Hudson Valley Visit:  Nofowineaux Takes a Trip October 7-13

We decided to take a trip north to see art museums and galleries, visit relatives, and take some hikes in the beautiful Hudson Valley countryside.  No surprise, we also made time for some tastings, visiting one brewery and two wineries.

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Storm King and DIA Beacon have both been on my bucket list for a while, so now I can cross them off.  Both are well worth the visit, Storm King in particular (but be sure to go when the weather is nice, and try to arrive early in the day).  We also enjoyed sauntering up and down Beacon’s main street, popping in and out of little galleries and antique/gift shops.  The Roundhouse Hotel is pricey for the area, but comfortable and well run.

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One view from Storm King.

Another place worth traveling to is Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, New York, where we hiked around the lake with my brother and sister-in-law.  It’s a beautiful place, with the garden aspects integrated into the natural landscape, providing scenic views at every turn.  And if you’re in Kingston, you should make time for the Maritime Museum, with its emphasis on the history of the boats and industries along the Hudson River.

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Innisfree Garden, an amazingly beautiful place.

Our final hike of the week was in the John Boyd Thacher State Park outside Albany, where the scenery reminded us very much of the movie Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  Alas, we did not see him running bare-chested through the trees.  If you go, be sure to stop into the new visitor center.

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So, now on to our tastings…

Hudson Valley Brewery, October 8, 2017

Beacon, New York

http://hudsonvalleybrewery.com/about-us

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Before they put out the tables, we had trouble spotting the brewery.

Finding the brewery was a bit of a challenge, as it is located in the midst of a huge parking lot behind an apartment building, and only a small sign on the door indicates that you have arrived.  We walked past before they opened, and then when we returned there were picnic tables set up outside and the garage-style door had been swung open.  Inside, it is very industrial chic, reminding us that Beacon is sometimes referred to as “Brooklyn north.”  The bar is not very long, so we decided to take our tastes to a picnic table across from it.  We would have sat outside, but all those tables were filled, primarily with a young crowd.

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Industrial chic room

They offer eight different beers, a four-ounce pour in attractive stemmed glasses at $2-$3 per taste.  The chipper server informed us that they only give two tastes per person per time at the bar, so we each took two and then returned for the final four.  We left our credit card to run a tab, thinking we would get a whole glass of whichever beer we liked best, but as it happened there were none we liked enough to get a glass of.  Their beers generally have a sour, fruity flavor profile, which is not a taste I like.

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  1. Pillow Hat IPA

The aroma is very grapefruity, with a touch of something funky.  The taste is super citrusy, and it is the kind of beer I could see downing on a hot day after working in the garden.

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Our second group of tastes

  1. Feel No Way Pilsner

Cement basement aroma, with a touch of sauerkraut.  The taste is sour, oaty and grainy, and reminds my husband of Kix cereal!

  1. Little Memory IPA

This one also smells like grapefruit juice, plus pineapple juice.  I dislike it so much that we don’t finish the taste. It is sour but also fruity.

  1. Plateaux IPA

Okay, this one we decide is like a beery orange juice or an over the hill cider that has gone sour.  If you don’t actually like beer, you might drink this with a burger.

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Our first group of tastes

  1. Amulet Sour Farmhouse

Blueberry pie aroma?  Certainly fruity.  The taste reminds me of very sour candy.  I say bleh; my husband says maybe after a run.  I’d rather drink water in that case!

  1. Flying Colors Sour Farmhouse

By this time, we have invested $2 in a bag of cracked pepper and sea salt chips, which helps us get through the tasting.  This is another fruity-tooty beer, and rather sweet.  As we discuss the tastes, my tasting buddy comments that we are treating this more like a wine tasting in terms of all the aromas and flavors we are finding, which is true.

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  1. Phase Delay Sour Farmhouse

This one smells like an IPA, very citrusy, and tastes rather like sucking on a lemon.  Super sour, say my notes.  At least this one is not objectionably sweet, and is drinkable if what you want is a beer-like lemonade.

  1. Silhouette Brunch Style Sour Beer

Their own tasting notes compare this to a Tropicana juice box, though I again think it resembles a sweet and sour lemonade.  I find it barely potable, and, as with several of the other beers, we don’t finish our taste.

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There are snacks one can buy. Our little bag of chips cost $2.

Reasons to visit:  you’re in Beacon and you want to go to a beer tasting (but I wish we had tried the other brewery in town); you don’t actually like beer that tastes like beer.  That evening we had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant on Main Street which had Singha beer on tap, and much preferred that to any of the beers we had at Hudson Valley.

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Benmarl Winery October 9, 2017

Marlboro, New York

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Entrance to Benmarl winery

http://benmarl.com/

Finding Benmarl Winery would also have been a challenge, if not for Google maps, which easily directed us to this mountain-top site, about twenty minutes outside of Beacon.  They are part of the Shawangunk Wine Trail (who knew?), which includes about fifteen wineries along the Shawangunk Mountains.  We considered visiting one or two more, but many of them were closed on Monday, and others were a bit further than we wanted to venture on this rainy, foggy afternoon.

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Resident kitty

Benmarl has a pleasantly rustic tasting room, and the servers were enthusiastic and chatty.  Outside we noted a large tent set-up, and learned that the day before they had had a special grape-stomping event.  Oh my.  Our server informed us that “Benmarl” means “Hill of Slate,” and the farm is allegedly the “oldest vineyard in America.”  On their 37 acres they grow Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Muscat, then get the rest of their grapes from the Finger Lakes and…Long Island!  The North Fork, to be exact.  Ha.  I had said as we were on our way there that I was interested in comparing their wines to Long Island wines, but, no surprise, they tasted rather familiar.

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For $10 you get to try six (out of 17 or more—they were out of some) of their wines, and since the pour was rather small for a shared tasting and I was curious to try it, we paid an additional couple of dollars to try the Baco Noir.  If you want to keep your glass, your tasting is $12.

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There were lots of options on the menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $20

The grapes for this wine are from the North Fork, and it has the characteristic honeysuckle aroma and a taste that combines citrus and minerality.  Good, though a tad sweeter than I like.

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  1. 2016 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $15

Our server told us about how she likes to recommend this wine to anyone who insists they don’t like chardonnay, since what they don’t like is probably the oak-aged buttery California style of chard.  We agree, and like this citrusy light white, with flavors of gooseberry and mineral.  Quite pleasant.  We buy a bottle, which matches well with a pasta and salmon dish my sister-in-law makes for us when we arrive at their house.  These grapes are from Seneca Lake.

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  1. 2016 Traminette $18

This is one of their sweeter wines, but not cloyingly so, with a candy aroma and some tropical fruit tastes.  I could see having it with spicy food.  Finger Lakes grapes.

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  1. 2016 Merlot $20

As we switch to the reds, she gives the glass a quick rinse with some of the wine.  This, I observe, tastes very like a North Fork merlot.  Not surprisingly, since that is where the grapes come from.  You can smell the oak (aged 16 months in French oak) and cherry, and it also has lots of cherry taste, plus maybe a bit of tobacco.

  1. 2015 Slate Hill Red $20

A Bordeaux blend, this is 48% North Fork merlot, 42% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 10% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak.  The aroma is fruity, but also mushroomy, with a hint of something chemical—but that may be due to the cellar, the door to which was opened behind us as we stood there, and from which emanated a basement/chemical smell.  In any event, we didn’t much care for this wine, which had a sour aftertaste and not a lot of fruit.

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  1. 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve $33

Another blend, this is 30% North Fork merlot, 20% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 50% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 24 months.  We like it much better than the Slate Hill.  It has lots of fruit—dark plums, cherry, blackberry, coffee—and is pleasantly tannic and dry.

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  1. 2015 Baco Noir $35

I really wanted to try a wine made from estate-grown grapes, and this is all theirs, from vines first planted in 1958.  The aroma is great, with lots of fruit, very plummy, but the taste does not have as much fruit as the smell promised.  It is dry and tannic, but not particularly complex.

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Reasons to visit:  you are traveling up the Hudson Valley and want to do a wine tasting; the sauvignon blanc, stainless steel chardonnay, merlot, and Proprietor’s Reserve; pretty reasonable prices for a small winery; beautiful mountain setting; you want to support a winery that practices “sustainable” agriculture, with no spraying.

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Millbrook Vineyards and Winery October 11, 2017

Millbrook, New York

http://www.millbrookwine.com/

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After the flatness of Long Island, it was refreshing to be in the Catskill Mountains.  We enjoyed the various vistas as we traveled the back roads with my brother and sister-in-law to this winery with its spectacular views over the hills.  Although we felt we had gone rather far off the “beaten path,” a busload of tourists who arrived shortly after we did showed us that we were not as isolated as it had seemed.  Fortunately, Millbrook is well set up to handle a crowd, and we enjoyed our tasting.

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This is only one small part of the winery’s space.

Our bright and well-informed server informed us that John S. Dyson, the founder of the vineyard, was responsible for the “I (heart) NY” logo, which also appears on their glasses (which you get to keep after your tasting).  In addition to the property in Millbrook, the winery also owns vineyards in California (fortunately so far not affected by the fires) and Italy, which expands the varieties of wine they can offer.  One challenge of growing wines this far north is the winter.  They can get temperatures as low as minus fourteen, and anything lower than minus five can give certain grape vines trouble.

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A couple of the wines we did not get to try.

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The shop has a few items, many from Italy.

The Millbrook building is large and attractive, with various areas, including an upstairs lounge and balcony, where one can (and we did) take a bottle or glasses and look out over the scenery while sipping.  Not all of their wines are available for tasting every day, and on this week day our only option was the Portfolio Tasting, of six wines for $12.50.  You pay the cashier when you enter, and then are assigned a spot at one of the bars.

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  1. 2016 Hunt Country White          $16

This is their white blend, a mixture of riesling, tocai friulano, traminette, and pinot grigio, some of which comes from California.  The aroma is of apricots and minerals, and it tastes quite good, of peaches and melon, with a nice long finish.  My brother characterizes it as a “backyard wine,” and my sister-in-law says she has “no complaints.”

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano Proprietor’s Special Reserve $18

According to our server, Millbrook was the first winery in the United States to grow this particular grape, which is related to sauvignon blanc.  We like it very much, with its aroma of roasted pears and soft tastes of pears and red grapefruit.  I think it is softer than an Italian tocai, which is flintier, but we like it enough to buy a bottle to take home.

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I peeked into a room where they store wine.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay $18

Just when I think I’ll finally get to compare an upstate chard with a North Fork chard, we are told that one third of the grapes for this wine come from Pellegrini Vineyard on the North Fork!  Other grapes come from the Finger Lakes and from Millbrook’s estate.  In any event, it is a typical not-too-oaky oaked chardonnay.

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  1. 2014 Villa Pillo Borgoforte $19

In case you’re wondering about the Italian name, it comes from Millbrook’s Italian vineyard near San Gimignano, a fascinating town not far from Florence.  This, we are told, is a “Super Tuscan,”  (whenever I hear that term I picture a wine bottle with a heroic cape flying out behind it), a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot grapes.  In any event, it is delicious, with lovely fruit aromas and complex tastes including dark fruits, tobacco, and more.  It is dry and tannic, and we buy two bottles, one to give to my other brother and another to bring to our daughter’s house when we go there for dinner.

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Italian wine in a New York State winery? Yes, when the owner of the winery also owns property in Tuscany.

  1. Hunt Country Red $18

Since this is their blend, it changes year to year, and the current iteration is a mix of 55% cabernet franc, 40% merlot, and 5% syrah, with again some grapes coming from California.  The server says he defines this wine as a wine to have on “any day that ends with a y.”  Ha.  It is their top selling red, and we can see why, as it is an easy to drink, fruity red, with lots of cabernet franc flavors like blueberry and plums.  I say a good pizza wine, and my brother says “good with stuff.”

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Looks like a hunt on the label…

  1. 2013 Merlot Proprietor’s Special Reserve $25

Pellegrini strikes again—all the grapes for this wine are from there.  We decide this is a wine that needs to be served with food, and just then our server brings out a little plate of bread cubes and olive oil (which they just happen to sell there).  Definitely better with food, but still rather earthy, with a chemical basement smell.  Not our favorite.

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We had the upstairs lounge to ourselves.

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The view from the upstairs balcony

Reasons to visit:  you are in the Catskills and you’d like to find a nice winery for a tasting; the Tocai Friulano, the Villa Pillo Borgoforte, the Hunt Country Red; a pleasant outdoor upstairs balcony where you can sip a glass of wine while looking at beautiful scenery.

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Paumanok Vineyards:  Poetry and the Vines        September 29, 2017

https://www.paumanok.com/history.html

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As a lover of poetry, I can’t help but be attracted to a winery that not only uses the Native American name Walt Whitman adopted for Long Island, but also quotes his poetry on their labels.  Their pleasant outdoor deck overlooking the vines is another reason to go there, and some of the wines are not bad, either!

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It was a perfect day to sit on the outdoor deck.

We went there with my brother and sister-in-law and their large well-behaved dog on a warm sunny day in September, and were happy to discover that they allow leashed dogs on the deck.  Our table was next to a bush full of Monarch butterflies, and my sister-in-law informed me it was a butterfly bush.  Aha.  We did have to walk inside for each new taste, but that also gave us a chance to chat with the servers, who were all quite pleasant, including one young woman from France, who informed us that Paumanok has an internship program with her school in Toulouse.  So that explains why the last time I was there I also had a French server.

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If you look closely, you’ll see the butterflies all over this butterfly bush.

The menu offers a flight of four whites or four reds, each for $12, so we decided each couple would share a flight of the whites and then the reds.  Because my brother bought at least four bottles of wine, the tastings were free.  The menu includes other options, which let you taste their sweet wines, their rosés, and their “Grand Vintage,” or premium wines.  Almost all of their wines have screw tops, so if you are cork-averse, these are a good option.

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The servers were all quite pleasant and helpful.

We also decided to get the Lombardi cheese and salami board for $20, which included a small loaf of bread, olives, dried apricots, and fig cake.  They have a small menu of other snacks, and don’t allow outside food.

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Our snack tray, moment before we decimated it. No outside food is allowed.

  1. 2016 Chenin Blanc         $28

Our server proudly pointed out that this is their signature wine, and that theirs is the only completely estate-grown chenin blanc in New York State.  They have reason to be excited about this wine, which we all really liked.  The aroma is grassy and herbal, and the taste starts fruity with citrus at the end, plus notes of minerality.  My brother said it was “like a mountain stream running over granite.”  We decided it would be good with food, and found that to be true that evening when we had it with scallop ceviche and grilled striped bass.  We bought the fish at Braun’s, of course.

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  1. 2015 Festival Chardonnay $18.99

As I surmised, given its position in the flight, this is their steel-fermented chard.  My sister-in-law found the aroma sweet, and I thought maybe like orange blossoms.  My brother agreed, but added steel pipes.  It’s quite dry and light, and evanesces quickly.  I said like putting your tongue on a flagpole.  We had some disagreement as to how much we liked it, though we thought it would be good with food.  My husband suggested mac and cheese, I mentioned carbonara, and my brother said it reminded him of an Italian wine.  My sister-in-law didn’t like the after-taste.

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The menu says the pour is a half to one ounce, but it seemed more generous than that to me.

  1. 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

Because they use neutral French oak barrels for the eight months of fermentation, this is lighter and not as strongly butter-scotchy as some oaked chards.  We found if quite pleasant, with aromas of vanilla and butterscotch and a taste that we compared to caramel cone ice cream with a lemony finish.  Of course, it would go well with roast chicken.

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  1. 2016 Dry Riesling $22

One of the servers was particularly well-informed, and she let us know that this riesling has no residual sugars.  The shorter the fermentation time, she told us, the drier the riesling.  We liked this white, too.  The aroma combines honeysuckle with a touch of something chemical, perhaps camphor.  It hits the tongue with tart fruit, including greengage plums and some apricot.  You wouldn’t necessarily identify it as a riesling from taste alone, we decided, and you wouldn’t want it with spicy food.  But it might be very good with charcuterie.

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  1. 2015 Festival Red $19.99

Now we switched to the reds, which they poured into the same glasses we had used for the whites.  This is a blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon and 48% merlot, with aromas of cherry and black current, plus spice.  Nutmeg?  It’s very dry and light, and our comments included “not much there,” “not enough fruit,” and “no complexity.”  My sister-in-law detected something “chalky” at the end.  We were not excited, though it is drinkable.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $28

Ooh, we liked this one much better.  Aromas of plums, leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate and tastes of complex fruits made this our favorite of the reds.  It has some tannins, and is elegant, not earthy.  We thought it would go well with venison, and my brother bought some bottles of it.

  1. 2013 Merlot $28

As usual, the merlot smells like black cherry and tastes like cherries and other dark stone fruits.  First my brother said it would be a good burger wine, but then he said, “The more I drink it the less I like it.”  My husband joked, “That doesn’t sound like a good business plan.”  The wine is light and rather monochromatic.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $28

The aroma is similar to the cabernet franc, but the taste is not as good.  No depth, we agree, and though it has dark fruit tastes there is no complexity.  My sister-in-law says it has a “watery” finish.  Meh.

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The tasting room is nice, but rather small.

Reasons to visit:  lovely outdoor deck with views over the vineyards; pleasant servers; the Chenin Blanc and, to a lesser extent, the other whites; the Cabernet Franc; you can bring your dog if you sit outside.

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The prettily rustic entrance

 

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Do the surroundings influence how a wine tastes? We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

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We enjoyed the view across the vines.

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She’s much too polite to ask for any, but my sister-in-law and brother’s dog thought the cheese tray smelled pretty good.

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

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

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

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One view of the pleasant tasting room

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

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The art on the walls is for sale.

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Some of the pretty flowers by the entrance

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

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

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Some nice options on the snack menu

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $28

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

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

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

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

  1. 2015 Black Label Chardonnay $28

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

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You can see how small the pour is.

  1. Rosé $22.50

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

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

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

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They have two bars for when the room gets busy.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $35

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

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

  1. 2014 Syrah $34

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

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  1. 2014 Malbec $34

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

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A view of the porch

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

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The grapes are starting to ripen.

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Old Field Vineyards:  Counting their Chickens      August 11, 2017

http://www.theoldfield.com/

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If you want to feel as though you are really out in the country, head almost all the way to Greenport and stop into the Old Field Vineyards, through the gate, past the barn and the Port-a-Pottie, to the rustic tasting room and open porch.  Old Field is one of our favorite wineries to bring guests when the summer weather cooperates, since their porch is a charming place to sit and have a tasting as you look out onto the capacious lawn and watch children and chickens running around.  Yes, chickens—and also roosters and a rather charismatic duck—have free rein of the place during the week (on weekends, when it is more crowded, they tend to be kept in the coop), and they sometimes will wander up onto the porch, where they thought my cousin’s hat straw might have been edible.

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Off in the distance you can see the picnic tables and kids running around.

It wasn’t, but the wines were quite potable.  The menu offers several options:  Sample our Rosés (2) for $4.00, Sample our Chardonnays (2) for $6.00, Sample our Reds (4) for $12.00, or Sample our Everyday Mixed Flight (4) for $10.00.  We had just eaten many oysters in Greenport at the Little Creek Oyster Farm, so we didn’t need snacks, but this is one place where you may bring a snack, or even a picnic.  One cousin, S., wanted to try one rosé and one chardonnay, and the friendly and accommodating server told her that was no problem.  The other cousin, R., opted for the red tasting, and we chose the mixed one, so we were able to try all the wines—plus one extra which was not included!

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I hope people heed this sign.

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One rooster.

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Another rooster.

We chatted with our server about the fowl, and he noted that they actually serve a purpose, providing both pest control, as they gobble up bugs, and fertilizer for the vines.  If you go on their web site, you will see that this is not the only part of their dedication to all things natural.  The vineyard also has an interesting family history, so it is worthwhile to ask about it. We were busy chatting amongst ourselves this time, so we didn’t get into those stories.  Also note that the following descriptions of the wines are not exactly in the order in which they appear on the menu, but are rather in the order in which we tasted them.

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  1. 2014 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay      $28

This was one cousin’s first taste, and she liked it.  The aroma is butterscotch-y, but the taste is not too buttery, since it is a blend of oak and steel fermented chards.  It has some light citrus notes as well.

  1. Blush de Noir $18

Our tasting began with this rosé made from pinot noir grapes.  We all agreed it was very light, with lots of grapefruit aroma and not a lot of fruit taste, and surprisingly lemony for a rosé.  My cousin thought it could go with the pesto I had made a couple of nights ago, or seafood in a rich sauce, like scallops Alfredo.

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This chicken was quite sure my cousin’s hat was edible.

  1. 2014 Rooster Tail $20

My other cousin’s tasting started with this red, a blend of mostly merlot with a little cabernet franc.  “Nice, potable, everyday wine,” was his judgment, and we all concurred.  The aroma combines cherry and tobacco with a bit of funkiness and the taste is dry, with cherry and not a lot of fruit.  We got this one in our tasting as well.

  1. 2014 Mostly Steel Chardonnay $23

Comparing this chardonnay with the other one led to lots of conversations about oak vs. steel, and their various virtues and shortcomings.  Overall, we thought this was the preferable chard here, clean and refreshing, with some green apple taste and lots of citrus. R commented on its “up front flavor.”  S laughed that she had said the other chard smelled “woody” and this one smelled “metallic.”

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The Cacklin’ Rose is quite dark, compared to their other rose.

  1. 2014 Cacklin’ Rosé $16

Venturing on her second taste, S commented that this smelled pleasantly like “old library.”  It spends 24 hours on the skins, so is a more flavorful rosé than the other one.  We all liked it, and I noted that it tastes like macerated strawberries.

  1. 2013 Merlot $26

The server mentioned that this was made from two clones of merlot, so we asked him to explain what that meant.  They used to have two different clones of merlot, each grown in a separate field, but they discovered that one grew better than the other, so the weaker one was ripped out.  As a result, this particular mixture ends as of 2015.  Too bad, because it was quite yummy.  In fact, we bought two bottles of it.  It has lots of fruit, and S said she tasted cranberry, and we added yes, and also ripe cherries.

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I love the mis-matched table clothes on the bar.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $38

We all agreed that this, from R’s tasting, was the weakest of the reds, described by R as “watery.”  It evanesces, I added, making use of my favorite word this summer.  It has an aroma of red fruits and forest floor.

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  1. 2010 Commodore Perry $38

Named for the illustrious ancestor of the current owners of the vineyard, this is a wine they only make in good years.  Cherry, tobacco, chocolate, thyme, juniper or bay leaf were some of the taste descriptors we used for this merlot.  Also, “serious legs” and “very good.”  We also learned that it was quite appropriate to name a wine for Commodore Perry, since he was known to carry wine with him on his voyages to give as gifts.

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  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Speaking of gifts, after we paid for our tastings and the two bottles we bought, our cousin gave our server a very nice tip, at which point he offered did we want to taste anything else?  We looked over the menu and realized that we had tasted every wine on it (nine in all, counting Rooster Tail twice).  Ah, he said, but how about this one that is not on the tasting menu, producing a bottle of Charging Goose Sauvignon Blanc.  S, noting that she had grown up on a farm, said it smelled like straw.  We all liked this, too, and decided its lemon flavor would have gone well with those oysters we had eaten earlier.

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Charging Goose? Maybe that’s why they have chickens and ducks, but no more geese.

Reasons to visit:  you want to really feel as though you are out in the country; you want a place where you can bring a picnic and let children run around; you like chickens; the Rooster Tail, the Mostly Steel Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, the 2013 Merlot, the Commodore Perry.

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The netting on the grapes prevents the birds from eating them.

 

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard: Wine (and Beer) on Tap                 July 19, 2017

http://www.baitinghollowfarmvineyard.com/

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Though it looks like a Nineteenth Century farmhouse, most of the building is quite new.

Yes, a number of the wines here flow from a tap, and so does a selection of local beers.  And if that doesn’t sound to you like a winery that is serious about its wines…it certainly felt that way to us.  On the other hand, if you read the tasting notes on the reverse of the menu, it certainly seems as though someone cares about the juice of the grape.  Then again, the youthful servers, while perfectly pleasant—and one of them was engagingly chatty—didn’t have much to say about the wines, needing to check some notes, for example, to tell us what percentages of various grapes went into a blend.  And that seemed to suit the customers we saw just fine.  Most of them appeared to be visiting Baiting Hollow as you would a convenient bar, ordering a couple of tastes or glasses to take to a table to have, perhaps, with a cheese tray.

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The server is filling a beer or wine glass from the taps.

The tasting room, situated inside what looks like an old farm house (but is mostly not, as we remember passing by as it was being built), has a small bar but quite a few tables and seating areas, and there is also an extensive outdoor patio which looks like it can accommodate a large crowd.  There’s also a barn on the property where they care for rescue horses.  A portion of the proceeds from certain bottles of wine helps to fund this endeavor. The place also features an array of objets for sale.

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Objets for sale.

The tasting menu offers one taste for $4, three for $9, four for $11, or six for $16.  There are also three more expensive wines available for $5 per taste.  We decided to share one tasting of six wines, as that would enable us to sample most of their offerings.  It was a wise choice, for the pour was often quite generous.  We took our time, happy to be in air conditioning and out of the July heat and humidity.

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One view of the bar.

  1. 2015 White Satin $27.99

“I love this wine,” enthused our server.  “It is very like a pinot grigio.”   She was right, we decided, as we sipped this dry, minerally, and refreshing white blend (of what, we don’t know).  The aroma was both floral and mineral.  The wine also had a trace of a salty taste.  It would be fine with raw oysters or clams.

  1. 2013 Riesling $26.99

Though both the menu and our server described this as “off dry,” we found it a bit too sweet.  Though the aroma had the honeysuckle smell riesling often has—and no cat pee!—the taste was so light that, blindfolded, I’m not sure I would identify it as a riesling.  I did detect some peach flavor.  The mouth feel was interesting, however, as it was rather unctuous.  (We decided to skip the chardonnay, as it is oaked.)

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The Pink Satin looks very pretty on the zinc-topped bar.

  1. 2016 Pink Satin $22.99

Given the current rage for rosé, we thought we should try one of Baiting Hollow’s three rosés, and so asked our server which was the driest.  She suggested Pink Satin, and it was a good choice.  This could certainly be a summer sipper, “not too sweet and not too tart,” opined my husband.  We then had a discussion of the aroma, which I insisted had notes of gasoline, as well as fruit and mineral.  The taste made me think of macerated strawberries, and also of Croteaux 3.  Good.

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  1. 2007 Merlot $26.99

With each taste, our server offered us a clean glass if we desired, so when we switched to reds we accepted her offer.  This was one of the wines with extensive notes in the tasting menu, so we were particularly interested to try it.  The aroma was nice, mostly cherry and chocolate.  The wine itself, however, was very simple, with slight tannins and something unpleasant at the end.  Maybe a woody taste?  “It might be okay with food,” opined my tasting buddy, “but nothing too overpowering.”  I agreed.  The menu notes that this could “bottle age for countless years.”  I would say, don’t count on it.

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The horse which provided the name for the wine.

  1. Mirage $27.99

This Bordeaux-style blend of 26% cabernet franc, 44% cabernet sauvignon, and 30% merlot is one of the wines the profit from which supports their horse rescue operation.  As we admired it in the glass, we felt it had nice legs and a pretty color.  The aroma was less promising, with only faint whiffs of cherry and tobacco.  The taste was also unexceptional, though it is nicely dry, with some fruit tastes.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $28.99

One thing we noticed was that the prices are all quite reasonable, with only a few of their premium wines over $30.  This was our favorite red of the day, dry, with good tannins, and tastes of dark fruit. It would pair well with lamb chops.  It also smells really good, like plums and other dark fruits.  But we did feel as though it had a very short finish.  “It evanesces,” I declared.

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One part of the tasting house.

Reasons to visit:  it’s the first winery you come to on Sound Avenue after you leave the Expressway, so it’s a convenient place to start or end a tasting tour; they have lots of entertainment (check the web site) and food options; beer on tap in case you’re traveling with a non-wine-drinker; reasonably priced wines; the White Satin, the Pink Satin, the Cabernet Franc; you can contribute to their horse rescue operation and possibly visit the horses.  However, this is not a place to come if you are interested in serious conversations about wine!

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Just one part of the extensive outdoor patio area.

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Just a few rules…

Bedell Cellars: Artistic Elegance  July 6, 2017

https://www.bedellcellars.com/

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The weather man was predicting rain, so we decided to take our guests to Bedell, rather than opt for a winery where we would sit outside.  As it happened, the sun came out, but we did not regret our choice.  Bedell has some lovely and interesting wines, and the most artistic labels on Long Island.  As we’ve been told before by servers, the owner is on the board of the Museum of Modern Art, and he commissions labels from various modern artists.  Given the prices on the wines, maybe they could include little reproductions of the artwork with the purchase of each bottle!

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Each label is also a work of art.

The tasting room is small and simply elegant, with a high ceiling and a black and white color scheme. There is also a covered porch to one side.  We settled down at a table for four and perused the flight menu—which didn’t take long, as they have simplified their options.  Now there is only one choice—a flight of five wines for $20.  Each couple opted to share a tasting, which worked out fine.  They also have a small snack menu, with one unusual choice:  an individual serving of North Fork honey.  We had brought some mixed nuts, which helped us appreciate at least one of the wines, as you will see.

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Their menu of snacks.

  1. Sparkling Rosé 2016      $45

What a perfect way to start our tasting, especially since we were also celebrating my husband’s birthday.  A pretty pink—“Nice color for a bridesmaid’s dress,” opined our friend—with an aroma of strawberries, this is made from a mixture of 60% merlot and 40% cabernet sauvignon.  Unlike the sparkling white we had here last time, this is made by injecting CO2, not by the méthode champenoise.  While not complex, the taste is delicious, crisp and dry and fruity.  One of us threatened to drink a whole bottle…

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  1. Taste White 2015 $50

Our server informed us that this was the “wine of the month,” and was therefore on sale at half price.  Noting the vintage, I opined that they wanted to clear out the stock to make space for a newer wine, as many whites are better drunk young, not aged.  Both the blend of grapes and the aroma intrigued us.  It is a combination of 65% albariño, plus chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, and is steel fermented.  We kept sniffing and discussing the smell, which we described variously as mineral, burnt cork, funky, and garden mulch.  The taste was equally complicated, with fruit, mineral, metal, and citrus notes.  We liked it, but were wondering about food pairings, since it has an unusual flavor and would overwhelm something delicate, like sole.  I’m thinking it might have gone well with the grilled swordfish topped with tomato relish my friend had later for dinner at ALure.

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  1. Gallery 2014 $75

That’s quite a price for a Long Island white, and though we enjoyed the wine we did not feel it was worth it.  A combination of 65% chardonnay and 25% viognier aged in oak, plus 10% steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, we thought it was slightly reminiscent of a California chardonnay, though not as oaky.  The taste was complex, with notes of citrus and salt and mineral and some butterscotch.  We felt it was a bit too sweet, though I think that may have been the fruitiness rather than the sweetness.  When we ate some nuts and then tasted it again, we liked it better, so it is definitely a food wine.

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There are not many wineries where the wine labels could also double as art museum labels.

  1. Merlot 2014 $35

We got clean glasses for the reds.  Mmm, this smelled delicious, with lots of fruity, plummy, cherry aromas.  It also tasted quite good, dry, but with lots of fruit and a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  Nice tannins.  It might age well.  You could have this with steak and be quite happy.  Or bison, which, as our server informed us, is what it was paired with in 2009 at a Presidential inauguration lunch.

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  1. Cabernet Franc 2014 $45

“This sends nine months in neutral oak,” our server told us, and we felt pretty neutral about the wine as well.  Just okay, was my judgement.  Definitely tasted red plums and other fruits in this dry red, but it was not as full-bodied as the merlot, which we all preferred.

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One side of the bar.

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A table, with a view out to the porch.

Reasons to visit:  attractive tasting room and covered porch; the pretty labels; the Sparkling Rosé, the Taste White, and the Merlot.  I also noted a trend I’ve seen in more and more tasting rooms—you can buy a bottle to drink there, but it will cost you more than if you buy a bottle to take home.  $10 more in this case!

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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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Kontokosta Winery: Absorbing the Crowds May 28, 2017

http://kontokostawinery.com/

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The grey skies meant many people opted for wineries rather than beaches.

We should have known better than to try to go to a winery on a non-beach Sunday over Memorial Day weekend.  But we had friends visiting, and we wanted to take them to Croteaux for a tasting.  As we headed east, we passed winery after winery where the parked cars had spilled over onto lawns and roadsides.  Uh oh.  And indeed, Croteaux was filled, with Michael Croteau outside, waving off cars trying to cram into his small lot.  Where to go?  Our friends hadn’t been to Kontokosta since shortly after it opened, and we figured that as far east as it is, and as big as the tasting room is, we would be able to get in there.

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There was plenty of room when we arrived, but by the time we left all the seats were filled.

We were right, and even though parking there had also extended to a grassy area, there was room at one of the long tables in the tasting room for us to sit and enjoy our tasting.  However, by the time we left, it was SRO!  We also observed many people who had chosen to take a glass of wine out onto the expansive lawn and wander down to the Long Island Sound, visible in the distance.

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You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

A tasting consists of any three wines from the menu for $12, so we decided to get three whites and three reds, not tasting the rosé or a few of the others, while our friends opted to share a tasting.  Maybe next time we’ll check out the others.  We also got a couple of bags of my favorite chips—North Fork Potato Chips.  If you haven’t tried them, do.  They are crispy kettle-fried chips, and totally addictive.  Kontokosta also has a menu of cheeses and charcuterie, plus non-alcoholic drinks.  The server poured out our nine tastes, explaining each one, and we took our glasses to a table.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

We were talking about getting some oysters later, so we decided to start with what is often a perfect oyster wine.  This wine smelled great—like mango and flowers—and tasted pretty good, too.  We found it tart, with some nice kiwi and vegetable tastes, with a pleasant finish.  One nice detail—it was not served too cold!

  1. 2015 Viognier    $25

Sometimes I think I like to order this wine because the name is fun to say.  In any event, I don’t think I would choose this particular viognier.  My husband’s first judgement was “restrained flavors,” to which I added “undistinguished.”  It has a bit of a wet basement smell, though also some minerality.  The taste is very light and uncomplicated.

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The server lining up our tastes of the whites.

  1. 2015 Field Blend             $22

Our friend also ordered this one, and she immediately categorized it as a “dessert wine.”  It is on the sweet side, though not cloyingly so.  A blend of 47% riesling, 41% viognier, and 12% sauvignon blanc, it has a candy and honeysuckle aroma and tastes like peaches.  We decided it could go with spicy Thai food, where the fruit of the wine would match well with the coconut and peppers of Thai, but not so well with Indian dishes.  You could also have it with charcuterie.

  1. 2014 Merlot      $34

The server tipped the end of the bottle into our glass, which meant we ended up with a fair amount of sediment.  Oh well.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry tastes, pleasantly dry, with some tastes of tobacco and chocolate.  Nice.

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The reds (of course).

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $29

We liked this one better, with lots of dark fruit tastes like purple plums and berries, plus some tannins.  It is more complex than the merlot, though the finish is quite short.  Dry.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $40

Though, as is often the case with Long Island reds, we felt it was not worth the price—and our friends, who also tried this, agreed—it is very nice indeed, with fruity aromas and soft tannins.  We tasted raspberries and a touch of spice, like pepper.  If I were to get a glass with which to wander down to the water, I would choose this.

  1. 2013 Anemometer Red                $50

Our friends also tried this one, and said it was very good.  A Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and merlot, it has lots of oak and cherry tastes.

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Snack menu. I highly recommend the North Fork Potato Chips!

 

Reasons to visit:  a pretty location next to Long Island Sound, walking distance from Greenport; the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet sauvignon; an attractive modern tasting room with a soaring ceiling and long tables; usually not too crowded, even on busy days—except not this past weekend!

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In the background you can see their wind turbine, an increasingly frequent sight on the North Fork.

 

 

Sherwood House Vineyard: Sip and Shop May 12, 2017

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

https://www.hounds-tree.com/

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I happened to snap this at a sunny moment.

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On a cool spring day, when clouds and sun took turns dominating the sky, we stopped into Sherwood House’s tasting room, which we had not been to in almost two years.  Though the tasting room looks much the same, with its cozy fireplace, there have been a number of changes in the winery itself.  We immediately noticed that there were three options on the tasting menu: a Sherwood House flight of five wines for $16, a Hound’s Tree Estate flight of five wines for $16, and a flight of four Library and Estate wines for $24.  We decided to go with one flight of Sherwood House wines and one of Hound’s Tree, tasting them side by side, since there seemed to be comparable choices on both menus.

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The friendly and helpful server explained that Hound’s Tree was a new winery that had bought the Oregon Road vineyard from Sherwood House and was making wines in a West Coast style, in partnership with Appoloni Vineyards, a winery based in Oregon (the state, not the road!).  Meanwhile, the owner and winemaker of Sherwood house planned to go on making their wines in their own style, which is influenced by French methods.  What a nice opportunity to compare styles!

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The shop adjoins the tasting room.

After our tastings we browsed the beautiful shop which adjoins the tasting room.  It used to be called Material Objects, and is now called William Ris East.  It features fine art, sculpture, and antiques (according to their sign), plus jewelry and pottery.  We saw many pieces we liked, and if you are looking for some real art it is a good place to go.  One caution:  the pour in the winery is fairly generous, so don’t make any decisions on buying art if you’re not compos mentis!

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Although the Sherwood House web page mentions music on Saturday afternoons, on this quiet Friday a singer/guitarist set up in a corner and serenaded us with Beatles tunes, among others.  A party of women at a table, who were sharing a bottle of rosé and a cheese tray (bought at the winery and provided by Love Lane cheese shop), seemed to enjoy his performance very much, as did we.  As we chatted with the server, she took note of my notebook and asked directly if we wrote for any publication, so we admitted that I did a blog.  As a result, she gave us two extra tastes.  I’ve labeled the Sherwood House choices SH and the Hound’s Tree choices HT.

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We enjoyed the music.

  1. 2014 Oregon Road Chardonnay SH                       $19

This is a pretty typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with aromas of pears and minerals and tastes of unripe pear.  It is both sweet and tart, so well-balanced, with a nice long finish.  It is definitely a good food wine.  This, like the other whites, is served too cold (not their fault—wineries are obliged to set their refrigeration at a specified temperature), but we warmed the glass in our palms to get a better sense of the wine.

  1. 2015 HT Estate Chardonnay     $24

Really different!  We get a vegetable aroma—roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts—and maybe a slight burnt smell.  The taste is also quite different, with some vegetal notes and lots of rock and minerality and even salt, as well as some pear.  However, we like this one, too, and it would also be good with food.  Maybe something rich, like a roast chicken, while the SH chard might do better with scallops.

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  1. 2013 Estate Chardonnay SH        $35

Nope, you won’t find this on the regular tasting menu, but our server thought we should try their one oaked chardonnay.  70% oak, she said, which explained why, though it has some of that butterscotch smell, it does not taste overly oaky.  It had a touch of sweetness, but “not unpleasantly so,” opined my husband.  Though not a sipper, this would stand up to many different foods.  I could see having it with pork chops.

  1. 2015 Estate Rosé HT       $22

A blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, this rosé has a deep pink color and a sweet aroma that I insist smells like red Twizzlers.  My drinking pal suggests “fireplace” and cherry juice.  In any event, it is a very dry rosé, with more citrus than strawberry taste.  I wouldn’t choose it as a sipper, but I think it could be very nice paired with some charcuterie.

  1. Oregon Road White Merlot SH   $19

When we saw “white merlot” we immediately thought of Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, which is a white pinot noir (no longer called Anomaly), but this is quite different.  I described it as “evanescent,” as it is very light and the taste seems to dissipate very quickly.  The aroma is of strawberries, salt, and minerals, and I actually think it would be fun to drop a few strawberries into a glass for summer sipping.

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The two rose style wines provided quite a contrast in both taste and color.

  1. 2013 Oregon Road Red Blend SH              $19

We agreed that this was the perfect price point for this very nice red table wine, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon.  My guess is the blend is heavy on the merlot, as I got lots of cherry in the smell and taste.  My husband pronounced it a “perfectly acceptable” dinner wine.  It is fairly dry.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc HT              $28

Eh.  Not particularly a fan of this one, which we felt was rather “tame,” in my husband’s opinion.  Light for a cabernet franc, it is not a red you’d want to pair with a steak or other hearty meat.  Maybe veal.

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Though these two reds may look similar, they actually taste quite different.

  1. 2012 Merlot SH               $38

This one we like better than the previous wine. It has mouth-watering tannins, lots of cherry taste and aroma, and also some scents of forest.

  1. 2015 Merlot HT               $28

Again, we prefer the Sherwood House style, as we find this red just okay, with not a lot of fruit or depth.  It’s not bad, just not very interesting.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon HT      $28

Aromas of dark fruits, like plums and berries, good tannins, dry, and tastes of dark fruit.  Again, not exciting, but perfectly acceptable.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc SH               $45

I like this one the best of the reds so far, although it has almost no finish.  The aroma is a tad funky, with some notes of forest floor as well as dark fruits.  Another nicely dry wine, it would go well with a cheese platter.

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  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor SH           $45

This is our other extra taste, and a good one it is.  It’s the most interesting wine of the day, with lots of varied flavors and aromas and tannins that make us think it would continue to age well.

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One time when we came here they were selling oysters on the porch.

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More art from the gallery.

Reasons to visit:  cozy tasting room with a fireplace that is in use in the winter; the opportunity to browse a gallery with beautiful pieces; the Oregon Road Chardonnay, the Sherwood House Estate Chardonnay, the Hound’s Tree Estate Rosé, the Oregon Road Red Blend, the Sherwood Manor; music even when it isn’t scheduled.

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We think these crates can be used to store wine.

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