Sparkling Pointe: Sparkling Day May 24, 2019

https://www.sparklingpointe.com/

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Finally a beautiful day!

Finally! After weeks of unseasonably chilly rainy weather, a beautiful day arrived. Following a pleasant stroll in Greenport to check out the new shops and restaurants (We’ll be back.), we headed to Sparkling Pointe, the sparkling-wines-only vineyard in Southold.

Over the past few years we’ve noted a consistent pattern of improvement in their wines, so we were interested to see how they have progressed. Since they have a French winemaker (Gilles Martin) and use the méthode champenoise, it is no surprise to discover that their wines have a definite French orientation, though a number of their options are sweetened to American tastes. What is a surprise is the Brazilian-Carnival-themed tasting room and wine labels, which, according to the website, stem from the owners’ love of Brazil. I suppose the festive nature of sparkling wines also entered into the choice.

A sign at the entrance cautions against outside food or drinks, and allows only service animals, but they do have a good menu of snacks. We ordered two cheeses, which came with two sleeves of crackers, and took home leftovers. They also have table service, and our server was very competent and well-informed, happily expounding on wines and winemaking when we asked any questions.

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Our server explaining dosage.

On looking over the set menu, of four wines for $20, we noted that two of the options were described as rather sweet (Sugar cookie? Really?), so with our server’s help we chose four—and then a fifth—wine from the tasting list, totaling $30. That’s a bit pricey, but on the other hand we spent about an hour on their lovely terrace overlooking the grape vines, enjoying the pleasant breeze and sunshine, sipping champagne and munching on two very tasty cheeses (Hudson Valley camembert and Coach Farms Hudson Truffle). Not too shabby.

A few other notes: the tastes come in proper champagne flutes, very classy; a small gift shop features North Fork-made food items plus Brazilian-Carnival-themed décor; though we enjoyed several of the wines, they share the North Fork issue of being a bit too expensive compared to other options for sparkling wines, such as Italian Proseccos or Spanish Cavas; they charge an extra $15 over the per bottle cost if you want to order a bottle of wine to drink on the premises, though the fee is waived for wine club members.

1. 2016 Brut $30 ($4 per taste)
We started with the driest of their wines, a blend of 53% chardonnay, 31% pinot noir, and 16% pinot meunier. The smell is lovely, with floral notes plus roasted pear, and some depth and interest. I compared the taste to fresh apple juice with lemon, but my tasting buddy disagreed. However, we both agreed that it was a very pleasant, fairly dry sparkler, with nice little bubbles.

2. 2014 Blanc de Blancs $44 ($6 per taste)
Our server was quite enthusiastic about this one, naming it as a “staff favorite,” and I can see why. My husband described it as “very champagne-y,” which I first laughed at and then decided was rather apt. Though the aroma is only faintly yeasty—like walking along across the street from a bakery—the taste is crisp and clean and refreshing, with a nice balance between sweet and dry. Very drinkable on its own, and also good with our cheeses.

3. 2014 Reserve Blanc de Blancs $68 ($8 per taste)
This is another lovely choice, a delicious, well-balanced sparkler, only very slightly sweet, with aroma of honeysuckle and pear, plus a taste that combined Meyer lemon with apple pie and freshly baked bread. Our server pointed out the word “Séduction” on the label, and noted that they use that to indicate their higher end wines. I’d gladly drink this any time—if someone else bought the bottle!

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If you look carefully, you can tell this has a faint tinge of pink.

4. Blanc de Noirs $68 ($8 per taste)
A very faint tinge of pink is the result of this wine spending a little time on the skins of the 50/50 combination of pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. They don’t market this as a rosé, noted our server, which makes sense, since if you wanted a rosé you’d be disappointed, but we were pleased. Though the aroma has some notes of something slightly burnt, or chemical, the taste is pleasantly dry, with just a touch of strawberry.

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Just for fun, I used a filter on this photo.

5. NV (non-vintage) Cuvée Carneval Blanc $30 ($4 per taste)
We were not ready to leave yet, and were still enjoying the day and our cheese, so we decided to try one more taste. The Carneval line seems to include the wines they feel will most appeal to a mass audience, and I can see why. We dubbed this one a “crowd pleaser,” which I had already written in my notes when my husband called it that. A blend of 47% chardonnay, 37% white merlot, and 16% pinot noir, it also has a “liquor de dosage” of gewürztraminer, the only grape they use that is not grown on site. I wondered if they got that from One Woman, which is quite nearby, but for once our server couldn’t answer a question. He did happily describe the process of dosage, however. Though this is not a sparkler I would choose to drink, it would be quite acceptable in a toast. The aroma is of yeast and a bit of lemon, and the taste includes some minerality and a bit of lychee flavor from the gewürztraminer.

Photos of the gift shop, including Carneval-themed décor:

Reasons to visit:  beautiful setting, especially if you can sit outdoors on the terrace; tasty sparkling wines; table service that is efficient and friendly; nice menu of snacks; the Reserve Blanc de Blancs in particular, though we enjoyed all of the wines we sampled (though in the past we have had some of their sweeter wines which are just not for us).

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We enjoyed our time on the lovely terrace, looking out over the vineyard.

Lieb Cellars: Well, the Setting is Pleasant April 27, 2019

http://liebcellars.com/lieb-cellars-tasting-room/

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In warm weather, it is pleasant to sit on the patio. Plus you can bring your dog there.

The small, nicely decorated tasting room was almost full when we got there at 1:30, so we were concerned that we hadn’t made a reservation.  But the hostess showed us to a small table made from a wine barrel topped by glass, with high stools for seats.  By the time we left an hour later, every seat was taken, including the stools at the bar.  Well, there was music, by a pleasant duo called The Second Hands, and weekends are starting to get more crowded on the North Fork, but we were underwhelmed by the wines.

I remembered that the last time we had been there we had sat outside on the lovely patio overlooking rural Oregon Road, with one of my brothers and his wife, and my brother had characterized the merlot as “Kool-Ade wine.”  Still not an unjust description.

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By the time we left, all the seats were taken.

The crowd seemed to skew slightly older than some other wineries, with larger groups sitting on comfortable couches around coffee tables.  Many people were getting snacks from the somewhat upscale menu of cheeses and meats and other nibbles.  A large party occupied a separate room, where they seemed to be getting some sort of wine tutorial or private tasting.

The menu offers three options:  four whites for $12, four reds for $15, or six Estate wines for $20.  As we perused the list, we noted that the white and red options included a number of the lower-priced Bridge Lane wines, which we had tasted at Lieb’s more casual tasting room on Cox Neck Road back in September, so we opted to share an Estate flight.  There’s also a list of higher priced wines only available as single tastes or glasses.

Our server brought us all six tastes on small round trays, clearly labeled as to variety and order of tasting, and gave a quick, almost robotic run through of their characteristics.  Though she checked back on us at regular intervals, my husband felt the lack of those wine discussions we so enjoy having.  One nice touch—they bring to each table a carafe of water and glasses, useful for palate cleansing.

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Nice touch–fresh flowers on the tables.

(Note:  no outside food or drink.  Dogs are allowed on the outside patio, but not inside.)

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  1. 2013 Estate Sparkling Pinot Blanc $38

It’s always nice to start with a sparkling wine, since it sets a festive tone.  Our server informed us that it was “fermented in the bottle, in the traditional method.”  It was served so cold that at first we could barely taste it, so by the time it warmed up the nice little bubbles had mostly dissipated.  I don’t know whether the bottle had been open for a while, or whether the bubbles just don’t have much staying power.  The wine smells of metal and honeysuckle, with tastes of roasted pear, butterscotch or toast, and minerals.  It’s dry, so could go with charcuterie, but not tasty enough to go on its own for a toast.

  1. 2018 Estate Pinot Blanc                            $22

This is our signature grape, our server announced.  I can see why.  This is a nice, very drinkable white.  The aroma I described as a combination of orange blossoms and asparagus is characterized in the tasting notes as lemon blossom.  Again, this is a dry wine, with some light citrus taste plus maybe gooseberries and, according to my tasting buddy, celery.  Also some minerality.  It could be good with lobster or seafood in a cream sauce.

  1. 2018 Estate Chardonnay $24

Our server described this one as “70% oaked, with nice creaminess” so I was not looking forward to it, but the tasting notes on the tray said “neutral oak.”  Whew.  It was pretty strongly citrusy for an oaked chard, with aromas of pencil shavings (cedar, they say) and a touch of cat pee.  The notes also said melon, but I would say unripe melon. Definitely not the butterscotchiness you sometimes get with oaked chards. My husband liked it the best of the three, but I was not as pleased with it.  He thought it would go well with oysters, while I was thinking veal chops (though I’ve pretty much stopped eating veal).

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Note the schedule of music events: though we were underwhelmed by the wines, it is still a nice place to sit and hear music.

  1. 2017 Estate Merlot $30

This is the wine my brother described as “Kool-Ade.”  You get the merlot cherry aroma and taste, plus some nutmeg, but it is a soft, tanninless red with a flavor that evanesces.  The notes call it medium bodied, but I would say light.

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We enjoyed the music of The Second Hand.

  1. 2017 Estate Cabernet Franc $35

I would also call the cab light-bodied, with very slight tannins.  The aroma is slightly funky, with some scent of plums.  I described the taste as raspberry, but my pal said he would agree only if I twisted his arm and held him down.  Ouch.

  1. 2017 Estate Petit Verdot $35

As we hear at every NoFo winery that makes a petit verdot, we are told that this grape is most often used in blends, where it lends a nice rich color.  I happen to often like petit verdots, and this one is no exception.  In fact, I like it the best of the wines we tasted.  It has a lovely fruity aroma, and, though dry, has tastes of sweet dark fruits.  Again, short on tannins.  Anti-tannic, opines my husband.  However, if we were going to stay and have a glass of wine while listening to the music, this is the wine I would get.  Would it stand up to a steak?  I don’t think so.

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Cans of Bridge Lane wines are available for purchase.

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I almost missed the small display of local art.

Reasons to visit:  nice location on rural Oregon Road, with a pleasant outdoor space in warm weather and a classy tasting room; good menu of snacks; the Pinot Blanc and the Petit Verdot; you can also buy the reasonably priced Bridge Lane wines there, available in cans as well as bottles, etc.

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Paumanok: Almost the Ides March 14, 2019

https://www.paumanok.com/

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Though the entry door was open, it was a bit too chilly to sit outside.

Maybe people were bewaring the Ides of March (about to arrive), or it could have just been a typical winter weekday on the North Fork, but we had the tasting room of Paumanok all to ourselves.  The last time we were there it was a warm, sunny fall day, and we sat outside on the weathered wood deck with family members and their dog, sharing a cheese tray.  That pleasant experience might have influenced how we felt about the wines, which we liked better that time.

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The deck is a pleasant place to sit–in warmer weather!

The tasting menu offers four options:  Winemaker Picks, four for $20; Whites, four for $18, Reds, four for $20, or Festival, four for $15.  We decided to share the Winemaker Picks, since that would give us two reds and two whites. Our enthusiastic and well-informed server set the tastings up on a labeled tray, so we could have carried them to a table, but we opted to stand at the bar so we could discuss the wines.

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As we sipped and chatted, she poured us two glasses of water so we could clear our palates.

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There’s also a fairly extensive snack menu, and they do not allow outside food or drink.  However, as we learned last time, they do allow leashed dogs on the outside patio.  By the way, all the wines except the very high-end ones use screw caps, a boon to waitpersons.

  1. 2014 Blanc de Blancs    $55

The aroma reminded me of the inside of a bakery—very yeasty.  This sparkling wine (made by the traditional méthode champenoise) is dry and light, with nice bubbles.  Made from 100% chardonnay, it is easy to drink, lemony and yeasty, if somewhat monochromatic.  It would go nicely with charcuterie, but I don’t think I’d like it on its own, as a toast.  That said, I’d be more likely to get a Cava or Prosecco, for the price.

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  1. 2018 Chenin Blanc $39

Although the server asserted that they are the only ones to make a 100% chenin blanc wine in New York State, I happen to know that One Woman recently made one as well.  However, her 50 cases would be easy to overlook, so I wouldn’t bother to correct Paumanok.  The aroma is somewhat cellar-like, and the taste has a touch of wet rock, but also lemon and tangerine.  This is a light, dry white that would go well with Coquilles St. Jacques, made with Peconic Bay scallops.  We like it.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $39

This is aged 12-14 months in neutral oak, so it is a fairly light red.  It has some of that dirt aroma merlots tend to have out here, with a touch of cherry.  We’re not fond of the taste, which I liken to licking a metal pole (not that I was ever dumb enough to lick a metal pole in freezing weather).  Though it might be okay with food, we share with the server that we find it lacking in fruit and so tannic that it is mouth-puckering.  So she offers us an additional wine.

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Our extra taste is in the middle.

  1. 2013 Grand Vintage Merlot $50

This is an extra, so our server can show us how they can make a better merlot.  Yes, indeed.  This has depth, nice fruit with cherry flavors that are nonetheless dry.  Very nice.

  1. 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon $39

Nice aroma, we say, combining dark fruit and cedar closet.  It is described on the menu as medium bodied, and I would agree.  It is a pleasant wine, with no depth but good dark fruit tastes and some tannins.  It could go with lamb chops, we decide.

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I love that they quote Whitman on their label!

  1. 2016 Petit Verdot $40

I tend to like petit verdots, so I ask our server to add this additional taste to our flight.  I like this one, too.  It has a red candy aroma, and tastes of prunes (not stewed) and other dark fruits.  Dry, with some nice tannins, it has what my husband describes as “more oomph” than the other reds.

Reasons to visit:  nice outdoor deck where you can bring your dog; good menu of snacks; the Chenin Blanc and the Petit Verdot; screw tops; we’ve always had nice servers here.

Diliberto Winery: A Trip to Sunny Italy February 2, 2019

Diliberto Winery:  A Trip to Sunny Italy                   February 2, 2019

https://www.dilibertowinery.com/

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The murals help you imaging you’re in Italy.

To celebrate Groundhog Day, we decided to take a trip to Italy—or at least as close as you can get on the North Fork.  We love the décor at Diliberto’s winery, where the trompe l’oeil effect of the murals reminds us of sitting in a café in a small Italian town’s main square, one of our favorite activities in Italy.  The sounds of Italian opera or pop music and the video on the screen over the piano showing scenes of the Italian countryside add to the immersive effect, a nice antidote to the recent sub-zero wind chills we’ve experienced.

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Note the sign on the “building”: Trattoria Diliberto.

In addition, the room was filled with the delicious scent of freshly made pizza, which every table but ours was enjoying.  The kitchen is almost as big as the tasting room, and they have a pizza oven where they make thin crust pizzas as well as other Italian treats (no outside food allowed).  The only problem with the pizzas was that I had trouble smelling the wines over its aroma.

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The screen shows “Visions of Italy,” a series of flyovers of Italian cities and countryside, originally produced for PBS.

The tasting room is quite small, but in the summer they have a sizeable outside area, as well as a plastic-enclosed porch for mild days.  No big groups allowed, and, most emphatically, no children. In the winter, they are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, but check their web page, since on some Sundays they feature “Sundays with Grandma,”  which involves a four-course Italian meal and live music.

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There are real roses on the tables, a classy touch.

The menu has five wines, and oddly offers three tastes for $16, or $6 per taste.  Our server, who was simply a server, with not much to say about the wines, first asked if we wanted to do two $16 tastings, until we pointed out that there were only five wines.  “Oops,” she said, “I forgot we don’t have the rosé any more.”  So we paid $28 for our five tastes, which were delivered to our table all at once, in nice little round-bottomed glasses.  She did come back to our table periodically to check on how we were liking the wines and offer us some water.

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Our panoply of tastes–we had already taken a couple of sips of the chardonnay.

Now that the prognosticating groundhogs haven’t seen their shadows, perhaps soon we’ll be enjoying some warm, Italian-like weather.

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  1. 2017 Chardonnay $32

This is a lightly oaked chardonnay, which spends five months in oak barrels, so it is not too butterscotchy.  The taste reminds me of thyme honey, which is herbier than clover honey, plus a touch of lemon.  Not bad, but not a style of chard I particularly like.  My husband says he could see it as a summer sipper on the deck.

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  1.  2017 Sauvignon Blanc                $30

We like the pretty bright yellow color of this wine, which is steel fermented.  It’s a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with crisp green apple and lemongrass flavors, a good oyster wine.  By the way, you may notice that the prices are a bit high here. My guess is that, as such a small winery, they lack the advantage of larger scale places, which can distribute the cost of winemaking over more bottles.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $32

In general, I think Diliberto does better with his reds.  This merlot is rather light, with lots of that typical cherry flavor and some tannins.  It is served a bit too cold.  According to the menu, it is aged just one year, in a mix of new and used French oak, which might account for why it seems so light.  It seems not quite balanced to me, though it would be a fine wine to have with pizza, especially one made without tomato sauce.

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  1. 2016 Cantina $30

A cantina is usually a bar, or an informal kind of restaurant, and this wine would go fine in such a place.  A blend of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc, it combines the cherry and pepper tastes of the two, with some hints of blackberry.  Though it has more body than the merlot, I find the finish evanesces, though the menu says it has a “smooth, lingering finished” (sic—we used my pen to correct our copies).  It’s another perfectly fine wine, and again would go well with pizza or pasta.

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Even the labels are a nod to the Dilibertos’ Italian heritage.

  1. 2015 Tre $42

If I were ordering pizza and a glass of wine, this is the one I would get, even though it is $17 per glass.  As you might guess from the name, this is a blend of three grapes:  65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  It has a lovely dark color and an aroma of tobacco, spice, and candy.  It tastes good, with cherry and dark chocolate flavors and enough tannins that I think it could age some more and be even better.  It could even stand up to steak or lamb chops.

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They also lead tours of Italy.

Reasons to visit:  you like a small, intimate setting; you want to pretend you are in Italy; you like listening to opera while you sip; you appreciate a child-free setting; the Cantina and the Tre; you want a thin-crust pizza for lunch.

 

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The grounds include a room for overnight stays.

Clovis Point: First of the New Year January 4, 2019

Clovis Point:  First of the New Year          January 4, 2019

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Even the bare vines have a stark beauty.

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

All the leaves are gone from the vines, leaving the rows looking like lines of bent-legged dancers.  For our first winery of the year, we decided to return to Clovis Point on a Friday afternoon.  The tasting room was empty the entire time we were there, but on weekends, when they feature live music and artist talks, it is livelier.

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Artist talks?  Yes, every six weeks the winery invites an artist to come in and hang their works, setting aside one day when the artist can come in and talk to the people assembled there about the art. (Check their web site for times and performers.)  We admired this week’s art, large photographs of natural scenery by Leonardo Vatkin, as we perused the menu.

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The current art exhibit, which changes every six weeks, consists of photographs by Leonardo Vatkin.

The menu offers four options:  Cold, $18 for four whites and a rosé; Red, $12 for three reds; Complete, $28 for all of Cold and Red combined; and Premium, three of their best reds (one is actually a port) for $5 per taste.  We decided to share one Complete, which was plenty of wine for us both.

As we sipped and chatted, we also admired the roomy tasting room, still decorated with lights and poinsettias for the holidays.  There’s also a large porch area off to one side, which is enclosed with plastic windows for the winter.  They have a menu of snacks, which we only realized when our tasting was almost over and I happened to turn over the wine menu.  Had our server pointed it out, we might have bought something.  I was also surprised that she didn’t try to promote their wine club, which often happens when we reveal that we are locals.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

This is a somewhat typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, which is not a bad thing.  They say you should drink local wines with local foods, and this would go perfectly with a plate of Peconic Bay oysters.  With aromas of minerals and rocks and tastes of green apple, lemon/lime, and minerals, this is a pleasantly refreshing white.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Although this is simply called chardonnay, it has 3% gewürztraminer, which adds a note of complexity.  Steel fermented, it has a lemon drop candy aroma with a touch of funkiness.  The taste also has some citrus, plus lots of pineapple and a bit of nutmeg.  They recommend pairing it with melted brie.  Sounds good to me.  A popular party snack used to be melted brie coated with sliced almonds.  Hmmm…

  1. 2016 Black Label Chardonnay $28

Although this is partially oaked, it is only 30% French oak fermented, so it is not too oaky.  It smells like thyme honey, with a touch of something vegetal, plus some butterscotch.  I think it would taste better with food, but my tasting buddy comments on its “freshness.”  We like its combination of lemon zest and just a touch of butter.  By the way, in a classy touch, our server rinses our glass with a bit of each new wine, so as not to contaminate the taste with the previous one.

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Our line-up so far.

  1. 2017 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $35

Oh, guess what, this is barrel fermented (I miss one closed winery’s creative nomenclature.).  Although the aroma is VERY butterscotchy, the taste is not as buttery as I had feared.  Instead, it is a comparatively light oaked chard, with tastes of honey and pineapple, balanced with citrus.  Roast chicken with gravy, is what I’m thinking.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $22.50

Made from 100% cabernet franc, this has a strong aroma of strawberry shortcake.  My husband jokes that the smell is “presumptuous.”  However, the taste is not super fruity.  In fact, we agree that blindfolded, not seeing the pretty light pink color, you might not guess this is a rosé. It does finish with that characteristic strawberry taste, after initial impressions of minerality and citrus.  I often like to pair rosés with Chinese food, but I think this would go better with charcuterie.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

Now we get a fresh glass for the reds, starting with a wine listed simply as merlot, but which is 85% merlot, plus 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon.  The first thing that strikes me about this wine is the aroma, which is so strongly perfumed that I might be tempted to dab it behind my ears.  Instead, we sip, and discover, in addition to the expected cherry taste, lots of tannins.  Although this is already four years old, I think it might need more aging.  The tasting notes assert it has an “unforgettable velvety finish.”  We agree that “velvety” is not a word we would choose.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $35

Again, this is a bit of a blend, 96% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot.  We sniff and get blueberries and a funky forest floor, mossy smell.  The taste is pleasant, with, in contrast to the merlot, not a lot of tannins, and tastes of purple plums and other fruit.  Though it is not complex or deep, it is good, and could go with a steak or lamb chops.

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Note the small battle, which makes this a rather expensive wine.

  1. 2015 Syrah $34 for 500 ML (a small bottle)

88% syrah, 10% merlot, and 2% cabernet sauvignon.  Our server explains that this comes in a small bottle because they “don’t grow much” syrah.  My tasting pal jokes that it “tastes like wine,” but I get what he means.  It has sort of a generic red wine taste, with some tannins and a hint of pepper at the end.  The aroma is a bit funky, with some pine.  Though again not deep, it is good, and would go well with short ribs or other fatty meats.  After this, the server asks if we want to buy a taste of any of the premium wines, but we decline, and decide, though we liked everything, not to buy any.  Like many small wineries (they only have ten acres, and buy some grapes from other North Fork vineyards), they lack economy of scale, so their prices are a bit high for what you get.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, more consolidation of wineries happens.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room; live music many weekends plus art shows; good wines, especially the sauvignon blanc, the Black Label Chardonnay, the merlot; if I were to get a glass to sip during a performance, I would get the cabernet franc, which is very drinkable on its own.

Laurel Lake: Chile But Not Chilly November 18, 2018

Laurel Lake:  Chile But Not Chilly               November 18, 2018

www.llwines.com

The weather outside was chilly, and the winemaker is from Chile, but our welcome was quite warm when we walked into the Laurel Lake tasting room on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Our server, Maureen, recognized us from previous visits—especially the notebook—and had time to chat with us, exchanging bits of wine country gossip.  She also introduced us to the charming Chilean winemaker, Juan Sepúlveda, who was pleased to discuss his wines with us.

 As we stood at the bar, we noticed that behind us a large party was happily sharing a meal and some bottles of wine, and another group was out on the enclosed porch.  One of those groups was a club of classic Cadillac owners, whose cars were lined up in the parking lot. Maureen told us that they also host a group of Corvette owners who come once a year, and we remembered one time when we had thought to stop in but found the parking lot filled with Corvettes. Now we knew why.

All of these Cadiallacs were not in the parking lot by coincidence.

 The last time we were here it was a warm day in September,and the food truck was in operation. However, the winery is coping with Southold Town’s crackdown on food trucks, so now if you want food they will order it for you from CJ’s restaurant, just down the street in the Mattituck shopping center. 

A standard tasting consists of four wines for $16, and we decided to share a tasting, which means we could go back and do another tasting and have all different wines.  We were, however, perfectly happy with our choices.

  1.  2016Pinot Gris               $22.99                                                                               I smell citrus and flowers.  The wine tastes fruitier than some pinot gris(a.k.a. pinot grigio), but still dry and light. It is soft and tasty enough to sip on its own. 
  2. 2017Sauvignon Blanc                 $22.99

This is another light white, dry and citrusy, and, like most North Fork sauvignon blancs, would go well with oysters.  We had thought to taste the gewürztraminer, but Maureen warned us that we might find it too sweet.  She also mentioned that their best-selling white is the somewhat sweet riesling, which is why they keep a supply next to the cash register.

They keep a supply of their best seller–the reisling–next to the cash register.

3.  2014 Merlot Estate         $21.99

I feel that if there is a merlot, one should try it, since it is such a basic North Fork red.  The aroma combines the expected cherry plus a touch of smokiness.  This is a relatively light merlot, with tastes of cherry, prunes, and vanilla.  Relatively simple, it is a good burger wine.

4. 2012Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve          $28.99

Aged in French oak, this had a lovely fruity aroma and taste, with a long finish and some complexity.  It has enough tannins that I think you could age it a bit longer, and it could stand up to a nice steak.  Very drinkable, we conclude.

5.  2013 Meritage                 ($59.99on the menu for the 2010)

I know, the menu says four tastes, but once again the book and our seriousness get us an extra.  The Meritage is a combination of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, sangiovese, and syrah, and she pours our taste out of an unlabeled bottle because officially the wine is still in the barrel.  Wow.  My notes characterize the aroma as “yummy.”  I taste lots of fruit, some nutmeg, and cassis.  Lots of tannins.  It is worth the price, especially if you keepit for a few years, but we are currently not in the market for a fancy red.

This is their most expensive wine, and no, they are not pouring tastes of it!

Reasons to visit:  Pleasant tasting room, and lovely outdoor area in the summer; we liked all the wines, but especially the pinot gris and the cabernet sauvignon reserve; the chance to chat with the winemaker if he is around; dogs are allowed in the outdoor area; small but amusing selection of wine-related gifts.:

They have a small selection of wine-related gifts.
This was my favorite one.
You can see the porch off to the side, and in addition in warm weather there’s a shaded outdoor area.

Martha Clara Vineyards: Change Is Coming November 8, 2018

Martha Clara Vineyards:  Change Is Coming                        November 8, 2018

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https://www.www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

Until recently, Martha Clara Vineyards, named for the matriarch of the family, was owned by the Entenmanns.  Now it has been sold to the Rivero-González family, so changes will be coming.  A year from now the wines could be quite different, because right now the wines have been overseen by the Entenmanns’ winemaker, but the next vintage will be the product of a new one.  Our chatty and knowledgeable server is hopeful that the changes will all be good.  Meanwhile, the tasting room already looks different, with most of the décor stripped away, and the shop objects also seems to have been winnowed down, with many fewer items for sale.  Should be interesting to come back next year.

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One side of the frequently bustling tasting room.

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The other room for tastings, where they used to serve food.

On this warm November day, the tasting room was practically empty, with only a few people stopping by, some to pick up wine club packages and others to do a tasting.  During the summer Martha Clara can be mobbed, so it was nice to taste in a quiet setting.  It’s not that I don’t like people—I’m just not fond of crowds.

The menu offers three options, the Aromatic tasting, of four whites for $15; the Northville tasting, of four reds for $15; and the Vintner’s Reserve, of two whites and two reds from their estate selections, for $17.  We decided to share an Aromatic and then a Northville, thus giving us the greatest variety of tastes.  We weren’t hungry, but there was no menu of food on offer, though the shop has a refrigerated case of cheeses, etc., and packages of crackers and other snacks.

  1. 2014 Northern Solstice Blanc $19

Generally, when a local wine has a name other than a variety of grape, that means it is a blend, and so this is—a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and semillon.  It has a pretty golden color, and an aroma of honeysuckle and tropical fruit.  Though it is slightly sweet, we like it.  The wine is nicely balanced, with some complexity, and flavors of pineapple and minerals.  I think it would be fine to sip on its own, but my husband disagrees.  However, we both think it would go nicely with seafood in a cream sauce.  Hmm…Peconic Bay scallops are in season.

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  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc $22

The aroma is metallic and vegetal.  My tasting buddy thinks it smells like his favorite fall vegetable, Brussels sprouts.  Maybe.  The wine is dry, tart, and very light, tasting of lemon peel.  It is so light that if you drank it with food that had lots of flavor it would disappear.  Maybe oysters.

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  1. 2014 Chardonnay $20

This chardonnay is steel-fermented, like all the other whites in our tasting, and we like it.  I smell slate or rock and gooseberry, and taste citrus and tropical fruit.  It is nicely tart and dry.  We also notice that it is on sale, 30% off if you buy two bottles, so we do.

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The steel-fermented chardonnay is currently on sale.

  1. 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27

Hang on a second, you might say, I thought all the whites in your tasting were steel fermented, but this one is oaked.  Yes, I say, power of the book.  We get a little side-by-side sample of the oaked chard, courtesy of our server, with whom we have been having a nice chat.  Unfortunately, we don’t care for it.  The aroma is rather funky, with lots of woody smells.  Though it is not too buttery, there is something about the taste I find off-putting.  Cedar?  Pencil shavings?

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Our “extra”–a taste of the oaked chardonnay. When you take tasting seriously, servers like to see what you think of various wines.

  1. 2014 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

She warns us that this will be semi-sweet, and she’s right to warn us.  Though it’s very aromatic it is much too sweet for us, and we dump the rest of our taste.  Maybe with Thai food…

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Northville Tasting

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $27

Now we switch to the reds, and get a clean glass.  Our server describes this as a bit smoky, and says it goes with red meat.  I’d say this is a roast chicken red, as it is rather thin.  It has a red fruit aroma but the taste is not very fruity.  I get nutmeg and some tannins.  No finish.  By the way, all their wines come in screw top bottles.

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  1. 2014 Malbec-Merlot $27

51%-49% (sort of like many of the vote percentages in the recent elections), this has the cherry aroma and taste of the merlot, but not much else.  No depth. Dry. We decide this is a burger red.

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  1. 2013 Northville Red                  $27

A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, this is, unusually for a red, steel fermented.  I tell our server that I have a catchphrase for her to use with this wine—It’s a white-wine-drinker’s red wine.  It is pleasantly fresh-tasting, with some red plum and cherry flavors, very light.  A ten-minute wine—not to be discussed, just to be drunk.  It is also on sale, but we decide not to get any.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

We like this the best of the reds.  It has aromas of spice and red candy.  Dry, with some nice tannins, though it has no depth it has some nice plummy flavors.  I could see having it with lamb chops.

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I found this little guide to wine tasting quite interesting, in that it seems to indicate that many of their customers are new to wine tasting.

Reasons to visit:  last chance to taste the Martha Clara style wines before the new winemaker takes over; you can bring your dog to the outside tasting area; the Northern Solstice Blanc, the Chardonnay, and the Cabernet Sauvignon; reasonably priced wines.

Lagniappe:  As we were driving home, we passed a movie crew outside the Mattituck Motel, which will be one of the North Fork sites used in the Netflix movie of the Gilgo Beach murders.

 

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels October 25, 2018

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels               October 25, 2018

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The tasting room used to be a farm house, and it still has a homey feel.

https://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

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

What happens when a vineyard is bought by new owners, who want to make their own style of wine, but the previous owners still use the same grapes for their wines?  You get Sherwood House and Hound’s Tree wines, made from the same grapes but in different styles.  Sherwood’s winemaker, Gilles Martin, likes the French style, while Hound’s Tree’s owners, who are from Oregon, use a West Coast style.  Confusingly, the vineyard is located on the North Fork on Oregon Road.

The last time we were here, the server set us up with parallel tastings, but this time, in the absence of her suggestions, we did a tasting of the Sherwood Classic wines, and then the Hound’s Tree ones.  There are actually four tasting options, but the two we did had no overlap.  In addition to the set tastings, they will also craft an all white or all red tasting on request.

Since the room is so pleasant, and we realized we’d be there a while, we decided to get a small cheese tray, put together by Lombardi’s Market.  $15.  Did we want crackers with that?  As opposed to what, eating the cheese by hand?  That will be an additional $3 for a small sleeve of Carr’s Water Crackers.  That seems a bit chintzy to us, especially since the cheese tray is rather meager.

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The cheese tray is adequate for two, if neither of them is very hungry.

We settled at a table, in sight of the fire in the fireplace, and brought our tastings and our cheese to the table ourselves.  Two other couples came in and took glasses of wine to sit on the couches by the fireplace.  Through an open doorway we could see into the William Riis gallery, where art, sculpture, and antiques are for sale.  Not a bad way to while away an afternoon.

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The first five wines are the Sherwood Classics Flight, $30 for a fairly generous pour.

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The sparkler and the chard

  1. 2016 Blanc de Blancs    $45

This is only the second time they have released a sparkling wine, so it is new to us.  Made from chardonnay grapes, it has a slightly vegetal aroma and is a pleasant dry sparkler.  It has a slightly yeasty taste, and is light.  You could definitely have this with a meal or some charcuterie.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $3

Our server describes this as “lightly oaked,” and I agree that it is not overly oaky or buttery or butterscotchy.  On the other hand, it is fairly nondescript, I say.  Undistinguished, adds my tasting buddy.  Bittersweet, with just a trace of butterscotch, even with the cheese it is just okay.

  1. 2010 Merlot $38

Better than the average North Fork merlot is our assessment of this dry and elegant red.  It has aromas and tastes of cherry, as expected, but also some interesting layers of flavor.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $40

Although this has a nice aroma of brambles and blackberries, there’s not much taste.  It’s a soft red, with no tannins, and some minerality.  Not a sipping wine, it would be okay with a burger.

  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor $45

The tasting ends with their Bordeaux blend, of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  The menu describes it as “preciously aged”—whatever that means—in French oak.  I smell plums and other red fruit, but it is too cold to taste much, so I warm it in my palm.  Ah, now I can taste it.  This is quite good, a wine for steak, dry, with various fruit flavors.  It’s also nice with the Marcona almonds on the cheese plate.

 

Each taste comes in its own glass, by the way.  Now we move on to the Hound’s Tree Flight, $25 for five tastes.  We snack on our crackers and cheese a bit to clear our palates.

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  1. 2016 Rosé         $22

The aroma is slightly funky, and smells like fermented berries.  Yum.  This has more taste than the average rosé, though it is served too cold, of course.  It is a blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 15% cabernet sauvignon.  We taste fruit and minerality, but it’s not overly fruity.  This would be a good summer sipper.

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When wine is too cold, try warming it with your palms.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $26

What is acacia aged?  The server has told us that this is aged in steel and acacia, but she can’t answer what that means.  We sniff and get minerals and just a touch of citrus.  My husband sips and says, “Watery.”  It is very light.  I say it is “not unpleasant,” which is not exactly high praise.

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Pretty labels.

  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

By the way, we find the labels for the Hound’s Tree wines quite attractive.  Although this has almost no aroma, it has, says my husband, “a distinctive taste which lingers in your mouth.”  It’s dry, almost tart, with not much fruit at all and some tannins.  Perhaps it needs to age longer.

  1. 2015 Merlot $29

Unlike the Sherwood merlot, which had lots of cherry aroma, this has almost no aroma.  It is quite dry, with some tannins but no depth, and is drinkable but not at all complex.  Innocuous, is a word we agree on.

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  1. 2015 Cornus Reserve $45

Why “Cornus”?  She doesn’t know, and the web site doesn’t even list this wine.  In any event, it is their Bordeaux blend, of 62% cabernet sauvignon, 19% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 3% malbec.  Of all the wines we tried today, this is our favorite.  It has red plum aromas, and a somewhat complex taste with red fruits and tobacco.  The tannins make me think it could improve with age.  It would pair well with lamb or mutton chops.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant, cozy tasting room with a fireplace and comfy couches; the chance to compare two different styles of winemaking using the same grapes (with very different results); the Sherwood Merlot and Manor; the Hound’s Tree Rosé and Cornus Reserve; you can shop the interesting items in the next-door gallery.  If I came there to sit by the fire and sip a glass of wine while listening the

 

 

music, I would get a glass of the Cornus.

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Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines October 3, 2018

Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines                   October 3, 2018

http://mattebella.com/main

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Heading to the tasting garden from the parking area…

Most of the time, my husband and I are the only ones doing a tasting for my blog.  However, we love to take visitors with us to wineries.  Aside from the pleasure of their company, it is fun to compare notes on each wine and discuss what it tastes and smells like and what we would serve it with.  We also try to think of wineries our guests would like.

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We like to support places that care about the environment.

My brother and sister-in-law like to bring their dog with them, so a dog-friendly place was the first requirement.  Then, I thought about how they care about conservation, organic and local foods, and the environment, so I wanted to bring them to a winery that farmed sustainably.  I also wanted a place with wines we like.  Finally, it was a rare lovely day, so we could sit outside, with a pretty garden setting a plus.  And thus we chose Mattebella, which turned out to be perfect on all counts.

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Comfy seating in the gazebo.

As we settled ourselves on comfy cushioned seats inside a gazebo, a friendly server came over with menus and an offer of water for the dog.  We were off to a good start.

The menu offers five different flights, including an interesting one of all chardonnays, but we decided each couple would share a Vintner’s Select Flight, $30 for eight wines.  Our server put a tray full of glasses down in front of us, with each wine labeled, and poured the five whites, promising to return with the reds when we were ready.  She returned shortly with a small piece of slate on which perched two pieces of toasted baguette with a slice of brie on each, to go with the wine.  They used to give several different snacks with the wine, but now it is just the one.   Still, that’s nicer than the dry crackers which a few wineries offer.

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The first round of tastes.

  1. 2015 Steel Chardonnay               $21

The aroma is of minerals and green apples, and the taste is very lemony.  Our server suggests we compare it with a sauvignon blanc, and I see why.  It is the type of light, citrusy wine which goes great with oysters.  It could also be drunk as an aperitif, a “sipper on the patio,” we decide.

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Free snack!

  1. 2014 Famiglia Chardonnay        $22

“Why Famiglia?” we ask.  We don’t really get a clear explanation, but it has something to do with the winemaker being Italian and the word for family.  In any event, this is an oaked chard, with an aroma of wood and green apple.  Words that come up as we discuss the taste:  honeydew, butterscotch, lemony at end.  At this point we take a nibble of the brie and decide this is a wine that needs to go with food.  “Pleasant but not fascinating,” someone says.

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  1. 2013 Founder’s Reserve Chardonnay $38

My sister-in-law likes this one better than I do, but it’s fine.  The aroma combines basement smells with a chemical I identify as turpentine or gasoline.  Fortunately, it doesn’t taste the way it smells.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness.  I get some grapefruit and pear tastes.  They say it could age, and I see that.

 

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

I find riesling somewhat problematical.  In general, I don’t buy one unless I know how it tastes, since they seem to vary widely.  Some rieslings are too sweet, but some I really like.  This one, from a vineyard in Jamesport, is not sweet, but I don’t care for it.  It has a somewhat piney taste, which my brother compares to the bark on a tree.  He’s not fond of it, but my sister-in-law likes it, which proves what people often say, that wine likes and dislikes are very personal.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $21

This is a nice summer sipper, light and lemony, with some strawberry taste and aroma.  90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc.

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  1. Famiglia Red $24

There is no vintage on this wine, since it is a blend they try to keep consistent from year to year, so if you order it in a restaurant or buy a bottle you will know what to expect.  This particular blend is mostly merlot, with some cabernet franc.  Our server characterizes it as “a good wine to bring to a friend’s house.”  The aroma combines plums, cherry pits, and leather handbags.  Fruity, soft, and very drinkable, this is a serviceable food wine, good with pizza and pasta.  Someone says this is what should be called a “ten-minute wine,” a wine you just drink, rather than discuss.

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  1. 2011 Old World Blend $50

That’s quite a price jump, and we are wondering whether the wine is worth it.  Sniff.  Rotting banana and dried fruit compote.  Sip.  Good!  Lots of complex fruit flavors with light tannins, we taste raisins and prunes.  It would go well with lamb roasted with rosemary. The wine is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  If you care about such things, you might like to know that Robert Parker gave it 90 points.

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The drawing on the labels is of the owners’ children, Matt and ‘Bella.

  1. 2013 Old World Blend $65

OMG.  Really good, in other words.  This is another blend, of merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, aged in French oak.  It has lots of tannins, with aromas of leather and dark fruits.  It is not as fruity as the 2011, but we decide it is more elegant.  It has enough power to stand up to steak.

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Look how dark that Old World Blend is!

As we discuss our overall impressions of the wines, which we characterize as smooth, soft, and drinkable, my sister-in-law is perusing the menu.  She notices that we have not tried any of their sparkling wines, so we ask the server which one we should try.  She brings us two.

 

  1. 2017 White Sparkling Wine        $24

Our server says we should think of this as similar to a prosecco.  It’s not bad, but too sweet for us.

  1. 2017 Dry Sparkling Rosé $28

We prefer this one, which is refreshingly dry, with light fruit tastes.  This is another one to sip on the back deck.

Reasons to visit:  pretty outdoor setting, but the indoor area is quite small; comfy seating; lots of nice wines, especially the Steel Chardonnay, the Famiglia Red, and the 2013 Old World Blend; dogs are allowed; no outside food, but they do have various crostini on offer, plus they bring you one for free; they farm sustainably.

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We were tempted to taste the grapes, but the netting discouraged us as well as the birds.

Bedell Cellars: Price/Quality Question September 8, 2018

Bedell Cellars:  Price/Quality Question    September 8, 2018

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https://www.bedellcellars.com/

I’ve read a number of articles about the price of a bottle in relation to the quality of the wine inside it, with many opining that it is not a simple relationship.  Often, what you are paying for with an expensive bottle is some measure of prestige or canny marketing, not necessarily the experience of drinking the wine.  My husband and I have had the good fortune and pleasure to go to events which included very expensive wines—vintage Dom Perignon, premium Bordeaux—which we certainly enjoyed.  But the question is, were they that much better than the $20 bottles of wine we often have with dinner.  Better, yes, but exponentially better?  Not so sure.  I was thinking about this because the wines at Bedell, while mostly pleasant and drinkable, are overall fairly expensive for what you get.

On a surprisingly chilly day (It’s been too hot to sit outside most of the summer, and then today it was too cold!), we headed to Bedell Cellars, knowing they have a pleasant tasting room, and not planning to sit on the porch—which was good, since the outdoor area was closed in preparation for a wedding.  We stood at the bar in the elegant black and white room and studied the menu, which didn’t take long since they only have one flight option, of five wines for $20, though you can add tastes of any other wines for $5-$7 each.  They are already sold out of two of their wines.

Our server was enthusiastic and chatty, though somewhat self-conscious about my notebook, even though I assured her that our main interest was in the wines.  She informed us at the end of our tasting that we could take our receipt and go over to Corey Creek, now owned by Bedell, for two free tastes of the wines on tap there, about which more later.

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1.        2017 Sparkling Rosé      $45

Just as I said, “This would make a perfect bachelorette party drink,” as if on cue, a group of women surrounding one who wore a headband that proudly proclaimed “Bride” entered.  Pink, bubbly, fruity, with a touch of minerality, this blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot seems like it would be pleasant to drink.  However, we felt that ultimately it did not cohere and was a bit too sweet for us.  We still would prefer Croteaux.

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The label is certainly pretty.

2.       2017 Viognier    $30

Although only a few wineries on the North Fork grow viognier, we just happen to have visited both Palmer and Kontokosta recently, and their bottles of viognier are $25, while at Bedell it costs $30.  We liked all three of the viogniers, and Bedell’s is no better than the others. This one has an orange blossom aroma with a slight metallic tang.  It has some nice fruitiness, and while I found it a bit too sweet my husband felt it had a nice balance between sweetness and minerality.  While we were discussing the wine, several people stopped in for glasses of wine, and two of them got the viognier, so clearly it is a wine people like.  My tasting buddy said it was a good summer wine, and I theorized that it could stand up to an assertive dish like bouillabaisse. 

3.       2016 Taste White            $40

Both the wine and the image on the bottle are blends.  The wine mixes 64% albariño, 18% chardonnay,10% sauvignon blanc, and 8% viognier.  How is the image a blend?  According to our server, the artist did a composite portrait of five people to end with a face that looks like Marilyn Monroe.  (The owner of the winery sits on the board of MOMA, as we are always informed.)  The aroma and taste are both relatively complex and interesting, with smells of honeysuckle, baked pear, and something vegetal, maybe asparagus or grass.  I laugh and say it tastes like white grapes, because it seems funny to think that a drink made from grapes rarely tastes like grapes.  We also detect a hint of pineapple, and other fruits, plus pleasant acidity.  It’s not a white for sipping, nor would you want it with something very delicate.

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4.       2016 Cabernet Franc      $45

The tasting menu describes this light red as juicy and ripe.  I say meh.  It is barely aged—six to nine months in neutral French oak—and has no depth and a very short finish.  It evanesces, as we say.  The aroma is of dark fruit, but the wine mostly tastes of minerals and a little fruit.  If you want a robust red, don’t pick this nothing burger!

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It is a fairly generous pour.

5.       2016 Malbec     $50

I’m not too crazy about this red either, though I think people would find it easy to drink.  It’s a very simple, slightly cherry-flavored red, with no tannins.  It does develop a bit more flavor as it sits, and we think it might be better with something like lamb chops.

 

On to Corey Creek!

https://www.bedellcellars.com/the-tap-room/

 

              Just a little further east from Bedell is Corey Creek, which used to be a separate winery until Bedell took it over.  There they offer wine from a tap, like beer, and you can bring a bottle to be filled.  The building is pleasantly rustic, with a pretty back porch overlooking pinot gris vines.  The atmosphere is more informal than Bedell, and we saw families whose children were running around outside, plus several dogs on leashes.  The bachelorette party was here, too. 

              Many of the wines here are aged in clay vessels, an ancient method being revived, so we were interested to see if the cabernet franc here tasted any different than the one we’d just had.  They also offer Frosé, a frozen concoction of rosé, sugar, and water.  No, thank you. 

 

1.       Syrah

For a syrah, this is a very light wine, with not much in the way of aroma or taste.  My husband says it has “forward tongue tingle.” 

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Our Corey Creek tastes

2.       Cabernet Franc

This is another not-much-there wine, though if you found reds challenging you might like it.  Our conclusion?  “Free is the right price” for these tastes.

 

Reasons to visit:  elegant tasting room, artistic labels, the Viognier and the Taste White; Corey Creek has a pleasantly rustic setting and the novelty of wine on tap, plus a taste is free if you’ve been to Bedell.

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Look how big those grapes are getting!