The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017

http://winemaker-studio.com/index.html

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To celebrate April 15 NOT being tax day, we decided to return to The Winemaker Studio, where winemakers who work for some of the big wineries experiment with their own labels. It does fascinate me that people whose job is winemaking feel the need to express more of their ideas about wine with their own experiments—but when the results are as good as this, why not?  On this day, the Studio was featuring the wines of Anthony Nappa, who owns the place and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Russell Hearn, who is the winemaker for Lieb.  Hearn actually has two different labels available:  Suhru for one line, and T’Jara for wines whose grapes all come from one vineyard.

We stood at the bar and enjoyed chatting with our server, who seemed to know everything about all the wines.  On that day, the menus offered any five of Nappa’s ten wines for $15, and all five of Hearn’s wines, also for $15.  We decided to do one of each, alternating as we went, with some guidance from our server as to sequence and choices from Nappa’s list.  We could also have ordered cheese or other snacks, which come from the little food store attached to the tasting room.  Before we started, the server gave us glasses of chilled water, which he regularly replenished.

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The room is simple. The tables are sometimes inside and sometimes outside.

One other couple entered, and we enjoyed chatting with them about where they had been that day and their love of Key West.  Then a large group came in, and though they don’t usually permit groups without a reservation, since it was so quiet the server agreed to take care of them, and seated them in the food store room.  We were concerned we’d lose our source of information, but he competently took care of everyone!

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The sign seems clear enough…

  1. 2016 Suhru Sauvignon Blanc      $20

We decided it was best to start with what was likely the lightest of the wines, and we were right.  This is a really nice light sauvignon blanc, with some aromas of cat pee and asparagus.  It’s a bit fruity for a sauvignon blanc, and also has lots of minerality and some saltiness.  Very refreshing.  Good summer sipper, or to have with clams or oysters.

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  1. 2016 Nappa White Pinot Noir   $19

White pinot noir?  Isn’t that the wine that used to be called Anomaly?  Well, yes.  Apparently there was some sort of allegation of copyright infringement from a winery in Napa Valley, so Anthony Nappa had to rename his wine.  The first time we had this we really liked it, then not so much the next time, but this time it was back into the plus file.  The aroma combines strawberry—like a rosé, which this basically resembles—with a touch of funkiness that adds some interest.  The wine is somewhat dry, with some strawberry taste as well.  It would pair well with a stinky cheese, like an aged blue.

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  1. 2014 Suhru Dry Riesling               $18

Not sure why, but my tasting buddy insisted the smell reminded him of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  It is a strong aroma, with a touch of mineral or metal.  If you like a dry riesling, this is for you.  The server noted that it had .7% residual sugar, quite a contrast to the Nappa riesling we were going to taste next.  I always enjoy these side by side tastings, where you try the same grapes made in different ways.  Like the Suhru sauvignon blanc, this also has a bit of a salty tang, with some gooseberry taste.

  1. 2016 Nappa New York Riesling   $18

So different!  Made with grapes from upstate’s Sheldrake vineyard, this riesling has 1.9% residual sugar.  Although it is much sweeter, it is well balanced, and would be fine with something really spicy, like Thai food.  “Almost candy,” says my husband, but I get tropical fruit and spices like nutmeg, and a complex aroma that is rather alluring.

  1. 2012 Suhru Shiraz           $25

Although the scent promises lots of dark fruit, the wine itself is rather light for a shiraz.  I could see this with roast chicken, not steak.  Nice tannins, so maybe it will age well.

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  1. 2016 Nappa Bordo Antico           $22

If you care about such things, you might like to know that this wine is certified organic.  It is made from cabernet franc grapes, steel fermented.  It smells like forest floor, with a bit of a mushroomy funk.  The taste is good, fruity, direct and simple.  I might pair it with duck breasts.

 

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc         $30

Here we go again—same grape, different preparation—though this is a bit of a blend, 87% cabernet franc with 10% merlot and 3% cabernet sauvignon.  This is oak fermented, and has lots of fruit tastes like dark plums, and a long finish.  Delicious.  It would complement lamb chops.

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  1. 2014 Nappa Nemesis Pinot Noir               $35

Why “Nemesis”?  We learn that pinot noir is notoriously hard to work with, so the danger is that it could prove to be the winemaker’s nemesis.  Not in this case, though it is not our favorite of the day.  Made with grapes from Macari and Peconic Bay, this is a light, dry, slightly fruity red.

  1. 2013 T’Jara Merlot         $28

A blend of 92% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc, and 2% malbec, the wine is aged 20 months in Hungarian oak and tastes to us more or less like a typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry flavor.  Very nice.

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Both the design on the label and the name of the label come from Australian Aborigines. Hearn is from Australia.

  1. 2013 Nappa Tredici        $35

Tredici?  As in three grapes:  67% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 18% cabernet sauvignon?  Nope, as in 2013—named for the year.  And why not, since it was a very good year.  We smell cherries, and the taste is very much of the merlot, but with more interesting flavors than the Hearn blend.  It has lots of tannins, and if we had room in the wine cellar (we really must drink more of our wine!) we might have bought a bottle to age for a few years.

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There are wines from a variety of winemakers available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to taste wines you won’t find elsewhere; an intimate setting with knowledgeable servers (not just this time, but every time we’ve come); the Nappa White Pinot Noir (formerly Anomaly) and Tredici; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc and T’Jara 2012 Cabernet Franc; lots of availability of magnums, if you happen to want to buy one!

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Lots of magnums!

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The Studio is on Peconic Street, where you will also find a nice little food store and a gift shop.

Macari: Still a Good One January 2, 2016

http://www.macariwines.com/

The entrance

The entrance

For our first winery of the new year, we headed to Macari, which we had last visited when it boasted the award of “Best Winery of 2014.”  We would have been back sooner, but cancelled our visits when the attractive tasting room proved too crowded and noisy for us.  This time, in the doldrums of January, there were still plenty of people, including a large group in the room off to one side, but we found a place at the bar and a smart and attentive server.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

The menu offers three options—Estate, of four of their lower priced wines for $10; Cuvee, of five for $15; and Vintage, of five of their best wines for $20.  Since none of the lists overlapped, we decided to share two tastings, one of the Cuvee and one of the Vintage.  Because both menus included whites and reds of varying types, we wanted to alternate so as not to try to follow a riesling with a sauvignon blanc.  Why?  As we’ve learned, if you try to taste a light dry wine like a steel-fermented sauvignon blanc after a sweeter, more substantial wine like a riesling, you won’t be as able to appreciate the lighter wine.

Our server first wanted to pour our two tastings simultaneously, but after we explained the philosophy behind our preference she quickly caught on, and made sure to pour the wines in an order that made sense.    We were particularly impressed with her ability to keep track of what we were doing since she also was serving other customers and running off to the side room as well.  She also was enthusiastic about the wines, sharing her preferences and knowledge about the wine, only once having to resort to a “cheat sheet” to give us information we requested.

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As we sipped, we admired the nicely done holiday decorations and the attractive labels on the wines, and afterwards we browsed the small but good collection of wine-related gifts. Note they don’t allow outside foods, and sell a variety of snack and cheese items.   I’m listing the wines in the order in which we had them, marking the Vintage wines with an *.

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  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14       $24

This is a steel –fermented sauvignon blanc, with an aroma that reminds me of the water in a vase after the flowers have begun to decay—which doesn’t sound all that appealing, but is fine when combined with citrus.  Good, we decide, nicely crisp, but delicate, with a touch of sweetness—perhaps more Meyer lemon than lemon.  Of course it would pair well with local oysters or clams, but if you had it with shrimp I would leave out the cocktail sauce, which would overwhelm this wine.

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  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14 (concrete egg) $27

Ooh, this is just the sort of exercise I love: Trying two wines side by side, made from the same grapes, but treated differently.  In this case, “concrete egg” refers to the egg-shaped concrete cask they use to ferment the wine, our server explains, and adds that since concrete is more porous than steel but less porous than wood, and without the flavor added by a wood cask, the results are quite different and, she thinks, better.  We agree.  The aroma is complex, with perhaps a hint of nutmeg or other spices and a taste that is a touch sweeter without being too sweet, with some acidity and a taste of greengage plums.  No finish.  Mysteriously, the label bears the word “Lifeforce.”

  1. *Dos Aguas ’13 $27

“Dos Aguas” refers to the two waters between which the vineyards are located:  Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.  Many people feel that these “two waters” contribute to the North Fork’s excellence as a grape-growing region, since they have the effect of moderating the climate.  This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, riesling, and sauvignon blanc, and is another good wine.  The aroma makes me think of sticky fruits and the taste includes minerality, figs, and tangerines.  Though the riesling does contribute some sweetness, it is well balanced with some acidity.  It would go well with one of my favorite dishes, pasta tossed with a variety of seafood.

  1. *Riesling ’13 $23

Ah yes, we are definitely glad that we tasted this one last of the whites, as its sweetness would have interfered with appreciating the others.  This is the only wine, our server informs us, that uses grapes not grown on the estate, since the riesling grapes in this come from the Finger Lakes region (not unusual for Long Island wineries, as upstate is known for its good riesling).  The aroma is honey, the taste like a green apple on the sweeter side, like a Mutsu, not a Granny Smith.  “Toot suite,” jokes my husband, as he complains that this wine is sweeter than he likes.  It is sweeter than a dry riesling, but I don’t find it unpleasantly so.  With spicy food you’d welcome that flavor.

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  1. Merlot Estate $15

Burnt sugar?  Cinnamon toast?  We discuss the smell, which in any event is not typical for a Long Island merlot.  Our server lets us in on the secret that although this wine is more than 80% merlot it also has some syrah, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, which may help explain the aroma.  It may also explain the taste, which is quite good for an inexpensive merlot, and makes this a good choice for a table wine.  It is fairly soft, with no tannins and some acid, and would go well with veal or pork, rather than steak.

Full disclosure:  We already knew we like Sette.

Full disclosure: We already knew we like Sette.

  1. Sette NV $19

We are quite familiar with Sette, since we often order it in local restaurants.  In fact, we just shared a bottle of it at Michelangelo’s last week, when it went well with eggplant parmesan and pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe.  This is a blend of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc (not of seven wines, as you might assume from the name, which instead refers to the town Settefratti, which was the home town of the Macari family).  The smell is warm, with some spice and wood, the taste cherry with again some acid but not much tannin.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

  1. *Dos Aguas Red Blend ’10 $30

Blend?  Yes, of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot.  We smell wet hay and wood, taste pleasant dark fruits. This is a soft, easy to drink red, and would be good, I opine, to sip while cooking—and ruining the food? theorizes my husband.  Ha.

  1. *Merlot Reserve ’10 $36

After aging 26 months in French oak, this wine has more tannins than the previous reds, with a typical merlot aroma of cherry plus oak.  Not powerful, but pleasant, this is a good wine if you want to introduce someone to Long Island merlots.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

  1. *Bergen Road ’10 $46

Since I ask, our server looks up the proportions of this red blend:  56% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 2% petit verdot.  A Right Bank Bordeaux.  The color is quite dark, and so is the taste, with plenty of tannin and acid and delicious dark fruits.  Yum.

Block "E" looks and tastes very like a sherry.

Block “E” looks and tastes very like a sherry.

  1. Block “E” ’12 $32 (for a small bottle)

Ice wine is supposed to be made with grapes picked after the first frost, but since that frost tends to come pretty late on the North Fork (as in it just happened), instead the grapes are picked fairly late, when they have developed quite a bit of sugar, and then frozen before being made into a dessert wine.  In both color and taste this reminds us of a semi-sweet sherry, with a bit of a honey aroma.  When I ask, we are informed it is made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec grapes.  Good dessert wine, it would be nice with some almonds.

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Reasons to visit:  good all-around winery, with plenty of tasty options and a big room with tables for groups; nice selection of gifts; reasonable prices (if we didn’t have all the wine we need at the moment we would have bought several of the wines); the “concrete egg” Sauvignon Blanc, the Dos Aguas white and red, the Merlot Estate, the Sette, the Bergen Road.

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Macari Vineyards May 18, 2013

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http://www.macariwines.com/

This weekend we went to what we call the “Irish” winery—not because it is Irish, but because a friend, hearing the name but not seeing it, thought it was McCary!  In fact, so Italian (not Irish) are they that the Macari family has given several of their wines Italian names, including Collina, for the hills on which their vineyard is located, and Sette, for Settefrati, the town in Italy from which their family emigrated.

Macari has two tasting rooms, a commodious building just off Sound Avenue and another, formerly the Gallucio Family Winery, on Main Road in Cutchogue.  We’ve been to both, but this time we went to the one on Main Road.  As you enter, you see the road forks both up the hill and down.  Both ways lead to parking lots, so you can pick either way, but the uphill one enables you to drop off passengers at the door.  Both rooms have outdoor areas far enough from the road to feel pleasantly rustic.

We had an irrational prejudice against Macari because early in our winery-visiting days we walked in right behind a group of bachelorettes who stumbled out of their limo, beer cans in hand, plastic flowers in their hair, and proceeded to be quite raucous.  Not Macari’s fault!

The Main Road tasting room is a pleasant space, with a curving copper-topped bar and a nice selection of gift items, including hand painted wine glasses and tea towels with the word Wineaux on them.  A white flight of four tastes is $8 and a red flight is $12.  They also offer artisanal cheeses and salumi for $7-10.00, including crackers.   The servers are pleasant and well-informed, though it is a bit disconcerting to hear the same spiel delivered word for word to your neighbors at the bar. By the way, if you want to go you should go soon, as they are celebrating their 15th anniversary with a very nice sale on many of their wines.

We opted to do one tasting of whites and one of reds, sharing as we went.

Macari white

  1.   2012 Sauvignon Blanc                                   $23

This bears the subtitle “Katherine’s Field,” and our server noted it is their “signature wine.”  This steel-fermented white has aromas of herbs and baked pear (they say), and we think thyme and unripe cantaloupe.  We also taste unripe cantaloupe, along with a tart acidity and not much fruit.  Not really for sipping, but it would be a good oyster wine.

2.  2010 Riesling                                                      $27

Though this uses grapes from upstate, it escapes the sometimes over-sweetness one finds with that fruit.  A flowery aroma precedes tastes of grapefruit and dried apricot which unfolds quite pleasantly on the palate.  Good finish and, we conclude, a really lovely well-made Riesling.

3.  Collina Chardonnay                                         $13

The server describes this as their “house white,” and notes that it is a combination of oak and steel-fermented wine, which should make it quite pleasant but does not.  I think of the taste and smell as reminding me of a vacation house that has been closed up too long, with a sensation of damp and slightly moldy wood.  We dump the remainder in the spit bucket, something we rarely do.  Even on sale for $10, I can’t see buying this!

  4.  2012 Early Wine                                                                $17

This is a special production of their Austrian winemaker, and is called early wine because…it is picked early.  In late August, they harvest these mostly chardonnay grapes, and age the wine not at all, yielding an almost clear liquid.  We think it will be tart, but instead it is rather sweet, with aromas of grass or hay and tastes of pear with a slight edge of lemon.  Not bad, but not for us.

Macari red

  5.  Collina 48 Merlot                                                              $13

New glass for the reds, always a nice touch.  Mostly Merlot, with 5% each of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, this is a simple table-type wine that would be better with food than just sipping.  We smell tobacco and bay leaf and taste some berry, but the taste leaves the tongue quickly and is quite dry and tart.

 6.  Sette Red Blend                                                                                    $19

Named for Settefrati (seven brothers), the village from which the Macaris emigrated, this is our favorite of the wines so far.  A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this wine smells to us like a combination of cocoa mulch (try it on your garden some time, but I warn you, every time you weed you’ll crave a chocolate bar) and green olives, with nice plum flavors.  Very buyable.

 7.   2007 Merlot Reserve                                                     $36

After 16 months in French oak, this merlot is then aged for four years, so it was just recently released.  We detect a bit of menthol in the aroma, and also berry pie (a smell you’ll recognize if you’ve ever been to Briermere while they are baking).  The taste starts sweet, then becomes quite nice, with black cherry and enough tannins that our tongues tingle.  Interesting, and quite good.

8.  2008 Dos Aguas                                                                 $27

Two waters, we ask?  For the Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, the two bodies of water that frame the North Fork, she replies.  A Bordeaux blend, Dos Aguas combines 70% merlot with 17% cabernet sauvignon, 8% malbec, 4% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot.  Strongly spicy aromas of nutmeg and berries, maybe some plum, make us anticipate a delicious wine, but it is not to be.  Really not much to this one at all.

They also have, available by the glass but not included in the tasting, a couple of rosés and some dessert wines as well as a few additional wines.  We buy two bottles of Sette and two Wineaux tea towels (how could we not?).

Macari Wineaux

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room and outside seating area in a rustic setting; 2010 Riesling and Sette Red Blend; some nice gift items; choice of two tasting rooms so if you want to go there you can be flexible as to your route.