Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?            October 27, 2017

Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?

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The entrance to the indoor space. They also have an outdoor patio.

 

http://dilibertowinery.com/

The yeasty, tomatoey scent of baking pizza filled the small tasting room at Diliberto winery.  Most of the people there seemed to have come for a glass or two of red wine and one of Sal’s thin-crust pizzas.   Well, it was around one p.m. on Friday, so I guess it was lunch time.  The pizza certainly smelled and looked good, and one of the customers told us as she was leaving that it tasted good, too, recommending that we get one.  However, we were not hungry, so we settled on just a tasting.

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I waited until people left so I could get a good shot of the mural.

The tasting room at Diliberto is small, but very pretty, with trompe l’oeil paintings on the wall to give you the sensation that you are sitting in an Italian piazza.  The Visions series films, aerial views of Italy, play on the flat screen TV over the piano, and when it is quiet you can hear music from Italian operas playing in the background.  What you won’t hear is the voices of children, since Diliberto’s has a strict “No one under 21” policy, with the addendum “including children.”  They also do not allow outside food, but since most people seem to come for the $19 pizza, that’s not a problem.  The menu includes a few other food items, and on Sundays they feature a full meal—details on their web page.

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The wine menu features six wines, at $4 per taste or $10 for any three tastes.  Wines are also available by the glass or bottle, with an additional charge if you want to drink the bottle in the winery.  (For example, the Chardonnay is $22 for a bottle, but $27 if you want to drink it there.)  The wines cost $8-$12 for a glass.  We decided to try all six wines, or two tastings, which the server brought to our table all at once.

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In the past, we’ve always spent time chatting with Sal Diliberto, but this time he was not in the winery.  The young woman who was waiting on the tables was very pleasant, but clearly her job was not to discuss the wines.  My guess is that he is there on Sundays, since the dinner includes a cooking demo, and he used to do those for free on the weekends.

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This sign reminded me of how my Italian friends like to reminisce about Sunday family dinners, always with “gravy”–a.k.a. spaghetti sauce.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay          $22

This is an oaked chardonnay, and, according to the menu, spends “five months in French oak,” so I was expecting lots of butterscotch and vanilla.  Not so.  I wonder if he mixes it with steel-fermented chardonnay, since it has a fair amount of citrus flavor.  My husband describes it as “refreshing.”  It is surprisingly tart, with only a hint of vanilla.  Very drinkable, and would be nice with some charcuterie.

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Our two flights were delivered all at once, and the server carefully pointed out which wine each one was.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $19

I would have put this first in the tasting, since it is steel-fermented and quite light.  It has some asparagus aroma, and tastes more like an orange or tangerine than a lemon.  It also has a fair amount of minerality and saltiness.  “Fire Island on the beach,” began my tasting buddy, waxing poetic as he sometimes does.

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  1. 2016 Rosé $17

Now it was time for the menu writer to get poetic, describing this wine as perfect for “life on the patio with friends.”  Well, yes, if your friends are not particularly interested in taste, since this rosé has very little.  There’s nothing objectionable about this light, minerally rosé, with its taste of unripe strawberry and citrus, but we felt the aroma and taste were equally undistinguished.

  1. 2013 Merlot $19

All along I’ve been complaining that it is hard to decide how the wine smells because the aroma of pizza is so strong.  Now I think this one smells like mushrooms, and I’d think it was because of the pizza, but there are no mushrooms on it.  In any event, this is an okay merlot, rather tannic and even a bit harsh, with some black raspberry and nutmeg flavor.  No cherry taste!  We must have gotten the last glass in the bottle, as our taste has some sediment at the bottom.

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There’s some sediment on the bottom of our glass of merlot.

  1. 2014 Cantina $22

Phew, this one is much better.  A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this has aromas of cherry and tobacco and tastes of fruit and spice—more spice than fruit.  Light and not complex, this is the sort of red that goes well with roast chicken (like the one I am planning to make with an 8 Hands chicken tonight) or pizza and pasta.

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At Diliberto, you don’t stand at the bar for a tasting. They bring it to your seat.

  1. 2014 Tre $26

According to the menu, this one is only made in the best vintage years, of a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  I swear it smells like eggplant, though perhaps that’s because I’m trying to decide what I will make with the lovely eggplant I bought at a farm stand this morning.  Anyway, the wine is quite good, with lots of black cherry and purple plum tastes.  Dry, with some tannins, we think it might get better with age.  My husband says it has “the backbone to deal with food,” and I suggest osso buco as a possible dish.

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The flat screen TV shows scenes of Italy. I hear the piano gets used for various musical events.

Reasons to visit:  you have a hankering for a glass of red (I suggest the Tre) and a pizza; you want a quiet, intimate setting for a tasting; the Sauvignon Blanc and the Tre; you don’t mind that they don’t allow children or outside food; you like relatively simple but well-priced wines.

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The warm weather could fool you into thinking it is still summer, until you look at the vines and see that most of the grapes have been harvested.

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Clovis Point: Good Things Come in Small Packages            September 3, 2017

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

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“We’re small,” said our very well-informed multi-tasking server, “only 3,500 cases per year.”  She added that they have just eight acres of vines, and we discussed the issues Croteaux is having with Southold town over how many acres you need to have in order to do a tasting room.  But Clovis Point is in the town of Riverhead, so no problem.  Small also describes the one-ounce pour (which she warned us about in advance), but not the reputation of this boutique winery, which has garnered a number of high ratings from wine judges.

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One view of the pleasant tasting room

The tasting room, a former potato barn, is a nice size, and there is also a covered porch to one side.  The walls are adorned with a display of art for sale, so the space functions as a gallery as well.  The flower garden leading to the door is also esthetically pleasing!

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The art on the walls is for sale.

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Some of the pretty flowers by the entrance

The menu offers two flights:  a Cold Flight of four wines for $13 and a Red Flight of four reds for $15, plus a few premium wines at $5 per taste.  We were with friends, and decided each couple would do all eight wines, given that the pour is so small.  We also bought a generous tray of Spanish cheeses and baguette slices for $12, plus an eight-dollar jar of delicious fig spread, much of which we took home.  While we often don’t order food with our tastings, it is true that having wine with food enhances the experience.

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We had pretty much decimated the cheese plate before I thought to take a picture. It was very good.

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Some nice options on the snack menu

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $28

“This is a seasonal wine,” our server informed us, “and we usually sell out of it by winter.”  I can see why, as it is a light, easy to drink summery wine, with a floral and mineral aroma and peach taste.  Steel fermented, it is tart and dry.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Another steel-fermented wine, this chardonnay is mixed with 3% gewürztraminer, which might account for a touch of pineapple taste.  The aroma is mineral, earth, and pine, and our friend says it tastes like a Granny Smith apple to her.  We agree.  Our server explains that because it is steel fermented it does not undergo malolactic fermentation, and therefore gives you the “pure expression” of the grape.

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The arrowhead on the label is a Clovis point, a type of prehistoric arrowhead.

  1. 2015 Black Label Chardonnay $28

A nice touch—before each new taste, the server rinses the glass with a bit of the next wine.  This is better than when they rinse the glasses with water, as a little water always is left behind and can influence the taste of the wine.  And when they don’t rinse the glasses at all, you may get a bit of the previous wine mixing with your next taste.  In any event, this chardonnay is a mixture of steel and oak fermented wine, so it is not heavily oaked.  Not being fans of oaky chards, we are pleased with this one, which has lots of citrus taste and only a touch of vanilla.  It’s not fruity.

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You can see how small the pour is.

  1. Rosé $22.50

Also seasonal, according to our server, the rosé tends to sell out by the end of summer.  It is composed of 100% cabernet franc, and is made by the saignée method, where the grapes sit on the skins for three days.  This is such a light rosé that we agree one might, if tasting it with eyes closed, not know it was a rosé.  It’s steel fermented and quite dry, with only a faint strawberry aroma and a taste more like raspberry than strawberry.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

All the reds are aged in either French or Hungarian oak, we are told, as our server puts out fresh glasses for the red tasting.  A blend of 85% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon, this is not as complex or deep as one would think given all the ingredients.  However, it is a good merlot, dry and pleasant to drink.  “It’s my after work wine,” notes our server.  Yes, it would be relaxing to sit and sip a glass of this, perhaps with some cheese.

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They have two bars for when the room gets busy.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $35

Yum.  This time I agree with Robert Parker, who has given this wine a score of 90%.  A blend of 96% cabernet franc with 3% cabernet sauvignon and 1% petit verdot, this has fascinating aromas of mushroom, forest, and smoke, plus what our friend describes as “really ripe plums.”  It is delicious, dry at the end with some nice tannins, tasting of over-ripe cherries.  Nicely complex.  If I were here for a music event, this is the wine I would get by the glass.

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You can see how small the bottle is for the Syrah and the Malbec.

  1. 2014 Syrah $34

Syrah is usually blended with other wines, but Clovis Point decided to try bottling it by itself.  Since they didn’t have that much of it, they also decided to use 500 ml. bottles, so that price is quite high.  I insist that it smells like black olives, and my friend adds that it actually smells meaty.  It is dry, tannic, and spicy.  I like it.

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  1. 2014 Malbec $34

Meh.  Another 500ml. bottle, this is a blend of 94% malbec, plus 4% merlot, 1% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% syrah.  It has a nice fruity aroma, but the wine itself is rather light, with no depth.  “Flat,” says my friend.  I add that it lacks body.

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A view of the porch

Reasons to visit:  small winery with a nice room and some good choices; the 2015 chardonnay, the Black Label chardonnay, the 2014 Cabernet Franc; you are the designated driver but you want to taste the wines where the pour is small.

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The grapes are starting to ripen.

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Croteaux Vineyards: Easy to Drink   Rosés           June 9, 2017

http://www.croteaux.com/

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The very first time we went to Croteaux we fell in love with the beautiful garden and its comfortable seats and the refreshing, easy to drink rosé wines.  In fact, we liked them so much that we bought a case, and then discovered we had joined their “case club.”  Now it’s our favorite wine club as well, and we start every summer season by buying a case. In addition to the reduction in price that is pretty standard at any winery for buying a case, you can also come to the winery and have a free tasting.  Then, several times a year, they invite you to special events.  The most recent one included oysters and glasses of rosé, with apparently no limit on either.  Oh my.

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The view from our table out to the vineyard.

However, I don’t recommend going to Croteaux unless the weather is right for sitting outside, since their inside accommodations are not nearly as nice as the outside ones.  Fortunately, June finally brought us a beautiful sunny day, with a slight breeze making the weather perfect for visiting the garden.  We decided to sample all their wares, and so had a tasting of their six still rosés, for $15, and their three sparkling rosés, also $15.  Feeling the need for a little snack, we ordered the artichoke tapenade with croutons (French bread toasted and brushed with garlic, herbs, and olive oil) for $10.  In the past, we’ve had their goat cheese basket and the roasted nuts, both of which are good.  The artichoke tapenade was quite nice, a combination of artichoke, olives, lemon, and herbs.  The baskets all came garnished with a sprig of mint “from the owners’ garden.  The mint went crazy so they decided to add it to all the baskets,” explained our lovely server.  (They have a sign saying no outside food.)  One other note—they allow dogs on the leash, and every time we’ve come we’ve seen at least one or two canine visitors.

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Today’s pooch is in the background of this photo. Note the nice comfy Adirondack chairs.

  1. Merlot 181 Rosé            $19

The particular clone of merlot is what gives this wine and the next two their names.  This is, as you would expect for the first taste, their lightest rosé, almost white in color, with a slight mineral aroma and a tart citrusy taste and a slightly sweet finish.  “You could drink a lot of this and never notice—until you fell over,” opined my tasting pal.  When we came for the oysters this was one of the wines we had, and it went very well with them.

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Our first three tastes. Note the differences in color!

  1. Merlot 314 Rosé $19

Our favorite this year—we bought a case of it—this one has more character than the 181, with a slight chemical aroma and a tart taste that combines strawberries and citrus.  My husband adds that he tastes a bit of pear, too.  It would work well to sip on its own, nicely chilled, and would also go well with lots of different foods.

  1. Merlot 3 $19

A blend of 181, 314, and 3, this one reminds us more of a white wine than a rosé, with lots of tart citrusy tastes.  Sort of like a sauvignon blanc, but without the pineapple tastes that wine often has.  The color is a pretty pink, and the smell has a bit of something funky as well as minerality.

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The second three of the still wines. A coaster under each glass identifies the wine.

  1. Sauvage 181 Rosé $24

“Sauvage” is French for wild, as this wine is made with wild yeasts, which means it can vary quite a bit from year to year.  This year is a winner.  More interesting than your average rosé, this is mouth-watering (which I insist means it has some tannins), with a taste that combines fruit salad and lime and an aroma of pineapple and guava.  If we had decided to get the newest item on their menu—mini lobster rolls from American Beech—I would have gotten a glass of this to go with it.  Well, the summer is just getting started.  We may have to come back…

  1. Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé $24

The menu describes this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can see why.  Made with sauvignon blanc plus a little cabernet franc (“for color”), this is another yummy wine, with aromas of pine forest and citrus plus peach tastes.  Delicate, it would be fine to sip on its own, or paired with a light white fish like sole.

  1. Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé $24

Described as a French Bordeaux, “for red wine lovers,” this is my least favorite of the day.  It’s the sweetest of the rosés, though there is some minerality to balance the sweetness, with a red candy aroma.  We get the tapenade as we’re still sampling this, and I like it better with food.

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Tapenade.

  1. Cuvée Sparkle $29

Now we move on to the sparkling wines, which come in tall slim glasses, held in a metal carrier.  I would put all three of them in the “fun” wine category, as they are not overly expensive for sparkling wines and are all easy to drink.  The first is a blend of their three merlot clones and smells like them, of minerals with a bit of strawberry. Tart and refreshing and very bubbly, this is a sparkler I would choose, though my husband notes that not everyone would like it.  If you are looking for a sweet rosé sparkler, this would not be for you.

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The bubblies. We had already tried the first one before I remembered to snap a photo.

  1. Chloe Sparkle $29

Like the still Chloe, this is made from sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc grapes, and is quite different from the Cuvée.  The aroma has, in addition to the expected smells, something vegetal about it, maybe a cruciferous veggie.  The taste is more complex than the Cuvée, a touch sweeter, and would go perfectly with a tray of charcuterie.

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Jolie means pretty, and indeed this is a pretty color.

  1. Jolie Sparkle $29

Pretty color!  More like what people expect from a rosé sparkler, this is the sweetest wine of the day, so you should not be surprised to hear that I didn’t care for it.  However, my tasting partner thinks “people would like it.”  The aroma combines red candy, strawberry, and a funky forest smell.  I compare the taste to watermelon.

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Reasons to visit:  the garden!!!; the only winery that only makes rosés; the best rosés on the North Fork, especially the 314, the Sauvage 181, and the Chloe Sparkle;  prices; good snacks; the garden, the garden, the garden.

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Roses and then  rosés .

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Sherwood House Vineyard: Sip and Shop May 12, 2017

http://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

https://www.hounds-tree.com/

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I happened to snap this at a sunny moment.

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On a cool spring day, when clouds and sun took turns dominating the sky, we stopped into Sherwood House’s tasting room, which we had not been to in almost two years.  Though the tasting room looks much the same, with its cozy fireplace, there have been a number of changes in the winery itself.  We immediately noticed that there were three options on the tasting menu: a Sherwood House flight of five wines for $16, a Hound’s Tree Estate flight of five wines for $16, and a flight of four Library and Estate wines for $24.  We decided to go with one flight of Sherwood House wines and one of Hound’s Tree, tasting them side by side, since there seemed to be comparable choices on both menus.

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The friendly and helpful server explained that Hound’s Tree was a new winery that had bought the Oregon Road vineyard from Sherwood House and was making wines in a West Coast style, in partnership with Appoloni Vineyards, a winery based in Oregon (the state, not the road!).  Meanwhile, the owner and winemaker of Sherwood house planned to go on making their wines in their own style, which is influenced by French methods.  What a nice opportunity to compare styles!

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The shop adjoins the tasting room.

After our tastings we browsed the beautiful shop which adjoins the tasting room.  It used to be called Material Objects, and is now called William Ris East.  It features fine art, sculpture, and antiques (according to their sign), plus jewelry and pottery.  We saw many pieces we liked, and if you are looking for some real art it is a good place to go.  One caution:  the pour in the winery is fairly generous, so don’t make any decisions on buying art if you’re not compos mentis!

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Although the Sherwood House web page mentions music on Saturday afternoons, on this quiet Friday a singer/guitarist set up in a corner and serenaded us with Beatles tunes, among others.  A party of women at a table, who were sharing a bottle of rosé and a cheese tray (bought at the winery and provided by Love Lane cheese shop), seemed to enjoy his performance very much, as did we.  As we chatted with the server, she took note of my notebook and asked directly if we wrote for any publication, so we admitted that I did a blog.  As a result, she gave us two extra tastes.  I’ve labeled the Sherwood House choices SH and the Hound’s Tree choices HT.

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We enjoyed the music.

  1. 2014 Oregon Road Chardonnay SH                       $19

This is a pretty typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with aromas of pears and minerals and tastes of unripe pear.  It is both sweet and tart, so well-balanced, with a nice long finish.  It is definitely a good food wine.  This, like the other whites, is served too cold (not their fault—wineries are obliged to set their refrigeration at a specified temperature), but we warmed the glass in our palms to get a better sense of the wine.

  1. 2015 HT Estate Chardonnay     $24

Really different!  We get a vegetable aroma—roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts—and maybe a slight burnt smell.  The taste is also quite different, with some vegetal notes and lots of rock and minerality and even salt, as well as some pear.  However, we like this one, too, and it would also be good with food.  Maybe something rich, like a roast chicken, while the SH chard might do better with scallops.

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  1. 2013 Estate Chardonnay SH        $35

Nope, you won’t find this on the regular tasting menu, but our server thought we should try their one oaked chardonnay.  70% oak, she said, which explained why, though it has some of that butterscotch smell, it does not taste overly oaky.  It had a touch of sweetness, but “not unpleasantly so,” opined my husband.  Though not a sipper, this would stand up to many different foods.  I could see having it with pork chops.

  1. 2015 Estate Rosé HT       $22

A blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, this rosé has a deep pink color and a sweet aroma that I insist smells like red Twizzlers.  My drinking pal suggests “fireplace” and cherry juice.  In any event, it is a very dry rosé, with more citrus than strawberry taste.  I wouldn’t choose it as a sipper, but I think it could be very nice paired with some charcuterie.

  1. Oregon Road White Merlot SH   $19

When we saw “white merlot” we immediately thought of Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, which is a white pinot noir (no longer called Anomaly), but this is quite different.  I described it as “evanescent,” as it is very light and the taste seems to dissipate very quickly.  The aroma is of strawberries, salt, and minerals, and I actually think it would be fun to drop a few strawberries into a glass for summer sipping.

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The two rose style wines provided quite a contrast in both taste and color.

  1. 2013 Oregon Road Red Blend SH              $19

We agreed that this was the perfect price point for this very nice red table wine, a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon.  My guess is the blend is heavy on the merlot, as I got lots of cherry in the smell and taste.  My husband pronounced it a “perfectly acceptable” dinner wine.  It is fairly dry.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc HT              $28

Eh.  Not particularly a fan of this one, which we felt was rather “tame,” in my husband’s opinion.  Light for a cabernet franc, it is not a red you’d want to pair with a steak or other hearty meat.  Maybe veal.

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Though these two reds may look similar, they actually taste quite different.

  1. 2012 Merlot SH               $38

This one we like better than the previous wine. It has mouth-watering tannins, lots of cherry taste and aroma, and also some scents of forest.

  1. 2015 Merlot HT               $28

Again, we prefer the Sherwood House style, as we find this red just okay, with not a lot of fruit or depth.  It’s not bad, just not very interesting.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon HT      $28

Aromas of dark fruits, like plums and berries, good tannins, dry, and tastes of dark fruit.  Again, not exciting, but perfectly acceptable.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc SH               $45

I like this one the best of the reds so far, although it has almost no finish.  The aroma is a tad funky, with some notes of forest floor as well as dark fruits.  Another nicely dry wine, it would go well with a cheese platter.

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  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor SH           $45

This is our other extra taste, and a good one it is.  It’s the most interesting wine of the day, with lots of varied flavors and aromas and tannins that make us think it would continue to age well.

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One time when we came here they were selling oysters on the porch.

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More art from the gallery.

Reasons to visit:  cozy tasting room with a fireplace that is in use in the winter; the opportunity to browse a gallery with beautiful pieces; the Oregon Road Chardonnay, the Sherwood House Estate Chardonnay, the Hound’s Tree Estate Rosé, the Oregon Road Red Blend, the Sherwood Manor; music even when it isn’t scheduled.

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We think these crates can be used to store wine.

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Mattebella: Food Friendly Wines April 23, 2017

http://mattebella.com/main

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A view to the outdoor patio, which is even prettier in the summer when the hydrangea are in bloom.

The sun finally appeared, so we decided to head to one of our favorite outdoor tasting areas.  In fact, Mattebella is almost all outside area, so I suggest that you only go there in nice weather. They have a small tasting cottage and another small indoor area, plus some covered gazebo-like seating places, but most of their seating is on the rustic patio, where you are immediately greeted, shown to a table, and handed a menu.

As soft rock played in the background (think James Taylor), we perused our choices.  There are three flights:  Red, which is five tastes for $20; Light, which is seven whites, a rosé, and a sparkler for $20; and Total Vertical Red, which is the same as the red flight with the addition of their most expensive red, for $26.  We decided to share the basic red and the light, starting with the light.

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Our very well-informed server brought a tray to our table with nine glasses on it, six of which he turned right side up in order to pour our first six tastes.  He also set down a little slate tray with two slices of baguette covered with double cream brie.  As far as I know, Mattebella is the only winery around here to give you actual food to go with your tasting—not just a few crackers.  What’s nice about this is that you can think about how well each wine goes with food.  We concluded that Mattebella’s wines are very food friendly, even the ones we were not too sure of on their own.  It’s a good idea to ration your nibbles, so you can experiment with how each wine goes with the cheese and baguette.

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First snack.

The first six tastes are all chardonnays, but from different years or treated differently in terms of steel or a combination of steel and oak.  Our server also explained that for the chardonnay grape there’s not a lot of difference year to year, so the ways the wines vary totally depends on how they are treated.

(Two FYIs:  they don’t take American Express cards, and the restroom, at least for the moment, is a port-a-pottie.)

  1. 2014 Steel Chardonnay              $21

A sniff reveals scents of mineral and cucumber, and the taste is very tart and sour lemony.  We immediately decided this wine needed food, and after a bite of brie we liked it much better.  I could see having it with something like Coquilles St. Jacques, while my husband theorized that lobster thermidor would also work.

  1. 2012 Famiglia Chardonnay         $21

This one and the next one are both fermented 20% in oak, and the rest in steel, so if you don’t like oaked chardonnays this one will be just fine.  It has a slight aroma of honeysuckle and what my tasting buddy insisted was shoe polish.  Mineral or metal, maybe.  The taste is somewhat citrusy, not sweet, and rather subtle.  Again, not a sipper, but would go well with food.

  1. 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay         $23

We like this one better.  It has more aroma and tastes of fresh mandarin orange (when you bite into the whole fruit, rind and all), mineral, and salt.  Again, not too oaky.  “A wine to think about,” opined my husband.

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  1. 2012 Reserve Chardonnay          $28

The next three wines are all fermented 40% in oak, so they are definitely oakier than the former two, though still not too oaky.  It has a pleasant aroma of apricots and butterscotch candy with lots of tastes.  I decide on bosc pear and gala apple!

  1. 2013 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

This one has a slightly funky smell and the taste is just okay, with still plenty of minerality despite the oak.  Again, this one benefits from being sipped with a bite of brie.

  1. 2014 Reserve Chardonnay          $29

I would say pretty much the same comments about this wine as the previous one, just adding that it smells a little like sweat, though not in a bad way, and has more of a citrus flavor that that one.

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The sparkling wine is in front.

  1. 2014 Riesling     $22

Now our server comes out with another three bottles (carried in a milkman-like metal carrier) and fills our next three glasses.  This is their first riesling, and he explains that the winemaker wanted to make a dry riesling, but found the brix content of the grapes to be too high.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brix )  As a result, he decided on an “off-dry” riesling.  We don’t particularly care for this one, which is both too sweet for us but also has a metallic taste I don’t like—like touching your tongue to steel or iron.  Maybe next year’s vintage will be better.

  1. 2015 Rosé          $21

Pleasant, we agree, is the word for this rosé, made from merlot grapes.  It spends 5-6 hours on the skins, we are informed.  I think it has a bit of a smell like parmesan cheese!  We taste citrus, strawberry, salt, and mineral.  Crisp and nice.

  1. 2015 Off-Dry Sparkling Rose       $28

If you follow me at all, you can probably tell just by the name that I’m not going to care for this sparkler, and you would be right.  Too sweet!  Made from syrah grapes, it has a distinct green vegetable aroma, maybe fresh peas, plus some chocolate.  The taste reminds me of sweet cherries.

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Bottle carrier

Now we order a red flight, and get a fresh tray with five little glasses on it.  Again, the wines are very similar, all being blends in varying proportions of some combination of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and/or petit verdot.  With this round we each get a little plate with two slices of baguette, one topped with balsamic fig jam and gorgonzola cheese, and the other with bacon jam and grana padana, plus specific instructions on which goes with which wine.  Yum.

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  1. Famiglia Red     $24

As their non-vintage selection, Mattebella aims for consistency with this wine, trying to have it taste pretty much the same year to year.  Not a bad goal, since we like this wine very much.  It’s a perfect spaghetti/pizza wine, with characteristic merlot cherry tastes, dry yet fruity.

  1. 2011 Old World Blend   $43

We smell cherry, like a merlot, though this is a blend.  2011 was a difficult year, because of Hurricane Irene, but since Mattebella harvests by hand, they were able to pick and choose and get enough grapes to make their wine, though fewer cases than usual.  I would say this is fairly straightforward, with soft tannins, and very pleasant to drink.

  1. 2012 Old World Blend   $40

This one has no cabernet sauvignon, and instead more petit verdot, making it spicier and more interesting as far as I’m concerned.  Definitely we smell and taste cherry, but also red blackberry and some minerality.  Another good one.

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Second round of snacks!

  1. 2008 Old World Blend   $48

No petit verdot in this one!  We are instructed to have it with the balsamic fig jam/gorgonzola-topped baguette slice, which is a great pairing.  The wine is good, but better with the food.  We smell and taste chocolate and tobacco in addition to some cherry and dark fruit.

  1. 2009 Old World Blend   $46

Now we get to have the other baguette with jam and cheese, also a nice pairing.  This wine definitely smells like a Bordeaux, with lots of interesting fruit.  The taste has dark fruit and a touch of earthiness, and we like it very much.  Excellent!

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The winery is named for the owners’ children, pictured on the label.

Reasons to visit: an attractive outdoor seating area; the chance to compare the same grape or grapes over different years or treatments; free snacks!; the 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay; all the reds.

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Pellegrini Vineyards: Refuge from the Rain August 10, 2016

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

Our view was of the rain lashing the courtyard.

The thunder was ominous, and we barely made it into the tasting room before a deluge poured from the sky.  However, the menacing weather meant that on this Wednesday afternoon we had the tasting room to ourselves (though a couple of other groups arrived later).  With no urgent business, we stayed for almost two hours, snacking on hummus and pretzel chips we had brought with us and chatting with our friends who confessed they were neophytes to wine tasting—though not to wine drinking.  “I’m a virgin,” my friend joked, explaining that though she’d been to wineries for events she’d never actually sat down for a tasting.

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In that case, I was glad I’d chosen to take our friends to Pellegrini, where you can have your tray of tastes delivered to your table and spend as long as you like discussing the wines.  Our discussions ranged from the personal to the political, but we did devote some attention to the wines, which our friends generally enjoyed.  They had some favorites, and others they didn’t finish, about which more later.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

On this rainy Wednesday, we had the room mostly to ourselves.

A tasting includes any three wines you choose from the menu printed on a placemat, which then becomes your guide to the order in which to drink the wines, plus a sample of their rosé, for $12. Since we are wine club members, our tastings were free.  We all chose a variety of different wines, so I’m going to comment on my choices first, with some briefer notes on other options.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

One tray full. The oyster crackers are useful for cleansing your palate between tastes.

  1. 2015 Rosé           $19.99

We decided we would all start with this, since it was one wine we had in common, so we could discuss both this particular drink and also how to think about the aroma and taste of wine.  A steel-fermented blend of 35% merlot, 32% cabernet sauvignon, and 33% cabernet franc, this is a light dry rosé with a distinctively citric taste we decided was more like tangerine than lemon.  It had only a faint bit of the strawberry aroma many rosés have, and lots of minerality.  My friend particularly liked the pale pink color.

A tray of whites.

A tray of whites.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99

As in the past, I like this wine.  It’s a crisp steel-fermented sauvignon blanc with a bit of a gooseberry aroma and nice balance of mineral and lemony citrus.  I would have it with local oysters.  My friend said she would too—if she liked oysters.  Well, then, with scallops?  Oh, yes.

  1. 2014 East End Select BBQ Red $18.99

What kind of wine do you want to serve at a barbeque?  Probably something uncomplicated and easy to drink that goes well with burgers and doesn’t cost too much.  Hence BBQ Red.  Made from steel-fermented petit verdot, this is simple and direct and light and dry.  You could even have it with hot dogs.

Mostly reds

Mostly reds

  1. 2011 Petit Verdot $29.99

If you want to understand the difference between a wine that has been steel-fermented and one that has been aged 20 months in French oak, you might want to follow the BBQ Red with this petit verdot.  This remains one of my favorite North Fork reds, with rich flavors of blueberry and other berries and dark plums, pleasantly tannic and dry.  It can stand up to a steak.  Our friend agrees, and this is the only glass he, who is not much of a drinker, empties.

Now here are a few notes on other wines, in no particular order, though we did spend some time explaining why the order in which you sample a tasting matters.  Basically, you want to go from the lightest to the most flavorful, so you can appreciate each one as it comes.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

We commandeered the big table, since we were the only ones there.

  1. 2014 Medley White $21.99

I wasn’t sure my friend would like this one, since she is not fond of sweet wines and this blend includes 5% gewürztraminer as well as 55% sauvignon blanc and 40% chardonnay, and I was right.  She was not a fan, describing both the taste and smell as “pungent.”  It did have a bit of that cat pee smell you sometimes get.  She did not finish her glass, but much preferred her next taste.

  1. 2015 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $19.99

A fan of pinot grigio, our friend liked this dry, citrusy chard, which she described as “mild.”  I like it too, better than their oaked chard.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $19.99

Although this is a blend of 80% oaked chard (8 months aged) and 20% steel chard, we felt this was still too oaky for our taste.

  1. 2010 Merlot $29.99

My friends were not fond of this merlot, which they felt could have been fruitier.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $29.99

Actually a Bordeaux blend of 84% cabernet franc, 7% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, this red also was not a favorite with our friends, who perhaps found it too tannic for their taste.  I think a few more years of aging would be useful.

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

We took advantage of a lull in the storm to head out to the parking lot, but the storm was not over!

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

As we headed to Greenport our phones lit up with storm and tornado warnings, so we pulled over.

Reasons to visit:  as I’ve said before, a good all-around winery, with plenty of good choices in both white and red and reasonable prices;  nice place to go with friends, as you can sit at a table with your tastes and bring your own snacks; the steel chardonnay, the sauvignon blanc, the petit verdot, the BBQ Red.

We couldn't resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.

We couldn’t resist this photo of Deep Water Grille and deep water on Front Street in Greenport.

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

http://www.onewomanwines.com/

one sign

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

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

This shot encompasses most of the tasting room.

This shot encompasses most of the tasting room.

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

The gelato freezer

The gelato freezer

  1. 2014 One Woman Rosé                                $22

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

one sauv b

  1. 2014 One Woman Sauvignon Blanc $25

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

  1. 2014 One Woman Tribute $23

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

Our two favorite wines!

Our two favorite wines!

  1. 2014 One Woman Grüner Veltliner $22

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

  1. 2014 One Woman Gewürztraminer $25

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

  1. 2013 One Woman Chardonnay $25

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

one chard

  1. 2012 One Woman Reserve Grüner Veltliner $32

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

  1. 2011 One Woman Reserve Chardonnay                 $35

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

Assessing the merlot

Assessing the merlot

  1. 2012 One Woman Merlot $28

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

  1. 2008 One Woman Reserve Merlot $48

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

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

The flower or twig decorations change every time we come.

The flower or twig decorations change every time we come.

A view of the tasting shed

A view of the tasting shed

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Mattebella Vineyards: Science Experiment! August 9, 2015

The small tasting cottage

The small tasting cottage

http://www.mattebellavineyards.com/

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

What amazing hydrangeas!

What amazing hydrangeas!

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

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

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

Light Flight

  1. 2009 Chardonnay            $21

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

Double cream brie on baguette.  Yum.

Double cream brie on baguette. Yum.

  1. 2013 Steel Chardonnay $21

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

  1. 2010 Chardonnay $21

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

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  1. 2011 Chardonnay $21

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

  1. Famiglia 2012 $21

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

  1. Reserve 2012 $28

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

  1. 2014 Rosé $20

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

The

The “fun, party” sparkling rose.

  1. 2014 Sparkling Rosé $27

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

Red Flight

  1. Famiglia Red         $23

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

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  1. 2008 Old World Blend $44

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

More yummy snacks!

More yummy snacks!

  1. 2009 Old World Blend $41

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

  1. 2010 Old World Blend $48

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

  1. 2007 Old World Blend $63

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

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

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

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

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

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

http://premiumwinegroup.com/

http://liebcellars.com/

http://bridgelanewine.com/

lieb entrance

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

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

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

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

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

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

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

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Merlot                               $16

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

  1. *NV Rumor Mill Hard Cider $9

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

lieb white

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Chardonnay $15

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

They can't call it champagne...

They can’t call it champagne…

  1. *2010 Lieb Cellars Blanc de Blanc $30

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

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend $16

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

  1. *2014 Lieb Pinot Blanc $22

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

The rose sure looks pretty.

The rose sure looks pretty.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Rosé                 $18

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

lieb red

  1. *2013 Reserve Merlot $24

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

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

The pour for the Bridge Lane wines is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Bridge Lane Red Blend $16

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

  1. *2013 Lieb Reserve Cabernet Franc $40

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

lieb board

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

lieb array

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

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

Roanoke Vineyards: Satellite Spot July 26, 2015

http://www.roanokevineyards.net/

r sign

Roanoke’s main tasting room and vineyard are located on the western edge of the North Fork, but their satellite spot, which they call their “wine bar,” is in the heart of wine country, on Love Lane in Mattituck.  As I found out, their main room will close this winter to all except wine club members, so you might as well plan to go to their Love Lane place—especially since Love Lane itself is worth a visit for the Village Cheese Shop, Lombardi’s Italian market, and Love Lane Kitchen restaurant, among others.

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

The wine bar is a small room, but it is well laid out, with a bar along one side and comfy chairs around tables, as well as a small piazza out the back, overlooking the Love Lane parking lot.  We happened by on a Sunday afternoon, when local Pearl River oysters were on offer, so we decided to partake of some after our tasting ($20 for a dozen).  In addition to their own wines, they also carry bottles by Wölffer Estate (on the South Fork) and Brooklyn Oenology.  In fact, the last time we were there they were doing a side-by-side tasting with Brooklyn Oenology, which we quite enjoyed.  They also carry their own verjus, a non-alcoholic drink people sometimes use in salad dressing or cooking.

We didn't get to try this Wolffer Estate wine, but we really liked the bottle.

We didn’t get to try this Wolffer Estate wine, but we really liked the bottle.

Their menu offers three options, the “Round Trip,” featuring a white, a rosé, and two reds for $12; Whites, four whites for $12; or Reds, four reds for $14.  We opted for one each of the white and the red, so we could try all their wines.  The pour is fairly generous.  Our server was enthusiastic and friendly, fairly well-informed.  In addition, she did a very nice job gift-wrapping a pretty bottle of a Wölffer wine for another customer.

The server helping another couple choose some wines to bring as gifts.

The server helping another couple choose some wines to bring as gifts.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                   $19

This is a bit tarter than the usual North Fork sauvignon blanc, with a bit of a woodsy aroma and some tastes of kumquat and lemon.  My husband immediately plans to have this when he gets his oysters, but I’m not sure I like this.  I think I like the Jamesport sauvignon better.

  1. 2014 Rosé $19

The server informs another couple at the bar that this is their top seller, at least this summer, and I can see why.  It is a very light rosé, a blend of 75% merlot and 25% “wild” chardonnay (about which more in a moment), with an initial “rush of sweetness,” according to my tasting buddy.  I taste not fully ripe cantaloupe, which is in my mind because that’s what we got at a farm stand this week.  Good, but we still prefer Croteaux.

r rose

  1. 2014 The Wild! $20

What is wild here is the yeast, meaning that the wine is fermented using only naturally occurring yeasts, a process I find fascinating, since the winemaker gives up a bit of control over the process by doing this.  I quite like this one, though the aroma is a touch musty, with maybe a hint of pencil shavings.  The taste is a little sweet, with some honey and citrus, but not too sweet.  I decide I’ll have this with my oysters, even though the sauvignon is actually a better fit.

I really liked their label designs.

I really liked their label designs.

  1. 2014 Brio $24

Since brio means vivacity or verve, I’m interested to see whether this wine has these qualities.  It is a blend of 66% chardonnay, 14%viognier, 8% malvese, and 20% muscat canelli, according to the menu.  That doesn’t quite compute, according to my math-challenged mind, but the result is interesting.  The aroma is complex, with a touch of toffee, a bit of funk, plus more.  “Lots going on,” says my husband, who doesn’t particularly like the wine.  I disagree.  I taste apricot and gooseberry, and like it.  I also like that the whites are not served too cold.

Nice size pour

Nice size pour

  1. 2012 Merlot $24

Now we switch to reds, and get a fresh glass.  According to the menu, this merlot is “blousy,” and after some hilarity with clothing puns, we decide we have no idea what that means in terms of this wine.  The wine spends 20 months in French oak.  Aroma has a touch of barnyard, but also cherry, and the taste is the typical cherry taste of North Fork merlots, with a bit of tannin at the end.

Another view of the room, featuring bags of Vines and Branches' very popular truffle popcorn.

Another view of the room, featuring bags of Vines and Branches’ very popular truffle popcorn.

  1. 2012 Marco Tulio $24

I figure there must be a story behind this name, and indeed there is.  The wine is named for the owner’s father, who recently passed away at the age of 99.  “He drank wine every day!” our server informs us.  Sounds like quite an endorsement for wine drinking.  This is a wine one could easily drink every day, with an aroma of cherry and dark fruit and a light delicate taste.  It is a blend of 59% merlot, 39% cabernet franc, and 9% petit verdot, and spends 14 months in French oak.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $34

Although this is labeled cab franc, the menu informs us that this too is a blend, of 79% cab franc, 20% merlot, and 1% petit verdot.  There’s some cherry in the aroma, thanks to the merlot, but also plums and spices, perhaps allspice.  This is very good, and I could see drinking it with boeuf bourguignon—soft, with lots of fruit and a bit of woodiness.

Another cool label design

Another cool label design

  1. 2013 Bond $20

One more blend—63% cabernet franc, 22% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petit verdot, and 6% merlot—and the fact that it is a blend and the choice of the name are both appropriate.  They called it “Bond” to commemorate their opening on Love Lane, as a thank you to the other local merchants and how welcoming and friendly they were.  We actually saw that friendliness in action when we ordered the oysters.  The owner of Pearl River asked my husband if he wanted lemon, and then offered a squeeze of “Realemon,” which my husband declined.  Before we had a chance to eat any, he reappeared with some lemons which Lombardi’s had given him and which he quickly sliced for us.  How nice.  And so were the oysters—oh, and so is Bond!  I really liked it, though our server opined that it would be even better in a year or two.  The aroma is quite fruity and the taste has a good balance of fruit and tartness.

Pearl River oysters for sale on Love Lane

Pearl River oysters for sale on Love Lane

Reasons to visit:  a convenient location on Love Lane—you can buy a bottle and then stop in to the cheese shop and put together a picnic (I recommend Bond to go with your cheese.); The Wild!, Brio, Marco Tulio, Cabernet Franc, and Bond; oysters on Sunday afternoons; you can buy bottles of Wölffer Estate and Brooklyn Oenology wines as well.

Our oysters, waiting for the lemon to arrive.  I had The Wild!, but I have to admit that my husband's choice of the Sauvignon Blanc was a better match.

Our oysters, waiting for the lemon to arrive. I had The Wild!, but I have to admit that my husband’s choice of the Sauvignon Blanc was a better match.

Stroll Love Lane in Mattituck and you can visit some cute shops for gifts, food, cheese, and wine.

Stroll Love Lane in Mattituck and you can visit some cute shops for gifts, food, cheese, and wine.