Channing Daughters: To Club or Not to Club June 5, 2019

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https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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As the NoFo Wineaux, I hate to admit this, but my favorite winery is actually on the South Fork:  Channing Daughters.  Why?  They have the widest—and wildest—variety of wines, and they are constantly experimenting with new combinations and flavors.  As a result, we are always excited to open the box when our wine club shipments arrive.  BUT…UPS requires the signature of an adult in order to deliver alcohol.  And if you’re not home three days in a row, you need to either pick up your shipment in Farmingdale (not happening) or have it returned to sender and re-shipped—and hope you’re home for it.  What to do?

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A view from the ferry.

We headed to the Shelter Island ferries to make the trek to the South Fork, planning to tell Channing we were resigning from the club and then do one last tasting.  It takes a good hour and a half to travel to Scuttlehole Road this way, plus about $40 for the ferries, and even longer in the summer if you come around by land and cope with Hamptons summer traffic.  Then we made a wonderful discovery.  We could opt for pick-ups rather than mailed selections, but—and here comes the important revelation—we could come at our convenience and pick up several different releases.  Game changer, as they say.  It’s easy to travel to Sag Harbor in November!

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Wine Club news about new releases is posted on a chalkboard. Note the impressive array of wine types.

So we tried a few recent releases, bought two bottles of Scuttlehole Chardonnay and two of Pinot Grigio, and headed home, happy to remain in the wine club.

If you are on the South Fork, I recommend you make a visit to Channing Daughters’ cozy tasting room (no dogs or food allowed) and check out their delicious wines.  A flight of six wines will set you back $20, but it is well worth it.  The flight includes one of their interesting vermouths, as well.  We did not do a standard flight, so this is what we had.

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The standard tasting, which we did not have.

  1. 2017 Bianco Petillant Naturel                   $28

As soon as we identified ourselves as wine club members, our server poured us a taste of the newest release, their sparkling white wine.  It is crisp and dry, with lovely little bubbles.

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  1. 2017 Rosato Petillant Naturel      $28

This is a rosé sparkler, made from merlot, and equally crisp and dry, with a lovely strawberry taste.  We got into a discussion with another wine club member—who noted that she also does her pick-ups on her own schedule, avoiding Route 27 in the summer—about how Channing really doesn’t do sweet wines.  So if you like your wines tasty but not sweet, this is the place to come.

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  1. Cuvee Tropical

Alas, this taste proved how important vintage is.  In the past, this has been a very flavorful wine, with tastes of guava and lychee, but this iteration was quite plain, with not much flavor.

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Note the tree sculpture on the label. Walter Channing was a talented sculptor, and some of his work can be seen on the grounds.

  1. 2017 Pinot Grigio $20

Fortunately, we liked the pinot grigio, nicely lemony, and very easy to drink.  Buyable.

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  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

This remains our favorite steel-fermented chard, dry, very tasty.  I think of it as our “house” white!

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This price list doesn’t even include all of their wines.

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork (where the only other options are Wölffer—lovely, but more formal—and Duck Walk—not so lovely); all the wines they have on offer for a tasting; the petillant naturals; an intimate setting where you can discuss the wines with well-informed servers; a wine club well worth joining (if you can do pick-ups!).

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There’s a small selection of wine-related gifts.

Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

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Yes, we were just at Channing Daughters on September 14th, and we usually visit a winery once a year.  However, my brother and sister-in-law were visiting.  Like us, they are members of the Channing Daughters wine club, and they wanted to pick up both their regular shipment and an additional case of wines.  We were happy to make the trek over to the South Fork again, enjoying our ferry rides, a walk on the beach, and a stroll around Sag Harbor before heading to Scuttlehole Road.

A plus of a repeat visit to Channing Daughters is that they have so many different wines, plus six vermouths, that there was no danger of running out of wines to taste.  I don’t think any other winery on the East End does as many different, interesting, creative wines as they do.  We were also interested in getting some wine for the seafood dinner we planned for the next night, which would include my sister-in-law’s delicious scallop ceviche.  (After a trip to Braun’s, we added a main course of pan-fried blowfish tails.  Yum.)

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This panorama barely begins to capture the impressive array of wines on offer at Channing Daughters.

The server recognized us, and we had a very friendly visit, which included chatting with various other visitors to the tasting room.  At the end, she gave us a loaf of Orwasher’s bread, which they get for free in exchange for giving Orwasher’s their leftover grape yeast for bread-making.  It went perfectly with the ceviche.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

The grapes for this wine come from the Mudd vineyard on the North Fork.  We agreed that it was a good wine, “clean and green,” according to our tasting crew.  Lemony, crisp, and light, it is a perfect seafood wine.

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This remains our favorite East End chardonnay.

  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

We first fell in love with Channing wines because of this chard, which we bought by the case for our daughter’s wedding.  Steel-fermented, it has aromas of honeysuckle and green apple with tastes of citrus, pineapple, and minerals.

  1. 2016 Vino Bianco $20

“I just had this one a couple of weeks ago,” I said, planning to skip it until our server pointed out that I had tried the 2015 and this was the 2016.  Oh.  And yes, it is a bit different, with more taste of mango and more complexity, with a somewhat earthy end.  My sister-in-law described it at “roundy,” by which I think she meant it had no sharp edges.  Very nice.  As I recall, this was the one we decided to have with the ceviche, and it paired well.

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The image on the bottle is of one of Walter Channing’s sculptures.

  1. 2015 Brick Kiln Chardonnay $25

I was a bit hesitant about this one, since it is an oaked chard, and I often don’t like that buttery, vanilla taste.  However, this one is aged in neutral Slovenian oak and 18% steel, so it is not at all buttery.  Instead, we tasted pineapple and Mandarin orange, with just a touch of sweetness.  It can stand on its own as an aperitif, we agreed.

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano $24

This one has aromas of caramel, earth, and pine.  The taste is very light and minerally, with a short finish.  Good with charcuterie, was the consensus opinion.

Then we decided to try one of the vermouths.  Oh no, insisted our server, you have to try them all!  She lined up six glasses on the bar and the four of us shared the six tastes.  Each one is inspired by a different season of the year and constellation of local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.  I can’t give a complete list, because the blends are secret, but I will say they are all good in different ways.  These are vermouths to sip over ice as an aperitif, though you could also make some interesting cocktails with them.  They are identified by number.

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Vermouths made from white, rose, and red wines plus seasonal local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

  1. Herbaceous, dry, and spicy, this is made from herbs which all grow within seven miles of the winery, and was the first vermouth they made.  I bought a bottle.
  2. This one includes cucumbers and jalapeno peppers, and is rather spicy. You could season a salsa with it.  Maybe you could serve it at a piñata party!
  3. She identified this one as “mid-summer.” It is also a bit spicy, made from rosé wine with a touch of honey as well.  Earthy.
  4. Summer, she said as she poured this one. Watermelon, shiitake mushrooms, mint, caraway, and more, all of which appear in the aroma and flavor.  It tastes of mint and rye bread.
  5. Late summer/early fall: Muskmelon, dill, peaches.  This is the lightest of them all so far, very minerally.
  6. Fall (of course): squash, pumpkin, apple, pear.  This last one was made from red wine, and is the smoothest to drink and feels the least like a vermouth.

We were thinking about getting on the road again when my sister-in-law noted that we hadn’t tried any of their sparkling wines.  Out came three more glasses and the chance to taste three sparkling wines.  It really pays to be in the wine club!  My notes at this point are a bit sketchy (no surprise), especially because my husband was our designated driver and left most of our share of the tastings to me.

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Sparklers!

  1. Sylvanus

“Amazing,” said our relatives.  Very sparkly, with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. Bianco

“Just okay,” was the consensus.

  1. Rosato

I have extensive comments on this petillant naturel on my last blog, but I will just add that, though we are not normally fans of pink sparkling wines, this one is pleasantly drinkable.

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There’s a small selection of wine-related gifts. I bought my brother and sister-in-law a stopper for closing sparkling wines, since we had discussed the problem of opening a sparkler for just two people.

Reasons to visit:  an amazing variety of wines, so you can come back frequently and try different ones; a wine club worth joining; a cozy tasting room where you can really engage with the servers and learn about the wines and the wine-making.

Jamesport Vineyards: No Pizza Today February 3, 2018

wehttp://www.jamesportwines.com/

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Don’t let the sunshine fool you–It was COLD!

In the summer, Jamesport has a wood-fired oven on the back patio, where they make thin-crust pizzas.  They also often serve local oysters, and we have enjoyed sitting outside there with a glass of white wine and a plate of oysters in the summer sun, listening to music.  However, this was the day after Groundhog Day, the icy parking lot made it clear there would be no sitting outside today, and when a couple came in seeking pizza they were referred to the restaurant Grana, just down the street.  They were offered a cheese and charcuterie plate ($42), which a couple of large parties were having at their tables. (Jamesport does not allow pets or outside food, and allows children only outside in the back yard, not in the bar area.)

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In the summer it is lovely to sit out here and enjoy music, oysters, and pizza from the wood-fired oven.

While some people might have been disappointed at the lack of pizza, they would not be disappointed in the wines.  We tried ten (well, actually eleven) and liked most of them.  The tasting menu offers any five wines for $20 from a list that includes six whites, six reds, three petillant naturels (sparkling wines), and a verjus.  We decided to share two tastings, starting with the whites and then doing reds.

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The nice-sized barn-like tasting room was surprisingly full for a mid-week winter day, but the lone server bustled about and was able to attend to everyone’s needs, including chatting with us about the wines and customizing our tasting.  I am often so impressed with the people who serve in the wineries, with their ability to keep everyone’s tastings straight, recommend wines for varying tastes, and stay cheerful throughout.

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  1. 2015 East End Chardonnay        $18.95

Through a window in the wall of the tasting room you can see the steel vats in which this chardonnay is fermented.  We sniff and identify citrus, orange, flowers, and another smell and taste we can’t quite identify until our server suggests almonds.  Yes, bitter almond it is.  We like this chardonnay, with its full taste and long finish, not too sweet, with a bit of minerality.  We discuss what to pair it with, and settle on tuna, like the lovely tuna steaks we bought at the Riverhead Farmers Market last week.

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What’s the difference between East End and Estate? At Jamesport, the former is their less expensive line. Legally, I’ve been told, “estate” doesn’t mean anything, so wineries can define it as they like.

  1. 2015 Estate Chardonnay $22.95

Oaked chards are not my favorite, but this one is not too oaky, with some lime and pear tastes, and almonds again.  Both chards have a long finish.  The tasting notes say “honey,” which I identify as the mouth feel of the wine.  I could see having this with a spicy Italian seafood dish, like a fra diavolo.

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  1. 2014 Sauvage Reserve $30.95

Our server is able to tell us that this wine uses sauvignon blanc clones, but not whether or not the word “sauvage” refers to wild yeast.  In any event, this is another nice wine, a bit on the light side even though it is aged in oak, with a taste that reminds me of a fruit salad seasoned with a bit of liqueur.  If I were here in the summer and having oysters, I’d get a glass of this, though we are told that a new vintage of this will be coming out soon, so I’d try a taste before I committed to a glass.

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See my notes before you decide which riesling to try.

  1. 2013 Estate Riesling $22.95

There are two rieslings on the menu, and we choose this one because the other is called Demi-Sec, and is described as slightly sweet.  Interestingly, this one is actually sweeter, as we discover when we tell our server it is too sweet for us.  Here, he says, try a little taste of the 2013 Demi-Sec Riesling ($22.95).  We like it better.  It is less cloying and lighter, with an aroma that reminds us of cider.  The menu describes the Estate Riesling as “crisp.”  Nope.

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By this time, we were friends with the server, so when he noted the bottle was almost empty he gave us the rest in our taste.

  1. 2015 East End CINQ Blanc $18.95

No surprise, this is a blend of five whites: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, albariño, and pinot blanc.  We describe this as a good, everyday table wine, and our friend the server agrees.  It has a touch of sweetness, but not too much, with tastes of kiwi and peach and some minerality.  You could have it with an omelet in the morning, he suggests, which leads to various humorous comments about a day that starts like that.  How about with a quiche, I offer.  If I needed some whites at home, I might have bought this one.

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  1. 2014 East End CINQ Red $19.95

New glass as we switch to our red tasting, starting with another blend of five, this time of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and pinot noir.  I decide it smells like a Bordeaux, and if I had to guess I would bet that it has more cabernet sauvignon than merlot.  It smells like dark fruits and berries and tastes like that, too.  It is a somewhat light red, with no depth and some tannins, and would make a perfect picnic wine.

  1. 2013 Merlot Estate $27.95

This is another easy to drink wine, with the expected cherry aroma and taste, plus some hints of dark chocolate.  It would go well with lamb or pork, but is not big enough to have with steak.

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The sign tells you how many bottles of wine you can get per acre of grapes. An acre can yield about 300 bottles!

  1. 2015 Estate Syrah $24.95

I tend to like syrahs, and I like this one, too.  I smell and taste dark fruits, especially purple plum, plus some spice, perhaps pepper.  Really dry, this has strong tannins that make me think it could age.  This wine would be fine with steak.

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  1. 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc $32.95

And aging is what I think this cab needs.  It doesn’t have much aroma.  Lots of tannins, and it is dry, but the fruit seems underdeveloped to me.  Just okay.

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  1. 2014 Mélange de Trois $34.95

If you know French, you can deduce that this is a blend of three grapes and a play on “ménage à trois”:  cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc.  It is aged for two years in French oak, and then another two years in the bottle.  We get into a discussion of the various grapes in this wine, and our server tells us how cabernet sauvignon does not do well every year.  In fact, last year rather than use their cabernet sauvignon grapes in their own wine, they felt they did not meet Jamesport’s standards and sold the whole crop to Premium Wine Group.  We like this wine, too, though it is more austere than luscious.  Dry, with good tannins, it has blackberry and spice tastes.  I could see having this with leg of lamb or steak frites.

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Seems like a nice selection of cheeses.

Reasons to visit:  in the summer, a big outdoor area with music and wood-oven pizza and oysters; in the winter, a cozy tasting room with cheese trays; the East End Chardonnay, the Sauvage Reserve, the East End CINQ Blanc and Red, the Mélange de Trois.  We didn’t get to try the sparkling wines, but they have three if you were interested to try them.