Wine and Food Pairings (Inspired by Newsday)

Wine and Food Pairings (Inspired by Newsday)

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https://www.newsday.com/

https://paper.newsday.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?edid=b162131d-f983-4571-8d34-226583242f16&pnum=1

Today, for Valentine’s Day, Newsday ran a nice little piece, “Perfect Pairings,” about wine and food pairings. But they missed an opportunity, which Nofowineaux will attempt to remedy.  For example, they mentioned Peconic Bay oysters, but not the Long Island wines one could drink with them.  So what follows is my own list of the foods and types of wines they mentioned, updated with my own recommendations of local wines to use.

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We get a new red-wine-friendly glass with the reds.

  1. Roast chicken

Newsday says have pinot noir or an oaked chardonnay.  I say, try Castello Borghese’s or McCall’s pinot noir, or Castello’s oaked chardonnay.

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  1. Pasta with a Bolognese sauce

Chianti would be perfect, of course, and it is made with the sangiovese grape, which is found on Long Island in a few places.  Try the sangiovese from Pugliese, or the Meritage from Laurel Lake, a blend that includes sangiovese.

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

  1. Lobster

They say a steel fermented chardonnay or a rosé.  Of course, as soon as I hear rosé, I think of Croteaux, which has lovely dry Provençal-style rosés.  For a steel chard, my favorite is Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay.

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  1. Chicken Tikka Masala

Aside from my own kitchen, I don’t know anywhere on the North Fork to get Indian food.  When I make Indian food (as I did last night, making curried cauliflower and cucumber raita), I like to pair it with a slightly sweet white, which is also what Newsday suggests.  They say use a gewürztraminer, and you have three good options on the North Fork:  Osprey’s Dominion, Coffee Pot Cellars, or, my preference, One Woman.  We drank Meditazione from Channing Daughters, a delicious orange wine made from a blend that includes gewürztraminer.

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  1. Roasted White Fish

There are lots of good options for white fish fillets at Braun’s, and there’s almost always cod.  Newsday suggests a sauvignon blanc.  Almost every winery has a drinkable sauvignon blanc, but I prefer Channing Daughters to most of the others.  It is nicely dry, but has enough fruit to give it taste.  Other good ones: Diliberto’s, Duck Walk, Clovis Point, and Coffee Pot Cellars.

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  1. Rib-Eye Steak

Two sources of good beef are Wayside Market and 8 Hands (though 8 Hands doesn’t always have beef—check their web page or call before you go).  As to wines, Newsday recommends either a cabernet sauvignon or a sparkling wine (and many people believe sparkling wines go with everything).  Big reds are in short supply on the North Fork, but Laurel Lake has a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that’s pretty good.  Sparkling Pointe, of course, only makes sparkling wines.  Their Brut Magnum is lovely, but if you don’t care to buy a huge bottle you could try Roanoke Vineyard’s sparkling wine.

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The sparkler and the chard

  1. Oysters

In general, I like sauvignon blancs with oysters.  I find the lemony taste of the wine complements the bivalves very nicely.  They suggest a Muscadet or a sparkling wine.  You might try the Sherwood House blanc de blancs, or one of the above suggestions.

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  1. Cauliflower Steak

As Newsday notes in its article, it is often hard to pair wine and vegetables.  They suggest a grüner veltliner with this dish, and I agree.  One Woman makes a grüner that is one of my favorite North Fork whites.

As with all suggested wine and food pairings, personal taste is paramount.  If you just don’t like red wines or white wines (but why?), just go with what you like.  A light red can go with fish or chicken, and a heavy white, like an oaked chardonnay, can go with meats.  However, I can’t picture having any white with steak.  Instead, have a beer! Happy Valentine’s Day.

Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser January 26,2019

Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser              January 26,2019

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https://www.pindar.net/

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

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

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

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

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

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Looks like a fairly pedestrian selection of cheeses.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

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

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The pretty label has quite a story behind it.

  1. 2017 Viognier $21.99

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

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

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

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  1. 2017 Rosé $16.99

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

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

  1. Spring Splendor $12.99

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

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

  1. 2016 Gamay Noir $18.99

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

  1. Pythagoras $16.99

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

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

  1. 2015 Syrah $16.99

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

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

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

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

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

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

  1. Raspberry Bubbly (sparkling wine) $21.99

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Duck Walk Vineyards: Quack Quack January 12, 2019

Duck Walk Vineyards:  Quack Quack        January 12, 2019

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https://duckwalk.com/

“We’ll have to stop quacking,” joked my husband, as we finished our tasting at Duck Walk Vineyards’ North Fork tasting room.  You see, the last time we went, in 2009, we disliked almost all the wines, including a red that tasted like ashes, and I had an allergic reaction (something I almost never have to Long Island wines, for some mysterious reason).  So we vowed never to return, and amused ourselves by quacking derisively as we drove past.  No more.  Though we didn’t like all the wines, there were plenty we did enjoy, and we had a great tasting experience.

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This tasting room is quite spacious, though the last time, when we came in the spring, we were in a different one that was even bigger.

Duck Walk, like Jason’s and Pindar, is owned by the Damianos family, and many of their wines are somewhat sweet for our taste, though numerous people like them.  And it is a family affair, with even a third generation possibly getting ready to join the business, according to our chatty and well-informed server.  It is always a plus to have a server who is really into the wines of the place where she works, and we appreciated our server’s enthusiasm for the wines and eagerness to share her preferences.  She also was happy with our respectful approach to the wines, and gave us some extra tastes to show off the depth of their collection.

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The tasting room we went into is to the right of the main entrance, where we had a tasting the last time, and is a smaller—though still quite large and airy—room.  A long bar dominates one end, past which are French doors leading out to the vines.  When we entered, a large group of young women were enjoying their tasting before heading back out to the limo, and the room became noticeably quiet when they left.  In the summer, we have often seen whole fleets of limos and buses parked outside, as Duck Walk is a regular on the limo circuit (another reason we haven’t been back in a long time).

Aside from feeling it was finally time to go back, I also was intrigued to taste their Absenthe, their new after-dinner “traditional distilled spirit,” whose name echoes that of the famous Czech drink, absinthe.

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Their website notes that they have snacks for sale, though we were not offered a menu, and they do allow you to bring in “light snacks.”  It also says they are “pet friendly,” which I assume means in the summer, when you can sit outside.

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A tasting consists of four tastes for $10, which you pay in advance.  You then get four tickets, which the server collects after each drink.  Since the menu includes seventeen red, white, and rosé wines, plus seven other drinks in the sparkling and dessert categories, we decided to do two tastings and share as we went along.  Though you are free to choose any four, in any order, our server did give us the standard advice to drink whites before reds, and to follow the order of their listings on the menu.

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  1. 2017 Chardonnay          $16.95

Since chardonnay is so ubiquitous on the North Fork, I felt we should include it in our tasting.  This is their steel-fermented chard, and at the moment they do not have an oaked chard, though our server says they have had one in the past.  We agree that we both prefer steel to oak.  This one has a bit of a barnyard smell, and is a touch too sweet for us.  It has tastes of pineapple and guava with some minerality.  My tasting buddy opines that it is “wine for the skittish,” by which he means it is easy to drink if you’re not a big wine drinker.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $18.95

Nice.  I get a cut grass smell which my husband describes as “woodsy,” plus some rock or mineral.  The taste is fairly typical for North Fork sauvignon blancs, lemony and grapefruity, and would be fine with oysters.

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When the labels do not feature ducks they feature Gastby-themed art, like this one of what the tasting room workers jokingly named the “Hamptons hooker.”

  1. 2017 Rosé $16.95

We admire its pretty pink color and Gatsby-inspired label, which features a young woman in flapper dress standing in front of a mansion and a 1920s car.  Her provocative pose has led the winery workers to dub her the “Hamptons hooker.”  Made from the pinot meunier grape, this has a slightly funky aroma, plus the expected strawberry.  The taste reminds me of a vodka-infused watermelon I once sampled at a party (I was young.), with some sweet strawberry and lemon notes.  This would be a fine summer sipper, though it is a bit too sweet for us.

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  1. Southampton White   $14.95 for 750 ml, $18.95 for 1.5 l

According to the menu, this is made from the cayuga grape, which is often used upstate.  As we feared, it is too sweet for us, while also being light and not complex. I contemplate dumping the rest of our taste.

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  1. 2017 Pinot Meunier   $29.95

Since Duck Walk is the only vineyard that grows this grape, we decide we need to start our tasting of the reds with this wine.  My tasting pal and I agree that this smells like berries, though I say blueberry and he says raspberry.  It is a light, fruity summer red, good with barbequed chicken.  It reminds me of a Beaujolais.  This label also features an upper-crust Gatsby-esque theme, with formally clad horse riders.

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  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon   $18.95

This cab doesn’t have much aroma or taste.  There is a slightly funky smell.  The wine itself is light and dry, with some tannin.  It would be okay with a burger, though I generally prefer beer with burgers.

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Do you see the duck reference in this picture? I got it!

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   $38.95

Power of the book strikes again!  Our server, with whom we have been having enjoyable conversations about the North Fork vs. the South Fork (where she often has to travel to work in the South Fork tasting room in Water Mill), gives us an extra, a taste of the high-end cab sauv.  And it is really good!  Lots of dark fruit taste, the kind of tannins that make me think it could age even more, and some depth and interest.

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  1. 2015 Merlot   $16.95

Again, the aroma is a bit funky, plus the usual cherry smell.  This is a dry, drinkable merlot, not overpowering at all.  My husband says there’s “not a lot of stuff going on.”  It’s a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with some cherry taste.  It would be fine with pasta.

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  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve   $38.95

Once again, we get an extra.  This time, a taste of the reserve merlot.  The aroma is complex, with notes of plum, cherry, and tobacco (which my husband calls ash).  However, the aroma promises more than the taste delivers, though this is a good, dry, drinkable red.  Not a lot of tannins.

  1. 2015 Malbec   $16.95

Although malbec is most often used as part of a mixture of grapes, I tend to enjoy it on its own as well.  The color of this is a beautiful dark red, and the aroma is also dark, of dark fruits like plums.  We like the taste, which is dry and tannic, with enough fruit that it would be fine to sip or have with steak.

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The White Port is so new it wasn’t on the menu.

  1. 2010 White Port

I can’t tell you the price of this because it is not yet on the menu.  Another extra treat!  Duck Walk often features their blueberry port, which is actually made with blueberries, so this is a departure for them.  The aroma is nutty, and it would actually taste good with nuts.  I taste some gooseberry taste, (and then we decide that next summer when Briermere sells gooseberries we will have to buy them again).  Nice after-dinner sipper.

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If you like Sambuca you’ll like Absenthe.

  1. Absenthe   $29.95, $5 per taste

We happen to have a bottle of absinthe we hand imported from the Czech Republic a while ago, so as I tasted this Duck Walk version, I looked forward to comparing it to the historical drink.  Supposedly, absinthe used to be made with wormwood and was highly addictive as well as causing hallucinations.  That’s no longer the case, so it is safe to sip.  In the Czech Republic there is a whole ceremony to drinking absinthe, involving mixing sugar and a bit of absinthe on a spoon, igniting it, and then, as the sugar liquifies, blowing out the flame (important step!) and pouring it into the glass.  No sweetening is necessary with the Duck Walk Absenthe, which is quite sweet, almost syrupy, and tastes very strongly of black licorice.  If you like Sambuca, you’ll like this.  After I went home—and recovered from all that drinking!—I tried our absinthe.  It is not at all sweet or syrupy, though it does have a licorice taste plus a beautiful green color, and is quite strong (70% alcohol).

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Reasons to visit:  it is winter, and you want to check out a winery that is too crowded in the summer; the Sauvignon Blanc, the Rosé, the Pinot Meunier, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; they allow dogs (outside) and snacks; pretty labels; reasonable prices; beer on tap in case you’re with someone who doesn’t want wine (why?).

Clovis Point: First of the New Year January 4, 2019

Clovis Point:  First of the New Year          January 4, 2019

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Even the bare vines have a stark beauty.

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

All the leaves are gone from the vines, leaving the rows looking like lines of bent-legged dancers.  For our first winery of the year, we decided to return to Clovis Point on a Friday afternoon.  The tasting room was empty the entire time we were there, but on weekends, when they feature live music and artist talks, it is livelier.

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Artist talks?  Yes, every six weeks the winery invites an artist to come in and hang their works, setting aside one day when the artist can come in and talk to the people assembled there about the art. (Check their web site for times and performers.)  We admired this week’s art, large photographs of natural scenery by Leonardo Vatkin, as we perused the menu.

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The current art exhibit, which changes every six weeks, consists of photographs by Leonardo Vatkin.

The menu offers four options:  Cold, $18 for four whites and a rosé; Red, $12 for three reds; Complete, $28 for all of Cold and Red combined; and Premium, three of their best reds (one is actually a port) for $5 per taste.  We decided to share one Complete, which was plenty of wine for us both.

As we sipped and chatted, we also admired the roomy tasting room, still decorated with lights and poinsettias for the holidays.  There’s also a large porch area off to one side, which is enclosed with plastic windows for the winter.  They have a menu of snacks, which we only realized when our tasting was almost over and I happened to turn over the wine menu.  Had our server pointed it out, we might have bought something.  I was also surprised that she didn’t try to promote their wine club, which often happens when we reveal that we are locals.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

This is a somewhat typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, which is not a bad thing.  They say you should drink local wines with local foods, and this would go perfectly with a plate of Peconic Bay oysters.  With aromas of minerals and rocks and tastes of green apple, lemon/lime, and minerals, this is a pleasantly refreshing white.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Although this is simply called chardonnay, it has 3% gewürztraminer, which adds a note of complexity.  Steel fermented, it has a lemon drop candy aroma with a touch of funkiness.  The taste also has some citrus, plus lots of pineapple and a bit of nutmeg.  They recommend pairing it with melted brie.  Sounds good to me.  A popular party snack used to be melted brie coated with sliced almonds.  Hmmm…

  1. 2016 Black Label Chardonnay $28

Although this is partially oaked, it is only 30% French oak fermented, so it is not too oaky.  It smells like thyme honey, with a touch of something vegetal, plus some butterscotch.  I think it would taste better with food, but my tasting buddy comments on its “freshness.”  We like its combination of lemon zest and just a touch of butter.  By the way, in a classy touch, our server rinses our glass with a bit of each new wine, so as not to contaminate the taste with the previous one.

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Our line-up so far.

  1. 2017 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $35

Oh, guess what, this is barrel fermented (I miss one closed winery’s creative nomenclature.).  Although the aroma is VERY butterscotchy, the taste is not as buttery as I had feared.  Instead, it is a comparatively light oaked chard, with tastes of honey and pineapple, balanced with citrus.  Roast chicken with gravy, is what I’m thinking.

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  1. 2017 Rosé $22.50

Made from 100% cabernet franc, this has a strong aroma of strawberry shortcake.  My husband jokes that the smell is “presumptuous.”  However, the taste is not super fruity.  In fact, we agree that blindfolded, not seeing the pretty light pink color, you might not guess this is a rosé. It does finish with that characteristic strawberry taste, after initial impressions of minerality and citrus.  I often like to pair rosés with Chinese food, but I think this would go better with charcuterie.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

Now we get a fresh glass for the reds, starting with a wine listed simply as merlot, but which is 85% merlot, plus 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon.  The first thing that strikes me about this wine is the aroma, which is so strongly perfumed that I might be tempted to dab it behind my ears.  Instead, we sip, and discover, in addition to the expected cherry taste, lots of tannins.  Although this is already four years old, I think it might need more aging.  The tasting notes assert it has an “unforgettable velvety finish.”  We agree that “velvety” is not a word we would choose.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $35

Again, this is a bit of a blend, 96% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot.  We sniff and get blueberries and a funky forest floor, mossy smell.  The taste is pleasant, with, in contrast to the merlot, not a lot of tannins, and tastes of purple plums and other fruit.  Though it is not complex or deep, it is good, and could go with a steak or lamb chops.

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Note the small battle, which makes this a rather expensive wine.

  1. 2015 Syrah $34 for 500 ML (a small bottle)

88% syrah, 10% merlot, and 2% cabernet sauvignon.  Our server explains that this comes in a small bottle because they “don’t grow much” syrah.  My tasting pal jokes that it “tastes like wine,” but I get what he means.  It has sort of a generic red wine taste, with some tannins and a hint of pepper at the end.  The aroma is a bit funky, with some pine.  Though again not deep, it is good, and would go well with short ribs or other fatty meats.  After this, the server asks if we want to buy a taste of any of the premium wines, but we decline, and decide, though we liked everything, not to buy any.  Like many small wineries (they only have ten acres, and buy some grapes from other North Fork vineyards), they lack economy of scale, so their prices are a bit high for what you get.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, more consolidation of wineries happens.

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Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room; live music many weekends plus art shows; good wines, especially the sauvignon blanc, the Black Label Chardonnay, the merlot; if I were to get a glass to sip during a performance, I would get the cabernet franc, which is very drinkable on its own.

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels October 25, 2018

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels               October 25, 2018

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The tasting room used to be a farm house, and it still has a homey feel.

https://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

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

What happens when a vineyard is bought by new owners, who want to make their own style of wine, but the previous owners still use the same grapes for their wines?  You get Sherwood House and Hound’s Tree wines, made from the same grapes but in different styles.  Sherwood’s winemaker, Gilles Martin, likes the French style, while Hound’s Tree’s owners, who are from Oregon, use a West Coast style.  Confusingly, the vineyard is located on the North Fork on Oregon Road.

The last time we were here, the server set us up with parallel tastings, but this time, in the absence of her suggestions, we did a tasting of the Sherwood Classic wines, and then the Hound’s Tree ones.  There are actually four tasting options, but the two we did had no overlap.  In addition to the set tastings, they will also craft an all white or all red tasting on request.

Since the room is so pleasant, and we realized we’d be there a while, we decided to get a small cheese tray, put together by Lombardi’s Market.  $15.  Did we want crackers with that?  As opposed to what, eating the cheese by hand?  That will be an additional $3 for a small sleeve of Carr’s Water Crackers.  That seems a bit chintzy to us, especially since the cheese tray is rather meager.

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The cheese tray is adequate for two, if neither of them is very hungry.

We settled at a table, in sight of the fire in the fireplace, and brought our tastings and our cheese to the table ourselves.  Two other couples came in and took glasses of wine to sit on the couches by the fireplace.  Through an open doorway we could see into the William Riis gallery, where art, sculpture, and antiques are for sale.  Not a bad way to while away an afternoon.

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The first five wines are the Sherwood Classics Flight, $30 for a fairly generous pour.

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The sparkler and the chard

  1. 2016 Blanc de Blancs    $45

This is only the second time they have released a sparkling wine, so it is new to us.  Made from chardonnay grapes, it has a slightly vegetal aroma and is a pleasant dry sparkler.  It has a slightly yeasty taste, and is light.  You could definitely have this with a meal or some charcuterie.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $3

Our server describes this as “lightly oaked,” and I agree that it is not overly oaky or buttery or butterscotchy.  On the other hand, it is fairly nondescript, I say.  Undistinguished, adds my tasting buddy.  Bittersweet, with just a trace of butterscotch, even with the cheese it is just okay.

  1. 2010 Merlot $38

Better than the average North Fork merlot is our assessment of this dry and elegant red.  It has aromas and tastes of cherry, as expected, but also some interesting layers of flavor.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $40

Although this has a nice aroma of brambles and blackberries, there’s not much taste.  It’s a soft red, with no tannins, and some minerality.  Not a sipping wine, it would be okay with a burger.

  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor $45

The tasting ends with their Bordeaux blend, of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  The menu describes it as “preciously aged”—whatever that means—in French oak.  I smell plums and other red fruit, but it is too cold to taste much, so I warm it in my palm.  Ah, now I can taste it.  This is quite good, a wine for steak, dry, with various fruit flavors.  It’s also nice with the Marcona almonds on the cheese plate.

 

Each taste comes in its own glass, by the way.  Now we move on to the Hound’s Tree Flight, $25 for five tastes.  We snack on our crackers and cheese a bit to clear our palates.

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  1. 2016 Rosé         $22

The aroma is slightly funky, and smells like fermented berries.  Yum.  This has more taste than the average rosé, though it is served too cold, of course.  It is a blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 15% cabernet sauvignon.  We taste fruit and minerality, but it’s not overly fruity.  This would be a good summer sipper.

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When wine is too cold, try warming it with your palms.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $26

What is acacia aged?  The server has told us that this is aged in steel and acacia, but she can’t answer what that means.  We sniff and get minerals and just a touch of citrus.  My husband sips and says, “Watery.”  It is very light.  I say it is “not unpleasant,” which is not exactly high praise.

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Pretty labels.

  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

By the way, we find the labels for the Hound’s Tree wines quite attractive.  Although this has almost no aroma, it has, says my husband, “a distinctive taste which lingers in your mouth.”  It’s dry, almost tart, with not much fruit at all and some tannins.  Perhaps it needs to age longer.

  1. 2015 Merlot $29

Unlike the Sherwood merlot, which had lots of cherry aroma, this has almost no aroma.  It is quite dry, with some tannins but no depth, and is drinkable but not at all complex.  Innocuous, is a word we agree on.

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  1. 2015 Cornus Reserve $45

Why “Cornus”?  She doesn’t know, and the web site doesn’t even list this wine.  In any event, it is their Bordeaux blend, of 62% cabernet sauvignon, 19% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 3% malbec.  Of all the wines we tried today, this is our favorite.  It has red plum aromas, and a somewhat complex taste with red fruits and tobacco.  The tannins make me think it could improve with age.  It would pair well with lamb or mutton chops.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant, cozy tasting room with a fireplace and comfy couches; the chance to compare two different styles of winemaking using the same grapes (with very different results); the Sherwood Merlot and Manor; the Hound’s Tree Rosé and Cornus Reserve; you can shop the interesting items in the next-door gallery.  If I came there to sit by the fire and sip a glass of wine while listening the

 

 

music, I would get a glass of the Cornus.

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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.

Bridge Lane Wine: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My! September 23, 2018

Bridge Lane Winery: Cans and Boxes and Kegs, Oh My!

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http://bridgelanewine.com/

If you ever want to have a wine kegger, Bridge Lane is the winery for you.  Or let’s say you want to take a can of wine to the beach.  Yes, they have those.  And boxes of wine.  Oh yes, bottles, too.  Bridge Lane is the less-expensive, more populist line of wines made by Lieb Cellars.  Their wine maker, Russell Hearn, also has his own line-up of wines which you can sample at his tasting room in Cutchogue, Suhru Cellars.  (https://www.suhruwines.com/ ) He must be a busy man!

 

Last September we went with friends to Lieb Cellars’ tasting room on Oregon Road, and tasted both the Lieb label wines and the Bridge Lane wines.  We much preferred the Lieb wines.  In June we went to the newly opened Suhru Cellars and liked their wines even better.  However, there is nothing wrong with the Bridge Lane wines, if you want simple, light inexpensive wines.  All of Bridge Lane’s wines cost $20 per bottle.  (A keg holds 130 glasses for $240 and each can provides two glasses for $9.)

Fittingly, not only do all the wines cost the same, the taste profile is remarkably similar.  In fact, my husband observed that he would be hard pressed to tell one white from another.  They are all citrusy and minerally and light.

The differences among the wines of the three venues extend to the tasting rooms, as well.  Bridge Lane’s is a simple square, with a bar along one wall and banquettes along two others, with brightly painted picnic tables outside.  Lieb Cellars’ tasting room is more elegant, with table service and a deck overlooking rural Oregon Road.  Suhru’s newly opened “tasting house” is in what had been a house, and is homey and beachy.  Bridge Lane allows picnics and dogs, while the other two do not (except at Lieb on the outside patio).  Suhru offers snacks from Touch of Venice restaurant across the street, and Lieb has an extensive menu of snacks, while Bridge Lane offers only a few snacks.

We arrived at Bridge Lane on a September Sunday afternoon, when many of the wineries were crowded and traffic clogged the approach to Harbes Orchard.  At Bridge Lane we encountered a large party of women—not sure if it was a group of friends or a bachelorette celebration—and one other couple who decided to brave the September chill to take their tastes outside.  After the large group left, it was quite quiet.

A tasting consists of five tastes for $15.  You can also taste a few of the Lieb Reserve wines at $4 per taste, or opt for a glass or bottle.   They serve you three and then two of your tastes at once, on a clearly labeled round tray in nice rounded-bottom glasses.  There’s a self-serve container of water at one end of the bar.

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  1. White Merlot

We get a very faint citrus aroma from this white wine made from red merlot grapes.  The taste is of grapefruit and minerals, and is pleasant and light.  It would be fine with some Peconic Bay scallops.

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Wine on tap.

  1. Chardonnay

A steel-fermented chard, this actually smells a bit metallic.  I taste pineapple, though the tasting notes say stone fruit and green apple.  Maybe a little green apple…but if by stone fruit they mean peaches and apricots, I don’t get it.  My tasting buddy asserts that “ten seconds in, it gets sweet.”

  1. Sauvignon Blanc

Another light, tart, citrusy, easy-to-drink white, this one would go well with oysters.  Maybe barbequed oysters?

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  1. Rosé

As one would expect, the rosé has an aroma of strawberry, but sweeter, more like strawberry jam.  There’s also a touch of smokiness.  Again, this is light, with the citrus this time reminiscent of pink grapefruit.  I could see having it with an herbed goat cheese from Catapano.

 

  1. Red Blend

This is their Bordeaux blend, of 65% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 6% cabernet sauvignon, and 4% petit verdot, aged six months in Hungarian oak.  It smells like a combination of cherries, smoke, and wood.  When we sip, we decide we can taste the wood as well, plus a fair amount of tannins which make us wonder if this would be better after a couple of years.  We also taste black cherry.  My husband describes it as “sour.”  Not a great red, but easy to drink, it could go with lamb chops.

Lieb Cellars Reserve 2015 Petit Verdot  $35

I want to end with something better, so we order a taste of the Lieb Petit Verdot.  As the server opens the bottle, I notice that it has a screw cap.  The Bridge Lane wines had been on tap, so I ask her if all the wines have screw tops.  Yes, they do.  The Petit Verdot is aged ten months in Hungarian oak, and has an aroma of blackberries and dark fruit.  It tastes of black cherry with a greater depth of flavor than the Red Blend.  There’s a pleasant softness to it, and enough tannins that I think it could be aged.  My husband and I simultaneously decide it would go well with barbequed ribs.

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The outdoor picnic area is somewhat screened from the traffic on Sound Avenue. The multicolored stripes are part of the whole light-hearted ethos of the spot.

Reasons to visit:  You want somewhere to take your picnic lunch where you can sit outside and drink some inexpensive wines; you are having a big party and need a keg of wine, or maybe a couple of boxes; you want to take a four-pack of cans of wine on your boat; the chardonnay, or any of the wines if you want something light and uncomplicated.

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Bridge Lane shares its location with Premium wine Group, a wine-making facility shared by many of the smaller wineries which lack their own wine-making equipment.

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As I watched crushed grapes being loaded here, I solved a mystery. All along Cox Neck Road I had seen a line of grapes by the side of the road. Where did they come from? Aha, I realized, they have fallen off those open carts which bring the grapes to Premium Wine Group!

Palmer Vineyards: Sold! August 10, 2018

Palmer Vineyards:  Sold!              August 10, 2018

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This is the building with the tasting room, not to be confused with the first building you come to, which is the wine-making facility.

https://www.palmervineyards.com/#established-1983

The big news locally for those who are interested in wineries was that Paumanok Vineyards bought Palmer Vineyards.  My review will apply to the wines for the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the future brought some changes.  According to one article I read, Paumanok’s winemaker will take over at Palmer.  It will be interesting to return in a couple of years to see how they’re doing.

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Meanwhile, this was our first visit to Palmer since 2016, since a couple of times we stopped by and found the place too noisy and crowded for our comfort.  So we decided to try a Friday afternoon, and found we had the place to ourselves, aside from a few people out on the covered porch area. The last time we came we sat out there, since we were with relatives who had brought their dog with them, and we also shared a cheese platter.  We didn’t get one this time, but do note that they do not allow outside food.

After discussing the menu with the manager and each other, we decided to share two tastings, one of the whites and one of the reds, and settled into a booth.  We enjoy the décor at Palmer, which reminds us of our favorite British pubs, with cozy booths and old signs.  We only wish we liked the wines better.  They are all drinkable, but only one was a standout as far as I’m concerned.  The menu offers three options, all for four wines for $16 to $18.  My husband characterized the pour as “micro”:  each taste was just that, about two sips per person.

  1. 2016 Viognier                 $24.99

Only a few North Fork wineries offer viognier, which is too bad, as I tend to like wines made from this grape.  This one is dry, with an aroma of baked pear, and some nice fruit tastes plus minerality.  The menu says it tastes like quince.  Maybe.

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Small pour!

  1. 2016 Aromatico            $24.99

Often when a wine has a name other than the varietal it is a blend, and that is true of this one, which the manager tells me is, he thinks, 60% muscat and 40% malvasia.  Steel fermented.  When I hear muscat I wonder whether it will be sweet, but this one is not.  It’s fairly interesting, not your average Long Island white, with, according to my tasting pal, “lots of body for a white.”  There’s a taste of gooseberries and a tanginess to it that would make it a good match for the scallops we picked up earlier at Braun’s.

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  1. 2016 Gewürztraminer $23.99

Uh-oh.  The manager describes this as “semi-sweet.”  Too sweet for us!  It smells like honey and nutmeg, but actually doesn’t have much flavor.  There’s a trace of a chemical flavor I dislike, and we dump the last little bit of the small taste.

  1. 2017 Sparkling Rouge Rosé $21.99

He pours this from a partly used bottle with one of those champagne re-sealing corks in it, and at the end I ask him if perhaps it had lost its sparkle by the time he poured our taste.  No, he replies, it’s just not a very bubbly sparkler.  My husband says it has NDA—no detectable aroma.  Not even the strawberry one would expect from a rosé.  It is at least dry, but if you want a sparkling rosé I suggest you seek out Croteaux’s.  Vintage liquor store in the Mattituck shopping center carries all of their wines now.

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Not very sparkling and not very rose.

  1. 2015 Merlot (No price on the menu, but the 2014 is $24.99.)

As I told my brother the last time we were here, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, the reliable grapes that almost everyone grows (despite the opprobrium they got in the movie Sideways).  As expected, it has a cherry aroma and flavor, plus maybe some purple plum.  Dry, with faint tannins and a short finish, it is aged twelve months in French oak.  You could have this with lamb chops, or even roast chicken, but it would not stand up to a steak.

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  1. 2013 Old Roots Merlot $34.99

Why Old Roots?  Not surprisingly, because these grapes come from the oldest vines on the property, dating back thirty-five years.  The grapes are hand harvested, and aged for eighteen months, leading to a slightly more intense merlot experience than the previous taste.  Lots of cherry flavor, but no depth, is our verdict.  Maybe you could have it with grilled sausages, like the ones 8 Hands Farm makes.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

According to the menu, the tastes for this include “subtle cigar box.”  Not sure what that is, but there is a smokiness to the aroma.  Not complex, it has lots of fruit flavor and is pleasant enough to be a wine one could sip as an aperitif.

 

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $28.99

The previous wine is aged for twelve months, while this one ages for eighteen, and it is more complex.  The aroma includes fruit and tobacco, and we taste plums and other dark fruits.  Not much tannin.  I remember a dish I used to make, of tongue in a pickle sauce, and think this would go with that.

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A glimpse of the covered porch. We decided to stay in the air conditioning!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room which looks like an English pub, plus a wide covered porch for outside tastings; the Aromatico and the Cabernet Franc; they serve pitchers of water if you ask; dogs are allowed outside.  Note—the first building you come to is a “self-guided” tour of the winemaking facility, so pull around to the back for the tasting room.

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This is the first building you see, but the tasting room is around the back.

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.