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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Lieb Cellars/Oregon Road August 9, 2013

http://liebcellars.com/

Tuscany?  No, Oregon Road!

Tuscany? No, Oregon Road!

Suppose you like Lieb wines (as we do) and you decide to stop by their small tasting room on the corner of Cox Neck Road and Sound Avenue, only to find it…overrun sounds so judgmental, so let’s just say crowded…by the presence of a couple of limo groups.  Never fear, you have a lovely alternative.  Just go back onto Sound Avenue and continue a few blocks to Mill Road, turn left, then turn right onto Oregon Road and you will find yourself surrounded by farm houses and fields of sunflowers.  You’ll pass Shinn Vineyards—also worth a stop, by the way—and eventually you’ll find Lieb’s second tasting room, carved out of a warehouse (sort of similar to the way their first tasting room shares quarters with the Premium Wine Group, which does the wine-making for quite a few of the North Fork wineries).

This tasting room does not accept limo or bus groups, so it is unlikely to be crowded.  When we ask our server why the new room was opened, she gives just this reason, and notes that it is a nice place for their wine club members to come for a quiet tasting or glass of wine.  They also have an efficient-looking little kitchen just off the room, where on the weekends they make snacks such as hummus, tomato bruschetta, oysters, and other non-cooked items (since they don’t have an oven on site).  On this cloudy Friday, there is just one other group in the room, sitting around a table on the comfortable-looking modern wicker sofas.  The room has a sophisticated, semi-industrial look, softened by a swag of cloth and a seashell wreath over the kitchen and a sea-view mural on one wall.

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Lieb inside

They offer six tasting options:  five whites for $10, five reds for $10, a “summer fling” of six mixed types for $14, two sparkling wines for $7, a Reserve tasting of five for $12, and another summer tasting of four wines for $8. They also have a couple of Greenport Harbor beers on tap, in case your party includes a non-wine drinker.  We decide to do a white flight and then a red flight, sharing as we go.  The pour is fairly generous.

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  1. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot Blanc                                  $12

But wait, you say, isn’t merlot a red grape?  Yes, but if you don’t give it any time on the skins you get a white wine with some merlot characteristics.  In this case, that involves some funkiness in the taste.  We smell pine and mineral aromas, and the taste is sour, like grapefruit juice with some pineapple at the end.  We wouldn’t want to sip this one, but it might go well with food that needs a strong white.

2.       2010 Reserve Pinot Blanc                                             $18

Our well-informed server tells us that they are the only winery on the North Fork to make a Pinot Blanc, and so it is their signature wine.  Again, this one is not for sipping, though it would have gone well with the lobster bisque I made from our leftover shells the other night.  The aroma has a bit of the cat pee smell, and the wine itself is light and tart and citrusy, with a hint of sweetness at the end.

3. 2010 Bridge Lane Chardonnay                                    $10

We like this steel-fermented chard very much, and the price is certainly right.  Scents of cinnamon and mineral, with a bit of sweetness, lead to a classic steel chard with nice fruit, and not too much sweet.

4. 2009 Reserve Chardonnay                                           $24

After eight months in oak, this is a lightly oaked chard, with some baked goods aroma.  Very tasty, not too oaky, and again some sweetness at the end.

5. 2010 Sound Influence Riesling                                   $24

Although this is an off-dry Riesling, we find the sweetness overwhelms the tastes of pineapple and tropical fruit and wildflower honey.

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6. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot                                              $15

Now we switch to the reds, and we get a new glass, always a nice touch.  Although we smell forest floor, the wine itself does not have any of that earthy dirt taste one sometimes gets.  This would make a fine vin ordinaire, to have with pasta and such, as it has nice cherry flavors and just a little tannin.  Buyable.

7, 2005 Reserve Merlot                                                      $22

18 months in French oak gives this wine an aroma of smoke and tomato.  Hmmm…barbecue sauce?  This is also a good pasta wine, and would stand up to a rich Bolognese sauce, as it has more tannins than the Bridge Lane Merlot.  We taste cherry at the front of this relatively simple wine.

8. 2010 Right Coast Red                                                      $30

Here we have their classic Bordeaux blend:  58% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec.  I’m assuming the name is a play on Right Bank Bordeaux!  The aroma is almost meaty, it is so complex, and the wine itself is lovely, with lots of fruit.  It would complement a rack of lamb very nicely, though the end taste is a bit sour.

9. 2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc                                     $26

Our server describes this one as “nice and smooth,” as she also tells us it spent 15 months in French oak.  We smell wet rock, and my husband says it smells like a typical Cabernet Franc, but “not to distraction.”  Though not complex, this is a good red, with lots of fruit flavors.

10. 2005 Meritage                                                                   $45

Another blend, this one has 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and Petit Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc.  This is only the third time Lieb has made this wine, we are told, and they only made 300 cases of it.  We are underwhelmed by its aroma of sticky candy and just okay taste.

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They don’t offer any wine tchotchkes for sale.  We do buy both the Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot.  No reduction of tasting price with purchase.

lieb outside

Reasons to visit:  you like a quiet tasting room in a bucolic setting; many of their wines, including the reasonably priced Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot, are quite good; you want to come on a weekend and check out their snacks (I guess we’ll have to return!).