“We’re the second oldest winery on Long Island,” our server proudly told us. Most people know that certain wines improve with age, but I’ve also learned that grape vines do, too. As the vines get older, their roots go deeper and get stronger, and the grapes also get better. The first modern winery on the North Fork was Hargraves, now Castello di Borghese, founded in 1973. Lenz started in 1978, but didn’t harvest their grapes for wine until 1988. Now in their fortieth year, they have some really good wines on their list.
We had been housebound by snow and cold, and it was still rather chilly when we set out to do a tasting. A quick walk around Greenport revealed a very quiet town, with many stores and restaurants closed for the season or open with limited hours or days. However, we were able to stop into the book store to pick up a copy of On Tyranny and into The Weathered Barn to drop off dead light bulbs for recycling.
Then we headed back west to Lenz. The barn-like Lenz tasting room was quiet as well, as we were the only customers. However, that meant we were able to have some in-depth discussions with our server on wine and the tastes of the ones we chose.
The menu offers two choices: five Estate wines for $14 or five Premium wines for $18. She also offered to customize an all red or all white tasting for a dollar or two more, and described the Estate choices as “lighter.” We decided to share a tasting of the Premium wines, and were quite happy with all six of the wines we tried (Thanks to the power of the book, we got a sixth taste!).
Lenz also has some wine-related items for sale, and a small gallery of art, also for sale. They offer Catapano cheese for a snack, and do allow people to bring their own snacks.
- 2015 Blanc de Noir Rosé $24
We always compare rosés to Croteaux, and this one can stand up to the comparison. It’s made from pinot noir grapes and has an aroma of strawberry. It’s dry, but mouth-watering, with some nice citrus tastes. I think blood orange, rather than lemon. It’s not really a rosé for sipping on its own, but would be great with food.
- 2014 Tête à Tête $25
As a blend, this changes from year to year. This is a good one. It blends 45% sauvignon blanc, 35% chardonnay, and 20% gewürztraminer for a dry, minerally and lemony white that would be great with lobster or Peconic Bay scallops. We joked about gooseberries and other more obscure fruit comparisons, but I insisted that it did smell like gooseberries.
- 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30
Lenz makes three different chardonnays, so at some point I’ll have to try their others, one of which is steel fermented and the other spends eleven months in oak. This is sort of in the middle of those two, spending three months in neutral oak. You can smell a bit of the oak, and also a light floral aroma. This might be a good wine for someone who finds steel chards too lemony, but doesn’t like that big oaky taste of oaked chards. Although there is a slight note of vanilla, what I mostly taste is green apple, plus some other flavors that make this a relatively complex white. We decide it would be perfect with bluefish, or some other assertive fish.
- 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50
We get a clean glass as we move on to the reds. Cabernet sauvignon is a grape that takes longer to ripen than, say merlot, so it doesn’t do well every year. However, 2010 had a long warm season, and was a good year for North Fork reds—including this one. Blended with merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec, this is a very dark red with lots of dark fruit flavors including black cherry and a touch of tobacco. It was aged two years in French oak. It has the tannins to stand up to steak or roast lamb. Another good one.
- 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65
We like this one, too, though not as much as the cab sauv. It is somewhat austere, a bit light for a red at this price point, with a purple plum and cherry flavor. Not much aroma. Our server tells us this could age 20 years, and tells about some of the older Lenz wines she has tasted. We get the last of the bottle, so there’s a bit of sediment at the bottom of the glass. They don’t filter their wines.
- 2014 Estate Select Merlot $30
Extra! Having noticed our preferences in the wines we’ve tasted, our server offers us a taste of her favorite of their reds, a new release. Good move, as we buy a bottle and date it to be drunk in a few years. The merlot is blended with cabernet franc and petit verdot and aged in French oak. We like it much better than the Old Vines Merlot, and especially prefer the price. It has more fruit, layers of flavor, and good tannins.
Reasons to visit: lots of good wines; a good compromise between the big commercial wineries and the smaller boutique ones, as it has characteristics of both; in the summer, they have an outdoor courtyard; the Estate Select Merlot, the Tête à Tête, and the Old Vines Chardonnay in particular, but we liked all the wines.