Wölffer Estate: Trés Elegante     August 2, 2017

http://www.wolffer.com/

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The Wölffer Estate building is quite attractive.

We had an errand to run on the South Fork, one which couldn’t be put off until the winter, so we decided that as long as we would have to brave the traffic on Route 27—and there was a lot of it—we would make a day of it.  So we visited the Parrish Art Museum (great installation of gigantic photos and videos of waves) and then headed to the Wölffer Estate tasting room in Sagaponack.  We arrived there around lunch time, and a very pleasant hostess showed us to a table on the pretty back porch overlooking the vineyard.

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We perused the menu, and were immediately struck by the prices.  Well, we were in the Hamptons.  They offer two tastings, each featuring four wines for $25, the Summer Flight and the Grand Flight.  Figuring it would be a long time before we came back, we decided to get one of each, sharing tastes along the way—a decision facilitated by the fact that the wines in the two flights are well matched.  Each one has a rosé, a chardonnay, and two reds.  I was disappointed to see that All Summer in a Bottle, their popular rosé, was not in either tasting, though it was available by the glass.  Wines by the glass range in price from $10 to $28, and bottle prices go all the way up to $110.  Whew.

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We thoroughly enjoyed this cheese tray.

Since it was lunch time, we also ordered a cheese board from their well-curated menu of snacks.  We got very generous servings of our selections—Humboldt Fog, St. André, and Lamb Chopper—plus crackers (and more crackers when we used up our allotment) and a blob of guava paste for $25.  Our flights arrived at the table in a series of carafes, lined up on nice slate trays, clearly labeled as to each wine, which we then poured at our leisure into our big wine glasses.  And I do mean at our leisure, as we took our time, sipping and munching, for over an hour.  It was a beautiful day, and we felt as though we were on vacation—a feeling facilitated by the view over the vines, the excellent cheeses, and the group at a nearby table conversing in French!

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We also liked the back patio.

If you check out their web site, you will learn that the property also includes a horse farm—and the named wines are all named for horses from Wölffer’s barns—and this note in all caps:  No Bachelorette Parties.  When it was time to head home, we decided that it was worth it to take the ferries back to the North Fork rather than sit in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on 27.  Good decision.  The “Grand” tastes are marked with an *.

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The Grand flight.

  1. Rosé Table Wine 2016                 $42

Our waitress gave a quick run-down of all the wines when she brought over our flights, so my notes are somewhat sketchy.  She also spoke really quickly!  However, I did glean that this rosé is a blend of merlot and I believe she said chardonnay.  In any event, it is a very light dry rosé, so light that with your eyes closed you might think it was a sauvignon blanc, despite the faint strawberry aroma.

  1. *Grandioso Rosé 2016 $54

This rosé spends a little time in oak, which you can slightly sense, and which gives this one a bit more complexity than the other.  Again, it is very dry, with some nice fruit, and was good with the cheeses.  But for my money, I’d rather have any Croteaux rosé.

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The chardonnay is a pretty color.

  1. Chardonnay 2015 $36

A chardonnay for those who think they don’t like chardonnays, according to the waitress, this is mostly steel fermented and is very light and dry, with citrus tastes and a smell of lemon grass.  You could have it with seafood in a cream sauce.

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  1. *Perle Chardonnay 2015 $54

At this point in the tasting, we began to discuss the prices of the Wölffer wines and the fact that they have some of the few Long Island wines that are often rated in wine magazines.  Perhaps, I theorized, if you charge a lot for something, people tend to think it must be superior.  Our waitress had described this chard as her favorite, and I can see why.  Though it is oaked, it is not too oaky or buttery, with a very distinctive aroma.  We discuss the smell, and conclude that there’s a metallic edge to it.  The taste reminds me of baked pear.  It does not complement the cheeses.

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The summer flight

  1. Classic Red Blend 2014 $38

My husband insists that it smells like “wet paper,” as well as cherries, and I don’t disagree.  He also opines that this blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon has “all the requisite elements” of a red blend.  It is on the dry side, with not much by way of tannins, and some nice fruit tastes.  The waitress had mentioned that it was aged in both steel and oak, and that it might even be nice lightly chilled.

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Now you know why there are horses on the labels.

  1. *Fatalis Fatum Red Blend 2014 $58

A fairly classic Bordeaux-style blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot, this is my favorite of the day.  Dry, with good tannins, it has lots of cherry and other dark fruit/berry tastes, though an almost non-existent finish.  It evanesces!  My tasting buddy notes that it is not as complex as a French Bordeaux can be, but it would stand up to a steak.

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You can see that the pour is rather generous.

  1. Caya Cabernet Franc 2014 $58

There’s something I can’t quite identify about the aroma of this one, but also prune plums and tobacco scents.  There’s a bit of a tingle on the tongue when you start to drink it.  It’s dry, with nice tannins, and lots of dark fruit taste.  I think it would go well with grilled lamb chops.

  1. *Christian’s Cuvée Merlot 2013 $110

Yes, you read that price right.  This Long Island merlot, named for the founder of the Wölffer estate, is over $100 a bottle.  It comes from the oldest vines on the estate, and, according to our waitress, Christian said it is a wine one should savor with one’s eyes closed, the better to focus on the taste.  The fruit fly that flew into my glass seemed to like it…until it drowned and I fished it out.  Not sure how they justify the price on what seemed to us a pretty typical Long Island merlot, with lots of cherry taste, which “doesn’t dance in my mouth,” according to my husband.

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According to their web page, they use these juniper berries on the property to make their gin.

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork and you want to visit a winery and sit outside and relax (but if you just want a tasting, I’d recommend Channing Daughters); the Fatalis Fatum Red Blend; the cheese tray.

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We didn’t get to try any, but they also make ciders.

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I think I wanted to try this just because the bottle is so pretty. But it wasn’t in the tasting.

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The inside room also seems nice.

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Resident cat

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On the ferry heading home–how to get around the traffic on Route 27!

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Channing Daughters Winery February 2, 1213

http://www.channingdaughters.com/

We decided to celebrate Groundhog Day with a visit to the South Fork, especially since such a trip is easy in the winter, when we don’t have to contend with the traffic on Route 27.  We started with a visit to the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill.  Designed to be reminiscent of a typical Long Island potato barn, it is a long one-story building, with a soaring roof and multiple skylights, letting in plenty of sunlight on this cold but bright day.  Parrish Art Museum

We particularly enjoyed a gallery devoted to William Merritt Chase and his lovely paintings of Long Island scenes as well as his classic portraits.  Another room full of Fairfield Porter paintings was also interesting.  We then headed to our favorite winery, Channing Daughters.  I did write about a visit there last summer, but then we only concentrated on their roses.  This time we decided to do a standard tasting.

Channing Daughters is located on Scuttlehole Road, a charmingly rural road just outside of Sag Harbor (which we used to call the un-Hampton, though it is getting more and more Hamptonized).  Down a pebbled driveway one comes to the small cozy tasting room, which looks out one side to the vineyard and the other into the cellar, where one can see the huge vats of future wine.  The owner of the winery, Walter Channing, named it for his four daughters.  He also has decorated the tasting room and the grounds with his wood sculptures, many of them made from whole trees, with the roots on top, carved into various shapes.  Here’s one from the parking lot:

Tree sculpture

On this cold winter day, there were only a few small groups in the tasting room.  The very well-informed servers noted that they do not allow bus-loads!  The standard tasting that day included six wines for $10.  As wine club members our tasting was free, and we could have chosen any wines from a list of about 20, but we decided not to.

1)  2010 Sylvanus     $24

Sylvanus is named for the legendary Green Man, the Roman equivalent of Pan, the god of woods and fields, and also for the field where this wine’s grapes are grown.  One of the aspects of Channing Daughters we like is their interest in experimentation, and for this wine they used all grapes grown in one field, for a blend of 60% muscot, 30% pinot grigio, and 10% pinot bianco.  An aroma of oranges and perfume precedes a nicely dry wine with pleasant fruit and a hint of almond flavor.  I would like this wine better with food, rather than as a sipping wine, and it would pair well with local oysters or other briny seafood.

2) 2010 Tocai Friuliano     $24

Fermented almost completely in stainless steel, with only a hint of oak, this lovely wine has an almost honey-like texture with a hint of grapefruit at the end.  I could see sipping this on a nice summer afternoon, perhaps with some tomato crostini.  We also notice that, unlike some places, the wines here are not too cold, and the servers confirm that this is indeed the policy.  We like this because when a wine is too cold you can miss the nuances of its taste.

Channing white

3) 2010 Ramato     $34

As a transition from white to red, we sample what is called an “orange” wine, a white pinot grigio fermented on its skins to give it a subtle orange color and interesting complexity.  I detect a faint aroma of orange candy and, not surprising given its 6 months in oak, a taste of oak.  We decide its somewhat unctuous texture does not make it our favorite, though it would pair interestingly with lemon curd or lemon meringue pie (which, my husband notes, he never eats!).

4)  2010 Due Uve     $22

Due uve means two grapes, and that is what this wine contains–syrah and merlot.  Because of Long Island’s climate, you’re never going to get “big hot wines,” says the server, and agrees that this wine exhibits the typical local earthiness which some people “go crazy for” and others dislike.  We like some earthiness, but not when it overwhelms.  This wine has nice fruit–berries–and some hints of black pepper, and just a hint of earth.  It spends 16 months in oak.  I’m thinking it would be good with pasta with a short ribs sauce.

5)  2008 Sculpture Garden     $27

Given that there actually is a sculpture garden on the grounds (ask the server for directions), and that the oldest vineyard (planted in 1982) is named Sculpture Garden, it was perhaps inevitable that one wine would be named this.  Plus the merlot grapes in it come from that vineyard. I could see wandering the sculpture garden on a nice warm day with a glass of this easy-drinking wine in hand, but it’s too cold today!  A blend of 95% merlot and 5% blaufrankisch, this wine has a pleasant berry aroma and cherry tastes, with some earthiness, some pepper, and not a lot of depth.

6)  2007 Mudd     $40

No, the name is not a misspelling of mud!  This wine’s grapes come from the North Fork vineyard run by Steven Mudd, a well-known vineyard manager who works with a number of wineries.  Terrific wine!  This is a Bordeaux blend of 60% merlot, 21% syrah, 9% dornfelder, 5% cabernet franc and 5% blaufrankisch with an aroma reminiscent of a pine forest, and lots of black fruits and plum flavors.  Definitely yummy, and would be good with roasted lamb shanks, as its dryness would cut the fat of the lamb while it has enough fruit not to be overwhelmed.

Channing red

Extra!  Because he has it out, the server asks if we would like to try the Over and Over.  We would.

7)  Over and Over–Variation 5      $37

It is hard to explain the method used to make this wine, so perhaps the best I can do is refer you to Channning Daughters own web site, where it is explained in detail, but basically this is made using the “solera” method, where some wine from various years is combined with wine from other years and then fermented together.  We had tried one iteration (probably 3 or 4, muses the server) we did not care for, but this one is definitely a success, with blackberry flavors and aromas.  Nice.

http://channingdaughters.com/wine_order/index.php

Reasons to visit:  One of best wineries on Long Island, with lots of interesting experiments.  In addition to the above listed wines, I also love their L’Enfant Sauvage, made with wild yeast, their Scuttlehole Chardonnay, which is basically our “house” white, and their Research Cab, a good red.