Empire State Cellars

https://www.facebook.com/EmpireStateCellars

Look down the row to find Empire State Cellars.

Look down the row to find Empire State Cellars.

Here’s a great way to use my blog.

Tucked away in a corner of Tanger Outlet Mall in Riverhead, amidst stores selling luggage, lingerie, and not-quite-the-latest fashions, is a wonderful place, Empire State Cellars, selling wines, beers, liquors, and a few other products made in New York State.  If you want a selection of local wines but you don’t feel like trekking from winery to winery to get it, this is the place.  Even better, they offer a 10% discount on a case, and many of their prices are less expensive than in the wineries themselves.  I know, I was surprised, too.

The helpful clerks at the desk.

The helpful clerks at the desk.

They also offer tastings at a bar in the back of the store.  However, we didn’t have time to do a tasting that day, but we did need to decide which wines to get.  As we scanned the shelves, I Googled Nofowineaux.wordpress.com/ whichever winery we were curious about.  Up popped my blog, and then I just had to scroll down to see if I had reviewed that particular wine.  Of course, since my phone “knows” me, all I had to put in was nofo, and it did the rest.

The tasting bar.

The tasting bar.

You can also follow the same procedure in a restaurant to decide which wine to order, though sometimes, as we have found, wineries seem to bottle different versions of their wines for restaurants.  Before I started my blog I was recording our tastings in a notebook, which was fine for deciding which winery to visit, but not a lot of help when we were out and about.  Now I have this useful reference always with me—and so do you!

photo (24)

Pugliese: Limos Galore November 23, 2013

http://www.pugliesevineyards.com/

pug place

We thought we were safe.  Random November Saturday, chilly weekend following a drizzly Friday, just a little after noon—surely Pugliese would be quiet!  And indeed, when we arrived, there were only two limos in the parking lot, and several large parties clustered outside around the picnic tables.  We had passed Pugliese many times during the summer and opted not to go, given the crowded look of the place.  It’s not that we’re misanthropes; it’s just that we prefer to do our tastings in a calm, peaceful atmosphere.  Actually, the grounds around the tasting room are quite pretty, with a scenic pond down in a hollow near the outside tables.

We scanned the menu:  4 tastes for $7.00, $8 for a glass, sangria (from a large vat at one end of the bar) $10 per glass, and beer on tap.  Also they have a cheese tray for $13.  There were many choices—four sparkling wines, four whites, seven reds, and five dessert wines.  The sparkling wines seemed to be very popular with the groups of women, and we heard at least one young man become quite happy at the prospect of having a beer instead of wine.  We decided to share eight different tastes, which our server agreed was a good choice, and she noted that the fourth white was quite sweet, and would probably not be to our taste.  Good call.  I also noted that they had many gift baskets on offer, including hand-painted wine glasses, t-shirts, and other small items, plus the inevitable bags of North Fork potato chips.

1)      2012 Pinot Grigio                             $17.99

In general, I like Pinot Grigios.  This one was just okay, with a vegetable aroma, perhaps asparagus, and a dry, grassy taste.  Not much finish.  When I admire the pretty label, the server notes that another woman there designed them.

We admired the pretty bottles.

We admired the pretty bottles.

2)       2012 Chardonnay Gold                 $12.99

Though this is a steel-fermented Chard, it has a bit of a creamy taste, with nice fruit and a dry finish.  I would say, especially given the price, it is quite buyable.

3)      2012 Riesling                                     $13.99

The honeysuckle aroma is there, but faint.  I wouldn’t actually have realized right away that this is a Riesling, but I did guess (correctly!) that it included grapes from upstate.  Not sure how to describe that upstate flavor, but it is a bit sweet and…grape-juicy.  Just okay.

pug white

4)      Bella Domenica                                                $9.99

We were going to skip this one, but our server—as she rinsed our glasses between each taste—recommended that we try it.  People don’t choose it because of the price, but it’s actually a very nice wine, she said.  And she was right.  It is described as a red table wine, a Merlot/Cabernet blend, and is a perfectly acceptable everyday red.  It would be fine with pasta, or as a picnic wine.  A summery red, with a cherry aroma and nice berry taste, this is a simple wine (as are most of their wines.  Nothing complex or layered here.)  I was about to ask the story behind the name when several large parties suddenly arrived, changing the atmosphere from calm to loud and boisterous.

5)      2009 Sangiovese                              $16.99

We had to try this one, as they are the only vineyard on the North Fork to grow the Sangiovese—a.k.a. Chianti—grape.  The color is a light red, and the taste is similarly light.  Not much to it, my husband notes.  Although it is also an acceptable everyday wine, you wouldn’t necessarily peg it as a Chianti, as it is less robust than you’d expect it to be.

The Sangiovese

The Sangiovese

6)      2009 Cabernet Franc                       $16.99

As with all their wines, we feel this one is also underflavored and relatively simple.  We smell a bit of damp forest, maybe some red candy.

7)      2006 Sunset Meritage                    $24.99

Since we’ve been somewhat disappointed so far, we decide to skip to their pricier—though still reasonably priced for Long Island—reds, and move to their Bordeaux blend:  Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Yay, finally, a wine with something to it!  But not a lot.  The color is nicely dark, the aroma is berries and fruit, and the taste is also of berries with a trace of oak, but compared to other Bordeaux we’ve had this has no depth or layers of flavor.

8)      2007 Merlot Reserve                      $29.99

No sulfites, boasts the tasting notes.  Very dark color, black cherry flavor, no barnyard aromas; this wine may not be worth $30, but it is quite good.

They are having a sale, a case of Bella Domenica for only $75.99.  We are in need of some everyday reds, so we get a case.  No reduction in the tasting fee, by the way, and our server points us to a pile of cartons and suggests we help ourselves, after first checking to be sure the case we take actually has 12 bottles.  By this time we are ready to leave, for the room has become quite noisy as more groups arrive.  But as our server pointed out, without the groups we’d be the only ones there, so they do depend on the limo crowds.  In addition, we discussed the fact that these young people may be developing a lifetime affection for wine, and could be customers for Pugliese in the future.

Lots of limos

Lots of limos

Reasons to visit:  you want to sit outside in a pretty setting; the reasonable prices for the wines; the Chardonnay, the Bella Domenica, the 07 Merlot Reserve; you like a boisterous party atmosphere.

Pretty pond

Pretty pond

McCall’s Wines 8/31/13

http://www.mccallwines.com/

m list

After an excursion to Westhampton Beach for an art show, and a visit to a friend’s house for a smaller art show, it was time for a different type of art, so off we went to McCall’s Winery.  Mr. McCall does treat wine-making as an art, concentrating for the most part on producing some of the best reds around, with only a few whites.  He and Mrs. McCall were both on hand, which was fortunate, as there was quite a crowd, including at least one bachelorette party (we could tell by the white veil on her head…).  As Mr. McCall had told us on an earlier (much less crowded) visit, he used to be a Coca-Cola distributor, but then became interested in wine making.  In addition to his vines, he also tends a herd of grass-fed cattle one can see munching said grass in a field next to the winery, and whose meat can sometimes be bought at Love Lane Market.  I described the tasting room, in a repurposed stable, in an earlier entry, and most people are out on the grass at picnic tables.

The tasting menu now offers four levels of flights:  Vintner, at three two-ounce tastes for $8; Cellar Master, with three for $10; Premium, at three tastes for $10; and Estate, at four for $16.  We decide to share two flights, the Premium and the Estate.  Mrs. McCall is serving us, and she carefully monitors the order of our wines, interspersing the two flights for the best path through the tastings.  As a result, I have marked the wines from the Estate flight with *.

  1.  2012 Sauvignon Blanc                                   $24

We start with the only white we’ve tasted at this winery, and it is quite pleasant, with aromas of honeysuckle and citrus, and a taste that combines wildflower honey and kumquat, with some minerality.  It is somewhat tart.  Mrs. M. admits she’s never tasted a kumquat, and we decide this does not taste like the candied ones one gets, but rather like a fresh one.

m glass

2.  *2010 Pinot Noir                                            $45

We thought we’d be moving on to the Cab Franc, but Mrs. M. suggests we have this instead, as it is fruitier.  And indeed it is.  “Mmmm,” we both say.  The day before we had bought some lovely purple plums at Briermere (along with the obligatory pie), and there is a flavor here that reminds me of them, plus a hint of cinnamon.  Robust, they call it.  Yes, indeed.

3. *2010 Pinot Noir Reserve                            $60

I love doing this—tasting two wines from the same varietal in succession.  So interesting.  This one was aged an additional six months in French oak, and we overhear Mr. McCall saying that 2010 was the best year for his wines so far.  This is really good, and right up there with other high-priced wines in its taste and complexity.  It has much more depth than the other Pinot Noir, with aromas of coffee and chocolate and lots of dark fruit.  I bet you could cellar this one.

4.  2011 Cabernet Franc                                      $28

Now we get the Cab Franc, which is our least favorite of the day.  We smell a brambley aroma, and some tastes of blackberry, but also a bit of an olive taste, which is somewhat off-putting.

5.  *2007 Merlot                                                     $30

Poetically, my husband compares the aroma to the woods at dawn, evoking memories of when we used to go camping, and I would step out of the tent and inhale that dewy scent.  As we agreed the last time we were here, this is definitely better than most North Fork Merlots, with very cherry tastes and good tannins and structure.  Buyable, though we don’t buy any this time.

6.  2008 Merlot Reserve                                      $28

We can see why McCall’s began their wine-making with the ’07 vintage, since it is certainly better than the ’08.  This one has a bit of the barnyard smell and taste one often finds out East, and is a light wine with some pepper at the end.  Perhaps with more time…

7.  *2007 Ben’s Blend                                           $54

This Bordeaux blend is named in honor of their winemaker, who sadly passed away.  However, this is quite a legacy.  The blend is 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  We detect scents of cedar and forest, with lots of tastes of berries and plums, plus some chocolate.  I could definitely see cellaring this one.

Mr. McCall chats with his guests.

Mr. McCall chats with his guests.

Reasons to visit:  some of the best reds on Long Island, the chance to chat with Mr. McCall, who is quite enthusiastic about his wines; Ben’s Blend and the 07 Merlot; a pleasantly rustic setting.

Grapes protected from the birds with netting

Grapes protected from the birds with netting