Mattebella Vineyards: Science Experiment! August 9, 2015

The small tasting cottage

The small tasting cottage

http://www.mattebellavineyards.com/

“So first you’re going to try the 2009 chardonnay and the 2013 steel chardonnay,” our charming server explains, pointing out the ways in which they compare.  She also sets down in front of us two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie, about which more later.  Mattebella gives you the opportunity to make side by side comparisons of their wines, and in the process you can learn some interesting aspects of wine making, which I’ll tell you along with my discussion of each wine.  We started to compare our experience with doing a fun science experiment.

What amazing hydrangeas!

What amazing hydrangeas!

Another attractive feature of the winery is their beautiful outdoor patio setting, with a variety of comfortable seating surrounded by lush hydrangea and rose bushes.  The tasting “cottage” itself is quite small, so this is a place we reserve for beautiful days when we can sit outside and relax while being served.  Others clearly think so, too, for though the patio was very quiet when we arrived, several groups walked in shortly after we did and all seemed to be enjoying the experience, including one group of young people who entered into a lively discussion with Mr. Tobin, the owner (with his wife, who was also there) of the winery.  It is quite a family place, as evidenced by the active participation of the owners in the tasting room, the name of the vineyard—named for their two children—and the name of most of their wines: Famiglia, Italian for family.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Service is warm and personal, and the wine tasting includes some small tastes of food, since they believe that food affects how wines taste.  The menu has two main options:  the Light Flight is $17 for 6 whites and 2 rosés, or the Red Flight, $19 for five reds.  (Note—they do not accept American Express, though they take other cards.)  You can also order individual tastes for $2-$6, glasses of any of the wines, or a glass of their wine cocktail or sangria for $14.  Non-drinkers can order their house-made lemonade or water.   We decide to share one of each flight, so we can try all the wines.  Though there are a lot of tastes on the menu, our server tells us that it is a one ounce pour, so we figure we can handle it!

Light Flight

  1. 2009 Chardonnay            $21

We thought the server might have been a little confused when she set two glasses down on the table, but she soon explained that she was serving two wines side by side so we could compare them.  The 09 is an oaked chard from a cold season, she noted, which made it fairly “crisp and sharp” and an interesting foil for the 2013 steel-fermented chardonnay.  She also set down a pretty pottery plate with two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie.  She recommended that we experiment by tasting each wine, then taking a bite of the cheese, and then sipping the wine again to see how having it with the creamy cheese changed the effect of the wine.   Okay!  The ’09 has a perfume-y aroma of pear and citrus, with, says my husband, “a fair amount going on.”  Once we take a bite of the cheese, we note more vanilla and baked pear tastes, as well as a surprising amount of citrus for an oaked chard.  On to the ’13.

Double cream brie on baguette.  Yum.

Double cream brie on baguette. Yum.

  1. 2013 Steel Chardonnay $21

The aroma is faintly grassy, the taste good, with some fruit but fairly dry, maybe a touch of bitter orange.  We don’t see as much change with this one after the bite of cheese as the other, but it is a good complement to the cheese.  Usually I think of red wine with cheese, but with a soft rich cheese I will now consider whites as well.

  1. 2010 Chardonnay $21

Now we are asked to consider another pairing of the same grape, treated similarly (both lightly oaked, this one 20% oak and 80% steel fermented), but from very different years.  2010 is generally considered to have been a very good year on the North Fork, with warm dry weather which led to great ripening of the grapes.  No surprise, this is a lovely rich chard, with great depth of flavor, the aroma grassy, fruity, and sweet.  If we needed a white at the moment, we’d buy it.

m white

  1. 2011 Chardonnay $21

In contrast, 2011 was a very rainy year, and so the grapes contain a lot of water.  Wow—this wine is waterier!  Although it is only 5% oaked, the taste has lots of oak in it, perhaps because there’s not as much chard taste to counteract it.  We smell the expected woodsy vanilla aroma, and the taste is quite light, almost evanescent.  Our server characterizes this as a sipping wine.  I think if you put an ice cube in it on a hot day you could almost forget you were drinking wine.

  1. Famiglia 2012 $21

Now we get to try two wines from the same vintage year, same grape, but treated differently.  This is fun, we tell each other.  2012 was another good year.  The Famiglia is 20% oaked, with aromas of vanilla, baked pear, and butterscotch.  It is lighter than one might expect of an oaked chard (so for those of you who say “I don’t like chardonnay,” you need to try a bunch of differently treated chards), with some sweetness at first taste which then dissipates.  Fine, but we like the 2010 better.

  1. Reserve 2012 $28

This chardonnay has been 38% aged in French oak, and we have no trouble telling which is which just on appearance, since this wine has a darker gold color than the other.  Mmm…smells good and tastes good, too.  Lots of oak and fruit tastes, mouth-watering, “softer and sweeter,” opines my drinking pal.  Very easy to drink.  It would be good with spaghetti and fresh clam sauce or sautéed scallops, though you wouldn’t want it with anything too creamy.

  1. 2014 Rosé $20

Mrs. Tobin stops by to say hello and give us a bit of background on the rosé.  It is 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc and chardonnay, she tells us; the merlot is a Pomerol, the 181 clone also used by Croteaux.  The grapes are picked when they are still “crunchy.”  We smell and taste strawberry, green apple, and a touch of lime.  Very light.

The

The “fun, party” sparkling rose.

  1. 2014 Sparkling Rosé $27

We get a new glass for the sparkling rosé, a tall slim one.  This is a fun wine, Mrs. T. tells us, not at all serious, and the syrah grape juice accidentally spent too long on the skins, hence its dark pink color.  Lots of over-ripe strawberry smells and tastes, almost soda-pop-y, this is much too easy to drink.  I decide to dub it the bachelorette party wine, and indeed I observe the young woman at the next table order a full glass of it, while her companion opts for a glass of sangria.

Red Flight

  1. Famiglia Red         $23

In 2012 we bought the Famiglia Red for $15, and last year it was $21, but prices do tend to rise, even on the non-vintage wines, though this is still a bargain compared to their other reds.  This is a good everyday wine, and goes with pizza and pasta, as our server tells us.  It spends a year in French oak, and then is put into steel to stop the aging.  (By the way, Mattebella is one of the vineyards that uses the facilities at Premium Wine Group to produce their wines.)  We smell leather and fruit, taste some cherry.

m red

  1. 2008 Old World Blend $44

With this wine a small plate arrives with pairs of treats—fig jam and gorgonzola on baguette, bacon jam and grana cheese on baguette, and little bits of brownie—which we are advised to pair with our next wines.  These are all Bordeaux blends, with varying percentages of the grapes.  The ‘08 is 86% merlot, 7% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon (The petit verdot didn’t ripen in time, we hear.)  We smell dark fruits, though the wine is on the light side.  The taste improves after a bite of the yummy fig jam and gorgonzola, a combo I will definitely try at home.

More yummy snacks!

More yummy snacks!

  1. 2009 Old World Blend $41

Since I asked about the percentages on the last wine, our intelligent server makes sure to tell me these:  93% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 3% petit verdot, 1% cabernet sauvignon.  Remember, this was a cold, rainy year.  The wine is fairly tannic, with aromas of earth and minty candy, not very complex.   Having it with a bite of bacon jam and grana cheese does help.  Then again, what wouldn’t be helped by bacon jam!?

  1. 2010 Old World Blend $48

If you come here for a tasting, you will definitely understand the difference a year makes.  We tend to forget that winemaking is farming, dependent on earth and weather, but this progression of vintages makes that clear.  If their “biodynamic” farming methods are as effective in the fields as they are on the huge hydrangeas we are admiring, they must work amazingly well.  The blend here is 88% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot, and we are also advised that this could be cellared for 4-5 years.  We smell dark fruits, taste lots of cherry, a touch of chocolate, good tannins, though not a lot of complexity.  It is good with the brownie!

  1. 2007 Old World Blend $63

84% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 2% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petit verdot.  Of course, they saved the best for last—and also the costliest.  The aroma is delicious and so is the taste, with a “nice mouth feel,” says my pal.  It is very good, but we have had the privilege of tasting world-class Bordeaux, which this is not—on the other hand, it doesn’t cost as much as they do, either!

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful outdoor setting with friendly table service; the fun of experimenting with tasting wine with and without food (and where else is food included in your tasting?); the fun of comparing vintages and methods of winemaking; a chance to learn about the influence of weather on grape crops and hence on the wines; the 2010 chardonnay; the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay; the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink; the Famiglia Red; the 2010 Old World Blend.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you'll notice that they don't use herbicides.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you’ll notice that they don’t use herbicides.

m garden 2

m pavillion

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

http://premiumwinegroup.com/

http://liebcellars.com/

http://bridgelanewine.com/

lieb entrance

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

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

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

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

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

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

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

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Merlot                               $16

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

  1. *NV Rumor Mill Hard Cider $9

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

lieb white

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Chardonnay $15

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

They can't call it champagne...

They can’t call it champagne…

  1. *2010 Lieb Cellars Blanc de Blanc $30

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

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend $16

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

  1. *2014 Lieb Pinot Blanc $22

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

The rose sure looks pretty.

The rose sure looks pretty.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Rosé                 $18

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

lieb red

  1. *2013 Reserve Merlot $24

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

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Red Blend $16

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

  1. *2013 Lieb Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

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

lieb board

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

lieb array

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

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

The Tasting Group (Premium Wine Group): Choice Choices August 4, 2014

http://liebcellars.com

photo (78)

There are always changes out here in wine country.  New wineries open, some close, others merge, and menus change with each new harvest.  Lieb Cellars has made some alterations in their tasting room options.  Their Oregon Road facility (see my entry from last August for a description of that tasting room) still has the full panoply of Lieb wines, while their Sound Avenue room has been re-named The Tasting Group and now offers two menus:  Lieb’s Bridge Lane line (their less expensive offerings) or the “featured flight,” which features wines from a variety of labels which use the Premium Wine Group wine-making facilities behind the tasting room.  Either flight includes some very good choices.

We opted to each get our own flight, sharing tastes as always, and I took the Bridge Lane option, which includes 5 tastes for $12 from the Bridge Lane menu.  My husband took the featured flight, also 5 tastes, though with no options, for $14.  We were accompanied by family members, with the three year old distraction and her two month old sister opting to spend their time outside at one of the picnic tables on the lawn, admiring the grapes and just generally running around.  On Friday evenings Lieb has what they call “Firefly Fridays” out there, with music and glasses of wine on offer from 6-8 p.m.

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

The room itself is a bit small and somewhat spare, with a tasting bar and a few small tables.  Our server seemed quite knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and attempted to make a red wine convert out of another customer who kept insisting she only liked whites, though to no avail.

I’ll give you the Bridge Lane wines first, then the others.

1)  Bridge Lane White Blend            $20

20% chardonnay, 20%pinot blanc, 18% Riesling, 14% Viognier, 9% sauvignon blanc and 4% gewürztraminer combine to make this a pleasantly fruity yet light white, with nice citrus flavors.  Classic summer wine.

2)  Bridge Lane Sparkling                  $20

Very dry, somewhat mineral-y, and reminiscent of a Prosecco, this is a bit too seltzer-ish for me.

I liked the bubbly label.

I liked the bubbly label.

3)  Bridge Lane 2011 Chardonnay $14

Unoaked, our server notes, so a good choice for those who dislike the California style of heavily oaked chards.  This is light and lemony and very buyable.

4)  Bridge Lane Rosé 2013                 $18

Since we were just recently at Croteaux, of course I have to compare this to their wines, and it’s fine, but not as good.  A blend of cabernet franc, merlot, and gewürztraminer, this has typical strawberry aroma and is pleasantly dry, but could use more complexity.

5)  Bridge Lane Merlot 2011 $16

Though this is called merlot, it is also 24% cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, grapes which I think always improve a merlot.  For the price this is a really good option, with lots of berry flavors though not much aroma.  Very buyable, which we do.

Now for the Featured Flight.

1)  Brooklyn Oenology 2013 Pinot Gris        $20

Perhaps you were wondering where in Brooklyn grapes are grown?  The grapes for this wine come from Upstate New York and are processed here in Mattituck.  The wine is very, very dry, with lots of tart lemon flavors, so would be better with food than sipped on its own.

The SUHRU Riesling got some favorable comments.

The SUHRU Riesling got some favorable comments.

2)  SUHRU 2012 Dry Riesling $16

We’ve encountered SUHRU wines before, in The Tasting Room (now under different ownership as The Winemaker’s Studio) so we knew that they are made by Russell Hearn, Lieb’s winemaker, and his wife.  As the name promises, this is a dry Riesling.  It has a touch of that cat pee smell, but tastes fine, with good fruit—maybe gooseberry?  Our relatives really like it.

3)  Bouquet Rosé 2013 $16

“Not a lot of character,” offers our relative, and we agree, even though you’d think a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot would be more interesting.  There’s a touch of that earthiness some North Fork merlots have in this dry rosé.

4)  T’Jara 2010 Merlot $25

Where did the name T’Jara come from?  Our server tells us that this is Russell Hearn’s premium label, only made in good years, and, since he is from Australia, he decided to name it for an Australian tribe.  Aged in oak, this is a very good merlot, with plenty of berry tastes, dry but not too dry.

We liked Leo's label--and wine.

We liked Leo’s label–and wine.

5)  Leo Family Red Blend $36

We liked this the best of the wines sampled today.  A Bordeaux blend, this is a wine one could happily sip on its own or pair with pork chops.  It’s a bit on the sweet and soft side, without a lot of tannins, made by the Clovis Point winemaker.  It also has a really pretty lacy pattern on the label.

In addition to bottles, one can also buy some of the wines in a box!  A box of White Blend or Red Blend is the equivalent of 4 bottles, we are told, costs $46, and can last three weeks after being opened.  We opt instead for two bottles of the Bridge Lane merlot as an everyday table wine, our relative goes for the SUHRU Riesling, and one of our three tastings is complimentary.

photo (77)

Reasons to Visit:  the chance to try a variety of wines from various winemakers, in addition to Lieb’s own Bridge Lane line; the Bridge Lane chardonnay and merlot; the Leo Family Red Blend (If I were here for a Firefly Friday, I would get a glass of this if it were on offer.); the SUHRU Riesling; a pleasant outdoor space for a glass and a picnic.  We often see groups enjoying the Firefly Fridays, but have not had the chance to do so ourselves yet.

 

Outdoor area

Outdoor area