Shinn Estate Vineyards: It Pays to Take the Back Road July 25, 2019

https://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The sign tells you that your trip to Oregon Road has successfully landed you at Shinn.

As the couple at a nearby table on the Shinn Vineyard’s new and very nice patio noted, it took some searching to find Shinn, but they were glad they had persisted, having wended their way to Oregon Road.  We already knew our way, but we were glad we were there, too.  In 2017, Shinn was bought by the Frankel family, and they have made some attractive changes, though the place has a less funky vibe than it used to.

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As you enter, drive past the B and B, and go around to the back, where the tasting room is located.

On arrival, we were offered seats inside—in the A/C—or outside on the patio.  Though it was a warm day, it was not oppressively so, and the patio offered shaded areas.  We ended up spending almost an hour there, doing a leisurely tasting plus a couple of other tastes and sharing a delicious cheese board.  Reggae music played in the background—I remember one verse mentioning “island sun”—and it was easy to forget we were on Long Island and imagine we were on a tropical island.

The tasting menu offers many options, from a rosé flight for $16, which includes a couple of Croteaux rosés, to our choice, the Winemaker’s Picks, of five of their higher end wines for $28.  Why, you may wonder, do they feature Croteaux rosés?  Because the Frankel family recently bought Croteaux as well, and have reopened the tasting room and garden there.  Our server assured us that they are keeping the Croteaux rosés the same as they were.  We’ll have to check that out!

Our server brought the wines to us, the three whites first and then, when we had finished them, the two reds, carefully placed on a little mat which had labeled spots for each wine.  She also brought us a glass bottle of water and two plastic cups, a nice touch.

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The bottle of cold water was quite welcome.

After we finished the five wines in our tasting, we still had quite a bit of cheese left of the $14 cheese board, so we each added one more taste, which I have put at the end of the listing.  These also came on tiny round coasters with labels for what they were.

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1.       2018 Concrete Blonde   $40

Why this name?  The sauvignon blanc is aged in a concrete “egg” made, we are informed, from “French soil,” instead of in steel or oak.  Macari also uses this method, and you can find a discussion of the concrete egg in my entries on that winery.  The aroma of the wine is lovely, floral, like a bouquet of summer flowers.  The wine is more reminiscent of a chardonnay than a sauvignon blanc, almost creamy, with a citrus taste that is like a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon.  It doesn’t really complement the cheese, but would be quite nice with charcuterie.

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This was a fairly generous cheese platter, though I never feel as though they give you enough crackers.

2.        2016 Haven                     $35

What, I wondered, is referenced by the name of this blend, of 70% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 10% pinot blanc?  Haven is a reference to the type of soil on the farm, we were told, a combination of sand and loam.  This one is aged more traditionally, in oak, and I can scent a touch of the oak when I sniff.  Then I get flowers.  The wine is softer than a usual sauv blanc, with some depth and a touch of spice, perhaps nutmeg.  It’s a good food wine. 

3.       2016 Pinot Blanc             $35

Now we’re back in experimental territory, as puncheon (i.e. big) barrels of neutral oak were used to age this wine, for eight months.  The aroma is faint, with a touch of honeysuckle, but, on the other hand, as my husband notes, it has a lot of taste.  Again, I think of this wine as soft, not tart but not sweet, with some nice fruit tastes.  It would make a lovely aperitif wine, as it is very easy to drink on its own.

4.       2018 Mojo         $26

In 2014, Shinn had such a copious harvest of cabernet franc that they ran out of oak barrels, and so decided to make an unoaked cab franc.  Then they were so pleased with the result that since then they have made it that way on purpose.  The menu describes this wine as “bright, fresh,” and I agree.  They serve it chilled, which is nice on a hot day.  The aroma has a touch of funkiness, perhaps pine or forest floor, plus minerality.  This pleasant, fruity wine would be great for sangria. 

5.       2016 Wild Boar Doe       $42

Of course, this is their Bordeaux blend:  59% merlot, 21.5% cabernet franc, 12.5% petit verdot, and 7% malbec.  The merlot gives it a cherry aroma and taste, but I’m not sure what the other grapes add.  “It could be more assertive,” asserts my tasting buddy.  I get some light tannins, and the wine is dry, but, again, the word that keeps coming to mind is soft.

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6.       Non-vintage Red Blend                $19

We needed a bit more beverage to go with the rest of our cheese, so my husband opted to try a red we’d be likely—based on price—to buy.  This is a light, refreshing summer red, a simple table wine.  It’s a blend of 61% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 2% petit verdot, and tastes, as you’d expect, of the merlot cherry flavor.  We bought two bottles.

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I like cognac, and this one was quite delicious.

7.       Alembic Brandy               $65

Brandy?  Yep, they actually have a menu of four brandies, labeled Julius Drover Brandy.  Our server gave me a rundown of the four.  Divine is made from semillon grapes combined with the alembic; Eau de Vie is made from whatever scraps of grapes they have around and is only aged for one year, so it’s pretty forceful; Apple Brandy is like Calvados, and is made from apples and pears; and Alembic Brandy is made from chardonnay grapes, aged four years.  If you like cognac, you’ll like the Alembic, which I quite enjoyed.  The taste made me think I should be drinking it after dinner, perhaps with a good cigar and a bowl of walnuts for cracking (just kidding about the cigar). 

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Reasons to visit:  Off the beaten track, so less crowded and quieter than the big places, especially in the summer, as our new friends on the patio noted; lovely outdoor patio; nice menu of snacks; certified sustainable (a landmark for locating them is their tall windmill); the Concrete Blonde in particular, but all the wines are very drinkable, if not exciting.

Shinn Estate Vineyard: New Owner, Eager to Please July 3, 2018

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The new patio looks great, but it was too hot to sit out there.

“We’re actually here for the air-conditioning,” we only partially joked with our server, as we arrived at Shinn in the midst of a heat wave.  And even though the outside patio area has been beautifully re-done and expanded since our last visit, no one was tempted to sit outside.

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There’s also seating out in the yard, but the parking lot is quite small for the number of seats at the winery.

We were particularly curious to check out Shinn, a winery we like for several reasons, since it is under new ownership for the first time since it was founded.  As we sipped and discussed the wines and I wrote in my notebook, the new owner, Randy Frankel, entered and introduced himself.  He was talking to everyone in the room, but he was evidently intrigued by my notebook and asked what we thought of the wines so far.  We had just finished our flight of three whites and a rosé, and my husband summarized our opinion by saying we found the wines, “Safe.”  Randy seemed a bit perturbed by that description and he said, “Wait, the winemaker is right here.  Tell him.  Patrick!”

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One side of the tasting room

As we discussed the fact that we found the wines quite drinkable but rather light and simple, he suggested that we try the other rosé, not the one we had chosen from the menu.  And indeed, we liked it better, and found it more interesting.  We discussed Croteaux, and lamented the closing of their garden, and he eagerly informed us that they would be hosting a Croteaux pop-up event at their winery that week.

Then he suggested we check out the new party room he was having remodeled, just across the patio from the tasting room.  As we walked over, we noticed that the patio was even larger that we had seen at first, with some comfortable-looking seating. Not quite as pretty as Croteaux’s garden, but with a few more flowers it would come close.  The room he led us to has comfortable leather couches and a big fireplace.  My husband said, “It reminds me of Sherwood House.”  Randy introduced us to the designer, who was there, and who also designed Sherwood’s tasting room!  Good eye, dear.  Randy then gave another couple the same tour. We have learned that if you take your tasting seriously, especially if you take notes, you often get extra attention from servers.

We finally confessed to our server that I write a blog, and she insisted we try a taste of their most expensive wine.  Then, as we bought two bottles of wine, she comped us our tastings.  Plenty of places will comp your tasting if you buy a certain number of bottles, but I assume this was in response to my being a blogger. (Full disclosure!)

The wine menu lists ten wines under the heading “Traditional Wine Tasting,” of which you can choose four for a $16 tasting, and five “Small Production” wines, of which you can choose four for a $24 tasting.  They also have two brandies and an eau de vie available by the glass, at $15 for the brandies and $10 for the eau de vie.  You get all of your tastes at once, identified by little labels, so you can easily have your tasting at a table inside or outside.  They do not allow outside food, and have a small menu of snacks, including North Fork doughnuts and a charcuterie platter.  We got a dish of mixed nuts for $5.

By the way, Shinn also has a four-room B and B at the winery, which Randy said has also been remodeled, and they offer tours of the winery for $35 if you book ahead.

  1. 2017 Coalescence          $19

A blend, this is the perfect illustration that the year matters.  In the past we have alternated liking and not liking this wine.  This time we liked it!  36% sauvignon blanc, 34% chardonnay, 2.6% riesling, 2.5% semillon, and 1.5% pinot blanc is the blend.  I got a faint whiff of cat pee aroma, but mostly honeysuckle and minerals.  The taste is light and lemony, dry yet mouth-watering.  It would be great with bluefish.

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Our tasting of three whites and a rose.

  1. 2017 First Fruit $22

The menu labels this as made with “aromatic sauvignon blanc,” but we don’t find it particularly aromatic.  It is also very light, maybe too light.  As my tasting pal notes, one could guzzle this and not even notice.  I feel as though I taste some toasted coconut, though he disagrees.

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New label design

  1. 2016 Riesling $22

We wondered whether this was made with local grapes or grapes from upstate, since the menu identifies it as coming from the “Robert Schreiber vineyard.”  No, we are told, the vineyard is just down the street.  Though I detect a bit of cotton candy aroma, there is no sweetness to this very dry riesling.  In fact, opines my husband, he would not even think it was a riesling, it is so dry and light.  “It’s almost not there,” he says.

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Particularly welcome on this hot day, a bottle of chilled water comes with the tastings.

  1. 2016 Rosé $19

According to our server, this is the less sweet of the two rosés, so we choose it.  100% merlot, it smells like strawberry-rhubarb pie and has some strawberry taste, but again, it is very light and the taste quickly evanesces.

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The bottle of Rose Hill

  1. 2017 Rose Hill Rosé $24

As I noted above, this is an extra taste we were given, and I’m glad we were.  The color of this is very light, almost white, but the taste is much more interesting than the other rosé.  It is a blend of merlot, chardonnay, and riesling, and Patrick informs us that it spends very little time on the skins, hence the light color.  We get lots of fruit tastes plus refreshing minerality.  They have it on tap at the winery!  We decide we will buy a bottle.

  1. 2017 Cabernet Franc $30

Now we line up four reds to taste, starting with this one, which is steel fermented and has no sulfites.  It was made at the request of a restaurant, and then the winery decided to make some for themselves as well.  As you would expect from a steel-fermented red, this is fruity, with cherry flavor and not much else.  No tannins.  “Undistinguished but pleasant,” says my husband.  I could see making it into sangria.

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We were so deep in conversation that we had made inroads on the nuts and the reds before I remembered to take a picture.

  1. Non-Vintage Red Blend $19

Lots of wineries have a wine like this, a blend of various wines from various years.  Some attempt to produce some sort of consistent taste from year to year, and others just try to make a drinkable wine.  Not sure what the philosophy is here, but it is quite a nice wine.  A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot, it has a fruity aroma and taste with some pleasant tannins.  It would be good with lamb chops.  We buy a bottle of this, too, as we are always on the lookout for everyday dinner wines.

  1. 2015 Estate Merlot $30

Cherry aroma and taste define this as a rather typical North Fork merlot.  Nothing wrong with that.  This one is a bit on the light side, with some soft tannins.

  1. 2015 Seven Barrels $38

Guess how many barrels of this they’ve made.  93% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% petit verdot:  I summarized this one as “cherry berry.”  This is the most interesting of the wines so far, with some tannins and minerality, very drinkable.  It would be good with a wide range of foods, including steak.

  1. 2013 Grace $90

Yes, that’s $90 a bottle.  We generally don’t spend that much for a bottle of wine unless it’s for a very special occasion, but this is a very good wine.  Maybe someday.  A blend of 66% cabernet franc, 31% merlot, and 3% cabernet sauvignon, there are only three barrels of it.  It smells delicious, complex, with layers of flavor.  There’s fruit, but also tannins that make me think it could age well.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasantly rustic room and patio a bit off the beaten path; the Rose Hill Rosé, the 2013 Grace, the 2017 Coalescence, the Non-Vintage Red Blend, the Seven Barrels; small menu of snacks; they serve a bottle of chilled water with your tasting; I didn’t ask the current owners, but in the past they allowed dogs on the patio; an inn where you can spend the night.