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.

The Winemaker Studio: Moment of Fame March 26, 2016

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

“We’re going to Nappa’s tasting room,” I said to our guests, who, having recently returned from a tour of California’s wine country, wondered why we weren’t heading to JFK rather than further east.  I clarified, “N-a-p-p-a; it’s his name.”  Ah.  We further explained that although Anthony Nappa owns and operates The Winemaker Studio, it earns its name as a studio because it is a showcase for a variety of wines produced in small quantities under their own labels or names by winemakers who also work for larger vineyards.  Just as an artist may do commercial work but also produce his or her own creations, these winemakers have the artistic freedom to experiment and express their own ideas about wine production.  A good example of this is Nappa’s Anomaly, about which more in a moment.

We were particularly interested in visiting this tasting room because we had just read an interesting article about one of their wines in the most recent issue of Wine Press magazine.

The menu varies from time to time, and today’s menu offered a choice between four of Nappa’s wines for $12 or five of Russell Hearn’s wines for $12.  We also could have opted for a local beer on tap or coffee, and the Provisions shop connected to the tasting room offers a variety of sandwiches and other edibles.  However, having just had a delicious and very satisfying brunch/lunch at A Mano in Mattituck, we were happy just to taste some wines.  In order to facilitate our conversations about the wines, we decided that each couple would share one tasting of the Nappa wines, choosing four out of the menu of six varieties.  Both couples opted to skip the riesling, made from Upstate grapes, when the server informed us that it was on the somewhat sweet side.    Our server, by the way, was very informative and friendly, and we had some nice chats with him about wine.

Our server did a great job.

Our server did a great job.

  1. 2014 Anomaly  $19

Anomaly is a good illustration of what happens when a winemaker decides to experiment.  It is a white-ish wine made from red pinot noir grapes, and each time I’ve had it it has been different.  A couple of years ago it was a very light pink and I liked it very much.  The last time it was definitely white, though a somewhat darker yellow than many whites, and I didn’t care for it.  This year it was almost orange, and we all liked it!  The aroma included peach and spice, and we tasted citrus and boysenberry with nice tartness and acidity, with still some fruit on the finish.  As we speculated on what it would go with, we decided it would make a nice aperitif.  One friend speculated that it would go well with “odds and ends from the refrigerator.”  Hers must be well stocked, as she began to muse on eggplant dip and bits of charcuterie.  Or with a salade niçoise, she continued, and it would make terrific vinegar.  They bought a bottle.

Pretty color

Pretty color

  1. 2013 Sciardonné $20

Because it is made from chardonnay grapes, steel fermented but allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, this wine can be drunk on its own, as it is less tartly citrusy than other chards.  It would be great, we agree, with lobster, or with mussels cooked with bacon or sausage.  We are still full from lunch, but I guess food is on our minds.  Before we move on to the reds, we’d like some water, but before our friend can pull a bottle from her bag our observant server offers us all glasses of chilled water.  Many H2O jokes ensue.  One can drink it chilled or at room temperature; recent vintage; crisp and light; no residual alcohol.  I’ll spare you the rest…

The 2016 H2O vintage...

The 2016 H2O vintage…

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

We were particularly curious to try this wine since it was featured in an article in Wine Press magazine, a very useful free publication you can pick up at many restaurants and wineries on the North Fork.  You would think from the name that this is a Bordeaux-style wine, but “bordo” is in fact the Italian name for cabernet franc (which is an ingredient in Bordeaux wines).  We sniffed and noted an aroma of cherry, but also something metallic.  “Burnished copper,” said my husband; “Like a wet penny,” opined one guest.  The taste was somewhat peppery, a touch earthy, with some cherry, and rather light.  You could drink it with cheese or pizza, but it is not a wine you would want to sip by itself.

The famous Bordo

The famous Bordo

  1. 2014 La Strega $22

At this point we diverged for our last tastes.  We opted for La Strega, partly because I wondered why name a wine “the witch.”  “Malbec is not the easiest grape to work with,” chuckled our server.  If you are expecting a big bold Argentinian malbec, this is not the wine for you.  It is steel fermented, said the server, with a perfume-y smell, with perhaps a whiff of oatmeal, and is much lighter than most malbecs.  Rather crisp and delicate, it is not our favorite.

The witch!

The witch!

  1. 2013 Tredici $35

Meanwhile, our friends opted for the Bordeaux blend, of 67% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  This is another dry wine, with not a ton of fruit, with tastes of fig and tobacco.  It is aged 18 months in oak.  We sense something green about it, perhaps a bit of a taste of asparagus. Our friends think it would pair well with paella, with its blend of seafood and sausage and strong flavors.

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You can see the next door food shop through this window.

You can see the next door food shop through this window.

Reasons to visit:  The chance to taste some offbeat wines off the beaten track; a cute tasting room with colorful folding chairs; one can buy sandwiches, etc., next door, so they do ask you not to bring your own food; the Anomaly and the Sciardonné.  We haven’t tried it, but they do a happy hour from 4-7 on weekends, which might be fun. 

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Sparkling Point: Bubblicious? August 15, 2015

http://www.sparklingpointe.com/#

The entrance to Sparkling Pointe

The entrance to Sparkling Pointe

Every time we visit Sparkling Pointe we go home convinced that we should drink more champagne—or, to be precise, more sparkling wines, since only wines from the Champagne region of France can actually be called champagne.  Sparkling Pointe only makes sparkling wines, a focus that disappointed a couple who wandered in as we were enjoying our tasting and left, despite the best efforts of our very knowledgeable and passionate server to persuade them to stay.  “Here,” she offered, “try a little sample on me of two very different sparkling wines,” pouring them tastes of the Brut and the Carnaval.  They should have stayed.

A view of the chandeliers

A view of the chandeliers

The tasting room is a bright, airy space, decorated with large crystal chandeliers and paintings of Brazilian scenes (because the owners like the culture of Brazil, we’ve been told).  Outside there are more seats on a shaded patio overlooking the vineyard.  We could have opted for table service inside or outside, but, since there is room at the bar, we decide to stay there, which gives us a chance to observe the somewhat frenetic actions of the serving staff, as they quickly move from task to task.  “Like a beehive!” observes my husband.  Our attentive server not only (noticing our interest) gives us more information about each wine than I can cover in my notes, she also gives us an extra taste, about which more later.

A view of the mural, plus a very active server

A view of the mural, plus a very active server

The menu offers four tastes for $17, each one in a fresh champagne flute.  There is also an extensive menu of snacks—almost all of them of New York State origin, including cheeses and charcuterie, chips and olives, and Tate’s cookies—which is good, since they don’t allow outside food.  We also noted quite a few people ordering whole bottles for a table, plus snacks.  The shop off to one side is full of gift items, also featuring many New York State grown or made products, as well as the sparkling t-shirts many of the servers wear.

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  1. NV Brut               $29

This is their least expensive and most popular wine, a non-vintage blend, meaning they strive for consistency year to year.  This one is made from 38% chardonnay, 38% pinot noir, and 24% reserve wine—which means they use some of the wine they reserve from each vintage in order to make up the blend.  It ages for two years on the lees.  The aroma is toasty and yeasty, the wine itself very pleasant, with tiny bubbles that burst on the tongue.  The chard probably accounts for the lemony taste, more like a touch of lemon peel than fruit.  The wine is nicely dry, but could have more fruit flavors.  I think it would be better as an accompaniment for food than by itself.  Pretty label.

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  1. 2010 Blanc de Blancs $42

We clear our palate with our own individual bowl of round crackers, a nice idea—almost ruined by a man who comes to the bar to order a bottle for his table and helps himself to a handful.  An observant server quickly dumps the bowl and gives us a fresh one.  Nice!  This one is a 100% chardonnay, aged 3 ½ years on the lees, with a slightly funky green apple smell.  This has tastes of lime and mineral and fruit, and, though not complex, is quite good.  We recently had the Lieb Blanc de Blanc, made from pinot blanc grapes, which tasted very different.  We prefer this one.

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  1. 2006 Brut Seduction $72

Now we’re getting serious.  They only make the Brut Seduction in a good year for pinot noir, which is not every year on Long Island, as this is 54% pinot noir and 46% chardonnay blend.  This one has been aged eight years, and it shows.  Wow.  The aroma is yeasty and toasty again, but we also smell some bitter almond.  Mineral, fruit, layers of flavor—we’ve had excellent vintage champagnes (yes, from France) and this would give some of them a run for their money. Our server thinks it needs another six months in the bottle, which would make it perfect for New Year’s Eve. The tasting menu says it has a “super organoleptic profile”—which is a fancy way of saying it appeals to all the senses.  Yes indeed.

The servers are smart and attentive and know a lot about the wines.

The servers are smart and attentive and know a lot about the wines.

Our favorite--not counting the '05!

Our favorite–not counting the ’05!

  1. 2005 Brut Seduction

Not for sale, not on the menu, but we get a taste.  The server has noted our seriousness, and my note taking, and we have had a great discussion of sparkling wines.  She is so enthusiastic about them that she actually traveled to Champagne, France.  The ’05 earned scores in the 90s, and we can see why.  We smell a more complex aroma, with fruit and spice, perhaps fennel, and the taste…I wrote OMG.  This could definitely stand up to a French vintage champagne.

Our individual dish of crackers, which we almost lost!

Our individual dish of crackers, which we almost lost!

  1. NV Carnaval Cuvée Rouge $34

From the sublime to…not our taste.  This is described as a demi-sec red sparkling wine, made from 65% merlot, 23% pinot noir, and 12% chardonnay, having spent five days on the merlot skins, which accounts for the pretty garnet color.  The aroma is black raspberry, the taste is candy, or raspberry syrup mixed with seltzer.  Unlike the others, which are made in the méthode Champenoise, this is made in the méthode traditionelle.  If you like sweet, you can try this.  I would skip it!

A carnival outfit from the gift shop to get you in the mood for our last taste.

A carnival outfit from the gift shop to get you in the mood for our last taste.

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Reasons to visit:  you like bubbles; the only winery that only makes sparkling wines; an airy pleasant setting with table or bar service; lots of interesting snacks; smart, attentive servers; nice little gift shop; the ’06 Brut Seduction.

A view of the room during a brief quiet moment.

A view of the room during a brief quiet moment.

Looking towards the outside patio

Looking towards the outside patio

Some of the gift items

Some of the gift items

In a few years, these grapes will sparkle.

In a few years, these grapes will sparkle.

Castello di Borghese: Wines that Go Great with Food February 21, 2015

http://www.castellodiborghese.com/

borg outside

The last time we were here, two years ago, we had a great conversation with Ann Marie Borghese, the owner, with her husband, of this excellent winery.  Since then, alas, they both have died.  However, their three children—Allegra, Fernando, and Giovanni—have committed to keeping the vineyard going.  We were wondering what the tasting room experience would be like under the new regime, and were happy to find the same careful, well-informed, personal, and cheerful service as before.  Whew.  The wines were also pretty good!

The tasting room is divided into two areas, one with the bar and a few gift items, and the other with tables and chairs, an art gallery, and a small stage.  Alas, Marguerite Volans, a frequent musical performer, was not there.

The stage for performers.

The stage for performers.

Our enthusiastic and well-versed server explained the menu choices to us.  For $10 you can choose any four wines from the Estate wines side of the menu, and for $15 you can choose any five wines from either the Estate side or the Reserve side.  Since if we each tried five wines we would be able to cover most of their choices, we decided to go with that option, which would also let us taste some similar wines side by side.  We opted to skip the rosé, since we are such Croteaux fans, and a few others.  In addition to the menu items, we were also offered the opportunity to taste some newly bottled examples of the 2013 vintage.  I’ll mark the wines from the Reserve menu and the new vintages with an *.

Walking into the bar area.

Walking into the bar area.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay            $18

The steel-fermented chard got our tasting off to a good start.  We got lots of pineapple smells, as well as a bit of grapefruit.  Typical of a steel chard, this is crisp and fairly tart, with nice citrus flavors.  Kumquat, says my husband, and I agree, kumquat with the skin on.  Good with scallops, suggests our server.

  1. *2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $26

I don’t always like oaked chards, but this one only spent six months in oak, so it is still fairly delicate, with butterscotch aromas and some wheat toast flavors as well as fruit.  2012 was a great year on the North Fork, with a dry September that allowed grapes to really ripen.  It was also interesting to taste these two very different wines made from the same grape.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $24

Yum, another good white.  This wine is also steel-fermented, with an aroma that reminds me of white grape juice.  How odd, a wine that smells like grapes…This is also dry, with citrus taste dominated by grapefruit, and I could be very happy pairing it with some local oysters.

  1. *2013 Founders Field Sauvignon Blanc $24

How interesting.  Still some of that grape juice smell, with a bit of butterscotch from its two months in oak, but the taste is quite different, almost funky, with a bit of a metallic tang.  “Austere,” says my husband.  I think it needs to be drunk with food, I counter, and our server agrees.  Maybe seafood in a cream sauce, like a New England clam chowder, would be a good idea.

borg wine

  1. *2013 Bianco di Pinot Noir $50

I always like to try something new, so I suggest we try two whites which sound interesting.  This one is made from pinot noir grapes, which are usually used to make red wines.  In this case, they took the skins off in order to make a white wine.  Hmmm…it smells really nice.  Chocolate, suggests my tasting pal, and I have to agree.  But it smells better than it tastes, tart, with a very short finish, and not complex.  It’s good with cheese and crackers, we are told, and I can see that.

  1. *2012 White Meritage $60

Usually, Meritage means a red blend, so I’m intrigued.  This is a mixture of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, and in contrast to the previous wine has more and better taste than aroma.  It smells somewhat like acetone (phenols, says my scientific companion) but has some good citrus and grapefruit tastes.

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir                $30

Now we switch to reds, and get new glasses, always a nice touch.  Pinot noir is the Burgundy grape, lighter than Bordeaux, and so it is.  The menu says “soft tannins,” but I don’t sense any.  I smell raspberry and a woodsy aroma and taste lightly fruity berries.  I could see this slightly chilled on a summer picnic with roast chicken.  Speaking of chilled, we were pleased that none of the wines were served too cold, which often happens, and which makes it harder to really taste the wines.

borg red

  1. *2013 Pinot Noir Reserve $55

This is one of the new releases, and we are interested to see how it compares with the 2012 Pinot.  Again, we get a woodsy and raspberry aroma, with some additional fruit smells.  We like this one much better (though maybe not $25 better).  It has lots of cherry flavor, not much in the way of tannins, and is also a fairly light red.  We are told that pinot noir is a “heartbreak grape,” as it can be finicky and doesn’t always deliver on its promise.  We are also told that the snow is actually good for the vines, as it acts as almost a blanket for the dormant vines.

  1. *2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

This is also a new release, and we are advised to try it before the cab sauv.  The aroma is again a bit funky, but with lots of red fruit to it.  We like it, but again think it would benefit by being served with food.  It is dry, with some nice fruit tastes, and would complement a barbeque very nicely.  I envision digging our Weber out from the snow bank it currently inhabits.  Not gonna happen!

Some of the gift items for sale

Some of the gift items for sale

  1. *2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44

I think this wine demonstrates the risk of serving a newly bottled wine, as we feel it would benefit from more time.  It’s closed, says my husband, who has been reading wine magazines for years.  It has some good tannins and dark fruit—black cherry in particular—tastes.  We think it might be good in a few years, and if we had room in the cellar might have given it a chance.  Time to drink some more reds from the cellar!

The lovely Allegra

The lovely Allegra

  1. 2010 Allegra $36

If you’re counting, you realize that we should be at the end of our tasting, but our server, noticing our seriousness and my note-taking, asks if we want to try anything else.  Well, I ask, is there anything we should try?  Okay, she says, you have to try our dessert wine, made from chardonnay grapes.  A new, smaller glass appears, and we get a taste.  Very delicious!  Aromas of honeysuckle and freshly cut grass, tastes of honey and apricot, but not too sweet, not at all cloying, we agree, and we buy a bottle.  Then, all the way home, we discuss what to have it with.  I think if we did a dessert course of Catapano goat cheese and local peaches it would go beautifully.  Or if we had an appetizer course of paté…It was named, by the way, for Allegra Borghese, on the occasion of her 16th birthday.  She must be a lovely person!

borg honey

Reasons to visit:  you want to try an all-around good winery that is not inundated with buses; you’re curious about the oldest vineyard (it was originally Hargreaves) on the North Fork; some interesting choices; the 2013 steel Chardonnay, the 2012 Barrel Chardonnay, the 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve, the 2010 Allegra; servers who really know the wines.

borg sign

The vines enjoy their blanket of snow.

The vines enjoy their blanket of snow.

Osprey’s Dominion: Reasonable Wines, Reasonable Prices 2/7/15

http://ospreysdominion.com/tasting-room/

The snow was piled high but the roads were clear.

The snow was piled high but the roads were clear.

The last time we were at Osprey’s, in April of 2013, we felt somewhat neglected, as our server abandoned us to cater to a group of women who came in midway through our tasting.  This time we had the room almost to ourselves, but again we were not impressed with the service.  Our server briefly outlined the menu choices, but then offered no suggestions how to choose amongst the many offerings and only minimal (unless we asked questions, no more than what was on the menu) information on each wine.  That’s too bad, as the winery has some interesting wines at quite reasonable—for Long Island—prices.

Osprey’s tasting room is quite large, and is well set up to accommodate crowds, though on this cold February day we shared it with a couple unpacking a picnic lunch at one table and only a few others at the bar.  The musician—an accomplished singer and guitarist, playing James Taylor and Eagles standards—felt quite lonely until, just as we were leaving, a party of about a dozen women arrived.  You can also find a good selection of wine-related gifts.

The musician is way down at the far end of the room.

The musician is way down at the far end of the room.

Plenty of gift options

Plenty of gift options

In a nod to Valentine’s Day, one of the three menus offered a chocolate pairing of four wines and chocolates for $18.  Another let you try four of their high-end reds for $15, while the main menu let you choose any five wines for $8.  We chose the latter option, but our work was not done.  The two-sided list includes 12 whites and nine reds, plus a few dessert wines and a sparkling wine.  After a long discussion—which our server left us alone to have—we decided to do five whites and five reds, sharing each taste as we went.  Oh, and they also have Greenport Harbor ale on tap.

  1. 2012 Fumé Blanc             $18

Why Fumé, we ask our server about this wine made from sauvignon blanc grapes.  Oh, she says, because being in oak gives it a bit of a smoky taste.  We sniff, and agree on an asparagus smell.  The wine itself is interesting, dry, but with fruit I categorize as gooseberry (to confirm, the next time I see gooseberries at Briermere I’ll buy them so we can discuss the taste) and some complexity.  We like it, and agree that it is quite sippable.

The Regina Maris label features a picture of the Regina Maris.

The Regina Maris label features a picture of the Regina Maris.

  1. Regina Maris Chardonnay $13

Why Regina Maris, we ask.  It’s a famous ship in Greenport, she says.  The bottle calls it a “special commemorative” wine, but we don’t know why.  This is a 50% oak and 50% steel-fermented chard, with a nice ripe pineapple aroma.  The taste is a bit disappointing, somewhat evanescent with front of the mouth sweetness and not much else.

  1. 2012 Reserve Chardonnay $20

We decide to try another chard as a comparison, and choose the reserve.  Too much oak for our taste, we agree, though the wine is so cold perhaps some subtlety is lost.  The aroma is nice—nutmeg and bitter orange, some vanilla.  I taste something pineapple at the end.  Just okay.

  1. 2011 Gewürztraminer $15

If you’re looking for a wine to have with next Thanksgiving’s turkey, this would be a good choice.  We smell ginger, sweet orange blossoms, and a not-unpleasant touch of wet fern.  There’s some vegetable taste, and it is nicely dry.

The Edzelwicker

The Edzelwicker

  1. 2011 “White Flight” Edzelwicker $15

I’m intrigued by this one, a blend of 87% pinot gris, 8% gewürztraminer, and 5% riesling.  Why the name?  It’s from Alsace, we are told, and means noble blend.  The aroma is interesting, too—bread dough, peach, hard candy.  The taste is not quite as exciting, but it is good, dry, but with good fruit tastes.  I think it would go really well with brie, even though I usually like red wines with cheeses.

  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend $12

Now we move on to the reds, and we are given a clean glass.  Where is Richmond Creek?  Right across the street, she says.  This is a Left Bank Bordeaux blend, 47% cabernet sauvignon, 11% pinot noir, 20% cabernet franc, and 23% merlot.  We’re looking for an inexpensive wine for everyday drinking, which is why we decided to taste this one.  We smell plum, eucalyptus, and forest floor.  The wine tastes okay, with some sweetness, though overall it is a bit flat.  It wouldn’t stand up to highly seasoned food.

The Meritage is quite dark in color.

The Meritage is quite dark in color.

  1. 2007 Meritage “Flight”                                $24

Another blend, this time it’s of 67% merlot, 25% carmenere, and 8% cabernet franc.  We love its dark color and fruity aroma.  The taste is pleasant, mostly cherry, and less complex than one would expect, with some tannins.

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir $40

Cheracol  cough syrup I exclaim when I sniff this wine, to which I add, also cinnamon.  Swirl.  Legs.  Cherry flavor.  Very nice, though perhaps not $40 nice.  People would like it, opines my husband.

The label of the Carmenere explains the grape.

The label of the Carmenere explains the grape.

  1. 2011 Carmenere $35

Wow, we really like this.  If we were looking for more reds for the wine cellar, we’d get this one.  Aromas of spice, cedar and fennel precede tastes of ripe dark fruits—sweet purple plums, perhaps—plus some tannins.  The grape has an interesting history, as it was apparently a lost and forgotten French variety that was rediscovered growing in Chile.  Osprey is the only winery on Long Island to grow carmenere, another server tells us, when I tell him it’s my favorite of the day.

  1. 2010 Malbec $24 (two for $40, a January special)

2010 was a good year on the North Fork, so we have high expectations for this wine, and we are not disappointed.  The grape is from the Cahors region of France, we are told.  Argentinian wines often use malbec grapes, but this wine is softer than I remember Argentinian malbecs to be.  My husband insists that it smells like Craisins.  Could be.  I taste dried fruit and spice and I really like it.  At $20 a bottle, it’s a good buy, so we get two bottles.  (Just before we tasted this one, a bowl of crackers arrived on the bar.)

They'll make custom labels for you.

They’ll make custom labels for you.

Reasons to visit:  reasonably good wines for reasonable prices; some interesting varietals and blends you won’t find elsewhere on the North Fork; the Fumé Blanc, the Gewürztraminer, the Edzelwicker, the Carmenere, the Malbec;  you may bring a picnic (something many wineries don’t allow); good selection of gifts; a nice large room for a group.

osprey chalk board

Osprey sign

Martha Clara: Something for Everyone January 3, 2015

http://www.marthaclaravineyards.com/

Winery entrance

Winery entrance

The tasting menu offers four different flights, as well as sangria and wines by the taste or glass; the adjoining huge performance space features an array of lunch and snack items as well as live music; the gift shop carries all sorts of wine-related gifts, the outside area includes farm animals one can feed:  Yes, there seems to be something for everyone here.  There are even a few quite nice wines.  It’s no wonder the front parking lot at Martha Clara is so often full, with overflow crowds for special events sent to lots further back.  What will happen to the winery if the Entenmann family is able to sell it, no one seems to know, but according to our server it is a profitable business.  So it you have a spare 25 million hanging around…

Lots of holiday lights

Lots of holiday lights

We walked into the tasting room on a chilly drizzly day to be greeted by a multitude of holiday lights and decorations.  We came with friends who are wine club members, so our tastings were free, but if you’re not they are still reasonable.  The Barrique flight, all reds, gives you five tastes for $13, and so does the Aromatic Flight.  The Off Dry (Sweet) is just $12 for your five tastes, and the Reserve, of their more expensive wines, is $15 for five.  We opted for the Barrique and the Reserve.  The pour is fairly generous.  Our server gave us a minimum of information about each wine, but when asked did have more to offer.  I will give you the Reserve Flight information first, then the Barrique.

Reserve Flight

  1. 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling     $45

The server described it as semi-dry, but we found it rather sweet.  The aroma is nice—floral and apricot—but then the taste is rather simple, without any complexity or layers, and mostly just sweet.  It might be okay as an aperitif at a party.   I wondered why they start their flight with such a sweet wine.

Two of the wines we tasted

Two of the wines we tasted

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $26.99

My friend compared the taste of the chard to crème bruleé, as it features vanilla flavors—it is oak fermented—and a pleasant mouth feel.  There’s even a bit of citrus at the end—perhaps lime.  Quite nice.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon $25.99

The Cab Sauv is a blend of the 2010 and 2011 vintages, and is included in both tastings, so I’ll just write about it once.  It is, our server noted, the wine of the month.  It’s not bad, with tastes of red plum or dried prune and some minerality, but overall, not exciting.  My husband theorized that perhaps the winemaker is too tame, not making each wine distinct and different.  There’s some sweetness and almost no tannins.

The unanimous favorite of the day

The unanimous favorite of the day

  1. 2010 Northville Red $23.99

Winner of the day!  The Northville Red is their Bordeaux blend—78% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec—and is also included in both flights.  We all agree this is our favorite, and quite buyable.  It smells a bit like forest floor, just a touch funky, but the taste is quite delicious, with lots of dark fruit.  It would be yummy with lamb chops, for example.

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Merlot $32.99

Unlike all the other wines today, this one has a cork.  Our server explains, giving several good reasons, why Martha Clara is changing to all screw tops—ecologically better, wine keeps better, less spoilage, etc.  We smell some of that barnyard terroir Long Island merlots can have, and maybe wet forest floor.  The taste includes black cherries and some tannin, but my husband theorizes that perhaps the wine is not quite ready to be poured.  “It’s not fair to the poor wine,” he says.  Maybe given more time…?

Barrique Flight

  1. 2011 Pinot Noir $29.99

We admire the pretty garnet color of the pinot, scents of cherry and oak—maybe a touch too much oak.  This is a pleasant wine, a bit light and thin, but would be okay with roast chicken or for sipping.

  1. 2011 Merlot $22.99

This is a new release, our server tells us.  We are not excited.  We smell oak and mineral, not much fruit, and the wine itself seems to have no body or depth.  It is dry, and could definitely use more fruit.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon (see above)
  2. 2010 Syrah $23.99

I often like syrahs, and this one is no exception.  I smell pepper and black cherry, and taste lots of dark fruits.  This wine is easy to drink, either just to sip or with food, and the price makes it quite buyable as well.

  1. 2010 Northville Red (see above)
This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale.

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

Menu

Menu

Reasons to visit:  you’re with a group and everyone wants something different; you need entertainment for yourself or some children; you need to pick up a wine-related gift;  you want a spot of lunch with your wine; the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are leashed.

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are leashed.

martha poster

Plenty of gift items are available.

Plenty of gift items are available.

100 bottles of wine on the wall, 100 bottles of wine...

100 bottles of wine on the wall, 100 bottles of wine…

Southold Farm + Cellar: Something New

https://www.southoldfarmandcellar.com/

Regan Meader, owner and winemaker and tasting room server!

Regan Meader, owner and winemaker and tasting room server!

“I like to experiment,” enthused Regan Meader, the owner, with his wife Carey, of Southold Farm + Cellar, one of the newest wineries on the North Fork, and a very promising one.  Mr. Meader went on to discuss the fun and the intellectual challenges inherent in wine making.  He came to the North Fork a number of years ago knowing very little about wine making, and apprenticed himself to a couple of wine makers. He has learned his lessons well.

Southold Farm + Cellar is a bit off the beaten track, and so are its wines.  When you turn in off the back road, you find a lovingly restored rustic tasting shed (open only on weekends) with a view across the field to the vines.  The vines are still too young to make wine, so “The birds get to eat most of the grapes.”  (Though his one year old daughter also gets some.) Until next year, he’s sourcing his grapes and wine from other vineyards on the North Fork, then developing his wines in his own way.  He intends to be an organic farm and to use all natural fermentation.

The tasting room

The tasting room

The tasting menu, written on a blackboard, features four wines for $15, poured into very attractive glasses.

  1. La Belle Fille     $36

The tasting starts with a lovely sparkling wine with an interesting back story.  Peconic Winery closed last year, but they still had some wine, including this one, which had not yet been disgorged.  So Mr. Meader bought it and disgorged it “with no dosage.”  Alas, he had no bottles available, or we would have bought one—or two.  A delicious aroma like yeast bread baking presaged a toasty caramel taste we really enjoyed.  Made from pinot noir grapes.

photo (69)

  1. The Devil’s Advocate Chardonnay $26

Made from a musque clone from Mudd’s vineyard, this is not your average Long Island chardonnay.  Though it spent some time in oak, there is only a trace of oak in the flavor.  The aroma is lightly lemony, and because the wine is not filtered it is a bit cloudy, with an almost viscous texture.  We also liked this wine, with its touch of lemon but also tropical fruit.  As we were discussing what it would go well with, Mr. Meader suggested duck breast pastrami!  He also, in the tasting notes, suggested one of my favorite cheeses, Humboldt Fog, a California goat cheese, as an accompaniment.  Oh, and the name references those who would dismiss chardonnay.

  1. Damn the Torpedoes $28

Okay, I had to know—who named these wines?  Blushing faintly, Mr. Meader admitted he did.  I told him he was a poet.   This wine is described as an “ode to dry Lambrusco.”  A blend of merlot, petit verdot, and pinot noir, this is a slightly frizzante light red.  He recommends having it lightly chilled in the summer as an alternative to rosé.  I have to say this was not my favorite of the afternoon, though many would probably enjoy its tart strawberry flavor.

Nice legs

Nice legs

  1. Cast Your Fate to the Wind $32

Love those names.  This is his 2013 cabernet franc and is made from certified organic grapes.  He fermented whole clusters for less than seven months in extra large oak casks.  Why large casks?  You get some oak taste, but less than with regular casks.  Sweet aroma.  Super dark color.  Delicious taste.  Lots of dark fruit.  No dirt taste!  Yum.

photo (67)

  1. Grace Under Pressure 2013

Yes, there were four wines in the tasting, but Mr. Meader adds in one more (which he also gave to a group of young women who were here before us).  This is a wine that is not quite ready to drink, but he’s pretty excited about it and wants to share.  He told us this blend of cabernet franc, malbec, and merlot was an “ode to Rex Farr,” whose organic farm in Calverton supplies the grapes.  The aroma is brambly blackberry, but the taste is very closed in, with some nice tannins.  Even as we were discussing the wine, the taste in the glass improved.  Given time, it should be quite good.

photo (64)

Reasons to visit:  you want to get off the beaten track and try something new; Mr. Meader and his enthusiasm for his wines; La Belle Fille, The Devil’s Advocate, Cast Your Fate to the Wind.  We can’t wait to see what Regan Meader does next year when he gets to harvest his own grapes!

The attractively rustic tasting room

The attractively rustic tasting room

photo (59)

McCall’s Wines 8/31/13

http://www.mccallwines.com/

m list

After an excursion to Westhampton Beach for an art show, and a visit to a friend’s house for a smaller art show, it was time for a different type of art, so off we went to McCall’s Winery.  Mr. McCall does treat wine-making as an art, concentrating for the most part on producing some of the best reds around, with only a few whites.  He and Mrs. McCall were both on hand, which was fortunate, as there was quite a crowd, including at least one bachelorette party (we could tell by the white veil on her head…).  As Mr. McCall had told us on an earlier (much less crowded) visit, he used to be a Coca-Cola distributor, but then became interested in wine making.  In addition to his vines, he also tends a herd of grass-fed cattle one can see munching said grass in a field next to the winery, and whose meat can sometimes be bought at Love Lane Market.  I described the tasting room, in a repurposed stable, in an earlier entry, and most people are out on the grass at picnic tables.

The tasting menu now offers four levels of flights:  Vintner, at three two-ounce tastes for $8; Cellar Master, with three for $10; Premium, at three tastes for $10; and Estate, at four for $16.  We decide to share two flights, the Premium and the Estate.  Mrs. McCall is serving us, and she carefully monitors the order of our wines, interspersing the two flights for the best path through the tastings.  As a result, I have marked the wines from the Estate flight with *.

  1.  2012 Sauvignon Blanc                                   $24

We start with the only white we’ve tasted at this winery, and it is quite pleasant, with aromas of honeysuckle and citrus, and a taste that combines wildflower honey and kumquat, with some minerality.  It is somewhat tart.  Mrs. M. admits she’s never tasted a kumquat, and we decide this does not taste like the candied ones one gets, but rather like a fresh one.

m glass

2.  *2010 Pinot Noir                                            $45

We thought we’d be moving on to the Cab Franc, but Mrs. M. suggests we have this instead, as it is fruitier.  And indeed it is.  “Mmmm,” we both say.  The day before we had bought some lovely purple plums at Briermere (along with the obligatory pie), and there is a flavor here that reminds me of them, plus a hint of cinnamon.  Robust, they call it.  Yes, indeed.

3. *2010 Pinot Noir Reserve                            $60

I love doing this—tasting two wines from the same varietal in succession.  So interesting.  This one was aged an additional six months in French oak, and we overhear Mr. McCall saying that 2010 was the best year for his wines so far.  This is really good, and right up there with other high-priced wines in its taste and complexity.  It has much more depth than the other Pinot Noir, with aromas of coffee and chocolate and lots of dark fruit.  I bet you could cellar this one.

4.  2011 Cabernet Franc                                      $28

Now we get the Cab Franc, which is our least favorite of the day.  We smell a brambley aroma, and some tastes of blackberry, but also a bit of an olive taste, which is somewhat off-putting.

5.  *2007 Merlot                                                     $30

Poetically, my husband compares the aroma to the woods at dawn, evoking memories of when we used to go camping, and I would step out of the tent and inhale that dewy scent.  As we agreed the last time we were here, this is definitely better than most North Fork Merlots, with very cherry tastes and good tannins and structure.  Buyable, though we don’t buy any this time.

6.  2008 Merlot Reserve                                      $28

We can see why McCall’s began their wine-making with the ’07 vintage, since it is certainly better than the ’08.  This one has a bit of the barnyard smell and taste one often finds out East, and is a light wine with some pepper at the end.  Perhaps with more time…

7.  *2007 Ben’s Blend                                           $54

This Bordeaux blend is named in honor of their winemaker, who sadly passed away.  However, this is quite a legacy.  The blend is 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  We detect scents of cedar and forest, with lots of tastes of berries and plums, plus some chocolate.  I could definitely see cellaring this one.

Mr. McCall chats with his guests.

Mr. McCall chats with his guests.

Reasons to visit:  some of the best reds on Long Island, the chance to chat with Mr. McCall, who is quite enthusiastic about his wines; Ben’s Blend and the 07 Merlot; a pleasantly rustic setting.

Grapes protected from the birds with netting

Grapes protected from the birds with netting

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.