Macari: Still a Good One January 2, 2016

http://www.macariwines.com/

The entrance

The entrance

For our first winery of the new year, we headed to Macari, which we had last visited when it boasted the award of “Best Winery of 2014.”  We would have been back sooner, but cancelled our visits when the attractive tasting room proved too crowded and noisy for us.  This time, in the doldrums of January, there were still plenty of people, including a large group in the room off to one side, but we found a place at the bar and a smart and attentive server.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

The menu offers three options—Estate, of four of their lower priced wines for $10; Cuvee, of five for $15; and Vintage, of five of their best wines for $20.  Since none of the lists overlapped, we decided to share two tastings, one of the Cuvee and one of the Vintage.  Because both menus included whites and reds of varying types, we wanted to alternate so as not to try to follow a riesling with a sauvignon blanc.  Why?  As we’ve learned, if you try to taste a light dry wine like a steel-fermented sauvignon blanc after a sweeter, more substantial wine like a riesling, you won’t be as able to appreciate the lighter wine.

Our server first wanted to pour our two tastings simultaneously, but after we explained the philosophy behind our preference she quickly caught on, and made sure to pour the wines in an order that made sense.    We were particularly impressed with her ability to keep track of what we were doing since she also was serving other customers and running off to the side room as well.  She also was enthusiastic about the wines, sharing her preferences and knowledge about the wine, only once having to resort to a “cheat sheet” to give us information we requested.

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As we sipped, we admired the nicely done holiday decorations and the attractive labels on the wines, and afterwards we browsed the small but good collection of wine-related gifts. Note they don’t allow outside foods, and sell a variety of snack and cheese items.   I’m listing the wines in the order in which we had them, marking the Vintage wines with an *.

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  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14       $24

This is a steel –fermented sauvignon blanc, with an aroma that reminds me of the water in a vase after the flowers have begun to decay—which doesn’t sound all that appealing, but is fine when combined with citrus.  Good, we decide, nicely crisp, but delicate, with a touch of sweetness—perhaps more Meyer lemon than lemon.  Of course it would pair well with local oysters or clams, but if you had it with shrimp I would leave out the cocktail sauce, which would overwhelm this wine.

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  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14 (concrete egg) $27

Ooh, this is just the sort of exercise I love: Trying two wines side by side, made from the same grapes, but treated differently.  In this case, “concrete egg” refers to the egg-shaped concrete cask they use to ferment the wine, our server explains, and adds that since concrete is more porous than steel but less porous than wood, and without the flavor added by a wood cask, the results are quite different and, she thinks, better.  We agree.  The aroma is complex, with perhaps a hint of nutmeg or other spices and a taste that is a touch sweeter without being too sweet, with some acidity and a taste of greengage plums.  No finish.  Mysteriously, the label bears the word “Lifeforce.”

  1. *Dos Aguas ’13 $27

“Dos Aguas” refers to the two waters between which the vineyards are located:  Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.  Many people feel that these “two waters” contribute to the North Fork’s excellence as a grape-growing region, since they have the effect of moderating the climate.  This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, riesling, and sauvignon blanc, and is another good wine.  The aroma makes me think of sticky fruits and the taste includes minerality, figs, and tangerines.  Though the riesling does contribute some sweetness, it is well balanced with some acidity.  It would go well with one of my favorite dishes, pasta tossed with a variety of seafood.

  1. *Riesling ’13 $23

Ah yes, we are definitely glad that we tasted this one last of the whites, as its sweetness would have interfered with appreciating the others.  This is the only wine, our server informs us, that uses grapes not grown on the estate, since the riesling grapes in this come from the Finger Lakes region (not unusual for Long Island wineries, as upstate is known for its good riesling).  The aroma is honey, the taste like a green apple on the sweeter side, like a Mutsu, not a Granny Smith.  “Toot suite,” jokes my husband, as he complains that this wine is sweeter than he likes.  It is sweeter than a dry riesling, but I don’t find it unpleasantly so.  With spicy food you’d welcome that flavor.

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  1. Merlot Estate $15

Burnt sugar?  Cinnamon toast?  We discuss the smell, which in any event is not typical for a Long Island merlot.  Our server lets us in on the secret that although this wine is more than 80% merlot it also has some syrah, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, which may help explain the aroma.  It may also explain the taste, which is quite good for an inexpensive merlot, and makes this a good choice for a table wine.  It is fairly soft, with no tannins and some acid, and would go well with veal or pork, rather than steak.

Full disclosure:  We already knew we like Sette.

Full disclosure: We already knew we like Sette.

  1. Sette NV $19

We are quite familiar with Sette, since we often order it in local restaurants.  In fact, we just shared a bottle of it at Michelangelo’s last week, when it went well with eggplant parmesan and pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe.  This is a blend of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc (not of seven wines, as you might assume from the name, which instead refers to the town Settefratti, which was the home town of the Macari family).  The smell is warm, with some spice and wood, the taste cherry with again some acid but not much tannin.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

  1. *Dos Aguas Red Blend ’10 $30

Blend?  Yes, of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot.  We smell wet hay and wood, taste pleasant dark fruits. This is a soft, easy to drink red, and would be good, I opine, to sip while cooking—and ruining the food? theorizes my husband.  Ha.

  1. *Merlot Reserve ’10 $36

After aging 26 months in French oak, this wine has more tannins than the previous reds, with a typical merlot aroma of cherry plus oak.  Not powerful, but pleasant, this is a good wine if you want to introduce someone to Long Island merlots.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

  1. *Bergen Road ’10 $46

Since I ask, our server looks up the proportions of this red blend:  56% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 2% petit verdot.  A Right Bank Bordeaux.  The color is quite dark, and so is the taste, with plenty of tannin and acid and delicious dark fruits.  Yum.

Block "E" looks and tastes very like a sherry.

Block “E” looks and tastes very like a sherry.

  1. Block “E” ’12 $32 (for a small bottle)

Ice wine is supposed to be made with grapes picked after the first frost, but since that frost tends to come pretty late on the North Fork (as in it just happened), instead the grapes are picked fairly late, when they have developed quite a bit of sugar, and then frozen before being made into a dessert wine.  In both color and taste this reminds us of a semi-sweet sherry, with a bit of a honey aroma.  When I ask, we are informed it is made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec grapes.  Good dessert wine, it would be nice with some almonds.

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Reasons to visit:  good all-around winery, with plenty of tasty options and a big room with tables for groups; nice selection of gifts; reasonable prices (if we didn’t have all the wine we need at the moment we would have bought several of the wines); the “concrete egg” Sauvignon Blanc, the Dos Aguas white and red, the Merlot Estate, the Sette, the Bergen Road.

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Random Restaurant Notes

“You will never know hunger,” believe it or not, was the message I got in a fortune cookie just as I embarked on a series of restaurant reviews for a newspaper in Pittsburgh. The reviews were based on the premise that it was useful to point out at least one good dish in each place, regardless of the rest of the menu. That fortune became the logo of the column, and would not be a bad slogan for this post as well.

No winery this week, so instead I thought it would be fun to write about some of the restaurants on the North Fork.  This is, like my post on the farm stands, totally idiosyncratic, and not really reviews, but just some notes on places we like.  A few weeks ago a friend asked for restaurant recommendations on the North Fork, and after going on for about half an hour on the phone I thought it would have been so much more convenient if I could have sent her to my blog—as I did for wineries!  I’ve organized them by town.  Oh, and though I usually use my own iPhone snaps for the photos, here I’ve borrowed pictures from the websites.

Riverhead:

Tweeds Restaurant and Buffalo Bar

http://www.tweedsrestaurantriverhead.com/

Since it is right in the middle of Riverhead, on East Main Street, the easiest way to access this restaurant is to go to the municipal parking lot (free) off Peconic Avenue.  When you pull into the lot, head to the left corner, where you will see the back entrance to Tweeds.  In an old hotel that has been there since 1896, Tweeds’ narrow room has lots of charm, and is particularly cozy on cold winter nights when there is a fire in the fireplace.  We love all the bison dishes, made from bison raised nearby on a farm owned by the restaurant’s owner, and I’m a big fan of the bison burger.  The first time I had it, I had one portion for dinner…and lunch…and dinner.  Thank goodness for “doggy bags.”  The bison hangar steak is also delicious, but be sure to get it rare or medium rare. With very little fat, bison well-done is not a good idea.  As you dine, you can contemplate a huge shaggy bison head, allegedly the last one shot by Teddy Roosevelt.  There are plenty of other menu items (in case looking at an animal’s head while you eat its relative creeps you out), including local seafood and fish, and the salads are very good.  A bit pricey, but worth it.

Greenport:

Hellenic Snack Bar

http://www.thehellenic.com/

On the North Fork, “snack bar” actually translates as diner, or informal restaurant.  I love that the Modern Snack Bar has décor that immerses you in the 1950s.  The Hellenic, out past Greenport, is worth the trip.  In the summer they have lots of outdoor seating, though the dining room is quite plain.  The food is great, and served in such generous portions that we invariably take home enough for one or two more meals.  Anything Greek is worth getting, from the various spreads—hummus, taramasalata, etc.—to the grilled fish to the Greek salad.  If you want to get the spreads, I suggest you go with a party of at least four, because your meal will seem somewhat superfluous by the time you devour them.  Everything comes with piles of toasted pita. Nofowineaux is happy to report that the wine list features quite a few local wines.   Reasonably priced.

Noah’s

http://www.chefnoahschwartz.com/

It’s fun to sit at one of the sidewalk tables and watch the passing parade on Greenport’s Front Street.  The small plates here could easily add up to a meal.  We don’t care as much for the inside, which feels somewhat cold and can be noisy.

Mattituck:

aMano Osteria and Wine Bar

http://www.amanorestaurant.com/

Upscale Italian food is their specialty.  I particularly love the carbonara with local smoked duck and the roasted beet and Catapano Farms goat cheese salad.  My husband is a fan of the lasagna.  They have a lovely menu that is worth reading just for the salivary factor, and feature local wines as well as many local ingredients.  They also make very nice thin-crust pizzas.  They can get quite crowded, especially on weekends in the summer, and during the summer they don’t take reservations for small parties, so if you go then you may have to wait in the crowded bar area.

Crazy Fork

http://crazyforkny.com/

This is the newest place we’ve tried.  The restaurant itself, across the street from the Mattituck shopping center, is very plain, so you might prefer to get take-out.  They specialize in seafood, much of it fried, but very well done. We have fallen for the Rhode Island-style calamari, fried, mixed with hot pepperoncini peppers, and served with a marinara dipping sauce.

Love Lane Kitchen

http://lovelanekitchen.com/

Love Lane Kitchen

This is a popular spot, and you’ll see crowds there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (dinner on weekends).  It is particularly nice in the summer to sit outside and have lunch while you watch people pass by on Love Lane.  They feature all sorts of local produce and products, and everything I’ve had there has been good.  Inside, the restaurant can get a bit noisy, so I prefer to go there in the winter, when it is less crowded.

Michelangelo’s Pizza (also spelled Michael Angelo)

No web page of their own!

A local chain, with several places on the North Fork, this is one of those typical storefronts with a brightly-lit pizza eatery and take-out place in front, and a more formal restaurant in the back.  The one in Mattituck, in the Waldbaum’s shopping center, is particularly nice, especially since they expanded the back part.  We generally get the pasta dishes, and don’t bother with an appetizer since the house salad that comes with the entrees provides that for us.  This is a place where one dinner often produces enough leftovers for a second dinner, so the reasonable prices become even more reasonable.  There’s nothing refined or fancy about the food, but it’s always good.

Old Mill Inn

http://www.theoldmillinn.net/

We’ve been here for dinner, which is fine, though the service tends to be slow, but what we generally come here for is oysters.  From 3-5 p.m., the bar serves fresh local oysters for $1 each.  We each get a dozen and a glass or two of wine.  Lovely way to while away an afternoon.  They’re closed in the winter, so if you’re going you need to go soon—or wait for the spring.  If you come for dinner, try to sit near the windows so you can look out on the water of Mattituck Inlet.  I don’t recommend the outside tables once the mosquitoes have hatched…

Southold:

A Lure Restaurant and Oyster-ia

http://www.alurenorthfork.com/

As you might guess from the name, this is owned by the same people as aMano, but concentrates on seafood.  What is nice here is that you can sit at dinner and look out at the water, as it is located in Port of Egypt Marina.  Recently they had a special of a whole grilled sea bass that was delicious.  You can also get that roasted beet salad here!

Founder’s Tavern

http://www.founderstavern.com/

With one side a popular Irish-style pub, and the other side a nice family restaurant, Founder’s is great for many reasons.  I’ve had specials there that were really good (I’m thinking of the tuna steak with wasabi mashed potatoes, for example.), but we often just get the same dishes each time:  a shared order of Buffalo wings, the Tavern Burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos, the home-made potato chips (themselves worth a detour, as the Michelin Guides say), and beer on tap.  Reasonably priced, too.

North Fork Table and Inn

http://www.nofoti.com/

The best—and priced accordingly. With Manhattan-level prices and food quality, the best bet here is to get the tasting menu, especially since it includes dessert, which is spectacular.  We’ve gone here a few times for special occasions and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the service.

O’Mally’s

http://www.omallysisopen.com/

O’Mally’s main claim to fame is that when other places close, they are still open (note their URL), with a kitchen open until midnight, unusual on the early-to-bed North Fork.  They have a huge burger menu, and though theirs are not as good as Founder’s, they’re not bad.  Plenty of other options, plus a nice list of local wines by the glass or beers on tap, make this a good casual place.

 

New Suffolk:

Legends

http://www.legends-restaurant.com/

Legends has a split personality.  To the right of the entry foyer is an informal sports bar, with a menu of burgers, salads, and other snack-type foods, while to the left is a lovely little restaurant with fusion dishes they call New American, such as shrimp and vegetable spring rolls with ginger pineapple dipping sauce.   When I recently made a reservation for eight, they asked somewhat anxiously if the party included children, so I would guess they prefer that children dine on the right side.  All eight of us, by the way, were happy with our entrees (except for one that came out cold—twice—and was eventually comped).  If you check out the on-line menu you’ll see that they have interesting dishes, plus there are specials.  We’ve been happy eating on either side!  The sports bar side does have one advantage—the big windows give you a nice view of the somewhat scruffy waterfront of New Suffolk.