Pellegrini Vineyards: A Favorite March 1, 2018

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

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The news was threatening an apocalyptic storm, so after a trip to the supermarket for a few essentials (milk, bread, toilet paper, and guacamole ingredients) we headed to Pellegrini to pick up our wine club shipment.  When I looked in my notebook, I realized that, although we had been to Pellegrini many times and sampled wines, we hadn’t done a recorded tasting since 2016.  As wine club members, we can do free tastings at any time, and since pick-ups happen four times a year, we often combine picking up our three bottles of red with either a glass of something or a full tasting.

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The tasting room is not huge, but certainly adequate in the winter.

We chose the reds because Pellegrini does a better-than-North-Fork-average with them, though we like some of their whites as well.  We also like Pellegrini because it is a pleasant setting in which to taste wine.  Though the tasting room itself is small, there’s plenty of room in and around the courtyard, where we have often sat in the summer.  It is a good place to bring guests because you can get your whole tasting on a tray and bring it to a table, where you can share snacks you’ve brought with you.  The only food they sell is North Fork chocolate, though they do include a little bag of oyster crackers with each tasting.

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They have a few tasting options, but the main ones are either three one-ounce pours at the bar for $8 or three two-ounce pours which you take to a table on a tray for $14.  The latter option also includes a one-ounce pour of a wine they select, which this time was their rosé.  When you get there, they hand you a menu on which you circle your three choices out of a possible fourteen wines.  My husband and I decided to do three whites and three reds for our two tastings, sharing them, as usual.  The room was empty on this winter mid-week day, so we opted to take our trays to a table by the window where we could take our time and chat as we sipped.

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Pellegrini was having a good sale on their rosés, so though we prefer Croteaux, we decided to get the three bottles for $33.

  1. 2016 Rosé         $19.99

This is a very pale pink rosé, with the typical strawberry aroma, plus a touch of petrol or some chemical.  It is made from a blend of 66% cabernet franc, 24% cabernet sauvignon, and 20% merlot.  Compared to Croteaux rosés, it is very light, almost more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé.  It is very dry, and drinkable but not one you would want to sip by itself.  It could go with charcuterie.

  1. 2015 Gewürztraminer $24.99

I find gewürztraminers a little tricky, since sometimes I like them and other times I find them too sweet.  I would hesitate to buy a gewürztraminer or a riesling I didn’t know.  This one smells, I assert, “gewurzty”—floral, perfumey, ferny.  I like the taste, which reminds me of ripe pineapple with a touch of lemon.  Despite all the fruitiness, it has only a touch of sweetness, with a nice long finish.  My tasting buddy suggest pairing it with mac and cheese, and I counter with weisswurst, since it is after all a German grape.

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Our tray of whites. As you can see, the rosé, in the upper right corner, is almost as pale as the whites.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $19.99

Though they have a couple of oaked chardonnays, I opt for the steel-fermented one, since I generally tend to prefer steel over oak.  This one smells like honeysuckle and fruit salad, but the taste is very minerally, with not much citrus, and some green apple.  It is so dry that some might find it harsh.  Though it is not a sipper, I could see drinking it with something like a barbequed salmon burger.

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Pellegrini often has special sales. Today they had one on the chardonnay and one on the rosé. We opted to get the rosé.

  1. 2016 Rejoyce $24.99

Because we’re not standing at the bar, I can’t ask about the origin of this name, but since it is a blend—of 58%chardonnay and 42% sauvignon blanc—I assume they had to give it a non-grape name.  In any event, we like it.  The aroma is lovely, with notes of pine needles and forest and what I insist is sweat (which doesn’t sound so good, but I liked it).  It does not taste at all like the smell, notes my husband, saying it is more like lime than lemon.  It is a good food wine, and if he catches any bluefish next summer (or we buy some at Braun’s) I may get a bottle to go with it.

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The vines are bare now, but spring is coming. My chives are starting to grow.

  1. 2014 Merlot $29.99

Now we switch to the reds, which, because they have been sitting on our tray for half an hour, are at perfect room temperature.  This merlot is in our shipment, so we are interested to try it.  It is actually a bit of a blend, 90% merlot plus 7% cabernet sauvignon and 3% cabernet franc.  It is a nice, not atypical Long Island merlot, with dark cherry aroma and flavor, more soft than tannic, with not a lot of fruit and some mineral and salt flavors.  We like it, but more as a picnic red than as one to stand up to red meats.  We decide that when we get home we will label it for drinking this year, rather than holding on to it for any length of time.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $29.99

“Not a killer cab,” opines my drinking pal, though he also says it is a pleasant wine.  It is aged 19 months in oak, and has an aroma of dark fruit and tastes of ripe purple plums.  It may not be hefty enough at this point to go with a steak, but one could certainly pair it with pork or lamb chops.  It has enough tannins that we decide to label it for a year from now when we stow away our wine club selections.

  1. 2012 Petit Verdot $39.99

I have high hopes for this wine, since 2012 was a good year for reds on the North Fork and I often like petit verdot, and I am not disappointed.  Yum.  The aroma is like macerated raspberries, and it tastes like black raspberries.  It is dry, with lots of tannins, and could definitely stand up to a steak.  Their website describes the taste as “dark and brooding.”  I don’t know about that, since I never saw a wine brood, but we like it.

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In the summer I often try to angle my photos so I don’t include too many people. Not a problem today!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room with ample outside space for summer tastings; outside food is allowed, so you can bring your own snacks; you can bring the tastings to a table so it is a nice place to sit with friends; the gewürztraminer, the Rejoyce, the cabernet sauvignon, the petit verdot.  One note on the tray of tastes—in general, you want to go from whites to reds, and from top to bottom and from left to right.

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We’ve often been here when they were setting up for weddings in the courtyard, when it is covered with a white tent.

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Raphael Winery: High Ambitions February 19, 2018

http://www.raphaelwine.com/

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Even the sign shows the winery’s Italian roots.

As you drive into the parking lot for Raphael, the Italian roots of the owner are immediately apparent.  The red-tile-roofed building with the fountain in front would not look out of place in Tuscany.  In case you had any doubts, notice the Italian flag flying next to the American flag.  However, the wines are very much Long Island wines.

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That partly open door leads to a large party room.

 

The tasting room is quite large, with an equally large party room off to one side, so it is no surprise that we often notice that Raphael is closed for private events. They have a fairly large selection of wine-related gifts.  We walked up to the circular bar in the center and, after ordering our first tasting and a snack, were directed to a nearby table where we could quietly enjoy our tasting.  Raphael does not permit outside foods, but they have a menu of snacks.  We ordered the Grandma Flatbread with house-made mozzarella ($8.95), which was basically pizza, with a red sauce and too much oregano, but functioned to take the edge off our late-afternoon hunger.

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The menu offers three tasting options each for whites and reds, all of which offer four tastes.  There is a mixed tasting, an estate white or estate red, and a sweet white, all for $16, or a premium tasting, of whites or reds, for $20.  In general, their wines are pricy for the North Fork, with their least expensive white at $27 and their premium reds costing $72.  However, the menu does point out that quite a few of their premium wines, and a couple of others, have scores of 90 or better from Wine Advocate or Wine Enthusiast, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

We decided to do as we often do, and share two tastings, first of the premium whites and then of the premium reds.  Our server carefully placed our glasses over their listings on the menu, so we could see which was which.  She was quite knowledgeable about the wines, and informed us that when they do wine club events, she is the one who runs them—sets up the tastes and discusses each wine.  She was curious as to our reactions to the wines, having noted my notebook, and we found we agreed on some and disagreed on others.  Interestingly, this was one of the few wineries where my husband and I had fundamental disagreements on a couple of the wines.  As the French say, “Chacun à son goût.”

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  1. 2016 First Label Sauvignon Blanc            $39

Interesting aroma.  We agree on pine and citrus peel.  The wine itself is dry and very light, pleasant, but with not much to it.  I taste lime, and my husband insists on pear.  It would be fine with oysters or simply sautéed scallops.

  1. 2014 First Label Riesling (Virgin Berry) $39

When I ask why “virgin berry,” our server says “because it sounds nice.”  If I had a dump bucket, I would dump this one, as it both smells and tastes like gasoline, or “petrol,” as our server says.  I think they went overboard on making this riesling dry and lemony.  On the other hand, my husband likes it!  We agree we would not, blindfolded, identify this as a riesling, but he thinks it would be good with a dish like shrimp scampi.  “Chacun à son goût.”

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  1. 2014 First Label Chardonnay $39

This is their oaked chardonnay, half of it aged in new French oak, so I’m not expecting to like it.  However, I do!  It’s not very oaky, though I do smell butterscotch and vanilla. It has lots of fruit flavor and a pleasant finish, though not much depth.  I don’t think it is worth what they’re charging, however.

  1. 2015 White Primo Reserve $45

A blend of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 49% riesling, aged in both steel and oak, this is my favorite of the four.  It has a lovely floral aroma of orange blossoms.  Again, this is a dry white with some minerality.  Though it is almost half riesling, it does not have the gasoline aroma of the last taste.  All their whites have a similarity of style, which I would characterize as lean, not big.  By the way, our server says the previous year’s riesling was quite different, and she liked it better.  We agree that you have to try wines every year, and can’t rely on what you liked from a previous vintage.

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  1. 2013 Petit Verdot Reserve $72

Now my husband thinks he smells petrol.  Nope, I say, macerated berries.  “Chacun à son goût.”  Well, we both like it.  It has tannins which make us think it could still age more, and lots of tastes of really ripe blackberries.  It is 90% petit verdot and 10% merlot, but I don’t get any cherry taste.  Nice long finish.  This would be good with a nice juicy steak.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $72

“I’d be happy to drink this if someone else was paying,” says my husband, and I agree.  The aroma has a touch of forest floor funkiness as well as fruit, and it has lots of dark fruit tastes, though it’s not as big as the petit verdot.  Barbequed butterflied leg of lamb is what I would make if you were bringing me a bottle of this.

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The server put these cute labels on the glasses so we could carry them back to our table.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $72

This is another nice but not incredible red, with some good fruit tastes.  It could have more depth, and the finish is rather soft.  Perhaps it needs to age some more.

  1. 2013 Primo Reserve $72

Finally, we try their not-Bordeaux blend, a mixture of 54% merlot, 27% malbec, 16% petit verdot, 2% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% cabernet franc.  I’m not happy with the aroma, which reminds me of rotten eggs.  My husband agrees that the smell is funky, but not that it’s rotten eggs.  It tastes fine, though it is not complex.  It has some tannins, so it would be good with lamb.

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Reasons to visit:  beautiful tasting room; nice menu of snacks; the First Label Chardonnay, the White Primo Reserve, the Petit Verdot Reserve; big selection of wine-related gifts.

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Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018

https://www.pindar.net/

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You might guess from the red tile roof that there is some Mediterranean culture behind this winery. You’d be right.

I have been to wineries where the server knew just enough to spout a brief memorized description of the wines, and to others where the winemaker him or herself was there to tell me everything I could possibly want to know about the wines.  Both models work, but there’s another way: a well-informed server who knows the wines and is enthusiastic about them, without getting too technical.  The last is the type we encountered on a cold day in January in the almost empty tasting room at Pindar.

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Don’t let that sunny blue sky fool you. It was COLD!

Since the tasting room is quite large, and obviously set up to serve many people, it felt kind of funny that there were at most two couples at any one time during the hour or so we were there.  But it did mean that we got plenty of individualized attention from our excellent server.  We learned some interesting details about the wines and some of the labels, and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.

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Plenty of room for more people.

Pindar is both one of the older and larger wineries, and their prices reflect the economies of scale, being lower in general than many of the other places.  The wine list offers 27 different varieties, with almost all of them available for the basic $10 for five tastes.  The menu is divided into the categories of White Wines and Dry Rosé, Red Wines, Proprietary Blends, On the Sweeter Side, Dessert Wines, and Limited Production.  We quickly decided to eliminate the Sweeter Side category and also that we needed to share two tastings in order to get any sense of their offerings.  Since the Red Wines category included eight wines, we also decided to focus our attention there, and only try three of the four regular whites.  Due to the power of the book, we ended up getting a few extra tastes, as our server appreciated our enthusiasm and began to grok our taste.  As the pour is rather generous, I ended up having to drink more of each taste as the afternoon went on, since I was not the driver.  Tough job…

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Pindar requests that you not bring in outside food, and offers a selection of cheeses to which they will add crackers, etc.  They also have a modest selection of wine-related gift items.

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Snacks to have with your wine.

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Some of the gift items for sale.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

We started at the top of the menu with their sauvignon blanc, a wine we find often pairs well with oysters or clams.  This one would do so, too, but has an assertive enough flavor that it could also go with bluefish.  The aroma has a touch of cat pee, plus a fruit the menu identifies as white peach.  The taste is pleasant, with a touch of sweetness, and some citrus and mineral notes.

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The beautiful art is supposed to reflect the taste of the wine.

  1. 2016 Viognier $18.99

“What a beautiful bottle,” we said, and learned that it had been painted by Sylvia, a former patient of the founder of Pindar, Dr. Dan Damianos.  We also found out that she was a quadriplegic who painted with a brush in her mouth, and that she designed the pretty pastel floral image to reflect the taste of the wine.  Wow.  Viognier is a grape you don’t find too often on Long Island (a quick search of my blog found three or four other wineries that had it), and our server told us that they didn’t bottle it every year, since the grapes did not always meet their standards.  We’re glad it was on the menu this time.  Though not a sipper, it is a really nice wine, with lots of tart pear and some woody/mineral tastes.  She suggests serving it with shrimp or lobster, and I bet it would go well with Peconic Bay scallops, too.  We decided to buy a bottle.

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I love looking at the fields of sunflowers in the summertime on the North Fork.

  1. 2015 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

We were going to try the Peacock Chardonnay, but our friend warned us that it had been reformulated and was on the sweet side.  We had been reluctant to have the Sunflower, since the menu said it was 100% new barrel fermented, and we tend not to like really oaky chardonnays.  However, she reassured us that it was not like that, but rather tasted mostly of pineapple.  She was exactly right.  She said that the particular clone of chardonnay that was used for this wine tended more towards tropical fruit flavors.  Interesting.

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  1. Pythagoras $16.99

Now we moved on to the reds, getting a clean glass for these tastes.  The name of this wine, the images on several of the bottles, and the name of the winery, reference the Damianos family’s Greek heritage.  (We went to a class on Greek wines several months ago, and were quite pleased to discover that they were no longer limited to retsina and harsh reds, but included many wines we enjoyed. Wines occupy an important role in Greek mythology, and not just because they have a god of wine!)  This is their Bordeaux blend, and varies from year to year.  It likely includes some combination of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and Malbec, and was described as a “good pizza wine.”  That it is, and has lots of fruit with a touch of tannins.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably heavy on the merlot.

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Another image made to hint at the flavor of the wine.

  1. 2014 Syrah $16.99

Here’s another label painted by Sylvia, which is supposed to convey the “stormy and dark” taste of the wine.  Not so sure about the stormy part, but it is certainly dark, with black cherry flavor, a bit of oak, and nice tannins. It smells a bit like nutmeg.  It is not complex, but is very good, and we also plan to buy a bottle of this one.  It would go well with a soup and bread and cheese dinner.

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A beautiful stained glass window in the tasting room.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

We were going to give this one a pass, but now it seems we will be trying all of the reds.  Our server has poured out a glass of one of the Limited Production wines, to let it breathe while we taste the others.  The cabernet franc has lots of tannins, with some tastes of fruit, spice, and wood, and would be okay with food.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

2014 was a good year for reds on the North Fork, so we’re not surprised that we like most of the reds we taste.  This is a very drinkable red, not very deep or complex, with a pleasant fruity aroma.

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Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology.

  1. 2014 Merlot $18.99

Oops.  Finally one we don’t particularly like.  The smell is a bit funky and earthy, the wine rather thin. We dump the rest of this taste.

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We like the image of the Argo, the boat for Jason and the Argonauts, better than the wine inside.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $21.99

Like a number of the other reds, this is aged two years in French oak.  We do detect a bit of oak in the aroma, plus purple plum and toast.  The wine is quite yummy, though not complex, tasting of plums and cherries.  It would be overpowered by red-sauce Italian foods, but would be good with meat loaf.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $16.99 (on sale, was $21.99)

This one could be on the edge of going over the edge, we decide.  It also has a somewhat funky aroma, and has a slight cherry taste.  Just okay.

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  1. 2014 Mythology $27.99

Their Meritage blend, this is 40% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 10% petit verdot, and 10% Malbec.  Nevertheless, my notes say “not much to it.”  I swear it smells like cheese, though the menu says it has “cassis, bing cherry and raspberry on the nose.”  It is dry, with some tannins and dark fruit tastes.

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A wine well worth buying.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014       $24.99

After Dr. Damianos died, his children decided to make some special wines in his memory.  They did a great job with this one, the special taste our server had set aside to breathe for us.  Given the price point, it is quite impressive, with lots of delicious dark fruit tastes and some complexity.  The tannins are strong enough that we feel it could age several years and get even better, so we decided to get a bottle of this and label it to be drunk a few years from now.  It could stand up to steak or lamb chops, for sure.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot 2014       $24.99

Well, she had a bottle of this open and had served a taste to the other couple at the bar, so we might as well try it, too.  We like this better than their other merlots.  It tastes of black cherry and spice, perhaps nutmeg, with tannins that could let this one age as well.

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Reasons to visit:  big place that can accommodate a crowd (which it definitely gets in the summer); lots of different wines at good prices; despite the mass appeal, many of the wines are quite good; the Viognier, the Syrah, Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in particular, plus many of the other wines; dogs are allowed on the back deck in the summertime.

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Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

Lenz Winery: The Older the Better January 11, 2018

https://lenzwine.com/

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Lenz is justifiably proud of being one of the oldest wineries on the North Fork.

“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.

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Plenty of room at the bar during the week in the winter.

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.

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One side of the tasting room.

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.

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And the other side.

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!).

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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.

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  1. 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.

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Cute label, too.

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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The one we took home.

  1. 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.

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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.

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Sometimes the vines in the snow remind me of dancers. In this case, they are hip deep in old snow.

Channing Daughters: The Best of the South Fork December 7, 2017

Channing Daughters: The Best of the South Fork

https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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The entrance to Channing Daughters.

It had been over a year since we’d been to one of our favorite wineries, so it was time to make the trek to the South Fork.  We took the ferry from Greenport to Shelter Island, and then from Shelter Island to Sag Harbor, as wind whipped the usually calm Gardiner’s Bay into waves and sea spray hit our windshield.  Despite the loss of the Sag Harbor movie theater to fire, the town looked much the same as ever, though new boutiques are gradually replacing some of the quirkier shops.  Happily, we noted that the Sag Harbor Variety Store and the Wharf Shop are still there.

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One of the wood sculptures made by Walter Channing.

And so is the Channing Daughters tasting room, down a pebbled driveway off Scuttlehole Road, sitting amidst vineyards and wood sculptures made by the owner.  The tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and no tables, though in the summer there are some outside.  A standard tasting is five wines for $16, or you can order a glass of wine for $15.  Simple crackers are put out as palate cleansers.

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This is the standard tasting–which is not what we had!

We had the room to ourselves on this sunny but blustery winter day, so we had the full attention of the genial and very well-informed server.  He was delighted to hear that, after having resigned from the wine club last spring due to various changes in our lives, we were ready to rejoin it.  The wine club involves accepting six shipments of two bottles each per year, and then you get free tastings of any wines you like to try plus invitations to various events during the year and discounts on other purchases.

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The tasting room is small, but augmented in the summer by outside tables.

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A view of the outside patio.

As a result of rejoining the club, our tasting was free, and we tasted quite a few wines—so many that we ended up dumping parts of the last few tastes, just so we could stay on our feet.  And even after trying eleven wines we had not begun to exhaust the panoply of wines on offer, a truly varied and impressive array for a small winery.  One of the reasons we love Channing, and rejoined their club despite living on the North Fork and having access to so many other wineries, is their willingness to experiment and try new ideas all the time.  Check out their web site to see all they offer and to read about their philosophy of wine making.  According to the web site, they make almost three dozen different wines!

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  1. 2016 Scuttlehole Chardonnay   $18

Of all the chardonnays on Long Island, this remains our favorite, a steel-fermented beautiful expression of the fruit.  We taste some pineapple and minerality, with aromas of pear and citrus.  Yum.

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Our favorite chardonnay. The upside down tree on the label represents one of Mr. Channing’s sculpture techniques, using an entire tree turned upside down.

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A sculpture made from an entire tree turned upside down.

  1. 2014 Sylvanus $24

A combination of muscat ottonel, pinot grigio, and pinot bianco, the name recalls the Roman god of the fields and agriculture (like Pan or Bacchus) for a very good reason.  It is what is called a “field blend,” which means it is a blend of various grapes all of which were grown together in one field.  So they share the same terroir, yet the taste varies from year to year, depending on how each variety grows.  As we discussed with our server, this is more like the way people grew grapes in the past, planting whatever vines they got wherever they fit.  And the vineyard in which it grows is named Sylvanus. In any event, this year’s iteration is quite good, a light, delicate dry white with just a touch of wood.  He thinks it would be good with appetizers, perhaps a charcuterie platter.

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An image of Sylvanus, god of fields and harvests.

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  1. 2015 Cuvée Tropical $23

This is another blend, of 78% chardonnay, 8% tocai friulano, 8% pinot grigio, and 8% muscat ottonel.  As I said, they like to experiment.  The name comes from the flavor, which has notes of tropical fruits, like lychee and guava and pineapple.  In the past I really liked the fruitiness of this wine, and this iteration is less fruity, a bit more austere, so though he recommends it with spicy food, I don’t think that’s necessary.

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I love the image on this label, of vines in the snow.

  1. 2014 Clones $29

Why Clones?  Because this wine includes ten different clones of chardonnay, plus gewürztraminer, tocai friulano, pinot grigio, and sauvignon blanc.  Now here comes the experimentation—some of the wine is aged on the skins for a little while, they use wild yeast, and it spends twelve months in old French oak barrels (plus maybe more I forgot…).  Another good one.  Dry, with just a touch of the oak, with citrus flavors of lime more than lemon, and some interesting complexity.  Our server recommends it with smoked trout or bluefish, and we recommend that he check out the North Fork Smoke House the next time he’s in Greenport.

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  1. 2014 Mosaico $29

Again, the name relates to how the wine was made. This is another field blend, but this time the vines are literally planted in a mosaic pattern, and include pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscat ottonel, tocai friulano, and gewürztraminer.  Whew.  Another winner.  Aromas of celery, citrus, and herbs and maybe chamomile, and a complex flavor that includes pear, pineapple, and citrus.  Because the juice also spends some time on the skins, the color is a deeper gold than usual.

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  1. 2014 L’Enfant Sauvage

The “wild child” is a reference to the use of wild yeast, sometimes a risk for the winemaker, and this time, I have to say, not as successful for me as in the past.  I have loved earlier versions of this white, but this one is more minerally than fruity.  That’s not necessarily bad, but I liked the fruit in the past.  This is 100% chardonnay, aged in new French oak and also Slovenian oak, so maybe the Slovenian oak is a taste I don’t care for.  The aroma is of over-ripe apples and something chemical.  My husband says it has a “strong backbone.”

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Yes, this wine is orange.

  1. 2014 Ramato $25

You can only get this wine if you are in the wine club.  It’s an orange wine, which means it was fermented on the skins for quite a while until it has an orange hue, and was made from 100% pinot grigio.  Our server tells us the grape itself has a pinkish hue, which adds to the color.  It is tart and dry, with some taste of apricot.

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A sparkling wine you can open with a beer bottle opener!

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  1. 2016 Bianco Petillant Naturel $28

What is this, you wonder, especially as you look at the bottle, which is sealed with a bottle cap and has a layer of sediment on the bottom.  This is a lightly fizzy sparkling wine which does not taste at all like champagne, nor does it try to.  Instead of the méthode champenoise, this is the méthode ancestrale, in which the yeast remains in the bottle and is not disgorged.  This is a blend of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and tocai friulano and tastes like a great wine for a meal—light and fizzy and good to complement food.  That’s the way they drink Cava in Barcelona, where we saw people ordering an inexpensive bottle to go with lunch or a few tapas.

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I love doing side by side tastings of related wines.

  1. 2013 Dorn and Blau $28

At this point we said we would share a taste, so our server poured this red and the next one at the same time so we could compare them.  These German grapes—a combination of 62% dornfelder and the rest blaufrankish—are also grown in the Sylvanus vineyard.  If you’re thinking you haven’t heard of these grapes as growing on Long Island, you wouldn’t be mistaken.  As far as I know, Channing is the only one that has them.  This is a fairly light and dry red, with aromas of red fruit and tobacco and something funky.  It is another wine with more minerality than fruit.  I could see it with something rich, though my tasting buddy finds it a bit too austere.

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  1. 2014 Blaufrankish $28

Reverse the proportion of grapes, and you get 62% blaufrankish and the rest dornfelder, and then, just to see what happens, use grapes from a different vineyard, in this case the Mudd vineyard on the North Fork.  We like this one much better!  The aromas are of dark fruits plus minerals or wet rock, and the taste is of red berries and plums with layers of flavor, including some minerality.  Both of these wines have soft tannins, so I’m not sure how they would age, but they’d be fine to drink right now.

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  1. 2015 Petit Verdot $38

I often like petit verdots, and this one is no exception.  Though the aroma is somewhat smoky and funky, the taste is delicious, with depth of flavor, including blueberries, blackberries, and spice.  Our server is willing to keep going, but since we have to get back in the car we decline.

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An array of bottles and a view into the cellar.

Reasons to visit:  the most interesting wines on Long Island, with something new every year; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Cuvee Tropical, the Clones, the Mosaico, the Blaufrankish…actually, you can’t go wrong with any of their wines; and we didn’t even get to the rosés, which we’ve had and enjoyed in the past; you’re looking for a winery in the Hamptons that’s less formal and pricey than Wölffer (which does have the advantage of tables where you can sit and snack on their cheese, etc.), and did I mention they also make really good vermouths, which are excellent just over ice as an aperitif.

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Vermouth!

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There are a few wine-related gifts for sale, though they no longer carry the bottle collars we like, which you put around the neck to catch drips.

 

 

 

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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Lieb Cellars: A Beautiful Setting                September 12, 2017

http://liebcellars.com/history/

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The Lieb Cellars tasting room is located on bucolic Oregon Road.

In many ways, September is the best month on the North Fork, and our guests agreed.  We had gone for a walk to Love Lane and a swim in the Peconic Bay, and now we were seated on the attractive patio of Lieb Cellars on Oregon Road, gazing out at beautiful farm fields.  Later we planned to barbeque chicken from 8 Hands, plus eggplant and zucchini and corn from a farm stand.  Perhaps we could cap off that menu with a bottle of wine from Lieb.  However, we didn’t find any wine that we wanted to take home for that meal.

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It was a warm day, so we appreciated the bottle of cool water we were given.

On the other hand, we enjoyed our tasting, if not so much the wines themselves, which was brought to us on trays so we could sit and sip and discuss and enjoy the lovely setting.  The very enthusiastic and well-informed server, a young man who is really studying wine, gave us a quick (maybe too quick!) rundown on the wines we had ordered, and then left us to ourselves, just checking back periodically to see if we had any questions.

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The menu includes snacks, plus drinks for your designated driver.

The menu offers three options:  four whites plus the rosé for $16, five reds for $18, or six Reserve wines for $20.  You can also get cheese and charcuterie plates, but we knew we had a lovely selection of cheeses from the Love Lane Cheese Shop waiting for us at home, so we opted not to get anything.  They don’t allow you to bring your own food, but they do permit dogs on the outside patio.  We decided to share one white flight and one red flight.  The good-sized servings came out in attractive round-bottomed glasses, and we also were given a bottle of chilled water plus glasses for the water.  Some of the wines are labeled Bridge Lane and others Lieb Reserve, which I abbreviate BL and LR.

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The whites and the rose. Each glass sits on a coaster which identifies the wine and the order in which to drink them.

  1. 2016 BL White Merlot   $18

This is a white wine made from merlot grapes by not giving them any time on the skins.  The aroma was nice—sweet, spicy, a bit minerally—but we found the wine itself lacked character.

  1. 2015 LR Pinot Blanc $22

They are very proud of their Pinot Blanc, but we were underwhelmed.  It is very citrusy and tart, with not much fruit and a slightly chemical aroma.

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We liked the patio, which we had to ourselves on this mid-week day. One time we arrived on a weekend and had to leave, as it was full.

  1. 2016 BL Unoaked Chardonnay $16

We like this the best of the whites, finding it had a better balance than the others, with some richness.  I liked it.  It has a honeysuckle aroma and nice lemony notes.  It would go well with food, though we felt it would not stand up to the spicy barbeque sauce we planned.

  1. 2016 BL Sauvignon Blanc $18

Our server cautioned us that this was not like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  It was not at all floral, and my brother pronounced it “tame.”  It smells almost like candy, with some minerality, and the taste is very light, almost evanescent.

  1. 2016 BL Rosé $18

Pink?  Not so much.  Another very light wine, this had no strawberry aroma.  It is available in an eight gallon box.

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  1. 2016 BL Red Blend $20

Our server was very proud that he could inform us this was like a right bank Bordeaux, a blend of 44% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 13% petit verdot, 12% malbec, and 9% cabernet sauvignon.  You can sense in the taste that this spent a little time in oak—six months.  It’s very soft, with a taste in which cherry predominates.  I said it was okay for casual drinking, but my brother opined it was “completely uninteresting, like a person without a face.”  Ouch.

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Note the dogs in the background.

  1. 2015 LR Merlot $24

As we sipped this somewhat classic merlot, we got into a humorous discussion of the movie Sideways, and the damage it did to merlot sales.  Nothing wrong with a good merlot, I said, but my brother felt this was a “Kool-Aid version of merlot.”  Well, it would be fine with a burger.

  1. 2015 LR Cabernet Franc $30

I thought this cabernet franc was not bad, with dark fruit tastes of blackberry and plum, dry, with some tannins though overall rather soft.  But I had to agree with my brother that it had no depth.

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The Petit Verdot looks as good as it tastes.

  1. 2014 LR Petit Verdot $35

Finally, a wine we could agree on.  We all liked the petit verdot, made of 98% petit verdot and 2% “mystery grapes,” according to our server.   2014 was a hot season, so it was a good year for ripe red grapes.  This wine is interesting, with a distinctive earthy, piney aroma and layers of flavor.  We speculated that another brother would like it, since he favors “odd duck” wines.  Long finish.  If I were to sit and have a glass of wine here, this is the one I would get.

  1. 2015 LR Meritage $35

And here is their left bank Bordeaux style:  47% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 17% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 2% malbec.  We made our server check the math!  It worked out.  The aroma is fruity, the taste less so.  Given the tannins, it may age into something better, but for the moment it is a bit disappointing for the price.  It would be okay as a $12 wine, opined my brother.  Well, that’s a problem with North Fork wineries in general—because of the small size of their production, they can’t achieve the economies of scale from other places.  Nevertheless, we like to support the local wineries.

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The inside room is attractive and comfortable.

Reasons to visit:  beautiful setting on a back road, surrounded by farm fields; the Unoaked Chardonnay, the Lieb Reserve Petit Verdot; you can bring your dog.

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Clovis Point: Good Things Come in Small Packages            September 3, 2017

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

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“We’re small,” said our very well-informed multi-tasking server, “only 3,500 cases per year.”  She added that they have just eight acres of vines, and we discussed the issues Croteaux is having with Southold town over how many acres you need to have in order to do a tasting room.  But Clovis Point is in the town of Riverhead, so no problem.  Small also describes the one-ounce pour (which she warned us about in advance), but not the reputation of this boutique winery, which has garnered a number of high ratings from wine judges.

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One view of the pleasant tasting room

The tasting room, a former potato barn, is a nice size, and there is also a covered porch to one side.  The walls are adorned with a display of art for sale, so the space functions as a gallery as well.  The flower garden leading to the door is also esthetically pleasing!

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The art on the walls is for sale.

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Some of the pretty flowers by the entrance

The menu offers two flights:  a Cold Flight of four wines for $13 and a Red Flight of four reds for $15, plus a few premium wines at $5 per taste.  We were with friends, and decided each couple would do all eight wines, given that the pour is so small.  We also bought a generous tray of Spanish cheeses and baguette slices for $12, plus an eight-dollar jar of delicious fig spread, much of which we took home.  While we often don’t order food with our tastings, it is true that having wine with food enhances the experience.

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We had pretty much decimated the cheese plate before I thought to take a picture. It was very good.

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Some nice options on the snack menu

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $28

“This is a seasonal wine,” our server informed us, “and we usually sell out of it by winter.”  I can see why, as it is a light, easy to drink summery wine, with a floral and mineral aroma and peach taste.  Steel fermented, it is tart and dry.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Another steel-fermented wine, this chardonnay is mixed with 3% gewürztraminer, which might account for a touch of pineapple taste.  The aroma is mineral, earth, and pine, and our friend says it tastes like a Granny Smith apple to her.  We agree.  Our server explains that because it is steel fermented it does not undergo malolactic fermentation, and therefore gives you the “pure expression” of the grape.

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The arrowhead on the label is a Clovis point, a type of prehistoric arrowhead.

  1. 2015 Black Label Chardonnay $28

A nice touch—before each new taste, the server rinses the glass with a bit of the next wine.  This is better than when they rinse the glasses with water, as a little water always is left behind and can influence the taste of the wine.  And when they don’t rinse the glasses at all, you may get a bit of the previous wine mixing with your next taste.  In any event, this chardonnay is a mixture of steel and oak fermented wine, so it is not heavily oaked.  Not being fans of oaky chards, we are pleased with this one, which has lots of citrus taste and only a touch of vanilla.  It’s not fruity.

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You can see how small the pour is.

  1. Rosé $22.50

Also seasonal, according to our server, the rosé tends to sell out by the end of summer.  It is composed of 100% cabernet franc, and is made by the saignée method, where the grapes sit on the skins for three days.  This is such a light rosé that we agree one might, if tasting it with eyes closed, not know it was a rosé.  It’s steel fermented and quite dry, with only a faint strawberry aroma and a taste more like raspberry than strawberry.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

All the reds are aged in either French or Hungarian oak, we are told, as our server puts out fresh glasses for the red tasting.  A blend of 85% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon, this is not as complex or deep as one would think given all the ingredients.  However, it is a good merlot, dry and pleasant to drink.  “It’s my after work wine,” notes our server.  Yes, it would be relaxing to sit and sip a glass of this, perhaps with some cheese.

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They have two bars for when the room gets busy.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $35

Yum.  This time I agree with Robert Parker, who has given this wine a score of 90%.  A blend of 96% cabernet franc with 3% cabernet sauvignon and 1% petit verdot, this has fascinating aromas of mushroom, forest, and smoke, plus what our friend describes as “really ripe plums.”  It is delicious, dry at the end with some nice tannins, tasting of over-ripe cherries.  Nicely complex.  If I were here for a music event, this is the wine I would get by the glass.

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You can see how small the bottle is for the Syrah and the Malbec.

  1. 2014 Syrah $34

Syrah is usually blended with other wines, but Clovis Point decided to try bottling it by itself.  Since they didn’t have that much of it, they also decided to use 500 ml. bottles, so that price is quite high.  I insist that it smells like black olives, and my friend adds that it actually smells meaty.  It is dry, tannic, and spicy.  I like it.

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  1. 2014 Malbec $34

Meh.  Another 500ml. bottle, this is a blend of 94% malbec, plus 4% merlot, 1% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% syrah.  It has a nice fruity aroma, but the wine itself is rather light, with no depth.  “Flat,” says my friend.  I add that it lacks body.

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A view of the porch

Reasons to visit:  small winery with a nice room and some good choices; the 2015 chardonnay, the Black Label chardonnay, the 2014 Cabernet Franc; you are the designated driver but you want to taste the wines where the pour is small.

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The grapes are starting to ripen.

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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!

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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