Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser January 26,2019

Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser              January 26,2019

img_6135

https://www.pindar.net/

We thought it was safe, on this cold day in January, to go to Pindar for a quiet tasting.  Nope.  When we entered, a group of young women were having a wonderful but excruciatingly loud time at one end of the bar.  However, we could see that they were almost done, so we stayed and prepaid (as requested) for two tastings.  Halfway into the first five tastes, they left—only to be replaced by two bus loads!  Our server apologetically explained that one group had arrived early for their reservation, while the other arrived late, hence the crowd of almost forty women around the bar.

img_6112

Don’t let the serenity of this image fool you. Just off to the right there’s a noisy crowd at the bar.

img_6113

We decided we could see why Pindar is popular with the limo group.  The pour is generous, the bottles are reasonably priced, and most of the wines are easy to drink and rather on the sweet side.  That is also true of the other wineries owned by the Damianos family:  Duck Walk and Jason’s.  Though the founder, referred to fondly by staff as “Dr. Dan,” has passed, clearly his legacy lives on.

img_6132

The tasting room is large, with several oval bars plus a number of tables, at one of which two women were attempting to enjoy their glasses of wine and a game of Scrabble.  We commiserated about the noise.  By the way, if you need the restroom you need to walk out of the tasting room and across the outdoor porch to find it.

img_6111

A tasting consists of five wines for $12, selected from a list of over two dozen wines.  We chose our ten tastes with some help from the well-informed but sorely over-worked server.  He clearly would have liked to hang with us and discuss what we did and did not like, but once the third group arrived, he had plenty of work on his hands.    Not wanting to prolong the experience, we decided not to order a cheese tray, which consists of a cheese you choose from their cooler plus crackers for $10.

img_6131

Looks like a fairly pedestrian selection of cheeses.

img_6114

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

I generally think of North Fork sauvignon blancs as perfect matches for Peconic Bay oysters.  This one had a promising aroma of Granny Smith apples and lemons, and an initial tart flavor, also of lemon and green apple.  However, it ended a bit too sweet.  We liked it enough to imagine drinking it as an aperitif on a hot day, or pairing it with New England clam chowder, but it lacked that minerality we like with oysters.

img_6115

The pretty label has quite a story behind it.

  1. 2017 Viognier $21.99

Not that many NoFo wineries feature viognier, so we knew we wanted to try this one.  The aroma was somewhat funky, and my tasting buddy compared it to wet cardboard.  Fortunately, it tasted better than it smelled, though the taste was rather simple.  “It tastes like white wine,” he declared.  Ha ha.  Basically, it has a sort of generic white wine taste, with some unripe peach flavor.  The label is very pretty, a painting of flowers made by a quadriplegic patient of Dr. Dan.  She made it by holding a brush in her mouth!  Quite an achievement.  Her art also adorns the Syrah.

  1. Autumn Gold $12.99 (or $18.99 for a quart)

Our server explained that this blend of seyval blanc, Cayuga, and chardonnay is “like a pinot grigio.”  That sounded good, since I like pinot grigios.  However, I felt it mainly tasted like a typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with a combination of citrus and a touch of peach.  Drinkable.

img_6119

  1. 2017 Rosé $16.99

Made from pinot meunier grapes, this is a rather sweet rosé.  It has the typical rosé aroma of strawberries, though in this case it reminded me of the smell of a bunch of strawberries macerating in sugar in preparation for being made into strawberry shortcake.  The taste also reminded me of strawberry shortcake, cut with a touch of lemon.

img_6120

I should have known that I wouldn’t like this one, based on the description. Oh well.

  1. Spring Splendor $12.99

I was curious to try this because the menu describes it as “fermented with natural American cranberry.”  It has a pretty pink color, tastes like a slightly alcoholic cranberry juice, and I suppose one could use it to make a wine-based cocktail. Too sweet. We dumped the rest of our taste.

img_6121

This label reminds us of the 20s-inspired labels at Duck Walk.

  1. 2016 Gamay Noir $18.99

If you are out to dinner and one person orders fish or chicken and the other orders meat, but you want one bottle of wine, this would work.  It is a very light red, like a less fruity Beaujolais.  It is dry, with no tannins, and rather mono-dimensional.  Drinkable.

  1. Pythagoras $16.99

The name of this wine and the name of the winery are nods to the Damianos family’s Greek roots, in case you were wondering why a wine is named for that annoying theorem you had to memorize in high school geometry.  This is their Bordeaux blend—cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, and petit verdot.  The fragrance reminds me of stewed prunes, and the taste also has some purple plum notes.  The wine is dry, with soft tannins, and is good but not deep or complex.  My husband says it is a “teeny tiny Bordeaux.”

img_6124

Another pretty label, and our favorite wine of the day.

  1. 2015 Syrah $16.99

This one, as my grandma used to say with the birth of each grandchild, beats the bunch.  Though our server apologetically explains that is it “not as bold or peppery” as some syrahs, we quite like it.  I say it smells like blueberries, and my husband says blackberries.  It tastes of those berries and plums, with nice tannins.  It would go well with lamb—or, we decide, as we buy a bottle, with the eggplant parmesan I’m making for dinner.

img_6126

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

I say it smells like “forest floor,” and my husband adds “auto repair shop.”  Really?  Then I sniff some more and get it:  rubber, metal, some sort of chemical spray.  Our server notes that he just opened the bottle, and it probably needed more time to breathe.  (Given how many people he is serving at once, he could probably use some time to breathe as well!)  It tastes pretty good, however.  We get dark fruits, cherries, spice, and chocolate.

  1. 2014 Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot $24.99

We get a new glass for this special wine, which is aged 32 months in French oak and made with grapes from 40-year-old vines.  It smells delicious.  It has the dark cherry taste of North Fork merlots, plus blackberry and a touch of vanilla.  Though it is not complex, it is good.  We decide overall we prefer the reds to the whites.

img_6130

If you like raspberry soda, you might like this sparkler.

  1. Raspberry Bubbly (sparkling wine) $21.99

No, this is not a special extra because of the book.  The menu highlights it as a free taste.  It is listed as “’méthode champenoise with raspberry dosage,” and, having noted our likes and dislikes, our server offers this somewhat apologetically.  It tastes like raspberry soda, and one sip is enough for us.  We leave the rest of the taste in the glass, thank our server, and go buy a bottle of the syrah.

img_6134

We found this calico cat sunning herself on Pindar’s porch.

Reasons to visit:  it is winter and you are hoping for a quiet tasting—but don’t count on it; the sauvignon blanc, the syrah, the cabernet franc, Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot; they also serve you need a place that will accommodate a large group.

img_6137

Not sure if you can read this, but this hand-written sign was at the entrance to the Pindar driveway.

 

 

 

Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018

https://www.pindar.net/

IMG_4824

You might guess from the red tile roof that there is some Mediterranean culture behind this winery. You’d be right.

I have been to wineries where the server knew just enough to spout a brief memorized description of the wines, and to others where the winemaker him or herself was there to tell me everything I could possibly want to know about the wines.  Both models work, but there’s another way: a well-informed server who knows the wines and is enthusiastic about them, without getting too technical.  The last is the type we encountered on a cold day in January in the almost empty tasting room at Pindar.

IMG_4856

Don’t let that sunny blue sky fool you. It was COLD!

Since the tasting room is quite large, and obviously set up to serve many people, it felt kind of funny that there were at most two couples at any one time during the hour or so we were there.  But it did mean that we got plenty of individualized attention from our excellent server.  We learned some interesting details about the wines and some of the labels, and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.

IMG_4827

Plenty of room for more people.

Pindar is both one of the older and larger wineries, and their prices reflect the economies of scale, being lower in general than many of the other places.  The wine list offers 27 different varieties, with almost all of them available for the basic $10 for five tastes.  The menu is divided into the categories of White Wines and Dry Rosé, Red Wines, Proprietary Blends, On the Sweeter Side, Dessert Wines, and Limited Production.  We quickly decided to eliminate the Sweeter Side category and also that we needed to share two tastings in order to get any sense of their offerings.  Since the Red Wines category included eight wines, we also decided to focus our attention there, and only try three of the four regular whites.  Due to the power of the book, we ended up getting a few extra tastes, as our server appreciated our enthusiasm and began to grok our taste.  As the pour is rather generous, I ended up having to drink more of each taste as the afternoon went on, since I was not the driver.  Tough job…

IMG_4836

Pindar requests that you not bring in outside food, and offers a selection of cheeses to which they will add crackers, etc.  They also have a modest selection of wine-related gift items.

IMG_4844

Snacks to have with your wine.

IMG_4845

Some of the gift items for sale.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

We started at the top of the menu with their sauvignon blanc, a wine we find often pairs well with oysters or clams.  This one would do so, too, but has an assertive enough flavor that it could also go with bluefish.  The aroma has a touch of cat pee, plus a fruit the menu identifies as white peach.  The taste is pleasant, with a touch of sweetness, and some citrus and mineral notes.

IMG_4832

The beautiful art is supposed to reflect the taste of the wine.

  1. 2016 Viognier $18.99

“What a beautiful bottle,” we said, and learned that it had been painted by Sylvia, a former patient of the founder of Pindar, Dr. Dan Damianos.  We also found out that she was a quadriplegic who painted with a brush in her mouth, and that she designed the pretty pastel floral image to reflect the taste of the wine.  Wow.  Viognier is a grape you don’t find too often on Long Island (a quick search of my blog found three or four other wineries that had it), and our server told us that they didn’t bottle it every year, since the grapes did not always meet their standards.  We’re glad it was on the menu this time.  Though not a sipper, it is a really nice wine, with lots of tart pear and some woody/mineral tastes.  She suggests serving it with shrimp or lobster, and I bet it would go well with Peconic Bay scallops, too.  We decided to buy a bottle.

IMG_4834

I love looking at the fields of sunflowers in the summertime on the North Fork.

  1. 2015 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

We were going to try the Peacock Chardonnay, but our friend warned us that it had been reformulated and was on the sweet side.  We had been reluctant to have the Sunflower, since the menu said it was 100% new barrel fermented, and we tend not to like really oaky chardonnays.  However, she reassured us that it was not like that, but rather tasted mostly of pineapple.  She was exactly right.  She said that the particular clone of chardonnay that was used for this wine tended more towards tropical fruit flavors.  Interesting.

IMG_4839

  1. Pythagoras $16.99

Now we moved on to the reds, getting a clean glass for these tastes.  The name of this wine, the images on several of the bottles, and the name of the winery, reference the Damianos family’s Greek heritage.  (We went to a class on Greek wines several months ago, and were quite pleased to discover that they were no longer limited to retsina and harsh reds, but included many wines we enjoyed. Wines occupy an important role in Greek mythology, and not just because they have a god of wine!)  This is their Bordeaux blend, and varies from year to year.  It likely includes some combination of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and Malbec, and was described as a “good pizza wine.”  That it is, and has lots of fruit with a touch of tannins.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably heavy on the merlot.

IMG_4835

Another image made to hint at the flavor of the wine.

  1. 2014 Syrah $16.99

Here’s another label painted by Sylvia, which is supposed to convey the “stormy and dark” taste of the wine.  Not so sure about the stormy part, but it is certainly dark, with black cherry flavor, a bit of oak, and nice tannins. It smells a bit like nutmeg.  It is not complex, but is very good, and we also plan to buy a bottle of this one.  It would go well with a soup and bread and cheese dinner.

IMG_4853

A beautiful stained glass window in the tasting room.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

We were going to give this one a pass, but now it seems we will be trying all of the reds.  Our server has poured out a glass of one of the Limited Production wines, to let it breathe while we taste the others.  The cabernet franc has lots of tannins, with some tastes of fruit, spice, and wood, and would be okay with food.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

2014 was a good year for reds on the North Fork, so we’re not surprised that we like most of the reds we taste.  This is a very drinkable red, not very deep or complex, with a pleasant fruity aroma.

IMG_4846

Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology.

  1. 2014 Merlot $18.99

Oops.  Finally one we don’t particularly like.  The smell is a bit funky and earthy, the wine rather thin. We dump the rest of this taste.

IMG_4847

We like the image of the Argo, the boat for Jason and the Argonauts, better than the wine inside.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $21.99

Like a number of the other reds, this is aged two years in French oak.  We do detect a bit of oak in the aroma, plus purple plum and toast.  The wine is quite yummy, though not complex, tasting of plums and cherries.  It would be overpowered by red-sauce Italian foods, but would be good with meat loaf.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $16.99 (on sale, was $21.99)

This one could be on the edge of going over the edge, we decide.  It also has a somewhat funky aroma, and has a slight cherry taste.  Just okay.

IMG_4854

  1. 2014 Mythology $27.99

Their Meritage blend, this is 40% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 10% petit verdot, and 10% Malbec.  Nevertheless, my notes say “not much to it.”  I swear it smells like cheese, though the menu says it has “cassis, bing cherry and raspberry on the nose.”  It is dry, with some tannins and dark fruit tastes.

IMG_4842

A wine well worth buying.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014       $24.99

After Dr. Damianos died, his children decided to make some special wines in his memory.  They did a great job with this one, the special taste our server had set aside to breathe for us.  Given the price point, it is quite impressive, with lots of delicious dark fruit tastes and some complexity.  The tannins are strong enough that we feel it could age several years and get even better, so we decided to get a bottle of this and label it to be drunk a few years from now.  It could stand up to steak or lamb chops, for sure.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot 2014       $24.99

Well, she had a bottle of this open and had served a taste to the other couple at the bar, so we might as well try it, too.  We like this better than their other merlots.  It tastes of black cherry and spice, perhaps nutmeg, with tannins that could let this one age as well.

IMG_4848

IMG_4849

Reasons to visit:  big place that can accommodate a crowd (which it definitely gets in the summer); lots of different wines at good prices; despite the mass appeal, many of the wines are quite good; the Viognier, the Syrah, Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in particular, plus many of the other wines; dogs are allowed on the back deck in the summertime.

IMG_4855

Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

Pindar Vineyards: Greek Poetry January 25, 2014

http://www.pindar.net/

Pindar's Field

Pindar’s Field

Old Man Winter certainly has the North Fork in his grip.  (Why old?  Why man?  I haven’t the foggiest.)  All the farm stands, even Bayview and Briermere, are closed, and the fields are quiet under a coating of snow and ice.  So we thought about the warmth of the Greek Isles and headed to Pindar, named for the Greek poet.  While the room wasn’t overly warm—we kept our jackets on, though unzipped—the greeting certainly was.  The tasting room is in a converted potato barn, featuring multiple rows of tasting bars and a beautiful stained glass window.  When we entered we were surprised to see the room was empty, since there were plenty of cars in the lot, but our server informed us that there was a large group in another building for a barrel tasting, and the room was soon quite busy for a January afternoon.  They have a selection of wine-related gift items and plenty of cheese and crackers for sale, which is fortunate since they don’t allow outside food.

pindar window

This room is only one of the sites run by Dr. Damianos, the owner, and his family.  They also own Duck Walk, which has a site on the South Fork as well, and his son Jason owns Jason’s Vineyard (which I reviewed back in June), plus they have a satellite tasting room in Port Jefferson for those who don’t care to trek to the North Fork.  They also like to tout how eco-friendly they are, with a wind turbine for power, composting and recycling, and other green techniques.

Rows of tasting bars

Rows of tasting bars

As we sipped, we appreciated the quiet guitar and folk-ish singing of John Kroo in the background.  Tastings consist of 5 tastes for $10, chosen from a menu with 15 choices, plus limited production wines available for $3 each.  We opted to do five whites and five reds, sharing tastes of each.  Our server, who was young and enthusiastic and clearly engaged in learning all he could about wine, carefully rinsed our glass between tastes and was able to answer most of our questions about the wines.  We were happily surprised by how many of the wines we liked, since we had not been to Pindar in years because we remembered not liking many of the wines.  There was still one we dumped, but more about that later.

pindar singer

1)      Autumn Gold                           $10.99

Our server looked at the choices we circled on the tasting menu and then carefully coordinated our tasting so we went in the best order, starting with the lightest white.  The tasting notes compare this to a Pinot Grigio, which I can see, as it is a dry white with lots of pineapple taste and a bit of funkiness.  The funkiness is probably from the Seyval Blanc grape, an upstate grape, which is here blended with Chardonnay.  Fine for an everyday white.

2)      2012 Sauvignon Blanc           $18.99

The aroma is a combination of mineral and lemon, and the taste is also citrus-y.  Also a light wine, this would be good with oysters, as in general we feel Sauvignon Blancs are.  There’s plenty of acid here, and the tasting notes say lemon grass, which seems about right.

3)      2012 Sunflower Chardonnay              $!8.99

Why sunflower, we ask?  In the summer, the field next to the winery is filled with sunflowers, the sale of which goes to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation, we are told.  I like the label.  The wine?  Okay.  My husband says it reminds him or Werther’s Butterscotch Candy, so if you like a really oaky Chard, go for it.  There is, however, a bit of acid which helps make this a sippable white, and I think lots of people would like it well chilled on a summer afternoon.

pindar sunflower

4)      2012 Peacock Chardonnay                  $12.99

Why peacock?  Uh-oh, our usually well-informed server doesn’t know, but I bet he will as soon as he gets a chance to find out.  Smells and tastes like a Granny Smith apple, with maybe a hint of banana.  That makes it sound like fruit salad, but actually it is a pleasant white.

5)      Winter White                          $10.99

This may be their most popular white, but our savvy server has already figured out that we won’t care for it.  He says he recommends it to people who say, “I don’t really care for wine, so what should I try?”  Sweet!  Another Seyval Blanc/Chardonnay blend.  We dump it after one sip each, and it was this taste that reminded us why we hadn’t been back in years.

6)      Pythagoras                                                $$14.99

Remember the Pythagorean theory? I do—sort of.  At least, I remember being taught it.  The label, which features an illustration of the theory, also calls this a “geometrical blend.”  More conventionally, this is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.  It has the classic black currant aroma but is softer than I expect, with some notes of oak and mineral.  It would be an okay everyday wine, and is fairly dry, though surprisingly simple for a blend like this.

Note illustration on label!

Note illustration on label!

7)      2010 Syrah                 $14.99

So 2010 is one of those great years for Long Island wines—and 2013 is forecast to be even better—so we are interested to taste these reds.  Not that many places on the North Fork make a Syrah, and we quite like this one.  The aroma is complicated, with some cedar notes and a mouth-puckering flavor of unripe plums that would be great with a fatty meat like lamb.  Actually, we like it, and buy a couple of bottles.

8)      2010 Merlot              $16.99

This is a good, typical Long Island Merlot, with tastes of tobacco and dark chocolate and plum, without the barnyard odor or flavor you sometimes get.

The ship on the label seems to be a reference to the Argonaut, Jason's ship, and a theme of Jason's tasting room.

The ship on the label seems to be a reference to the Argo, Jason’s ship, and a theme of Jason’s tasting room.

9)      2009 Pegasus Cabernet Sauvignon  $$16.99

On the other hand, this wine does have some barnyard odor, plus allspice and prunes.  The taste is better than the smell, and I will borrow my description of the taste from my granddaughter who guesses wine will taste wine-y (without ever having tasted it!).  Why the flying horse?  No idea, but the label is pretty.

pindar pegasus

10)   2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon                  $34.99

Extra!  Noting our serious demeanor and knowledge of wine, our server adds a small taste of the Reserve Cab Sauv to our tasting, which turns out to be a smart move as we later buy a bottle to keep in the cellar.  Excellent.  Although the aroma reminds me of a red candy, the taste is complex, with lots of black cherry and plum, plus other notes.  It would be great with a steak on the grill.

11)   2010 Cabernet Franc                              $34.99

Pine forest aroma and black berry taste make this a nice wine, though not worth the price.  It has lots of fruit but is pleasantly dry.

Someone at Pindar clearly likes to collect corkscrews.

Someone at Pindar clearly likes to collect corkscrews.

Reasons to visit:  Large tasting room with plenty of space for big groups; the 2010 Syrah and the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; the Sunflower Chardonnay if you like an oaky Chard; good prices for Long Island wines;attractive labels; they care about the environment.

pindar field 2