Sherwood House Vineyard: Sip and Shop May 12, 2017

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

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

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I happened to snap this at a sunny moment.

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On a cool spring day, when clouds and sun took turns dominating the sky, we stopped into Sherwood House’s tasting room, which we had not been to in almost two years.  Though the tasting room looks much the same, with its cozy fireplace, there have been a number of changes in the winery itself.  We immediately noticed that there were three options on the tasting menu: a Sherwood House flight of five wines for $16, a Hound’s Tree Estate flight of five wines for $16, and a flight of four Library and Estate wines for $24.  We decided to go with one flight of Sherwood House wines and one of Hound’s Tree, tasting them side by side, since there seemed to be comparable choices on both menus.

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The friendly and helpful server explained that Hound’s Tree was a new winery that had bought the Oregon Road vineyard from Sherwood House and was making wines in a West Coast style, in partnership with Appoloni Vineyards, a winery based in Oregon (the state, not the road!).  Meanwhile, the owner and winemaker of Sherwood house planned to go on making their wines in their own style, which is influenced by French methods.  What a nice opportunity to compare styles!

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The shop adjoins the tasting room.

After our tastings we browsed the beautiful shop which adjoins the tasting room.  It used to be called Material Objects, and is now called William Ris East.  It features fine art, sculpture, and antiques (according to their sign), plus jewelry and pottery.  We saw many pieces we liked, and if you are looking for some real art it is a good place to go.  One caution:  the pour in the winery is fairly generous, so don’t make any decisions on buying art if you’re not compos mentis!

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Although the Sherwood House web page mentions music on Saturday afternoons, on this quiet Friday a singer/guitarist set up in a corner and serenaded us with Beatles tunes, among others.  A party of women at a table, who were sharing a bottle of rosé and a cheese tray (bought at the winery and provided by Love Lane cheese shop), seemed to enjoy his performance very much, as did we.  As we chatted with the server, she took note of my notebook and asked directly if we wrote for any publication, so we admitted that I did a blog.  As a result, she gave us two extra tastes.  I’ve labeled the Sherwood House choices SH and the Hound’s Tree choices HT.

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We enjoyed the music.

  1. 2014 Oregon Road Chardonnay SH                       $19

This is a pretty typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with aromas of pears and minerals and tastes of unripe pear.  It is both sweet and tart, so well-balanced, with a nice long finish.  It is definitely a good food wine.  This, like the other whites, is served too cold (not their fault—wineries are obliged to set their refrigeration at a specified temperature), but we warmed the glass in our palms to get a better sense of the wine.

  1. 2015 HT Estate Chardonnay     $24

Really different!  We get a vegetable aroma—roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts—and maybe a slight burnt smell.  The taste is also quite different, with some vegetal notes and lots of rock and minerality and even salt, as well as some pear.  However, we like this one, too, and it would also be good with food.  Maybe something rich, like a roast chicken, while the SH chard might do better with scallops.

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  1. 2013 Estate Chardonnay SH        $35

Nope, you won’t find this on the regular tasting menu, but our server thought we should try their one oaked chardonnay.  70% oak, she said, which explained why, though it has some of that butterscotch smell, it does not taste overly oaky.  It had a touch of sweetness, but “not unpleasantly so,” opined my husband.  Though not a sipper, this would stand up to many different foods.  I could see having it with pork chops.

  1. 2015 Estate Rosé HT       $22

A blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, this rosé has a deep pink color and a sweet aroma that I insist smells like red Twizzlers.  My drinking pal suggests “fireplace” and cherry juice.  In any event, it is a very dry rosé, with more citrus than strawberry taste.  I wouldn’t choose it as a sipper, but I think it could be very nice paired with some charcuterie.

  1. Oregon Road White Merlot SH   $19

When we saw “white merlot” we immediately thought of Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, which is a white pinot noir (no longer called Anomaly), but this is quite different.  I described it as “evanescent,” as it is very light and the taste seems to dissipate very quickly.  The aroma is of strawberries, salt, and minerals, and I actually think it would be fun to drop a few strawberries into a glass for summer sipping.

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The two rose style wines provided quite a contrast in both taste and color.

  1. 2013 Oregon Road Red Blend SH              $19

We agreed that this was the perfect price point for this very nice red table wine, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon.  My guess is the blend is heavy on the merlot, as I got lots of cherry in the smell and taste.  My husband pronounced it a “perfectly acceptable” dinner wine.  It is fairly dry.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc HT              $28

Eh.  Not particularly a fan of this one, which we felt was rather “tame,” in my husband’s opinion.  Light for a cabernet franc, it is not a red you’d want to pair with a steak or other hearty meat.  Maybe veal.

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Though these two reds may look similar, they actually taste quite different.

  1. 2012 Merlot SH               $38

This one we like better than the previous wine. It has mouth-watering tannins, lots of cherry taste and aroma, and also some scents of forest.

  1. 2015 Merlot HT               $28

Again, we prefer the Sherwood House style, as we find this red just okay, with not a lot of fruit or depth.  It’s not bad, just not very interesting.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon HT      $28

Aromas of dark fruits, like plums and berries, good tannins, dry, and tastes of dark fruit.  Again, not exciting, but perfectly acceptable.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc SH               $45

I like this one the best of the reds so far, although it has almost no finish.  The aroma is a tad funky, with some notes of forest floor as well as dark fruits.  Another nicely dry wine, it would go well with a cheese platter.

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  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor SH           $45

This is our other extra taste, and a good one it is.  It’s the most interesting wine of the day, with lots of varied flavors and aromas and tannins that make us think it would continue to age well.

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One time when we came here they were selling oysters on the porch.

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More art from the gallery.

Reasons to visit:  cozy tasting room with a fireplace that is in use in the winter; the opportunity to browse a gallery with beautiful pieces; the Oregon Road Chardonnay, the Sherwood House Estate Chardonnay, the Hound’s Tree Estate Rosé, the Oregon Road Red Blend, the Sherwood Manor; music even when it isn’t scheduled.

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We think these crates can be used to store wine.

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Premium Wine Group A. K.A. Bridge Lane A.K.A. Lieb Cellars August 5, 2015

http://premiumwinegroup.com/

http://liebcellars.com/

http://bridgelanewine.com/

lieb entrance

No, this winery has not entered the witness protection program or committed a crime; rather they have diversified their offerings to include both the lower priced options from Bridge Lane and their slightly higher end wines bearing the Lieb name.   Premium Wine Group—which appears prominently on the sign outside the tasting room—designates the facility attached to it where various wine makers on the North Fork come to use the production facilities, rather than make the rather hefty investment in their own.

At the far end of the building you can see the entrance to the wine-making facility.

At the far end of the building you can see the entrance to the wine-making facility.

What’s unique about the Bridge Lane wines is that they are offered for sale by the bottle, the box, or the keg, giving a whole new dimension to the term “kegger.”  A keg holds the equivalent of 26 bottles and, according to our server, is particularly popular for weddings and other large parties.  Just to give you a sense of relative costs, a bottle of Bridge Lane Chardonnay is $15, while a box is $40 and a keg is $240.  In the tasting room the Bridge Lane wines are poured from the tap, like beer, rather than the bottle.  You might think that this all indicates a lesser quality of wine, but we would be perfectly happy to drink most of them.  Busy Russell Hearn, who also has his own small label SuHru, is the winemaker for all the wines.

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

The tasting room is small, set up like a lounge (or, as a certain four year old—non-drinking—visitor  opined, “like a living room” ) with a bar on one side and banquettes around the walls.  We were there late on a week day, and had the space mostly to ourselves.  There are also picnic tables and comfortable Adirondack-style chairs outside.  The menu offers five Bridge Lane wines for $12 or five “featured” wines (Lieb label) for $12.  We opted for one tasting of each, so we could sample all of them.  Packages of crisp skinny bread sticks are on the bar for palate cleansing, and the four-year-old quite approved of them.

I list the tastes here in the order we had them, with the Featured selections second, marked with an *.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Merlot                               $16

White merlots have become more popular on the North Fork lately, and this one reminds us a bit of Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, though it is lighter.  It is tart and citrusy, a good summer quaff.

  1. *NV Rumor Mill Hard Cider $9

Yes, that’s $9 per bottle!  And you could serve this to wine lovers who would be quite happy to drink it.  It is made, as our server informed us, “from ten different varieties of apples,” all grown on the North Fork.  It does not taste particularly like a cider, and is tart, crisp and light, with a slight trace of bubbles.

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  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Chardonnay $15

A steel-fermented chard, this has the fairly typical veggie aroma, and tastes citrusy and grassy and tart.

They can't call it champagne...

They can’t call it champagne…

  1. *2010 Lieb Cellars Blanc de Blanc $30

Made from pinot blanc grapes in the Méthode Champenoise, this is their entry in the sparkling wine category.  I smell a bit of yeasty bread, taste some green olive taste.  It is very dry, and pretty good, though I’d probably get a Cava or Prosecco rather than spend $30 for this level of sparkle.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend $16

A mixture of 29% chardonnay, 26% pinot blanc, 16% riesling, 14% viognier, 9% sauvignon blanc, and 4% gewürztraminer—everything except the kitchen sink, observes my husband—this is a quite pleasant drink, with a good balance of sweet and tart.  When I came here with a group, this one was very popular.  The aroma has a bit of the forest floor funk, but the taste is not at all funky.

  1. *2014 Lieb Pinot Blanc $22

Our server proudly informs us that Lieb has the largest planting of pinot blanc in the United States, which they started in 1983.  In any event, this is a delicious wine, with some baked pear aromas and flowery, pineapple-y tastes.

The rose sure looks pretty.

The rose sure looks pretty.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Rosé                 $18

They make their rosé from a blend of cabernet franc and merlot, and we smell the typical strawberry aroma, taste some fruit.  Not complex, no finish, still no competition for Croteaux, but certainly drinkable.

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  1. *2013 Reserve Merlot $24

This is also very drinkable, a dry soft, very cherry merlot.  It spends 10 months in Hungarian oak, which, our server notes, is milder than French oak.  No tannins.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Red Blend $16

For $16, this is quite a good everyday red, which I could see enjoying with spaghetti and meatballs any night of the week.  It is a Bordeaux-style blend of 46% merlot, 37% cabernet sauvignon, 12% petit verdot, and 5% malbec, with a touch of earth and forest floor as well as dark fruit aromas and good fruit tastes, not sweet.  We notice that if one buys three bottles of any wine one tasting is free, and decide three bottles of the Red Blend would be a worthwhile investment.  Unfortunately, the red is served a bit too cold, perhaps a result of the tap system.

  1. *2013 Lieb Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

By the way, calling a wine “reserve” means whatever the winery wants it to mean, but usually means they think this is a particularly good wine.  They would be correct with this one, which we would buy for our cellar if we had room at the moment.  Lots of dark fruit, interesting tannins, it’s a delicious dry red that could stand up to steak.

lieb board

Reasons to visit:  you can buy a keg of wine, how cool is that?; wine on tap; a pleasant calm tasting room (or go to their Oregon Road room if you want to get further off the beaten track); almost all the wines, but for fun the Rumor Mill Cider; more seriously the Reserve Cabernet Franc; for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend.

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Here you can see the taps from which they dispense the Bridge Lane wines.

Here you can see the taps from which they dispense the Bridge Lane wines.

Sherwood House: Just a Touch Funky September 20, 2014

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

The 1860s farmhouse that houses Sherwood House's tasting room

The 1860s farmhouse that houses Sherwood House’s tasting room

Located on the Main Road in Jamesport in an 1860s farmhouse, Sherwood House’s tasting room has a homey, slightly funky atmosphere, enhanced by the fireplace in the main room, the outdoor deck areas, and the adjacent Material Objects shop which features antique and found objects of all sorts.  They also have an outdoor tasting area in their vineyard in Mattituck, which may or may not be open.  As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed an exciting sign:  raw bar.  Oh goody!  We have become enamored of the local Peconic Bay oysters.

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The main room is homey and cozy, with soft couches in front of the fireplace (which actually has a fire in the winter), bunches of flowers, and a wooden bar along one side.  You can also opt to go outside, either to a back deck or to a front seating area with picnic tables.  On this Saturday afternoon the room also contains a singer/guitar player, strumming folk-ish songs.  As we stand at the bar we see a huge party bus pull into the parking lot, but they are clearly headed for the tasting barn out back, where we went last winter for a very enjoyable music performance.

Fireplace seating area

Fireplace seating area

The tasting menu offers three flights:  Estate, four tastes for $10; Premium, four for $12; or Top Reds, four for $15.  They also offer a taste of their brandy, $10 for a one-ounce pour.  There is some overlap amongst the offerings, so they don’t actually have 12 wines.  They also offer a cheese platter for $20, and wines by the glass for $6-12.

We decide to share a tasting of the Premium flight, and then decide whether to get another tasting or go for a glass of wine to have with a plate of oysters.

  1. 2012 Oregon Road Chardonnay                                $18

Oregon Road is the pretty back road on which their vineyard is located, where you can also find Shinn and Lieb’s tasting rooms.  This is their steel fermented chard, a pleasant but rather soft and not-crisp quaff, with tastes of sweet ripe pineapple and an aroma of sweet orange.

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  1. 2011 Chardonnay $30

Of course this smells like vanilla and ripe pear, as it is an oaked chard, with tastes of tangerine on the front, then butterscotch and vanilla.  It is surprisingly tart for an oaked chard, though it is mellow enough to make it a pleasant sipping wine.  We quite like it.

  1. 2007 Merlot $26

Since 07 was a very good year on the North Fork, we have high hopes for this merlot, but our server warns us not to get our hopes up too high.  “The 07 is at the end of its development,” he notes, “and the 08 has more growth potential.”  Sniff.  Earth, tobacco, and something organic.  Taste.  Some dark fruit, tobacco, dry but not tannic, and not much of a finish.  I would say, if you have a bottle of this, drink it now.

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  1. 2008 Merlot $34

Much better!  The tasting menu notes this scored an 87 in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and we can see why.  “The aroma just jumped out at me,” says my husband.  Not sure what he means, but it smells delicious.  No earth, lots of fruit, and then we taste dark fruit and chocolate.  Actually, that wouldn’t be a bad pairing—this wine and some dark chocolate, maybe with a bit of raspberry in the chocolate.  This is our favorite of the day, and if we come here during the winter for a concert, I would get a glass of this.

Oysters!

Oysters!

However, we are headed for the oysters.  Though we feel it wouldn’t be the best pairing, we opt for glasses of the 2011 Chardonnay, though I would prefer a sauvignon blanc to go with oysters.  The oysters are delicious, sweet and briny and full of liquid, fresh from Peconic Bay, to the west of Robins Island, as we are told.  We spend a pleasant half hour sitting outside, enjoying our wine and bivalves and listening to the music from inside, which we appreciate much more now that it is not quite so loud.

Front porch and oyster bar

Front porch and oyster bar

Reasons to visit:  a very pleasant tasting room; an intimate setting that also can accommodate groups; the chance to browse the collection at Material Objects; the 2011 Chardonnay and the 2008 Merlot.

Back deck

Back deck

Lieb Cellars/Oregon Road August 9, 2013

http://liebcellars.com/

Tuscany?  No, Oregon Road!

Tuscany? No, Oregon Road!

Suppose you like Lieb wines (as we do) and you decide to stop by their small tasting room on the corner of Cox Neck Road and Sound Avenue, only to find it…overrun sounds so judgmental, so let’s just say crowded…by the presence of a couple of limo groups.  Never fear, you have a lovely alternative.  Just go back onto Sound Avenue and continue a few blocks to Mill Road, turn left, then turn right onto Oregon Road and you will find yourself surrounded by farm houses and fields of sunflowers.  You’ll pass Shinn Vineyards—also worth a stop, by the way—and eventually you’ll find Lieb’s second tasting room, carved out of a warehouse (sort of similar to the way their first tasting room shares quarters with the Premium Wine Group, which does the wine-making for quite a few of the North Fork wineries).

This tasting room does not accept limo or bus groups, so it is unlikely to be crowded.  When we ask our server why the new room was opened, she gives just this reason, and notes that it is a nice place for their wine club members to come for a quiet tasting or glass of wine.  They also have an efficient-looking little kitchen just off the room, where on the weekends they make snacks such as hummus, tomato bruschetta, oysters, and other non-cooked items (since they don’t have an oven on site).  On this cloudy Friday, there is just one other group in the room, sitting around a table on the comfortable-looking modern wicker sofas.  The room has a sophisticated, semi-industrial look, softened by a swag of cloth and a seashell wreath over the kitchen and a sea-view mural on one wall.

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Lieb inside

They offer six tasting options:  five whites for $10, five reds for $10, a “summer fling” of six mixed types for $14, two sparkling wines for $7, a Reserve tasting of five for $12, and another summer tasting of four wines for $8. They also have a couple of Greenport Harbor beers on tap, in case your party includes a non-wine drinker.  We decide to do a white flight and then a red flight, sharing as we go.  The pour is fairly generous.

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  1. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot Blanc                                  $12

But wait, you say, isn’t merlot a red grape?  Yes, but if you don’t give it any time on the skins you get a white wine with some merlot characteristics.  In this case, that involves some funkiness in the taste.  We smell pine and mineral aromas, and the taste is sour, like grapefruit juice with some pineapple at the end.  We wouldn’t want to sip this one, but it might go well with food that needs a strong white.

2.       2010 Reserve Pinot Blanc                                             $18

Our well-informed server tells us that they are the only winery on the North Fork to make a Pinot Blanc, and so it is their signature wine.  Again, this one is not for sipping, though it would have gone well with the lobster bisque I made from our leftover shells the other night.  The aroma has a bit of the cat pee smell, and the wine itself is light and tart and citrusy, with a hint of sweetness at the end.

3. 2010 Bridge Lane Chardonnay                                    $10

We like this steel-fermented chard very much, and the price is certainly right.  Scents of cinnamon and mineral, with a bit of sweetness, lead to a classic steel chard with nice fruit, and not too much sweet.

4. 2009 Reserve Chardonnay                                           $24

After eight months in oak, this is a lightly oaked chard, with some baked goods aroma.  Very tasty, not too oaky, and again some sweetness at the end.

5. 2010 Sound Influence Riesling                                   $24

Although this is an off-dry Riesling, we find the sweetness overwhelms the tastes of pineapple and tropical fruit and wildflower honey.

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6. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot                                              $15

Now we switch to the reds, and we get a new glass, always a nice touch.  Although we smell forest floor, the wine itself does not have any of that earthy dirt taste one sometimes gets.  This would make a fine vin ordinaire, to have with pasta and such, as it has nice cherry flavors and just a little tannin.  Buyable.

7, 2005 Reserve Merlot                                                      $22

18 months in French oak gives this wine an aroma of smoke and tomato.  Hmmm…barbecue sauce?  This is also a good pasta wine, and would stand up to a rich Bolognese sauce, as it has more tannins than the Bridge Lane Merlot.  We taste cherry at the front of this relatively simple wine.

8. 2010 Right Coast Red                                                      $30

Here we have their classic Bordeaux blend:  58% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec.  I’m assuming the name is a play on Right Bank Bordeaux!  The aroma is almost meaty, it is so complex, and the wine itself is lovely, with lots of fruit.  It would complement a rack of lamb very nicely, though the end taste is a bit sour.

9. 2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc                                     $26

Our server describes this one as “nice and smooth,” as she also tells us it spent 15 months in French oak.  We smell wet rock, and my husband says it smells like a typical Cabernet Franc, but “not to distraction.”  Though not complex, this is a good red, with lots of fruit flavors.

10. 2005 Meritage                                                                   $45

Another blend, this one has 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and Petit Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc.  This is only the third time Lieb has made this wine, we are told, and they only made 300 cases of it.  We are underwhelmed by its aroma of sticky candy and just okay taste.

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They don’t offer any wine tchotchkes for sale.  We do buy both the Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot.  No reduction of tasting price with purchase.

lieb outside

Reasons to visit:  you like a quiet tasting room in a bucolic setting; many of their wines, including the reasonably priced Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot, are quite good; you want to come on a weekend and check out their snacks (I guess we’ll have to return!).