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.

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Mattebella: Food Friendly Wines April 23, 2017

http://mattebella.com/main

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A view to the outdoor patio, which is even prettier in the summer when the hydrangea are in bloom.

The sun finally appeared, so we decided to head to one of our favorite outdoor tasting areas.  In fact, Mattebella is almost all outside area, so I suggest that you only go there in nice weather. They have a small tasting cottage and another small indoor area, plus some covered gazebo-like seating places, but most of their seating is on the rustic patio, where you are immediately greeted, shown to a table, and handed a menu.

As soft rock played in the background (think James Taylor), we perused our choices.  There are three flights:  Red, which is five tastes for $20; Light, which is seven whites, a rosé, and a sparkler for $20; and Total Vertical Red, which is the same as the red flight with the addition of their most expensive red, for $26.  We decided to share the basic red and the light, starting with the light.

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Our very well-informed server brought a tray to our table with nine glasses on it, six of which he turned right side up in order to pour our first six tastes.  He also set down a little slate tray with two slices of baguette covered with double cream brie.  As far as I know, Mattebella is the only winery around here to give you actual food to go with your tasting—not just a few crackers.  What’s nice about this is that you can think about how well each wine goes with food.  We concluded that Mattebella’s wines are very food friendly, even the ones we were not too sure of on their own.  It’s a good idea to ration your nibbles, so you can experiment with how each wine goes with the cheese and baguette.

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First snack.

The first six tastes are all chardonnays, but from different years or treated differently in terms of steel or a combination of steel and oak.  Our server also explained that for the chardonnay grape there’s not a lot of difference year to year, so the ways the wines vary totally depends on how they are treated.

(Two FYIs:  they don’t take American Express cards, and the restroom, at least for the moment, is a port-a-pottie.)

  1. 2014 Steel Chardonnay              $21

A sniff reveals scents of mineral and cucumber, and the taste is very tart and sour lemony.  We immediately decided this wine needed food, and after a bite of brie we liked it much better.  I could see having it with something like Coquilles St. Jacques, while my husband theorized that lobster thermidor would also work.

  1. 2012 Famiglia Chardonnay         $21

This one and the next one are both fermented 20% in oak, and the rest in steel, so if you don’t like oaked chardonnays this one will be just fine.  It has a slight aroma of honeysuckle and what my tasting buddy insisted was shoe polish.  Mineral or metal, maybe.  The taste is somewhat citrusy, not sweet, and rather subtle.  Again, not a sipper, but would go well with food.

  1. 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay         $23

We like this one better.  It has more aroma and tastes of fresh mandarin orange (when you bite into the whole fruit, rind and all), mineral, and salt.  Again, not too oaky.  “A wine to think about,” opined my husband.

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  1. 2012 Reserve Chardonnay          $28

The next three wines are all fermented 40% in oak, so they are definitely oakier than the former two, though still not too oaky.  It has a pleasant aroma of apricots and butterscotch candy with lots of tastes.  I decide on bosc pear and gala apple!

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

This one has a slightly funky smell and the taste is just okay, with still plenty of minerality despite the oak.  Again, this one benefits from being sipped with a bite of brie.

  1. 2014 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

I would say pretty much the same comments about this wine as the previous one, just adding that it smells a little like sweat, though not in a bad way, and has more of a citrus flavor that that one.

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The sparkling wine is in front.

  1. 2014 Riesling     $22

Now our server comes out with another three bottles (carried in a milkman-like metal carrier) and fills our next three glasses.  This is their first riesling, and he explains that the winemaker wanted to make a dry riesling, but found the brix content of the grapes to be too high.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brix )  As a result, he decided on an “off-dry” riesling.  We don’t particularly care for this one, which is both too sweet for us but also has a metallic taste I don’t like—like touching your tongue to steel or iron.  Maybe next year’s vintage will be better.

  1. 2015 Rosé          $21

Pleasant, we agree, is the word for this rosé, made from merlot grapes.  It spends 5-6 hours on the skins, we are informed.  I think it has a bit of a smell like parmesan cheese!  We taste citrus, strawberry, salt, and mineral.  Crisp and nice.

  1. 2015 Off-Dry Sparkling Rose       $28

If you follow me at all, you can probably tell just by the name that I’m not going to care for this sparkler, and you would be right.  Too sweet!  Made from syrah grapes, it has a distinct green vegetable aroma, maybe fresh peas, plus some chocolate.  The taste reminds me of sweet cherries.

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Bottle carrier

Now we order a red flight, and get a fresh tray with five little glasses on it.  Again, the wines are very similar, all being blends in varying proportions of some combination of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and/or petit verdot.  With this round we each get a little plate with two slices of baguette, one topped with balsamic fig jam and gorgonzola cheese, and the other with bacon jam and grana padana, plus specific instructions on which goes with which wine.  Yum.

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  1. Famiglia Red     $24

As their non-vintage selection, Mattebella aims for consistency with this wine, trying to have it taste pretty much the same year to year.  Not a bad goal, since we like this wine very much.  It’s a perfect spaghetti/pizza wine, with characteristic merlot cherry tastes, dry yet fruity.

  1. 2011 Old World Blend   $43

We smell cherry, like a merlot, though this is a blend.  2011 was a difficult year, because of Hurricane Irene, but since Mattebella harvests by hand, they were able to pick and choose and get enough grapes to make their wine, though fewer cases than usual.  I would say this is fairly straightforward, with soft tannins, and very pleasant to drink.

  1. 2012 Old World Blend   $40

This one has no cabernet sauvignon, and instead more petit verdot, making it spicier and more interesting as far as I’m concerned.  Definitely we smell and taste cherry, but also red blackberry and some minerality.  Another good one.

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Second round of snacks!

  1. 2008 Old World Blend   $48

No petit verdot in this one!  We are instructed to have it with the balsamic fig jam/gorgonzola-topped baguette slice, which is a great pairing.  The wine is good, but better with the food.  We smell and taste chocolate and tobacco in addition to some cherry and dark fruit.

  1. 2009 Old World Blend   $46

Now we get to have the other baguette with jam and cheese, also a nice pairing.  This wine definitely smells like a Bordeaux, with lots of interesting fruit.  The taste has dark fruit and a touch of earthiness, and we like it very much.  Excellent!

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The winery is named for the owners’ children, pictured on the label.

Reasons to visit: an attractive outdoor seating area; the chance to compare the same grape or grapes over different years or treatments; free snacks!; the 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay; all the reds.

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Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

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The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

Mattebella Vineyards: Science Experiment! August 9, 2015

The small tasting cottage

The small tasting cottage

http://www.mattebellavineyards.com/

“So first you’re going to try the 2009 chardonnay and the 2013 steel chardonnay,” our charming server explains, pointing out the ways in which they compare.  She also sets down in front of us two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie, about which more later.  Mattebella gives you the opportunity to make side by side comparisons of their wines, and in the process you can learn some interesting aspects of wine making, which I’ll tell you along with my discussion of each wine.  We started to compare our experience with doing a fun science experiment.

What amazing hydrangeas!

What amazing hydrangeas!

Another attractive feature of the winery is their beautiful outdoor patio setting, with a variety of comfortable seating surrounded by lush hydrangea and rose bushes.  The tasting “cottage” itself is quite small, so this is a place we reserve for beautiful days when we can sit outside and relax while being served.  Others clearly think so, too, for though the patio was very quiet when we arrived, several groups walked in shortly after we did and all seemed to be enjoying the experience, including one group of young people who entered into a lively discussion with Mr. Tobin, the owner (with his wife, who was also there) of the winery.  It is quite a family place, as evidenced by the active participation of the owners in the tasting room, the name of the vineyard—named for their two children—and the name of most of their wines: Famiglia, Italian for family.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Service is warm and personal, and the wine tasting includes some small tastes of food, since they believe that food affects how wines taste.  The menu has two main options:  the Light Flight is $17 for 6 whites and 2 rosés, or the Red Flight, $19 for five reds.  (Note—they do not accept American Express, though they take other cards.)  You can also order individual tastes for $2-$6, glasses of any of the wines, or a glass of their wine cocktail or sangria for $14.  Non-drinkers can order their house-made lemonade or water.   We decide to share one of each flight, so we can try all the wines.  Though there are a lot of tastes on the menu, our server tells us that it is a one ounce pour, so we figure we can handle it!

Light Flight

  1. 2009 Chardonnay            $21

We thought the server might have been a little confused when she set two glasses down on the table, but she soon explained that she was serving two wines side by side so we could compare them.  The 09 is an oaked chard from a cold season, she noted, which made it fairly “crisp and sharp” and an interesting foil for the 2013 steel-fermented chardonnay.  She also set down a pretty pottery plate with two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie.  She recommended that we experiment by tasting each wine, then taking a bite of the cheese, and then sipping the wine again to see how having it with the creamy cheese changed the effect of the wine.   Okay!  The ’09 has a perfume-y aroma of pear and citrus, with, says my husband, “a fair amount going on.”  Once we take a bite of the cheese, we note more vanilla and baked pear tastes, as well as a surprising amount of citrus for an oaked chard.  On to the ’13.

Double cream brie on baguette.  Yum.

Double cream brie on baguette. Yum.

  1. 2013 Steel Chardonnay $21

The aroma is faintly grassy, the taste good, with some fruit but fairly dry, maybe a touch of bitter orange.  We don’t see as much change with this one after the bite of cheese as the other, but it is a good complement to the cheese.  Usually I think of red wine with cheese, but with a soft rich cheese I will now consider whites as well.

  1. 2010 Chardonnay $21

Now we are asked to consider another pairing of the same grape, treated similarly (both lightly oaked, this one 20% oak and 80% steel fermented), but from very different years.  2010 is generally considered to have been a very good year on the North Fork, with warm dry weather which led to great ripening of the grapes.  No surprise, this is a lovely rich chard, with great depth of flavor, the aroma grassy, fruity, and sweet.  If we needed a white at the moment, we’d buy it.

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  1. 2011 Chardonnay $21

In contrast, 2011 was a very rainy year, and so the grapes contain a lot of water.  Wow—this wine is waterier!  Although it is only 5% oaked, the taste has lots of oak in it, perhaps because there’s not as much chard taste to counteract it.  We smell the expected woodsy vanilla aroma, and the taste is quite light, almost evanescent.  Our server characterizes this as a sipping wine.  I think if you put an ice cube in it on a hot day you could almost forget you were drinking wine.

  1. Famiglia 2012 $21

Now we get to try two wines from the same vintage year, same grape, but treated differently.  This is fun, we tell each other.  2012 was another good year.  The Famiglia is 20% oaked, with aromas of vanilla, baked pear, and butterscotch.  It is lighter than one might expect of an oaked chard (so for those of you who say “I don’t like chardonnay,” you need to try a bunch of differently treated chards), with some sweetness at first taste which then dissipates.  Fine, but we like the 2010 better.

  1. Reserve 2012 $28

This chardonnay has been 38% aged in French oak, and we have no trouble telling which is which just on appearance, since this wine has a darker gold color than the other.  Mmm…smells good and tastes good, too.  Lots of oak and fruit tastes, mouth-watering, “softer and sweeter,” opines my drinking pal.  Very easy to drink.  It would be good with spaghetti and fresh clam sauce or sautéed scallops, though you wouldn’t want it with anything too creamy.

  1. 2014 Rosé $20

Mrs. Tobin stops by to say hello and give us a bit of background on the rosé.  It is 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc and chardonnay, she tells us; the merlot is a Pomerol, the 181 clone also used by Croteaux.  The grapes are picked when they are still “crunchy.”  We smell and taste strawberry, green apple, and a touch of lime.  Very light.

The

The “fun, party” sparkling rose.

  1. 2014 Sparkling Rosé $27

We get a new glass for the sparkling rosé, a tall slim one.  This is a fun wine, Mrs. T. tells us, not at all serious, and the syrah grape juice accidentally spent too long on the skins, hence its dark pink color.  Lots of over-ripe strawberry smells and tastes, almost soda-pop-y, this is much too easy to drink.  I decide to dub it the bachelorette party wine, and indeed I observe the young woman at the next table order a full glass of it, while her companion opts for a glass of sangria.

Red Flight

  1. Famiglia Red         $23

In 2012 we bought the Famiglia Red for $15, and last year it was $21, but prices do tend to rise, even on the non-vintage wines, though this is still a bargain compared to their other reds.  This is a good everyday wine, and goes with pizza and pasta, as our server tells us.  It spends a year in French oak, and then is put into steel to stop the aging.  (By the way, Mattebella is one of the vineyards that uses the facilities at Premium Wine Group to produce their wines.)  We smell leather and fruit, taste some cherry.

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  1. 2008 Old World Blend $44

With this wine a small plate arrives with pairs of treats—fig jam and gorgonzola on baguette, bacon jam and grana cheese on baguette, and little bits of brownie—which we are advised to pair with our next wines.  These are all Bordeaux blends, with varying percentages of the grapes.  The ‘08 is 86% merlot, 7% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon (The petit verdot didn’t ripen in time, we hear.)  We smell dark fruits, though the wine is on the light side.  The taste improves after a bite of the yummy fig jam and gorgonzola, a combo I will definitely try at home.

More yummy snacks!

More yummy snacks!

  1. 2009 Old World Blend $41

Since I asked about the percentages on the last wine, our intelligent server makes sure to tell me these:  93% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 3% petit verdot, 1% cabernet sauvignon.  Remember, this was a cold, rainy year.  The wine is fairly tannic, with aromas of earth and minty candy, not very complex.   Having it with a bite of bacon jam and grana cheese does help.  Then again, what wouldn’t be helped by bacon jam!?

  1. 2010 Old World Blend $48

If you come here for a tasting, you will definitely understand the difference a year makes.  We tend to forget that winemaking is farming, dependent on earth and weather, but this progression of vintages makes that clear.  If their “biodynamic” farming methods are as effective in the fields as they are on the huge hydrangeas we are admiring, they must work amazingly well.  The blend here is 88% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot, and we are also advised that this could be cellared for 4-5 years.  We smell dark fruits, taste lots of cherry, a touch of chocolate, good tannins, though not a lot of complexity.  It is good with the brownie!

  1. 2007 Old World Blend $63

84% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 2% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petit verdot.  Of course, they saved the best for last—and also the costliest.  The aroma is delicious and so is the taste, with a “nice mouth feel,” says my pal.  It is very good, but we have had the privilege of tasting world-class Bordeaux, which this is not—on the other hand, it doesn’t cost as much as they do, either!

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful outdoor setting with friendly table service; the fun of experimenting with tasting wine with and without food (and where else is food included in your tasting?); the fun of comparing vintages and methods of winemaking; a chance to learn about the influence of weather on grape crops and hence on the wines; the 2010 chardonnay; the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay; the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink; the Famiglia Red; the 2010 Old World Blend.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you'll notice that they don't use herbicides.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you’ll notice that they don’t use herbicides.

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m pavillion

Mattebella Vineyards: It’s a Family Affair June 16, 2014

http://www.mattebellavineyards.com/welcomemattebella/

The labels feature this charming picture of Matt and Isabella.

The labels feature this charming picture of Matt and Isabella.

The warm greeting you get as you enter Mattebella Vineyards’ pretty patio is only one aspect of the family feeling this winery exudes, starting with the name.  Matt and Isabella are the children of owners Christine and Mark Tobin, and you are likely to see the whole family helping out with tastings and other chores around the property.  You’ll recognize the kids by their portraits on the bottles, though they have grown older since the pictures were drawn.

Regulars are greeted with a kiss by Chris, but even newcomers soon feel at home.  On our visit, we overheard Mark giving excellent advice about places to eat and sights to see to a young couple on their first trip to the North Fork.  She, by the way, was enjoying their home made organic lemonade, as she was in that interesting condition in which women are encouraged not to drink.

The patio has been improved in the two years since our last visit, with plenty of comfortable seating and a combination of sunny and shaded areas, including under a lovely pergola, with pleasant music playing in the background.  The tasting menu is divided into a “Light” flight and a red flight, with tastes also available individually for about $2 for the lights and $4-5 for the reds, or by the glass or bottle.  A Light Flight is $12 for 6 of their whites and rosés (4 chardonnays and 2 rosés), and a Red Flight is $18 for 5 reds.  We opted to share one Red Flight plus two individual wines from the Lights.  They also sell their attractive round-bottomed glasses for $3.50.

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1)       2013 Rosé                           $19

If you like sweet rosés, this one is not for you, but if you appreciate a delicate and refreshing rosé with a citrus tang and plenty of minerality, then head to Mattebella forthwith.  We decided it would go well with soft shell crab, a delicious sample of which we had had the night before at the North Fork Table and Inn, where we went to celebrate our anniversary.

The rose and the chardonnay.

The rose and the chardonnay.

2)      2010 Reserve Chardonnay                           $25

Our knowledgeable and efficient server explained that the term “reserve” actually has no established meaning, but at Mattebella it indicates a wine from one of their best years.  This is a 50% oak barrel, 50% steel fermented chard, which means it should not be overly oaky, but we found it pretty oaky, with lots of vanilla and roasted pear aromas and tastes.  For the price, it is quite good, with some nice complexity.  It might go with a seafood in cream sauce dish.

3)      Famiglia                                               $21

No vintage here, this is a blend, trying for consistency across the years, and, said our server, is a “good pizza wine.”  We agree.  It is a pleasant, soft drink, not complex, but with nice fruit and none of the earthy flavor reds sometimes have out here.  It’s a blend of merlot and cabernet franc, so sort of Bordeaux-ish.  Oh, and we get a clean glass for the transition to the reds.

4)      08 Old World Blend                        $40

In this instance, Old World Blend means merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc—a Bordeaux.  This, says our server, is the lightest of the OWBs, because there was a lot of rain at the end of the season.  Along with our glass of wine we get a little snack (I remember Chris saying the last time that we were there that she felt wine should always go with food.) of a piece of baguette topped with fig jam and blue cheese.  We like the snack better than the wine, which is just okay.

Snack

Snack

5)      2009 Old World Blend                   $35

This time the snack is bacon jam and Parmeggiano Reggiano on a baguette—very yummy—and so is the wine, our favorite of the day (and not just because it came with bacon jam, though maybe…).  A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and “the grape no one knows,” petit verdot, the wine has good tannins and lots of dark fruits, and is interestingly complex.

photo (22)

6)      2010 Old World Blend                   $43

Our server says this is his favorite of the reds, and talks about a certain “brininess,” which he feels expresses the Long Island terroir, its closeness to the sea.  We get it—there is a hint of a sea salt taste.  This would work well with a nice dinner, maybe of boeuf bourguignon.  The tasting notes suggest this will age well.

7)      2007 Old World Blend                   $48

A blend of the same grapes as the 08, this is the wine that won a Wine Spectator 91 points.  07 was a particularly good—and warm—year on Long Island, and this one has lots of big bold fruity tastes, more like a Napa Valley red.  We smell leather and spice, and maybe, strangely enough, a hint of cat pee.  Since the Tobins have decided that this wine would go well with chocolate, we get a tiny square of homemade chocolate brownie.  Lovely way to end our tasting!

The brownie went well with the red wine.

The brownie went well with the red wine.

Reasons to Visit:  Snacks!; pleasant outdoor space for sipping; warm welcoming family atmosphere; the 2013 Rosé, the Famiglia, the 09 and 07 Old World Blends; homemade lemonade for the non-drinkers in the group.  We go home with two bottles of the Famiglia and one of the 09 OWB.

An old water tower adds charm to the scene.

An old water tower adds charm to the scene.

A bit of the pergola

A bit of the pergola

 

Ten Venues for Outdoor Wining

Memorial Day Weekend means summer really is beginning, so I thought this would be the right time to tell you about my favorite places for outdoor sipping on the North Fork.  There is something very civilized about sitting in the sun (or under an umbrella), sipping a lovely chilled white or rosé, or even a well-rounded red, enjoying the warm breezes, possibly snacking on some bread and cheese.  If that experience includes a pretty view over farm fields and vineyards, so much the better.

Almost all of the tasting rooms augment their indoor seating with outdoor areas in the summer, from Jamesport’s capacious lawn to Waters Crest’s two umbrella tables in the parking lot, but some are pleasanter than others.  Following this you will find a list of my favorites, starting with a few I particularly enjoy, and then others in no real order.  I also mention a wine or two I particularly recommend for sipping, but in a few cases it has been a year or more since I went there, so you may not find the same vintages on offer.  Note that some places encourage you to bring your own picnic, while others discourage or forbid it, so I suggest you check the web sites before you go.  The ones which don’t allow you to bring your own snacks generally sell their own.  If you’re putting together a bread and cheese picnic, you won’t do better than Love Lane Cheese Shop in Mattituck, which carries a wide variety of excellent cheeses and baguettes from Tom Cat bakery.  Stop at Harbes for some berries or Wickham for peaches and you’re set.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

Shady nook at Croteaux.

1)       Croteaux

This is absolutely my favorite outdoor tasting area, plus all the wines are perfect for summer sipping.  You go through the tiny tasting room into a tree and flower-filled patio area, with comfortable Adirondack chairs and shady nooks.  Two of my favorite rosés are the Merlot 314 and the Violet, but any of them would work.  I also recommend their snack of goat cheese and baguette.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux's yard.

Adirondack chairs, with their wide arms, are perfect for tastings in Croteaux’s yard.

2)      Old Field

If you like a rustic setting, this is the place!  Calico cloths on the tables plus chickens and ducks roaming around the old barns on the property really make you feel you are far from city life.  Though I don’t think any Long Island rosés are better than Croteaux’s, the Cacklin Rosé 09 (probably will be a new vintage by now) was lovely.

3)      Mattebella

Picnic tables and umbrella-shaded tables dot an expansive patio area looking out over the grape vines.  We liked the ‘08 Chardonnay and the ‘08 Old World Blend.  The last time we were there, small snacks accompanied some of the wines on the tasting menu.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

Part of the lawn at Jamesport.

4)      Jamesport

Jamesport is the perfect place to come if your group includes children who would like some space to roam around, or even dogs (as long as they are on the leash).  Their large backyard lawn, with a variety of seating or picnic areas, some in shade and others in the sun, is perfect, and they sell thin crust pizzas made in an outdoor stone oven and freshly opened oysters, among other treats.  Their Sauvignon Blanc goes particularly well with oysters.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

Some red tastings plus a view of the vineyard at Pellegrini.

5)      Pellegrini

Here the outdoor seating varies from pleasant spots out on the lawn or the interior courtyard to a few tables overlooking the vineyard.  What makes this a good place for an outdoor tasting (rather than just a glass of wine) is that they will give you your entire tasting on a tray, carefully labeled, so you can sit and sample at your leisure.  If you’re going for just a glass, we really like their Petit Verdot, which would pair well with brie and baguette.

6)      Paumanok

Paumanok is another place that often features oysters, though not as reliably as Jamesport.  They have a pleasant porch out back of the tasting room which looks out over the vines and fields.  The 2011 Festival Chardonnay was a good match for the oysters, though they may have a new vintage by now.

The deck at One Woman

The deck at One Woman

7)      One Woman

This is a small winery with a small porch which wraps around the tiny tasting room.  You are surrounded by the vines and a large field of grass as you sit and taste.  We found the One Woman Tribute ’11 to be a good sipping wine, and we are in love with the 2012 Grüner Veltliner.

8)      Comtesse Thérèse

This is another winery with a bit of a French accent, and outdoor tastings are in the charmingly disheveled intimate garden behind the Comtesse Thérèse Bistro.  Though the setting is pleasant, we found the service a bit lackluster our last time in the garden, though that could certainly have changed.  The 2011 Chardonnay was a super sipper.

9)      Shinn

Although it was too chilly to sit outdoors on the day we went there, we did admire Shinn’s remodeled outdoor seating area, with comfortable-looking chairs and a nice little snack menu. I’d recommend First Fruit for a sipping wine.

Outdoor area at Shinn

Outdoor area at Shinn

10)   Pugliese

With a pretty little pond and trellis-shaded picnic tables, Pugliese has created a very attractive outdoor seating area.  If it’s not overrun with limo groups, I’d recommend you go there with some cheese and crackers and get the Bella Domenica, a summery red.

Pretty pond at Pugliese

Pretty pond at Pugliese

P.S.  Just visited Mattebella for the first time in two years and their improved outdoor area means they should be added to this post!  (See review for details.)