Raphael Winery: High Ambitions February 19, 2018



Even the sign shows the winery’s Italian roots.

As you drive into the parking lot for Raphael, the Italian roots of the owner are immediately apparent.  The red-tile-roofed building with the fountain in front would not look out of place in Tuscany.  In case you had any doubts, notice the Italian flag flying next to the American flag.  However, the wines are very much Long Island wines.




That partly open door leads to a large party room.


The tasting room is quite large, with an equally large party room off to one side, so it is no surprise that we often notice that Raphael is closed for private events. They have a fairly large selection of wine-related gifts.  We walked up to the circular bar in the center and, after ordering our first tasting and a snack, were directed to a nearby table where we could quietly enjoy our tasting.  Raphael does not permit outside foods, but they have a menu of snacks.  We ordered the Grandma Flatbread with house-made mozzarella ($8.95), which was basically pizza, with a red sauce and too much oregano, but functioned to take the edge off our late-afternoon hunger.


The menu offers three tasting options each for whites and reds, all of which offer four tastes.  There is a mixed tasting, an estate white or estate red, and a sweet white, all for $16, or a premium tasting, of whites or reds, for $20.  In general, their wines are pricy for the North Fork, with their least expensive white at $27 and their premium reds costing $72.  However, the menu does point out that quite a few of their premium wines, and a couple of others, have scores of 90 or better from Wine Advocate or Wine Enthusiast, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

We decided to do as we often do, and share two tastings, first of the premium whites and then of the premium reds.  Our server carefully placed our glasses over their listings on the menu, so we could see which was which.  She was quite knowledgeable about the wines, and informed us that when they do wine club events, she is the one who runs them—sets up the tastes and discusses each wine.  She was curious as to our reactions to the wines, having noted my notebook, and we found we agreed on some and disagreed on others.  Interestingly, this was one of the few wineries where my husband and I had fundamental disagreements on a couple of the wines.  As the French say, “Chacun à son goût.”


  1. 2016 First Label Sauvignon Blanc            $39

Interesting aroma.  We agree on pine and citrus peel.  The wine itself is dry and very light, pleasant, but with not much to it.  I taste lime, and my husband insists on pear.  It would be fine with oysters or simply sautéed scallops.

  1. 2014 First Label Riesling (Virgin Berry) $39

When I ask why “virgin berry,” our server says “because it sounds nice.”  If I had a dump bucket, I would dump this one, as it both smells and tastes like gasoline, or “petrol,” as our server says.  I think they went overboard on making this riesling dry and lemony.  On the other hand, my husband likes it!  We agree we would not, blindfolded, identify this as a riesling, but he thinks it would be good with a dish like shrimp scampi.  “Chacun à son goût.”


  1. 2014 First Label Chardonnay $39

This is their oaked chardonnay, half of it aged in new French oak, so I’m not expecting to like it.  However, I do!  It’s not very oaky, though I do smell butterscotch and vanilla. It has lots of fruit flavor and a pleasant finish, though not much depth.  I don’t think it is worth what they’re charging, however.

  1. 2015 White Primo Reserve $45

A blend of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 49% riesling, aged in both steel and oak, this is my favorite of the four.  It has a lovely floral aroma of orange blossoms.  Again, this is a dry white with some minerality.  Though it is almost half riesling, it does not have the gasoline aroma of the last taste.  All their whites have a similarity of style, which I would characterize as lean, not big.  By the way, our server says the previous year’s riesling was quite different, and she liked it better.  We agree that you have to try wines every year, and can’t rely on what you liked from a previous vintage.


  1. 2013 Petit Verdot Reserve $72

Now my husband thinks he smells petrol.  Nope, I say, macerated berries.  “Chacun à son goût.”  Well, we both like it.  It has tannins which make us think it could still age more, and lots of tastes of really ripe blackberries.  It is 90% petit verdot and 10% merlot, but I don’t get any cherry taste.  Nice long finish.  This would be good with a nice juicy steak.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $72

“I’d be happy to drink this if someone else was paying,” says my husband, and I agree.  The aroma has a touch of forest floor funkiness as well as fruit, and it has lots of dark fruit tastes, though it’s not as big as the petit verdot.  Barbequed butterflied leg of lamb is what I would make if you were bringing me a bottle of this.


The server put these cute labels on the glasses so we could carry them back to our table.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $72

This is another nice but not incredible red, with some good fruit tastes.  It could have more depth, and the finish is rather soft.  Perhaps it needs to age some more.

  1. 2013 Primo Reserve $72

Finally, we try their not-Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 54% merlot, 27% malbec, 16% petit verdot, 2% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% cabernet franc.  I’m not happy with the aroma, which reminds me of rotten eggs.  My husband agrees that the smell is funky, but not that it’s rotten eggs.  It tastes fine, though it is not complex.  It has some tannins, so it would be good with lamb.


Reasons to visit:  beautiful tasting room; nice menu of snacks; the First Label Chardonnay, the White Primo Reserve, the Petit Verdot Reserve; big selection of wine-related gifts.





Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018



You might guess from the red tile roof that there is some Mediterranean culture behind this winery. You’d be right.

I have been to wineries where the server knew just enough to spout a brief memorized description of the wines, and to others where the winemaker him or herself was there to tell me everything I could possibly want to know about the wines.  Both models work, but there’s another way: a well-informed server who knows the wines and is enthusiastic about them, without getting too technical.  The last is the type we encountered on a cold day in January in the almost empty tasting room at Pindar.


Don’t let that sunny blue sky fool you. It was COLD!

Since the tasting room is quite large, and obviously set up to serve many people, it felt kind of funny that there were at most two couples at any one time during the hour or so we were there.  But it did mean that we got plenty of individualized attention from our excellent server.  We learned some interesting details about the wines and some of the labels, and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.


Plenty of room for more people.

Pindar is both one of the older and larger wineries, and their prices reflect the economies of scale, being lower in general than many of the other places.  The wine list offers 27 different varieties, with almost all of them available for the basic $10 for five tastes.  The menu is divided into the categories of White Wines and Dry Rosé, Red Wines, Proprietary Blends, On the Sweeter Side, Dessert Wines, and Limited Production.  We quickly decided to eliminate the Sweeter Side category and also that we needed to share two tastings in order to get any sense of their offerings.  Since the Red Wines category included eight wines, we also decided to focus our attention there, and only try three of the four regular whites.  Due to the power of the book, we ended up getting a few extra tastes, as our server appreciated our enthusiasm and began to grok our taste.  As the pour is rather generous, I ended up having to drink more of each taste as the afternoon went on, since I was not the driver.  Tough job…


Pindar requests that you not bring in outside food, and offers a selection of cheeses to which they will add crackers, etc.  They also have a modest selection of wine-related gift items.


Snacks to have with your wine.


Some of the gift items for sale.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

We started at the top of the menu with their sauvignon blanc, a wine we find often pairs well with oysters or clams.  This one would do so, too, but has an assertive enough flavor that it could also go with bluefish.  The aroma has a touch of cat pee, plus a fruit the menu identifies as white peach.  The taste is pleasant, with a touch of sweetness, and some citrus and mineral notes.


The beautiful art is supposed to reflect the taste of the wine.

  1. 2016 Viognier $18.99

“What a beautiful bottle,” we said, and learned that it had been painted by Sylvia, a former patient of the founder of Pindar, Dr. Dan Damianos.  We also found out that she was a quadriplegic who painted with a brush in her mouth, and that she designed the pretty pastel floral image to reflect the taste of the wine.  Wow.  Viognier is a grape you don’t find too often on Long Island (a quick search of my blog found three or four other wineries that had it), and our server told us that they didn’t bottle it every year, since the grapes did not always meet their standards.  We’re glad it was on the menu this time.  Though not a sipper, it is a really nice wine, with lots of tart pear and some woody/mineral tastes.  She suggests serving it with shrimp or lobster, and I bet it would go well with Peconic Bay scallops, too.  We decided to buy a bottle.


I love looking at the fields of sunflowers in the summertime on the North Fork.

  1. 2015 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

We were going to try the Peacock Chardonnay, but our friend warned us that it had been reformulated and was on the sweet side.  We had been reluctant to have the Sunflower, since the menu said it was 100% new barrel fermented, and we tend not to like really oaky chardonnays.  However, she reassured us that it was not like that, but rather tasted mostly of pineapple.  She was exactly right.  She said that the particular clone of chardonnay that was used for this wine tended more towards tropical fruit flavors.  Interesting.


  1. Pythagoras $16.99

Now we moved on to the reds, getting a clean glass for these tastes.  The name of this wine, the images on several of the bottles, and the name of the winery, reference the Damianos family’s Greek heritage.  (We went to a class on Greek wines several months ago, and were quite pleased to discover that they were no longer limited to retsina and harsh reds, but included many wines we enjoyed. Wines occupy an important role in Greek mythology, and not just because they have a god of wine!)  This is their Bordeaux blend, and varies from year to year.  It likely includes some combination of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and Malbec, and was described as a “good pizza wine.”  That it is, and has lots of fruit with a touch of tannins.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably heavy on the merlot.


Another image made to hint at the flavor of the wine.

  1. 2014 Syrah $16.99

Here’s another label painted by Sylvia, which is supposed to convey the “stormy and dark” taste of the wine.  Not so sure about the stormy part, but it is certainly dark, with black cherry flavor, a bit of oak, and nice tannins. It smells a bit like nutmeg.  It is not complex, but is very good, and we also plan to buy a bottle of this one.  It would go well with a soup and bread and cheese dinner.


A beautiful stained glass window in the tasting room.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

We were going to give this one a pass, but now it seems we will be trying all of the reds.  Our server has poured out a glass of one of the Limited Production wines, to let it breathe while we taste the others.  The cabernet franc has lots of tannins, with some tastes of fruit, spice, and wood, and would be okay with food.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

2014 was a good year for reds on the North Fork, so we’re not surprised that we like most of the reds we taste.  This is a very drinkable red, not very deep or complex, with a pleasant fruity aroma.


Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology.

  1. 2014 Merlot $18.99

Oops.  Finally one we don’t particularly like.  The smell is a bit funky and earthy, the wine rather thin. We dump the rest of this taste.


We like the image of the Argo, the boat for Jason and the Argonauts, better than the wine inside.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $21.99

Like a number of the other reds, this is aged two years in French oak.  We do detect a bit of oak in the aroma, plus purple plum and toast.  The wine is quite yummy, though not complex, tasting of plums and cherries.  It would be overpowered by red-sauce Italian foods, but would be good with meat loaf.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $16.99 (on sale, was $21.99)

This one could be on the edge of going over the edge, we decide.  It also has a somewhat funky aroma, and has a slight cherry taste.  Just okay.


  1. 2014 Mythology $27.99

Their Meritage blend, this is 40% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 10% petit verdot, and 10% Malbec.  Nevertheless, my notes say “not much to it.”  I swear it smells like cheese, though the menu says it has “cassis, bing cherry and raspberry on the nose.”  It is dry, with some tannins and dark fruit tastes.


A wine well worth buying.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014       $24.99

After Dr. Damianos died, his children decided to make some special wines in his memory.  They did a great job with this one, the special taste our server had set aside to breathe for us.  Given the price point, it is quite impressive, with lots of delicious dark fruit tastes and some complexity.  The tannins are strong enough that we feel it could age several years and get even better, so we decided to get a bottle of this and label it to be drunk a few years from now.  It could stand up to steak or lamb chops, for sure.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot 2014       $24.99

Well, she had a bottle of this open and had served a taste to the other couple at the bar, so we might as well try it, too.  We like this better than their other merlots.  It tastes of black cherry and spice, perhaps nutmeg, with tannins that could let this one age as well.



Reasons to visit:  big place that can accommodate a crowd (which it definitely gets in the summer); lots of different wines at good prices; despite the mass appeal, many of the wines are quite good; the Viognier, the Syrah, Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in particular, plus many of the other wines; dogs are allowed on the back deck in the summertime.


Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

Macari Vineyards: A Quiet Winter Day December 20, 2017


The vines are bare now.



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

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


Our favorite local pickles!


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

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

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

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

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


An explanation of the concrete “egg.”

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


An array of whites.

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


The rose is a very light pink.

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


Our favorite of the reds, the Dos Aguas.

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


Osprey’s Dominion: And It’s Quite an Extensive Dominion            November 11, 2017




The entrance

We decided it would be fun to go to Osprey’s Dominion this week, having gone to Coffee Pot Cellars last week.  Why?  Because Adam Suprenant is the winemaker for both wineries, with Coffee Pot his own label.  Would there be differences between his personal wines and those he made for a larger entity?  We did find some differences, but both places have some really good wines.


Just one side of the expansive tasting room.

In contrast to the cozy quarters of Coffee Pot, Osprey’s tasting room is quite large, and was fairly crowded for November, with a serpentine bar along one side and plenty of tables both inside and outside.  Despite the chilly weather, there were quite a few people sitting on the sunny terrace, enjoying some live music, a food truck, and a fire pit.  (They ask that you not bring food into the tasting room, and sell wine cupcakes, among other snacks.)


Despite the chilly weather, plenty of people opted to be outside. Note the wind vane!

The tasting menu is quite extensive, reflecting their 90 acres of grapes.  A tasting is either three choices for $8 or five choices for $12, and you have the freedom to pick any you like from their menu.  With eight whites (including one sparkling wine), one rosé, nine reds, plus five reserve wines and four dessert options, we actually needed some guidance!  Our server kept good track of where we were in our tasting, providing a clean glass for each taste, and helped us choose when we asked.  We decided to share two tastings of five, starting with the whites.  Glasses of wine range in price from $6-$10, and if you’re heading outside with a glass, they give it to you in a plastic cup.



Lots of options on the white wine menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $17

We started at the top of the whites menu with the steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, a dry wine with more acid than fruit.  My husband said it was “strong.” Although the menu opined that it tasted of melon, I tasted more grapefruit than melon, or maybe even sour apple candy.  That said, though it is not a sipper, it would probably pair well with chicken or fish in a creamy sauce, or with New England clam chowder.  We liked Coffee Pot’s sauvignon blanc better, but then, it is from a different year.


  1. 2014 Fumé Blanc $17

Fumé blanc is basically sauvignon blanc that has been fermented in oak. I described this one as mouth-watering, with the acid balanced by some sweetness.  It didn’t have much aroma, though we detected a trace of vanilla from the oak.  I think it would pair well with escargots in garlic sauce, the thought possibly inspired by the French name of the wine.

  1. Regina Maris Chardonnay $13

Why the name, and why the ship under sail on the label?  Our server wasn’t sure, but did opine that the name had belonged to a ship that sailed out of Greenport.  In any event, this is a chardonnay that combines steel and oak fermented juice half and half.  The aroma is grassy, with a hint of wood.  Though it is not overly oaky we did find it too sweet for our tastes, comparing the tastes to apple sauce and honeydew melon.  My tasting buddy found it “cloyingly sweet.”  As a result, we asked for some guidance as to where to go next on the menu, and she suggested we look at the reserve menu.


We liked the label more than the wine, though if you like a sweeter chardonnay you might disagree.


The reserve menu

  1. 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris $24

Good choice!  Though it was served a tad too cold, as we warmed it in our hands we smelled a faint aroma of orange peel plus a touch of funk.  It is aged “sur lies” for six months, which may account for the layers of flavor we noted.  It has a nice balance of tart and fruit, with some tastes of tangerine.  It would be good with charcuterie.  I used to think you needed red wine with cured meats, but now I think certain whites work better.


  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend $12

Rather than continue with the whites, which we were concerned might be too sweet for us, we decided to flip to the red side of the menu for the rest of our tastes.  We were particularly eager to try this one, since it was on special at $75 for a case, and we’re always looking for inexpensive reds for daily consumption.  This is a Bordeaux-style blend of 42% cabernet sauvignon, 11% pinot noir, 26% cabernet franc, and 23% merlot.  We could definitely smell the cherry from the merlot, plus a touch of something chemical—they suggest eucalyptus.  The taste is quite nice, combining cherry and other dark fruit with some spice, perhaps nutmeg, and maybe a bit of chocolate.  Good pasta/pizza wine, like with the pizza my husband made the other day, topped with eggplant and black olives.  Yum.  Definitely buyable.


Go soon if you want to take advantage of the sale!

  1. 2013 Petite Verdot $28

We went back to the reserve menu for our next taste, guided as to its position in our tasting by our server.  Another good choice.  The aroma is of wood and dried fruit.  The wine is very dry, with lots of tannins, which made me think it could age well.  Though it does not have much fruit, it is very tasty, with enough acidity to cut through the fat of a steak or lamb chops.


  1. 2012 Meritage “Flight” $28

Another Bordeaux-style blend, of 39% merlot, 36% cabernet franc, 17% carménère, 4% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, this is also a really good red.  Apparently, Wine Enthusiast agrees, giving it a grade of 90, we were told.  I never actually know what to make of those grades.  My husband felt the tannins “stick out,” so maybe it needs more aging.  It tastes of cherry and purple plum and spice.  We liked both this one and the Coffee Pot Meritage, which has a different composition and which we liked a little more.


My husband’s home-made pizza, which tastes as good as it looks, and would go well with the Richmond Creek Red Blend.

  1. 2014 Carménère $28

I was eager to taste this one, since Osprey is the only vineyard on Long Island that grows this grape, and it is more usually used in blends.  The aroma is funky—basement, I say.  Fortunately, it doesn’t taste like a basement!  It is good—interesting, say my notes—very tannic, with spicy tastes of blackberry and pepper.  Not a big fruity wine, but with a nice amount of fruit.



Some interesting information on the label.


  1. 2013 Malbec $28

The menu says this is a “tribute to the great wines of Cahors.”  To me it seems more like a Long Island merlot—which is not a bad thing.  Another good, tannic, dry red with some cherry flavors.

  1. 2014 Pinot Noir $40

Since this is the most expensive wine on the menu, we expected it to be something special, especially since we were informed that it won “Best Pinot Noir in New York State in 2016.”  To me, it seems comparable to a Beaujolais, a light, pleasant red.  Easy to drink, it would be okay with roast chicken, but I doubt I’d give it a medal (though I’d have to see how it compared with the competition).


Reasons to visit:  big, social winery with entertainment and good wines; the Fumé Blanc, the Reserve Pinot Gris, the Richmond Creek Red Blend, the Meritage Flight, the Carménère; very reasonable prices, especially for Long Island reds, especially when they’re on sale.  We bought a case of the Richmond Creek Red Blend.


We heard there was also beer on offer outside.


Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block         October 20, 2017

Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block



If you like the idea of chatting with a pair of passionately committed winemakers, Peconic Cellar Door is the place for you.  Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy are the women who own, run, and make the wines for the labels As If, Brooklyn Oenology, and Saltbird Cellars.  They are the ones behind the bar in their small, white-washed space on Peconic Lane (adjacent to Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker’s Studio), where they will happily talk to you as much as you like about their wines—or give you space to sip and discuss with each other.


The menu is rather extensive, but not all the wines are available for tasting or by the glass.

And there was much to talk about, as we learned their ideas about wine-making, why certain wines have the names they do, and their past experiences in wineries.  We mostly talked to Robin, who, despite her youthful appearance, has spent many years traveling around the world, learning about wine-making techniques from New Zealand to California, and more.  Her label is Saltbird, and as a native North Forker she is certainly familiar with salt air and local birds!  Then Alie chimed in as we asked about her wines.  She is the founder of Brooklyn Oenology (founded in Brooklyn, and abbreviated BOE), whose beautiful labels sport removable reproductions of works of art by Brooklyn artists.  She also makes the As If wines, which are named Serendipity, Persistence, and Courage—some of the qualities she needed to make them.


Their space is small, so they request no large groups.

The entire menu of wines includes about twenty-three choices, most of which are available for tastes at $3-$4 per generous taste.  However, they also offer a set menu of four tastes for $14, which they said would change periodically, “So you can come back and have a different experience…and so we don’t get bored.”  Most, but not all, of the wines are also available by the glass.  If you want a bottle to consume on the premises, they charge a $10 service fee.   (Also, they request that you not bring outside food, as they will soon have their own snack menu, and they also request no pets.)


We opted for the Feature Flight, and then, since it was all whites, added three reds at Robin’s recommendation. So the first four are from the flight—and very good choices they were.


  1. 2015 Saltbird Chardonnay         $20

We tend to like steel-fermented chardonnays, and this was no exception.  Robin informed us that it spends some time “on the lees,” which gives it more body and taste than your average chard.  I found the aroma sweet, with some notes of cut grass, while my husband scented Brussels sprouts.  “A seasonal smell,” he joked, as we are happily scanning the farm stands for the first sight of Brussels sprouts on the stem.  This is a tasty wine, dry, with some lemon but nice depth.  I think I could happily sip this with some brie or camembert.


One of Brooklyn Oenology’s artistic labels.

  1. 2014 BOE Social Club White $17

Another winner, this blend of seven grapes—chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, vidal blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and viognier—is steel fermented and dry.  Lots of tart grapefruity taste, but also some sweetness underneath.  If I had to guess, I’d bet that chardonnay is the predominant grape.  Very drinkable, especially with a seafood chowder.  We buy a bottle.


  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, and sauvignon blanc, which is aged in neutral French oak.  The aroma reminds me of something sticky, though I’m not sure what.  The taste is tart, like a green apple.  It’s very good, but I don’t think it is worth the price.


Very orange orange wine! That’s Alie in the background.

  1. 2013 BOE Broken Land $30

Broken Land?  According to Alie, that is the actual meaning of the Dutch name for Brooklyn.  Who knew?  You could also say it is a wine that breaks with tradition, as this is an orange wine made from pinot gris and gewürztraminer.  As Alie explains to us, orange wines are made by leaving white wine grapes to ferment with the skins (which are otherwise usually removed), and the particular grapes she chose have multi-colored skins, lending her wine a deep orange color.  It would be a great wine to serve at a Halloween party, especially if you’re serving Chinese food, as I think the flavors of lychee, ginger root, and other fruits would complement that.  The aroma reminds me of tangerines.


It might be fun to buy the Motley Cru for a Motley Crue fan.

  1. 2012 BOE Motley Cru $35

Now we are done with the set flight, and we are given a fresh glass to try the reds, choosing some which happen to be open and on the counter.  The name entails another discussion, as it is not inspired by the rock group Motley Crüe!  Alie explains that it is made from a motley assortment of grapes—50% cabernet sauvignon, 28% malbec, 9%syrah, 8% petit verdot, and 5% corot noir—and then she added cru as a pun on the wine term.  The corot noir, by the way, is a new cold tolerant hybrid made by Cornell.  This is a fairly light red, with a pleasant aroma and soft tannins.  Not much fruit.  This would be a good wine to get if you have a group of people with varying entrees, as it could go with almost anything, from chicken to lamb, or even fish.


Another really pretty label

  1. BOE Haywater Cove Merlot $18

Although this is a merlot, it has very little cherry flavor or aroma.  Robin agrees, and suggests it has more of a blueberry/bramble flavor, and we think she is right. This is a pleasant red, dry, with soft tannins.  The label tells us that Haywater Cove is an actual location on the North Fork, where “three creeks meet at the mouth of Cutchogue Harbor.”


As If refers to Alie’s initials and also her approach to wine making.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

Yum.  A blend of 60% cabernet franc, 25% petit verdot, and 15% cabernet sauvignon, this has a delicious fruity aroma and lots of dark fruit tastes.  For some reason, my tasting buddy says it is “like a new pillow.”  Okay.  Definitely a wine one could sit and sip, it would also go well with food.  I like it the best of the reds.


This time of year they are open Friday through Monday only. It might be a good idea to call or check their web page before you go.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to chat with two charming and interesting winemakers; you want to try some new wines; some of the prettiest and most interesting labels around; the Saltbird Chardonnay, the Social Club White, the Broken Land orange wine, the As If Persistence red; they are right next door to the Winemaker’s Studio, so you can go to two tastings without driving (and Sannino Bella Vita is just a mile or so up the street, plus Greenport Harbor Brewing is just a little further at the corner). 



Lieb Cellars: A Beautiful Setting                September 12, 2017


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The Lieb Cellars tasting room is located on bucolic Oregon Road.

In many ways, September is the best month on the North Fork, and our guests agreed.  We had gone for a walk to Love Lane and a swim in the Peconic Bay, and now we were seated on the attractive patio of Lieb Cellars on Oregon Road, gazing out at beautiful farm fields.  Later we planned to barbeque chicken from 8 Hands, plus eggplant and zucchini and corn from a farm stand.  Perhaps we could cap off that menu with a bottle of wine from Lieb.  However, we didn’t find any wine that we wanted to take home for that meal.

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It was a warm day, so we appreciated the bottle of cool water we were given.

On the other hand, we enjoyed our tasting, if not so much the wines themselves, which was brought to us on trays so we could sit and sip and discuss and enjoy the lovely setting.  The very enthusiastic and well-informed server, a young man who is really studying wine, gave us a quick (maybe too quick!) rundown on the wines we had ordered, and then left us to ourselves, just checking back periodically to see if we had any questions.

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The menu includes snacks, plus drinks for your designated driver.

The menu offers three options:  four whites plus the rosé for $16, five reds for $18, or six Reserve wines for $20.  You can also get cheese and charcuterie plates, but we knew we had a lovely selection of cheeses from the Love Lane Cheese Shop waiting for us at home, so we opted not to get anything.  They don’t allow you to bring your own food, but they do permit dogs on the outside patio.  We decided to share one white flight and one red flight.  The good-sized servings came out in attractive round-bottomed glasses, and we also were given a bottle of chilled water plus glasses for the water.  Some of the wines are labeled Bridge Lane and others Lieb Reserve, which I abbreviate BL and LR.

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The whites and the rose. Each glass sits on a coaster which identifies the wine and the order in which to drink them.

  1. 2016 BL White Merlot   $18

This is a white wine made from merlot grapes by not giving them any time on the skins.  The aroma was nice—sweet, spicy, a bit minerally—but we found the wine itself lacked character.

  1. 2015 LR Pinot Blanc $22

They are very proud of their Pinot Blanc, but we were underwhelmed.  It is very citrusy and tart, with not much fruit and a slightly chemical aroma.

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We liked the patio, which we had to ourselves on this mid-week day. One time we arrived on a weekend and had to leave, as it was full.

  1. 2016 BL Unoaked Chardonnay $16

We like this the best of the whites, finding it had a better balance than the others, with some richness.  I liked it.  It has a honeysuckle aroma and nice lemony notes.  It would go well with food, though we felt it would not stand up to the spicy barbeque sauce we planned.

  1. 2016 BL Sauvignon Blanc $18

Our server cautioned us that this was not like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  It was not at all floral, and my brother pronounced it “tame.”  It smells almost like candy, with some minerality, and the taste is very light, almost evanescent.

  1. 2016 BL Rosé $18

Pink?  Not so much.  Another very light wine, this had no strawberry aroma.  It is available in an eight gallon box.

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  1. 2016 BL Red Blend $20

Our server was very proud that he could inform us this was like a right bank Bordeaux, a blend of 44% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 13% petit verdot, 12% malbec, and 9% cabernet sauvignon.  You can sense in the taste that this spent a little time in oak—six months.  It’s very soft, with a taste in which cherry predominates.  I said it was okay for casual drinking, but my brother opined it was “completely uninteresting, like a person without a face.”  Ouch.

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Note the dogs in the background.

  1. 2015 LR Merlot $24

As we sipped this somewhat classic merlot, we got into a humorous discussion of the movie Sideways, and the damage it did to merlot sales.  Nothing wrong with a good merlot, I said, but my brother felt this was a “Kool-Aid version of merlot.”  Well, it would be fine with a burger.

  1. 2015 LR Cabernet Franc $30

I thought this cabernet franc was not bad, with dark fruit tastes of blackberry and plum, dry, with some tannins though overall rather soft.  But I had to agree with my brother that it had no depth.

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The Petit Verdot looks as good as it tastes.

  1. 2014 LR Petit Verdot $35

Finally, a wine we could agree on.  We all liked the petit verdot, made of 98% petit verdot and 2% “mystery grapes,” according to our server.   2014 was a hot season, so it was a good year for ripe red grapes.  This wine is interesting, with a distinctive earthy, piney aroma and layers of flavor.  We speculated that another brother would like it, since he favors “odd duck” wines.  Long finish.  If I were to sit and have a glass of wine here, this is the one I would get.

  1. 2015 LR Meritage $35

And here is their left bank Bordeaux style:  47% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 17% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 2% malbec.  We made our server check the math!  It worked out.  The aroma is fruity, the taste less so.  Given the tannins, it may age into something better, but for the moment it is a bit disappointing for the price.  It would be okay as a $12 wine, opined my brother.  Well, that’s a problem with North Fork wineries in general—because of the small size of their production, they can’t achieve the economies of scale from other places.  Nevertheless, we like to support the local wineries.

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The inside room is attractive and comfortable.

Reasons to visit:  beautiful setting on a back road, surrounded by farm fields; the Unoaked Chardonnay, the Lieb Reserve Petit Verdot; you can bring your dog.

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l mum


Clovis Point: Good Things Come in Small Packages            September 3, 2017


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“We’re small,” said our very well-informed multi-tasking server, “only 3,500 cases per year.”  She added that they have just eight acres of vines, and we discussed the issues Croteaux is having with Southold town over how many acres you need to have in order to do a tasting room.  But Clovis Point is in the town of Riverhead, so no problem.  Small also describes the one-ounce pour (which she warned us about in advance), but not the reputation of this boutique winery, which has garnered a number of high ratings from wine judges.

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One view of the pleasant tasting room

The tasting room, a former potato barn, is a nice size, and there is also a covered porch to one side.  The walls are adorned with a display of art for sale, so the space functions as a gallery as well.  The flower garden leading to the door is also esthetically pleasing!

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The art on the walls is for sale.

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Some of the pretty flowers by the entrance

The menu offers two flights:  a Cold Flight of four wines for $13 and a Red Flight of four reds for $15, plus a few premium wines at $5 per taste.  We were with friends, and decided each couple would do all eight wines, given that the pour is so small.  We also bought a generous tray of Spanish cheeses and baguette slices for $12, plus an eight-dollar jar of delicious fig spread, much of which we took home.  While we often don’t order food with our tastings, it is true that having wine with food enhances the experience.

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We had pretty much decimated the cheese plate before I thought to take a picture. It was very good.

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Some nice options on the snack menu

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $28

“This is a seasonal wine,” our server informed us, “and we usually sell out of it by winter.”  I can see why, as it is a light, easy to drink summery wine, with a floral and mineral aroma and peach taste.  Steel fermented, it is tart and dry.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Another steel-fermented wine, this chardonnay is mixed with 3% gewürztraminer, which might account for a touch of pineapple taste.  The aroma is mineral, earth, and pine, and our friend says it tastes like a Granny Smith apple to her.  We agree.  Our server explains that because it is steel fermented it does not undergo malolactic fermentation, and therefore gives you the “pure expression” of the grape.

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The arrowhead on the label is a Clovis point, a type of prehistoric arrowhead.

  1. 2015 Black Label Chardonnay $28

A nice touch—before each new taste, the server rinses the glass with a bit of the next wine.  This is better than when they rinse the glasses with water, as a little water always is left behind and can influence the taste of the wine.  And when they don’t rinse the glasses at all, you may get a bit of the previous wine mixing with your next taste.  In any event, this chardonnay is a mixture of steel and oak fermented wine, so it is not heavily oaked.  Not being fans of oaky chards, we are pleased with this one, which has lots of citrus taste and only a touch of vanilla.  It’s not fruity.

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You can see how small the pour is.

  1. Rosé $22.50

Also seasonal, according to our server, the rosé tends to sell out by the end of summer.  It is composed of 100% cabernet franc, and is made by the saignée method, where the grapes sit on the skins for three days.  This is such a light rosé that we agree one might, if tasting it with eyes closed, not know it was a rosé.  It’s steel fermented and quite dry, with only a faint strawberry aroma and a taste more like raspberry than strawberry.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

All the reds are aged in either French or Hungarian oak, we are told, as our server puts out fresh glasses for the red tasting.  A blend of 85% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon, this is not as complex or deep as one would think given all the ingredients.  However, it is a good merlot, dry and pleasant to drink.  “It’s my after work wine,” notes our server.  Yes, it would be relaxing to sit and sip a glass of this, perhaps with some cheese.

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They have two bars for when the room gets busy.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $35

Yum.  This time I agree with Robert Parker, who has given this wine a score of 90%.  A blend of 96% cabernet franc with 3% cabernet sauvignon and 1% petit verdot, this has fascinating aromas of mushroom, forest, and smoke, plus what our friend describes as “really ripe plums.”  It is delicious, dry at the end with some nice tannins, tasting of over-ripe cherries.  Nicely complex.  If I were here for a music event, this is the wine I would get by the glass.

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You can see how small the bottle is for the Syrah and the Malbec.

  1. 2014 Syrah $34

Syrah is usually blended with other wines, but Clovis Point decided to try bottling it by itself.  Since they didn’t have that much of it, they also decided to use 500 ml. bottles, so that price is quite high.  I insist that it smells like black olives, and my friend adds that it actually smells meaty.  It is dry, tannic, and spicy.  I like it.

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  1. 2014 Malbec $34

Meh.  Another 500ml. bottle, this is a blend of 94% malbec, plus 4% merlot, 1% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% syrah.  It has a nice fruity aroma, but the wine itself is rather light, with no depth.  “Flat,” says my friend.  I add that it lacks body.

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A view of the porch

Reasons to visit:  small winery with a nice room and some good choices; the 2015 chardonnay, the Black Label chardonnay, the 2014 Cabernet Franc; you are the designated driver but you want to taste the wines where the pour is small.

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The grapes are starting to ripen.

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



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


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).


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


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.


One view of the porch.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.



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.



The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017



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.


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!


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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


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.


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!


Lots of magnums!


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



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.


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.


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.”



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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


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.


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.


  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.


  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.


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.


Resident laid-back pooch.