Lieb Cellars: A Beautiful Setting                September 12, 2017

http://liebcellars.com/history/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. 2016 BL White Merlot   $18

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

  1. 2015 LR Pinot Blanc $22

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

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

  1. 2016 BL Unoaked Chardonnay $16

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

  1. 2016 BL Sauvignon Blanc $18

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

  1. 2016 BL Rosé $18

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

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  1. 2016 BL Red Blend $20

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

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Note the dogs in the background.

  1. 2015 LR Merlot $24

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

  1. 2015 LR Cabernet Franc $30

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

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The Petit Verdot looks as good as it tastes.

  1. 2014 LR Petit Verdot $35

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

  1. 2015 LR Meritage $35

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

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The inside room is attractive and comfortable.

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

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

http://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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One view of the porch.

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

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The winery building is quite attractive.

  1. Golden Fleece                 $18.95

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

  1. Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

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

  1. Pinot Blanc $34.95

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

  1. Chardonnay $29.95

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

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

  1. White Riesling $27.95

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

  1. 2006 Merlot $26.95

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

  1. 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95

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

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

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

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Hercules…and…

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Hercules! The wine is named for this cute pooch.

  1. Hercules $28.95

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

  1. Meritage $28.95

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

  1. 2010 Malbec $28.95

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

  1. Dessert Wine $28.95

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

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Some snacks are available for purchase.

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

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

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Coffee Pot Cellars: It’s the Bees Knees July 9, 2016

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

Bees feeding on honey

Bees feeding on honey

“Watch what happens when I pour some honey in here,” says Laura Klahr, leading a group of fascinated wine tasters over to the glass-fronted bee hive set into the wall of the Coffee Pot Cellars tasting room.  As we watch, the bees gather around the stream of honey, licking it up with their tiny tongues.  They seem to be enjoying their snack just as much as we enjoyed our tasting.

Laura waiting on a group

Laura waiting on a group

What, you may wonder, do bees have to do with wine?  More than you probably think, but here the fact is that Laura is a beekeeper who happens to be married to wine maker Adam Suprenant, and Coffee Pot (named for the distinctively shaped lighthouse just off Orient Point—they don’t serve coffee) is their joint venture, where you can find his wines and her honey and beeswax products, plus one item that combines both their passions.  More about that later.

As we stand at the bar in the cozy tasting room, we are treated to Laura’s stories about the wines, bees, and their adorable dog named Beasley and his opinions about wine.  More about that later, too.  Her lively presence makes us glad that we chose to bring our son and his fiancée with us on this tasting.

Laura consults with Beasley on his favorite blends.

Laura consults with Beasley on his favorite blends.

The menu offers several tasting options, but I recommend you go for all six wines for $12.  You won’t be disappointed.  Between tastes you may want to browse the bee or wine-related gift items.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc   $19.99

This is a steel-fermented white with a metal/mineral aroma, and tastes of citrus and melon with a touch of white peach.  There’s a bit of top of the mouth sweetness, but overall this is dry, and would go beautifully with seafood.  We imagine it would complement the oysters we had earlier at the rustic oyster bar in Greenport.

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  1. 2013 Chardonnay $19.99

“The grapes work so hard to grow,” says Laura, “that we just want to celebrate them.”  In order not to interfere too much with the natural flavor of the grapes, they age these in eleven-year-old oak barrels, so if you don’t care for oaked chards you may like this one.  We smell fermented pineapple, with just a touch of vanilla, and taste green apple.  Lovely summer sipper.  Our guests opine it would go well with shrimp, or maybe brie.

  1. Cyser $14.99

What, you may be wondering, is Cyser, and how did it get into the middle of this tasting?  Cyser is Laura and Adam’s fusion of their interests, a bubbly hard cider made with honey, like a mead.  I have tasted mead, and this reminds me of it a little, but it is much tarter than you would think from the ingredients and has only half a percent of residual sugar, says Laura.  Our son wants to know if malolactic fermentation has taken place, so Laura gets Adam on the phone so they can chat about this possibility.  Laura tells us that her bees helped pollinate the apple orchard where the apples were grown, and then a different type of bee contributed the honey.  Fascinating.  We enjoy it, and imagine its apple and honey taste would have gone well with the excellent pulled pork sandwich we had at First and Main—or maybe latkes!  We buy a bottle as a gift.  By the way, the Cyser was not listed on the menu as part of the tasting, but everyone in the room gets a taste.

  1. 2013 Gewürztraminer $21.99

So I’ve been saying for a while now that this or that wine tastes like gooseberries, and my husband kept saying, “I don’t know what gooseberries taste like.”  Saturday I found gooseberries at Briermere (just before I bought the obligatory pie) and brought them home so we could all taste them.  Fruit that tastes a bit like a vegetable, we decided, tart and green, but with a touch of sweetness.  And…that describes this steel-fermented Gewürztraminer.

Beasley standing guard on the Coffee Pot lighthouse.

Beasley standing guard on the Coffee Pot lighthouse.

  1. Beasley’s Blend                 $15.99

According to Laura, the name for this wine arose from a discussion about what kind of wine Beasley, their cute friendly dog, would go for.  The label features Beasley standing guard on the Coffee Pot lighthouse balcony, and the wine inside is a good pre-dinner sipper, easy to drink with pasta dishes, for example.  We smell black cherry, plum, licorice, and taste a good balance of fruit with a touch of earthiness.  Good work, Beasley!  Nice touch—she rinsed our glasses with a bit of red wine before moving from the whites to the reds.

  1. 2011 Merlot $19.99

These merlot grapes, we are informed, come from McCullough’s vineyard.  Our son detects an aroma of blueberry, and his fiancée adds pomegranate.  The taste is typically cherry, nicely dry.  Perhaps if we get some pork belly from Eight Hands Farm this would go well with it.

  1. 2010 Meritage                 $25.99

59% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 4% cabernet sauvignon; 90 points from Wine Spectator:  but statistics only tell you so much.  2010 was a good year on Long Island, and this is a lovely example of a wine from that year.  Delicious, we all agree, with lots of dark fruit, nice tannins, and a bit of a coffee aroma to add to the usual Bordeaux blend smells.  It is getting close to time to go home and cook dinner, and we must be hungry as we start to speculate about what this wine would go well with.  Lamb shish-ka-bob?  Steak?  Oh yes.  And we buy a bottle for the cellar.

Beeswax candles

Beeswax candles

Reasons to visit:  where else can you taste wine and learn everything you ever wanted to know about bees?; Laura and Adam, still wine country’s cutest couple; all the wines but especially the chardonnay, the Cyser, and the Meritage; lots of bee-related gifts (I’ve had the honey and it is excellent.).

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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!

Coffee Pot Cellars: How to Grade Wine July 12, 2015

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

The cozy building that houses Coffee Pot Cellars--where they do not sell coffee.

The cozy building that houses Coffee Pot Cellars–where they do not sell coffee.

“So, the way to grade a wine is this:  you bring the bottle to a party.  At the end of the night you look to see—if the bottle is empty, it was good.  But if it is still half or three quarters full…”  All of us gathered at the bar of the Coffee Pot Cellars tasting room chuckled at Adam Suprenant’s joke, one of a number of humorous comments with which he entertained the small group.  No joke, however—if you bring one of his bottles of wine to a party, don’t expect to take home any leftover wine!

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

Since he first opened three years ago, Adam has expanded his list from four wines to six, all made from grapes which he sources locally (since he doesn’t have his own vineyard).  The winemaker for Osprey’s Dominion, he notes that they pay him to make their wines, and then he pays them to use their facilities to make his wines.  Making his own wines gives him a chance to express his own taste and creativity, and he does very well.  We liked all six.

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The small, cheerful yellow tasting room is in a small building on the Main Road, and consists of a bar and some stools, plus shelves featuring wine-related items but also many honey products from the bee-keeping business Blossom Meadow run by his wife, Laura Klahre, who is also a very likeable presence behind the bar.  On one wall you can see a beehive behind glass, and Laura will happily explain to you what exactly is going on in it.  She is also in the process of creating a “Wineosaur,” a wire sculpture on the front lawn which she is creating using corks.  Some day she hopes to attach it to some skateboards and join a local parade.

Laura Klahre explains the

Laura Klahre explains the “Wineosaur.”

Adam also points out the music series, named “The Buzz,” which they are running this year featuring local singer/songwriters performing their own music, rather than the covers they have to sing at other wineries.  The series runs Saturday nights from 7-10, and you can check out their web site for details.  (http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/ )

Tasting options include one for $2.50, four for $8, or all six for $10.  A glass is $8. We decide we will each get our own tasting.

  1. 2012 Sauvignon Blanc                   $17.99

This is a fairly typical sauvignon blanc, steel-fermented, with lots of citrus flavor.  I also feel as though I smell some honey or honeysuckle.  It would go great with some Pipes Cove oysters.  Apropos of grades, we are informed this scored an 89 in Wine Advocate.  We like it.

  1. 2012 Chardonnay                            $15.99

This is the chardonnay he didn’t plan to make, which ended up being a prizewinner.  The 2012 is almost sold out, and the 2013 will be released this week.  Adam apologizes that they are not yet serving it, because he thinks it is a terrific wine.  The 2012 is not so bad!  Because he uses ten-year-old oak barrels, it is not heavily oaked at all, with only a slight butterscotch aroma and taste.  We taste LOTS of ripe pineapple, and though there is some sweetness it is not at all cloying.  Good.

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  1. 2013 Gewürztraminer $21.99

Gewürztraminer can be too sweet or not sweet enough, but this one is just right.  It is fairly refined, with aromas of honeysuckle and lychee and tangerine, reminding me of dessert in a Chinese restaurant.  Yet it is also dry.  Also good.

Beasley standing guard

Beasley standing guard

  1. Beasley’s Blend                 $14.99

Now we move to the reds, and Adam rinses our glasses with a quick swirl of the red wine.  Who is Beasley?  Their black pug, a photo of whom recently graced the pages of Wine Press, a local wine magazine.  And why is the wine named for him?  Laura and Adam joked that Beasley often joins them for dinner, and this is the type of wine he likes.  The label features a drawing of him standing on a deck of the Coffee Pot Lighthouse, and Adam says that he stands watch there, so if you go by on the ferry to New London, listen for his bark.  Anyway…Beasley has good taste.  This blend of 63% merlot, 19% cabernet franc, 12% cabernet sauvignon, and 6 % petit verdot is better than your usual everyday red blend, especially given the price.  We scent lots of berry and spice aromas, with a touch of woods.  It is soft and easy to drink, with plenty of berry taste as well.   A good wine to bring to that party…

  1. 2009 Merlot $17.99

Adam notes that he sources all the merlot grapes for this wine from McCullough’s vineyard, so that it can express the terroir.  We smell smoke and cherry, and taste cherry.  This is nice and dry, and would complement pasta really well.

  1. 2010 Meritage $25.99

A blend of 59% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 4% cabernet sauvignon, this wine also got a high grade—a 90—from Wine Advocate.  And, Adam adds, he feels it is yet 3-5 years from its peak, so this may be a good wine to store in the cellar for a while.  We like this one, too, as it is dry with good dark fruit tastes, but my notes are a bit sketchy because at this point we were the only people left in the room and Adam revealed that he likes my blog.  Outed!  Nice to know I have a reader aside from my nearest and dearest.

We decide to buy a bottle of the Beasley’s Blend because we are always looking for everyday reds—we eat a lot of pasta—and a bottle of the 2013 Chardonnay so we can try it.  We have it with some spicy stir-fried chicken and eggplant I make, and it is delicious.  Quite different from the 2012, though it also has a slight butterscotch aroma and flavor, this is much more balanced, with less of a pineapple taste and a touch more citrus—maybe Meyer lemon?  I think I’d really like it with some grilled salmon.

Don't worry, the bees are behind glass.

Don’t worry, the bees are behind glass.

Bees!

Bees!

Reasons to visit:  Adam and Laura, still wine-country’s cutest couple; all of the wines, but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage; honey and honey-related items, including beeswax candles in all shapes and sizes; a nice small room where you can really talk to the owner/wine-maker and learn about wine (and bees–which got me wondering, should they try their hand at making mead?).

The

The “Wineosaur”!

Coffee Pot Cellars: Wine Country’s Cutest Couple 8/23/14

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

http://blossommeadow.com/

No, they don't serve coffee here!

No, they don’t serve coffee here!

“Perhaps a sign that says ‘Live Bees!’ is not the best way to get people into a winery,” I suggest to winemaker Adam Suprenant, owner of Coffee Pot Cellars.  He chuckles, and notes that when people ask if he has live music he says no, but they have live…bees.  Never fear, however, the bees are behind glass, and you can observe their activity while you sip Mr. Suprenant’s lovely wines and visit with him and his charmingly chatty wife, Laura Klahre, the beekeeping owner of Blossom Meadow.

A year ago when we stopped into the tasting room it had just recently opened, and we were the only ones there.  This time there were several other couples, including some who were clearly regulars, and much of the discussion centered around the award Mr. Suprenant was to receive that night from Governor Andrew Cuomo for producing the best oaked chardonnay in New York State, his 2013 vintage (not available for tasting).  “And I didn’t even want to make a chardonnay!” he confessed to us, but more about that later.

The tasting room is a small but pleasant space that had previously housed an antique store and after that a real estate agency.  Now the simple yellow-painted space has a tasting bar and shelves filled with Blossom Meadow goods—honey, beeswax candles and crayons in various shapes, and bee-related beauty products.  Last year we bought cat-shaped candles as a gift for cat lovers we were about to visit.

Some of the gift items available

Some of the gift items available

Both Mr. Suprenant and Ms. Klahre are enthusiastic and passionate about their fields, and it is fun to chat with them both about the intricacies of bee-keeping and wine making.  Did you know a bee has to visit two million flowers to make one pound of honey?

More gifts!

More gifts!

The tasting menu offers all six of their wines for $10, four for $8, or individual tastes for $2.50.  We opted for two complete tastings.

  1. Sauvignon Blanc 2012             $17.99

We sniff, and detect aromas of citrus and mineral or wet rock.  The taste is tart, almost grassy, with lots of lemon.  Not a wine to sip by itself, it would go well with a seafood in cream sauce dish.

The labels feature the Coffee Pot light house.

The labels feature the Coffee Pot light house.

  1. Chardonnay 2012 $15.99

As we enjoy this very lightly oaked chardonnay, Mr. Suprenant tells us why he didn’t plan to make a chard.  “Like a cliché?” I ask (ever the English teacher), and he agrees.  But a grower from whom he buys his grapes asked him to buy some chardonnay grapes due to an oversupply, and so he gave in.  Using older oak barrels, he fermented tow clones of chardonnay for only five months, and then arrested the malolactic fermentation with sulfites.  “Butter cookies!” I say of the aroma, and then sip.  Pineapple and what Mr. Suprenant confesses he compares to Juicy Fruit gum compose the actually very good taste.  Sippable.

  1. Gewürztraminer 2012 $21.99

The grapes for this wine come from Osprey’s Dominion, where Mr. Suprenant is the winemaker (He’s been a winemaker on the North Fork for 17 years.).  Nice flowery honeysuckle aroma, not too sweet, with some tangerine flavor, this is also a sippable wine.

  1. Merlot 2009 $17.99

A nice touch—he rinses the glasses with a bit of the merlot before we taste it.  The gewürtz would overpower anything else in the glass, he notes, but I also think that sometimes when wineries rinse with water you get a taste of chlorine!  Like all his wines, this is made with grapes purchased from North Fork growers, and 2009 was a notoriously bad year, with an excess of rain.  However, this wine has turned out pretty good, with aromas of berry and no earthiness. Though I think I scent wet rags, my husband says pine forest.  Wine tasting is not an exact science!

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  1. Meritage 2008 $21.99

A Bordeaux blend, this version is 69% merlot, 19% cabernet sauvignon, and 6% each petit verdot and cabernet franc, according to the tasting menu which, Ms. Klahre points out, she is proud they finally have.  Complex aromas of berry, flint and a bit of smoky forest precede tastes of blackberry and herbs.  Very nice, but the next is better.

  1. Meritage 2010 $25.99

2010 is known to be a good year, and this wine proves it.  59& merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 4% cabernet sauvignon, this Bordeaux blend really does taste like a Bordeaux.  The aroma is brambly, with a hint of earth that is not present in the taste.  We taste blueberry and some spice and like it so much we decide to buy two bottles for the cellar, marking them 2016.

Adam Suprenant

Adam Suprenant

Reasons to visit: you like bees and honey and beeswax products; you enjoy talking with people about their passions; the 2012 chardonnay (and maybe the 2013), the gewürztraminer, the 2010 Meritage; Adam and Laura.

 P.S.  The name refers to the lighthouse at Orient Point, which is said to resemble a coffee pot.  They do not, in fact, serve coffee at the winery!

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The building was originally a house, and Adam and Laura will make you feel right at home.

The building was originally a house, and Adam and Laura will make you feel right at home.

 

 

Lieb Cellars/Oregon Road August 9, 2013

http://liebcellars.com/

Tuscany?  No, Oregon Road!

Tuscany? No, Oregon Road!

Suppose you like Lieb wines (as we do) and you decide to stop by their small tasting room on the corner of Cox Neck Road and Sound Avenue, only to find it…overrun sounds so judgmental, so let’s just say crowded…by the presence of a couple of limo groups.  Never fear, you have a lovely alternative.  Just go back onto Sound Avenue and continue a few blocks to Mill Road, turn left, then turn right onto Oregon Road and you will find yourself surrounded by farm houses and fields of sunflowers.  You’ll pass Shinn Vineyards—also worth a stop, by the way—and eventually you’ll find Lieb’s second tasting room, carved out of a warehouse (sort of similar to the way their first tasting room shares quarters with the Premium Wine Group, which does the wine-making for quite a few of the North Fork wineries).

This tasting room does not accept limo or bus groups, so it is unlikely to be crowded.  When we ask our server why the new room was opened, she gives just this reason, and notes that it is a nice place for their wine club members to come for a quiet tasting or glass of wine.  They also have an efficient-looking little kitchen just off the room, where on the weekends they make snacks such as hummus, tomato bruschetta, oysters, and other non-cooked items (since they don’t have an oven on site).  On this cloudy Friday, there is just one other group in the room, sitting around a table on the comfortable-looking modern wicker sofas.  The room has a sophisticated, semi-industrial look, softened by a swag of cloth and a seashell wreath over the kitchen and a sea-view mural on one wall.

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Lieb inside

They offer six tasting options:  five whites for $10, five reds for $10, a “summer fling” of six mixed types for $14, two sparkling wines for $7, a Reserve tasting of five for $12, and another summer tasting of four wines for $8. They also have a couple of Greenport Harbor beers on tap, in case your party includes a non-wine drinker.  We decide to do a white flight and then a red flight, sharing as we go.  The pour is fairly generous.

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  1. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot Blanc                                  $12

But wait, you say, isn’t merlot a red grape?  Yes, but if you don’t give it any time on the skins you get a white wine with some merlot characteristics.  In this case, that involves some funkiness in the taste.  We smell pine and mineral aromas, and the taste is sour, like grapefruit juice with some pineapple at the end.  We wouldn’t want to sip this one, but it might go well with food that needs a strong white.

2.       2010 Reserve Pinot Blanc                                             $18

Our well-informed server tells us that they are the only winery on the North Fork to make a Pinot Blanc, and so it is their signature wine.  Again, this one is not for sipping, though it would have gone well with the lobster bisque I made from our leftover shells the other night.  The aroma has a bit of the cat pee smell, and the wine itself is light and tart and citrusy, with a hint of sweetness at the end.

3. 2010 Bridge Lane Chardonnay                                    $10

We like this steel-fermented chard very much, and the price is certainly right.  Scents of cinnamon and mineral, with a bit of sweetness, lead to a classic steel chard with nice fruit, and not too much sweet.

4. 2009 Reserve Chardonnay                                           $24

After eight months in oak, this is a lightly oaked chard, with some baked goods aroma.  Very tasty, not too oaky, and again some sweetness at the end.

5. 2010 Sound Influence Riesling                                   $24

Although this is an off-dry Riesling, we find the sweetness overwhelms the tastes of pineapple and tropical fruit and wildflower honey.

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6. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot                                              $15

Now we switch to the reds, and we get a new glass, always a nice touch.  Although we smell forest floor, the wine itself does not have any of that earthy dirt taste one sometimes gets.  This would make a fine vin ordinaire, to have with pasta and such, as it has nice cherry flavors and just a little tannin.  Buyable.

7, 2005 Reserve Merlot                                                      $22

18 months in French oak gives this wine an aroma of smoke and tomato.  Hmmm…barbecue sauce?  This is also a good pasta wine, and would stand up to a rich Bolognese sauce, as it has more tannins than the Bridge Lane Merlot.  We taste cherry at the front of this relatively simple wine.

8. 2010 Right Coast Red                                                      $30

Here we have their classic Bordeaux blend:  58% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec.  I’m assuming the name is a play on Right Bank Bordeaux!  The aroma is almost meaty, it is so complex, and the wine itself is lovely, with lots of fruit.  It would complement a rack of lamb very nicely, though the end taste is a bit sour.

9. 2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc                                     $26

Our server describes this one as “nice and smooth,” as she also tells us it spent 15 months in French oak.  We smell wet rock, and my husband says it smells like a typical Cabernet Franc, but “not to distraction.”  Though not complex, this is a good red, with lots of fruit flavors.

10. 2005 Meritage                                                                   $45

Another blend, this one has 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and Petit Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc.  This is only the third time Lieb has made this wine, we are told, and they only made 300 cases of it.  We are underwhelmed by its aroma of sticky candy and just okay taste.

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They don’t offer any wine tchotchkes for sale.  We do buy both the Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot.  No reduction of tasting price with purchase.

lieb outside

Reasons to visit:  you like a quiet tasting room in a bucolic setting; many of their wines, including the reasonably priced Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot, are quite good; you want to come on a weekend and check out their snacks (I guess we’ll have to return!).

Coffee Pot Cellars June 2, 2013

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

photo (49)

“I have to put out the wine tasting flag,” said Adam Suprenant, the owner and winemaker for Coffee Pot Cellars, “because people keep coming in wanting a cup of coffee!”  He grinned affably and looked around his spare but pleasant tasting room, which just opened a week ago on Main Road in a building formerly occupied by a real estate office.  Mr. Suprenant is the winemaker for Osprey’s Dominion, but he also decided to express himself with his own label, named, not for a pot of coffee, but for the lighthouse in Orient which supposedly looks like a coffee pot.  He makes just four wines, so, he noted, “They’d better be good!”  That they are; not a clunker in the bunch.

The tasting room features a very attractive bar made from reclaimed poplar wood, a small selection of wine-related items, and honey and beeswax products made by Blossom Meadow, a venture of his fiancée, who manages about 100 bee hives around the North Fork. Over on a shelf sits a demonstration hive, with a glass front so you can watch the busy bees at work.

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We each had our own tasting, $7.00 for all four wines, or $2.00 per taste, and also enjoyed Mr. Suprenant’s comments on how he made each wine.

1.      2011 Sauvignon Blanc             $17.99 

Because not many vineyards grow sauvignon blanc grapes, Coffee Pot Cellars buys these grapes from Osprey’s Dominion, but Mr. S. makes the wine his own way.  A slightly mineral aroma precedes tastes of citrus and honeydew, with a nicely long and interesting finish.  Definitely a good raw seafood wine!

2.     2011 Chardonnay                     $15.99

“This is my Hurricane Irene wine,” Mr. S. notes, remembering how the intense rain and wind of the hurricane was followed two days later by heavy rain, forcing the early harvesting of the grapes.  “The wine was very lean,” he adds, so he allowed some malolactic fermentation, but aged the wine in older oak barrels, avoiding the over-oakiness and butteriness of some chardonnays.  We like this wine quite a bit, with its honey-vanilla aroma and just a hint of butterscotch amid the citrus flavors.  Buyable!

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3.     2008 Merlot                              $17.99

This is the wine Coffee Pot started with, and merlot is of course Long Island’s most-grown red wine grape. The fruit for this and the chardonnay all came from one vineyard in Aquebogue, from a vineyard where the grower only grows grapes for others, rather than making his own wine.  That allows the wine to express its terroir, but not, we are pleased to note, with the earthy or dirt barnyard smells of some local reds.  “People ask me if Long Island wines will age well,” our new friend says, “and I say depends on the wine.  This one is doing quite well, and many will age for 6-8 years and just get better.”   We smell a pleasantly brambly aroma and taste pleasant berry and good tannins, though not a lot of depth.  Pretty color, too.

4. 2008 Meritage                           $21.99

After making just merlot, Mr. S. decided to try a blend, so he went to some winemakers at Premium Wine Group (at Lieb Cellars) to see if they had any wine they were not interested in using.  After some mixing and tasting, he came up with this very lovely wine, mostly merlot, 19% cabernet sauvignon and 6% each petit verdot and cabernet franc.  Smells like a Briermere berry pie to me!  The petit verdot adds a bit of black pepper to the delicious fruit flavor, so it is sweet but not too sweet.  “I’ll only make this in the best years,” he explains, and also describes how he puts the wine through an oxidative process to eliminate that earth flavor, and also filters out the yeasts so they will stay the way he wants them to be. Buyable.

We buy a bottle each of the Chardonnay and the Meritage, plus some honey and a box of cat-shaped beeswax candles.

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Reasons to visit:  A chance to talk to the winemaker and learn all about how he makes his wines; four quite tasty wines; honey and beeswax products; a nice quiet tasting room. 

Osprey’s Dominion April 6, 2013

http://www.ospreysdominion.com/

http://ospreysdominion.olhblogspace.com

Having a bachelorette party?  Then this may just be the perfect spot for you.  We saw at least five during our tasting at Osprey’s Dominion, and our server noted, “I need a drink.  I just served three bachelorette parties in a row.”  The first part of the long curving bar in the large, airy tasting room is reserved for limo parties, and they get a “special” menu with four tastes, with choices winnowed to two in each category.   One group we noted had a rather extensive cheese and cracker platter, but we weren’t sure if they were served it or brought it. A guitar player in one corner varied his somewhat folksy play list to accommodate one group of women who danced in front of him.

On the other hand, we liked many of the wines, and our server had his spiel on each wine well memorized, with useful notes on each, and was happy to make suggestions as to choices and the order in which to drink them.  However, another server who took over for him when yet another group of gigglers demanded his attention just poured, with hardly any commentary.  We felt somewhat abandoned at that point.

A quick look at the gift items revealed a small assortment of not very creative choices, except for one neat idea:  they will let you order a personalized label for some of their wines, though you have to order at least a case.

The menu for those not from a limo offers two options (aside, of course, from buying a whole glass):  $8.00 for any five from the menu, or $5 for three choices.  A blackboard outside also offered a special of $20 for two tastings and a serving of sausage, cheese and crackers.  The “serving” consisted of a small sleeve of Ritz-type crackers, and a pre-packaged box with slices of mild pepperoni and fairly flavorless processed cheese.  Not worth it, but we were hungry after a shopping trip to Greenport and a quick stop at our marina to look at our slip for the coming summer (where we spotted two ospreys on their nest, which may have subconsciously influenced our choice of winery).  As we frequently do, we ordered different wines so we could taste ten of their offerings, and so tried many of their wines (their website says they have 23, but not all are on the tasting menu).  We did not try their sparkling wine, their port, or their spiced wine (served warm).

osprey white

  1. 2011 Sauvignon Blanc                                     $15

Our server notes that this is a good place to start, as it is a fairly neutral wine.  The aroma is somewhat flowery, and we note tastes of green apple and lemon.  Good, and would be nice with oysters or lobster.

2.  2010 Unwooded Chardonnay                     $15

“This one is more like a pinot gris than a typical chardonnay,” says our server, and we can see his point.  Like other steel-fermented chards it has a mineral aroma and tastes of citrus, especially lime.  The first taste on your tongue is a bit sweet, but it quickly turns tart.

3.  2010 Gewürztraminer                                    $20

“This one just jumps out of the glass at you,” said our server, who will soon be moving to North Carolina to take a teaching job.  This is certainly a Gewürztraminer that does its own thing, and does not taste like a standard wine from this grape.  The aroma combines fermented pear juice and some cat pee (or like the smell of water that flowers have stood in for too long), but is not unpleasant.  The flavor is both sweet and somewhat nutty, with a tart finish.

4.  2010 “Flight” Edelzwicker                              $24

It was interesting to taste this German-style wine next to the Gewürztraminer, since it has some of that grape, as well as Pinot Gris and Riesling in it.  We really liked it, and it is an unusual wine for Long Island, which is always fun.  The aroma is somewhat mineral, with a slight trace of cat pee, and it tastes like ripe green plums with some sweetness and complexity.  It is certainly buyable, though we don’t opt to do so.

Osprey red

5.  2007 Merlot                                                        $20

Now we switch to reds, and our server rinses our glasses once again.  A lovely aroma of berry and ripe plum, with none of the dirt that one often finds in Long Island merlots meets our noses, followed by good fruit flavors of ripe cherry with hints of chocolate. This is a prize winner, and we agree, and are especially interested to see that it is on sale, for $39 for three bottles, so we plan to buy it.  (The last time we were here, a couple of years ago, there was no charge for the tasting when we bought several bottles of wine.  Not so this time.)

6.  Richmond Creek Merlot                                                $14

It’s so fascinating to find that two wines from the same grape and the same vineyard can be so different.  As much as we like the 07 Merlot, that’s how much we dislike this thin, sour, very dry wine.  It has no finish, which is fortunate, and I’d hate to have that taste linger on my palate.

7.  2006 Cabernet Sauvignon                             $20

This one’s just okay, with mineral aroma and a whiff of earth, not much fruit and few tannins.

8.  2008 Cabernet Franc                                       $20

2008 was a very rainy year, and the cab franc suffers accordingly.  Though we smell leather and plums, the wine itself is thin, with only a little fruit and not much finish.

9.  2007 Meritage                                                   $24

Somewhat of a Bordeaux blend, the Meritage has 67% Merlot, 17% Carmenere, 10% Petit Verdot, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon.  We like its aromas of dark cocoa and fruit, and it tastes good, too, with all the ripe fruit flavors lacking in the previous two wines. Our substitute server has to consult a notebook to give us the varietal breakdown.

10.  2007 Reserve Merlot                                      $35

Really good!  Lots of ripe berry aroma and plenty of fruit with no dirt make this a better than average Merlot—and they’ve priced it accordingly.

Reasons to visit:  Good for a large group, and very accommodating to bachelorette parties; they encourage picnickers in the summer to buy a bottle of wine and use the outside terrace while listening to music; the Flight Edelzwicker (called flight because the owner is also a pilot) and the 07 Merlot; good prices for most of their wines.  But this is not the place if you like individual attention and a quiet atmosphere!

Castello di Borghese March 16, 2013

Borghese roomhttp://www.castellodiborghese.com/

“March winds do blow/And we shall have snow…”  Yes, indeed we shall.  As flurries swirled around us, we drove along Route 48, trying to decide on a winery to visit.  First we went past Vineyard 48, but the presence of no less than eight buses in the parking lot dissuaded us (but if you want a party, that might be the place for you) and so we headed on down the road to Castello di Borghese, Long Island’s oldest vineyard.  It was originally started by the Hargraves, who then sold it to Prince Marco and Princess Ann Marie Borghese (hence the name castello=castle) in 1999.

The pleasant tasting room has two main areas, a nicely set up bar and gift shop area and a larger room with tables and chairs, where Marguerite Volonts was singing beautifully and playing guitar.  When she segued from songs like “Autumn in New York” to some French cabaret songs we could imagine we were in Paris.  The tasting menu offers two basic options, as well as separate tastings of their more pricey offerings, such as Meritage.  You can taste four of their Estate wines for $9.00 or five of their Reserve wines for $12.00, so we opt for one of each.  However, as Nancy our server notes our careful swirling and sipping and note-taking, she begins to suspect something, and when Ann Marie Borghese comes out from the back room she asks point blank if I am a blogger.  They’re onto me!  So we get some additional tastes, but I note that two other groups who also evince seriousness about wine are also given some extras.  Borghese also offers an $18 cheese plate.

The following notes are in the order in which we tasted the wines, with the Estate wines marked with a *.  Oh, and they were sold out of the Riesling which we wanted to taste.

Borghese white

  1.  *2011 Estate Chardonnay                            $18

This is a fairly typical steel-fermented chardonnay, with aromas of vegetable, mineral, and pine sap.  Though not for sipping, it is nicely tart, with notes of green apple and lemon, and would be a good summer wine, maybe with a rich seafood dish.

     2.  2011 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay        $26

Typical aromas of vanilla and oak greet our noses, but the wine itself is much less buttery than most oaked chards, is a bit too lemony for our taste, and the finish is weak.

3.  *2011 Sauvignon Blanc                                  $24

They are quite proud of their Sauvignon Blanc, which has won some competitions, and (having already ascertained that I am a blogger) they give us both tastes of this.  I have to admit that it does not knock my socks off (and, as my husband notes, it is hard to knock my socks off), which seems to disappoint them, though it is a pleasant wine.  There’s not much aroma, primarily of some minerality, but it tastes better than it smells, though it is very light.  I could see having this with oysters (which would probably improve how much I like it), which would highlight the flavors of lemon and herb (thyme?).

Borghese red

The Borgheses are justifiable proud of their reds, and they give two reasons for why they are so good.  One is that the vines are older than most others on the North Fork, and the other is that Cutchogue has a very favorable micro-climate, with more sunny days than anywhere else in New York State, giving the grapes more time and warmth in which to ripen.  They are expecting great things of the 2012 vintage, since it was the warmest year yet, with a very warm spring followed by a hot summer and a harvest that came just before Hurricane Sandy.

4.  *2008 Pinot Noir Estate                                                 $30

As we hold the glass up to the light, we comment on the pretty light ruby color of the wine.  The aroma has some earthiness as well as sticky berry scents.  Though there is not much tannin, the taste is very good, with a balance of sweet and dry and not-quite-ripe Bing cherry tastes.  Nice long finish, too.

5.  2008 Pinot Noir Barrel Fermented                            $48

“The oldest Pinot Noir grapes on Long Island,” we are informed.  Aroma?  Cedar?  Terroir? Pencil shavings!  Fortunately, it tastes of berries, not pencil shavings, with nicely balanced tannins and a tart finish.  Very good indeed.

6.  *2007 Merlot Estate                                                       $25

The color of this is slightly darker than the Pinot, but also very attractive.  A strong aroma of berries precedes tastes of sweet berry, cedar, and just a touch of tobacco, with a long fruity finish.  Excellent, and very buyable, which we do.

7.  2007 Merlot Reserve                                                      $30

We love doing side by side tastings of two wines made from the same grape in the same year, but given different treatments.  Interestingly, we like the Estate better than the more expensive Reserve, though this is also a very good wine.  We again scent cedar and taste lots of fruit, and less sweetness than the Estate Merlot, so perhaps more balanced.  The difference in treatment is that the Estate is aged for 13 months and the Reserve for 18, both in oak barrels.

8.  *2010 Cabernet Franc Estate                                      $27

Nice legs!  No, we’re not being sexist, we’re just commenting on the way the wine forms “legs”—drips, essentially, along the sides of the glass when we swirl it.  Aromas of plums and spice herald tastes of dark ripe cherry and spice, and the tannins promise room to grow.  Nancy also points out that this has won awards, and would be a good wine to cellar.  We agree, and buy two bottles of this as well.

9.  2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve                                     $44

Again, it’s interesting to taste two similar wines side by side.  This Cab Franc has more fruit aroma than the other, with some notes of toast and earth but lots of delicious fruit.  We taste blackberry, and they say mulberry (which we might agree with if we remembered what mulberry tasted like), and nicely balanced tannins.  I’d love to have this with venison or some other lean game, maybe bison from North Quarter Buffalo Farm!

10.  *2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate                            $29

Okay, so if you’re counting you realize that our tasting should be done, but we never turn down extras (and we almost never spit, either).  We smell pine tar and fruit, and then taste a dry red with a surprising hint of citrus at the end.  We’re not liking this until Nancy offers us drinks of water to refresh our palates, at which point we find it tastes much better.  This would be great with pizza or Italian pasta dishes.

11.  2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve                           $44

Lovely aromas with lots of fruit, maybe currants, and not much earthy terroir, this is a good wine, but we’re not sure it is worth the price, since we’re not sure how well it would age.  Again, we seem to prefer the Estate version.

12.  Meritage                                                                             $60

I have wandered off to peruse the few gift items, assuming our tasting is over, when I am called back for one last bonus tasting, the Bordeaux-style Meritage.  This is a blend, 50% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it would certainly give a French Bordeaux a run for its money (especially given its great legs).  Beautiful color and nice legs, an aroma of mineral and spice, and a really delicious taste of berry and spice make this a wine I’d happily drink any time, though the price would limit when!  If you go, definitely taste it, as it is worth the extra fee.

Reasons to go:  pleasant room with well-informed and generous servers and the chance to chat with an owner; the red wines, many of which are better than the average Long Island reds (not so much the whites, though maybe the Riesling would have been an exception); avoidance of busloads; a pleasant room in which to sit and listen to music if they are offering that (check their web site).