field to the mobile chicken and turkey coops. Along the way we learned about the rewards and perils of raising fowl—the satisfaction of hands-on work, the depredations of foxes—and the methodology he uses.

After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Chris visited one farm described in the book, where the farmer uses a system of mobile hen houses to move his chickens from one square of pasture to another.  Chris decided to put the same system into effect on his organic farm.  We could see the denuded earth where the coop had just been and the new growth where it had been the previous week.

The chickens eat a diet of insects and greens they get from the field plus organic feed.  We were struck by the total absence of any foul odors, as you sometimes find around chicken coops.  Chris explained that the constant movement of the coops keeps everything clean.  Then he showed us how he can move the lightweight coop himself, and how when the chickens realize he’s about to start pulling it they line up along the front of the coop so they can move along with it.

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The surviving turkeys seemed as curious about us as we were about them.

He also showed us his one turkey coop, which had originally held 60 young turkeys.  Unfortunately, a fox got into the coop a week or so ago and killed 29 of them.

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They also sell sweaters knit with wool from their sheep.

After our tour of the fields, we returned to the area near the house to check out the greenhouse-like structure where the baby chicks live until they are big enough to be out in the field.  We also learned about how the Browders slaughter their chickens themselves, in a very humane and efficient way.  We then said hi to the sheep and ducks, which like to hunker down in the shade next to the house.  Finally, we looked over the little store, which is open on weekends and Friday afternoons, where they sell their chickens, eggs, duck eggs, home-made honey, brining mixture, etc.  Since this was our first stop, we weren’t ready to buy anything, but we promised we’d be back.

It was almost noon, and I saw from the tour booklet that Greenport Harbor Brewery was giving a tour at noon of their Peconic facility.  Despite being caught behind a tractor on one leg of our journey, we made it there just as the tour was beginning.  https://greenportharborbrewing.com/

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No, this silo is not decorative. It actually is used to store the grain they use to make beer.

Rich Vandenburgh, one of the co-funders of Greenport Harbor, led the tour.   An engaging and amusing guide, he explained all the stages of making beer as well as regaling us with some stories from his years with the brewery.  If you ever go on the tour, make sure you hear about the strange scrapes on the high ceiling of the storage room.  We learned about hops and barley and grain and yeast.   Among other things, we learned about how they try to be responsible about the environment at the brewery.  They plan to install a water catching system so they can use rain water, and another system which captures the CO2 from the brewing process which can then be reinjected into the beer to carbonate it.  The spent mash goes to farms for animal feed and mulch.  Because it tastes sweet, the animals really like it, including the bison at Tweed’s bison farm on Roanoke Avenue.  Rich related how when the bison catch sight of the truck approaching the farm they hurry over to the fence, eager for their treat.

It was almost one o’clock by the time we had finished seeing the bottling room and asking all the questions which Rich patiently answered.  Then we showed our bracelets at the bar and were told we could each have three free tastes of any beers we liked.  After all that walking and standing around, we were ready for a respite, so we bought a big pretzel to go with our beers.  Although we’d been to Greenport Harbor twice in recent months, they already had some new beers for us to taste.  We sipped Tidal Lager, Lawn Chair ale, Devil’s Plaything, Respect to Process, and Black Duck Porter, which remains my favorite, but we liked them all.

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The bottling machine. They are in the midst of bottling their fall special, Leaf Pile Ale. We saw the bags of nutmegs, etc., they use for the pumpkin pie spice flavor.

Where to go next?  We could have headed to Craft Master Hops, to learn about how hops are harvested, or to Shared Table Farmhouse, to see a “homesteading operation,” or any of a number of other places, but we decided to rest until 3 p.m., when a tour was scheduled at Macari Vineyards.

http://macariwines.com/

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The grapes look great, but are not quite ripe yet.

We checked in for the final time with the Foodie Tour volunteers, and headed around to the back of the property where a group of foodies—some of whom we recognized from the brewery tour—gathered.  We were soon joined by two employees of the winery who laid out a platter of cheeses and crackers and served us tastes of three of Macari’s wines.  As we sipped, our guide explained the philosophy behind each wine and how it was made, as well as some background on the Macari family and how they had come to own a winery.  Joseph T. Macari, Jr., started making wine with his father in their cellar in Corona, Queens.  We also learned a little bit about their commitment to biodynamic farming.  Common to all three places we visited was concern for the environment and a sincere commitment to making a great product.

We started with the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, a zesty, crisp, refreshing white.  I agreed with the guide that it would pair well with local oysters.  Then we moved on to the 2016 Chardonnay Estate, a very nice steel-fermented chard.  It was interesting to hear his discussion of the differences between the grapes and how they were treated.  We ended with Sette, a red that mixes half merlot and half cabernet franc.  The wine is named for Settefratti, the town in Italy to which the Macari family traces their roots.

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This machine is used to separate the grape juice from the skins.

Well-fortified, we headed inside to tour the various aspects of the wine-making facility, from huge steel tanks with precise temperature control to stacks of oak barrels where wine is aged.  Our guide’s parting words were that our Foodie Tour wrist bands would get us 10% off any wines in the winery.

 

And that was the end of our day.  Though we only got to three of the twenty possible sites, it was a thoroughly satisfying experience.  I hope that next year weather and timing cooperate so we can do this again!

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Macari Vineyards: A Quiet Winter Day December 20, 2017

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The vines are bare now.

http://macariwines.com/visit/mattituck/

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It’s pretty quiet on the North Fork now. There’s a skim of ice on the shallow parts of the Mattituck Inlet and almost all of the farm stands have closed. A few wineries are closed for the season, while others are only open on weekends. Macari’s tasting room on the Main Road is closed, but its other location, on the corner of Bergen Road and Sound Avenue, is open every day, so that’s where we went on this chilly day.

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The large tasting room was decorated for Christmas with lights and pine branches, and if we had wanted to buy gifts of local or other gourmet jams, pickles, etc., we could have found plenty of choices on the shelves near the entrance, where they also have cheeses, charcuterie, and crackers for sale. (No outside food allowed.) There was only one other couple at the bar, and one table of people in the adjoining room, so we had plenty of time to chat with the enthusiastic and well-informed server.

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Our favorite local pickles!

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No outside food allowed, but they have plenty for sale.

The menu offers three different flights of five tastes each: the Estate Flight for $20, the Cuvée Flight for $25, or the Vintage Flight for $30. There’s also a dessert wine flight, or, the server offered, she could custom build a flight if, for example, you only liked reds. As you might expect, as the flights increased in price, so did the wines in each one. We decided to share the Cuvée Flight, and the pour was generous enough that we felt that was plenty (plus we got a couple of extra tastes, courtesy of my notebook!).

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After the tasting we bought one bottle of red wine and a jar of our favorite local pickles, Backyard Brine’s “Dill Death do us Part.”

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1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $24
As our server poured this first taste, she enthused about what a great summer wine it is. No argument there. It is a steel-fermented, crisp, lemony white, with an aroma of mineral and gooseberry. It would go well with a big plate of chilled oysters.

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2. 2016 “Lifeforce” Sauvignon Blanc $28
But now, she added, at this time of year, she prefers this version of the grape, and poured us an “extra” taste. Instead of being fermented in steel or wood, they use a concrete “egg” as a vat, and the result is quite a different wine. Though still somewhat citrusy, it is not nearly as lemony, and has some tropical fruit flavors, like pineapple. The aroma is almost woodsy or yeasty. There is definitely more going on in the taste of this one, and it could be sipped on its own. It is called Lifeforce because the egg shape causes the wine to stir itself. She showed us a whole explanation of the effects of using concrete, some of which is on this page of their web site: http://macariwines.com/wine/2016-sauvignon-blanc-lifeforce/

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An explanation of the concrete “egg.”

3. 2015 Chardonnay Estate $24
This is a fairly typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with a touch of sweetness, some citrus, and a bit of roasted pear taste. Nice finish. It would be good with charcuterie.

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An array of whites.

4. 2016 Rosé $20
Made from cabernet franc and merlot grapes, this is a very light, dry, almost white, rosé. The aroma does not have the expected strawberry scent, but is almost chemical, like a band-aid. However, it tastes fine, less fruity than some of Croteaux’s rosés, with plenty of citrus. I could see having it with lobster bisque or some other creamy, buttery seafood dish.

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The rose is a very light pink.

5. 2013 Merlot Reserve $40
Now we move on to the reds, and she rinses our glass with a bit of red wine. We decide this is better than the average North Fork merlot. Aged sixteen months in new French oak, it has a delicious aroma of dark fruits and complex tastes of black cherry and cherry pie, dry, with good tannins. It could probably age well.

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Our favorite of the reds, the Dos Aguas.

6. 2013 Dos Aguas $32
The name of this one is a nod to the two waters of the North Fork—the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. A blend of 50% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec, it is only made in good years, which 2013 clearly was. We really like it! We smell cherry, tobacco, and other dark fruits, and taste them as well. Lots of tannins. Dry, it would go well with steak or lamb chops, and we decide to buy a bottle and keep (or try to keep!) it for a couple of years.

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If you are serious and thoughtful about your tasting, sometimes you get extras!

7. 2014 Syrah $45
We are so enthusiastic about the Dos Aguas that our server wonders if we would like to try their syrah. Sure, I reply, I often really like syrahs. I like this one, too, with its spicy aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg and soft tannins. I see that I have written good twice in my notes.

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Plenty of room at the bar in the winter, but it is often crowded in the summer.

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There are many tables in the next room, plus more outside.

Reasons to visit: A good all-around winery, with a long bar and ample tables; a good selection of cheeses, etc., so you can put together a snack, plus some local gourmet items; the Lifeforce Sauvignon Blanc, the Merlot Reserve, the Dos Aguas—actually, we liked all the wines, but those were especially interesting; two locations, so in the summer, if one is overcrowded you can try the other.

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When you stand at the bar, you can look into the wine cellar.

Macari Vineyards: Award Deserved? October 25, 2014

http://www.macariwines.com/

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Macari had been named the “Winery of the Year” at the 2014 New York Wine & Food Classic, so we were curious to see why.  According to the Classic website, the “award is presented to the winery with the best overall showing based on the level and number of awards in relation to entries.”

Macari has two tasting rooms, and on a previous try the one on Sound Avenue was too full to find a place at the tasting bar, so this time we tried the one on the Main Road.  Since it was a beautiful October day and every winery we passed seemed to have a full parking lot, we thought we’d have to put off our visit until the winter, but we were pleasantly surprised—though as we left it seemed the crowds were arriving!  Both tasting rooms are spacious and pleasant, with a nice selection of wine-related gifts and snack items.  Our servers were kept busy, but were very efficient and observant, and we never had to wait more than a moment or two for our next taste.  Also, as you will see, they noticed our seriousness about the wines and added a few extras, which turned out to be a great idea.

A view out the windows, with some of the gift items visible

A view out the windows, with some of the gift items visible

The tasting menu features three options:  a white flight of four wines for $8, a red flight of 4 wines for $15, and a Vintage flight of 5 wines for $20, with a combination of whites and reds.  Since we noticed that three of the Vintage wines were included in the other two tastings, we decided to opt for one white and then one red, sharing as we went along.

The tasting bar was crowded, but the servers did a good job of taking care of everyone.

The tasting bar was crowded, but the servers did a good job of taking care of everyone.

1.        Sauvignon Blanc 2012    $23

As usual, the tasting started off with their lightest white, a lemony and tart sauvignon.  The night before we had had an excellent Italian sauvignon, so we were making comparisons.  The Macari had, we felt, too little fruit taste to balance the acidity.  “Undistinguished,” said my husband, and I agreed.  It might be better with food.

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2.       Chardonnay Estate 2011               $19

This is their 100% stainless steel chard, so no oakiness.  We smell and taste ripe pear, though it doesn’t have tons of fruit taste.  It’s a good chard, reasonably dry, and would go well with a Long Island clam chowder.

3.       Collina Chardonnay                         $9.50

Noticing the price, we wonder whether this would be one to buy for everyday drinking.  Nope.  Though the aroma had pleasant notes of mineral and honeysuckle, the taste is actually bitter.  It is fermented 25% in oak, and the rest in steel, but we taste none of the buttery or vanilla notes one would expect.  We dump most of the taste!

4.       Riesling 2011                      $25 per carafe

The 2011 Riesling has not yet been bottled, so they’re serving from carafes.  Made from Finger Lakes grapes, it has some of that upstate taste I find hard to describe.  It smells like white grape juice!  Taste is not overly sweet, with some mineral and gooseberry notes, though it is fairly monochromatic.  My husband had recently been to a wine tasting of German and Long Island Rieslings, and felt this one did not measure up to the others he had had.

Our first "bonus" wine

Our first “bonus” wine

5.       Rosé 2013            $17

In the first indication that our seriousness has been observed, one server asks us if we like rosés, and then offers us a taste of theirs.  A blend of cabernet franc, pinot noir, and merlot, it has the usual strawberry aroma and taste, with again a fair amount of minerality.  There’s something flowery about it as well.  Though not as good as Croteaux, it is a fine rosé.

6.       Collina Merlot                    $9.50

New glass for the reds.  Our server calls this a “pizza pasta burger” wine, which the price would surely indicate.  “It’s not terrible,” says my tasting companion.  Talk about damning with faint praise!  But it is a very light red, with no depth or interest or finish.  It’s just there. We were, however, intrigued by the aroma, which I characterized as a cherry-flavored cigar.

Sette.  The size of the pour varied a bit.

Sette. The size of the pour varied a bit.

7.       Sette                     $19

This is their red blend, of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc—not seven wines, as I thought based on the name.  Sette actually refers to the town Settefrati, a small town south of Rome, which is the home town of the Macari family.  Our server calls it their best seller, and I can see why.  The aroma is of dark brambly fruits, and the wine itself is light but very drinkable, perhaps with “Sunday gravy.”  By the way, it was served too cold, so we warmed the glass in our palms, which helped bring out the taste.

8.       Cabernet Franc 2008                       $35

I’ve heard people refer to a brininess as an expression of the Long Island terroir, but I never experienced it quite as forcefully as with the aroma of this wine.  Sea air!  Fortunately it does not taste salty, but rather of dark plums, and is our favorite so far.  Some tannins, a touch of oak.

9.       Dos Aguas 2008                 $27

Here the name refers to the two waters of the North Fork—Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.  This is Macari’s Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 70% merlot, 17% cabernet sauvignon, 4% cabernet franc, 8% malbec, and the rest petit verdot.  Yes, I’d like this with steak frites, please.  It is our server’s favorite.  Not particularly complex, but good and quite drinkable, with plenty of fruit and spice aromas and flavors.

A line-up of reds.

A line-up of reds.

10.   2007 Merlot Reserve                      $36

So if you’re counting you realize that our tasting should be over, but after asking us what we thought of the Dos Aguas, our server decides we should try two more wines.  This is certainly better than most merlots, and 2007 was a good year.  We taste lots of dark fruits, and the aroma is delicious.

11.   2010 Bergen Road            $46

This one beats the bunch, as my grandmother used to say with the birth of each grandchild.  Another Bordeaux blend, or a Meritage, of 56% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 2% petit verdot, this one has aromas of Belgian dark chocolate and dark fruits.  OMG I say when I taste it.  Complex, with lots of tannins and yummy fruit.  We buy a bottle to put in the cellar!

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Reasons to visit:  you want an all-purpose winery with space for a large group or the intimacy of a conversation at the bar; you need to pick up a wine-related gift or buy a snack;  the 2010 Bergen Road; the 07 Merlot Reserve, the 08 Dos Aguas, the 08 Cabernet Franc;  did I mention the 2010 Bergen Road…

The Main Road building

The Main Road building

What a beautiful day.  In Greenport, every restaurant's outside tables were filled, and plenty of people opted for an outdoor tasting.

What a beautiful day. In Greenport, every restaurant’s outside tables were filled, and plenty of people opted for an outdoor tasting.