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.

Roanoke: A Highlight of Love Lane July 25, 2018

Roanoke:  A Highlight of Love Lane          July 25, 2018

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

We had some visitors who had never experienced the delights of Love Lane, so we gave them a little guided tour, from the funky Broken Down Valise bar across from the train station to the excellent Village Cheese Shop, with stops along the way to admire the Sweet Shop and Lombardi’s Market and the wall murals.  Then we settled down on the shaded back patio (which would be a nicer setting if it didn’t look out on the parking lot) for a tasting at the Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar.

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One view of the back patio area

You used to be able to go to the Roanoke winery itself (on Sound Avenue just off Roanoke Avenue), but now the only way to taste their wines is in their wine bar on Love Lane, as the winery itself is only open to members of their wine club and their guests.  I particularly remember one chilly winter evening when we were the only people at the winery and had a tasting of red wines and chocolates.  Yum.  However, the wine bar is conveniently located in the middle of the North Fork.

The room itself is rather small, with a bar along one side and a few tables and some comfortable chairs, and so is the back patio.  But even in July, Wednesdays are rather quiet on the North Fork, and for much of our time there we were the only customers.  As has been the rule this week, the weather alternated between rainy and steamy, but we were comfortable on the patio and enjoyed sipping and chatting with our friends.

The tasting menu used to be more extensive, but at the moment there is only one option:  four tastes for $14.  We decided each couple would share one taste, which the server brought out to us one at a time, quickly adapting to our slow and thoughtful pace.  You can also buy bottles of wine from a few other wineries, including our favorite, Channing Daughters, and also Wölffer Estates, Red Hook, and Grapes of Roth.

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  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Pinot Blanc     $24

Our friend’s initial reaction to the aroma of this wine was “pungent!”  And yes, it has a rather sharp aroma of pineapple, with a whiff of some sort of chemical.  A blend of 95% pinot blanc and 5% viognier, this is a light, dry summery wine with tastes of pineapple and citrus.  It would be good with clams or oysters.

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Pretty labels

  1. 2017 Infinite Possibility $22

Just consider all the possibilities of taste and aroma you can get from a blend, in this case of 60% sauvignon blanc, 39.5% chardonnay, and .5% muscat and malvasia.   Our server describes this wine as smelling sweeter than it tastes, and she’s not wrong.   It smells like honeysuckle and tropical fruits, but the taste is dry and lemony, with hints of guava and spice.  Tasty.

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We liked the concept and the label better than the wine for this one.

  1. 2017 Site Specific Chardonnay The Wild! $22

Yes, that is the exact name of this wine, including the italics and the exclamation point.  Made from a muscat clone and steel-tank fermented with wild yeasts, you would never think this was a chardonnay if not for the name.  A year ago we liked it, and the friend we were with bought a bottle.  This year, not so much.  There’s something verging on the unpleasant in the taste, which our friend describes as “yeasty.”  We also get minerals and a touch of the nuttiness we liked last year, though this time it is more like bitter almond.  And that’s why we have to go back every year!

  1. 2016 (Greater Than)  $22

The only red in the tasting, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of 53% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 17% cabernet franc.  It has a pleasant aroma of cherry and other fruit and also tastes of the cherry one would expect with a merlot.  It is very dry, with some nice tannins, and would be good with a juicy hamburger (It is getting close to supper time!)  We are intrigued by the name, and discover that it has a dual meaning.  One is that, as a blend, it is greater than the sum of its parts.  The other involves a dispute over the previous name of the wine, which was Bond.  It turned out a California winery had a prior claim to the name, so the new name is a quiet dig at them…this one’s greater than yours!  We bought a bottle.

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This leafy alley leads to Love Lane on one side and the parking lot on the other.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location amid the shops and restaurants of Love Lane; pleasant backyard patio; Greater Than; you can buy bottles of wine from other wineries; they have a variety of special events for members.

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The back patio is a relaxing place to spend some time drinking wine.

Roanoke Vineyards: Sipping and Shopping           August 20, 2017

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

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The view out the door to lovely Love Lane.

Roanoke Vineyards has a tasting room conveniently located on Love Lane in Mattituck, so you can browse the shops before or after your tasting.  The shops include the excellent Love Lane Cheese Shop, the Sweet Shop, a toy store, a yarn store, an art gallery/framing store, a pet accessory store, a dress shop, Orlovsky’s Hardware store, Lombardi’s Market, and several restaurants.  We decided to celebrate having seen a 70% solar eclipse with a wine tasting, while several members of our party (two of whom were too young to drink) cruised the shops.  By the way, although there is parking on Love Lane, there is also ample free parking in the town lot to the west of the street.

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One view of the tasting room.

The tasting room is small but attractive, and is augmented in warm weather by an enclosed patio in the back.  We stood at the bar, which allowed us to chat with the very personable server.  The menu offered two main options:  The Summer Flight, of four wines for $14, or the Special Flight, of three wines for $12.  The three of us decided to share one of each.  The wines from the Special Flight are marked with an *. We also noted that the tasting room sells bottles of wine from two South Fork wineries—Channing Daughters and Wölffer Estates—and Red Hook.  Good to know, since it is sometimes hard to find their wines in stores.

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The back yard patio.

  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc           $26

We started out with this steel fermented white, tart and spicy with some creaminess.  We had an amusing discussion with the server over the aroma of cat pee, which I would also describe as the smell you sometimes get when you have kept flowers in water for too long.  Fortunately, the wine does not taste like the smell.

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  1. *2016 R.V. The Wild     $22

Wild refers to the use of “wild,” or indigenous yeast, or in other words the yeast that just occurs naturally, rather than a purchased yeast.  I would imagine that it takes some courage to do this, since you risk that the wine might not come out well.  Happily, this chardonnay did, with an aroma of gooseberry and a rather nutty taste—as in it tastes like nuts.  We all like it, and our son-in-law buys a bottle to take home.

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  1. 2016 Infinite Possibility $22

This one is also delicious, a blend of 66% chardonnay, 25% sauvignon blanc, 5% viognier and 5% albariño.  We taste pineapple and honeydew in this steel fermented white.  Our relative notes that this is the type of wine, “I could drink all day.”  Perfect summer white.

a r white bottle

  1. *2014 Single Acre Merlot $45

All the grapes for this merlot come from one particular acre, so it has a limited production, and all the pruning, etc., is done by hand.  It has the typical merlot cherry aroma and flavor.  Nice, but not worth a fuss.

a r merlot

  1. Colorfield   $26

Extra!  Noting my note-taking, and our engagement with the wines, the server says we need to try this one, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot blanc that is not on the menu.  It is light and dry, and, we agree, another wine one could sip “all day.”

  1. 2015 R.V. ARC $34

Arc?  Why?  The server is not sure why this blend of 72% estate cabernet franc and 28% merlot has this name, but by the next wine, we have a theory.  In any event, this is a dry, pleasant red that would go well with burgers.  It has just a touch of cherry taste, plus blackberry and blueberry.

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  1. *2014 Prime Number   $59

Okay, there is a definite theme of mathematic-inspired names.  The server notes that a retired teacher works for the winery, writing copy for the menu and helping come up with names.  We theorize that the teacher must have been a math teacher, and our son-in-law buys a bottle for his father, who is both a retired math teacher and an oenophile.  Perfect!  We decide that he should cellar this wine, which has the types of tannins that make us think it would age well, though now it is “too tight” and “closed.”  A blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot, it had some interesting layers of flavor.  I’d like to taste it in a few years (hint!).

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  1. 2014 R.V. Cabernet Sauvignon   $45

And here’s another wine that we decide would benefit from some aging—and we buy a bottle to store in our cellar.  The aroma is slightly earthy, but mainly plummy, as is the taste.  We tell our companion about how early on so many of the wines out here tasted earthy or barnyard-y, a trait the winemakers seem to have succeeded in ameliorating.

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As you can see from this list, you can buy wines from a number of different wineries at Roanoke’s Love Lane tasting room.

Reasons to visit:  you want to do some shopping on Love Lane and need a respite; The Wild, Infinite Possibility, Prime Number, Cabernet Sauvignon; the ability to buy wines from Channing Daughters, Wölffer Estates, and Red Hook; a pleasantly intimate tasting room.

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a r gallery

a r menu

The Winemaker Studio: Moment of Fame March 26, 2016

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

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

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

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

Our server did a great job.

Our server did a great job.

  1. 2014 Anomaly  $19

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

Pretty color

Pretty color

  1. 2013 Sciardonné $20

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

The 2016 H2O vintage...

The 2016 H2O vintage…

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

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

The famous Bordo

The famous Bordo

  1. 2014 La Strega $22

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

The witch!

The witch!

  1. 2013 Tredici $35

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

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

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

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

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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!

Palmer Vineyards: Cozy Spot for a Blustery Day 3/14/15

A rainy chilly March day made the cozy booths at Palmer a good destination.

A rainy chilly March day made the cozy booths at Palmer a good destination.

http://www.palmervineyards.com/

Since it was pi day, we stopped at Briermere (finally re-opened after their winter closing—yay!) for a strawberry rhubarb pie before heading to Palmer’s cozy tasting room. It was a blustery, rainy day, so Palmer’s pub-like setting and intimate booths felt just right. (There’s also an outdoor roofed patio area for warm weather.) At the bar, we perused the menu, which was divided into four separate tasting groups, each featuring four wines—the Reserve, for $20, the Aromatic for $16, the Spring Flight or the Red Flight. After carefully considering our options, we decided to share a Reserve and an Aromatic, and headed over to a booth while the genial server set up our trays of tastes. The pour is quite generous—we could have shared one flight and been perfectly satisfied.

As pleasant as he was, the server could have given us more guidance on the tastings, especially on which wine to taste in which order, since we planned to combine the two tastings. However, we figured it out on our own, and I think made the right decisions. The tasting room also features the presence of two cats, a tabby and a grey, and, like all cats, they made a beeline for my husband, who is, much to his chagrin, quite allergic to them. A bit of discouragement worked, fortunately, and they stopped trying to jump up onto the booth beside him! Maybe they hoped we had opted for the $13 cheese tray.

The Reserve wines are marked with an *.

The pour is quite generous.

The pour is quite generous.

  1. *Albariῆo $24.99

We were excited to start with the Albariῆo, since as far as we know Palmer is the only vineyard on Long Island to feature this grape, and the wine has lately been my go-to choice when it’s on a list of house whites by the glass. Though the wine was too cold (a common problem), we were able to sense aromas of green apple, honeysuckle, and lemon. The taste was dry, almost flinty, with notes of lemon and celery. While not good for sipping, we felt it would go great with spaghetti with seafood in a white wine garlic sauce (which we had had the night before at Crazy Fork, an excellent though very informal restaurant in Mattituck) or maybe (keeping to a Spanish theme) a Manchego cheese. We decided it was very buyable, but when we bought a bottle we were somewhat annoyed to notice that it was only 500 ml, instead of the usual 750. (Palmer’s web site also doesn’t offer this information, so be forewarned if you want to buy some.)

The small bottle of the Albarino.

The small bottle of the Albarino.

  1. *Barrel Fermented Pinot Blanc $23.99

Of course, since it was oak fermented, we smelled vanilla and Werther’s candy (butterscotch!). You can sense the oak when you taste it, too, as well as some ripe pineapple with a touch of sweetness at the end. Though there are also some sour undertones, this is a white one could sip. I also thought it might be nice with a blanquette de veau.

  1. 2012 Aromatico                 $24.99

We decided to switch over to the Aromatics before going on the oaked chardonnay, which was a good decision, since the delicate taste of the Aromatico might have suffered by following it. After sniffing and tasting, we looked at each other and cried, “Tangerines!?” This wine tastes and smells more like tangerines than any other I have ever tried. When I walked over to the bar to ask the server which grapes were involved, he had to call into a back room to ask. A blend of malvese and muscat, was the answer. He added that it would be great chilled on a summer day, and we agreed. Good for sipping, it might also be nice with a chicken tagine (I think we were hungry.).

The bar area

The bar area

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $23.99

We’ve had lots of North Fork sauvignon blancs, but if you blindfolded us we would not have pegged this as one of them. Most are very light and crisp, but this has more depth, and almost an umami flavor, plus some citrus. I felt the aroma was somewhat musty, though not unpleasant. This might be nice with sushi or Japanese noodle soup.

  1. *2010 Reserve Chardonnay $22.99

This oaked chard would give a California chard a run for its money, said my husband. Though I’m not fond of oaky chards, this was pretty good, with some nice apricot flavors, though it was too oaky to sip. There’s an interesting hint of brininess at the end. To cut the butteriness (If that’s not a word, it should be.), I’d have it with spicy food, like Hunan Chinese dishes.

Another view of the room

Another view of the room

  1. 2013 Riesling $23.99

As the server had noted, this is not a dry riesling. I smell mineral, cucumbers, and perfume, taste white grape juice and Golden Delicious apples. Though it’s not complex, I find it pleasant—considering I’m not a fan of sweet wines. There are other rieslings I’d prefer.

  1. 2013 Gewürztraminer $23.99

Okay, so don’t spend time smelling this one, or you might never get to the taste, which is quite nice. The smell, however…rotting meat? Durian fruit? But it tastes like ripe peaches, and though it is, again, too sweet for us, I could see enjoying sipping this in mid-summer. There’s a total disconnect between the smell and the taste, my husband observes.

  1. *2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $29.99

We saved our lone red for last. Aromas of brambles, toast with jelly, and a taste that is dry, but too like sour cherries for our liking. Not a wine we’d want in our cellar, we decide. Perhaps they are wise to offer so many whites, though we don’t know if their other reds are better.

Note the small sign that says "tour."  You can do a self-guided tour of the wine-making process in the front building.

Note the small sign that says “tour.” You can do a self-guided tour of the wine-making process in the front building.

Reasons to visit: cozy pub-like setting; the cats (or not because of the cats, whom the web site informs us are named Apollo and Angela); the Albariῆo, the Aromatico; the sweeter wines if you like sweet wines; lots of interesting whites.

Apollo the cat out for a stroll.

Apollo the cat out for a stroll.

The booths remind me of an English pub.

The booths remind me of an English pub.

Sherwood House: Just a Touch Funky September 20, 2014

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

The 1860s farmhouse that houses Sherwood House's tasting room

The 1860s farmhouse that houses Sherwood House’s tasting room

Located on the Main Road in Jamesport in an 1860s farmhouse, Sherwood House’s tasting room has a homey, slightly funky atmosphere, enhanced by the fireplace in the main room, the outdoor deck areas, and the adjacent Material Objects shop which features antique and found objects of all sorts.  They also have an outdoor tasting area in their vineyard in Mattituck, which may or may not be open.  As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed an exciting sign:  raw bar.  Oh goody!  We have become enamored of the local Peconic Bay oysters.

photo (56)

The main room is homey and cozy, with soft couches in front of the fireplace (which actually has a fire in the winter), bunches of flowers, and a wooden bar along one side.  You can also opt to go outside, either to a back deck or to a front seating area with picnic tables.  On this Saturday afternoon the room also contains a singer/guitar player, strumming folk-ish songs.  As we stand at the bar we see a huge party bus pull into the parking lot, but they are clearly headed for the tasting barn out back, where we went last winter for a very enjoyable music performance.

Fireplace seating area

Fireplace seating area

The tasting menu offers three flights:  Estate, four tastes for $10; Premium, four for $12; or Top Reds, four for $15.  They also offer a taste of their brandy, $10 for a one-ounce pour.  There is some overlap amongst the offerings, so they don’t actually have 12 wines.  They also offer a cheese platter for $20, and wines by the glass for $6-12.

We decide to share a tasting of the Premium flight, and then decide whether to get another tasting or go for a glass of wine to have with a plate of oysters.

  1. 2012 Oregon Road Chardonnay                                $18

Oregon Road is the pretty back road on which their vineyard is located, where you can also find Shinn and Lieb’s tasting rooms.  This is their steel fermented chard, a pleasant but rather soft and not-crisp quaff, with tastes of sweet ripe pineapple and an aroma of sweet orange.

photo (54)

  1. 2011 Chardonnay $30

Of course this smells like vanilla and ripe pear, as it is an oaked chard, with tastes of tangerine on the front, then butterscotch and vanilla.  It is surprisingly tart for an oaked chard, though it is mellow enough to make it a pleasant sipping wine.  We quite like it.

  1. 2007 Merlot $26

Since 07 was a very good year on the North Fork, we have high hopes for this merlot, but our server warns us not to get our hopes up too high.  “The 07 is at the end of its development,” he notes, “and the 08 has more growth potential.”  Sniff.  Earth, tobacco, and something organic.  Taste.  Some dark fruit, tobacco, dry but not tannic, and not much of a finish.  I would say, if you have a bottle of this, drink it now.

photo (51)

  1. 2008 Merlot $34

Much better!  The tasting menu notes this scored an 87 in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and we can see why.  “The aroma just jumped out at me,” says my husband.  Not sure what he means, but it smells delicious.  No earth, lots of fruit, and then we taste dark fruit and chocolate.  Actually, that wouldn’t be a bad pairing—this wine and some dark chocolate, maybe with a bit of raspberry in the chocolate.  This is our favorite of the day, and if we come here during the winter for a concert, I would get a glass of this.

Oysters!

Oysters!

However, we are headed for the oysters.  Though we feel it wouldn’t be the best pairing, we opt for glasses of the 2011 Chardonnay, though I would prefer a sauvignon blanc to go with oysters.  The oysters are delicious, sweet and briny and full of liquid, fresh from Peconic Bay, to the west of Robins Island, as we are told.  We spend a pleasant half hour sitting outside, enjoying our wine and bivalves and listening to the music from inside, which we appreciate much more now that it is not quite so loud.

Front porch and oyster bar

Front porch and oyster bar

Reasons to visit:  a very pleasant tasting room; an intimate setting that also can accommodate groups; the chance to browse the collection at Material Objects; the 2011 Chardonnay and the 2008 Merlot.

Back deck

Back deck