Croteaux: Back to the Garden August 16, 2019

https://www.croteaux.com/home/

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After you enter, turn right to find parking on the grass.

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To get to the garden, you go through the door and are then escorted to a seat.

It was a perfect August day—sunny, 80 degrees, blue sky with puffy white Magritte clouds—so we decided to check out the newly re-opened (under new ownership) Croteaux garden.  The good news is that it is still a lovely setting in which to sit in the shade on a summer afternoon, surrounded by flowering shrubs, enjoying table service.  Unfortunately, we were not as happy with the wines, except for one which is still a favorite.  We also got the herbed cheese and baguette basket, which came as before with a sprig of fresh mint.  However, that too disappointed.  Previously, the cheese was goat cheese mixed with fresh herbs, while now it is a cream cheese mixed with dried herbs.  So much for nostalgia.

On the other hand, the many groups seated at the rustic tables seemed quite happy, hanging out and chatting, enjoying the afternoon.  So if you prefer rosés that are so light they could pass for whites, this may be the place for you.  Like the other winery bought by the Frankel family, the general goal seems to be to make safe, easily accepted, wines.

A tasting of all six still rosés is $18, and all three sparkling rosés is also $18.  We opted to share one of each, which was plenty of wine.  The still tastes come in nice little round-bottomed glasses, on carefully labeled little trays, and the sparklers are served in tall glasses.  All wines are the 2018 vintage.

 

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Our first three tastes, with the basket of cheese and baguette in the back.

1.        Merlot 181 Rosé            $28

Croteaux uses three clones of merlot, labeling the wines accordingly.  This one looks almost clear, with just the faintest tinge of pink (color and taste are determined both by the grape and by how long the juice sits on the skins).  It smells like cut grass and flowers, and tastes like a citrusy white with a touch or berry flavor.

2.       Merlot 314 Rosé             $20

This has always been our favorite, and still is.  We like its aroma of melon and mineral, and its strawberry flavor.  It may be a touch sweeter than in the past.  It would be a lovely aperitif wine, and is also good with food.

3.       Merlot 3 Rosé   $20

I get a bit of a funky smell, but my husband, who, it must be said, is suffering from an allergy attack, says the smell is “neutral.”  This is very like a white, with lots of lemon flavor.  The tasting notes say it has a “zippy finish.”  I say it does not taste like a rosé.  It definitely needs food, like scallops in cream sauce or a lobster roll.  This is a blend of all three clones:  181, 314, and 3.

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Second group.

4.       Sauvage 181 Rosé           $25

I’m always intrigued when winemakers decide to use the wild native yeasts—hence “sauvage”—giving up some of the control over the outcome of the wine.  It definitely has some of the strawberry taste I associate with rosés, plus some minerality and citrus.  Like all the wines, it is dry.  The end taste is a bit harsh, and my tasting buddy’s word for this is “meh.”

5.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Rosé       $25

The tasting notes describe this as a “white wine lover’s rosé,” and I can’t argue with that.  Not surprisingly, this tastes more like a sauvignon blanc than a rosé, so it would go well with local oysters.  It has a “touch of cabernet franc,” but I don’t taste it.

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Jolie is, indeed, pretty.

6.       Jolie Cabernet Franc Rosé            $25

Jolie means pretty, and this is the prettiest looking wine of the day, and also my favorite, along with the 314.  It has more depth than the others, and good strawberry taste with just a touch of citrus.  However, the menu describes it as a “red wine lover’s rosé,” which I don’t see.  I think it’s just a rosé lover’s rosé!

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The sparkling wines.

7.       Cuvée Merlot 3 Sparkle                $32

After we finished the six still rosés, we still had some cheese and baguette left, so we decided to check out the three sparkling wines as well.  They arrived well chilled, with a laminated sheet of tasting notes.  I smell melon, and think this might taste lovely.  However, as my husband notes, it tastes more like seltzer than like a sparkling rosé.  He says it has overly aggressive bubbles, and we chuckle over the image of attack bubbles.  It is refreshing, but so is Schweppes seltzer. 

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You can see that Chloe looks just like a white wine.

8.       Chloe Sauvignon Blanc Sparkle   $35

Though this uses cabernet franc skins to give it some color and taste, our conclusion is, not so much.  It should be like a champagne or a prosecco, but again, this tastes to us like seltzer.  There is a slight yeast aroma.  I guess this is a sparkling wine for those who don’t like wine. 

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Well, it looks pretty.

9.       Jolie Sparkle      $32

“Benign,” is the best my tasting pal can come up with to describe this final taste.  It smells like strawberries, plus some red wine smells, and has more taste than the previous two sparklers.  It is neither sweet nor tart, with some strawberry taste, but I don’t find it very appealing.  For years I’ve been comparing every other North Fork rosé to Croteaux, as the gold standard, but, alas, that is no longer true.  They do still have the prettiest bottles.

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Reasons to visit:  still a really lovely garden setting, with relaxing table service; the 314 and the Jolie Cabernet Franc; they have a nice menu of snacks, although the cheese is not as good as it used to be.

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They often sell out by the end of the season. If you buy a case, you become a member of their case club. with special deals.

Shinn Estate Vineyards: It Pays to Take the Back Road July 25, 2019

https://shinnestatevineyards.com/

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The sign tells you that your trip to Oregon Road has successfully landed you at Shinn.

As the couple at a nearby table on the Shinn Vineyard’s new and very nice patio noted, it took some searching to find Shinn, but they were glad they had persisted, having wended their way to Oregon Road.  We already knew our way, but we were glad we were there, too.  In 2017, Shinn was bought by the Frankel family, and they have made some attractive changes, though the place has a less funky vibe than it used to.

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As you enter, drive past the B and B, and go around to the back, where the tasting room is located.

On arrival, we were offered seats inside—in the A/C—or outside on the patio.  Though it was a warm day, it was not oppressively so, and the patio offered shaded areas.  We ended up spending almost an hour there, doing a leisurely tasting plus a couple of other tastes and sharing a delicious cheese board.  Reggae music played in the background—I remember one verse mentioning “island sun”—and it was easy to forget we were on Long Island and imagine we were on a tropical island.

The tasting menu offers many options, from a rosé flight for $16, which includes a couple of Croteaux rosés, to our choice, the Winemaker’s Picks, of five of their higher end wines for $28.  Why, you may wonder, do they feature Croteaux rosés?  Because the Frankel family recently bought Croteaux as well, and have reopened the tasting room and garden there.  Our server assured us that they are keeping the Croteaux rosés the same as they were.  We’ll have to check that out!

Our server brought the wines to us, the three whites first and then, when we had finished them, the two reds, carefully placed on a little mat which had labeled spots for each wine.  She also brought us a glass bottle of water and two plastic cups, a nice touch.

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The bottle of cold water was quite welcome.

After we finished the five wines in our tasting, we still had quite a bit of cheese left of the $14 cheese board, so we each added one more taste, which I have put at the end of the listing.  These also came on tiny round coasters with labels for what they were.

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1.       2018 Concrete Blonde   $40

Why this name?  The sauvignon blanc is aged in a concrete “egg” made, we are informed, from “French soil,” instead of in steel or oak.  Macari also uses this method, and you can find a discussion of the concrete egg in my entries on that winery.  The aroma of the wine is lovely, floral, like a bouquet of summer flowers.  The wine is more reminiscent of a chardonnay than a sauvignon blanc, almost creamy, with a citrus taste that is like a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon.  It doesn’t really complement the cheese, but would be quite nice with charcuterie.

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This was a fairly generous cheese platter, though I never feel as though they give you enough crackers.

2.        2016 Haven                     $35

What, I wondered, is referenced by the name of this blend, of 70% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 10% pinot blanc?  Haven is a reference to the type of soil on the farm, we were told, a combination of sand and loam.  This one is aged more traditionally, in oak, and I can scent a touch of the oak when I sniff.  Then I get flowers.  The wine is softer than a usual sauv blanc, with some depth and a touch of spice, perhaps nutmeg.  It’s a good food wine. 

3.       2016 Pinot Blanc             $35

Now we’re back in experimental territory, as puncheon (i.e. big) barrels of neutral oak were used to age this wine, for eight months.  The aroma is faint, with a touch of honeysuckle, but, on the other hand, as my husband notes, it has a lot of taste.  Again, I think of this wine as soft, not tart but not sweet, with some nice fruit tastes.  It would make a lovely aperitif wine, as it is very easy to drink on its own.

4.       2018 Mojo         $26

In 2014, Shinn had such a copious harvest of cabernet franc that they ran out of oak barrels, and so decided to make an unoaked cab franc.  Then they were so pleased with the result that since then they have made it that way on purpose.  The menu describes this wine as “bright, fresh,” and I agree.  They serve it chilled, which is nice on a hot day.  The aroma has a touch of funkiness, perhaps pine or forest floor, plus minerality.  This pleasant, fruity wine would be great for sangria. 

5.       2016 Wild Boar Doe       $42

Of course, this is their Bordeaux blend:  59% merlot, 21.5% cabernet franc, 12.5% petit verdot, and 7% malbec.  The merlot gives it a cherry aroma and taste, but I’m not sure what the other grapes add.  “It could be more assertive,” asserts my tasting buddy.  I get some light tannins, and the wine is dry, but, again, the word that keeps coming to mind is soft.

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6.       Non-vintage Red Blend                $19

We needed a bit more beverage to go with the rest of our cheese, so my husband opted to try a red we’d be likely—based on price—to buy.  This is a light, refreshing summer red, a simple table wine.  It’s a blend of 61% merlot, 22% cabernet franc, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 2% petit verdot, and tastes, as you’d expect, of the merlot cherry flavor.  We bought two bottles.

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I like cognac, and this one was quite delicious.

7.       Alembic Brandy               $65

Brandy?  Yep, they actually have a menu of four brandies, labeled Julius Drover Brandy.  Our server gave me a rundown of the four.  Divine is made from semillon grapes combined with the alembic; Eau de Vie is made from whatever scraps of grapes they have around and is only aged for one year, so it’s pretty forceful; Apple Brandy is like Calvados, and is made from apples and pears; and Alembic Brandy is made from chardonnay grapes, aged four years.  If you like cognac, you’ll like the Alembic, which I quite enjoyed.  The taste made me think I should be drinking it after dinner, perhaps with a good cigar and a bowl of walnuts for cracking (just kidding about the cigar). 

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Reasons to visit:  Off the beaten track, so less crowded and quieter than the big places, especially in the summer, as our new friends on the patio noted; lovely outdoor patio; nice menu of snacks; certified sustainable (a landmark for locating them is their tall windmill); the Concrete Blonde in particular, but all the wines are very drinkable, if not exciting.

Roanoke Vineyards: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood July 12, 2019

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/ 

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If you see this sign out on the sidewalk on Love Lane, the Roanoke tasting room is open.

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The full title is “Roanoke Vineyards Love Lane Wine Shop,” because this is not their main space.  That is located in Roanoke, on Sound Avenue, and is only open to wine club members.  However, the Love Lane location is open to all, and functions as both a tasting room and a place to buy wine from several wineries, including Wölffer Estates and Channing Daughters. 

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The storefront.

While we were there, someone came in wanting to buy a bottle of sparkling wine, which they did not have, so we told her about Vintage, the excellent wine store on Main Road in Mattituck. 

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Whenever we go to Vines & Branches, I scoop up a free sample of their delicious truffled popcorn. Now I know how it gets to Roanoke.

Then a wine club member came in and walked out with a case of wine, and another wine club member, who turned out to be the owner of one of our favorite stores in Greenport, Vines & Branches, came in to deliver some bags of her truffled popcorn and stayed for a glass of wine and a chat with the server and us.  Meanwhile, we were the only ones there doing a tasting, which consisted of four rather small pours for $14.

The tasting room is small but comfy, with some nice upholstered chairs around a table, a couple of seats at the bar, four other tables, and a pleasant patio in the back.  We opted to stay inside, in the air conditioning, though last year, when we came with friends, we enjoyed our tasting on the patio.  Love Lane is a great destination for foodies, containing on its short block two restaurants, plus Lombardi’s Italian Market and the Love Lane Cheese Shop. Just around the northern corner there’s Agora, a Greek food shop, and GoodFood, a great empanada spot, and, around the other corner, the North Fork Donut Shop.  And this is our neighborhood!

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Small pour, especially since we were sharing the tasting.

1.        2018 Roanoke Vineyards Infinite Possibility        $22

A blend of 70% chardonnay, 23% sauvignon blanc, and 2% gewürztraminer, this wine smells lovely, of honeysuckle and minerals.  The taste is more interesting than your usual white, reminding me of gooseberries, with some minerality.  It is tart, but has a sweet finish.  I could see having it with a seafood in cream sauce.  Lobster Newburg?

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I liked their labels. The rose is quite light.

2.       2018 R. V. Rosé               $22

From being a rarity to being a variety almost every winery needs to have, rosés have come a long way from the days of Mateus in a ceramic bottle.  The menu describes this as a “Provence style” wine, a mixture of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, with “a splash of chardonnay.”  The server explains that it spends only a few hours on the skins, which is why it is such a pale pink.  The aroma is faint, with only a trace of strawberry.  My tasting buddy insists it is sweet, but I contend that it is juicy.  We agree it is a light rosé, and ends with tastes of minerals and salt.  Though we like it, we still prefer Croteaux (which, we recently learned, has been bought by the new owners of Shinn, so we look forward to sitting in their delightful garden again).

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3.       2016 R. V. Site Specific Cabernet Franc                 $34

If you look at the tasting menu, you’ll see that this should have been the Marco Tulio, a blend that is primarily merlot, but, as our server explained with a bit of chagrin, she accidentally opened the Cab Franc, so that is what we get to taste.  She also explained the name.  Roanoke only has about seven acres of vines on their own land, getting the rest of their grapes from vines they tend at various other vineyards, including some of the Mudd plots.  So wines made from grapes grown exclusively on their estate are labeled “Site Specific.”  Her mistake is our pleasure.  This wine smells so fruity that, if I were a fruit fly, I would happily drown in it.  It also tastes quite good.  My husband describes it as “meaty.”  I think he means hearty. 

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4.       2016 R. V. Theory & Practice       $28

Of course, I have to ask the meaning of this name.  She explains that the first time they made this wine it was 50/50 cabernet franc and petit verdot, an unusual blend, so they decided to name it after the process of making it—theory followed by practice.  The current iteration is a more traditional blend, of merlot and cabernet franc plus 5% petit verdot.  It has a lovely aroma, mostly of cherries from the merlot, plus other fruits.  My husband notes that the “aroma is more inviting than the taste,” since it is not as luscious as one would expect.  We get dark fruits, mineral, and tobacco.  “It would be good with bacon,” says my husband.  “You mean spaghetti carbonara?”  I ask.  “Sure,” he replies.

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It was just a bit too warm to sit outside, though the patio is nicely shaded.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location in the midst of the Love Lane foodie paradise; they carry some South Fork wines; nice little tasting room and pleasant back patio; the Infinite Possibility and the Cabernet Franc, though all the wines were pleasant.

Pellegrini Vineyards: In the Club June 4, 2019

https://www.pellegrinivineyards.com/

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The day was pretty, but too chilly to sit outside.

We had thought we might sit outside, but though it was sunny it was so chilly that we asked the server if we could close the door to the tasting room. Since at that moment we were the only people there, he said sure. Later, a few other people arrived, including a couple who brought their lunches, sat in the courtyard with glasses of wine, and were clearly, based on some remarks to the server, planning to have their wedding there. We’ve seen how they set up for events, tenting the courtyard, which makes it into a large room.

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This is just one side of the courtyard.

The tasting room itself is rather small, with just a few tables and a bar along one side, augmented in warm weather by outdoor tables. Since you take your entire tasting with you on a tray, Pellegrini is a nice place to bring snacks and sit with friends. A take-to-the-table tasting includes three two-ounce pours of your choice, plus one ounce of the rosé, for $16. You can also stand at the bar and get three one-ounce tastes for $9, a good option if you’re going to more than one winery that day.

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As soon as we entered, we noticed the new furniture, with more comfortable chairs.

As wine club members, we could have done any tasting we wanted, but we opted to follow the standard format and do two trayfuls, one of whites and one of reds. Since our membership is “reds only,” we wanted to be sure to try the wines in our shipment. Our tasting confirmed our original judgment, that Pellegrini does a better job with reds than whites.

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Each tasting comes with a little bag of oyster crackers.

1. 2017 Rosé      $19.99
We were particularly interested to try the rosé, since it was on sale, and we like to have plenty of rosé on hand for the summer. This is a dry, steel-fermented blend of 57% merlot, 27% cabernet franc, and 16% cabernet sauvignon. With such a variety of grapes, you might expect a fruitier wine, but this is a rather lean rosé, more like a white, with tastes of unripe strawberry and minerals. My tasting buddy labeled it a “confused wine,” not sure if it wanted to be a white or a rosé. However, we liked it enough to buy the three-bottle package for $33. That night, we enjoyed a glass with a plate of pan-fried locally-caught blowfish tails (not the poisonous kind!) and a spinach salad made with local spinach and 8 Hands Farm bacon. As they say, what grows together goes together!

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A locally-caught delicacy–fried blowfish tails. Yum.

2. 2014 Gewürztraminer    $24.99
Mmmm. This smelled lovely, flowery, fruity, perfumey. The taste…not so much. Gewürztraminers can be too sweet, and this one was. I got tastes of honey and over-ripe pear, with just a touch of minerality. I prefer One Woman’s interpretation of this grape. This wine is a good illustration of why vintage matters. Over the years, there have been some Pellegrini gewürztraminers we liked, and others we found too sweet.
3. 2017 Steel Chardonnay      $19.99
I opted for the steel chardonnay over their couple of versions of oaked, since I often prefer steel to oak. This is a fairly standard North Fork chard, with lots of lemon aroma and taste. Just okay.

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4. 2017 REJOYCE    $24.99
I still haven’t gotten around to asking what this name of this blend of 63% chardonnay and 37% sauvignon blanc means. However, we did not rejoice at the taste, which is somewhat pineappley, but very light, with just a touch of sweetness. Almost not there at all. Meh.

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5. 2014 Cabernet Franc      $29.99
Now we moved on to the reds in our club shipment. Fortunately, we liked this one, a somewhat light, dry red with aromas of plums and berries and a taste of stewed prunes and cherries. Though it is simply called cabernet franc, it also has 15% cabernet sauvignon and 5% merlot. It would go well with lamb, since the dryness would cut through the fattiness of a chop.

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Our wine-club selections after we brought them home and before we put them in the wine cellar.

6. Steakhouse Red      $19.99
Though they label this “Steakhouse,” I think it should be called “pasta,” since it is not quite big enough a red to stand up to a steak. This iteration is a blend of 72% cabernet sauvignon and 28% merlot, but as a non-vintage wine the blend could vary from year to year. For the price, it is a good choice. I asserted that the aroma had a touch of funk, but my husband asserted I was “hallucinating the funk.” Nice generic red.
7. 2013 Vintner’s Pride Encore       $49.95
This is their Bordeaux blend—40% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 17% petit verdot, and 3% cabernet franc—and a very good blend it is. This is a wine that would stand up to steak, or maybe boeuf bourguignon. Delicious, is what I wrote. Dry, with plenty of dark fruit tastes, and some tannins. I observed that it had nice legs, and my pal made a silly joke about its pants. Well, this was our seventh taste, though we had left all three whites unfinished.

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See the legs?

Reasons to visit: good all-around winery, especially for reds; you can take your tray of tastes to a table and enjoy a visit with friends plus your own lunch or snacks; alternatively, you can stand at the bar and have smaller samples, a good option if you’re going to more than one winery; the rosé, the Cabernet Franc, the Vintner’s Pride Encore.

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I love this time of year, watching the vineyards green up and the farm stands start to open.

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.