Jamesport Vineyards: No Pizza Today February 3, 2018

wehttp://www.jamesportwines.com/

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Don’t let the sunshine fool you–It was COLD!

In the summer, Jamesport has a wood-fired oven on the back patio, where they make thin-crust pizzas.  They also often serve local oysters, and we have enjoyed sitting outside there with a glass of white wine and a plate of oysters in the summer sun, listening to music.  However, this was the day after Groundhog Day, the icy parking lot made it clear there would be no sitting outside today, and when a couple came in seeking pizza they were referred to the restaurant Grana, just down the street.  They were offered a cheese and charcuterie plate ($42), which a couple of large parties were having at their tables. (Jamesport does not allow pets or outside food, and allows children only outside in the back yard, not in the bar area.)

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In the summer it is lovely to sit out here and enjoy music, oysters, and pizza from the wood-fired oven.

While some people might have been disappointed at the lack of pizza, they would not be disappointed in the wines.  We tried ten (well, actually eleven) and liked most of them.  The tasting menu offers any five wines for $20 from a list that includes six whites, six reds, three petillant naturels (sparkling wines), and a verjus.  We decided to share two tastings, starting with the whites and then doing reds.

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The nice-sized barn-like tasting room was surprisingly full for a mid-week winter day, but the lone server bustled about and was able to attend to everyone’s needs, including chatting with us about the wines and customizing our tasting.  I am often so impressed with the people who serve in the wineries, with their ability to keep everyone’s tastings straight, recommend wines for varying tastes, and stay cheerful throughout.

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  1. 2015 East End Chardonnay        $18.95

Through a window in the wall of the tasting room you can see the steel vats in which this chardonnay is fermented.  We sniff and identify citrus, orange, flowers, and another smell and taste we can’t quite identify until our server suggests almonds.  Yes, bitter almond it is.  We like this chardonnay, with its full taste and long finish, not too sweet, with a bit of minerality.  We discuss what to pair it with, and settle on tuna, like the lovely tuna steaks we bought at the Riverhead Farmers Market last week.

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What’s the difference between East End and Estate? At Jamesport, the former is their less expensive line. Legally, I’ve been told, “estate” doesn’t mean anything, so wineries can define it as they like.

  1. 2015 Estate Chardonnay $22.95

Oaked chards are not my favorite, but this one is not too oaky, with some lime and pear tastes, and almonds again.  Both chards have a long finish.  The tasting notes say “honey,” which I identify as the mouth feel of the wine.  I could see having this with a spicy Italian seafood dish, like a fra diavolo.

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  1. 2014 Sauvage Reserve $30.95

Our server is able to tell us that this wine uses sauvignon blanc clones, but not whether or not the word “sauvage” refers to wild yeast.  In any event, this is another nice wine, a bit on the light side even though it is aged in oak, with a taste that reminds me of a fruit salad seasoned with a bit of liqueur.  If I were here in the summer and having oysters, I’d get a glass of this, though we are told that a new vintage of this will be coming out soon, so I’d try a taste before I committed to a glass.

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See my notes before you decide which riesling to try.

  1. 2013 Estate Riesling $22.95

There are two rieslings on the menu, and we choose this one because the other is called Demi-Sec, and is described as slightly sweet.  Interestingly, this one is actually sweeter, as we discover when we tell our server it is too sweet for us.  Here, he says, try a little taste of the 2013 Demi-Sec Riesling ($22.95).  We like it better.  It is less cloying and lighter, with an aroma that reminds us of cider.  The menu describes the Estate Riesling as “crisp.”  Nope.

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By this time, we were friends with the server, so when he noted the bottle was almost empty he gave us the rest in our taste.

  1. 2015 East End CINQ Blanc $18.95

No surprise, this is a blend of five whites: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, albariño, and pinot blanc.  We describe this as a good, everyday table wine, and our friend the server agrees.  It has a touch of sweetness, but not too much, with tastes of kiwi and peach and some minerality.  You could have it with an omelet in the morning, he suggests, which leads to various humorous comments about a day that starts like that.  How about with a quiche, I offer.  If I needed some whites at home, I might have bought this one.

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  1. 2014 East End CINQ Red $19.95

New glass as we switch to our red tasting, starting with another blend of five, this time of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and pinot noir.  I decide it smells like a Bordeaux, and if I had to guess I would bet that it has more cabernet sauvignon than merlot.  It smells like dark fruits and berries and tastes like that, too.  It is a somewhat light red, with no depth and some tannins, and would make a perfect picnic wine.

  1. 2013 Merlot Estate $27.95

This is another easy to drink wine, with the expected cherry aroma and taste, plus some hints of dark chocolate.  It would go well with lamb or pork, but is not big enough to have with steak.

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The sign tells you how many bottles of wine you can get per acre of grapes. An acre can yield about 300 bottles!

  1. 2015 Estate Syrah $24.95

I tend to like syrahs, and I like this one, too.  I smell and taste dark fruits, especially purple plum, plus some spice, perhaps pepper.  Really dry, this has strong tannins that make me think it could age.  This wine would be fine with steak.

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  1. 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc $32.95

And aging is what I think this cab needs.  It doesn’t have much aroma.  Lots of tannins, and it is dry, but the fruit seems underdeveloped to me.  Just okay.

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  1. 2014 Mélange de Trois $34.95

If you know French, you can deduce that this is a blend of three grapes and a play on “ménage à trois”:  cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc.  It is aged for two years in French oak, and then another two years in the bottle.  We get into a discussion of the various grapes in this wine, and our server tells us how cabernet sauvignon does not do well every year.  In fact, last year rather than use their cabernet sauvignon grapes in their own wine, they felt they did not meet Jamesport’s standards and sold the whole crop to Premium Wine Group.  We like this wine, too, though it is more austere than luscious.  Dry, with good tannins, it has blackberry and spice tastes.  I could see having this with leg of lamb or steak frites.

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Seems like a nice selection of cheeses.

Reasons to visit:  in the summer, a big outdoor area with music and wood-oven pizza and oysters; in the winter, a cozy tasting room with cheese trays; the East End Chardonnay, the Sauvage Reserve, the East End CINQ Blanc and Red, the Mélange de Trois.  We didn’t get to try the sparkling wines, but they have three if you were interested to try them.

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Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?            October 27, 2017

Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?

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The entrance to the indoor space. They also have an outdoor patio.

 

http://dilibertowinery.com/

The yeasty, tomatoey scent of baking pizza filled the small tasting room at Diliberto winery.  Most of the people there seemed to have come for a glass or two of red wine and one of Sal’s thin-crust pizzas.   Well, it was around one p.m. on Friday, so I guess it was lunch time.  The pizza certainly smelled and looked good, and one of the customers told us as she was leaving that it tasted good, too, recommending that we get one.  However, we were not hungry, so we settled on just a tasting.

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I waited until people left so I could get a good shot of the mural.

The tasting room at Diliberto is small, but very pretty, with trompe l’oeil paintings on the wall to give you the sensation that you are sitting in an Italian piazza.  The Visions series films, aerial views of Italy, play on the flat screen TV over the piano, and when it is quiet you can hear music from Italian operas playing in the background.  What you won’t hear is the voices of children, since Diliberto’s has a strict “No one under 21” policy, with the addendum “including children.”  They also do not allow outside food, but since most people seem to come for the $19 pizza, that’s not a problem.  The menu includes a few other food items, and on Sundays they feature a full meal—details on their web page.

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The wine menu features six wines, at $4 per taste or $10 for any three tastes.  Wines are also available by the glass or bottle, with an additional charge if you want to drink the bottle in the winery.  (For example, the Chardonnay is $22 for a bottle, but $27 if you want to drink it there.)  The wines cost $8-$12 for a glass.  We decided to try all six wines, or two tastings, which the server brought to our table all at once.

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In the past, we’ve always spent time chatting with Sal Diliberto, but this time he was not in the winery.  The young woman who was waiting on the tables was very pleasant, but clearly her job was not to discuss the wines.  My guess is that he is there on Sundays, since the dinner includes a cooking demo, and he used to do those for free on the weekends.

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This sign reminded me of how my Italian friends like to reminisce about Sunday family dinners, always with “gravy”–a.k.a. spaghetti sauce.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay          $22

This is an oaked chardonnay, and, according to the menu, spends “five months in French oak,” so I was expecting lots of butterscotch and vanilla.  Not so.  I wonder if he mixes it with steel-fermented chardonnay, since it has a fair amount of citrus flavor.  My husband describes it as “refreshing.”  It is surprisingly tart, with only a hint of vanilla.  Very drinkable, and would be nice with some charcuterie.

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Our two flights were delivered all at once, and the server carefully pointed out which wine each one was.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $19

I would have put this first in the tasting, since it is steel-fermented and quite light.  It has some asparagus aroma, and tastes more like an orange or tangerine than a lemon.  It also has a fair amount of minerality and saltiness.  “Fire Island on the beach,” began my tasting buddy, waxing poetic as he sometimes does.

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  1. 2016 Rosé $17

Now it was time for the menu writer to get poetic, describing this wine as perfect for “life on the patio with friends.”  Well, yes, if your friends are not particularly interested in taste, since this rosé has very little.  There’s nothing objectionable about this light, minerally rosé, with its taste of unripe strawberry and citrus, but we felt the aroma and taste were equally undistinguished.

  1. 2013 Merlot $19

All along I’ve been complaining that it is hard to decide how the wine smells because the aroma of pizza is so strong.  Now I think this one smells like mushrooms, and I’d think it was because of the pizza, but there are no mushrooms on it.  In any event, this is an okay merlot, rather tannic and even a bit harsh, with some black raspberry and nutmeg flavor.  No cherry taste!  We must have gotten the last glass in the bottle, as our taste has some sediment at the bottom.

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There’s some sediment on the bottom of our glass of merlot.

  1. 2014 Cantina $22

Phew, this one is much better.  A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this has aromas of cherry and tobacco and tastes of fruit and spice—more spice than fruit.  Light and not complex, this is the sort of red that goes well with roast chicken (like the one I am planning to make with an 8 Hands chicken tonight) or pizza and pasta.

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At Diliberto, you don’t stand at the bar for a tasting. They bring it to your seat.

  1. 2014 Tre $26

According to the menu, this one is only made in the best vintage years, of a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  I swear it smells like eggplant, though perhaps that’s because I’m trying to decide what I will make with the lovely eggplant I bought at a farm stand this morning.  Anyway, the wine is quite good, with lots of black cherry and purple plum tastes.  Dry, with some tannins, we think it might get better with age.  My husband says it has “the backbone to deal with food,” and I suggest osso buco as a possible dish.

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The flat screen TV shows scenes of Italy. I hear the piano gets used for various musical events.

Reasons to visit:  you have a hankering for a glass of red (I suggest the Tre) and a pizza; you want a quiet, intimate setting for a tasting; the Sauvignon Blanc and the Tre; you don’t mind that they don’t allow children or outside food; you like relatively simple but well-priced wines.

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The warm weather could fool you into thinking it is still summer, until you look at the vines and see that most of the grapes have been harvested.

Riverhead Cider House:  Cider House Rules          August 24, 2017

http://www.riverheadcider.com/

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This giant apple marks the entrance to the Riverhead Cider House.

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Shortly after we entered the cavernous tasting room at the newly opened Riverhead Cider House, we decided that we were not the target audience.  Then we tasted their wares, and were sure.  That being said, if you are a twenty-or-thirty-something heading East with a group of friends who like sweet-ish mildly alcoholic drinks or local beers, you might find the Cider House to be just what you’re looking for.  As you enter, you’ll see a smaller room off to the side that can be rented for parties and a small alcove where a gift shop is located.  Then you enter the large room lined on one side by a long bar and on the other by tables made from repurposed doors (knobs and all!) and tractor seats, plus more comfortable seating areas near the fireplaces.  Twin “dueling grand pianos” are in the center of the room, and guitars hang on the walls with notes encouraging their use.  Towards the far end is another alcove occupied by a café selling pizzas, salads, sandwiches, huge pretzels, and more.  Out the back is a patio with more seating and what has become a necessity for many tasting rooms, bean bag toss games.

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I would guess that on the weekends the bar is more crowded.

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One view of the room.

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Another view, with the “dueling pianos.”

A huge sign over the bar lists the eight different hard cider flavors and the four local beers currently on tap.  As we were familiar with the beers, we decided to get two tastings of four ciders each:  what they call the Cider Master Flight, and then the other four, for $10 each foursome of two-ounce pours.  The server was quite friendly, but gave us no guidance as to the order of the tastings, which are served on a square tray, so we took them to our table and drank them in whatever order we pleased.  To accompany the tastings, we stopped into the café and bought one of their huge pretzels (and then another one, since the six of us—including two children—demolished the first in short order), which came with three dipping sauces, for $9.75.

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Our guests, who are fond of dry European hard ciders, and the two of us agreed that these were not serious ciders, but would be fine for those who like sweet fruity drinks.  We all went to the Woodside Cidery last year, and liked their ciders much better.  The children enjoyed playing on the patio (supervised by an adult, of course) and looking at some of the quirky décor, so this is one of the places you can come with children—but not with a picnic, as they forbid outside food.

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The Cider House Rules

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The patio, with the obligatory bean bag toss game.

You can also buy growlers of cider or beer to take home, at $8 for the bottle and $18 to have it filled.

The choices from the Cider Master Flight are marked with an *.

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One of our flights, composed of the ciders that are not on the Master Flight.

  1. Apple Annie

Sweet.  Tastes like apple juice.  Maybe you could have this in a mixed drink with a spicy tequila.

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You can buy the ciders by the bottle in the gift shop.

  1. *Prickly Pear Rosé

A bit on the dry side, though I don’t think it tastes much like a rosé or like a prickly pear.

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Seating on the patio.

  1. Black Cherry

If you like black cherry soda, get this one.  It even has a bit of fizz.  One of our guests, an excellent mixologist, thinks you could make a decent highball of this if you mixed it with bourbon and orange or angostura bitters.

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You can see into the room where they brew the ciders.

  1. Razz

Continuing the soda theme, this one smells and tastes like raspberry soda, though it is not cloyingly sweet.

  1. Grapefruit

We agree that this smells remarkably like Lemon Pledge.  I don’t recall what Fresca tastes like, but one of our party opines that that is what this resembles.

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The Master Flight.

  1. *Greg’s Strawberry Patch

Yuk.  Tastes like “strawberry-flavored medicine,” we hear.  Another mildly alcoholic soda-ish drink.

  1. *Founder’s Reserve

Sweet apple juice, very apple-y.

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Our partially demolished pretzel. I liked both the cheese and one of the mustard sauces.

  1. *Benjamin’s Best

We like this the best—or dislike it the least!  It is more like a wine than the others, fairly dry, and tastes more like a European hard cider than the rest.

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The café menu

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Reasons to visit:  you like sweet fruity alcoholic drinks; you are with a group and want to get pizza or huge pretzels and beer or cider; you want a place with a slightly funky vibe and a party atmosphere; the Benjamin’s Best. 

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The fireplace area looks like it would be quite cozy in the winter.

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Not sure what the statue represents, but we did heed the sign next to it.

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