Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines October 3, 2018

Mattebella Vineyards: Beautiful Setting, Lovely Wines                   October 3, 2018

http://mattebella.com/main

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Heading to the tasting garden from the parking area…

Most of the time, my husband and I are the only ones doing a tasting for my blog.  However, we love to take visitors with us to wineries.  Aside from the pleasure of their company, it is fun to compare notes on each wine and discuss what it tastes and smells like and what we would serve it with.  We also try to think of wineries our guests would like.

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We like to support places that care about the environment.

My brother and sister-in-law like to bring their dog with them, so a dog-friendly place was the first requirement.  Then, I thought about how they care about conservation, organic and local foods, and the environment, so I wanted to bring them to a winery that farmed sustainably.  I also wanted a place with wines we like.  Finally, it was a rare lovely day, so we could sit outside, with a pretty garden setting a plus.  And thus we chose Mattebella, which turned out to be perfect on all counts.

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Comfy seating in the gazebo.

As we settled ourselves on comfy cushioned seats inside a gazebo, a friendly server came over with menus and an offer of water for the dog.  We were off to a good start.

The menu offers five different flights, including an interesting one of all chardonnays, but we decided each couple would share a Vintner’s Select Flight, $30 for eight wines.  Our server put a tray full of glasses down in front of us, with each wine labeled, and poured the five whites, promising to return with the reds when we were ready.  She returned shortly with a small piece of slate on which perched two pieces of toasted baguette with a slice of brie on each, to go with the wine.  They used to give several different snacks with the wine, but now it is just the one.   Still, that’s nicer than the dry crackers which a few wineries offer.

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The first round of tastes.

  1. 2015 Steel Chardonnay               $21

The aroma is of minerals and green apples, and the taste is very lemony.  Our server suggests we compare it with a sauvignon blanc, and I see why.  It is the type of light, citrusy wine which goes great with oysters.  It could also be drunk as an aperitif, a “sipper on the patio,” we decide.

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Free snack!

  1. 2014 Famiglia Chardonnay        $22

“Why Famiglia?” we ask.  We don’t really get a clear explanation, but it has something to do with the winemaker being Italian and the word for family.  In any event, this is an oaked chard, with an aroma of wood and green apple.  Words that come up as we discuss the taste:  honeydew, butterscotch, lemony at end.  At this point we take a nibble of the brie and decide this is a wine that needs to go with food.  “Pleasant but not fascinating,” someone says.

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  1. 2013 Founder’s Reserve Chardonnay $38

My sister-in-law likes this one better than I do, but it’s fine.  The aroma combines basement smells with a chemical I identify as turpentine or gasoline.  Fortunately, it doesn’t taste the way it smells.  The taste is complex, with a touch of sweetness.  I get some grapefruit and pear tastes.  They say it could age, and I see that.

 

  1. 2014 Riesling $22

I find riesling somewhat problematical.  In general, I don’t buy one unless I know how it tastes, since they seem to vary widely.  Some rieslings are too sweet, but some I really like.  This one, from a vineyard in Jamesport, is not sweet, but I don’t care for it.  It has a somewhat piney taste, which my brother compares to the bark on a tree.  He’s not fond of it, but my sister-in-law likes it, which proves what people often say, that wine likes and dislikes are very personal.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $21

This is a nice summer sipper, light and lemony, with some strawberry taste and aroma.  90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc.

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  1. Famiglia Red $24

There is no vintage on this wine, since it is a blend they try to keep consistent from year to year, so if you order it in a restaurant or buy a bottle you will know what to expect.  This particular blend is mostly merlot, with some cabernet franc.  Our server characterizes it as “a good wine to bring to a friend’s house.”  The aroma combines plums, cherry pits, and leather handbags.  Fruity, soft, and very drinkable, this is a serviceable food wine, good with pizza and pasta.  Someone says this is what should be called a “ten-minute wine,” a wine you just drink, rather than discuss.

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  1. 2011 Old World Blend $50

That’s quite a price jump, and we are wondering whether the wine is worth it.  Sniff.  Rotting banana and dried fruit compote.  Sip.  Good!  Lots of complex fruit flavors with light tannins, we taste raisins and prunes.  It would go well with lamb roasted with rosemary. The wine is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  If you care about such things, you might like to know that Robert Parker gave it 90 points.

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The drawing on the labels is of the owners’ children, Matt and ‘Bella.

  1. 2013 Old World Blend $65

OMG.  Really good, in other words.  This is another blend, of merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, aged in French oak.  It has lots of tannins, with aromas of leather and dark fruits.  It is not as fruity as the 2011, but we decide it is more elegant.  It has enough power to stand up to steak.

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Look how dark that Old World Blend is!

As we discuss our overall impressions of the wines, which we characterize as smooth, soft, and drinkable, my sister-in-law is perusing the menu.  She notices that we have not tried any of their sparkling wines, so we ask the server which one we should try.  She brings us two.

 

  1. 2017 White Sparkling Wine        $24

Our server says we should think of this as similar to a prosecco.  It’s not bad, but too sweet for us.

  1. 2017 Dry Sparkling Rosé $28

We prefer this one, which is refreshingly dry, with light fruit tastes.  This is another one to sip on the back deck.

Reasons to visit:  pretty outdoor setting, but the indoor area is quite small; comfy seating; lots of nice wines, especially the Steel Chardonnay, the Famiglia Red, and the 2013 Old World Blend; dogs are allowed; no outside food, but they do have various crostini on offer, plus they bring you one for free; they farm sustainably.

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We were tempted to taste the grapes, but the netting discouraged us as well as the birds.

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Kontokosta: The Far East August 28, 2018

Kontokosta: The Far East              August 28, 2018

https://kontokostawinery.com/

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Don’t be fooled by the weathered barn look; this is a fairly recently built tasting room.

East of Greenport sits the last winery on the North Fork wine trail:  Kontokosta.  We were there on yet another of the ridiculously hot and humid days of this hot and humid August, but a small contingent of our party braved the heat to hike the property to a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound.  Then they returned to the tasting room, red-cheeked and sweaty, to be revived with Kontokosta’s own sparkling water and grape soda.  It may have been the effect of the heat, but one member of our party who describes herself as a “grape soda connoisseur” said it was the best grape soda she’d ever had.

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That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance. It was really hot out there!

 

The rest of us stayed inside and shared tastings and glasses of wine, enjoying the air-conditioning and the company of each other—and the wine.  We sat at one of the long tables in Kontokosta’s airy, modern tasting room, transporting our tastings to the table ourselves.  A tasting consists of your choice of any three of their twelve wines for $16.  My husband and I decided that we would share a tasting of three whites and another of three reds, since it is a one-ounce pour.  So clearly, we could return for a completely different set of six tastes, which we may yet do.

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Part of the bar area.

They also offer a menu of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.  No dogs or outside food allowed.

  1. 2017 Viognier   $25

The aroma is sweet, of honeysuckle and peach, and the taste has some peachiness as well.  One friend described it as an “unctuous peachiness,” and we went on the discuss its appropriateness as an aperitif.  “It’s a crowd pleaser,” he said.  We also thought it would pair well with a chicken dish that had either a white sauce of something citrusy, or perhaps charcuterie.  It’s a refreshing, pleasant white.

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Our three whites. We took the glasses to a table.

  1. 2016 Field Blend $22

A field blend means just what it sounds like—a blend of various grapes, all grown in the same field.  This one blends 50% riesling, 30% viognier, and 20% sauvignon blanc.  The aroma is mostly mineral, and the wine itself is super dry, rather tart, with not much fruit.  It really needs to be drunk with food, but since we had just had a big delicious lunch at the Olive Branch café in Greenport, we were not about to buy any snacks.  We were not particularly fond of this one.

  1. 2014 Anemometer White $35

Another blend, this time of 45% chardonnay, 40% sauvignon blanc, and 15% viognier, Anemometer (the name a reference to the windmill which provides much of their power) is aged in neutral French oak, so it is not too oaky.  There is a subtle vanilla aroma, but also minerality.  One friend compares it to a Chablis, not surprising given the chardonnay in it.  The taste combines minerality, pineapple, some tropical fruit, and a touch of saltiness.  I don’t usually like oaked chardonnays, but this one has only a hint of butteriness.  Our friend says it is rather rich for a white, and could actually go with a steak, albeit not one with a lot of taste.  Maybe a filet mignon with a sauce that included some of the wine?

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The reds.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $29

Now we move on to our second group of three, the reds.  We asked the server for her recommendations, not having any reason to choose one red over another, and this was her first pick, as she noted it scored 90 points in Wine Enthusiast.  It’s good, fairly light for a red, with lots of fruit aroma and dried fruit tastes, with some tannins.

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One part of the tasting room, looking towards the door.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve $40

I often wonder about wines labeled “reserve,” and priced higher than the same grape from the same place.  However, this wine is actually better than the previous one.  The aroma combines dark fruits like black cherry, plus pepper.  It has more character than the other cab franc, and is softer and less tannic.  It would go well with duck, like the duck breasts from Bayview we plan to barbeque that evening.

  1. 2014 Anemometer Red $50

When they first opened, the anemometers were their least expensive wines, but now they are the most expensive.  This one is a blend of 40% cabernet franc, 22% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 18% syrah, which makes it their Bordeaux type.  Meh.  I much prefer the Cabernet Franc Reserve.  Not a lot of fruit to this one, nor is it at all complex.  One friend notes that it is “not challenging to drink,” and reminds him of a rioja.  Lots of tannins, so maybe given time…

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Now there’s something you don’t see at every winery.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting on the shore of Long Island Sound; modern, airy tasting room; menu of snacks; the Viognier and the Cabernet Franc Reserve; the grape soda.

Sannino Vinveyard: Another Denizen of Peconic Lane July 13, 2018

www.sanninovineyard.com/

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As you near the southern end of Peconic Lane, you come to Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard, formerly Ackerly Pond.

Here’s another place where you can often talk to the winemaker or a member of his family.  On this beautiful Friday afternoon we were served our wine by a daughter of Anthony Sannino, who has clearly absorbed much of her father’s love of winemaking.  I enjoy these discussions, as I always learn something new about wine and wine-making.

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This view encompasses most of the tasting room.

The cozy Sannino tasting room is in a converted barn, and they also have a pleasant outdoor area with some shade-giving canopies.  Since we had the place to ourselves, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the warm—but not too hot—afternoon.  Our decision was facilitated by the fact that they serve all of your tastes at once, on a tray with circles where you can indicate your choices.

A tasting is $18 for six tastes, or $3.50 per taste.  As we perused the menu of thirteen wines (plus two that are sold out), Ms. Sannino gave us some useful information about the choices.  Most of the whites are new this year, the 2017 vintage, except for a couple of oaked ones.  The reds are about to be supplanted by a new vintage, so we may have to come back to try the rest of them.  She’s particularly enthusiastic about the 2015 reds, she told us, as it was a good year for reds.

She also offered us a cheese and charcuterie tray, but we had had lunch, so we declined.  It did sound very nice.  By the way, they don’t allow outside food or drinks.  She also proudly pointed out a number of their wines which had recently won awards.  We will be looking forward, in a few years, to see the result of an experiment they are trying:  they have planted three acres with several different varieties of grapes which no one else on the North Fork is growing.

We finally decided to try all six of the 2017 whites in a shared tasting.  How about the reds?  We were going to come back another day, but then, after we finished the whites, we decided to go ahead and add the four reds on the menu. (My husband, the designated driver, gallantly offered to have just one sip of each while I finished the rest of the glass.  It’s a tough job…)  On her own, Ms. Sannino added a taste of the 2015 cabernet franc, which will soon be on the menu.

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Five whites and one rose

  1. 2017 Gewürztraminer                 $24

Since gewürztraminer can often be sweet, I was wondering why this was first on the menu.  One sip told me why—it’s not sweet!  The menu describes it as “elegant,” which is not a bad summary, though it doesn’t really tell you much about the wine.  The aroma is quite floral and the taste combines spice and fruit and some minerality, plus a touch of grapefruit.  Overall it is dry and light, without the veggie taste you sometimes get in a gewürztraminer.

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Another couple of months and they’ll be wine.

  1. 2017 Chilly Day Chardonnay $24

The menu also includes an oaked chard, but I tend to prefer steel, so I stuck with this one.  There’s not much aroma, though I detect a hint of forest floor.  However, it tastes better than it smells, with a toasty warmth and a touch of lime.  “Serviceable,” says my tasting buddy.  I think it would be good with bluefish.

  1. 2017 Fresco White Blend $20

Our server notes that since this is a blend of the other wines we have in the tasting, it might be fun to taste back and forth, trying to detect the traces of each in this one.  It’s a blend of 55% chardonnay, 15% gewürztraminer, 15% riesling, and 15% sauvignon blanc.  I like the aroma, which is sweet and complex, with something a bit funky (like the chardonnay) and minerality.  The taste, however, is relatively simple, but dry, with notes of salt and, believe it or not, cucumber.  It’s nice to sip outside on a warm summer day.  If we hadn’t just replenished our whites I could see buying a bottle.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

The menu describes this as “off dry,” which sometimes means too sweet for us, but though this does have some sweetness I find it balanced enough that I like it.  The aroma is very attractive, and reminds me of 7 Up, of all things.  There are tastes of mango and pineapple, but the sweetness dissipates fairly quickly so you get other flavors as well.  I think it would pair well with charcuterie, and when I note this to our server she tells us how this wine came to be.  Her father, the winemaker, called her one day to say that the wine had, on its own, stopped fermentation.  Happy with the result, he left it as is.  Good decision.

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  1. 2017 Riesling $22

On the other hand, the riesling is too sweet.  It smells like clover honey and tastes like sweet oranges with some spice.  It might be okay with Thai food.

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The rose is a pretty color.

  1. 2017 Bianca Dolce $16

“Gentle pink roses” says the menu of this rosé.  I’m not sure what a gentle rose is, but this is a very pleasant rosé, made from 100% merlot with the “free run juice” which comes right off the grapes.  Typical strawberry aroma and flavor, this is another dry, light wine.  I still prefer Croteaux.

  1. 2014 Merlot $25

Now we get a fresh tray of reds, labeled on the paper with the number on the menu of the wine.  2014 was not a great year for reds, and this is a fairly light merlot, with typical cherry flavor and aroma.  Just okay.

  1. 2014 Syrah $30

This is from their “certified sustainable” vineyard.  It has some tannins and nice fruit, but almost no aroma.  This is not a big wine, but would be okay with lamb chops.

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  1. 2014 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot $35

Why “spotlight”?  Because, she explains, most wineries use petit verdot as a blending wine, but in this case they wanted to put the spotlight on the petit verdot, just blending in 15% cabernet sauvignon.  After the fruity aroma I was expecting a bigger wine, but this is good anyway.  My husband notes that it starts stronger than it ends.  Perhaps it needs to age more, as we do detect some tannins.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon          $30

I insist this smells like grape Jell-O.  I am doubted.  In any event, this is another dry, rather light red, with some cherry berry tastes.  It wouldn’t stand up to a steak, but could go with pork chops.

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An array of bottles bearing awards

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $?  (Not on the menu, but the sold-out 2014 was $34)

Power of the book, as we often say, but also, I like to think, of our sincere interest in the wines:  we get an extra taste.  And this is the best of the reds, for sure.  I swear it smells like bread and butter pickles, as well as fruit.  The wine has lots of tannins but is rather smooth and certainly has potential, perhaps with more aging.  Good.  I enjoy drinking it.  Pairing?  How about a marinated strip steak with chimichurri sauce?

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Some wine-related gifts. I bought one.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant small winery with the chance to talk with the winemaker or a family member; on Peconic Lane, so it could be part of a winery walking tour; the Fresco White Blend, the sauvignon blanc, the 2015 cabernet franc; nice outdoor area; small selection of wine-related gift items, including t-shirts and candles.  They also offer wine-making classes, tours of the winery, and overnights at their small inn.

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Though they’ve sold out all the Ackerly Pond wines, they keep the sign up out of respect for their predecessor at the site.

Shinn Estate Vineyard: New Owner, Eager to Please July 3, 2018

http://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The new patio looks great, but it was too hot to sit out there.

“We’re actually here for the air-conditioning,” we only partially joked with our server, as we arrived at Shinn in the midst of a heat wave.  And even though the outside patio area has been beautifully re-done and expanded since our last visit, no one was tempted to sit outside.

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There’s also seating out in the yard, but the parking lot is quite small for the number of seats at the winery.

We were particularly curious to check out Shinn, a winery we like for several reasons, since it is under new ownership for the first time since it was founded.  As we sipped and discussed the wines and I wrote in my notebook, the new owner, Randy Frankel, entered and introduced himself.  He was talking to everyone in the room, but he was evidently intrigued by my notebook and asked what we thought of the wines so far.  We had just finished our flight of three whites and a rosé, and my husband summarized our opinion by saying we found the wines, “Safe.”  Randy seemed a bit perturbed by that description and he said, “Wait, the winemaker is right here.  Tell him.  Patrick!”

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One side of the tasting room

As we discussed the fact that we found the wines quite drinkable but rather light and simple, he suggested that we try the other rosé, not the one we had chosen from the menu.  And indeed, we liked it better, and found it more interesting.  We discussed Croteaux, and lamented the closing of their garden, and he eagerly informed us that they would be hosting a Croteaux pop-up event at their winery that week.

Then he suggested we check out the new party room he was having remodeled, just across the patio from the tasting room.  As we walked over, we noticed that the patio was even larger that we had seen at first, with some comfortable-looking seating. Not quite as pretty as Croteaux’s garden, but with a few more flowers it would come close.  The room he led us to has comfortable leather couches and a big fireplace.  My husband said, “It reminds me of Sherwood House.”  Randy introduced us to the designer, who was there, and who also designed Sherwood’s tasting room!  Good eye, dear.  Randy then gave another couple the same tour. We have learned that if you take your tasting seriously, especially if you take notes, you often get extra attention from servers.

We finally confessed to our server that I write a blog, and she insisted we try a taste of their most expensive wine.  Then, as we bought two bottles of wine, she comped us our tastings.  Plenty of places will comp your tasting if you buy a certain number of bottles, but I assume this was in response to my being a blogger. (Full disclosure!)

The wine menu lists ten wines under the heading “Traditional Wine Tasting,” of which you can choose four for a $16 tasting, and five “Small Production” wines, of which you can choose four for a $24 tasting.  They also have two brandies and an eau de vie available by the glass, at $15 for the brandies and $10 for the eau de vie.  You get all of your tastes at once, identified by little labels, so you can easily have your tasting at a table inside or outside.  They do not allow outside food, and have a small menu of snacks, including North Fork doughnuts and a charcuterie platter.  We got a dish of mixed nuts for $5.

By the way, Shinn also has a four-room B and B at the winery, which Randy said has also been remodeled, and they offer tours of the winery for $35 if you book ahead.

  1. 2017 Coalescence          $19

A blend, this is the perfect illustration that the year matters.  In the past we have alternated liking and not liking this wine.  This time we liked it!  36% sauvignon blanc, 34% chardonnay, 2.6% riesling, 2.5% semillon, and 1.5% pinot blanc is the blend.  I got a faint whiff of cat pee aroma, but mostly honeysuckle and minerals.  The taste is light and lemony, dry yet mouth-watering.  It would be great with bluefish.

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Our tasting of three whites and a rose.

  1. 2017 First Fruit $22

The menu labels this as made with “aromatic sauvignon blanc,” but we don’t find it particularly aromatic.  It is also very light, maybe too light.  As my tasting pal notes, one could guzzle this and not even notice.  I feel as though I taste some toasted coconut, though he disagrees.

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New label design

  1. 2016 Riesling $22

We wondered whether this was made with local grapes or grapes from upstate, since the menu identifies it as coming from the “Robert Schreiber vineyard.”  No, we are told, the vineyard is just down the street.  Though I detect a bit of cotton candy aroma, there is no sweetness to this very dry riesling.  In fact, opines my husband, he would not even think it was a riesling, it is so dry and light.  “It’s almost not there,” he says.

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Particularly welcome on this hot day, a bottle of chilled water comes with the tastings.

  1. 2016 Rosé $19

According to our server, this is the less sweet of the two rosés, so we choose it.  100% merlot, it smells like strawberry-rhubarb pie and has some strawberry taste, but again, it is very light and the taste quickly evanesces.

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The bottle of Rose Hill

  1. 2017 Rose Hill Rosé $24

As I noted above, this is an extra taste we were given, and I’m glad we were.  The color of this is very light, almost white, but the taste is much more interesting than the other rosé.  It is a blend of merlot, chardonnay, and riesling, and Patrick informs us that it spends very little time on the skins, hence the light color.  We get lots of fruit tastes plus refreshing minerality.  They have it on tap at the winery!  We decide we will buy a bottle.

  1. 2017 Cabernet Franc $30

Now we line up four reds to taste, starting with this one, which is steel fermented and has no sulfites.  It was made at the request of a restaurant, and then the winery decided to make some for themselves as well.  As you would expect from a steel-fermented red, this is fruity, with cherry flavor and not much else.  No tannins.  “Undistinguished but pleasant,” says my husband.  I could see making it into sangria.

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We were so deep in conversation that we had made inroads on the nuts and the reds before I remembered to take a picture.

  1. Non-Vintage Red Blend $19

Lots of wineries have a wine like this, a blend of various wines from various years.  Some attempt to produce some sort of consistent taste from year to year, and others just try to make a drinkable wine.  Not sure what the philosophy is here, but it is quite a nice wine.  A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot, it has a fruity aroma and taste with some pleasant tannins.  It would be good with lamb chops.  We buy a bottle of this, too, as we are always on the lookout for everyday dinner wines.

  1. 2015 Estate Merlot $30

Cherry aroma and taste define this as a rather typical North Fork merlot.  Nothing wrong with that.  This one is a bit on the light side, with some soft tannins.

  1. 2015 Seven Barrels $38

Guess how many barrels of this they’ve made.  93% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% petit verdot:  I summarized this one as “cherry berry.”  This is the most interesting of the wines so far, with some tannins and minerality, very drinkable.  It would be good with a wide range of foods, including steak.

  1. 2013 Grace $90

Yes, that’s $90 a bottle.  We generally don’t spend that much for a bottle of wine unless it’s for a very special occasion, but this is a very good wine.  Maybe someday.  A blend of 66% cabernet franc, 31% merlot, and 3% cabernet sauvignon, there are only three barrels of it.  It smells delicious, complex, with layers of flavor.  There’s fruit, but also tannins that make me think it could age well.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasantly rustic room and patio a bit off the beaten path; the Rose Hill Rosé, the 2013 Grace, the 2017 Coalescence, the Non-Vintage Red Blend, the Seven Barrels; small menu of snacks; they serve a bottle of chilled water with your tasting; I didn’t ask the current owners, but in the past they allowed dogs on the patio; an inn where you can spend the night.

Suhru Tasting House: New(ish) Kid on the Block June 10, 2018

https://www.suhruwines.com/

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We arrived in time for the grand opening!

Although Suhru wines have been around for a while (We first tasted them at The Winemaker’s Studio.), they didn’t have their own tasting room—until now.  They have opened up their own place in the small building in Cutchogue which briefly housed Waters Crest’s tasting room.  As soon as we walked in, we noticed that they had done a very nice job of renovating the space, expanding the room and decorating it in a breezy, beachy style.  Our server informed us that they soon hope to be able to display work by local artists.  They also have a small outdoor area in the back, which faces their parking lot.

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The back yard

We happened to enter during the Grand Opening, so a table in the rear of the room held cheese and bread and sausages from Touch of Venice, which we were urged to sample.  In the future, they hope to have a menu of snacks from that restaurant, which is right across the street.  Good idea!

Suhru—the name is an amalgam of Susan, Russell, and Hearn, for Susan the owner, Russell the winemaker, and Hearn, their last name—joins the club of wineries which are the personal products of winemakers who work for large wineries, like Coffee Pot Cellars and Anthony Nappa.  They also have another label, T’Jara, which they own with another couple.  That name is a nod to where they are from, which is Australia, and literally means “place where I’m from” in the aboriginal language.  By the way, they are careful to emphasize the “h” in the winery’s name, since Suru is the name of a Japanese saki company! We were given all this information by our cheery and friendly server—who also happens to be Susan and Russell’s daughter.  She was helped at the bar by her mother, so this is quite a family affair.

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In future iterations of the label, the H (which now looks like a football goalpost) will be in white, to emphasize that it is part of the name.

The menu offers several options:  a tasting of three Suhru wines for $9, a tasting of two whites and a rosé from both labels for $8, or a red wine tasting of three, again combining both labels, for $11.   But, we said, we want to try all eight varieties on offer (two wines are not available for tasting, only by the bottle).  No problem, Ms. Hearn replied, and carefully set us up with two tastings of three each, plus one extra of each, which would cost less than buying eight individual tastes.  Wines are also available by the glass.  She also delineated the order in which to taste the wines and made useful comments on each.

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We liked the calm, beachy décor. The other end of the tasting room has some comfortable couches.

  1. 2016 Pinot Grigio           $24

“This is the wine which started it all,” said Ms. Hearn.  I can see why.  It is a light, bright, dry white with tastes of citrus and green apple and a pleasantly flowery aroma.  I felt it needed food, and a bite of bread and cheese showed me that I was right.  It would also be good with charcuterie.

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We were so deep in conversation, I forgot to take a picture until we had drunk everything except the rose. The reds are served the same way.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

Her parents met while hiking in New Zealand, so this is a nod to the New Zealand style of sauvignon blanc, noted Ms. Hearn, though it is not exactly like them.  After all, the climate and terroir here are different.  The aroma has a whiff of chemicals, but the wine itself is quite nice, dry, with some citrus, though my husband finds it a bit too fruity for him.  Again, it benefits by being tasted along with a bite of bread and cheese.

  1. 2014 Dry Riesling $25

The grapes for the riesling come from the Finger Lakes region, she tells us, and we get into a discussion of the relative merits of grapes from the two areas.  Susan Hearn joins in, and I tell them how last fall we were in Beacon and went to a winery which used some grapes from Long Island!  This riesling also includes some gewürztraminer.  It is very dry, not at all sweet, and tastes of ripe pear and minerals.  Cat pee aroma, I note!

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  1. 2017 T’Jara Rosé $25

A combination of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc, this is a very light, almost watery rosé, not fruity or at all sweet. Though it is a refreshing summer drink, it would not replace Croteaux for us.  (By the way, the Croteaux tasting room is closed, due to a problem with the town, though you can still buy their wines online or at local stores.)

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  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $33

Now we move on to the reds, and a new tray of nice, round-bottomed glasses.  The labels for T’Jara wines, by the way, feature designs inspired by aboriginal art.  The vineyard for the reds is in Mattituck, where Bordeaux grapes are grown.  This is a very drinkable red, with soft tannins and dark fruit tastes, dry, with very little aroma.

  1. 2012 Ember $27

This is their Bordeaux blend, predominantly merlot plus cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot.  I really like this, and we buy a bottle.  Again, very drinkable, food friendly as Ms. Hearn says, with red current aroma and some minerality as well as dark fruits.  It would be good with a beef stew.

  1. 2012 Shiraz $30

Again, this name is a nod to their Australian roots, since the grape is called shiraz in Australia and syrah elsewhere, so in America winemakers can choose either.  She tells us this is a “cool climate inspired” wine.  It’s good, but fairly light for a shiraz.  I wouldn’t pair it with a steak, but maybe with veal or pasta.  Again, it has soft tannins and lots of fruit.

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The array of reds. Note the aboriginal art-inspired designs on the T’Jara labels.

  1. 2015 T’Jara Merlot $33

Unlike most North Fork merlots, this one has no cherry taste.  It is more like a cabernet franc, I would say.  I think it might improve with age, but right now it is quite young and not particularly distinguished.

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Lucky us, the grand opening included free snacks!

Reasons to visit:  pretty little tasting room that so far is not crowded (We had started out to go to Shinn, but couldn’t even get into the parking lot!); the pinot grigio, the Ember, the sauvignon blanc, the cabernet franc; the chance to chat with the owners and get deeply into the wines; they serve your tastes on a tray, so if you are with a group you can take it to a table and sit and sip; snacks (at some point soon) from Touch of Venice.

Coffee Pot Cellars: Fun Tasting, Serious Wines    November 5, 2017

 

Coffee Pot Cellars: Fun Tasting, Serious Wines

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The name “Coffee Pot” refers to the lighthouse out near Orient Point’s shape, hence the name of the winery. They don’t serve coffee. And that’s a wineasaur, made from corks.

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlossomMeadow

As we entered the cozy tasting room of Coffee Pot Wine Cellars, we were greeted by Beasley, the sweet-tempered pug who graces one of the labels: “Because we decided if Beasley drank wine, he would be a red wine drinker,” jokes Laura Klahre.  Laura is the co-owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, along with her wine-maker husband Adam Suprenant, and she is also a beekeeper and bee enthusiast.

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The tasting room is in a building that was once a house, which seems appropriate since the owners make everyone feel at home right away.

Every time we come there we learn something new about bees from Laura’s lively explanations.  This time we learned about mason bees—not to be confused with carpenter bees—which like to nest in hollow grasses and are excellent pollinators (about which more later), though not honey makers.  That morning she had been harvesting mason bee cocoons, which she happily showed us.

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Beasley, the welcoming committee.

Meanwhile, she also gracefully served a bar full of people (some of whom had brought their own snacks), keeping track of where everyone was in the tasting of six—actually seven—beverages.  I say beverages because the listed tasting is of six wines for $12, but she adds in a taste of their Cyser, a champagne-like cider beverage made with apples and her own honey.  She was quite the busy bee!  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)  As to the delicious honey, we have bought it in the past and wanted to get more, but she was all out, as she needs to leave some for the bees for the winter.  Next time we’ll stop by in the summer to pick some up.  In the summer you can also observe a demonstration hive of bees as they busily go about their “beesness” behind a glass window.

The tasting room consists of a bar with bar stools plus shelves lining the walls, featuring Blossom Meadow bee-based products.  No tables.

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Some of the items for sale.

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The little figurines are beeswax candles.

Laura was excited we had come that day, since they had just released their latest merlot.  Adam is also the winemaker for Osprey’s Dominion, where he uses some space to make his own wines.  They buy their grapes, Laura explained, having decided they would rather stay small and control exactly what they wanted to make than expand to own a vineyard as well.

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  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc   $21.99

Spending six months in steel, this is a “nice and crisp” sauvignon blanc with aromas of mineral and honey and tastes of lime, melon, and mineral.  Nicely dry and very drinkable, it would be great with local oysters or scallops.

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You can clearly see the Coffee Pot lighthouse on the label.

 

  1. 2014 Chardonnay          $19.99

If you don’t care for an oaky chardonnay, but you find steel-fermented ones too tart, you might like this chard.  It spends six months in “neutral oak” barrels, which Laura explains to another guest is just a fancy way of saying “used,” so it is a little softened but has only a touch of wood.  I smell peach and rocks and taste citrus and maybe also a little peach.

  1. Cyser   $19.99

According to the tasting menu we should be having the gewürztraminer, but Laura suggests the Cyser works better at this point, and who are we to argue?  This is a hard cider which Adam makes into a sparkling wine using the méthode champenoise.  He only makes 90 cases, since it is very work-intensive to produce.  And the bees work hard, too, Laura explains.  The mason bees pollinate the apple orchard, and then the honey bees provide honey which is added to the cider.  Despite the honey, this is a dry drink, fizzy and fun, tasting like a green-apple-flavored champagne.  It is only 7 ½ % alcohol.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $21.99

Thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, we decide this gewürztraminer would be perfect with turkey.  Made with 12% riesling, it is nonetheless dry, with lots of tropical fruit flavors.  The tasting menu mentions lychee and pineapple, and I agree.  The aroma is fruity, with some vegetable notes.  Some gewürztraminers are so sweet that you would only want them as a counterpoint to spicy food, but this one is not.  Laura confides that when Adam makes roast chicken for dinner this is the wine she brings home to drink with it.  Sounds good to me.  We decide to bring home a bottle as well.

  1. 2012 Merlot $19.99

As we switch to reds, Laura gives us a fresh glass.  She also rinses glasses with a few drops of wine, which she then pours out into the dump bucket.  She noted that she works hard to keep those buckets cleaned out, since otherwise they attract fruit flies at this season, something we’ve noticed at other wineries.  This is a pleasant, simple, very cherry-flavored merlot.  It is nicely dry, with plenty of fruit, a good wine for pasta or pizza.

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Beasley want to know how everyone likes his Blend. Laura says that at home, when she is getting ready to come to the tasting room, Beasley follows her around so she won’t leave without him.

  1. Beasley’s Blend $21.99

Apparently, Beasley likes cabernet franc more than merlot, since this is a blend of 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot.  Beasley has good taste, as we like this very much.  The aroma is of fruit, cherries and dark plums, and the taste is layered, with those fruits plus more.  Nice tannins.  We decide to get a bottle of this, too, to have with beefy entrees, such as pot roasts.

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Note the image of Beasley standing guard on the lighthouse.

  1. 2013 Meritage $25.99

A Right Bank Bordeaux blend, this is 56% merlot, 22% cabernet sauvignon, 11% petit verdot, and 11% cabernet franc.  As you might expect (though it’s not always true), this is a fairly complex wine, with tastes of dark fruits and spices such as nutmeg and lots of tannins.  Supposedly, one only makes a Meritage in a good year, and clearly 2013 was a very good year.

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Reasons to visit:  a chance to talk with Laura and/or Adam, both of whom are quite fun to talk with (though Adam had left before we got there that day); lots of bee and wine related gift items, including clever little beeswax candles; all the wines, but especially the Gewürztraminer and the Beasley’s Blend, also the Meritage; Beasley; the demonstration hive in the summer and monarch butterflies in the early fall; everything you ever wanted to know about bees.

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Laura in the midst of one of her lively discussions of bees.

 

Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block         October 20, 2017

Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/

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If you like the idea of chatting with a pair of passionately committed winemakers, Peconic Cellar Door is the place for you.  Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy are the women who own, run, and make the wines for the labels As If, Brooklyn Oenology, and Saltbird Cellars.  They are the ones behind the bar in their small, white-washed space on Peconic Lane (adjacent to Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker’s Studio), where they will happily talk to you as much as you like about their wines—or give you space to sip and discuss with each other.

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The menu is rather extensive, but not all the wines are available for tasting or by the glass.

And there was much to talk about, as we learned their ideas about wine-making, why certain wines have the names they do, and their past experiences in wineries.  We mostly talked to Robin, who, despite her youthful appearance, has spent many years traveling around the world, learning about wine-making techniques from New Zealand to California, and more.  Her label is Saltbird, and as a native North Forker she is certainly familiar with salt air and local birds!  Then Alie chimed in as we asked about her wines.  She is the founder of Brooklyn Oenology (founded in Brooklyn, and abbreviated BOE), whose beautiful labels sport removable reproductions of works of art by Brooklyn artists.  She also makes the As If wines, which are named Serendipity, Persistence, and Courage—some of the qualities she needed to make them.

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Their space is small, so they request no large groups.

The entire menu of wines includes about twenty-three choices, most of which are available for tastes at $3-$4 per generous taste.  However, they also offer a set menu of four tastes for $14, which they said would change periodically, “So you can come back and have a different experience…and so we don’t get bored.”  Most, but not all, of the wines are also available by the glass.  If you want a bottle to consume on the premises, they charge a $10 service fee.   (Also, they request that you not bring outside food, as they will soon have their own snack menu, and they also request no pets.)

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We opted for the Feature Flight, and then, since it was all whites, added three reds at Robin’s recommendation. So the first four are from the flight—and very good choices they were.

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  1. 2015 Saltbird Chardonnay         $20

We tend to like steel-fermented chardonnays, and this was no exception.  Robin informed us that it spends some time “on the lees,” which gives it more body and taste than your average chard.  I found the aroma sweet, with some notes of cut grass, while my husband scented Brussels sprouts.  “A seasonal smell,” he joked, as we are happily scanning the farm stands for the first sight of Brussels sprouts on the stem.  This is a tasty wine, dry, with some lemon but nice depth.  I think I could happily sip this with some brie or camembert.

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One of Brooklyn Oenology’s artistic labels.

  1. 2014 BOE Social Club White $17

Another winner, this blend of seven grapes—chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, vidal blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and viognier—is steel fermented and dry.  Lots of tart grapefruity taste, but also some sweetness underneath.  If I had to guess, I’d bet that chardonnay is the predominant grape.  Very drinkable, especially with a seafood chowder.  We buy a bottle.

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  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, and sauvignon blanc, which is aged in neutral French oak.  The aroma reminds me of something sticky, though I’m not sure what.  The taste is tart, like a green apple.  It’s very good, but I don’t think it is worth the price.

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Very orange orange wine! That’s Alie in the background.

  1. 2013 BOE Broken Land $30

Broken Land?  According to Alie, that is the actual meaning of the Dutch name for Brooklyn.  Who knew?  You could also say it is a wine that breaks with tradition, as this is an orange wine made from pinot gris and gewürztraminer.  As Alie explains to us, orange wines are made by leaving white wine grapes to ferment with the skins (which are otherwise usually removed), and the particular grapes she chose have multi-colored skins, lending her wine a deep orange color.  It would be a great wine to serve at a Halloween party, especially if you’re serving Chinese food, as I think the flavors of lychee, ginger root, and other fruits would complement that.  The aroma reminds me of tangerines.

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It might be fun to buy the Motley Cru for a Motley Crue fan.

  1. 2012 BOE Motley Cru $35

Now we are done with the set flight, and we are given a fresh glass to try the reds, choosing some which happen to be open and on the counter.  The name entails another discussion, as it is not inspired by the rock group Motley Crüe!  Alie explains that it is made from a motley assortment of grapes—50% cabernet sauvignon, 28% malbec, 9%syrah, 8% petit verdot, and 5% corot noir—and then she added cru as a pun on the wine term.  The corot noir, by the way, is a new cold tolerant hybrid made by Cornell.  This is a fairly light red, with a pleasant aroma and soft tannins.  Not much fruit.  This would be a good wine to get if you have a group of people with varying entrees, as it could go with almost anything, from chicken to lamb, or even fish.

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Another really pretty label

  1. BOE Haywater Cove Merlot $18

Although this is a merlot, it has very little cherry flavor or aroma.  Robin agrees, and suggests it has more of a blueberry/bramble flavor, and we think she is right. This is a pleasant red, dry, with soft tannins.  The label tells us that Haywater Cove is an actual location on the North Fork, where “three creeks meet at the mouth of Cutchogue Harbor.”

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As If refers to Alie’s initials and also her approach to wine making.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

Yum.  A blend of 60% cabernet franc, 25% petit verdot, and 15% cabernet sauvignon, this has a delicious fruity aroma and lots of dark fruit tastes.  For some reason, my tasting buddy says it is “like a new pillow.”  Okay.  Definitely a wine one could sit and sip, it would also go well with food.  I like it the best of the reds.

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This time of year they are open Friday through Monday only. It might be a good idea to call or check their web page before you go.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to chat with two charming and interesting winemakers; you want to try some new wines; some of the prettiest and most interesting labels around; the Saltbird Chardonnay, the Social Club White, the Broken Land orange wine, the As If Persistence red; they are right next door to the Winemaker’s Studio, so you can go to two tastings without driving (and Sannino Bella Vita is just a mile or so up the street, plus Greenport Harbor Brewing is just a little further at the corner). 

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Hudson Valley Visit:  Nofowineaux Takes a Trip October 7-13

We decided to take a trip north to see art museums and galleries, visit relatives, and take some hikes in the beautiful Hudson Valley countryside.  No surprise, we also made time for some tastings, visiting one brewery and two wineries.

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Storm King and DIA Beacon have both been on my bucket list for a while, so now I can cross them off.  Both are well worth the visit, Storm King in particular (but be sure to go when the weather is nice, and try to arrive early in the day).  We also enjoyed sauntering up and down Beacon’s main street, popping in and out of little galleries and antique/gift shops.  The Roundhouse Hotel is pricey for the area, but comfortable and well run.

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One view from Storm King.

Another place worth traveling to is Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, New York, where we hiked around the lake with my brother and sister-in-law.  It’s a beautiful place, with the garden aspects integrated into the natural landscape, providing scenic views at every turn.  And if you’re in Kingston, you should make time for the Maritime Museum, with its emphasis on the history of the boats and industries along the Hudson River.

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Innisfree Garden, an amazingly beautiful place.

Our final hike of the week was in the John Boyd Thacher State Park outside Albany, where the scenery reminded us very much of the movie Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  Alas, we did not see him running bare-chested through the trees.  If you go, be sure to stop into the new visitor center.

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So, now on to our tastings…

Hudson Valley Brewery, October 8, 2017

Beacon, New York

http://hudsonvalleybrewery.com/about-us

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Before they put out the tables, we had trouble spotting the brewery.

Finding the brewery was a bit of a challenge, as it is located in the midst of a huge parking lot behind an apartment building, and only a small sign on the door indicates that you have arrived.  We walked past before they opened, and then when we returned there were picnic tables set up outside and the garage-style door had been swung open.  Inside, it is very industrial chic, reminding us that Beacon is sometimes referred to as “Brooklyn north.”  The bar is not very long, so we decided to take our tastes to a picnic table across from it.  We would have sat outside, but all those tables were filled, primarily with a young crowd.

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Industrial chic room

They offer eight different beers, a four-ounce pour in attractive stemmed glasses at $2-$3 per taste.  The chipper server informed us that they only give two tastes per person per time at the bar, so we each took two and then returned for the final four.  We left our credit card to run a tab, thinking we would get a whole glass of whichever beer we liked best, but as it happened there were none we liked enough to get a glass of.  Their beers generally have a sour, fruity flavor profile, which is not a taste I like.

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  1. Pillow Hat IPA

The aroma is very grapefruity, with a touch of something funky.  The taste is super citrusy, and it is the kind of beer I could see downing on a hot day after working in the garden.

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Our second group of tastes

  1. Feel No Way Pilsner

Cement basement aroma, with a touch of sauerkraut.  The taste is sour, oaty and grainy, and reminds my husband of Kix cereal!

  1. Little Memory IPA

This one also smells like grapefruit juice, plus pineapple juice.  I dislike it so much that we don’t finish the taste. It is sour but also fruity.

  1. Plateaux IPA

Okay, this one we decide is like a beery orange juice or an over the hill cider that has gone sour.  If you don’t actually like beer, you might drink this with a burger.

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Our first group of tastes

  1. Amulet Sour Farmhouse

Blueberry pie aroma?  Certainly fruity.  The taste reminds me of very sour candy.  I say bleh; my husband says maybe after a run.  I’d rather drink water in that case!

  1. Flying Colors Sour Farmhouse

By this time, we have invested $2 in a bag of cracked pepper and sea salt chips, which helps us get through the tasting.  This is another fruity-tooty beer, and rather sweet.  As we discuss the tastes, my tasting buddy comments that we are treating this more like a wine tasting in terms of all the aromas and flavors we are finding, which is true.

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  1. Phase Delay Sour Farmhouse

This one smells like an IPA, very citrusy, and tastes rather like sucking on a lemon.  Super sour, say my notes.  At least this one is not objectionably sweet, and is drinkable if what you want is a beer-like lemonade.

  1. Silhouette Brunch Style Sour Beer

Their own tasting notes compare this to a Tropicana juice box, though I again think it resembles a sweet and sour lemonade.  I find it barely potable, and, as with several of the other beers, we don’t finish our taste.

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There are snacks one can buy. Our little bag of chips cost $2.

Reasons to visit:  you’re in Beacon and you want to go to a beer tasting (but I wish we had tried the other brewery in town); you don’t actually like beer that tastes like beer.  That evening we had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant on Main Street which had Singha beer on tap, and much preferred that to any of the beers we had at Hudson Valley.

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Benmarl Winery October 9, 2017

Marlboro, New York

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Entrance to Benmarl winery

http://benmarl.com/

Finding Benmarl Winery would also have been a challenge, if not for Google maps, which easily directed us to this mountain-top site, about twenty minutes outside of Beacon.  They are part of the Shawangunk Wine Trail (who knew?), which includes about fifteen wineries along the Shawangunk Mountains.  We considered visiting one or two more, but many of them were closed on Monday, and others were a bit further than we wanted to venture on this rainy, foggy afternoon.

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Resident kitty

Benmarl has a pleasantly rustic tasting room, and the servers were enthusiastic and chatty.  Outside we noted a large tent set-up, and learned that the day before they had had a special grape-stomping event.  Oh my.  Our server informed us that “Benmarl” means “Hill of Slate,” and the farm is allegedly the “oldest vineyard in America.”  On their 37 acres they grow Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Muscat, then get the rest of their grapes from the Finger Lakes and…Long Island!  The North Fork, to be exact.  Ha.  I had said as we were on our way there that I was interested in comparing their wines to Long Island wines, but, no surprise, they tasted rather familiar.

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For $10 you get to try six (out of 17 or more—they were out of some) of their wines, and since the pour was rather small for a shared tasting and I was curious to try it, we paid an additional couple of dollars to try the Baco Noir.  If you want to keep your glass, your tasting is $12.

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There were lots of options on the menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $20

The grapes for this wine are from the North Fork, and it has the characteristic honeysuckle aroma and a taste that combines citrus and minerality.  Good, though a tad sweeter than I like.

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  1. 2016 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $15

Our server told us about how she likes to recommend this wine to anyone who insists they don’t like chardonnay, since what they don’t like is probably the oak-aged buttery California style of chard.  We agree, and like this citrusy light white, with flavors of gooseberry and mineral.  Quite pleasant.  We buy a bottle, which matches well with a pasta and salmon dish my sister-in-law makes for us when we arrive at their house.  These grapes are from Seneca Lake.

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  1. 2016 Traminette $18

This is one of their sweeter wines, but not cloyingly so, with a candy aroma and some tropical fruit tastes.  I could see having it with spicy food.  Finger Lakes grapes.

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  1. 2016 Merlot $20

As we switch to the reds, she gives the glass a quick rinse with some of the wine.  This, I observe, tastes very like a North Fork merlot.  Not surprisingly, since that is where the grapes come from.  You can smell the oak (aged 16 months in French oak) and cherry, and it also has lots of cherry taste, plus maybe a bit of tobacco.

  1. 2015 Slate Hill Red $20

A Bordeaux blend, this is 48% North Fork merlot, 42% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 10% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak.  The aroma is fruity, but also mushroomy, with a hint of something chemical—but that may be due to the cellar, the door to which was opened behind us as we stood there, and from which emanated a basement/chemical smell.  In any event, we didn’t much care for this wine, which had a sour aftertaste and not a lot of fruit.

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  1. 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve $33

Another blend, this is 30% North Fork merlot, 20% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 50% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 24 months.  We like it much better than the Slate Hill.  It has lots of fruit—dark plums, cherry, blackberry, coffee—and is pleasantly tannic and dry.

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  1. 2015 Baco Noir $35

I really wanted to try a wine made from estate-grown grapes, and this is all theirs, from vines first planted in 1958.  The aroma is great, with lots of fruit, very plummy, but the taste does not have as much fruit as the smell promised.  It is dry and tannic, but not particularly complex.

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Reasons to visit:  you are traveling up the Hudson Valley and want to do a wine tasting; the sauvignon blanc, stainless steel chardonnay, merlot, and Proprietor’s Reserve; pretty reasonable prices for a small winery; beautiful mountain setting; you want to support a winery that practices “sustainable” agriculture, with no spraying.

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Millbrook Vineyards and Winery October 11, 2017

Millbrook, New York

http://www.millbrookwine.com/

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After the flatness of Long Island, it was refreshing to be in the Catskill Mountains.  We enjoyed the various vistas as we traveled the back roads with my brother and sister-in-law to this winery with its spectacular views over the hills.  Although we felt we had gone rather far off the “beaten path,” a busload of tourists who arrived shortly after we did showed us that we were not as isolated as it had seemed.  Fortunately, Millbrook is well set up to handle a crowd, and we enjoyed our tasting.

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This is only one small part of the winery’s space.

Our bright and well-informed server informed us that John S. Dyson, the founder of the vineyard, was responsible for the “I (heart) NY” logo, which also appears on their glasses (which you get to keep after your tasting).  In addition to the property in Millbrook, the winery also owns vineyards in California (fortunately so far not affected by the fires) and Italy, which expands the varieties of wine they can offer.  One challenge of growing wines this far north is the winter.  They can get temperatures as low as minus fourteen, and anything lower than minus five can give certain grape vines trouble.

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A couple of the wines we did not get to try.

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The shop has a few items, many from Italy.

The Millbrook building is large and attractive, with various areas, including an upstairs lounge and balcony, where one can (and we did) take a bottle or glasses and look out over the scenery while sipping.  Not all of their wines are available for tasting every day, and on this week day our only option was the Portfolio Tasting, of six wines for $12.50.  You pay the cashier when you enter, and then are assigned a spot at one of the bars.

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  1. 2016 Hunt Country White          $16

This is their white blend, a mixture of riesling, tocai friulano, traminette, and pinot grigio, some of which comes from California.  The aroma is of apricots and minerals, and it tastes quite good, of peaches and melon, with a nice long finish.  My brother characterizes it as a “backyard wine,” and my sister-in-law says she has “no complaints.”

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano Proprietor’s Special Reserve $18

According to our server, Millbrook was the first winery in the United States to grow this particular grape, which is related to sauvignon blanc.  We like it very much, with its aroma of roasted pears and soft tastes of pears and red grapefruit.  I think it is softer than an Italian tocai, which is flintier, but we like it enough to buy a bottle to take home.

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I peeked into a room where they store wine.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay $18

Just when I think I’ll finally get to compare an upstate chard with a North Fork chard, we are told that one third of the grapes for this wine come from Pellegrini Vineyard on the North Fork!  Other grapes come from the Finger Lakes and from Millbrook’s estate.  In any event, it is a typical not-too-oaky oaked chardonnay.

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  1. 2014 Villa Pillo Borgoforte $19

In case you’re wondering about the Italian name, it comes from Millbrook’s Italian vineyard near San Gimignano, a fascinating town not far from Florence.  This, we are told, is a “Super Tuscan,”  (whenever I hear that term I picture a wine bottle with a heroic cape flying out behind it), a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot grapes.  In any event, it is delicious, with lovely fruit aromas and complex tastes including dark fruits, tobacco, and more.  It is dry and tannic, and we buy two bottles, one to give to my other brother and another to bring to our daughter’s house when we go there for dinner.

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Italian wine in a New York State winery? Yes, when the owner of the winery also owns property in Tuscany.

  1. Hunt Country Red $18

Since this is their blend, it changes year to year, and the current iteration is a mix of 55% cabernet franc, 40% merlot, and 5% syrah, with again some grapes coming from California.  The server says he defines this wine as a wine to have on “any day that ends with a y.”  Ha.  It is their top selling red, and we can see why, as it is an easy to drink, fruity red, with lots of cabernet franc flavors like blueberry and plums.  I say a good pizza wine, and my brother says “good with stuff.”

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Looks like a hunt on the label…

  1. 2013 Merlot Proprietor’s Special Reserve $25

Pellegrini strikes again—all the grapes for this wine are from there.  We decide this is a wine that needs to be served with food, and just then our server brings out a little plate of bread cubes and olive oil (which they just happen to sell there).  Definitely better with food, but still rather earthy, with a chemical basement smell.  Not our favorite.

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We had the upstairs lounge to ourselves.

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The view from the upstairs balcony

Reasons to visit:  you are in the Catskills and you’d like to find a nice winery for a tasting; the Tocai Friulano, the Villa Pillo Borgoforte, the Hunt Country Red; a pleasant outdoor upstairs balcony where you can sip a glass of wine while looking at beautiful scenery.

Castello di Borghese: A Perfect Pairing     July 8, 2017

https://castellodiborghese.com/

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The Harvest Moon Shellfish Company truck is a sign that you should stop by Castello di Borghese for some oysters and wine.

I headlined this entry “A Perfect Pairing,” thinking about the Harvest Moon oysters we had with the Borghese 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, but it could also apply to the couple we went there with—our son and daughter-in-law.  We all enjoyed the oysters, which are on offer every weekend until October 1, for $28 a dozen, and the wine, which went perfectly with them.  The oysters were small, but sweet and briny and creamy, and the lemon in the wine complemented them beautifully.  It was a perfect July day, and we were happy to sit outside near the vines and enjoy our bottle of wine and plates of oysters.  Unfortunately, they don’t do tastings outside, so we had to go in when we decided we wanted to do a tasting as well.  (I also would urge the winery to install an attractive fence to screen the hose, etc., along the wall of the building.)

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A view of the outside seating area.

When we went in to examine the tasting menu, we found two options:  five Estate wines for $15, or five Reserve wines for $25.  We decided each couple would share one of each, so we could taste most of their wines, though we did miss a few.  Our server was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, happy to share both what he knew and what he liked about each wine.  The tasting room is about medium in size, with a bar along one wall and barrels with tops one can stand around on the other, so if you want to sit for a tasting this is not your place.  Also, they don’t allow outside food (at least at the moment, when they are featuring the oysters).  This is a winery which takes its wine very seriously, and is happy when visitors do the same. After all, the Borgheses bought the vineyard from the Hargraves, who were the first to plant a vineyard on the North Fork, back in 1973.  The Estate wines are marked with an *.

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The expert shucker from Harvest Moon.

  1. .* 2015 Chardonnay $18

A good place to begin a tasting is this steel fermented chardonnay which is so light and lemony you might mistake it for a sauvignon blanc.  We smelled mineral and peach and toast aromas and one of us suggested it tasted like star fruit.  Our daughter-in-law, who is thoughtful about food and wine pairings, thought it would go well with Greek food or a corn salad.  We agreed.

  1. 2016 Founder’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $29

This is not the Sauvignon Blanc we had with our oysters—that one is cheaper and we actually liked it better.  This one is fermented half in oak and half in steel.  It is light and dry, with some citrus and melon tastes and a long finish.  “Blue cheese,” we agreed, would go well with it.

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  1. .*2014 Riesling $26

Not unexpectedly, this smells like flowers and cat pee.  Though our server described it as “off dry,” we all found it too sweet for our taste.  Our son and daughter-in-law said it tasted just like “sweet lime,” which I’ve never had, but I trust their taste buds, and thought it could pair well with watermelon juice and tequila in a margarita-type cocktail.

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  1. 2014 Pinot Noir Select $50

We switched to the reds on the Reserve list, as there were no other whites we wanted to try and they have quite a few reds.  The aroma is nice, of dark fruits, and the taste is also pleasant, with some notes of black pepper as well as plums.  It reminded us a bit of a Chianti, and so we thought it would go well with pasta.

  1. .*Rosé Pinot Noir $20

At the urging of our server, our tasting companions sampled this rosé (we had been given a sip of another one as we were trying to choose a wine to go with our oysters).  However, they were “not excited” about it.  Steel fermented, this is an uncomplicated dry rosé, with a taste of macerated strawberry that, I said, “evanesces.”   We then began to apply that word to all sorts of things.

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  1. 2015 Merlot Reserve $36

We found lots of aromas in this one—spice, pomegranate, charred wood, prunes, and, believe it or not, barbequed chicken were some of our comments.  So then of course we decided it would pair well with barbequed chicken, one with a fruity sauce.  Nice finish.

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  1. .*2014 Cabernet Franc $35

Good one!  With aromas of prune plum and cedar, and tastes of blueberry and spice, this one got us thinking of food pairings again.  We thought lamb chops, and then our daughter-in-law offered flank steak with chimichurri sauce or spiced chick peas (for vegetarians).  Also good ideas.

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  1. .*2015 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon $25

A Bordeaux-style blend of 53% merlot, 44% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% pinot noir, this is, according to our server, a very popular wine.  We can see why.  The aroma is earthy and herbal, with scents of chestnuts and fruit, and the taste is equally appealing, with lots of fruit, and just the right amount of dryness.  Food pairing?  How about spaghetti with mussels in a tomato sauce.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

You can definitely smell that this was aged in oak, with its cedar/oak aroma, plus fruit, spice, and something funky like mushrooms.  I decide it is mouth-watering.  It has lots of flavor, with dark fruits, and would go well with duck.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44

Our server now gets into the whole food pairing thing we’ve been doing, and suggests this would go well with “a porterhouse on the grill.”  We talk it over, and once again our daughter-in-law has the perfect pairing idea—hamburger with truffle fries.  One of us compares the aroma to “dusty closet.”  Not sure about that.  However, this is another pleasant red, with nice fruit, though not very complex.

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The winery also has an art gallery.

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The art in the gallery.

Reasons to visit:  a place to get serious about wine; oysters from Harvest moon until October 1; the winery also has an art gallery where you can view and buy local art; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir Select, the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, the Cabernet Franc Reserve.

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Jason’s Vineyard: No, It’s Not a Pirate Ship           June 24, 2017

http://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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Ancient Greek ships, like the Argo, had painted on eyes to help navigate.

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The ship-shaped bar even has a mast and sail, and the ceiling is painted to look like the sky.

Anyone unfamiliar with Greek mythology could be forgiven for thinking, when they sighted the ship-shaped bar, complete with mast and furled sail, that it was supposed to resemble a pirate ship.  However, the design of the bar—and of the ship on the wine labels—is meant to evoke the great ship the Argo, which set off with its crew of heroes, led by Jason, to find the Golden Fleece.  Jason Damianos, the son of the owner of Pindar and Duck Walk, was clearly quite pleased with his namesake hero, and not only designed his bar to resemble the Argo but also named some of his wines after elements of the heroic voyage and opted to raise sheep (golden fleece, get it?) on his property.  Sadly, Jason was killed two years ago in a car accident.  However, the family has continued to own and run his vineyard and his small herd of sheep (plus at least one llama).

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The llama–and the sheep, we were told–had all recently been shorn.

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Jason’s is a fairly large facility, with an expansive outdoor covered porch where a singer was entertaining guests the day we came (but so loudly that we opted to stay inside).  The servers keep track of your tasting by giving you a pile of tokens, taking one away each time they serve a taste.  That works well for large groups, which they do welcome.  The menu offers a flight of five wines for $10.  Since they have thirteen different wines, we decided to do two tastings, one of whites and then another of reds, which we clarified with our server after a bit of discussion.  As we thoughtfully considered each wine, our server became more and more enthusiastic about helping us, pouring a couple of “extras.”  As a result, the only wines we did not try are the two rosés.

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One view of the porch.

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There were no signs about whether or not they allow outside food, so I assume they do.  They also had a small selection of cheeses and crackers in a refrigerated case.  By the way, I only have vintages for a few of the wines.  The menu doesn’t mention them and neither did our server, who whisked most bottles away before I could check.

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The winery building is quite attractive.

  1. Golden Fleece                 $18.95

Apparently, this was a wine Jason meant to be his signature one, a blend of 41% chardonnay, 24% seyval blanc, 21% Cayuga, and 9% vidal blanc.  Noting this unusual collection of grapes, we asked if any of them came from Upstate.  Yes, said our server, she thought the Cayuga did, but wasn’t sure about the rest. However, according to the winery web page the Cayuga is actually grown locally. Tasting it, we were wondering whether this would be a collection of wines we would even want to taste, as it was much too sweet for us.  The menu describes it as “crisp,” but it made me think of candied or canned pears in syrup.  The aroma had combined minerality with floral and cat pee notes, so I was hoping the wine would be more interesting than it proved to be.IMG_3926

  1. Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

I have to say that this had a rather unpleasant smell, like rotting garbage, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  That’s one of the aspects of wine that fascinates me—how the smell and the taste can be so different.  Anyway, this one WAS crisp, and rather nice, dry, with tastes of lemon and mineral.  It would pair well with oysters.

  1. Pinot Blanc $34.95

We liked this one, too. The smell combined a funky, forest-floor element with a metallic scent, and the taste had lots of citrus.  I was thinking blood orange, with end notes of pineapple, and found it mouth-watering.  It would complement spicy food nicely, like maybe a shrimp fra diavolo.

  1. Chardonnay $29.95

In general, I’m not a fan of oaked chardonnays, and this one did not convert me, though it was not too heavily oaked.  As my tasting buddy said, “It’s neither here nor there.”  Aromas of vanilla and almonds, tastes of butterscotch and lemon, and a rather thin mouth feel.  Our server informed us that this was the last of the 2012 vintage, on sale for only $12.95 a bottle, or $100 a case.  A good buy, but not enough to tempt us.

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The servers use these tokens to keep track of how many tastes you get.

  1. White Riesling $27.95

What, we wondered, is a white riesling?  Aren’t all rieslings white?  Our usual server was occupied elsewhere, and the cheerful young lady who poured this one for us had no idea why this one was labeled “white.”  In any event, we dumped most of the glass, as it was unpleasantly sweet.

  1. 2006 Merlot $26.95

The servers rinse your glass with water between tastes, which is nice—except when they don’t dump out all the water.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with scents of cherry, wood, and tobacco and a taste of cherry, though with a somewhat bitter finish.

  1. 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95

The cabernet sauvignon is aged 24 months in new French oak, “unfined and unfiltered,” according to the menu.  Though the aroma is lovely, of black cherry and dark chocolate, the taste is disappointing.  My husband characterizes it as a pizza wine, though I would prefer a nice Chianti. We think it is at the end of its useful life, and so must the winery, since this is also on sale for $100 a case.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

This is our first “extra.”  Our server suggests we compare it to the 05, and is interested to see what we think of it.  Much better!  The aroma has hints of something spicy, like maybe A-1 sauce, and the wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and a taste that reminds me of a dried fruit compote.

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Hercules…and…

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Hercules! The wine is named for this cute pooch.

  1. Hercules $28.95

According to the menu, this is a unique wine, a “late harvest blend of merlot and cabernet.”  “Late harvest” would imply great ripeness and sweetness, and the label calls it a “sweet red.”  However, it is not as sweet as we were afraid it would be, and we actually liked it.  I said it was sweet on top and tart on the bottom, which I know makes no sense, but that was what I felt.  We agreed we’d love to try it with a nice piece of chocolate cake.  Hercules, by the way, is named not just for the great hero who went on the Argo (in addition to his famous twelve labors), but also for Jason Damianos’s dog.  Check out the photo…

  1. Meritage $28.95

Meritage is the North Fork’s version of Bordeaux wines, a blend in this case of merlot, cabernet, malbec, and pinot noir.  Very nice—not surprising, since Jason studied wine-making in France.  It smells pleasantly of sweet dark fruits, and tastes like cherries, other fruits, and some pepper.

  1. 2010 Malbec $28.95

As my Grandma Ruthie would say, “This one beats the bunch.”  Definitely the star of the day, this has a delicious aroma of dark fruit, plums, and chocolate and tastes quite fruity as well, while still being dry.  If we had decided to sit on the porch and listen to the singer, this is the wine I would have chosen to have in my glass.

  1. Dessert Wine $28.95

Yes, that is what it is called on the menu.  Our server offers us this “on me,” she says, having enjoyed serving people who are interested in the wine and not just in “getting drunk.”  Thanks!  At 19.5% alcohol, this is definitely an after-dinner drink, really a Port wine, with its sweetness balanced by dryness.  Quite yummy, it would be pleasant to sip this while cracking walnuts and almonds.

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Some snacks are available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  fun to see the bar shaped like a ship; the pinot blanc and the malbec; the Hercules and the Dessert Wine are good if you’re looking for an after-dinner sweet sipper; you can see—but not feed—the sheep and the llama.

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A portrait of Jason Damianos hangs on the wall. We met him a number of years ago, before he opened the winery, at a shop on Love Lane. We got into a discussion and he told us how excited he was to open his own winery. Nice guy. We were sad to hear he had died.

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