Peconic Cellar Door: Good Things Come in Small Packages December 7, 2018

Peconic Cellar Door: Good Things Come in Small Packages            December 7, 2018

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/

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This sign shows the way to Peconic Cellar Door.

I recently picked up a postcard with a map of North Fork wineries which labeled them as either “petit” or “grand” wine houses.  Peconic Cellar Door is definitely one of the most petit of the petit places, a sliver of a storefront with room for a couple of tables and a narrow bar with four stools.  A sign on the door warns that they will not accept groups of more than six, adding, “Sorry, arriving in more than one car doesn’t count as separate groups.”  I suppose what you could do is have one part of your group go to the Winemaker Studio, which is right next door, connected to Cellar Door by an open doorway.

 

That’s not a bad idea, actually, since both tasting rooms offer similarly intimate experiences, and the ability to taste some interesting boutique wines.  Peconic Cellar Door is something different on the North Fork, as it is one of the few wineries owned and run by women (One Woman is the only other one I can think of, since Comtesse Therese closed a few years ago.).  In fact, if you go on their web page and click on “Meet the Cru,” you might notice that the entire crew is female.

When we entered on a chilly Friday afternoon, we were warmly greeted by Robin Epperson-McCarthy, who remembered that we’d been there before (a year ago), and introduced us to her charming three-year-old daughter, who soon left in the arms of her baby-sitter.  No one else was there, so we had a lovely time chatting with Robin and exchanging bits of wine country gossip as well as in-depth discussions of the wines.

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This is literally half the room.

She and her partner, Alie Shaper, have four different labels between them:  Saltbird Cellars, Brooklyn Oenology, As If, and Haywater Cove.  Alie is gradually transitioning her label to almost all Haywater Cove, a reference to a place on the North Fork, though she will continue to make a couple of her most popular Brooklyn Oenology (BOE) wines.  Robin explained that they don’t have a reserve label, so the As If line functions somewhat like that.  And Saltbird is Robin’s label, named for the sea birds she loves.

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There are twenty-five (!) wines on the menu, plus a new sparkling wine that isn’t even there yet, but they offer a “Winemaker’s Flight” of five wines for $18, highlighted on the menu in blue ink, so we decided to go with those choices.  However, the first item on the menu, a keg wine called Fizzi Rosé, was not available, so Robin instead gave us a taste of the newest As If wine, Gratitude, which is also a sparkler.

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The name of this wine is, among other things, an homage to Alie’s mother, who died last year.

  1. 2018 As If Gratitude      $28

This is a petillant naturel, which goes through some of its fermentation in the bottle and is sealed with a bottle cap.  Interestingly, it is made from gewürztraminer grapes, which I don’t recall ever seeing before, which are fermented into an orange wine before it becomes a bubbly.  The color is a cloudy yellow with a slight orange tint.  It has a sweetish aroma, like flowers, but also something like pickle juice.  It’s a light, refreshing, sparkler, which, we agree with Robin, would go well with charcuterie.

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Saltbird Chardonnay and its creator.

  1. 2017 Saltbird Chardonnay $20

I discuss with Robin my—and her—preference for steel-fermented chardonnays, and she tells how she has served this wine to people who think they don’t like chardonnay, not realizing that what they don’t like is an oaked chard.  They like her Saltbird chard.  I smell gooseberries and lots of minerality, plus some citrus.  She explains that part of the fermentation happens “sur lies,” which means on the dead yeast or bits of grape particles, which adds some depth to the taste.  It is very dry, and has plenty of mineral taste.  I think it needs food, like something in a cream sauce.

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  1. 2016 As If Courage Rosé $28

Alie named her wines Serendipity, Courage, Persistence, and Gratitude to chart her progression in the wine business—the way serendipity led her into winemaking as a career, the courage it took to continue, the persistence it took to stick with it, and the gratitude she feels for being able to do this.  It takes no courage to drink this French-style rosé, a dry pink wine with tastes and aromas of strawberries and minerals.  Like most North Fork rosés, this is a good summer wine, and would go well with a salade niçoise or some nice Catapano goat cheese.

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Now that’s orange!

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This is the art on the BOE label. Can’t tell what it is? Neither could we. Apparently, it’s a box.

  1. BOE 2014 Broken Land $30

As we learned the last time we were there, broken land is a reference to the original Dutch meaning of Brooklyn.  This is an orange wine, made with gewürztraminer grapes from the Finger Lakes region.  It sits on the skins for ten days, Robin tells us, which gives it that lovely orange color.  I wonder whether it is the color that makes me think it tastes like blood oranges, but Robin assures me that she tastes orange too, though she thinks of tangerines.  The label, like all BOE wines, features a work of art by a Brooklyn artist.  This one is a representation of a box.

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For the red we switched to this elegant glass.

  1. Saltbird Cellars 2016 Harbinger Red Blend $36

A blend of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon, this has the cherry aroma and flavor we have come to expect of North Fork merlots, somewhat ameliorated by the cabernet sauvignon.   It’s a light, bright red which Robin says benefits from a bit of aeration.

Reasons to visit:  an intimate setting in which to taste some nice wines and chat with the winemakers; the Broken Land orange wine (we buy a bottle), the Gratitude sparkling wine; it’s right next door to the Winemaker Studio, so you can do two tasting in one stop.  The tasting room is on Peconic Lane, so you could do a winery walking tour by adding on Sannino Bella Vita (which may be moving in the future), ending in the Greenport Brewing Company restaurant on the corner for lunch or a snack and a sampling of excellent brews.

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The Winemaker Studio: Cozy Room April 7, 2018

http://winemaker-studio.com/

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Anthony Nappa is the winemaker for Raphael, but he also has his own label, which he sells through the tasting room on Peconic Lane.  Peconic Lane, by the way, is one of the few places on the North Fork where you don’t need a car to visit multiple wineries.  If you start on Sound Avenue and head south, you can visit The Winemaker Studio, Peconic Cellar Door right next door, Sannino Bella Vita near the end, and finish with Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s tasting room, where you can also get snacks or a meal, on the corner of Main Road.

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As you look down the street, you can see Peconic Cellar Door right next to The Winemaker Studio.

The Winemaker Studio is housed in a cozy little store front site, augmented by a few outdoor tables in the summer.  Some nice local art is hung on the walls.  This is not a place for large groups, but if you want to taste some interesting wines with a couple of friends, this is a good spot.  The menu offers five tastes for $15, and $3.50 for any additional tastes.  They also always have a couple of local beers on tap, rotating the selections seasonally.  Today they had one from Moustache Brewery in Riverhead and another from Greenport Harbor down the street.  As our congenial and genial server noted, if he ran out he wouldn’t have far to go for a new keg.

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The beer taps and a sign about their club. A member came in for a pick-up while we were there.

We decided to share one tasting, which was fine, as the servings were generous.

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There were some interesting choices on the men we did not try. Maybe next time…

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  1. 2016 Shared Table Sauvignon Blanc       $22

Why the name, I wanted to know.  Our server replied that this is a limited production wine, with only enough produced for wine club members and those who come to the Studio.  The fruit is from Raphael.  Nappa doesn’t have his own vineyard, and so he buys his grapes from several different growers.  This wine is made from 90% sauvignon blanc and 10% semillon grapes.  The aroma is vegetal, with me suggesting asparagus and my husband suggesting Brussels sprouts.  The wine itself is dry, with lots of minerality and a touch of citrus at the end.  My tasting buddy says that this is the style of sauvignon blanc he likes.  Steel fermented, it would make a great summer wine to drink with oysters.

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As you can see, this looks like a rose.

  1.  2017 White Pinot Noir               $19

The menu describes this as a white wine made from red wine grapes.  Or one could call it a rosé.  They used to call it Anomaly, until a winery of that name in California sued them.  The wine has more heft than the usual rosé, with a slightly funky aroma with some candy smells.  The taste combines strawberry and citrus and minerals.  We decided it would be better with food than by itself, and could stand up to more flavorful foods than a typical rosé.  We buy a bottle to have with barbeque this summer.

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  1. 2017 Bordo Antico $25

We were interested to taste this one for several reasons.  It is made from certified organic grapes, grown in Calverton, though the wine itself is not completely organic, since they do add some sulfites.  Also, it is aged in steel rather than oak.  Made from 100% cabernet franc grapes, it is a light refreshing red and would, we suggested, be perfect with barbequed chicken.  Our server agreed, and noted that he sometimes serves this chilled, like a white.  The aroma is intriguing, with a touch of forest floor.  The wine is dry, with some minerality, and not tons of fruit.

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  1. 2014 Nemesis Pinot Noir $35

Served in a bottle with an ominous black label, the wine is simply named nemesis because the pinot noir grape is notoriously difficult to grow on Long Island.  If you’re interested in learning about growing conditions on Long Island, and why it is better or worse for certain grapes, you might enjoy reading the page on the Winemaker web site titled “Growing Conditions.”  On it, Nappa evaluates in detail each season since his arrival here in 2007.  The grapes for this one come from Macari and Peconic Bay (which no longer makes its own wines).  We like the aroma, which combines dark fruit and spice and tobacco.  We also like the wine, which had some cherry flavor.  It’s also a tad on the light side, so I wouldn’t pair it with steak, but it has some acidity and spice with might go well with lamb chops.

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  1. 2013 Tredici Cabernet-Merlot $35

To say 2013 and Tredici is somewhat of a tautology, since the name refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested.  And a very good year it was.  A blend of 67% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, 18% cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak, this is my favorite wine of the day.  Fruity kazooty, I say.  Well, I did mention that the servings were generous.  Lots of rich fruit flavors and enough tannins that I’m sure, as our server points out, it could age for several more years.  I could drink a lot of this.  Yum.  We buy a bottle.

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In the summer they put tables and chairs like this outside.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant intimate setting; all the wines, but especially the White Pinot Noir and the Tredici; no food, but you can go down the street to the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company afterwards; beer for a non-wine-drinking friend; dogs are allowed outside in the summer; knowledgeable and genial server with a real passion for the wines; we are served glasses of water along with our tasting, a nice touch; Peconic Lane and its mini winery-walking tour.

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Organic wines!

Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block         October 20, 2017

Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/

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If you like the idea of chatting with a pair of passionately committed winemakers, Peconic Cellar Door is the place for you.  Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy are the women who own, run, and make the wines for the labels As If, Brooklyn Oenology, and Saltbird Cellars.  They are the ones behind the bar in their small, white-washed space on Peconic Lane (adjacent to Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker’s Studio), where they will happily talk to you as much as you like about their wines—or give you space to sip and discuss with each other.

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The menu is rather extensive, but not all the wines are available for tasting or by the glass.

And there was much to talk about, as we learned their ideas about wine-making, why certain wines have the names they do, and their past experiences in wineries.  We mostly talked to Robin, who, despite her youthful appearance, has spent many years traveling around the world, learning about wine-making techniques from New Zealand to California, and more.  Her label is Saltbird, and as a native North Forker she is certainly familiar with salt air and local birds!  Then Alie chimed in as we asked about her wines.  She is the founder of Brooklyn Oenology (founded in Brooklyn, and abbreviated BOE), whose beautiful labels sport removable reproductions of works of art by Brooklyn artists.  She also makes the As If wines, which are named Serendipity, Persistence, and Courage—some of the qualities she needed to make them.

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Their space is small, so they request no large groups.

The entire menu of wines includes about twenty-three choices, most of which are available for tastes at $3-$4 per generous taste.  However, they also offer a set menu of four tastes for $14, which they said would change periodically, “So you can come back and have a different experience…and so we don’t get bored.”  Most, but not all, of the wines are also available by the glass.  If you want a bottle to consume on the premises, they charge a $10 service fee.   (Also, they request that you not bring outside food, as they will soon have their own snack menu, and they also request no pets.)

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We opted for the Feature Flight, and then, since it was all whites, added three reds at Robin’s recommendation. So the first four are from the flight—and very good choices they were.

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  1. 2015 Saltbird Chardonnay         $20

We tend to like steel-fermented chardonnays, and this was no exception.  Robin informed us that it spends some time “on the lees,” which gives it more body and taste than your average chard.  I found the aroma sweet, with some notes of cut grass, while my husband scented Brussels sprouts.  “A seasonal smell,” he joked, as we are happily scanning the farm stands for the first sight of Brussels sprouts on the stem.  This is a tasty wine, dry, with some lemon but nice depth.  I think I could happily sip this with some brie or camembert.

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One of Brooklyn Oenology’s artistic labels.

  1. 2014 BOE Social Club White $17

Another winner, this blend of seven grapes—chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, vidal blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and viognier—is steel fermented and dry.  Lots of tart grapefruity taste, but also some sweetness underneath.  If I had to guess, I’d bet that chardonnay is the predominant grape.  Very drinkable, especially with a seafood chowder.  We buy a bottle.

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  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, and sauvignon blanc, which is aged in neutral French oak.  The aroma reminds me of something sticky, though I’m not sure what.  The taste is tart, like a green apple.  It’s very good, but I don’t think it is worth the price.

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Very orange orange wine! That’s Alie in the background.

  1. 2013 BOE Broken Land $30

Broken Land?  According to Alie, that is the actual meaning of the Dutch name for Brooklyn.  Who knew?  You could also say it is a wine that breaks with tradition, as this is an orange wine made from pinot gris and gewürztraminer.  As Alie explains to us, orange wines are made by leaving white wine grapes to ferment with the skins (which are otherwise usually removed), and the particular grapes she chose have multi-colored skins, lending her wine a deep orange color.  It would be a great wine to serve at a Halloween party, especially if you’re serving Chinese food, as I think the flavors of lychee, ginger root, and other fruits would complement that.  The aroma reminds me of tangerines.

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It might be fun to buy the Motley Cru for a Motley Crue fan.

  1. 2012 BOE Motley Cru $35

Now we are done with the set flight, and we are given a fresh glass to try the reds, choosing some which happen to be open and on the counter.  The name entails another discussion, as it is not inspired by the rock group Motley Crüe!  Alie explains that it is made from a motley assortment of grapes—50% cabernet sauvignon, 28% malbec, 9%syrah, 8% petit verdot, and 5% corot noir—and then she added cru as a pun on the wine term.  The corot noir, by the way, is a new cold tolerant hybrid made by Cornell.  This is a fairly light red, with a pleasant aroma and soft tannins.  Not much fruit.  This would be a good wine to get if you have a group of people with varying entrees, as it could go with almost anything, from chicken to lamb, or even fish.

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Another really pretty label

  1. BOE Haywater Cove Merlot $18

Although this is a merlot, it has very little cherry flavor or aroma.  Robin agrees, and suggests it has more of a blueberry/bramble flavor, and we think she is right. This is a pleasant red, dry, with soft tannins.  The label tells us that Haywater Cove is an actual location on the North Fork, where “three creeks meet at the mouth of Cutchogue Harbor.”

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As If refers to Alie’s initials and also her approach to wine making.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

Yum.  A blend of 60% cabernet franc, 25% petit verdot, and 15% cabernet sauvignon, this has a delicious fruity aroma and lots of dark fruit tastes.  For some reason, my tasting buddy says it is “like a new pillow.”  Okay.  Definitely a wine one could sit and sip, it would also go well with food.  I like it the best of the reds.

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This time of year they are open Friday through Monday only. It might be a good idea to call or check their web page before you go.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to chat with two charming and interesting winemakers; you want to try some new wines; some of the prettiest and most interesting labels around; the Saltbird Chardonnay, the Social Club White, the Broken Land orange wine, the As If Persistence red; they are right next door to the Winemaker’s Studio, so you can go to two tastings without driving (and Sannino Bella Vita is just a mile or so up the street, plus Greenport Harbor Brewing is just a little further at the corner). 

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