Sparkling Pointe: Sparkling Day May 24, 2019

https://www.sparklingpointe.com/

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Finally a beautiful day!

Finally! After weeks of unseasonably chilly rainy weather, a beautiful day arrived. Following a pleasant stroll in Greenport to check out the new shops and restaurants (We’ll be back.), we headed to Sparkling Pointe, the sparkling-wines-only vineyard in Southold.

Over the past few years we’ve noted a consistent pattern of improvement in their wines, so we were interested to see how they have progressed. Since they have a French winemaker (Gilles Martin) and use the méthode champenoise, it is no surprise to discover that their wines have a definite French orientation, though a number of their options are sweetened to American tastes. What is a surprise is the Brazilian-Carnival-themed tasting room and wine labels, which, according to the website, stem from the owners’ love of Brazil. I suppose the festive nature of sparkling wines also entered into the choice.

A sign at the entrance cautions against outside food or drinks, and allows only service animals, but they do have a good menu of snacks. We ordered two cheeses, which came with two sleeves of crackers, and took home leftovers. They also have table service, and our server was very competent and well-informed, happily expounding on wines and winemaking when we asked any questions.

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Our server explaining dosage.

On looking over the set menu, of four wines for $20, we noted that two of the options were described as rather sweet (Sugar cookie? Really?), so with our server’s help we chose four—and then a fifth—wine from the tasting list, totaling $30. That’s a bit pricey, but on the other hand we spent about an hour on their lovely terrace overlooking the grape vines, enjoying the pleasant breeze and sunshine, sipping champagne and munching on two very tasty cheeses (Hudson Valley camembert and Coach Farms Hudson Truffle). Not too shabby.

A few other notes: the tastes come in proper champagne flutes, very classy; a small gift shop features North Fork-made food items plus Brazilian-Carnival-themed décor; though we enjoyed several of the wines, they share the North Fork issue of being a bit too expensive compared to other options for sparkling wines, such as Italian Proseccos or Spanish Cavas; they charge an extra $15 over the per bottle cost if you want to order a bottle of wine to drink on the premises, though the fee is waived for wine club members.

1. 2016 Brut $30 ($4 per taste)
We started with the driest of their wines, a blend of 53% chardonnay, 31% pinot noir, and 16% pinot meunier. The smell is lovely, with floral notes plus roasted pear, and some depth and interest. I compared the taste to fresh apple juice with lemon, but my tasting buddy disagreed. However, we both agreed that it was a very pleasant, fairly dry sparkler, with nice little bubbles.

2. 2014 Blanc de Blancs $44 ($6 per taste)
Our server was quite enthusiastic about this one, naming it as a “staff favorite,” and I can see why. My husband described it as “very champagne-y,” which I first laughed at and then decided was rather apt. Though the aroma is only faintly yeasty—like walking along across the street from a bakery—the taste is crisp and clean and refreshing, with a nice balance between sweet and dry. Very drinkable on its own, and also good with our cheeses.

3. 2014 Reserve Blanc de Blancs $68 ($8 per taste)
This is another lovely choice, a delicious, well-balanced sparkler, only very slightly sweet, with aroma of honeysuckle and pear, plus a taste that combined Meyer lemon with apple pie and freshly baked bread. Our server pointed out the word “Séduction” on the label, and noted that they use that to indicate their higher end wines. I’d gladly drink this any time—if someone else bought the bottle!

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If you look carefully, you can tell this has a faint tinge of pink.

4. Blanc de Noirs $68 ($8 per taste)
A very faint tinge of pink is the result of this wine spending a little time on the skins of the 50/50 combination of pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. They don’t market this as a rosé, noted our server, which makes sense, since if you wanted a rosé you’d be disappointed, but we were pleased. Though the aroma has some notes of something slightly burnt, or chemical, the taste is pleasantly dry, with just a touch of strawberry.

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Just for fun, I used a filter on this photo.

5. NV (non-vintage) Cuvée Carneval Blanc $30 ($4 per taste)
We were not ready to leave yet, and were still enjoying the day and our cheese, so we decided to try one more taste. The Carneval line seems to include the wines they feel will most appeal to a mass audience, and I can see why. We dubbed this one a “crowd pleaser,” which I had already written in my notes when my husband called it that. A blend of 47% chardonnay, 37% white merlot, and 16% pinot noir, it also has a “liquor de dosage” of gewürztraminer, the only grape they use that is not grown on site. I wondered if they got that from One Woman, which is quite nearby, but for once our server couldn’t answer a question. He did happily describe the process of dosage, however. Though this is not a sparkler I would choose to drink, it would be quite acceptable in a toast. The aroma is of yeast and a bit of lemon, and the taste includes some minerality and a bit of lychee flavor from the gewürztraminer.

Photos of the gift shop, including Carneval-themed décor:

Reasons to visit:  beautiful setting, especially if you can sit outdoors on the terrace; tasty sparkling wines; table service that is efficient and friendly; nice menu of snacks; the Reserve Blanc de Blancs in particular, though we enjoyed all of the wines we sampled (though in the past we have had some of their sweeter wines which are just not for us).

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We enjoyed our time on the lovely terrace, looking out over the vineyard.

Duck Walk Vineyards: Quack Quack January 12, 2019

Duck Walk Vineyards:  Quack Quack        January 12, 2019

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https://duckwalk.com/

“We’ll have to stop quacking,” joked my husband, as we finished our tasting at Duck Walk Vineyards’ North Fork tasting room.  You see, the last time we went, in 2009, we disliked almost all the wines, including a red that tasted like ashes, and I had an allergic reaction (something I almost never have to Long Island wines, for some mysterious reason).  So we vowed never to return, and amused ourselves by quacking derisively as we drove past.  No more.  Though we didn’t like all the wines, there were plenty we did enjoy, and we had a great tasting experience.

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This tasting room is quite spacious, though the last time, when we came in the spring, we were in a different one that was even bigger.

Duck Walk, like Jason’s and Pindar, is owned by the Damianos family, and many of their wines are somewhat sweet for our taste, though numerous people like them.  And it is a family affair, with even a third generation possibly getting ready to join the business, according to our chatty and well-informed server.  It is always a plus to have a server who is really into the wines of the place where she works, and we appreciated our server’s enthusiasm for the wines and eagerness to share her preferences.  She also was happy with our respectful approach to the wines, and gave us some extra tastes to show off the depth of their collection.

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The tasting room we went into is to the right of the main entrance, where we had a tasting the last time, and is a smaller—though still quite large and airy—room.  A long bar dominates one end, past which are French doors leading out to the vines.  When we entered, a large group of young women were enjoying their tasting before heading back out to the limo, and the room became noticeably quiet when they left.  In the summer, we have often seen whole fleets of limos and buses parked outside, as Duck Walk is a regular on the limo circuit (another reason we haven’t been back in a long time).

Aside from feeling it was finally time to go back, I also was intrigued to taste their Absenthe, their new after-dinner “traditional distilled spirit,” whose name echoes that of the famous Czech drink, absinthe.

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Their website notes that they have snacks for sale, though we were not offered a menu, and they do allow you to bring in “light snacks.”  It also says they are “pet friendly,” which I assume means in the summer, when you can sit outside.

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A tasting consists of four tastes for $10, which you pay in advance.  You then get four tickets, which the server collects after each drink.  Since the menu includes seventeen red, white, and rosé wines, plus seven other drinks in the sparkling and dessert categories, we decided to do two tastings and share as we went along.  Though you are free to choose any four, in any order, our server did give us the standard advice to drink whites before reds, and to follow the order of their listings on the menu.

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  1. 2017 Chardonnay          $16.95

Since chardonnay is so ubiquitous on the North Fork, I felt we should include it in our tasting.  This is their steel-fermented chard, and at the moment they do not have an oaked chard, though our server says they have had one in the past.  We agree that we both prefer steel to oak.  This one has a bit of a barnyard smell, and is a touch too sweet for us.  It has tastes of pineapple and guava with some minerality.  My tasting buddy opines that it is “wine for the skittish,” by which he means it is easy to drink if you’re not a big wine drinker.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $18.95

Nice.  I get a cut grass smell which my husband describes as “woodsy,” plus some rock or mineral.  The taste is fairly typical for North Fork sauvignon blancs, lemony and grapefruity, and would be fine with oysters.

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When the labels do not feature ducks they feature Gastby-themed art, like this one of what the tasting room workers jokingly named the “Hamptons hooker.”

  1. 2017 Rosé $16.95

We admire its pretty pink color and Gatsby-inspired label, which features a young woman in flapper dress standing in front of a mansion and a 1920s car.  Her provocative pose has led the winery workers to dub her the “Hamptons hooker.”  Made from the pinot meunier grape, this has a slightly funky aroma, plus the expected strawberry.  The taste reminds me of a vodka-infused watermelon I once sampled at a party (I was young.), with some sweet strawberry and lemon notes.  This would be a fine summer sipper, though it is a bit too sweet for us.

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  1. Southampton White   $14.95 for 750 ml, $18.95 for 1.5 l

According to the menu, this is made from the cayuga grape, which is often used upstate.  As we feared, it is too sweet for us, while also being light and not complex. I contemplate dumping the rest of our taste.

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  1. 2017 Pinot Meunier   $29.95

Since Duck Walk is the only vineyard that grows this grape, we decide we need to start our tasting of the reds with this wine.  My tasting pal and I agree that this smells like berries, though I say blueberry and he says raspberry.  It is a light, fruity summer red, good with barbequed chicken.  It reminds me of a Beaujolais.  This label also features an upper-crust Gatsby-esque theme, with formally clad horse riders.

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  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon   $18.95

This cab doesn’t have much aroma or taste.  There is a slightly funky smell.  The wine itself is light and dry, with some tannin.  It would be okay with a burger, though I generally prefer beer with burgers.

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Do you see the duck reference in this picture? I got it!

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   $38.95

Power of the book strikes again!  Our server, with whom we have been having enjoyable conversations about the North Fork vs. the South Fork (where she often has to travel to work in the South Fork tasting room in Water Mill), gives us an extra, a taste of the high-end cab sauv.  And it is really good!  Lots of dark fruit taste, the kind of tannins that make me think it could age even more, and some depth and interest.

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  1. 2015 Merlot   $16.95

Again, the aroma is a bit funky, plus the usual cherry smell.  This is a dry, drinkable merlot, not overpowering at all.  My husband says there’s “not a lot of stuff going on.”  It’s a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with some cherry taste.  It would be fine with pasta.

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  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve   $38.95

Once again, we get an extra.  This time, a taste of the reserve merlot.  The aroma is complex, with notes of plum, cherry, and tobacco (which my husband calls ash).  However, the aroma promises more than the taste delivers, though this is a good, dry, drinkable red.  Not a lot of tannins.

  1. 2015 Malbec   $16.95

Although malbec is most often used as part of a mixture of grapes, I tend to enjoy it on its own as well.  The color of this is a beautiful dark red, and the aroma is also dark, of dark fruits like plums.  We like the taste, which is dry and tannic, with enough fruit that it would be fine to sip or have with steak.

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The White Port is so new it wasn’t on the menu.

  1. 2010 White Port

I can’t tell you the price of this because it is not yet on the menu.  Another extra treat!  Duck Walk often features their blueberry port, which is actually made with blueberries, so this is a departure for them.  The aroma is nutty, and it would actually taste good with nuts.  I taste some gooseberry taste, (and then we decide that next summer when Briermere sells gooseberries we will have to buy them again).  Nice after-dinner sipper.

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If you like Sambuca you’ll like Absenthe.

  1. Absenthe   $29.95, $5 per taste

We happen to have a bottle of absinthe we hand imported from the Czech Republic a while ago, so as I tasted this Duck Walk version, I looked forward to comparing it to the historical drink.  Supposedly, absinthe used to be made with wormwood and was highly addictive as well as causing hallucinations.  That’s no longer the case, so it is safe to sip.  In the Czech Republic there is a whole ceremony to drinking absinthe, involving mixing sugar and a bit of absinthe on a spoon, igniting it, and then, as the sugar liquifies, blowing out the flame (important step!) and pouring it into the glass.  No sweetening is necessary with the Duck Walk Absenthe, which is quite sweet, almost syrupy, and tastes very strongly of black licorice.  If you like Sambuca, you’ll like this.  After I went home—and recovered from all that drinking!—I tried our absinthe.  It is not at all sweet or syrupy, though it does have a licorice taste plus a beautiful green color, and is quite strong (70% alcohol).

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Reasons to visit:  it is winter, and you want to check out a winery that is too crowded in the summer; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Rosé, the Pinot Meunier, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; they allow dogs (outside) and snacks; pretty labels; reasonable prices; beer on tap in case you’re with someone who doesn’t want wine (why?).

Sparkling Pointe August 25, 2013

http://www.sparklingpointe.com/

Sparkling

It seemed appropriate on a sparkling August day, after several hours watching the sun sparkling on the water, to check out Sparkling Pointe winery, where they specialize in sparkling wine.  And a good choice it was.  Using the Méthode Champenoise to make authentic champagne-style wines (which can’t actually be called champagne because only wines from the Champagne region of France can legally bear that title), they have taken Long Island grapes into the realm of luxury wines.

The bright and airy tasting room leads out to a spacious patio area, which they need, since they often get van and busloads of visitors, as we have noted as we have driven by.  Just as Croteaux evokes France and Diliberto evokes Italy, Sparkling Pointe evokes Brazil, featuring Bossa Nova nights and paintings of Rio in its tasting room.  According to a server on a previous visit, the owners happen to “love the culture” of Brazil.  The winery also tries to promote an air of elegance, with crystal chandeliers on the ceiling and caviar on the fairly extensive snack menu. Once, when we came on Halloween, all the servers were in fancy dress, either tuxedos or ball gowns.  The snack menu, which needs to be somewhat extensive since they have a note on the door politely informing guests that they no longer allow outside food, also includes charcuterie, various cheeses, olives, and more,  as well as iced tea, Pellegrino, and something called Vita Coco Coconut Water from Brazil.  We have goodies waiting at home, so we decide to just do two tastings, one for our son and another we will share, at $17 for four tastes in pretty champagne flutes.   Although they have more than four wines, they decide on the menu of tastings each day. Oh, and you can add a chocolate pairing for an additional $10.

Our server knows his stuff, and seems quite enthusiastic, but he is also taking care of a couple of larger parties out on the patio and seems somewhat distracted, rushing back and forth.  Fortunately, we are not in a hurry.

  1.   2009 Brut                                           $29

This is their “signature” wine, a blend of 59% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier, and 5% reserve wine.  I want to ask the server what “reserve wine” means, though I assume it is wine left over from other years, but he has disappeared and I forget when he returns.  We like the Brut better than on a past visit.  It has a somewhat doughy smell, with some notes of not-ripe melon, or maybe pear.  It is a light, dry champagne, with some residual sugar and a hint of grapefruit.  While I wouldn’t want to drink it by itself, as in a toast, it would be a lovely aperitif wine with nuts or soft cheese.

2.  2008 Blanc de Blancs                      $42 (Magnum $93)

On the other hand, I would happily drink a toast with this wine.  After a year on the lees, this 100% Chardonnay wine has a somewhat funky mineral aroma but is creamy to taste, and reminds me of a Granny Smith apple pie.  Nicely dry, but with good fruit, I could also see this paired with some Crescent Farms duck breast. and my son agrees.  It is better than most $20 champagnes one buys.

3.  2003 Brut Seduction                       $60

Another blend, this one is 51% Chardonnay and 49% Pinot Noir, and spent eight years on the lees, according to our server.  One nicety—each taste is poured into a fresh glass. Here we smell dirt and mushrooms, but taste raspberry and lemon curd.  One could definitely sip this on its own and be very happy.  The tasting notes refer to its “organoleptic profile,” which occasions some hilarity in our little party.  Look it up.

4.  NV Cuvée Carnaval                         $27

Our server has poured our final taste before we finished the one before, and left, noting that he won’t be back, a fistful of glasses in one hand and a bottle in the other, so I miss whatever he said about this wine, as I was concentrating on the previous one and comparing notes with my son.  This wine combines Merlot and Chardonnay, plus 4% Gewürztraminer, which probably accounts for some of its sweetness.  We smell strawberry jam and taste mango and cherry.  It wouldn’t be bad with a dessert like a flourless chocolate cake, and, for a sweet wine, has some nice minerality, so I like it better than I thought I would.  If you didn’t have Chateau d’Yquem, my husband notes, you could substitute this.  Well, maybe…

After we finish our last wine, we stand at the bar waiting to pay for our tastings, our server, as promised, having disappeared.  A gentleman comes over and asks us if we are waiting to buy a bottle.  No, we say, just waiting to pay for our tastings.  He thanks us for our patience, and tells us the tastings are free!  Nice gesture, which somewhat makes up for our harried server’s divided attentions.

Reasons to visit:  you like champagne—um, I mean, sparkling wine; you want to see what a North Fork winery can do with sparkling wines; you want caviar with your champ…sparkling wine; the Blanc de Blancs (my favorite); Bossa Nova nights.