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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Roanoke Vineyards: Sipping and Shopping           August 20, 2017

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

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The view out the door to lovely Love Lane.

Roanoke Vineyards has a tasting room conveniently located on Love Lane in Mattituck, so you can browse the shops before or after your tasting.  The shops include the excellent Love Lane Cheese Shop, the Sweet Shop, a toy store, a yarn store, an art gallery/framing store, a pet accessory store, a dress shop, Orlovsky’s Hardware store, Lombardi’s Market, and several restaurants.  We decided to celebrate having seen a 70% solar eclipse with a wine tasting, while several members of our party (two of whom were too young to drink) cruised the shops.  By the way, although there is parking on Love Lane, there is also ample free parking in the town lot to the west of the street.

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One view of the tasting room.

The tasting room is small but attractive, and is augmented in warm weather by an enclosed patio in the back.  We stood at the bar, which allowed us to chat with the very personable server.  The menu offered two main options:  The Summer Flight, of four wines for $14, or the Special Flight, of three wines for $12.  The three of us decided to share one of each.  The wines from the Special Flight are marked with an *. We also noted that the tasting room sells bottles of wine from two South Fork wineries—Channing Daughters and Wölffer Estates—and Red Hook.  Good to know, since it is sometimes hard to find their wines in stores.

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The back yard patio.

  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc           $26

We started out with this steel fermented white, tart and spicy with some creaminess.  We had an amusing discussion with the server over the aroma of cat pee, which I would also describe as the smell you sometimes get when you have kept flowers in water for too long.  Fortunately, the wine does not taste like the smell.

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  1. *2016 R.V. The Wild     $22

Wild refers to the use of “wild,” or indigenous yeast, or in other words the yeast that just occurs naturally, rather than a purchased yeast.  I would imagine that it takes some courage to do this, since you risk that the wine might not come out well.  Happily, this chardonnay did, with an aroma of gooseberry and a rather nutty taste—as in it tastes like nuts.  We all like it, and our son-in-law buys a bottle to take home.

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  1. 2016 Infinite Possibility $22

This one is also delicious, a blend of 66% chardonnay, 25% sauvignon blanc, 5% viognier and 5% albariño.  We taste pineapple and honeydew in this steel fermented white.  Our relative notes that this is the type of wine, “I could drink all day.”  Perfect summer white.

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  1. *2014 Single Acre Merlot $45

All the grapes for this merlot come from one particular acre, so it has a limited production, and all the pruning, etc., is done by hand.  It has the typical merlot cherry aroma and flavor.  Nice, but not worth a fuss.

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  1. Colorfield   $26

Extra!  Noting my note-taking, and our engagement with the wines, the server says we need to try this one, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot blanc that is not on the menu.  It is light and dry, and, we agree, another wine one could sip “all day.”

  1. 2015 R.V. ARC $34

Arc?  Why?  The server is not sure why this blend of 72% estate cabernet franc and 28% merlot has this name, but by the next wine, we have a theory.  In any event, this is a dry, pleasant red that would go well with burgers.  It has just a touch of cherry taste, plus blackberry and blueberry.

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  1. *2014 Prime Number   $59

Okay, there is a definite theme of mathematic-inspired names.  The server notes that a retired teacher works for the winery, writing copy for the menu and helping come up with names.  We theorize that the teacher must have been a math teacher, and our son-in-law buys a bottle for his father, who is both a retired math teacher and an oenophile.  Perfect!  We decide that he should cellar this wine, which has the types of tannins that make us think it would age well, though now it is “too tight” and “closed.”  A blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot, it had some interesting layers of flavor.  I’d like to taste it in a few years (hint!).

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  1. 2014 R.V. Cabernet Sauvignon   $45

And here’s another wine that we decide would benefit from some aging—and we buy a bottle to store in our cellar.  The aroma is slightly earthy, but mainly plummy, as is the taste.  We tell our companion about how early on so many of the wines out here tasted earthy or barnyard-y, a trait the winemakers seem to have succeeded in ameliorating.

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As you can see from this list, you can buy wines from a number of different wineries at Roanoke’s Love Lane tasting room.

Reasons to visit:  you want to do some shopping on Love Lane and need a respite; The Wild, Infinite Possibility, Prime Number, Cabernet Sauvignon; the ability to buy wines from Channing Daughters, Wölffer Estates, and Red Hook; a pleasantly intimate tasting room.

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Jason’s Vineyard: No, It’s Not a Pirate Ship           June 24, 2017

http://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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Ancient Greek ships, like the Argo, had painted on eyes to help navigate.

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The ship-shaped bar even has a mast and sail, and the ceiling is painted to look like the sky.

Anyone unfamiliar with Greek mythology could be forgiven for thinking, when they sighted the ship-shaped bar, complete with mast and furled sail, that it was supposed to resemble a pirate ship.  However, the design of the bar—and of the ship on the wine labels—is meant to evoke the great ship the Argo, which set off with its crew of heroes, led by Jason, to find the Golden Fleece.  Jason Damianos, the son of the owner of Pindar and Duck Walk, was clearly quite pleased with his namesake hero, and not only designed his bar to resemble the Argo but also named some of his wines after elements of the heroic voyage and opted to raise sheep (golden fleece, get it?) on his property.  Sadly, Jason was killed two years ago in a car accident.  However, the family has continued to own and run his vineyard and his small herd of sheep (plus at least one llama).

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The llama–and the sheep, we were told–had all recently been shorn.

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Jason’s is a fairly large facility, with an expansive outdoor covered porch where a singer was entertaining guests the day we came (but so loudly that we opted to stay inside).  The servers keep track of your tasting by giving you a pile of tokens, taking one away each time they serve a taste.  That works well for large groups, which they do welcome.  The menu offers a flight of five wines for $10.  Since they have thirteen different wines, we decided to do two tastings, one of whites and then another of reds, which we clarified with our server after a bit of discussion.  As we thoughtfully considered each wine, our server became more and more enthusiastic about helping us, pouring a couple of “extras.”  As a result, the only wines we did not try are the two rosés.

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One view of the porch.

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There were no signs about whether or not they allow outside food, so I assume they do.  They also had a small selection of cheeses and crackers in a refrigerated case.  By the way, I only have vintages for a few of the wines.  The menu doesn’t mention them and neither did our server, who whisked most bottles away before I could check.

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The winery building is quite attractive.

  1. Golden Fleece                 $18.95

Apparently, this was a wine Jason meant to be his signature one, a blend of 41% chardonnay, 24% seyval blanc, 21% Cayuga, and 9% vidal blanc.  Noting this unusual collection of grapes, we asked if any of them came from Upstate.  Yes, said our server, she thought the Cayuga did, but wasn’t sure about the rest. However, according to the winery web page the Cayuga is actually grown locally. Tasting it, we were wondering whether this would be a collection of wines we would even want to taste, as it was much too sweet for us.  The menu describes it as “crisp,” but it made me think of candied or canned pears in syrup.  The aroma had combined minerality with floral and cat pee notes, so I was hoping the wine would be more interesting than it proved to be.IMG_3926

  1. Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

I have to say that this had a rather unpleasant smell, like rotting garbage, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  That’s one of the aspects of wine that fascinates me—how the smell and the taste can be so different.  Anyway, this one WAS crisp, and rather nice, dry, with tastes of lemon and mineral.  It would pair well with oysters.

  1. Pinot Blanc $34.95

We liked this one, too. The smell combined a funky, forest-floor element with a metallic scent, and the taste had lots of citrus.  I was thinking blood orange, with end notes of pineapple, and found it mouth-watering.  It would complement spicy food nicely, like maybe a shrimp fra diavolo.

  1. Chardonnay $29.95

In general, I’m not a fan of oaked chardonnays, and this one did not convert me, though it was not too heavily oaked.  As my tasting buddy said, “It’s neither here nor there.”  Aromas of vanilla and almonds, tastes of butterscotch and lemon, and a rather thin mouth feel.  Our server informed us that this was the last of the 2012 vintage, on sale for only $12.95 a bottle, or $100 a case.  A good buy, but not enough to tempt us.

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The servers use these tokens to keep track of how many tastes you get.

  1. White Riesling $27.95

What, we wondered, is a white riesling?  Aren’t all rieslings white?  Our usual server was occupied elsewhere, and the cheerful young lady who poured this one for us had no idea why this one was labeled “white.”  In any event, we dumped most of the glass, as it was unpleasantly sweet.

  1. 2006 Merlot $26.95

The servers rinse your glass with water between tastes, which is nice—except when they don’t dump out all the water.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with scents of cherry, wood, and tobacco and a taste of cherry, though with a somewhat bitter finish.

  1. 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95

The cabernet sauvignon is aged 24 months in new French oak, “unfined and unfiltered,” according to the menu.  Though the aroma is lovely, of black cherry and dark chocolate, the taste is disappointing.  My husband characterizes it as a pizza wine, though I would prefer a nice Chianti. We think it is at the end of its useful life, and so must the winery, since this is also on sale for $100 a case.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

This is our first “extra.”  Our server suggests we compare it to the 05, and is interested to see what we think of it.  Much better!  The aroma has hints of something spicy, like maybe A-1 sauce, and the wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and a taste that reminds me of a dried fruit compote.

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Hercules…and…

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Hercules! The wine is named for this cute pooch.

  1. Hercules $28.95

According to the menu, this is a unique wine, a “late harvest blend of merlot and cabernet.”  “Late harvest” would imply great ripeness and sweetness, and the label calls it a “sweet red.”  However, it is not as sweet as we were afraid it would be, and we actually liked it.  I said it was sweet on top and tart on the bottom, which I know makes no sense, but that was what I felt.  We agreed we’d love to try it with a nice piece of chocolate cake.  Hercules, by the way, is named not just for the great hero who went on the Argo (in addition to his famous twelve labors), but also for Jason Damianos’s dog.  Check out the photo…

  1. Meritage $28.95

Meritage is the North Fork’s version of Bordeaux wines, a blend in this case of merlot, cabernet, malbec, and pinot noir.  Very nice—not surprising, since Jason studied wine-making in France.  It smells pleasantly of sweet dark fruits, and tastes like cherries, other fruits, and some pepper.

  1. 2010 Malbec $28.95

As my Grandma Ruthie would say, “This one beats the bunch.”  Definitely the star of the day, this has a delicious aroma of dark fruit, plums, and chocolate and tastes quite fruity as well, while still being dry.  If we had decided to sit on the porch and listen to the singer, this is the wine I would have chosen to have in my glass.

  1. Dessert Wine $28.95

Yes, that is what it is called on the menu.  Our server offers us this “on me,” she says, having enjoyed serving people who are interested in the wine and not just in “getting drunk.”  Thanks!  At 19.5% alcohol, this is definitely an after-dinner drink, really a Port wine, with its sweetness balanced by dryness.  Quite yummy, it would be pleasant to sip this while cracking walnuts and almonds.

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Some snacks are available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  fun to see the bar shaped like a ship; the pinot blanc and the malbec; the Hercules and the Dessert Wine are good if you’re looking for an after-dinner sweet sipper; you can see—but not feed—the sheep and the llama.

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A portrait of Jason Damianos hangs on the wall. We met him a number of years ago, before he opened the winery, at a shop on Love Lane. We got into a discussion and he told us how excited he was to open his own winery. Nice guy. We were sad to hear he had died.

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Shinn Winery: Sophisticated Rusticity February 19, 2017

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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Away from the Main Road and Sound Avenue wineries, on rural Oregon Road, Shinn’s tasting room is housed in a grey weathered wood building that seems rustic.  However, the wines, the service, and their philosophy are all quite up to date.

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We went there with two small distractions, ages five and two, so my notes are somewhat less detailed than usual, but we enjoyed our visit anyway, highlighted by a nice dish of mixed nuts we ordered, and a small plate of crackers for the little ones we had not (Shinn asks that you not bring in outside food, and has a small menu of their own.).  The resident doggie also came in for a bit of attention.  As we entered, a server asked that one member of our party of four adults not do a tasting, in order to supervise the little ones, but we managed to slip her some sips as we sat at a comfortable table for six.

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Food menu. The mixed nuts were very good.

The last time we came here, also in the winter, it was deserted, but this time it was Presidents’ Weekend and the weather was unseasonably warm, and quite a few people were there.  As a result, we learned that they have an additional tasting area in amongst the stainless-steel vats where they could accommodate the overflow crowd.  When we arrived, there were even some hardy souls sitting outside on their pretty patio area.

 

The first sight you have of the winery is, appropriately enough, the tall windmill which, along with solar panels, provides power to the winery and the attached farmhouse inn.  The owners are very ecologically conscious, and use the “biodynamic” method to grow their grapes, which you can read about on their web site.  Even the dishes used for their snacks are “compostable” and “made from fallen leaves.”

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Windmill

A tasting includes any four wines from their menu for $15.  The three of us made some diverse choices, and we ended up not tasting the wines in the perfect order (as all wineries specify on their menus), so I’ll just list them in the order in which I tasted mine and theirs!  Fortunately, the first thing they put on our table was a nice big bottle of water and some cups, so I was able to cleanse my palate between tastes.  We also tasted their apple brandy and grappa, about which more later.

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  1. 2016 Coalescence          $16

I started with their white blend, a steel-fermented mixture of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and riesling.  The first time I had it I loved it, the second time not so much, but I guess the third time’s the charm, because this time I really enjoyed it.  It is a pleasantly dry white with nice minerality but also a touch of fruity sweetness, most likely from the riesling.  We bought a bottle.

  1. 2010 Sparkling Brut        $40

Our guest opted to start his tasting with this, and given that he has toured the Champagne region of France, I was quite impressed that he liked this.  He said it was like a traditional blanc de blanc, and both toasty and juicy—but not worth the price.

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  1. 2014 Estate Merlot                       $26

My husband chose to do all reds, and started with their merlot, which he said would be “okay with spaghetti.”  It is dry, and, he noted, does not have much fruit.

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  1. 2016 First Fruit                $22

Although this is made from sauvignon blanc grapes, it definitely has a cat pee smell, but also some green apple aromas.  Fortunately, it tastes like green apple, and again is dry and a bit tart.

  1. 2013 Wild Boar Doe       $32

Yes, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of “all five red varietals we grow”—that is, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec.  I’m not sure who ordered this one (I think I was distracted by being asked to admire a “Water Wow” creation.), but we agreed that it definitely has a raspberry smell and is very dry with lots of tannins.  We decided that if one bought it, one should cellar it for a few years.

  1. 2013 Haven       $35

I chose this one from the list of “small production” whites, and it is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes, kept on the skins overnight and then barrel fermented and aged.  As a result, it has a lovely golden color and a taste of vanilla and toast and caramel.  It’s a bit too sweet for me, though I liked it, and I would order it if I was having a spicy dish.

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The Haven is a lovely color. It is named for the field where the grapes are grown.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc      $38

Our guest was so taken with this wine that he bought a bottle to give as a gift to a friend.  It has lots of tannins and some vegetal notes.  My notes say broccoli!  He said it was not earthy, and would benefit from some aging.  My husband also had this one, and said it would be good with lamb, maybe like the delicious marinated lamb roast from Eight Hands Farm we had Sunday night.

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An array of some of our choices.

  1. 2014 Nine Barrels           $32

They make—you guessed it—nine barrels of this wine, which is their reserve merlot.  My husband said it was “not that interesting,” and ventured the opinion that their winemaking was rather “tame.”

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc             $35

For my final taste, I chose another from the “small production” list, a wine that is aged for 11 months in neutral oak barrels.  It has a nice aroma with some vanilla, and is a smooth, pleasant wine with no rough edges.

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  1. Julius Drover Apple Brandy         $55

Shinn has their own distillery where they make several different liquors.  The apple brandy is made from local apples and is aged for four years.  A very small taste is $7, but really, you wouldn’t want too much, as the alcohol hits you right away. 80 proof!  It tastes very like brandy, and not much like apples, but our guest is making a small study of apple brandies and bought a bottle.  Julius Drover, by the way, refers to the owner’s grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger during Prohibition.

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  1. Shinn shine, Grappa                     $47 for 375 ml.

So the brandy was 80 proof, but this is 122 proof!  One of us described it as rubbing alcohol poured through grape skins.  It is powerful.

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They have a few “agritainment” activities.

Reasons to visit:  You want to get away from the main road wineries and try somewhere intimate and laid back; you’re interested in their liquors (in addition to the above, they make an eau de vie and another brandy); the Coalescence, the Cabernet Franc, the Sparkling Brut, the Haven; you want to support their earth-friendly philosophy.

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Resident laid-back pooch.

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Palmer Vineyards: Fun Hanging Out August 20, 2016

http://www.palmervineyards.com/

The entrance to Palmer's tasting room is in the second building on their property.

The entrance to Palmer’s tasting room is in the second building on their property.

Our plans for a garden-setting wine tasting having been scuttled by a completely un-forecast deluge, we decided to head to Palmer Vineyards, which has a cozy tasting room with pub-like booths and an expansive covered veranda.  We settled on the veranda where, our guests were happy to learn, their very well-behaved dog was welcome to join us.  When a singer/guitarist with a folksy sixties-ish repertoire began to play, we settled in for a relaxing afternoon.

We enjoyed his performance.

We enjoyed his performance.

The tasting menu offers four different flights, ranging from $15-$18 for four tastes each.  We (three couples) decided each couple would share first a flight of whites and then a flight of reds.  We gave the flights labeled “Sweet” and “Steel vs. Oak” a pass.  Maybe next time.  They also have a couple of local beers on tap, plus coffee.  My cousin bought a $16 “charcuterie platter” for the table, which was fine but rather meager for the six of us, consisting of a few slices of two different sausages and I believe two different cheeses, plus Carr’s Water Crackers and a few other odds and ends.  Since they don’t allow outside food, I think they could do a better job with their edible offerings.  We didn’t try the “brick oven pizza.”  However, we had an enjoyable afternoon tasting the wines, listening to the music, and chatting about everything.

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The "charcuterie platter" and some whites.

The “charcuterie platter” and some whites.

  1. 2015 Albariῆo   $27.99

The server informs my brother that they are the only vineyard on the North Fork to use this grape, and he may be right.  Albariῆo is one of my go-to wines when I order just a glass of wine, as it is generally fairly dry with good fruit tastes, and this is no exception.  Although there is some disagreement around the table, I find it delicious, with a touch of lemon at the end and tastes of apricot and apple.  It smells like honeysuckle, peach, and minerals.  Having it with a bite of cheese helps smooth out the sourness of the citrus at the end.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

“Great nose,” opines my brother.  “It smells like lantana flower,” says my sister-in-law.  I don’t know what that smells like, unfortunately, but there is definitely a flowery aroma.  The taste is rather orange-y, perhaps like a minneola.  “Just lovely,” says my Canadian cousin-in-law.  “It’s got some strength to it,” says my cousin.  We all agree that this has the best balance of any of the whites, and would be good to sip by itself or with the scallop ceviche my brother and sister-in-law intend to make for dinner.

The bar on the veranda

The bar on the veranda

  1. 2014 Viognier $24.99

Our server (we send a representative to the bar to pick up each round) thinks they are also the only ones to use this grape on the North Fork, but I happen to know at least four or five other vineyards use it.  In any event, this is not a crowd pleaser.  “Not a lot of character on the nose,” asserts my brother.   I smell minerality and not much else.  This is a light dry wine, with some earthiness.  We discuss whether it would be good with the oysters we also plan to pick up, but decide maybe not.

  1. 2015 Pinot Blanc $21.99

We all smell and taste pineapple this time.  Someone smells vanilla, and someone else says the smell is “earthy.”  “Not integrated,” says my brother.  I think it would be better with food, and take a bite of sausage.  Yes, that does improve it.  However, the overall opinion of the whites is “fine, but no home runs.”

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  1. 2014 Syrah $24.99

Syrah is my other wine-by-the-glass standby, and this one is an acceptable version, though not my favorite.  I like syrahs to be bigger and bolder, and this one is a touch thin.  It may need more time to age.  The aroma is sweet, almost like a sherry.  The server told my brother that this spends two years in oak, and they add a bit of viognier to “lighten it up.”  It is lighter than most syrahs, with almost no finish.  You wouldn’t want it with steak, but it might be nice with some Crescent Farms duck breast.

The indoor space is particularly nice in the winter.

The indoor space is particularly nice in the winter.

  1. 2014 Merlot $24.99

As I explain to my guests, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, a generally reliable red.   My brother characterizes this one as “an art opening wine,” and I see what he means.  Not distinguished, but also not offensive, it has some cherry tastes with a medium body and medium tannins.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

Mmm.  The aroma is brambly and peppery and the taste is sweeter and fruitier than expected.  Soft tannins.  We also note some herb and fig tastes.  Yum.  Just then the singer starts “Here Comes the Sun,” and indeed it does appear.  A bachelorette party forms a line on the wet grass with the veiled guest of honor in the middle for a photo shoot.

The bachelorette party organizing for a photo.

The bachelorette party organizing for a photo.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $28.99

Dark figs and earth and peppers with just a “soupçon of paint thinner.”  Not so sure about that last bit!  I like it, and it’s very nice with one of the last bits of cheese, which lends it some creaminess.  It is also a wine one could sip on its own.  My husband thinks it might have needed to breathe longer.  We all agree it is good, and has “the most character.”

Rainy day!

Rainy day!

Our tasting is done, the sun is out, so we leave to take a walk on the beach.

I wonder what the pooch would have said about the nose.

I wonder what the pooch would have said about the nose.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room with cozy booths for the winter time and a breezy veranda for the summer; the sauvignon blanc, the cabernet sauvignon, and the cabernet franc; dogs are allowed on the veranda.

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I like this pattern on the side of the bar.

I like this pattern on the side of the bar.

Shinn Estate Vineyards: Country Road December 20, 2015

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

The Farmhouse B & B

The Farmhouse B & B

As we drove slowly along Oregon Road I began humming “Country roads, take me home…”  We had just paid our first of what I hope will be many visits to the East End Mushroom Company, and two baskets of mushrooms sat in the back seat, awaiting culinary inspiration.  Meanwhile, we were enjoying the bucolic scenery along Oregon Road, on our way back to Shinn’s tasting room after more than a year away.

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I like the cozy rustic look of the tasting room, and today we had it to ourselves for a while, and then later a few other small groups arrived.  No buses are allowed here, and limos or groups of more than six by appointment only, which makes sense, given the small room.  Check out their web site for info on their B and B in the adjoining farmhouse.

But we are here to taste some wine.  The menu offers four wines for $14 out of a menu of 16, plus a few other choices which cost $7 per taste, including their brandy, about which more later.  We decided to do one tasting of whites and another of reds, not sharing tastes because I have a bit of a cold.  I’ll tell you about the whites first, then the reds.  We sit at a small table for two and are served each wine as we choose it.

  1. Sparkling Brut 2012                        $40

Given the festive season, I decided to start with their sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise and fermented in the bottle.  The first pour is from a bottle that has been open and is clearly somewhat flat, so our server quickly opens a fresh bottle.  Ah, nice frothy bubbles!  Typical yeasty aroma, then a nice dry light taste, with good acidity.  I recently learned that acidity is what makes your mouth water, and this one does.  I like it better than Sparkling Pointe’s sparklers.

I liked the glasses.

I liked the glasses.

  1. Coalescence 2014           $16

I liked Coalescence, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a touch of riesling, the first time I had it, then didn’t care for it the second time, and now I have to say third time is not the charm.  Although it has a pleasant aroma of gooseberry and honey, the taste has a funky forest floor edge that does not appeal to me.  Not that it’s bad, and I think it would be nice with a plate of salumi, but it’s just not for me.

  1. Pinot Blanc 2014 $35

I’m happy that the server gives me a new glass, since I don’t want the taste of Coalescence to influence the next one, which turns out to be a happy choice, since I like it very much.  This wine spends eleven months in new oak, we are informed, and it has a bit of that oaky vanilla scent.  However, the taste is quite nice, with some interesting layers of flavor, a bit tingly on the tongue.  It has just a touch of sweetness, especially at the end, and is sippable on its own, but would be even better with some Catapano goat cheese.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

An explanation of the sherry and their label.

  1. Veil “Sherry” 2009 $48 (for a small bottle)

Why is sherry in quotation marks, I wonder?  Because it is not fortified, they can’t actually call it a sherry, we are told.  However, it does taste very like a medium dry sherry and smells like sherry, too.  Made from late harvest savoy, sauvignon blanc, and semillon grapes, it is fermented for so long that a “veil” forms on the top of the wine, hence the other part of the name.  19% alcohol, this would make a great aperitif.  I would drink it!  It has tastes of baked pear and a bit of oak, and would be perfect with some toasted almonds or manchego cheese.

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  1. Estate Merlot 2012       $26

My husband admires the beautiful dark color of the wine, which seems to be typical of all their reds.  Not much aroma, he says, and a spicy tart taste, ending with black cherry.  Somewhat mono dimensional, he adds, with not much tannin and over the top on acid.  (Acid does not mean bad, remember!)

  1. Estate Merlot 2009 $32

Always fun to compare different vintages of the same grape, we say, and our server agrees.  This merlot has more aroma than the 2012, with some notes of forest and wood, plus sweet cherry, with more tannin and less acid.  It would be good with a meat that was not too flavorful, like a filet mignon.

  1. Wild Boar Doe 2012 $32

Say the second two words quickly and you’ll get the joke.  Yes, this is a Bordeaux blend, of 40% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in oak for 20 months.  When my tasting buddy sniffs, he says he smells toast, which must come from the oak aging, plus some fruit.  Again, it has a beautiful dark color, but, he adds, it lacks gravitas.  If you compare it with a French Bordeaux, he says, you’ll say the French is better, but there’s nothing wrong with this.  It would pair well with a veal chop, since it does not have too much acid or body.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $40

This has just been released, we are told, and again, this is a pleasant if not complex wine.  There’s “more at the end,” my husband notes, than the other reds.  Overall, I think the whites fare better than the reds.

The brandy

The brandy

  1. Julius Drover Alembic Brandy $75

We have some discussion about this additional taste ($7), since there are several “hard” liquor options to try, and settle on this brandy.  It is named for owner David Page’s maternal grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger in Wisconsin during Prohibition.  Since it is 86 proof, we are perfectly happy with the very small taste, which I give my companion first.  Mmm, mellow.  Smells like brandy, with some vegetable and wood aromas.  Dried fruit taste.  Warms the cockles (whatever those are) I say.  Doesn’t bite you back, says my pal.

Another view of the room

Another view of the room

Reasons to visit:  a chance to drive down a country road; the Sparkling Brut, Pinot Blanc, Wild Boar Doe, Veil “Sherry,” and Julius Drover Alembic Brandy; a winery that is quiet and relaxing; their use of wind and solar power and biodynamic farming (check out their web site for details); the chance to taste some types of drinks not made in other places, like the brandy, eau de vie, and “sherry.”  And do stop and get some mushrooms from East End Mushroom Company on Cox Lane: http://www.theeastendmushroomcompany.com/ .

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they'll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Stop in to East End Mushroom and they’ll tell you all about how they grow their shrooms.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

Signs like these line the walls of the tasting room.

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Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

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The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

Waters Crest: A Learning Experience October 18, 2015

http://www.waterscrestwinery.com/

One view of the cozy tasting room

One view of the cozy tasting room

“This was a great year for whites, but probably not for reds,” opined our enthusiastic and knowledgeable server, Adam, at Waters Crest winery, one of the semi-hidden gems of the North Fork.  I love to listen to people talk about something they are passionate about, and Adam certainly fit that description.  Though he is working for Waters Crest at the moment, he hopes someday to have his own winery, and meanwhile the good part about working for a small place like this is “you get to do everything.” The good part for those of us who are curious about various aspects of wine making is that the servers here have always been able to do a great job of answering our questions.

Though you can see the wine-making facility through a window in the tasting room, you may wonder where the vines are.  Jim Waters buys his grapes from local North Fork vineyards, then makes the wines himself.  When we first arrived we had the room to ourselves, but then a couple of small groups came in, all clearly regular customers who knew exactly what they wanted, including which cheese from the small refrigerator to get and which pizza they wanted heated up.

The tasting room is hidden in a strip of stores off Sound Avenue, with the entrance on Cox Lane, just to make finding it even harder, but they hope to soon have a spot on the Main Road, which will be great.  We have been a fan of this tiny place ever since our first visit, as the wines tend to be both tasty and interesting.  The room is small, but newly furnished with comfortable leather stools and chairs.  The tasting menu offers all seven of their wines for $15, and so we opted to share a tasting.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $25.99

“We treat this more like a Sancerre,” noted Adam, using cold fermentation and no oak.  The aroma is quite floral, with notes of pineapple and lemon, which also describes the taste.  As is often the case with this grape, it would be perfect with local oysters.

Two of the whites

Two of the whites

  1. 2013 Pinot Blanc $24.99

What is “indigenous yeast” and how does it work?  If you want to know, ask Adam! Most winemakers will treat their grapes with SO2 when they come in from the field in order to kill off the naturally occurring yeasts so that they can then introduce the yeasts they have bought, thus controlling the effect of the yeast.  With this pinot blanc (and also, as we discussed, Channing Daughters’ L’Enfant Sauvage and Roanoke’s The Wild!) the natural yeasts were allowed to stay on, which also meant that fermentation took longer.  The wine was fermented mostly in steel, with just a touch of oak.  The result?  Lovely.  Aromas of green apple and minerals, with a touch of funkiness preceded a taste of tart green apple and pear salad, with some nice minerality.

  1. 2013 Dry Riesling $24.99

Dry?  Bone dry!  This wine is made with grapes from upstate, from Gold Seal Vineyards, but it is not at all sweet.  .025 residual sugar, says Adam.  Interesting flavor, with notes of citrus and stone and a touch of funkiness.  Unlike most rieslings, which I would choose to have with spicy food, this would go better with duck, sausage, or, suggests Adam, knockwurst.  Good call.

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay $23.99

After a time of steel fermentation, this gets six months in new French oak, so it is not too buttery.  You do get some typical butterscotch flavors, along with lemon and other citrus.  Good, a not untypical chard.

  1. 2012 Red Blend $19.99

The mixture of 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc is blended in the bottle after being independently fermented.  This has my favorite label, inspired by the famous painting by Charles Demuth which was inspired by his friend William Carlos Williams’s poem “The great number 5.”  The aroma is typically cherry, like a merlot, and so is the taste.  It is fairly dry, and the tasting notes suggest some rhubarb in the flavor.  In any event, it is a good barbeque wine, and would be great with burgers.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

The lineup so far, with the Charles Demuth-inspired label on the far right.

  1. 2008 Cabernet Franc $39.99

“Now you can see how our wines age,” notes Adam.  “The tannins have fallen off.”  This has a very distinct taste, combining black pepper, tobacco, and smoke with the fruit flavors, and is balanced and mellow.  I start to say roast chicken, and then we agree it would be great with lamb.  The 08 is almost all gone, as they found a few cases forgotten in the warehouse!

  1. 2010 Merlot Grand Vin $59.99

After three days on the skins (which is fairly long) the wine spends two years in new French oak.  It was worth waiting for!  2010 was a great year for reds on the North Fork, and this one, which garnered 90 points in Wine Spectator, is excellent, with lots of tannins, black cherry , and a delicious aroma.  It could stand up to a good steak.

Nice color

Nice color

  1. 2010 and 2007 Campania Rosso $56 for the ‘07

If you’re counting, you know we should be done, but as a reward for our intense interest in the wines, Adam gives us small tastes of two Bordeaux blends from two different years just to show what else they can do.  These are Right Bank blends of mostly merlot, plus cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  Though the only difference in the wines is how long they have aged and the year of harvest, they are quite different.  The 2010 is dark red, while the ’07 is more of a garnet color.  The ’10 is really good, with tannins which finally make sense to me of the term “chewy tannins” and lots of layers of flavors.  The ’07 is almost over the hill, with asparagus in the aroma and a lack of depth.   Though it is not bad, I would definitely choose the ’10, and drink it soon!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Our bonus tastes. It pays to be serious about your tasting!

Reasons to visit:  a chance to talk to knowledgeable servers (one time it was Jim Waters himself) and learn all about the wines; the Pinot Blanc, the Red Blend, the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot Grand Vin, the 2010 Campania Rosso; no crowds on a busy weekend (though this may change once they move to a more public spot).

wa outside

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

http://premiumwinegroup.com/

http://liebcellars.com/

http://bridgelanewine.com/

lieb entrance

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

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

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

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

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

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

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

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Merlot                               $16

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

  1. *NV Rumor Mill Hard Cider $9

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

lieb white

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Chardonnay $15

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

They can't call it champagne...

They can’t call it champagne…

  1. *2010 Lieb Cellars Blanc de Blanc $30

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

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend $16

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

  1. *2014 Lieb Pinot Blanc $22

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

The rose sure looks pretty.

The rose sure looks pretty.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Rosé                 $18

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

lieb red

  1. *2013 Reserve Merlot $24

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

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Red Blend $16

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

  1. *2013 Lieb Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

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

lieb board

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

lieb array

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

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