Jason’s Vineyard: No, It’s Not a Pirate Ship           June 24, 2017

http://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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Ancient Greek ships, like the Argo, had painted on eyes to help navigate.

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The ship-shaped bar even has a mast and sail, and the ceiling is painted to look like the sky.

Anyone unfamiliar with Greek mythology could be forgiven for thinking, when they sighted the ship-shaped bar, complete with mast and furled sail, that it was supposed to resemble a pirate ship.  However, the design of the bar—and of the ship on the wine labels—is meant to evoke the great ship the Argo, which set off with its crew of heroes, led by Jason, to find the Golden Fleece.  Jason Damianos, the son of the owner of Pindar and Duck Walk, was clearly quite pleased with his namesake hero, and not only designed his bar to resemble the Argo but also named some of his wines after elements of the heroic voyage and opted to raise sheep (golden fleece, get it?) on his property.  Sadly, Jason was killed two years ago in a car accident.  However, the family has continued to own and run his vineyard and his small herd of sheep (plus at least one llama).

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The llama–and the sheep, we were told–had all recently been shorn.

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Jason’s is a fairly large facility, with an expansive outdoor covered porch where a singer was entertaining guests the day we came (but so loudly that we opted to stay inside).  The servers keep track of your tasting by giving you a pile of tokens, taking one away each time they serve a taste.  That works well for large groups, which they do welcome.  The menu offers a flight of five wines for $10.  Since they have thirteen different wines, we decided to do two tastings, one of whites and then another of reds, which we clarified with our server after a bit of discussion.  As we thoughtfully considered each wine, our server became more and more enthusiastic about helping us, pouring a couple of “extras.”  As a result, the only wines we did not try are the two rosés.

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One view of the porch.

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There were no signs about whether or not they allow outside food, so I assume they do.  They also had a small selection of cheeses and crackers in a refrigerated case.  By the way, I only have vintages for a few of the wines.  The menu doesn’t mention them and neither did our server, who whisked most bottles away before I could check.

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The winery building is quite attractive.

  1. Golden Fleece                 $18.95

Apparently, this was a wine Jason meant to be his signature one, a blend of 41% chardonnay, 24% seyval blanc, 21% Cayuga, and 9% vidal blanc.  Noting this unusual collection of grapes, we asked if any of them came from Upstate.  Yes, said our server, she thought the Cayuga did, but wasn’t sure about the rest. However, according to the winery web page the Cayuga is actually grown locally. Tasting it, we were wondering whether this would be a collection of wines we would even want to taste, as it was much too sweet for us.  The menu describes it as “crisp,” but it made me think of candied or canned pears in syrup.  The aroma had combined minerality with floral and cat pee notes, so I was hoping the wine would be more interesting than it proved to be.IMG_3926

  1. Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

I have to say that this had a rather unpleasant smell, like rotting garbage, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  That’s one of the aspects of wine that fascinates me—how the smell and the taste can be so different.  Anyway, this one WAS crisp, and rather nice, dry, with tastes of lemon and mineral.  It would pair well with oysters.

  1. Pinot Blanc $34.95

We liked this one, too. The smell combined a funky, forest-floor element with a metallic scent, and the taste had lots of citrus.  I was thinking blood orange, with end notes of pineapple, and found it mouth-watering.  It would complement spicy food nicely, like maybe a shrimp fra diavolo.

  1. Chardonnay $29.95

In general, I’m not a fan of oaked chardonnays, and this one did not convert me, though it was not too heavily oaked.  As my tasting buddy said, “It’s neither here nor there.”  Aromas of vanilla and almonds, tastes of butterscotch and lemon, and a rather thin mouth feel.  Our server informed us that this was the last of the 2012 vintage, on sale for only $12.95 a bottle, or $100 a case.  A good buy, but not enough to tempt us.

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The servers use these tokens to keep track of how many tastes you get.

  1. White Riesling $27.95

What, we wondered, is a white riesling?  Aren’t all rieslings white?  Our usual server was occupied elsewhere, and the cheerful young lady who poured this one for us had no idea why this one was labeled “white.”  In any event, we dumped most of the glass, as it was unpleasantly sweet.

  1. 2006 Merlot $26.95

The servers rinse your glass with water between tastes, which is nice—except when they don’t dump out all the water.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with scents of cherry, wood, and tobacco and a taste of cherry, though with a somewhat bitter finish.

  1. 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95

The cabernet sauvignon is aged 24 months in new French oak, “unfined and unfiltered,” according to the menu.  Though the aroma is lovely, of black cherry and dark chocolate, the taste is disappointing.  My husband characterizes it as a pizza wine, though I would prefer a nice Chianti. We think it is at the end of its useful life, and so must the winery, since this is also on sale for $100 a case.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

This is our first “extra.”  Our server suggests we compare it to the 05, and is interested to see what we think of it.  Much better!  The aroma has hints of something spicy, like maybe A-1 sauce, and the wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and a taste that reminds me of a dried fruit compote.

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Hercules…and…

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Hercules! The wine is named for this cute pooch.

  1. Hercules $28.95

According to the menu, this is a unique wine, a “late harvest blend of merlot and cabernet.”  “Late harvest” would imply great ripeness and sweetness, and the label calls it a “sweet red.”  However, it is not as sweet as we were afraid it would be, and we actually liked it.  I said it was sweet on top and tart on the bottom, which I know makes no sense, but that was what I felt.  We agreed we’d love to try it with a nice piece of chocolate cake.  Hercules, by the way, is named not just for the great hero who went on the Argo (in addition to his famous twelve labors), but also for Jason Damianos’s dog.  Check out the photo…

  1. Meritage $28.95

Meritage is the North Fork’s version of Bordeaux wines, a blend in this case of merlot, cabernet, malbec, and pinot noir.  Very nice—not surprising, since Jason studied wine-making in France.  It smells pleasantly of sweet dark fruits, and tastes like cherries, other fruits, and some pepper.

  1. 2010 Malbec $28.95

As my Grandma Ruthie would say, “This one beats the bunch.”  Definitely the star of the day, this has a delicious aroma of dark fruit, plums, and chocolate and tastes quite fruity as well, while still being dry.  If we had decided to sit on the porch and listen to the singer, this is the wine I would have chosen to have in my glass.

  1. Dessert Wine $28.95

Yes, that is what it is called on the menu.  Our server offers us this “on me,” she says, having enjoyed serving people who are interested in the wine and not just in “getting drunk.”  Thanks!  At 19.5% alcohol, this is definitely an after-dinner drink, really a Port wine, with its sweetness balanced by dryness.  Quite yummy, it would be pleasant to sip this while cracking walnuts and almonds.

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Some snacks are available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  fun to see the bar shaped like a ship; the pinot blanc and the malbec; the Hercules and the Dessert Wine are good if you’re looking for an after-dinner sweet sipper; you can see—but not feed—the sheep and the llama.

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A portrait of Jason Damianos hangs on the wall. We met him a number of years ago, before he opened the winery, at a shop on Love Lane. We got into a discussion and he told us how excited he was to open his own winery. Nice guy. We were sad to hear he had died.

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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.

Shinn Winery: Sophisticated Rusticity February 19, 2017

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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Away from the Main Road and Sound Avenue wineries, on rural Oregon Road, Shinn’s tasting room is housed in a grey weathered wood building that seems rustic.  However, the wines, the service, and their philosophy are all quite up to date.

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We went there with two small distractions, ages five and two, so my notes are somewhat less detailed than usual, but we enjoyed our visit anyway, highlighted by a nice dish of mixed nuts we ordered, and a small plate of crackers for the little ones we had not (Shinn asks that you not bring in outside food, and has a small menu of their own.).  The resident doggie also came in for a bit of attention.  As we entered, a server asked that one member of our party of four adults not do a tasting, in order to supervise the little ones, but we managed to slip her some sips as we sat at a comfortable table for six.

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Food menu. The mixed nuts were very good.

The last time we came here, also in the winter, it was deserted, but this time it was Presidents’ Weekend and the weather was unseasonably warm, and quite a few people were there.  As a result, we learned that they have an additional tasting area in amongst the stainless-steel vats where they could accommodate the overflow crowd.  When we arrived, there were even some hardy souls sitting outside on their pretty patio area.

 

The first sight you have of the winery is, appropriately enough, the tall windmill which, along with solar panels, provides power to the winery and the attached farmhouse inn.  The owners are very ecologically conscious, and use the “biodynamic” method to grow their grapes, which you can read about on their web site.  Even the dishes used for their snacks are “compostable” and “made from fallen leaves.”

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Windmill

A tasting includes any four wines from their menu for $15.  The three of us made some diverse choices, and we ended up not tasting the wines in the perfect order (as all wineries specify on their menus), so I’ll just list them in the order in which I tasted mine and theirs!  Fortunately, the first thing they put on our table was a nice big bottle of water and some cups, so I was able to cleanse my palate between tastes.  We also tasted their apple brandy and grappa, about which more later.

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  1. 2016 Coalescence          $16

I started with their white blend, a steel-fermented mixture of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and riesling.  The first time I had it I loved it, the second time not so much, but I guess the third time’s the charm, because this time I really enjoyed it.  It is a pleasantly dry white with nice minerality but also a touch of fruity sweetness, most likely from the riesling.  We bought a bottle.

  1. 2010 Sparkling Brut        $40

Our guest opted to start his tasting with this, and given that he has toured the Champagne region of France, I was quite impressed that he liked this.  He said it was like a traditional blanc de blanc, and both toasty and juicy—but not worth the price.

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  1. 2014 Estate Merlot                       $26

My husband chose to do all reds, and started with their merlot, which he said would be “okay with spaghetti.”  It is dry, and, he noted, does not have much fruit.

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  1. 2016 First Fruit                $22

Although this is made from sauvignon blanc grapes, it definitely has a cat pee smell, but also some green apple aromas.  Fortunately, it tastes like green apple, and again is dry and a bit tart.

  1. 2013 Wild Boar Doe       $32

Yes, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of “all five red varietals we grow”—that is, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec.  I’m not sure who ordered this one (I think I was distracted by being asked to admire a “Water Wow” creation.), but we agreed that it definitely has a raspberry smell and is very dry with lots of tannins.  We decided that if one bought it, one should cellar it for a few years.

  1. 2013 Haven       $35

I chose this one from the list of “small production” whites, and it is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes, kept on the skins overnight and then barrel fermented and aged.  As a result, it has a lovely golden color and a taste of vanilla and toast and caramel.  It’s a bit too sweet for me, though I liked it, and I would order it if I was having a spicy dish.

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The Haven is a lovely color. It is named for the field where the grapes are grown.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc      $38

Our guest was so taken with this wine that he bought a bottle to give as a gift to a friend.  It has lots of tannins and some vegetal notes.  My notes say broccoli!  He said it was not earthy, and would benefit from some aging.  My husband also had this one, and said it would be good with lamb, maybe like the delicious marinated lamb roast from Eight Hands Farm we had Sunday night.

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An array of some of our choices.

  1. 2014 Nine Barrels           $32

They make—you guessed it—nine barrels of this wine, which is their reserve merlot.  My husband said it was “not that interesting,” and ventured the opinion that their winemaking was rather “tame.”

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc             $35

For my final taste, I chose another from the “small production” list, a wine that is aged for 11 months in neutral oak barrels.  It has a nice aroma with some vanilla, and is a smooth, pleasant wine with no rough edges.

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  1. Julius Drover Apple Brandy         $55

Shinn has their own distillery where they make several different liquors.  The apple brandy is made from local apples and is aged for four years.  A very small taste is $7, but really, you wouldn’t want too much, as the alcohol hits you right away. 80 proof!  It tastes very like brandy, and not much like apples, but our guest is making a small study of apple brandies and bought a bottle.  Julius Drover, by the way, refers to the owner’s grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger during Prohibition.

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  1. Shinn shine, Grappa                     $47 for 375 ml.

So the brandy was 80 proof, but this is 122 proof!  One of us described it as rubbing alcohol poured through grape skins.  It is powerful.

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They have a few “agritainment” activities.

Reasons to visit:  You want to get away from the main road wineries and try somewhere intimate and laid back; you’re interested in their liquors (in addition to the above, they make an eau de vie and another brandy); the Coalescence, the Cabernet Franc, the Sparkling Brut, the Haven; you want to support their earth-friendly philosophy.

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Resident laid-back pooch.

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Waters Crest: New Digs November 19, 2016

http://www.waterscrest.com/

The new home of Waters Crest looks quite homey.

The new home of Waters Crest looks quite homey.

What a difference a year makes!  Last fall we visited Waters Crest’s tiny tasting room in a drab strip of shops around the corner from the Southold town dump and had the room to ourselves; this fall we encountered a limo full of 20-somethings on their way into a cozy cottage on the Main Road that had been transformed into a comfortable bar and groupings of tables and chairs.  Over near the windows, a group was celebrating one person’s birthday, cake and all.  Next to us at the bar we got into a conversation with two men who turned out to also be bloggers and a very friendly young woman who owns a nearby bed and breakfast (the Sunny Side Up Bed and Breakfast, closed now for the season, but check them out next June), who is also quite knowledgeable about local wine and food.

There were several sets of comfy chairs.

There were several sets of comfy chairs.

The advantage of being the only ones in the tasting room last year was that we had the exclusive attention of Adam, the very well-informed server who gave us all sorts of information about the wines.  This time, we again encountered Adam, and had occasion to admire his ability to multi-task as he handled the crowd (with the help of Mrs. Waters and her daughter), and, after things calmed down a bit, again talked with us seriously about the wines, about which he is clearly passionate.  And he has much to be proud about, as we liked all the wines, some more than others.  Jim Waters doesn’t have his own vineyard, but produces his wines from grapes he buys from various growers, such as Jamesport.  Clearly, he chooses well.

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The tasting menu offers eight different wines—four whites and four reds—all of which you can sample for $20, a bargain.  Or you can pick only a few, at $4 per taste.  Since I have a cold, and we wanted to try all eight, we decided the way to share a tasting was to get two glasses and have my husband pour half the taste into my glass.  Once Adam realized what we were doing, he very courteously shared out each tasting between the two glasses, and we certainly had plenty to drink.

  1. 2015 Dry Rosé                   $24.99

According to the menu, the rosé is made from a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc using the “saignée” method, in which the juice is taken from red grapes at an early stage, when it is still light in color, and can then be mixed with white grape juice.  We note a faint aroma of unripe strawberries and then sip.  If I was blindfolded, opines my tasting pal, I would think this was a sauvignon blanc.  I see what he means, because this is quite dry with a bit of a citrus edge, but also some strawberry flavor like a rosé.  It would certainly pair well with oysters.

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  1. 2015 Dry Riesling $24.99

This is just the type of riesling we like—dry, crisp, and mineral. I think it smells like honey, and my husband adds leather.  The taste reminds me of a nice crisp pear, and I think it would be perfect with lobster bisque.

  1. 2014 Reserve Chardonnay $23.99

If you are ambivalent about whether you like your chards oaked or unoaked you might like this one.  The wine is fermented in steel, then spends three months in used French oak, so it gets just a hint of the vanilla the oak imparts.  This particular wine is already sold out (except for what they keep for the tasting room) and I can see why.  The little bit of oak smooths out the edges of the wine, which is dry with green apple tastes and some minerality and really nice acidity.  Lemongrass “on the nose,” as they say.

Not drunk, just trying a different angle!

Not drunk, just trying a different angle!

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

Adam explains that this is actually an orange wine, which means that though it is a white it has a faint orange tone from the grape skins.  If you’re expecting an Australian-style sauvignon blanc you’ll be disappointed, but if you come with an open mind you’ll probably be happy.  It has a bit of a butterscotch taste and aroma, and would complement a plate of charcuterie beautifully.

  1. 2014 “5” Red Blend $29.99

As we transition to the reds, Adam rinses both our glasses with a bit of the red, a good idea.  This bottle has my favorite label, a version of the famous Charles Demuth painting of the “Great Number Five” which was inspired by a poem by William Carlos Williams (check out the painting for “secret” clues to their friendship).  It is almost all merlot, with 11% cabernet sauvignon and 4% malbec.  We enjoy it, but my husband adds, “This wine lacks gravitas.”  Yes, it is a rather light red, with some aromas and tastes of plum jam.  Good for casual drinking, maybe with roast chicken.

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  1. 2013 Merlot “Grand Vin” $59.99

This is one of a number of Waters Crest’s wines with high ratings from Wine Enthusiast.  Personally, as a retired teacher, I am not into assigning grades, but if you find that helpful, there it is.  Adam suggests that this wine, though it has been aged 22 months in new French oak, would benefit from further aging.  There are plenty of tannins, so I think he had a point. Both the aroma and the taste have notes of spice, and if you drank it now I would pair it with lamb chops.  I recommend you check out the meats from Eight Hands Farm—all pasture raised and quite delicious.

We liked the ceiling lights, like mini-barrels.

We liked the ceiling lights, like mini-barrels.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc “Grand Vin” $59.99

You could age this one for ten years, suggests Adam, but if you bought it you probably would drink it sooner than that.  It is quite delicious, and our new friend-with-the-bed-and-breakfast’s favorite of the wines.  After aging 22 months in new French oak, it has lots of dark fruit tastes, plenty of tannins, plus notes of chocolate, leather, raspberries, and spices.  It could stand up to a steak, maybe from Wayside Market.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Vin” $59.99

We discuss the season of 2013, which was a long hot one, leading to lots of ripeness in the reds.  This one smells to me like chocolate bark with almonds and berries, and the taste is more blackberry than chocolate.  Though Adam says again this could be aged 15 or more years, we find it quite smooth, almost velvety.  This one spent 23 months in American oak before being bottled.

One part of the bar area.

One part of the bar area.

Reasons to visit: pleasant new tasting room conveniently located across the street from Wickham’s Fruit Farm stand and Touch of Venice (where, if you bring a bottle of Waters Crest wine, they waive the corkage fee);they have a roomy parking lot in the back; the Dry Riesling, Reserve Chard, and Sauvignon Blanc among the whites; the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Vins”; Adam if he’s serving in the tasting room; the pleasant back yard (in the warmer weather).    

We might have to come back on a Friday and get a glass of cabernet.

We might have to come back on a Friday and get a glass of cabernet.

Or in the summer, to experience the back yard.

Or in the summer, to experience the back yard.

Osprey’s Dominion: Attention Was Paid June 10, 2016

https://ospreysdominion.com/

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One of the three servers who were quick to wait on us.

One of the three servers who were quick to wait on us.

“Have you decided which wine you want to start your tasting with?” we were asked by the third server in about 10 minutes as we studied the lengthy menu.  We had not, though we welcomed the attention because on our last two visits we had felt rather neglected.   This time the tasting room was practically empty, most likely because we had decided to come on a Friday rather than a weekend day.  The last time we tried to come to Osprey’s we couldn’t even find a place to park.

The large airy tasting room

The large airy tasting room

It’s not hard to see why Osprey’s is popular.  The tasting room is large and airy, with ample outdoor seating where you can bring a picnic or buy a snack from their limited menu. Mellow music of the Frank Sinatra type was on the sound system, but they often have live music.  In fact, for the summer they have live music on Friday nights from 5-8, and they suggest you “pack your dinner or snack.”  In addition, they offer many different wines at reasonable prices with varying taste profiles.  The tasting menu lists ten whites, nine reds, and five “reserve” wines.  A flight consists of three tastes for $8 or five for $12.  We decided to do two consecutive tastings, one of whites and then one of reds, of five tastes each.

Line up of bottles on the bar

Line up of bottles on the bar

Though the servers were pleasant and attentive, they offered only minimal comments on the wines, even when we engaged them in conversation, though one of them had more extensive discussions with us about wine preferences.  We did get some help on where to start our tasting, since we wanted to try the Pinot Gris from the Reserve menu.  She advised we start there, so we did, and she was correct.

  1. 2014 Pinot Gris Reserve               $20

The aroma is lovely and flowery, like honeysuckle and orange blossom.  We taste crisp pineapple and tangerine.  The menu informs us that the wine is aged six months “sur lies,” so we expect a bit more depth, but this is a light wine and an easy summer sipper.  (Sur lies—or lees—means the wine sits on the sediment that falls out of the juice, I’ve been told, and should lead to a more complex taste.)  It was a good place to start our tasting.

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  1. 2014 Fumé Blanc $15

This is actually 100% sauvignon blanc, fermented in oak, so you get that vanilla aroma from the wood.  I also taste a bit of vanilla.  Again, this is a light white, with less of the citrus you get from a steel-fermented sauvignon blanc.

  1. 2014 “White Flight” Edelzwicker    $15

I’m not sure why the menu calls this White Flight, but I bet it’s so that people don’t have to try to pronounce Edelzwicker!  In any event, people should try this blend of 87% pinot gris, 8% gewürztraminer, and 5% riesling.  The menu describes it as an Alsatian blend; I describe it as delicious.  The aroma includes bread dough or yeast and spice—perhaps nutmeg.  The wine has all sorts of interesting flavors, with nice fruit and just a slight touch of sweetness.  In need of whites for summer meals, we buy two bottles.

  1. 2012 Gewürztraminer    $17

Although our server describes this wine as dry, I find it a bit sweet for me, though that sweetness would make it a good match for spicy food.  The aroma is intriguing, and after saying apple, ginger, and “heavy,” we settle on apple cider doughnut.  The taste is quite fruity, and not exactly what we expected in a gewürztraminer.

  1. Cuvée Osprey Sparkling    $25

For our last white we decide to try their sparkling wine, made from 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir, using the “Méthode Champenoise,” and served in a proper champagne flute.  “Candy wine,” says my husband.  I agree.  Dump.

They were excited about their new sparkler. We were not.

They were excited about their new sparkler. We were not.

 

  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend     $12

We get a clean glass for the reds, and I clear my palate with some crackers sitting in a basket on the bar.  42% cabernet sauvignon, 11% pinot noir, 26% cabernet franc, and 23% merlot:  in other words, a Left Bank Bordeaux blend.  We’re always on the lookout for inexpensive reds for our frequent pasta dinners, so we decide to begin our red tasting by trying one of their line of less-expensive wines.   It smells good, of dark fruits and plums, and tastes quite nice, too.  I would buy this one, though I have to say it has no depth or tannins.  Still, it is a pleasant sipper and would go with a simple pasta dinner, and is quite a bargain for Long Island reds–and I do like to support the local wineries!

It's a measured pour.

It’s a measured pour.

  1. 2010 Cabernet Franc    $20

Like many Long Island wines, this one blends merlot with the dominant grape, in this case 88% cabernet franc plus 12% merlot.  The aroma combines spice, pepper, and a mellow tobacco, and the taste has lots of dark fruits plus a touch of black olive.  It would go well with, for example, lamb chops with fresh herbs.

  1. 2012 Carménère  $24

We get another clean glass to try this wine, the only Carménère on the North Fork.  I’m always interested to try new tastes.  2012 was a pretty good year, and this is a pretty good wine.  The menu describes it as “jammy”;  though I’m not sure I agree, it is a rich red with some nice tannins that could stand up to steak.

  1. 2012 Malbec    $24

So here is a perfect illustration of the necessity of trying different vintages.  The last time we were at Osprey’s in February of 2015 we bought two bottles of the 2010 Malbec, which we quite enjoyed.  This time, though the wine is not bad, we are not moved to buy it.  It has nice blueberry and pepper aromas and is a pleasantly dry red, but lacks the depth of the 2010.

  1. 2012 Petite Verdot    $35

Even though Petite (or often petit) Verdot is most often used as a part of a blend, I find I tend to like it by itself.  It has a beautiful dark color and tends to be fruity and jammy and big.  This one does not disappoint, though I think it might get better with age, as it is mouth-puckering dry.  (I know, I don’t like sweet wines; now I’m complaining about dry.  As the Greeks say, moderation in all things.)

Nice day for sitting outside.

Nice day for sitting outside.

Reasons to visit:  wide variety of wines at reasonable prices; large pleasant tasting room and outdoor area; the Edelzwicker, the Gewürztraminer, the Cabernet Franc, the Carménère, the Petite Verdot; small selection of wine-related gifts; Friday night live music and BYO food.  However, be aware that in season on the weekends it can get very crowded.

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Roses are in bloom all around the grounds.

Roses are in bloom all around the grounds.

Lieb Cellars: Très Èlégant May 21, 2016

http://liebcellars.com/

The somewhat industrial looking outside belies the very attractive inside.

The somewhat industrial looking outside belies the very attractive inside.

“I love Paris” was being crooned on the sound system as we entered Lieb Cellars’ elegant tasting room on Oregon Road.  Oregon Road, you may ask?  If you’ve been to Lieb, you’ve probably been to their tasting room on the corner of Sound Avenue and Cox Neck Road, but this is their second location, and a lovely one it is.  As we walked through the parking lot, we heard birds singing and looked out at a bucolic scene of farm fields and vineyards.

Typical scene along Oregon Road--plowed field ready for planting!

Typical scene along Oregon Road–plowed field ready for planting!

We were greeted by a friendly hostess who escorted us to a table with comfortable chairs in a corner of the attractive tasting room.  Many people were sitting outside, but it felt a touch too chilly for us to sit out there.  However, I could definitely see coming here on a warm afternoon and getting a glass of wine (suggestions at the end of this review) and some snacks—I’m particularly interested in trying the duck paté—to share with friends.

The hostess will show you to your table.

The hostess will show you to your table.

The pleasant waitress explained to us that they now do table service, though one could still sit at the bar, and handed us menus.  The four drink options included 5 of primarily their Bridge Lane whites or 5 Bridge Lane reds for $16, 6 Reserve wines for $20, or 5 “Director’s Cut” options for $12.  The last list included their sparkling cider, Rumor Mill, which I liked when I had it in the past.  Since we have sampled the Bridge Lane offerings several times at their other location, we decided to go with the reserve list.  The waitress brought us a package of slim bread sticks to cleanse our palates along with a tray bearing our first three tastes on a paper with numbered and named spots for each one.

The menu also includes non-alcoholic drinks for the designated driver.

The menu also includes non-alcoholic drinks for the designated driver.

  1. 2011 Reserve Blanc de Blancs    $30

Although this is a Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine, it was served in a regular wine glass, which might have accounted for the paucity of bubbles (or it might have been open for a while).  Despite the bubble issue, this is a perfectly pleasant sparkling wine, not too dry, with some minerality and tastes of unripe pear and the typical yeasty toasty aroma.  But if I wanted an inexpensive sparkler I’d go for a Cava or Asti Spumonte—or, if I was determined to have a Long Island sparkling wine, one of Sparkling Pointe’s better wines, such as Brut Seduction.  They use pinot blanc grapes for this, aged 36 months.

Three whites

Three whites

  1. 2014 Reserve Pinot Blanc $22

Of course, this is also made with pinot blanc grapes, and is, our server told us, their “signature wine.”  I’m not sure why, since, though it’s not bad, we did not particularly care for it.  It is steel fermented with 0% residual sugar, we were told, which might account for the perception I had of something metallic about the smell and taste.  “Like licking foil,” I said, which my companion thought was a rather strange thing to do.  It might be better with food, such as something in a cream sauce, since it is quite crisp.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $26

This is a new wine for Lieb, and so far our definite favorite.  The aroma is complex, with notes of honey, fresh cut grass, pineapple, and maybe a touch of cat pee (or that smell when you’ve had cut flowers in a vase too long).  The taste is also complex, and I compare it to kiwi and something green with a touch of smoke or funk.  My husband says, “I could drink a lot of this.”  It may not be a crowd pleaser, since it is rather dry, but we like it a lot.  We took a mental inventory of our wine cellar and decided not to buy it, but we might change our minds at some future date.

One can also sit at the bar.

One can also sit at the bar.

  1. 2014 Reserve Merlot $24

Now it is time for our reds, and rather than change our glasses the waitress quickly flips over the paper in our little tray to reveal spaces named and numbered for reds.  Even though there are a few drops of wine in each glass, we don’t get new glasses, as she pours out our tastes and gives a brief rundown on each wine.  The merlot, she notes, also has a bit of cabernet franc in it, and all the reserve reds are aged ten months in Hungarian oak.  We feel the merlot is a fairly typical Long Island merlot, with dark fruit aromas and tastes, including plum and cherry, plus a touch of earthiness.

The reds, including our favorite of the day, the Meritage.

The reds, including our favorite of the day, the Meritage.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

I would hope for more depth and complexity in a $40 bottle, though this is a perfectly competent red and would be good with pasta.  Aromas of plum and tobacco and dark fruit tastes, as one would expect.

  1. 2013 Reserve Meritage $35

Described simply as their Bordeaux blend, this is our favorite wine of the day.  Though the aroma is similar to the cabernet franc, the taste is much more interesting.  Cherry, chocolate, plums, perhaps a touch of leather or tobacco.  It could have more body, but we like it enough to also contemplate buying a bottle.  I ask our waitress what the proportions of the various grapes are in the wine, and she disappears into the back for quite a while, during which we decide that cabernet sauvignon probably dominates over the merlot.  When she returns we discover that we are right, as she hands us a printout with a detailed rundown on the wine:  47% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, 17% malbec, 2% cabernet franc, and 1% petit verdot.  Plus more detail than we need, though it is interesting to see the comments on the type of yeast and bacteria used. Winemaking, we have often heard, is both an art and a science.   Also, this is aged 16 months in Hungarian oak.  As we have heard before, 2013 was an excellent year, and this is a good example of the lovely wines made from that harvest.

Comfy chairs and couches abound.

Comfy chairs and couches abound.

Reasons to visit:  prettily bucolic location on a back road with comfortable seats and an appealing array of snacks and variety of tasting menu choices; the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and the Reserve Meritage.  If I were coming to have the duck paté, I would pair it with the Meritage, though a selection of their cheeses and charcuterie could also go well with a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc—or the Rumor Mill sparkling cider.  No limos or buses (though they allow both at their other location).

Despite the cool weather, several groups opted to sit outside.

Despite the cool weather, several groups opted to sit outside.

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The Winemaker Studio: Moment of Fame March 26, 2016

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

“We’re going to Nappa’s tasting room,” I said to our guests, who, having recently returned from a tour of California’s wine country, wondered why we weren’t heading to JFK rather than further east.  I clarified, “N-a-p-p-a; it’s his name.”  Ah.  We further explained that although Anthony Nappa owns and operates The Winemaker Studio, it earns its name as a studio because it is a showcase for a variety of wines produced in small quantities under their own labels or names by winemakers who also work for larger vineyards.  Just as an artist may do commercial work but also produce his or her own creations, these winemakers have the artistic freedom to experiment and express their own ideas about wine production.  A good example of this is Nappa’s Anomaly, about which more in a moment.

We were particularly interested in visiting this tasting room because we had just read an interesting article about one of their wines in the most recent issue of Wine Press magazine.

The menu varies from time to time, and today’s menu offered a choice between four of Nappa’s wines for $12 or five of Russell Hearn’s wines for $12.  We also could have opted for a local beer on tap or coffee, and the Provisions shop connected to the tasting room offers a variety of sandwiches and other edibles.  However, having just had a delicious and very satisfying brunch/lunch at A Mano in Mattituck, we were happy just to taste some wines.  In order to facilitate our conversations about the wines, we decided that each couple would share one tasting of the Nappa wines, choosing four out of the menu of six varieties.  Both couples opted to skip the riesling, made from Upstate grapes, when the server informed us that it was on the somewhat sweet side.    Our server, by the way, was very informative and friendly, and we had some nice chats with him about wine.

Our server did a great job.

Our server did a great job.

  1. 2014 Anomaly  $19

Anomaly is a good illustration of what happens when a winemaker decides to experiment.  It is a white-ish wine made from red pinot noir grapes, and each time I’ve had it it has been different.  A couple of years ago it was a very light pink and I liked it very much.  The last time it was definitely white, though a somewhat darker yellow than many whites, and I didn’t care for it.  This year it was almost orange, and we all liked it!  The aroma included peach and spice, and we tasted citrus and boysenberry with nice tartness and acidity, with still some fruit on the finish.  As we speculated on what it would go with, we decided it would make a nice aperitif.  One friend speculated that it would go well with “odds and ends from the refrigerator.”  Hers must be well stocked, as she began to muse on eggplant dip and bits of charcuterie.  Or with a salade niçoise, she continued, and it would make terrific vinegar.  They bought a bottle.

Pretty color

Pretty color

  1. 2013 Sciardonné $20

Because it is made from chardonnay grapes, steel fermented but allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, this wine can be drunk on its own, as it is less tartly citrusy than other chards.  It would be great, we agree, with lobster, or with mussels cooked with bacon or sausage.  We are still full from lunch, but I guess food is on our minds.  Before we move on to the reds, we’d like some water, but before our friend can pull a bottle from her bag our observant server offers us all glasses of chilled water.  Many H2O jokes ensue.  One can drink it chilled or at room temperature; recent vintage; crisp and light; no residual alcohol.  I’ll spare you the rest…

The 2016 H2O vintage...

The 2016 H2O vintage…

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

We were particularly curious to try this wine since it was featured in an article in Wine Press magazine, a very useful free publication you can pick up at many restaurants and wineries on the North Fork.  You would think from the name that this is a Bordeaux-style wine, but “bordo” is in fact the Italian name for cabernet franc (which is an ingredient in Bordeaux wines).  We sniffed and noted an aroma of cherry, but also something metallic.  “Burnished copper,” said my husband; “Like a wet penny,” opined one guest.  The taste was somewhat peppery, a touch earthy, with some cherry, and rather light.  You could drink it with cheese or pizza, but it is not a wine you would want to sip by itself.

The famous Bordo

The famous Bordo

  1. 2014 La Strega $22

At this point we diverged for our last tastes.  We opted for La Strega, partly because I wondered why name a wine “the witch.”  “Malbec is not the easiest grape to work with,” chuckled our server.  If you are expecting a big bold Argentinian malbec, this is not the wine for you.  It is steel fermented, said the server, with a perfume-y smell, with perhaps a whiff of oatmeal, and is much lighter than most malbecs.  Rather crisp and delicate, it is not our favorite.

The witch!

The witch!

  1. 2013 Tredici $35

Meanwhile, our friends opted for the Bordeaux blend, of 67% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  This is another dry wine, with not a ton of fruit, with tastes of fig and tobacco.  It is aged 18 months in oak.  We sense something green about it, perhaps a bit of a taste of asparagus. Our friends think it would pair well with paella, with its blend of seafood and sausage and strong flavors.

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You can see the next door food shop through this window.

You can see the next door food shop through this window.

Reasons to visit:  The chance to taste some offbeat wines off the beaten track; a cute tasting room with colorful folding chairs; one can buy sandwiches, etc., next door, so they do ask you not to bring your own food; the Anomaly and the Sciardonné.  We haven’t tried it, but they do a happy hour from 4-7 on weekends, which might be fun. 

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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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Raphael: Better for an Event than a Tasting? December 26, 2015

IMG_2346http://www.raphaelwine.com/

With their beautiful building, modeled after an Italian monastery, and spacious tasting room, Raphael is often in use as a venue for private events.   This time of year the room sparkles with Christmas lights, so it is no surprise to note that it will be closed New Year’s Eve for such an event.  In fact, if you plan to go for a tasting make sure to check their web page first to make sure they are open.  You may also choose to go or not depending on whether they have musical entertainment planned.  The performers we heard were all quite talented and we liked their music, but not the sound level, which made conversation difficult.  The other difficulty we encountered was that the servers were clearly understaffed, having to cater to a crowd around the circular bar plus many people sitting at the tables, drinking glasses of wine and listening to the music.

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The menu lists 18 choices, all priced by the taste, glass, or bottle.  We happened to have a coupon for two free tastings, which entitled us to three tastes each, which would have cost us $17 for the six tastes.  Since we knew we already liked the Portico—which proved to be a popular after-Thanksgiving-dinner drink—we decided to focus on the standard whites and reds, skipping the reserves, the rosés, and the dessert wines.  The menu mentions ratings by both Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate in the high 80s and low 90s for a number of the wines.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                   $22

We decided to start by trying their two sauvignon blancs side by side, and our request for information about the wines was referred by our server to another one who was more knowledgeable.  This is the less expensive of the two, steel fermented for a shorter time, and not the preference of our server.  We agree, though it is a fine example of Long Island sauvignon blanc, with lots of minerality and soft lemon taste at the end, and a refreshing acidity.  It would go well in the summer, or well-iced with oysters.

  1. 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc             $28

The tasting menu informs us that this one is “made from our oldest sauvignon blanc vines,” and it is fascinating to see that it is quite different from the previous wine, with more interesting aromas and flavors.  We smell a touch of funk in the aroma, plus various fruits.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness at the end but plenty of mouth-watering acidity.  It would complement pasta with cream sauce, we decide.

  1. 2014 Chardeaux $22

A mixture of 80% chardonnay and 20% sauvignon blanc, this wine is more interesting than a straight chardonnay, with lots of citrus and minerality, and some tastes of unripe peach.  It’s a good chard for people who think they don’t like chard, and would go well with chicken kabobs.

Not sure if you can tell from this picture, but the two rieslings looked quite different.

Not sure if you can tell from this picture, but the two rieslings looked quite different.

  1. 2013 First Label Riesling $26

There are two rieslings on the menu, and since one is described as “semi-sweet” we order the other one, not being a fan of sweet wines (except when we’re talking dessert wines).  As we take our first sniffs and tastes we note a chemical aroma and that it is quite sweet for a supposedly dry riesling.  We get the attention of the more knowledgeable server and discover that, indeed, we have accidentally been served the sweet riesling.  We put that glass aside and happily enjoy the correct pour.  Really good, with kumquat orange tastes and some leather notes in the aroma.  My husband—whose identification of the first pour as the wrong wine has deeply impressed our server—notes that he would not buy this for our usual use for a riesling (to go with spicy food), but that though he likes it he would prefer a riesling with more interest.

La Fontana and the fountain

La Fontana and the fountain

  1. 2012 La Fontana $28

Now we switch to reds, and by the way we get a new glass with each taste, a practice I appreciate.  La Fontana is their Bordeaux blend—merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet franc—but no one has information on the proportions, including the web page.  A glance at the Raphael label will give you a cue as to the source of this wine’s name—a drawing of the fountain which graces the middle of the parking lot in front of the entrance.  We like this one, too.  The smell reminds me of cassis—the menu says blackberry and eucalyptus –and I taste some nice fruit, with oak at the end and some layers of flavor.  However, compared with a French Bordeaux this is a bit on the thin side.

  1. 2010 First Label Merlot $40

Like the Fontana, this is aged 18 months in French oak, and you can smell the oak when you sniff, as well as cherries.  As it sits in the glass we start to like it better.  It is fairly dry and tannic but with nice fruit.  By the way, I would have liked a cracker to cleanse my palate between the whites and reds but, although there are bowls of them around the bar, there are none anywhere near us and no one offers us any.  As I said, they’re busy.

The fountain--and the Italian flag!

The fountain–and the Italian flag!

Reasons to visit:  you like to admire a beautiful room; the well-stocked gift shop; the First Label Sauvignon Blanc, the Chardeaux, the First Label Merlot, the Portico.

Tis the season

Tis the season

Father Christmas was guarding the well-stocked gift shop, which included food items as well.

Father Christmas was guarding the well-stocked gift shop, which included food items as well.

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Another view of the bar

Another view of the bar

 

 

Shinn Estate Vineyards: Country Road December 20, 2015

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

The Farmhouse B & B

The Farmhouse B & B

As we drove slowly along Oregon Road I began humming “Country roads, take me home…”  We had just paid our first of what I hope will be many visits to the East End Mushroom Company, and two baskets of mushrooms sat in the back seat, awaiting culinary inspiration.  Meanwhile, we were enjoying the bucolic scenery along Oregon Road, on our way back to Shinn’s tasting room after more than a year away.

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I like the cozy rustic look of the tasting room, and today we had it to ourselves for a while, and then later a few other small groups arrived.  No buses are allowed here, and limos or groups of more than six by appointment only, which makes sense, given the small room.  Check out their web site for info on their B and B in the adjoining farmhouse.

But we are here to taste some wine.  The menu offers four wines for $14 out of a menu of 16, plus a few other choices which cost $7 per taste, including their brandy, about which more later.  We decided to do one tasting of whites and another of reds, not sharing tastes because I have a bit of a cold.  I’ll tell you about the whites first, then the reds.  We sit at a small table for two and are served each wine as we choose it.

  1. Sparkling Brut 2012                        $40

Given the festive season, I decided to start with their sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise and fermented in the bottle.  The first pour is from a bottle that has been open and is clearly somewhat flat, so our server quickly opens a fresh bottle.  Ah, nice frothy bubbles!  Typical yeasty aroma, then a nice dry light taste, with good acidity.  I recently learned that acidity is what makes your mouth water, and this one does.  I like it better than Sparkling Pointe’s sparklers.

I liked the glasses.

I liked the glasses.

  1. Coalescence 2014           $16

I liked Coalescence, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a touch of riesling, the first time I had it, then didn’t care for it the second time, and now I have to say third time is not the charm.  Although it has a pleasant aroma of gooseberry and honey, the taste has a funky forest floor edge that does not appeal to me.  Not that it’s bad, and I think it would be nice with a plate of salumi, but it’s just not for me.

  1. Pinot Blanc 2014 $35

I’m happy that the server gives me a new glass, since I don’t want the taste of Coalescence to influence the next one, which turns out to be a happy choice, since I like it very much.  This wine spends eleven months in new oak, we are informed, and it has a bit of that oaky vanilla scent.  However, the taste is quite nice, with some interesting layers of flavor, a bit tingly on the tongue.  It has just a touch of sweetness, especially at the end, and is sippable on its own, but would be even better with some Catapano goat cheese.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

  1. Veil “Sherry” 2009 $48 (for a small bottle)

Why is sherry in quotation marks, I wonder?  Because it is not fortified, they can’t actually call it a sherry, we are told.  However, it does taste very like a medium dry sherry and smells like sherry, too.  Made from late harvest savoy, sauvignon blanc, and semillon grapes, it is fermented for so long that a “veil” forms on the top of the wine, hence the other part of the name.  19% alcohol, this would make a great aperitif.  I would drink it!  It has tastes of baked pear and a bit of oak, and would be perfect with some toasted almonds or manchego cheese.

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  1. Estate Merlot 2012       $26

My husband admires the beautiful dark color of the wine, which seems to be typical of all their reds.  Not much aroma, he says, and a spicy tart taste, ending with black cherry.  Somewhat mono dimensional, he adds, with not much tannin and over the top on acid.  (Acid does not mean bad, remember!)

  1. Estate Merlot 2009 $32

Always fun to compare different vintages of the same grape, we say, and our server agrees.  This merlot has more aroma than the 2012, with some notes of forest and wood, plus sweet cherry, with more tannin and less acid.  It would be good with a meat that was not too flavorful, like a filet mignon.

  1. Wild Boar Doe 2012 $32

Say the second two words quickly and you’ll get the joke.  Yes, this is a Bordeaux blend, of 40% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in oak for 20 months.  When my tasting buddy sniffs, he says he smells toast, which must come from the oak aging, plus some fruit.  Again, it has a beautiful dark color, but, he adds, it lacks gravitas.  If you compare it with a French Bordeaux, he says, you’ll say the French is better, but there’s nothing wrong with this.  It would pair well with a veal chop, since it does not have too much acid or body.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $40

This has just been released, we are told, and again, this is a pleasant if not complex wine.  There’s “more at the end,” my husband notes, than the other reds.  Overall, I think the whites fare better than the reds.

The brandy

The brandy

  1. Julius Drover Alembic Brandy $75

We have some discussion about this additional taste ($7), since there are several “hard” liquor options to try, and settle on this brandy.  It is named for owner David Page’s maternal grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger in Wisconsin during Prohibition.  Since it is 86 proof, we are perfectly happy with the very small taste, which I give my companion first.  Mmm, mellow.  Smells like brandy, with some vegetable and wood aromas.  Dried fruit taste.  Warms the cockles (whatever those are) I say.  Doesn’t bite you back, says my pal.

Another view of the room

Another view of the room

Reasons to visit:  a chance to drive down a country road; the Sparkling Brut, Pinot Blanc, Wild Boar Doe, Veil “Sherry,” and Julius Drover Alembic Brandy; a winery that is quiet and relaxing; their use of wind and solar power and biodynamic farming (check out their web site for details); the chance to taste some types of drinks not made in other places, like the brandy, eau de vie, and “sherry.”  And do stop and get some mushrooms from East End Mushroom Company on Cox Lane: http://www.theeastendmushroomcompany.com/ .

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they'll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they’ll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

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