Lenz Winery: A Touch of Paris March 29, 2019

https://lenzwine.com/

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As our server explained a couple of times, the winemaker at Lenz likes the French style; hence their pinot gris, not pinot grigio, for example. But they recently changed their winemaker, so it will be interesting to check back in a couple of years and see if the wines are any different.

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The vines are still bare, but we’ve seen a few signs of spring on the North Fork: robins on the lawn, rolled up snow fences in the fields, signs promising to open soon.

On this gray, drizzly late March day there was only one other group at the winery, so we were able to have a nice chat with the very well-informed server, who seemed to have a real appreciation for the wines.  Because she had to open fresh bottles for us, she carefully sniffed a small portion of each one before she poured, actually rejecting one bottle as not quite right.

The attractively barn-like tasting room has plenty of room for groups, and a small selection of wine-themed gifts, as well as local art for purchase.  They offer a Catapano cheese tray, and, though they currently allow you to bring in snacks, they may expand their food offerings in the future and limit outside foods, so check their web site before you go.  My husband thinks it is amusing that a couple of lower beams have signs warning “Please Watch Your Head!,” a feat he deems impossible without a mirror.  And that was before we had a drink.

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As we sipped and chatted, we discussed the changeover at many wineries from cork to screw top.  Screw tops have several advantages over corks, although, as our server explained to us, if you use a top end supplier, as many NoFo wineries do, they’re actually not all that much cheaper. However, there is less chance for a wine to become “corked,” among other problems.  On the other hand, if you have a wine you want to age, aging happens more quickly with the breathability of a cork.

On the menu are three options: Library, of their highest end wines, $15 per taste or $20 for two; Estate, five of their middle label wines for $16; or Premium, five of their higher end wines for $20.  Since Lenz is one of the older wineries on the North Fork, first established in 1978, they can label some wines “Old Vines” without exaggeration.  Though many of their wines are reasonably priced, the price tags on some of the Library wines gave us pause.  $125?  Wow.  I don’t know whether they’re worth that much, and I also haven’t tried them!

We opted for the Estate flight.

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  1. 2014 Pinot Gris               $25

We liked this French style expression of the grape, with its aromas of yeast and citrus and tastes of kumquat or mandarin orange.  My tasting buddy said it has a creamy mouth feel.

  1. 2014 White Label Chardonnay $15

One reason we picked this flight was because the Premium flight featured an oaked chard, and though I have had oaked chards that were unobjectionable, in general I prefer steel fermented.  This one is steel fermented, but has a small amount—about 5%–of oaked chard added “to soften” it.  We liked this wine, too.  The aroma includes lemon and a touch of cedar, and the taste is mildly lemony, like a Meyer lemon, plus a little pear.  We are a bit short on whites in the cellar, so we decide to buy two bottles of this one.

  1. 2016 Blanc de Noir $24

This rosé is made from 100% pinot noir (hence the name, though I bet someone thought it was amusing to call this “white of black”), and is left on the skins for just three and a half hours.  Again, this is a French style rosé, so quite dry, with the expected aroma of strawberries, though also quite minerally.  Like a bunch of sliced strawberries without added sugar, perhaps early in the season before they get very sweet and fruity.

  1. 2014 Estate Selection Cabernet Sauvignon $35

Our server explains that they make the Estate Selection wines from the better vintages.  This is a “typical Long Island cab,” she adds, “lighter, less tannic, fruit driven.”  I’d agree.  I really like the smell, which has lots of berry and cherry.  It tastes like plums, and is pleasant, but rather monochromatic, I tell my husband, just as he turns to me and opines that it is “not complex.”  So we are in agreement.

  1. 2014 Estate Selection Merlot $35

Although it is called merlot, our server informs us that it is 10-20% cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.  There’s a touch of the earthiness you find sometimes in NoFo merlots, which I don’t care for.  Although the wine is not bad, I like it the least of the ones we’ve tasted.  It does have that black cherry taste of merlot.  I think it might do better if it ages a while longer.  My husband says it “lacks gravitas,” one of his favorite phrases recently.  I could see having it with lamb chops.

Reasons to visit:  a good-sized tasting room whether you are with a group or just a couple, with an outdoor area for summer seating; small selection of gift items and local art for sale; the Pinot Gris and the White Label Chardonnay; they have some serious wines.

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We admired the chalk drawings, and were told that a local woman, named Patty, does them, changing them with the seasons.

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Laurel Lake: Chile But Not Chilly November 18, 2018

Laurel Lake:  Chile But Not Chilly               November 18, 2018

www.llwines.com

The weather outside was chilly, and the winemaker is from Chile, but our welcome was quite warm when we walked into the Laurel Lake tasting room on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Our server, Maureen, recognized us from previous visits—especially the notebook—and had time to chat with us, exchanging bits of wine country gossip.  She also introduced us to the charming Chilean winemaker, Juan Sepúlveda, who was pleased to discuss his wines with us.

 As we stood at the bar, we noticed that behind us a large party was happily sharing a meal and some bottles of wine, and another group was out on the enclosed porch.  One of those groups was a club of classic Cadillac owners, whose cars were lined up in the parking lot. Maureen told us that they also host a group of Corvette owners who come once a year, and we remembered one time when we had thought to stop in but found the parking lot filled with Corvettes. Now we knew why.

All of these Cadiallacs were not in the parking lot by coincidence.

 The last time we were here it was a warm day in September,and the food truck was in operation. However, the winery is coping with Southold Town’s crackdown on food trucks, so now if you want food they will order it for you from CJ’s restaurant, just down the street in the Mattituck shopping center. 

A standard tasting consists of four wines for $16, and we decided to share a tasting, which means we could go back and do another tasting and have all different wines.  We were, however, perfectly happy with our choices.

  1.  2016Pinot Gris               $22.99                                                                               I smell citrus and flowers.  The wine tastes fruitier than some pinot gris(a.k.a. pinot grigio), but still dry and light. It is soft and tasty enough to sip on its own. 
  2. 2017Sauvignon Blanc                 $22.99

This is another light white, dry and citrusy, and, like most North Fork sauvignon blancs, would go well with oysters.  We had thought to taste the gewürztraminer, but Maureen warned us that we might find it too sweet.  She also mentioned that their best-selling white is the somewhat sweet riesling, which is why they keep a supply next to the cash register.

They keep a supply of their best seller–the reisling–next to the cash register.

3.  2014 Merlot Estate         $21.99

I feel that if there is a merlot, one should try it, since it is such a basic North Fork red.  The aroma combines the expected cherry plus a touch of smokiness.  This is a relatively light merlot, with tastes of cherry, prunes, and vanilla.  Relatively simple, it is a good burger wine.

4. 2012Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve          $28.99

Aged in French oak, this had a lovely fruity aroma and taste, with a long finish and some complexity.  It has enough tannins that I think you could age it a bit longer, and it could stand up to a nice steak.  Very drinkable, we conclude.

5.  2013 Meritage                 ($59.99on the menu for the 2010)

I know, the menu says four tastes, but once again the book and our seriousness get us an extra.  The Meritage is a combination of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, sangiovese, and syrah, and she pours our taste out of an unlabeled bottle because officially the wine is still in the barrel.  Wow.  My notes characterize the aroma as “yummy.”  I taste lots of fruit, some nutmeg, and cassis.  Lots of tannins.  It is worth the price, especially if you keepit for a few years, but we are currently not in the market for a fancy red.

This is their most expensive wine, and no, they are not pouring tastes of it!

Reasons to visit:  Pleasant tasting room, and lovely outdoor area in the summer; we liked all the wines, but especially the pinot gris and the cabernet sauvignon reserve; the chance to chat with the winemaker if he is around; dogs are allowed in the outdoor area; small but amusing selection of wine-related gifts.:

They have a small selection of wine-related gifts.
This was my favorite one.
You can see the porch off to the side, and in addition in warm weather there’s a shaded outdoor area.

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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Laurel Lake:  A Festive Day          September 23, 2017

http://www.llwines.com/

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The winery building is quite pretty.

We had been to the Greenport Maritime Festival, where we watched pint-size mermaids parade and cruised past booths offering art, food, lavender, and more.  Now it was time to continue the festive mood by bringing our guests to a winery, and we decided on Laurel Lake, which we had not been to in more than a year.  One reason we hadn’t been there sooner was that the last time we tried to go they were about to close for a wedding.  This time they were also going to close for a wedding, but we had more than an hour for our tasting, so in we went.

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The tent was being prepared for a wedding party.

The tasting room is pleasant, with an antique bar at one end and plenty of tables, all of which were empty.  We opined that everyone on the North Fork was probably at the Greenport Festival or apple picking at Harbes.  Then the server behind the bar suggested we seat ourselves near the outside bar, where we had never been.  Out we went, to find long tables in the shade, a few more customers, and a very genial server who timed his visits to our table perfectly.  A look at the attractively rustic setting made it clear why people favor Laurel Lake as a wedding venue.  A food truck run by CJ’s restaurant was parked near us, but we had already had lunch in Greenport.

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There is a food truck on the premises, so they request that you not bring your own food.

Laurel Lake offers an extensive menu, of seven whites and nine reds, and a tasting consists of four tastes for $15.  By some judicious selecting and sharing, our group of six was able to taste many of the offerings.  Each couple shared a tasting, and then we gave each other sips.  Overall, we tended to prefer the whites to the reds, but the reds do have the advantage, rare on the North Fork, of being mostly reasonably priced.  One nice touch—our server brought us clean glasses for each taste.  That’s such a great idea.  So often they either pour the next taste right into your glass, where it may be affected by the previous wine, or they rinse it with water, which runs the risk of wine that tastes like chlorine.  One other clever method is when they rinse your glass with a few drops of the next taste, though that seems a tad wasteful to me.  I hate to see wine being poured into a dump bucket!

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The tasting room.

  1. 2016 Pinot Gris              $22.99

We hadn’t yet settled on a sharing method, so two of us ordered this.  I tend to like pinot gris (a.k.a. pinot grigio), and this one was no exception.  It smells a bit like pineapple juice, and tastes a bit like it, too. It is tart, with notes of mineral and salt.  Our daughter-in-law, who is good at thinking about wine and food pairings, thought it would go well with something made with capers.  How about smoked salmon with capers, we asked.  Yes.  Very buyable.

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They give you a good-sized pour, so all six of us could share tastes.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $23.99

Their oak aged chard, this has the expected aromas of vanilla and wood or caramel, with some citrus flavors.  Interestingly, this one also tasted of pineapple, but in this case of very ripe pineapple.  Food pairing?  How about pork with pineapple.

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The outside bar.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $22.99

This new release is light, crisp, and lemony, with some tastes of grilled peaches.  A nice summer wine, it might pair well with a salad with grilled peaches.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $22.99

Our server informed us that this is their “third sweetest white.”  Though I am not a fan of sweet wines, this one is well-balanced enough that, with, let us say, spicy Thai food, it would be fine.  I smell flowers and something metallic, and taste oranges.

  1. Moscato Sparkling $24.99

One member of our group prefers sweet wines to dry, and he was very pleased with this sparkler.  It is sweet, with strawberry and melon tastes and a candy-like aroma.  Perhaps one could drink it with a chocolate soufflé?

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  1. Wind Song Red $17.99

Fair warning—we are told this is their sweetest red.  Our server explains that they make it by blending all the leftovers from other wines, and it has no vintage because it could contain juice from various years.  I would say this was not a successful blend, as it has a somewhat medicinal taste, like Cheracol cough syrup.

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  1. 2013 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

Another newly bottled release, this was aged in used oak barrels, so it does not have the flavors you get from oak.  Some say the nice aspect of this is you get the pure taste of the grape.  We find it rather flat and one-dimensional, though not unpleasant.  Perhaps one could drink this with molé, as it is a light red.  Not caring for this or the previous red, our guests try their own blend, mixing the two.  Not a success.

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My favorite of these was the Syrah.

  1. 2012 Merlot Estate $19.99

Better.  Whew.  A pretty typical oak-aged merlot, with cherry aromas and taste and some tannins.

  1. 2013 Syrah $19.99

Two-thirds of us agree that we like this one.  It has tastes of plums, pepper, and nutmeg, plus some nice tannins.  Someone suggested pairing it with moussaka.  Sounds good to me.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

Interestingly, this is aged in steel.  It is an easy to drink, fresh-tasting pizza wine, with soft tannins, and fruity aromas and tastes.

  1. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $25.99

As the afternoon progressed, our server became more and more chatty, and he described the interesting method used to make this wine.  They take two-thirds of the cab sauv to make rosé, and they take the skins from that plus the rest of the grapes to make this wine, which is then aged in used oak.  It has a “dark richness,” said someone, not sure who.  It is dry, not as fruity as you might expect given how it is made, with some nice tannins.  I wonder how it would age.

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They have a small selection of wine-related gift items.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting, inside and out; the Pinot Gris, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Syrah, the Cabernet Sauvignon; reasonably priced wines for Long Island, especially the reds; food truck.

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Our server did a good job of explaining each wine.

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The top floor of the two-level outdoor area.

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Mermaids on parade!

Lenz Winery: A Matter of Style December 4, 2016

http://www.lenzwine.com/Home.htm

In warmer weather, this courtyard might be a nice place to relax.

In warmer weather, this courtyard might be a nice place to relax.

“Eric,” said our server, referring to Eric Fry, the winemaker for Lenz, “prefers a more austere style, with salty minerality.”  We agree.  If you want to understand the difference a winemaker’s choices can make, then you should definitely include Lenz in your tastings.  For example, back in October we tasted Pugliese’s 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature, a rosé made from pinot noir grapes, and at Lenz we tasted their 2014 Blanc de Noir, also made from pinot noir grapes.  Of course, they are different vintages, but look at the difference in taste:  my notes for Pugliese (just down the street from Lenz) note a vegetable taste and aroma, while my notes for Lenz highlight a smell of minerals and salt and mushed up fruit and a taste of red grapefruit.  Same grape, same “terroir,” different winemakers, different tastes.  Both, I might add, quite good.

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The Lenz tasting room is in an attractive wooden building with a long bar along one side and a nice array of wine-related gifts and art for sale along the other sides.  They have room for tables, but don’t have any, which might be a good addition, though I did note some picnic tables in the courtyard.  On this sunny winter Sunday, there were several small groups and couples at the bar, tasting the wines, chatting, and listening to the soft jazz and pop music on the sound system.  I heard Frank Sinatra, among others.

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Some of their gift options

Some of their gift options

The tasting menu features an Estate tasting of five wines for $12 or a Premium tasting of five of their better wines for $15, plus a few additional wines available for individual tastes, such as their sparkling wine and the rosé.  Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable server suggested that he could also do an all white and/or all red tasting for us, and we decided that it would be perfect to share an all white and then an all red tasting.  Together the two were $27.

Pretty color, too.

Pretty color, too.

  1. 2014 Blanc de Noir Rosé               $24

As I noted above, we smelled a salty minerality plus mushed up fruit (a description I’m sticking to, even if that’s not a “wine word”) and agreed that this is a very dry, French-style rosé with nice acidity and a citrusy taste like red grapefruit.  Though you wouldn’t want to sip it on its own, it would be a very nice summer aperitif with a cheese tray, especially if you had some brie and creamy goat cheese on it, perhaps from Catapano.

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  1. 2012 Pinot Gris $25

Our server describes the style of this white as “Alsatian, with no residual sugar.”  I get the idea of austere here also, as this is a very dry wine with a vegetal aroma and an almost cabbage-y taste.  My husband compares it to Brussels sprouts, one of his favorite vegetables.  Again, though not a sipping wine, this would go well with certain foods, such as a charcuterie platter.  Nice acidity.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Gewürztraminer $30

And now, as they say, for something completely different.  2010 was a hot dry year, and, according to our server, a good year for gewürztraminer.  He may be onto something.  This is a delicious wine, with lots of aromas including lychees in syrup and tropical fruits.  This is again a dry wine, though gewürztraminers are often somewhat sweet, and it has some sweetness and a taste like roasted pear.  I observe that it would be perfect with turkey, and then flash on a memory of a number of years ago when we came to Lenz in order to buy several bottles of their gewürztraminer for Thanksgiving.

You can buy hand-decorated bottles to bring to a friend's house.

You can buy hand-decorated bottles to bring to a friend’s house.

  1. 2013 White Label Chardonnay $15

Two years ago when we came here we bought a couple of bottles of their White Label Chard, which was $15 then, so it is quite the bargain now.  This is a steel-fermented chard, with an almost candy-like aroma and a dry, crisp, gooseberry taste, with a touch of pineapple.  You could sip this with or without food, and it would go with any white-wine friendly dish.

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  1. 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30

When Lenz says “old vines,” they’re not kidding, as they first planted their grapes in 1978, which makes them practically ancient by Long Island standards.  Our server says that Eric wants you to “taste the year,” so ages the wine in neutral oak barrels.  This is a good chardonnay to give someone who thinks they don’t like chardonnay, as it is a lovely wine.  The aroma is of peaches with some vanilla, and the taste is crisp and dry with just a bit of sweetness and a taste of not-quite-ripe pear.

Lovely dark color

Lovely dark color

  1. 2013 Estate Selection Malbec $40

We get a fresh glass and switch to the reds.  This is a “pre-release” wine, not yet on the tasting menu.  Lots of wineries use Malbec in their blends, but not as many use it by itself.  The label notes it is “unfined and unfiltered,” as are several of their reds, which goes along with the philosophy on their website of trying not to interfere too much with the natural process of turning grapes into wine.  We smell lots of fruit aromas plus an undercurrent of something my husband describes as medicinal and I think of as Band-aids.  Mouth-watering taste, with lots of tannins, dry, with dark ripe prune plum taste.  Their tasting notes say chocolate, but I’m not getting that.  Yum.  Interesting wine.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

Now I get chocolate—this one smells like those chocolate-covered cherries.  This is also good, with lots of dark fruit tastes and a nice acidity that would complement lamb very well.  The tasting menu mentions cedar, and my tasting buddy objects, “I hate eating cedar.”  Ha.  I do get some woodiness.  Not complex, but good enough that if we had room in our cellar we would buy some to hold for a couple of years.

Unlike some places, the labels actually give you information about the wine.

Unlike some places, the labels actually give you information about the wine.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50

This one also could use some aging, though it is already very good, with a slightly funky aroma that is mostly of red fruit.  As we sip we note a complexity, with layers of flavors, including raspberry and other dark fruits.  2010 was a good year for reds, and this one is no exception.

  1. 2012 Estate Selection Merlot $30

Though this is mostly merlot, it also has some cabernet franc and malbec and petit verdot in it.  We get the typical cherry aroma and taste of Long Island merlots.  Judging by the tannins, we think this could also age well.  Good.

  1. 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65

Always fun to taste the same grape from different years to see how they compare.  Our server enthuses that the ’93 and ’97 merlots are still very good, noting that this one should also age well.  “Don’t drink it right away,” he warns, if you buy it.  We don’t—not convinced it is worth the price—but I think it would be hard to resist drinking it sooner than later, as it is another winner.  Aromas and tastes of chocolate and cherry and tobacco greet us, but it is not a “fruit bomb.”  Nicely dry.

You can see some of the paintings for sale, and also a sign on the beam that never fails to amuse my husband.

You can see some of the paintings for sale, and also a sign on the beam that never fails to amuse my husband.

Reasons to visit:  a nicer than usual selection of gifts, including original paintings; a lovely calm setting and knowledgeable and enthusiastic servers; all the wines if you like them dry, but especially the Old Vines Gewürztraminer, the Old Vines Chardonnay, the Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Old Vines Merlot. 

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You can enter and exit the courtyard through this tunnel--or go around it!

You can enter and exit the courtyard through this tunnel–or go around it!

That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs...

That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs…

Osprey’s Dominion: Attention Was Paid June 10, 2016

https://ospreysdominion.com/

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One of the three servers who were quick to wait on us.

One of the three servers who were quick to wait on us.

“Have you decided which wine you want to start your tasting with?” we were asked by the third server in about 10 minutes as we studied the lengthy menu.  We had not, though we welcomed the attention because on our last two visits we had felt rather neglected.   This time the tasting room was practically empty, most likely because we had decided to come on a Friday rather than a weekend day.  The last time we tried to come to Osprey’s we couldn’t even find a place to park.

The large airy tasting room

The large airy tasting room

It’s not hard to see why Osprey’s is popular.  The tasting room is large and airy, with ample outdoor seating where you can bring a picnic or buy a snack from their limited menu. Mellow music of the Frank Sinatra type was on the sound system, but they often have live music.  In fact, for the summer they have live music on Friday nights from 5-8, and they suggest you “pack your dinner or snack.”  In addition, they offer many different wines at reasonable prices with varying taste profiles.  The tasting menu lists ten whites, nine reds, and five “reserve” wines.  A flight consists of three tastes for $8 or five for $12.  We decided to do two consecutive tastings, one of whites and then one of reds, of five tastes each.

Line up of bottles on the bar

Line up of bottles on the bar

Though the servers were pleasant and attentive, they offered only minimal comments on the wines, even when we engaged them in conversation, though one of them had more extensive discussions with us about wine preferences.  We did get some help on where to start our tasting, since we wanted to try the Pinot Gris from the Reserve menu.  She advised we start there, so we did, and she was correct.

  1. 2014 Pinot Gris Reserve               $20

The aroma is lovely and flowery, like honeysuckle and orange blossom.  We taste crisp pineapple and tangerine.  The menu informs us that the wine is aged six months “sur lies,” so we expect a bit more depth, but this is a light wine and an easy summer sipper.  (Sur lies—or lees—means the wine sits on the sediment that falls out of the juice, I’ve been told, and should lead to a more complex taste.)  It was a good place to start our tasting.

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  1. 2014 Fumé Blanc $15

This is actually 100% sauvignon blanc, fermented in oak, so you get that vanilla aroma from the wood.  I also taste a bit of vanilla.  Again, this is a light white, with less of the citrus you get from a steel-fermented sauvignon blanc.

  1. 2014 “White Flight” Edelzwicker    $15

I’m not sure why the menu calls this White Flight, but I bet it’s so that people don’t have to try to pronounce Edelzwicker!  In any event, people should try this blend of 87% pinot gris, 8% gewürztraminer, and 5% riesling.  The menu describes it as an Alsatian blend; I describe it as delicious.  The aroma includes bread dough or yeast and spice—perhaps nutmeg.  The wine has all sorts of interesting flavors, with nice fruit and just a slight touch of sweetness.  In need of whites for summer meals, we buy two bottles.

  1. 2012 Gewürztraminer    $17

Although our server describes this wine as dry, I find it a bit sweet for me, though that sweetness would make it a good match for spicy food.  The aroma is intriguing, and after saying apple, ginger, and “heavy,” we settle on apple cider doughnut.  The taste is quite fruity, and not exactly what we expected in a gewürztraminer.

  1. Cuvée Osprey Sparkling    $25

For our last white we decide to try their sparkling wine, made from 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir, using the “Méthode Champenoise,” and served in a proper champagne flute.  “Candy wine,” says my husband.  I agree.  Dump.

They were excited about their new sparkler. We were not.

They were excited about their new sparkler. We were not.

 

  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend     $12

We get a clean glass for the reds, and I clear my palate with some crackers sitting in a basket on the bar.  42% cabernet sauvignon, 11% pinot noir, 26% cabernet franc, and 23% merlot:  in other words, a Left Bank Bordeaux blend.  We’re always on the lookout for inexpensive reds for our frequent pasta dinners, so we decide to begin our red tasting by trying one of their line of less-expensive wines.   It smells good, of dark fruits and plums, and tastes quite nice, too.  I would buy this one, though I have to say it has no depth or tannins.  Still, it is a pleasant sipper and would go with a simple pasta dinner, and is quite a bargain for Long Island reds–and I do like to support the local wineries!

It's a measured pour.

It’s a measured pour.

  1. 2010 Cabernet Franc    $20

Like many Long Island wines, this one blends merlot with the dominant grape, in this case 88% cabernet franc plus 12% merlot.  The aroma combines spice, pepper, and a mellow tobacco, and the taste has lots of dark fruits plus a touch of black olive.  It would go well with, for example, lamb chops with fresh herbs.

  1. 2012 Carménère  $24

We get another clean glass to try this wine, the only Carménère on the North Fork.  I’m always interested to try new tastes.  2012 was a pretty good year, and this is a pretty good wine.  The menu describes it as “jammy”;  though I’m not sure I agree, it is a rich red with some nice tannins that could stand up to steak.

  1. 2012 Malbec    $24

So here is a perfect illustration of the necessity of trying different vintages.  The last time we were at Osprey’s in February of 2015 we bought two bottles of the 2010 Malbec, which we quite enjoyed.  This time, though the wine is not bad, we are not moved to buy it.  It has nice blueberry and pepper aromas and is a pleasantly dry red, but lacks the depth of the 2010.

  1. 2012 Petite Verdot    $35

Even though Petite (or often petit) Verdot is most often used as a part of a blend, I find I tend to like it by itself.  It has a beautiful dark color and tends to be fruity and jammy and big.  This one does not disappoint, though I think it might get better with age, as it is mouth-puckering dry.  (I know, I don’t like sweet wines; now I’m complaining about dry.  As the Greeks say, moderation in all things.)

Nice day for sitting outside.

Nice day for sitting outside.

Reasons to visit:  wide variety of wines at reasonable prices; large pleasant tasting room and outdoor area; the Edelzwicker, the Gewürztraminer, the Cabernet Franc, the Carménère, the Petite Verdot; small selection of wine-related gifts; Friday night live music and BYO food.  However, be aware that in season on the weekends it can get very crowded.

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Roses are in bloom all around the grounds.

Roses are in bloom all around the grounds.

Laurel Lake: The Personal Touch May 14, 2016

http://www.llwines.com/

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Juan sat down next to us at the bar and explained his ideas about winemaking.  Although there were several large groups at Laurel Lake, and Juan was actively helping to serve them, he and the servers behind the bar also took the time to answer our questions and solicit our opinions about the wines—which were largely favorable except for one, which I will discuss later.  Introduced to us as “our winemaker from Chile,” Juan told us that he enjoys talking to customers and finding out what they do and do not like about his wines.  “The wines reflect the personality of the winemaker,” he told us, including whether the winemaker is a man or a woman.  If so, then Laurel Lake’s wines should be outgoing and friendly and easy to like.

The main tasting room manages to be both spacious and cozy.

The main tasting room manages to be both spacious and cozy.

The menu offers flights of four tastes for $15, of a fairly generous pour, out of seven whites and nine reds.  We opted to share a flight of whites and a flight of reds, skipping, for example, the rosé and the moscato.  We also skipped the riesling, which we noticed comes in a pretty blue bottle.  That price has actually gone down from our last visit, in 2014, when it was three tastes for $15.  In general, the prices for the wines are quite reasonable.  We noticed people eating snacks brought from home, although once their food truck arrives Laurel Lake no longer permits outside snacks.

The music group on the porch, with a view of a group enjoying the warm weather outside.

The music group on the porch, with a view of a group enjoying the warm weather outside.

As we sipped, a music group set up in the large porch to one side of the attractive tasting room.  The large groups also headed outside, so the main room remained relatively calm.  We also noted a small but amusing collection of wine-related gifts.

Some of the gift items

Some of the gift items

We don't need a mouse pad, but if we did...

We don’t need a mouse pad, but if we did…

  1. 2015 Pinot Gris                                $21.99

Pinot Gris is the French equivalent of Pinot Grigio, one of my frequent choices when opting for a glass of house white, as it tends to be reliably dry.  I would be perfectly happy if I had gotten this as a glass of house wine, as it is dry and mineral-y, with a touch of sweet fruit.  It smells a bit like asparagus, we decide, wondering if our current diet of local asparagus has influenced that thought.  Lobster bisque, we decide, would be a perfect pairing.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $18.99

This is their steel fermented chard, with an aroma of not-quite-ripe pineapple and some mineral.  The taste is again a combination of dry and a touch of sweetness, and fades quickly.  Evanescent, we say.  As the wine warms a bit in the glass we also taste a hint of pineapple or tropical fruit.  We note that people coming to the bar are quite insistent about wanting their wines really cold.  We prefer wines not quite as cold, so you can really taste them.  I decide that chicken cordon bleu would be a good accompaniment.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $23.99

The tasting notes inform us that this spends 12 months in oak, and we have a discussion with one of our servers about preferences for oaked vs. non-oaked chards.  “Which do you like?” she asks, and we realize that it depends.  In general, we don’t like the really heavy buttery taste and texture of a heavily oaked chard, but a bit of oakiness is often quite pleasant.  As is this wine.  If you like Long Island chardonnays you should like this one, with its slightly vanilla smell and touch of citrus and tropical fruit taste.  Nice long finish, too.

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $22.99

It could be an aperitif wine, or a dessert wine, or a wine to have with blue cheese and charcuterie, we decide, but it is a bit too sweet to enjoy just by itself.  The tasting notes say to have this with spicy food, a frequent recommendation for sweeter wines, but we feel you’d lose some of the subtlety of this wine if you did.  The aroma is complex, as is the taste.

  1. Wind Song Red $17.99

The tasting notes say this is “like a nice Chianti.”  I don’t think so!  We feel quite misled by the note, which is an issue we take up with Juan, who sheepishly admits they were written for a previous iteration of this blend.  They needed an inexpensive red crowd pleaser for the menu, hence this wine, the only one that has us looking around for a dump bucket.  A blend of merlot, syrah and a “mystery ingredient,” which, after a guessing game, Juan admits is chardonnay (!), this is quite a sweet red.  We compare it to red candy or fruit salad.  Fresh glasses with most tastes, by the way.

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  1. 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

We’ve been on a raspberry pie kick at Briermere recently, with raspberry peach last week and raspberry plum this, and the wine smells to us like those pies.   With 18 months in oak, this has some tannins at the end, and is a fairly light red.  I could see it with veal chops.

  1. 2011 Syrah $19.99

My husband refrains from singing “Que sera, sera” when we choose this wine, for which I am grateful.  This is our favorite of the day, with delicious aromas of dark fruit and rich tastes of dried plum (a.k.a. prune) and other fruits.  It would go well with pastas and meats, and we decide to buy a bottle.

One cabernet

One cabernet

And the other cab

And the other cab

  1. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $25.99

Our server, having engaged us in various discussions of our choices, asks if we would like to divide our final taste between the steel fermented cab sauv and the oaked one.  Sure, we’re always up for that sort of interesting comparison.  The steel cab has a funky aroma and is very dry and tannic, really rather austere.  The Reserve is interesting and complex, also dry and tannic, with tastes of black raspberry and maybe a few other flavors.  We buy a bottle of that, too.

Reasons to visit:  an intimate space that also has ample room on the porch and outside for groups; the chance to chat with Juan or the very friendly and knowledgeable servers; the Pinot Gris, the Syrah, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; reasonably priced wines for Long Island.  While we were there, the owner of CJ’s American Grill came in and we noted that we like their wine policy, which is to feature local wines at a moderate price.  Oh, and yes, the wines are outgoing and friendly and easy to like.

Nice decor

Nice decor

We liked the syrah.

We liked the syrah.

We indeed felt welcome.

We indeed felt welcome.

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Sign of spring!

Sign of spring!

Laurel Lake Vineyards: Cold Day, Cold Wine 11/22/14

http://www.llwines.com/

Some customers browsed the selection of wine-related gifts.

Some customers browsed the selection of wine-related gifts.

After braving the cold winds to do some pre-holiday shopping at Tanger Outlets, we were ready to sit down and taste some wines.  Happily, Laurel Lake is well set up to accommodate those who prefer to sit rather than stand at their very attractive bar.  You pay for your tasting in advance–$15 for three tastes—and get tickets which you then turn in before each glass.  The menu offers choices among eight whites and eight reds, so we decided to do two tastings, three of each, sharing as we went.  Since the pour is fairly generous, our plan worked well.  We received two glasses, and kept the second glass for our reds.

laurel

As we sat, we noticed a few groups who had brought extensive snacks with them.  One couple braved the heated outdoor porch, and others opted to stand at the bar.  We also noticed a small selection of wine-related gift items, most with humorous messages.  Overall it was a quiet day there, in contrast to a few weeks ago when we pulled into the parking lot and found no empty spaces because a convention of Corvettes had taken them all.

The bar where we could have stood.

The bar where we could have stood.

  1. 2013 Pinot Gris                 $21.99

This, our first choice, like all the rest, was served much too cold, so we spent some time warming the glass before sampling.  They need to raise the temp in their fridge!  Once it warmed up, we smelled a vegetable aroma, almost like freshly cut grass and flowers.  The taste was dry and tart, with a touch of sweetness at first, reminiscent of a slightly under-ripe pineapple.  Though not a sipper, it would be fine with food.  I’m thinking local scallops with pasta and herbs.

laurel white

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $20.99

For this one, the tasting notes recommend having it with sushi, and I can see that, though I usually get sake with sushi.  It has a woodsy and citrusy aroma and tastes of white grapefruit.  Again, this is a dry white with plenty of acidity, and we liked it.

  1. 2012 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $22.99

We skip their un-oaked chard and are very happy with our choice to sample this one.   It spends 10 months in French oak, the notes tell us (The problem with sitting is that we don’t get to chat with the servers.), giving it the characteristic vanilla scent of oaked chards.  However, it is not too heavily oaked, with a lovely mellow almost creamy taste and a nice long vanilla finish.  Very buyable, we decide—and we do.

We bought this one.

We bought this one.

  1. 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

Interestingly, this is stainless steel fermented and then aged in used French oak barrels for 12 months.  My husband says the smell reminds him of a warm blanket on a cold day.  I think he may just be tired after all that shopping and this is just wishful thinking, since I would describe the aroma as mainly blackberry.  In any event, this is a light pleasant red, with cherry and plum flavors.  The notes call it “rich and fleshy,” but we say “not so much.”

laurel bottles

  1. 2010 Cabernet Franc $19.99

Nice aromas of pepper and cedar and maybe grape jam precede tastes that we decide are nice but not exciting, with some good fruit but not much finish.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2011 Syrah $19.99

This is my favorite of the reds we try.  It has lots of dark berry aromas and tastes of purple plums, with a bit of a vegetable taste on the finish—or maybe kumquat.  The tannins cause a slight tingle on the tongue.  If we needed reds, I would buy it.

You can see the large heated porch through the windows.

You can see the large heated porch through the windows.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room where you can bring a picnic; the 2012 Chardonnay Estate Reserve and the 2011 Syrah; most of the wines are reasonably priced (for the North Fork); lots of choices; a generous pour.

 

The building is quite attractive.

The building is quite attractive.

Lenz Winery: Lots of Lovely Options December 7, 2013

http://www.lenzwine.com/Home.htm

In the summer grape vines cover the facade.

In the summer grape vines cover the facade.

It’s that time of year on the North Fork when most farmstands have closed, and those that are open feature Christmas trees and firewood, plus a few frost-touched Brussels sprout stalks and cauliflower heads.  However, most of the wineries are still open, at least on the weekends, and there are still plenty of limos wandering the streets.   When we saw five of them in the parking lot of Lenz we almost turned around, knowing their tasting room was on the small side, but I’m very glad we did not.  The vibe inside was mellow rather than frenetic, and by the time we finished our leisurely and very enjoyable tasting we had the room to ourselves.

For some reason Lenz funnels arriving parties through a small wooden archway, but you can get to the vine-covered tasting room directly from the end of the parking lot as well.  The room itself is rustic, with wooden beams like a barn, and tables around the perimeter offer a variety of wine-related gifts.

Some of the gift items.

Some of the gift items.

They offer two tastings, the Estate Flight is of their wines which are produced every year, and is $10 for five generous tastes, and the Premium Flight is $14 for five of their wines produced “only in years our winemaker feels they are good enough.”  We opt to share one of each, and our knowledgeable and enthusiastic server helps us alternate, suggesting which to taste first of each pair.  She not only knows lots about each wine, she is clearly a fan of the vineyard, and talks about her visits to it before she actually became an employee.  They will soon be releasing a Malbec—not, alas, in labeled bottles yet—and her positive review of it causes us to decide we will be sure to pick up a bottle once it is released.

Lenz is one of the older vineyards on the North Fork, and many of its better wines are labeled Old Vines.  In general, their winemaker, Eric Fry, goes for a French style of winemaking, and the results are overall excellent.  We only had one wine we didn’t care for.  I’ve marked the Premium wines with an *.

1)      2008 Gewürztraminer                                    $20

A few years ago we went to several wineries looking for the best Gewürztraminer for our Thanksgiving dinner, and settled on Lenz.  It’s still a good choice.  This is a dry Gewürztraminer, with floral and spice aromas—cardamom, says my husband, and I agree—and plenty of fruit.  It was allowed to age in the bottle, our server points out, and is made in the Alsatian style.

Lenz white

2)      *2010 Pinot Gris                                               $25

This is, of course, the French version of Pinot Grigio, which is my go-to choice when I have to get a glass of house wine, but this is so much better than most Pinot Grigios!  We scent aromas of mineral and lime, maybe clementine, and taste pear and apple.  The wine is dry but not tart, with a creamy mouth feel.  The server says the Pinot Gris tastes like wine while Pinot Grigio tastes like water!  I’d be happy sipping this on its own, or with seafood.

3)      *1999 Cuvee RD                                               $60

The price tag is a bit steep, though this is a lovely sparkling wine, with that slightly green-olive scent I find in many Champagnes.  If you like lots of bubbles, however, you’ll be disappointed, as the bubbles dissipate quickly, though it is a bit petillant on the tongue.  Lots of layers of flavor to this dry wine.

4)      2010 White Label Chardonnay                   $15

Steel fermenting means this is a clean crisp chard, with a honey candy aroma and a citrus taste—maybe pink grapefruit?  Very food friendly, we agree.

5)      2010 Gold Label Chardonnay                      $20

Though I often don’t care for oaked chards, this one is very well done.  It spends ten months in French oak barrels, we are told, and we do smell the vanilla aroma of oak, plus some pumpkin spice smells.  Taste?  Baked apples and pears!  This could be a lovely aperitif wine, or it would pair well with most chicken dishes, especially ones that combined chicken and fruit.  Our server notes that this is one of their few California-style wines, but it is not overly oaked as some of those are.

6)      *2010 Old Vines Chardonnay                                     $30

In contrast to the previous chard, this one is in the Burgundian style, our server informs us, and is aged in neutral oak barrels.  She does a great job, by the way, of giving us time to chat with each other while also being attentive to when we are ready for the next round.  Though we agree the wine has good balance, my husband notes there are “no fireworks.”  There’s also a bit of a chemical taste at the end, and we have a discussion with the server about what exactly we are sensing.

7)      2009 Cabernet Sauvignon                                            $23

At this point everyone else has left, and the servers outnumber the customers, which does not faze us one bit.  Though this wine has an attractive aroma of raisins and chocolate—Goobers, we exclaim—we find the wine itself thin and disappointing and actually dump the rest of the glass.

Lenz red

8)      *2007 Old Vines Cabernet                                           $40

What a contrast.  We love this one!  Aroma of dried cherries in brandy and a lovely dark color precede a taste of dried fruits and intense berries.

9)      2008 Estate Selection Merlot                                     $24

This is much better than the average 20-something dollar Merlot, and indeed was made from wine that had been intended for a premium bottling, but then didn’t meet the winemaker’s exacting specifications.  Lucky us.  We smell coffee, chocolate, and a bit of a floral aroma, with none of that barnyard smell so common out here.  Delicious taste, too, with plenty of dark fruit.  Very buyable.

10)   *2007 Old Vines Merlot                                                                $60

Old vines indeed, our server notes, as these grapes come from vines first planted in 1978—ancient history for Long Island wines!  Lots of lovely aromas, cherries, layers of dark fruit, very mouth-filling.  This could age for twenty years, our server informs us.  I bet it could.

We buy several bottles as gifts and may come back to get more for ourselves when we deplete the cellar.

Lenz board

Reasons to visit:  nine out of the ten wines are very drinkable, and quite a few are excellent; pleasant rustic barn-like setting; enthusiastic and well-informed servers; the Estate Selection Merlot and the Pinot Gris and the Gold Label Chardonnay and the Old Vines Cabernet and the Gewürztraminer and—you get the picture.

Lenz room