Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018

https://www.pindar.net/

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Snacks to have with your wine.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

Lieb Cellars: Très Èlégant May 21, 2016

http://liebcellars.com/

The somewhat industrial looking outside belies the very attractive inside.

The somewhat industrial looking outside belies the very attractive inside.

“I love Paris” was being crooned on the sound system as we entered Lieb Cellars’ elegant tasting room on Oregon Road.  Oregon Road, you may ask?  If you’ve been to Lieb, you’ve probably been to their tasting room on the corner of Sound Avenue and Cox Neck Road, but this is their second location, and a lovely one it is.  As we walked through the parking lot, we heard birds singing and looked out at a bucolic scene of farm fields and vineyards.

Typical scene along Oregon Road--plowed field ready for planting!

Typical scene along Oregon Road–plowed field ready for planting!

We were greeted by a friendly hostess who escorted us to a table with comfortable chairs in a corner of the attractive tasting room.  Many people were sitting outside, but it felt a touch too chilly for us to sit out there.  However, I could definitely see coming here on a warm afternoon and getting a glass of wine (suggestions at the end of this review) and some snacks—I’m particularly interested in trying the duck paté—to share with friends.

The hostess will show you to your table.

The hostess will show you to your table.

The pleasant waitress explained to us that they now do table service, though one could still sit at the bar, and handed us menus.  The four drink options included 5 of primarily their Bridge Lane whites or 5 Bridge Lane reds for $16, 6 Reserve wines for $20, or 5 “Director’s Cut” options for $12.  The last list included their sparkling cider, Rumor Mill, which I liked when I had it in the past.  Since we have sampled the Bridge Lane offerings several times at their other location, we decided to go with the reserve list.  The waitress brought us a package of slim bread sticks to cleanse our palates along with a tray bearing our first three tastes on a paper with numbered and named spots for each one.

The menu also includes non-alcoholic drinks for the designated driver.

The menu also includes non-alcoholic drinks for the designated driver.

  1. 2011 Reserve Blanc de Blancs    $30

Although this is a Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine, it was served in a regular wine glass, which might have accounted for the paucity of bubbles (or it might have been open for a while).  Despite the bubble issue, this is a perfectly pleasant sparkling wine, not too dry, with some minerality and tastes of unripe pear and the typical yeasty toasty aroma.  But if I wanted an inexpensive sparkler I’d go for a Cava or Asti Spumonte—or, if I was determined to have a Long Island sparkling wine, one of Sparkling Pointe’s better wines, such as Brut Seduction.  They use pinot blanc grapes for this, aged 36 months.

Three whites

Three whites

  1. 2014 Reserve Pinot Blanc $22

Of course, this is also made with pinot blanc grapes, and is, our server told us, their “signature wine.”  I’m not sure why, since, though it’s not bad, we did not particularly care for it.  It is steel fermented with 0% residual sugar, we were told, which might account for the perception I had of something metallic about the smell and taste.  “Like licking foil,” I said, which my companion thought was a rather strange thing to do.  It might be better with food, such as something in a cream sauce, since it is quite crisp.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $26

This is a new wine for Lieb, and so far our definite favorite.  The aroma is complex, with notes of honey, fresh cut grass, pineapple, and maybe a touch of cat pee (or that smell when you’ve had cut flowers in a vase too long).  The taste is also complex, and I compare it to kiwi and something green with a touch of smoke or funk.  My husband says, “I could drink a lot of this.”  It may not be a crowd pleaser, since it is rather dry, but we like it a lot.  We took a mental inventory of our wine cellar and decided not to buy it, but we might change our minds at some future date.

One can also sit at the bar.

One can also sit at the bar.

  1. 2014 Reserve Merlot $24

Now it is time for our reds, and rather than change our glasses the waitress quickly flips over the paper in our little tray to reveal spaces named and numbered for reds.  Even though there are a few drops of wine in each glass, we don’t get new glasses, as she pours out our tastes and gives a brief rundown on each wine.  The merlot, she notes, also has a bit of cabernet franc in it, and all the reserve reds are aged ten months in Hungarian oak.  We feel the merlot is a fairly typical Long Island merlot, with dark fruit aromas and tastes, including plum and cherry, plus a touch of earthiness.

The reds, including our favorite of the day, the Meritage.

The reds, including our favorite of the day, the Meritage.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

I would hope for more depth and complexity in a $40 bottle, though this is a perfectly competent red and would be good with pasta.  Aromas of plum and tobacco and dark fruit tastes, as one would expect.

  1. 2013 Reserve Meritage $35

Described simply as their Bordeaux blend, this is our favorite wine of the day.  Though the aroma is similar to the cabernet franc, the taste is much more interesting.  Cherry, chocolate, plums, perhaps a touch of leather or tobacco.  It could have more body, but we like it enough to also contemplate buying a bottle.  I ask our waitress what the proportions of the various grapes are in the wine, and she disappears into the back for quite a while, during which we decide that cabernet sauvignon probably dominates over the merlot.  When she returns we discover that we are right, as she hands us a printout with a detailed rundown on the wine:  47% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, 17% malbec, 2% cabernet franc, and 1% petit verdot.  Plus more detail than we need, though it is interesting to see the comments on the type of yeast and bacteria used. Winemaking, we have often heard, is both an art and a science.   Also, this is aged 16 months in Hungarian oak.  As we have heard before, 2013 was an excellent year, and this is a good example of the lovely wines made from that harvest.

Comfy chairs and couches abound.

Comfy chairs and couches abound.

Reasons to visit:  prettily bucolic location on a back road with comfortable seats and an appealing array of snacks and variety of tasting menu choices; the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and the Reserve Meritage.  If I were coming to have the duck paté, I would pair it with the Meritage, though a selection of their cheeses and charcuterie could also go well with a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc—or the Rumor Mill sparkling cider.  No limos or buses (though they allow both at their other location).

Despite the cool weather, several groups opted to sit outside.

Despite the cool weather, several groups opted to sit outside.

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Pindar: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day February 20, 2016

http://www.pindar.net/

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

A beautifully deep rich voice singing “sunshine on a cloudy day” greeted us as we entered Pindar’s large tasting room, and that seemed like an appropriate message.  It was a cloudy day, and, as the French say, “A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.”  Pindar often offers musical entertainment, and is often crowded.  Today, however, there were only a few couples at the bar and the tables in a room that, according to their web site, can accommodate 3,000 (!).  Because of the crowds, we hadn’t been there in a few years, but this visit reminded us that we like many of their wines, though not all.  Their prices also are quite reasonable, which may have something to do with the economies of scale, as they say they are the largest vineyard on Long Island.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

The menu offers 5 tastes for $10, out of 14 choices, including four characterized as “sweeter” and two dessert wines, plus another list of three “limited” wines at $3 per taste, and a sparkling wine.  The list is further divided into reds, whites, and “proprietary blends,” so it took us a while and some discussion to decide what to do.  We finally decided to share two tastings, first the whites, including two of the proprietary blends (marked with an * in my review), and then five of the reds.  We chose to skip the rosés, as we tend to find no one’s measure up to Croteaux’s.   Since the pour is rather generous, we were glad we chose to share.  They also offer a selection of cheeses and crackers, and do not allow outside foods.

One view of the bar--one of the bars!

One view of the bar–one of the bars!

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc    $14.99

In general, we feel Long Island sauvignon blancs tend to go better with food, as they tend to be too lemony to just sip, and that’s true of this one as well.  The aroma is of mineral and peach.  Very refreshing, I could see having this with lobster, as its tartness would offset the crustacean’s richness.  My husband notes that the end is too lemony for too long for his liking, especially sans food.

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  1. *Autumn Gold $10.99

This is a blend of Cayuga, Seyval, and chardonnay grapes, our server informs us, as will be our next choice, though in different proportions and different residual sugar amounts. We ask if the Cayuga is from upstate, since it is an upstate grape, and are informed that they grow all their grapes in their own vineyards.  We like this better than the first wine.  It has a touch of sweetness and a bit of funkiness which are well balanced with green apple and citrus tastes.  I also smell some minerality.  This is a very buyable wine, and we get a bottle of it to take home.

  1. *Winter White $10.99 for 750 ml., $17.99 for 150 ml.

“Our most popular white,” notes our server as he pours this blend.  We smell tropical fruits, and are ready to like this one but find it much too sweet for our tastes. The menu describes it as “semi-dry,” which makes us wonder about the wines they categorize as “sweeter.”   You could serve it to someone who actually would prefer soda—or maybe with Thai food.  We dump it.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera's favorite bird.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera’s favorite bird.

  1. 2013 Peacock Chardonnay          $9.99

There’s a pretty peacock on the label, so we ask (as we did two years ago) about the name of the wine.  Still no answer!   This spends eight months in French oak, and we do smell a bit of that woody smell.  We don’t really care for this one, either.  The taste reminds me of over-ripe bananas plus a really tart grapefruit—they say “citrus rind”—and then too much sweetness.  We don’t dump, but we also are not fans.

  1. 2013 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

Why sunflower?  This time we get an answer—a sunflower appeared spontaneously in the midst of the vineyard.  The menu describes this as “100% new barrel” fermented, from a “special 3.9 acre vineyard block.”  Sniff—vanilla and grape juice.  This has more body than any white so far.  I say nice.  My tasting buddy says it is “not offensive at the end.”  One could sip this, and it would also be good with a seafood diavolo, since it has some sweetness to it, but not too much.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $21.99

Now we switch to reds, and get a new glass.  Our server tells us this was just released.  Hmmm…smells good.  Berries, forest floor, maybe wet leaves.  Tastes light, more of a roast chicken or game bird red than a steak red. It would have gone well with the quail from Feisty Acres we bought at the Riverhead Farmer’s Market and had for Valentine’s Day dinner.  But it is soft, pleasant, and quite drinkable.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

Another pretty label, this one with Pegasus, the flying horse, on it, reminds us that Pindar is named for the Greek poet and owned by the Damianos family, who are Greek.  The wine spends two years in American oak barrels, and has just been out for six months.  I like the aroma, which has a bit of a black olive smell.  This is another fairly light red, dry, with some tannins and tastes of stewed prune and spice, maybe allspice.  My husband thinks it could use more time.

Pegasus, the flying horse

Pegasus, the flying horse

  1. 2013 Merlot $18.99

Merlot is the most popular red wine grape around here, and this is a fairly typical example of a merlot, though with more of a café au lait aroma than most.  My tasting buddy says it reminds him of Hopjes candy.  I’m thinking mocha.  Again, nice and soft, dry at the end, with some nice fruit flavor, but not particularly interesting.

Another Greek reference--the Argo, Jason's chip.

Another Greek reference–the Argo, Jason’s ship.

  1. 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $34.99

“This,” says our server enthusiastically, “is my favorite!”  Yes, I can see why.  It is quite good.  Oak (two years in French oak), cherry, and tobacco aromas, with lots of berry tastes, this would have gone well with the lamb chops we had last night.  Very drinkable.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $34.99

The menu informs us that these grapes were hand-picked and the wine spent two years in French oak.  We smell black cherry and dark plum and taste lots of dark fruit tastes.  Yes, it is better than their other merlot.  Then again, everyone says 2010 was a very good year, especially for reds.

Lots of snacks

Lots of snacks

Reasons to visit:  big room that accommodates a crowd (which might also be a reason not to go!); frequent music performances; good prices for Long Island; the Autumn Gold, Sunflower Chardonnay, 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 Reserve Merlot; they sell cheese and crackers and other snacks; lots of choices; wines that non-wine drinkers may prefer.

Plenty of room at the bars

Plenty of room at the bars

Me

Pretty stained glass window

Pretty stained glass window

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Clearly they've won lots of awards.

Clearly they’ve won lots of awards.

One Woman Winery: Big on Dry Whites September 6, 2015

http://www.onewomanwines.com/

one sign

“Don’t you have any sweet wines?” the couple next to us in the tiny tasting shed asked, then left, disappointed.  Too bad for them, since if they had stayed they could have tasted some of the most interesting whites on the North Fork.  Actually, One Woman has had a dessert wine in the past, but they are all sold out.   Meanwhile we enjoyed our tasting, overseen by the same young man who waited on us last year, who not only remembered us, but remembered that we had bought some of the Grüner Veltliner!  Very impressive, both his memory and the wine.

One Woman is the labor of love of one woman, Claudia Purita, and it shows in the quality of the wines, all made from estate-grown grapes and bottled themselves.  The menu offers a choice of any two tastes for $6, three for $8, or four for $10, plus $4 each for the reserve wines.  As we hesitate over which to choose, our server suggests we could share one tasting of all the wines for $20, so we decide to do that.  Good choice.

This shot encompasses most of the tasting room.

This shot encompasses most of the tasting room.

The tasting room is tiny, augmented in warm weather by outdoor picnic tables and an outside bar area served through a rear window, so this is not a place to go with a group.  In fact, if you come with more than six people without a reservation they may turn you away.  We noticed some sandwiches for sale, as well as D’Latte gelato (made by Ms. Purita’s husband, and excellent), but not much else.  The focus here is on the wine.

The gelato freezer

The gelato freezer

  1. 2014 One Woman Rosé                                $22

As usual, we compare this rosé with Croteaux’s, and find it compares favorably, though perhaps it is less complex than their 314.  We smell roses and strawberries, taste red grapefruit and a touch of lemon at the end, with perhaps a hint of strawberry.  Nicely dry.

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  1. 2014 One Woman Sauvignon Blanc $25

Stainless steel fermented, this has an aroma of tangelos, with some sweet fruity tastes yet a dry, lemony finish.  It would be perfect with oysters or clams, like the steamed clams with sausage I had the other night at Pepi’s.

  1. 2014 One Woman Tribute $23

What’s the story behind the name?  Originally this blend of equal amounts of all their white grapes—sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer, chardonnay, and grüner veltliner—was produced to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the winery, and also as a tribute to Ms. Purita’s father, Domenico, who had inspired her to work on the land.  Then it was so popular they decided to add it to the regular line-up.  We inhale all sorts of aromas—gooseberry, Chuckles lemon candy, and more—and the taste is equally interesting and complex, with plenty of fruit but also dry.  I could see this with some grilled bluefish fillets.

Our two favorite wines!

Our two favorite wines!

  1. 2014 One Woman Grüner Veltliner $22

Though there is a rumor that another winery may be planning to offer a grüner, at the moment One Woman is the only place on the North Fork to grow this delicious grape.  Our server comments that one might compare it with a viognier.  We loved it last year, and still do.  Aromas of fresh hay, warm and grassy, then a taste of crisp tart melon, with perhaps some lime at the end.  I could see sipping this on the porch, with some Catapano goat cheese or all by itself.

  1. 2014 One Woman Gewürztraminer $25

What a different aroma this one has from the other whites, we comment:  pine, forest floor, lavender.  The taste is complex, with notes of lychee plus some nice minerality, the sweet fruit balanced by the minerality.  We like it, but we could see how some people might not, and our server confirms that this is a wine one either “loves or hates.”  It would be great with Indian or Thai food, suggests our server, and we agree.

  1. 2013 One Woman Chardonnay $25

This “crowd pleaser” is fermented partly in steel and partly in new French oak, so it is not too oaky.  With its aromas of butterscotch and vanilla it is a typical lightly oaked chard.

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  1. 2012 One Woman Reserve Grüner Veltliner $32

So interesting to see what happens when two different grapes get a similar treatment.  Since this was also aged in French oak, you do get the butterscotch-vanilla scent, but the taste is different, with lots of citrus and mineral as well as the more melon-y tastes.  Really good.  This one is not usually in the tasting, we are told, but has been opened specially for Labor Day. Lucky us.

  1. 2011 One Woman Reserve Chardonnay                 $35

Buttered popcorn may or may not be a “wine word,” but that’s what we think of when we smell this one.  Although it spends 18 months in French oak, it is not too oaky, with complex tastes of citrus and butterscotch.  The aroma is a touch funky and sweet, but the taste is just delicious.  “It should get a prize,” opines my husband.

Assessing the merlot

Assessing the merlot

  1. 2012 One Woman Merlot $28

This is a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with spice and mineral aromas and plum tastes.  We note again that the barnyard odor so many of the reds used to have is no longer around.  I wonder why.

  1. 2008 One Woman Reserve Merlot $48

Though this merlot could not compete with a great red, it is quite good, and smells really nice, with some scents of chocolate.  “It’s at its peak right now,” opines our server.  He may be right.

Reasons to visit:  Cute little tasting shed; a bit off the beaten path, though it has gotten more popular in the last couple of years; all the whites, but especially the grüner veltliner and the gewürztraminer, of which we bought a bottle each; D’Latte gelato (which you can also get in Greenport).

The flower or twig decorations change every time we come.

The flower or twig decorations change every time we come.

A view of the tasting shed

A view of the tasting shed

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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.