Blog Updates April, 2019

Blog Updates     April, 2019

Change is the one constant, and the North Fork is no exception.  If you rely on my old entries for recommendations, you may arrive at a winery or restaurant and find it no longer exists, or has changed.  So, in no particular order, here are some changes:

Peconic Winery has closed, and the property is for sale.  (Not to be confused with Peconic Cellar Door, on Peconic Lane, which is lovely.)

Vineyard 48 is also permanently closed, but if you read my last entry on them you wouldn’t be going there anyway.

Southold Farm + Cellar closed, alas, due to issues with the town of Southold.  The owners have moved to Texas.

Comtesse Thérèse closed a few years ago.  A couple of restaurants have come and gone, and the one that is currently there, Il Giardino, has management issues they need to resolve if they are to stay in business.  For example, we got there with a reservation for 6 PM and found a scene of total chaos, with no one seeming to know when we could be seated.  We left, and had a calm and delicious meal at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn.

Croteaux is still making wine, but at the moment their lovely garden is closed, again due to issues with Southold town.  They are hoping to reopen.  Meanwhile, you can order wine through their website or buy it at Vintage, the liquor store in the Mattituck Shopping Center.  (I highly recommend joining their club.  Just sign up with your telephone number and then get great discounts.)

Speaking of Mattituck, Crazy Fork is gone.  Sadly, they morphed from being a candidate for Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives to needing the work of Restaurant Impossible.  Then they closed.  Two places have opened in its place.  Mattitaco is primarily a take-out place, offering delicious and creative tacos.  East on Main has a bar and restaurant where they serve American classics like fried chicken and meat loaf.  Good place to bring kids.

Salamander’s in Greenport has closed.  A new restaurant will take their place.  Goodbye delicious fried chicken.

Deep Water has also changed ownership, so I have no idea how the new place will be.

We liked Caci the first time we went there, but less so on subsequent visits.  Though the food is good, it is pricey for what you get and the tables are too crowded together and the noise level is too loud.

Pepi’s in the Port of Egypt marina has closed.  We haven’t tried the new place there.

Martha Clara has changed owners.  In the past, I had recommended it as kid friendly, with animals to feed, but as we drive by it seems the animals are gone.  I would not rely on it as a place to bring kids.

The Coronet in Greenport has changed its name, but seems to have a similar vibe under new ownership.  We haven’t eaten there.

Scrimshaw, also in Greenport, has been replaced by Barba Blanco, and we haven’t tried it.  It is closed in the winter.

On the other hand, since I last mentioned it, we’ve been to American Beech a couple of times and liked it very much.  Cool beachy vibe and delicious seafood dishes.

Empire State Cellars in Tanger Outlet closed.  I’d be sad, except Vintage, our local liquor store, carries a good selection of local wines.

Old Mill Inn is for sale.  Anyone interested in buying a restaurant on the water?

O’Malley’s has new ownership.  The one time we went there it was not good—French fries fried in old oil!—so I don’t know if it has improved. 

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but note also that every year’s vintage may taste different than the year before–which is why I try to visit each place once a year.

Clovis Point +Music April 13, 2019

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

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A glass of wine and some pleasant music add up to a civilized way to spend a couple of hours.

There’s something pleasantly civilized about sitting comfortably on a cool spring afternoon, with a glass of wine in hand, listening to live music.  A number of wineries offer live music, especially on the weekends.  Though Live on the Vine is a winter phenomenon, there’s plenty of opportunities to hear live music at other times of the year. 

I’ve signed up for several winery email lists, and so I had a message in my inbox about Clovis Point’s current music offerings.  Having nothing else to do on Saturday, we drove over to Clovis, ordered glasses of cabernet franc (see my tasting write-up from January 4, 2019, so see why that was our choice), and settled on their plastic-walled porch.

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A view of the porch where we sat.

We were lucky to have seats, since, as we learned after we arrived, many of the tables had been reserved.  As more people arrived, the Clovis people quickly set up outdoor tables in the grass just outside the porch.  If we go again, I would make a reservation and be sure to bring some snacks.  Every other table seemed to be enjoying snacks, from chips and dip to cheese and crackers to a whole pizza (though the web site specifies no coolers and no outside alcohol).  The winery also has a menu of nibbles.

The performer was a singer/guitarist whose stage name is Teacherman.  (He’s actually an English teacher named Dave Goldman.)  We enjoyed his set, which included songs by Billy Joel, the Beatles, and the Eagles, among others. 

If you’re interested in a similar experience, I suggest you check out the websites of any wineries you like to see if they have music scheduled.  I’ve noticed that Baiting Hollow and Martha Clara often offer music.

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Watch for signs like this if you’re interested in live music.

Martha Clara: Playground or Winery? September 3, 2016

https://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

The capacious "backyard" of Martha Clara.

The capacious “backyard” of Martha Clara.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

Plenty of room for dogs and children.

The parking attendant waved us on to the “additional parking” area, so we had a good view of the activities going on in back of the Martha Clara tasting room and barns.  Children and dogs were running around, a couple played Frisbee, many people tossed beanbags into a whole line of targets, and a wagon hitched to horses waited to give rides.  The delicious smell came from an old-fashioned Airstream camper that had been turned into a food truck.  And that was a good thing, since Martha Clara no longer allows you to bring in outside food, preferring that you buy your own from their menu, catered by Noah’s Restaurant in Greenport.

Food truck!

Food truck!

Noah's menu

Noah’s menu

We were there with a friend who is a member of the Marth Clara wine club, so we first headed to the Tasting Barn with its sign outside limiting it to wine club members.  However, it was full, so we headed on into the main building and, not feeling like standing at the bar in the crowded main tasting room, sat at a table in the table service area.  At first the server said we’d have to pay full price, but after assuring her that we had been turned away from the members-only barn she said okay—which resulted in a significant saving for our four tastings.

No room in the Members Only barn

No room in the Members Only barn

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

The bars were pretty crowded, too.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

We were happy to find a table in the corner, near the windows.

The sleekly bound menu offers four options for tastings, plus a variety of wines by the glass or bottle, and a bunch of snacks.  The four flight menus are labeled Aromatic, Sustainable, Northville, and Vintners, and range from $14-$17 for five generous tastes (or $5-$7 for wine club members).  The tables were all set with napkins, wineglasses, and water glasses, which we used both for water from the large bottle the server delivered to our table and as a dump bucket.  But more on that later.

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I opted for the Northville flight, mostly because it included their Syrah, a wine I often like.  The two men in the party chose the Vintage flight, and our friend the wine club member decided on the Aromatic because it is all whites, and that’s what she was in the mood for.  The Sustainable has a combination of reds and whites, as do the other options.  I will tell about my tasting first, and then about the other wines, not all of which I tried myself.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer Estate Reserve   $27

Gewürztraminers are tricky, because they can be very sweet or dry, with a lot or not much fruit, depending on how they are handled.  This one is steel fermented, so I had hopes, but then the server explained that it was on the sweet side, and she liked it as an after dinner drink or with “spicy Thai food.”  The aroma combines flowers, mineral, and creosote—you know, that smell you get from the railroad tracks on a hot summer day.  Fortunately it doesn’t taste like what I imagine creosote would taste like, but rather like lychees in sugar syrup with some minerality at the end.  This wine also began the Vintage tasting, and we all found it too sweet.  In fact, we all dumped at least part of our serving.  But if you like a sweet wine, you’d probably like this one.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc      $27

A light ruby color, this wine is also light in body, with a red candy and wet rock aroma, and a plum taste.  It would be a good burger or roast chicken wine.  Aged 14 months in oak.

  1. 2013 Merlot $24

Merlot does well on Long Island, and this is no exception, a nice, light, dry red with some fruit.  I like it.  It smells rather oak-y, even though it only spends 12 months in oak.

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  1. 2012 Syrah (Cote Rotie Style) $24

I would be very happy drinking a full glass of this one.  It has aromas of red fruit and pepper, with lots of red fruit tastes, some tannins, and a dry finish.  It could pair well with lamb or duck.  It’s my favorite of the day, too.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Again, you can definitely smell the oak.  This is somewhat dry, with lots of cherry taste and a nice long finish.

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And that was the end of my tasting.  However, here are some notes on the other flights.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Lots of aromas on this one, including vanilla and nutmeg, which is the first on the Vintage list.  It is aged “sur lie” for ten months.  If you like a smooth buttery chard, this is one for you.

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  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blend $18

I liked the bottle for this, featuring an image of a sun, which my friend saw as appropriate for this first on the Aromatic list, since it is, she said, “a perfect summer sipper.”  It is a blend of about four or five grapes which the server rattled off too quickly for me to catch.  We all sniffed it and agreed that it smelled like ripe pineapple, and my friend said it was “crisp and refreshing” with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $22

This is a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with honeysuckle aroma and lemon tastes, though it is a touch sweeter than some sauvignon blancs.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $22

And this is another great summer wine, said my friend, with some peach tastes and a touch of bubbles on the tongue.  It was her favorite of her tasting.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

We were all intrigued by the smell of this one, identifying vanilla sugar cookie (even though it is steel fermented) and wet rock.  Unlike the gewürztraminer, this escapes over-sweetness, and is a light and almost bubbly with some mineral taste.  The Aromatic tasting should have ended with the Gewürztraminer, but my friend decided to forego it since she had already tasted it and felt she had had enough wine.  As I said, the pour is generous, and we actually dumped some tastes we liked.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir $37

The Vintner tasting includes some of their higher priced wines, and we got into a discussion of value vs. cost, which I may revisit some time this winter when I don’t have a winery to review.  My husband informed us that this was a Burgundy-type wine, but a bit sharp for a Burgundy.  It had aromas of plum and prune, and a somewhat grapey (I know, shocking) taste.  Good, but not complex.

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  1. 2013 Northville Red (Bordeaux style) $27

Again, the server listed the grapes in this too quickly for note taking, but it is a Bordeaux-style blend we all liked very much.  In fact, my notes include “yum,” “delicious,” “very drinkable,” “layers of flavor,” and “really nice.”  We were happy when our friend bought us a bottle!

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Merlot $35

The menu informs us that this was rated a 90 by Wine Advocate.  Maybe.  It has a touch of that barnyard smell we always used to get from local merlots and hardly ever sense any more, but it tastes nice, with good fruit, some cherry flavor, and is dry.

Here's something not every winery has--a Tiki Bar!

Here’s something not every winery has–a Tiki Bar!

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Also, horse and wagon rides.

Reasons to visit:  Lots of space to play and a relaxed, welcoming vibe; some agritainment; the Northern Solstice Blend, the Pinot Grigio, the Syrah, the Northville Red; lots of choices ; catering by Noah’s (We didn’t have any, but I like the food in the restaurant!).

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The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

The gift shop has a bunch of local products.

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Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

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The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

Martha Clara, Lieb, and Pugliese: Group Think June 6, 2015

Our limo at the first stop:  Martha Clara.

Our limo at the first stop: Martha Clara.

When a group of Nofo Wineaux’s friends and colleagues decided that the best way to have a celebratory get-together was to rent a limo and do a wine tour, she could not refuse to go along—especially since they asked her for some winery recommendations.

So that is how I found myself seated in a Hummer stretch limo with 14 wonderful women, traveling the North Fork wine country.  And I did enjoy myself!  Along the way, I noticed that each winery had its own method of handling a crowd, I taught some of my friends how to smell wine (stick your nose into the glass and open your mouth as you inhale), and I heard some new ways to describe wine tastes and smells.

Our limo was rented from Gold Star Limo Company, and John, the driver, was courteous and efficient, dropping us off and picking us up on schedule.  The company took care of the logistics of reserving each winery and getting us sandwich and salad lunches catered by Farm Country Kitchen.  There were a few reasons why I think our tasting tour went well.  For one, as a group we were there to relax and enjoy each other’s company, with the wine tour as a means to that end, plus a number of us were quite interested in tasting and discussing the wines.  Another reason was our judicious (if I do say so myself) selection of venues, and the fact that we limited ourselves to three places, spaced out from noon to five p.m.  And finally, the weather cooperated—warm enough to sit outside, yet not so hot that we were uncomfortable.

First stop:  Martha Clara

The menu at Martha Clara

The menu at Martha Clara

Our group organizer picked Martha Clara as a place she had been to and liked in the past, and it made a pleasant first stop (we got there about 12:15).  A young woman with a clipboard greeted us, checked our reservation and, after a brief consultation with the driver, set us up around two sides of one of the long bars in the tasting room.  She explained that they ran a tight schedule of groups, and requested that we take our places immediately.  At each place were a glass and the tasting menu, featuring a flight of five wines.  The servers assigned to us attentively filled our glasses as soon as they were emptied, and gave a brief spiel about each one.  When I requested additional information, they were able to provide some.  After we finished, we wandered outside to some picnic tables and shared a few snacks we had brought with us while some members of the group explored the pens of animals one can pet and feed.  I think a few might have visited the extensive gift shop.

We gathered around the bar at Martha Clara.

We gathered around the bar at Martha Clara.

  1. 2013 Northern Solstice Blend                    $17

This is a blend, as the title suggests, of four whites:  semillon, viognier, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.  I described the aroma as mineral.  One of my friends, newly introduced to the art of smelling wine, compared it to the smell you get when you open a bottle of vitamins, which I thought was quite right.  This is a dry, crisp, lean, steel-fermented white which we all found quite pleasant.

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

My friend with the newly enlightened nose senses a touch of rotting fruit.  I agree, but also add orange blossoms.  We all sip, and I note some apricot tastes, and also a bit more sweetness than I prefer.  Nice finish.

limo mc bottle

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Viognier                 $29

We had been discussing why some people think they dislike chardonnay because all they have ever tried were oak-fermented California chards when this barrel-fermented (nine months) wine was served, giving me the chance to note how different it is compared to the steel fermented blend we started with.  You can definitely smell vanilla and also spice—perhaps cardamom.  You can also get that “woody” taste you get with some oaked whites.

  1. 2010 Syrah $24

I often like syrahs for their rich fruit flavors, but I find this one a bit dry and thin.  I also smell some of that barnyard scent North Fork reds sometimes get (though more rarely lately).  It is aged 16 months in French oak.

limo mc red

  1. 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $29

This red is also aged in oak, for 12 months, and I also am not enamored of it.  It’s not bad, but could use more fruit, though it is nicely dry.

Second Stop:  Lieb Bridge Lane

The entrance to Lieb, though we didn't go inside.

The entrance to Lieb, though we didn’t go inside.

Lieb actually has two tasting rooms, and we are at the one on Sound Avenue and Cox Neck Lane.  I’m a bit surprised that we have come to this one, since the other is more spacious, but fortunately it is a beautiful day and we settle ourselves at several picnic tables adjoining some grape vines.  The driver brings us the shopping bags filled with our lunches from Farm Country Kitchen and also offers us bottles of water from the limo.  As we settle in with our choices—I got a grilled veggie sandwich with a small green salad on the side, and it was good—a lovely young lady from the tasting room comes around with glasses.  Ah, we are to have the tasting as we eat our lunches.  Nice—though I do note that food changes the taste of wine.

Our view as we sipped our wine and ate lunch.

Our view as we sipped our wine and ate lunch.

What is also pleasant is that we have the place mostly to ourselves, and it is a relaxing venue to sit and chat and enjoy our lunches.  Martha Clara had been quite noisy, making conversation difficult except with the person next to one.

All the wines are from the Bridge Lane label, so I will abbreviate it BL.  Also, because I did not see a tasting menu, I can’t tell you what the cost of these wines is per bottle.

  1. 2013 BL White Merlot

As our server explains, this is a white wine made from a red wine grape, and it is totally clear, having spent no time on the skins.  It has a nice mineral aroma and a pleasant fruitiness.  It would compare favorably with Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly.

  1. 2013 BL White Blend

This blend included chardonnay, pinot blanc, riesling and viognier, and, like the blend we just had at Martha Clara, is steel fermented.  Everyone agrees that we like this one very much, with its nice balance of sweet and dry and its mineral aroma and taste.  It goes well with lunch!

  1. 2013 BL Chardonnay

For those who think they dislike chards, this is a good rebuttal:  dry and tart, with lemon and grapefruit tastes and aromas.  Steel fermented, of course.

  1. 2013 BL Rosé

After some discussion of how much rosés have improved in recent years, we try this blend of merlot and cabernet franc.  Though I still maintain that Croteaux has the best rosés on the North Fork, this one is fine—slight strawberry aroma, very dry, but with no finish.  I think it tastes a bit like unripe strawberries.

Wine and a picnic.

Wine and a picnic.

  1. BL 2013 Red Blend

I explain to my friends that this is a Bordeaux blend:  70% merlot, 15% each malbec and cabernet sauvignon, 7% petit verdot.  It is aged in neutral oak barrels, our server notes.  I think it might improve with more age, since it has some nice tannins.  Though it is not exciting, it is a very drinkable red.

Third and last stop:  Pugliese

The pond at Pugliese

The pond at Pugliese

Everyone exclaims at the lovely scenery as we pull into Pugliese—the pond, the trees, the fountain.  Charming.  We troop into the tasting room, where we admire some artistic items, including pretty prints appropriate to our surroundings, such as sunflowers.

From the gift shop

From the gift shop

limo pug

 

Our fearless leader soon finds us and hands each of us a sheet of four tickets, which we can exchange for tastes, and tells us to adjourn to the outside bar located under a tent next to the pond, where a musician is setting up.  As a result, we scatter, and form into small groups at the bar.  The menu is quite daunting, offering 22 choices from sparkling wines to dessert wines, with reds, whites and rosés in between.   At first the servers offer no guidance other than, “You can choose any four.”  (We expand our options by sharing a couple of tastes, which is why you see six wines mentioned here.) However, we then luck into a rather youthful server who seems to know more, and enjoys giving us information about each wine.   My good friend is a white wine drinker who would like to learn to like reds, so we decide, after one white, to focus on the reds.  For each taste we get a fresh glass—I mean small plastic cup.

The rather lengthy menu at Pugliese.

The rather lengthy menu at Pugliese.

  1. 2013 Pinot Grigio            $17.99

This steel fermented pinot has not much aroma and a tart lemony taste, with no finish, which my friend insists on calling after taste.  Which, after all, is what finish is!  It would be better with food, I think.

Pugliese serves the wine is small plastic cups.

Pugliese serves the wine is small plastic cups.

  1. 2010 Sangiovese             $16.99

Our server boasts that they are the only winery on the North Fork to use this grape, which is the gape used in Chianti.  As we sniff, we note aromas of tobacco and some fruit.  Then we taste, and promptly dump.  Well, this wine is not going to make a red wine drinker out of my friend!  Bad.

  1. 2010 Sunset Meritage                 $29.99

Whew.  This one is better!  A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, this has nice ripe fruit flavors and is just tannic enough to add interest.

One view of the tent and the pergola.

One view of the tent and the pergola.

  1. 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99

This would make a good, everyday table wine.  It has lots of fruit and my friend likes it.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $16.99

For a cab franc this is quite light, though it would be okay with lamb chops, as it has some tannins.  It could use more fruit.

My last ticket.

My last ticket.

  1. 2007 Raffaello White Port $17.99 for 375 ml.

As my final wine of the day, I decide to go for dessert, and try their white port.  Yes, it is sweet, but I think appropriately so, with lots of sweet orange, tangelo, plum, and apple flavors.  At 20% alcohol, you wouldn’t want to drink much of this, but it would be nice with a cheese and nut course.

And so I finish my foray into the world of the limos standing on the shore of Pugliese’s pond, admiring the koi, listening to music, talking to my friends, and sipping sweet wine.  There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.

No fishing!

No fishing!

Suggestions for limo users:  plan to go to just three wineries (maybe four at most, especially if you tend to dump part of each taste) and space them out over five hours so you can appreciate each one; try to go to at least one that doesn’t seem to specialize in big groups (like Lieb, which we thoroughly enjoyed); be sure to eat in between—or during—your tastes so you don’t get too drunk; take your time in each place to savor and discuss the wines; have fun.

limo finale

Martha Clara: Something for Everyone January 3, 2015

http://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

Winery entrance

Winery entrance

The tasting menu offers four different flights, as well as sangria and wines by the taste or glass; the adjoining huge performance space features an array of lunch and snack items as well as live music; the gift shop carries all sorts of wine-related gifts, the outside area includes farm animals one can feed:  Yes, there seems to be something for everyone here.  There are even a few quite nice wines.  It’s no wonder the front parking lot at Martha Clara is so often full, with overflow crowds for special events sent to lots further back.  What will happen to the winery if the Entenmann family is able to sell it, no one seems to know, but according to our server it is a profitable business.  So it you have a spare 25 million hanging around…

Lots of holiday lights

Lots of holiday lights

We walked into the tasting room on a chilly drizzly day to be greeted by a multitude of holiday lights and decorations.  We came with friends who are wine club members, so our tastings were free, but if you’re not they are still reasonable.  The Barrique flight, all reds, gives you five tastes for $13, and so does the Aromatic Flight.  The Off Dry (Sweet) is just $12 for your five tastes, and the Reserve, of their more expensive wines, is $15 for five.  We opted for the Barrique and the Reserve.  The pour is fairly generous.  Our server gave us a minimum of information about each wine, but when asked did have more to offer.  I will give you the Reserve Flight information first, then the Barrique.

Reserve Flight

  1. 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling     $45

The server described it as semi-dry, but we found it rather sweet.  The aroma is nice—floral and apricot—but then the taste is rather simple, without any complexity or layers, and mostly just sweet.  It might be okay as an aperitif at a party.   I wondered why they start their flight with such a sweet wine.

Two of the wines we tasted

Two of the wines we tasted

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $26.99

My friend compared the taste of the chard to crème bruleé, as it features vanilla flavors—it is oak fermented—and a pleasant mouth feel.  There’s even a bit of citrus at the end—perhaps lime.  Quite nice.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon $25.99

The Cab Sauv is a blend of the 2010 and 2011 vintages, and is included in both tastings, so I’ll just write about it once.  It is, our server noted, the wine of the month.  It’s not bad, with tastes of red plum or dried prune and some minerality, but overall, not exciting.  My husband theorized that perhaps the winemaker is too tame, not making each wine distinct and different.  There’s some sweetness and almost no tannins.

The unanimous favorite of the day

The unanimous favorite of the day

  1. 2010 Northville Red $23.99

Winner of the day!  The Northville Red is their Bordeaux blend—78% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec—and is also included in both flights.  We all agree this is our favorite, and quite buyable.  It smells a bit like forest floor, just a touch funky, but the taste is quite delicious, with lots of dark fruit.  It would be yummy with lamb chops, for example.

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Merlot $32.99

Unlike all the other wines today, this one has a cork.  Our server explains, giving several good reasons, why Martha Clara is changing to all screw tops—ecologically better, wine keeps better, less spoilage, etc.  We smell some of that barnyard terroir Long Island merlots can have, and maybe wet forest floor.  The taste includes black cherries and some tannin, but my husband theorizes that perhaps the wine is not quite ready to be poured.  “It’s not fair to the poor wine,” he says.  Maybe given more time…?

Barrique Flight

  1. 2011 Pinot Noir $29.99

We admire the pretty garnet color of the pinot, scents of cherry and oak—maybe a touch too much oak.  This is a pleasant wine, a bit light and thin, but would be okay with roast chicken or for sipping.

  1. 2011 Merlot $22.99

This is a new release, our server tells us.  We are not excited.  We smell oak and mineral, not much fruit, and the wine itself seems to have no body or depth.  It is dry, and could definitely use more fruit.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon (see above)
  2. 2010 Syrah $23.99

I often like syrahs, and this one is no exception.  I smell pepper and black cherry, and taste lots of dark fruits.  This wine is easy to drink, either just to sip or with food, and the price makes it quite buyable as well.

  1. 2010 Northville Red (see above)
This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale.

Menu

Menu

Reasons to visit:  you’re with a group and everyone wants something different; you need entertainment for yourself or some children; you need to pick up a wine-related gift;  you want a spot of lunch with your wine; the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are leashed.

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are leashed.

martha poster

Plenty of gift items are available.

Plenty of gift items are available.

100 bottles of wine on the wall, 100 bottles of wine...

100 bottles of wine on the wall, 100 bottles of wine…

Which Wineries to Visit: A Summary

After several recent requests for specific guidance as to which winery to visit, I realized that, while my blog does detail my week-by-week impressions, I had given no summary of recommendations.  So, here are some suggestions:

If you are going East with a group, and you are interested in a party atmosphere, with a likelihood of live music (though many places now feature live performers, some are more likely to than others—check their web sites), two good choices would be Peconic and Vineyard 48.  Both have some good wines and both are often quite crowded on the weekends, with a number of vans and buses in the parking lot.  The last time we were at Peconic (in February of 2011) we liked the La Barrique Chardonnay 07 and the 08 Merlot.  We also visited Vineyard 48 that February, and liked the Sauvignon Blanc and the 05 Merlot Reserve.  We tend to visit these crowded places in the winter, as you may deduce.

If you will have children with you, Martha Clara is probably your best bet, as they do quite a bit of agritainment and they have a farm with interesting animals—llamas!—you may visit.  We haven’t been there in a few years, so I can’t really recommend any wine in particular, though I do remember being favorably impressed with their sparkling wines.  Pellegrini would also be okay, if it is nice weather, as you may take your tray of tastes outside and the children can play on the lawn.  A few wineries, such as Diliberto’s, specifically say no children.

If it is a beautiful day and you would like to relax in a pretty courtyard setting—and you like rosés (though if you’re not, Croteaux may make a rosé convert of you)—Croteaux is a lovely place to spend some time.  French music plays in the background, and it has comfortable Adirondack chairs and a laid-back atmosphere.  Another good outdoors spot is Old Field, with its mis-matched calico tablecloths and country farm background, though seating is not as comfy.

On the other hand, if what you are interested in is possibly chatting with the winery owner or a server who is very knowledgeable about the wines, and you like a small intimate setting, there are several wineries we like very much.  One is Diliberto’s, which we have been to frequently, though not recently.  It is just down Manor Lane from an apple orchard, so you can combine apple-picking (or just buying a bag of apples and a pie) with your winery visit.  On occasional Sundays, “Grandma” (a.k.a. Sal Diliberto himself) does cooking demos, making pizza or pasta, tastes of which he then distributes. He also sometimes has a singer and/or musician in. The room is small, painted in trompe l’oeil fashion to resemble the town square of a little Italian town, and we tend to like his reds.  Water’s Crest, which I have reviewed in the blog, is also a small intimate space, as are One Woman, McCall’s, Sannino Bella Vita, and Mattebella.  Though we’ve never encountered an owner at Shinn’s, it also has a cozy tasting room a bit off the main roads, though we only liked a couple of their wines.

Jamesport has some nice whites, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc, and often sells local oysters to consume with them.  We have been there on nice days when it feels like a big family party, with children playing on the lawn and musicians performing under a tent.  One time we were there and the guitarist played Blues Sonata, one of my favorite jazz pieces.

There are a couple of wineries I do NOT recommend (lest you think I like everything).  One is Duck Walk, which despite multiple tasting rooms on both the North and South Forks and the presence of crowds every weekend, had several wines we actively disliked, and a rather coldly commercial atmosphere.  The other is Raphael, which has a beautiful tasting room they often rent out for weddings and other parties, but which again had wines we did not particularly care for.  However, they do have a nice selection of wine-related gifts.  Baiting Hollow, also not one of our favorites, sells real food and lots of gift items, if that is what you are looking for.

Finally, there is one rather all-purpose winery which is probably our favorite:  Pellegrini.  We like most of their wines, and they tend to do a rather better job with reds than many North Fork wineries.  In addition, you can either stand at the bar and talk with the servers (especially Judy, who is quite passionate about the wines and knows everything about them) or take your carefully arranged tray of tastes to an inside or outside table.

To me, an ideal fall day on the North Fork would start with breakfast at Erik’s, go on to pumpkin or apple picking at Harbes or another farm and/or a stroll on a beach (Even if you’re not a resident, you can now park since it is after Labor Day. Head south on Cox Neck Road, go towards Cooper’s Farm stand—best eggs ever—and on to Breakfront Beach for a good walking beach.), then lunch at Love Lane Kitchen, a visit to a winery such as Diliberto’s, a walk around Greenport to check out the galleries and antique stores, and then another winery stop at Pellegrini’s or Old Field before stopping at Briermere to buy a pie and then heading home—or to Riverhead for dinner at Tweed’s.

Well, there’s much this leaves out, but you get the idea!  Enjoy.