Pugliese Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser March 10, 2018

http://pugliesevineyards.com/

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The pergola and pond make a pretty outdoor setting–but not in the winter!

We’ve driven past Pugliese many times in the summer, noting the crowds at the outdoor tables and the many limos (by appointment only) in the parking lot, and given it a pass.  But we figured a March Saturday would be safe, and indeed, when we entered, there was only one other couple there.  However, as we were leaving the first of what the servers told us would be several groups arrived, a bunch of bachelorettes in matching burgundy sweatshirts emblazoned with wine-related quips, with the bride-to-be in a matching white sweatshirt.  “Rise and wine,” read the one on a cheery woman, who informed us that this was already (at 2 PM) their third winery.

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The limos were starting to gather.

If we hadn’t been on our way out, I would have recommended that they start with the sparkling Blanc de Noir, which was one of the wines we did like, and would have been a suitably festive start to their tasting.  But I would guess that many of the wines on the Pugliese menu are crowd-pleasers, as they are generally un-challenging and easy to drink, as well as moderately priced.

 

For $12 you can choose any four wines on their extensive menu of four sparkling wines, seven whites (including one rosé), seven reds, and five dessert wines.  We decided to share two tastings, trying one sparkler, the rosé, two whites, and four reds.  As we sipped we admired the view out the window of Pugliese’s pretty grounds, with a vine-covered pergola and a fountain-centered pond.  It would be a nice place to bring a picnic in the summer, though they discourage food in the tasting room itself (and a sign on the door admonishes “No Pets”).  (One server remembered a group that brought a huge cake with them, and left “crumbs everywhere.”)

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One view of the tasting rooms.

The tasting room itself is not huge, but there is a side room with tables.  That space is lined with tables laden with gift baskets, which feature the pretty flower-decorated bottles of Pugliese wines and hand-painted wine or champagne glasses, all wrapped up in cellophane.  If you need to pick up a gift basket in a hurry, this is the place.  They also have a selection of matted photographs, mostly of local nature scenes, for sale at reasonable prices.

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Nice bubbles in the bubbly

  1. 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature         $25.99

Made from 100% pinot noir grapes (all their grapes are grown on their estate, we were informed), this has the typical yeasty aroma of a champagne.  It is a pleasant sparkler, not complicated, with nice bubbles and a bready flavor.  It would work for a toast (no pun intended!).

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We enjoyed the view as we sipped.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $17.99

At first, I didn’t detect any aroma, but on a second sniff I decided it smelled like clover honey, plus minerals.  It also tastes a bit like honey that has somehow had the sweetness removed from it, or like a tart dish that has been flavored with honey.  My husband complained that it was “watery,” and I agreed that it was very light.  Not a sipper, it needs to go with food, maybe charcuterie, though it has so little flavor most food would overwhelm it.

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  1. 2015 Veronica’s Rosé $17.99

Why Veronica?  “I wanted to name a wine after my niece,” said one server, who was most likely a member of the Pugliese family, since they are generally in the tasting room.  This is another light, dry wine, with typical strawberry aroma and flavor, again not complex.  It has a pretty pink color from the merlot grapes.

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I commented on the pretty labels, and was thanked. On a previous visit I was told that Pat Pugliese painted the design.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay Gold $14.99

They have an oak-fermented chard, but we decided to go with the steel, since we tend to prefer those.  I was also thinking if we liked it we’d buy a bottle, to go with the fish we planned to buy at Braun’s later.  However, we cancelled the trip to Braun’s when we realized we’d be stuck in the Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day parade, and, though we found the chardonnay pleasant, we didn’t like it enough to buy it.  (Instead we stopped at 8 Hands Farm and picked up some of their delicious bratwurst.)  Though the chard is a bit sweet, it is balanced by good fruit flavors of citrus, mango, and pineapple.  My tasting buddy says it would have gone well with a dish I made a couple of days ago, called Chicken Veronique, chicken breasts cooked with grapes and mushrooms.

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The grape is the one used to make chianti, but this is not a very chianti-like wine.

  1. 2012 Sangiovese $16.99

I was interested to taste this, as it is advertised on the menu as “Long Island’s only chianti.”  I like chianti.  I wouldn’t have necessarily identified this as a chianti, however, and, considering that 2012 was supposed to have been a good year for reds on the North Fork, this was a rather disappointing wine.  However, it is drinkable, with no tannins, very light and dry.  Not much fruit.  My husband says it has “no oomph,” sort of a “generic wine.”  It would be okay with pizza.

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  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $16.99

Their reds certainly are reasonably priced for the North Fork.  This is another light, easy to drink wine, with no tannins.  You get a bit of fruit with the first sip, but the taste soon evanesces.  You could pair this with pasta with a not-powerful sauce.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99

Nice aroma of dark fruit and berries precedes a taste also of dark fruit and berries, with a touch of tannins.  It’s the best red so far, but again has no depth and is rather light.

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  1. 2013 Sunset Meritage $34.99

Why sunset?  “It’s just a name.”  You need a non-varietal name for a blend, which this is, a mixture of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon.  It’s the best red of the day, which is not saying much.  Again, it is a relatively simple, light wine, “tame,” according to my drinking pal.  It is pleasant, but not worth the price.

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Entrance–the little signs say no food inside and no pets inside–which I assume means both are okay outside.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting for sitting outside; very crowd-friendly if you’re coming with a limo (which I actually did one time); lots of choices on the menu; the Blanc de Noir, the Chardonnay Gold, the Sunset Meritage; you prefer light, easy-to-drink wines with no complexity; lots of gift baskets and hand-painted glasses.

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

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

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

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One view from Storm King.

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

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Innisfree Garden, an amazingly beautiful place.

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

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So, now on to our tastings…

Hudson Valley Brewery, October 8, 2017

Beacon, New York

http://hudsonvalleybrewery.com/about-us

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

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

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Industrial chic room

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

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  1. Pillow Hat IPA

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

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Our second group of tastes

  1. Feel No Way Pilsner

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

  1. Little Memory IPA

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

  1. Plateaux IPA

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

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Our first group of tastes

  1. Amulet Sour Farmhouse

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

  1. Flying Colors Sour Farmhouse

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

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  1. Phase Delay Sour Farmhouse

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

  1. Silhouette Brunch Style Sour Beer

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

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

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

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Benmarl Winery October 9, 2017

Marlboro, New York

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Entrance to Benmarl winery

http://benmarl.com/

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

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Resident kitty

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

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

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There were lots of options on the menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $20

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

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  1. 2016 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $15

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

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  1. 2016 Traminette $18

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

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  1. 2016 Merlot $20

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

  1. 2015 Slate Hill Red $20

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

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  1. 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve $33

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

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  1. 2015 Baco Noir $35

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

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

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Millbrook Vineyards and Winery October 11, 2017

Millbrook, New York

http://www.millbrookwine.com/

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

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

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

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

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The shop has a few items, many from Italy.

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

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  1. 2016 Hunt Country White          $16

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

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

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

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I peeked into a room where they store wine.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay $18

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

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  1. 2014 Villa Pillo Borgoforte $19

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

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

  1. Hunt Country Red $18

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

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Looks like a hunt on the label…

  1. 2013 Merlot Proprietor’s Special Reserve $25

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

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We had the upstairs lounge to ourselves.

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The view from the upstairs balcony

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

Pugliese: Choose Your Time Carefully October 28, 2016

http://www.pugliesevineyards.com/

In the summer, on a weekend, all of these seats would be filled.

In the summer, on a weekend, all of these seats would be filled.

We’ve driven past Pugliese Vineyards many times and not stopped in, because the parking lot was clearly full, as were the outdoor tables under an awning next to their pleasant fountain-centered pond.  However, on this blustery fall Friday there were only a couple of other cars in the lot, so in we went.

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We were immediately greeted by a friendly server behind the bar, who turned out to be a member of the Pugliese family (and also a neighbor of ours), and who pointed out “Mom,” who was busy decorating glasses with her signature flower paintings (which also adorn the attractive bottles).  She explained that the tasting consisted of any four tastes from their extensive menu for $12.  “This will take some time,” we laughingly informed her, so she gave us some space to discuss.  The menu offers tastes in four categories:  four Sparklings, seven Whites, seven Reds, and five Desserts.  We decided to each do a tasting so we could sample as many different wines as possible.  And we could easily return and do a completely different tasting!  Our server carefully pointed out which of the pair of tastes we should start with, and answered our questions about the wines, rinsing our glasses with water between tastes.

Two sparklers.

Two sparklers.

  1. 2010 Blanc de Noir Nature           $25.99

Since today is my birthday, it seemed appropriate to start with some sparkling wines, so we chose the first two on their list.  “This is a completely dry wine, with no residual sugar, made from pinot noir grapes,” we were told.  She wasn’t kidding.  Many American champagne-type wines err on the side of too much sweetness, but this one is totally crisp and very dry, with some vegetable aromas and tastes.  Nice acidity.  I don’t think I’d want this for a toast, but it would be good with soft flavorful cheeses (like a nice runny brie) or foie gras.

  1. 2010 Blanc de Blanc Brut $25.99

We like this one better, as is more complex with more fruit flavors, though still relatively dry and light.  It seems fizzier than the first, though this may be a consequence of how often each bottle was opened.  This would work fine if you were pouring sparkling wine for a toast.

Two whites. Note the attractive bottles.

Two whites. Note the attractive bottles.

  1. 2014 Pinot Grigio $17.99

This has more tropical fruit and pineapple aromas than I would expect from a pinot grigio, with some minerality, which we also find in the taste.  My husband says it has a “citrusy tingle.”  I think it would go well with something fatty, like pork belly.  “Really?” he says.  Yup.

  1. 2013 Riesling $14.99

By the way, notice the prices.  One reason this winery is so popular may be the reasonable prices on most of the wines.  The aroma is pleasantly flowery, with maybe a touch of mint.  I worry rieslings will be too sweet, but this one is not, with nice fruit and a touch of Meyer lemon at the end.  My tasting buddy waxes poetic, “Nice sitting-outside-kick-your-feet-up-easy-drinking wine.”  I think he’s already nostalgic for summer and sitting outside on the porch.

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  1. Bella Domenica $10.99

Since we often have pasta for dinner, we’re always on the lookout for reasonably priced reds, so we decide to try this one.  A blend of merlot and cabernet, it has nice aromas of dark plums, but the taste is both tart and light with not a lot of fruit.  It would be ok with burgers, but there’s not much to it.  “An excellent value,” says the menu.

  1. 2012 Sangiovese $16.99

“Long Island’s only Chianti,” says the menu about this wine, so of course we have to try it.  Meh.  We would not have said Chianti if we had tried it without the label, as it is rather light with not much to it.  Perhaps this is a grape that does not do well on Long Island.

Our final two tastes.

Our final two tastes.

  1. 2010 Merlot Reserve $16.99

Merlot, however, does do well, and this is a good example of that.  The aroma is a touch funky, with some forest floor and what my husband identifies as asparagus, but the taste is quite good.  Dark plum, we decide, dry, with nice acidity.  I could definitely see having this with pasta Bolognese, or perhaps some Neapolitan-style pizza (especially as the Pugliese family is originally from Naples).

  1. 2010 Sunset Meritage $34.99

50% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon=a Right Bank Bordeaux style.  2010 was a good year on Long Island, and this blend does not disappoint.  Again the aroma is a touch funky, but the taste is good, with plenty of tannins which make us think it could continue to age well.  Though it has the most interesting flavors of any wine we’ve had today, we feel $35 might be a bit more than we’d want to pay for this one.

Past the room with the tasting bar is a large room with gift items.

Past the room with the tasting bar is a large room with gift items.

Reasons to visit:  Good all-purpose winery with lots of room outside for groups; the Blanc de Blanc Brut, the Riesling, the Meritage; reasonable prices and a wide variety of wines many people will like; the creative gift packages of hand-painted glasses and bottles (which can be customized to order).

Photos of local sights are an unusual winery gift item.

Photos of local sights are an unusual winery gift item.

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Martha Clara, Lieb, and Pugliese: Group Think June 6, 2015

Our limo at the first stop:  Martha Clara.

Our limo at the first stop: Martha Clara.

When a group of Nofo Wineaux’s friends and colleagues decided that the best way to have a celebratory get-together was to rent a limo and do a wine tour, she could not refuse to go along—especially since they asked her for some winery recommendations.

So that is how I found myself seated in a Hummer stretch limo with 14 wonderful women, traveling the North Fork wine country.  And I did enjoy myself!  Along the way, I noticed that each winery had its own method of handling a crowd, I taught some of my friends how to smell wine (stick your nose into the glass and open your mouth as you inhale), and I heard some new ways to describe wine tastes and smells.

Our limo was rented from Gold Star Limo Company, and John, the driver, was courteous and efficient, dropping us off and picking us up on schedule.  The company took care of the logistics of reserving each winery and getting us sandwich and salad lunches catered by Farm Country Kitchen.  There were a few reasons why I think our tasting tour went well.  For one, as a group we were there to relax and enjoy each other’s company, with the wine tour as a means to that end, plus a number of us were quite interested in tasting and discussing the wines.  Another reason was our judicious (if I do say so myself) selection of venues, and the fact that we limited ourselves to three places, spaced out from noon to five p.m.  And finally, the weather cooperated—warm enough to sit outside, yet not so hot that we were uncomfortable.

First stop:  Martha Clara

The menu at Martha Clara

The menu at Martha Clara

Our group organizer picked Martha Clara as a place she had been to and liked in the past, and it made a pleasant first stop (we got there about 12:15).  A young woman with a clipboard greeted us, checked our reservation and, after a brief consultation with the driver, set us up around two sides of one of the long bars in the tasting room.  She explained that they ran a tight schedule of groups, and requested that we take our places immediately.  At each place were a glass and the tasting menu, featuring a flight of five wines.  The servers assigned to us attentively filled our glasses as soon as they were emptied, and gave a brief spiel about each one.  When I requested additional information, they were able to provide some.  After we finished, we wandered outside to some picnic tables and shared a few snacks we had brought with us while some members of the group explored the pens of animals one can pet and feed.  I think a few might have visited the extensive gift shop.

We gathered around the bar at Martha Clara.

We gathered around the bar at Martha Clara.

  1. 2013 Northern Solstice Blend                    $17

This is a blend, as the title suggests, of four whites:  semillon, viognier, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.  I described the aroma as mineral.  One of my friends, newly introduced to the art of smelling wine, compared it to the smell you get when you open a bottle of vitamins, which I thought was quite right.  This is a dry, crisp, lean, steel-fermented white which we all found quite pleasant.

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Riesling $26

My friend with the newly enlightened nose senses a touch of rotting fruit.  I agree, but also add orange blossoms.  We all sip, and I note some apricot tastes, and also a bit more sweetness than I prefer.  Nice finish.

limo mc bottle

  1. 2012 Estate Reserve Viognier                 $29

We had been discussing why some people think they dislike chardonnay because all they have ever tried were oak-fermented California chards when this barrel-fermented (nine months) wine was served, giving me the chance to note how different it is compared to the steel fermented blend we started with.  You can definitely smell vanilla and also spice—perhaps cardamom.  You can also get that “woody” taste you get with some oaked whites.

  1. 2010 Syrah $24

I often like syrahs for their rich fruit flavors, but I find this one a bit dry and thin.  I also smell some of that barnyard scent North Fork reds sometimes get (though more rarely lately).  It is aged 16 months in French oak.

limo mc red

  1. 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $29

This red is also aged in oak, for 12 months, and I also am not enamored of it.  It’s not bad, but could use more fruit, though it is nicely dry.

Second Stop:  Lieb Bridge Lane

The entrance to Lieb, though we didn't go inside.

The entrance to Lieb, though we didn’t go inside.

Lieb actually has two tasting rooms, and we are at the one on Sound Avenue and Cox Neck Lane.  I’m a bit surprised that we have come to this one, since the other is more spacious, but fortunately it is a beautiful day and we settle ourselves at several picnic tables adjoining some grape vines.  The driver brings us the shopping bags filled with our lunches from Farm Country Kitchen and also offers us bottles of water from the limo.  As we settle in with our choices—I got a grilled veggie sandwich with a small green salad on the side, and it was good—a lovely young lady from the tasting room comes around with glasses.  Ah, we are to have the tasting as we eat our lunches.  Nice—though I do note that food changes the taste of wine.

Our view as we sipped our wine and ate lunch.

Our view as we sipped our wine and ate lunch.

What is also pleasant is that we have the place mostly to ourselves, and it is a relaxing venue to sit and chat and enjoy our lunches.  Martha Clara had been quite noisy, making conversation difficult except with the person next to one.

All the wines are from the Bridge Lane label, so I will abbreviate it BL.  Also, because I did not see a tasting menu, I can’t tell you what the cost of these wines is per bottle.

  1. 2013 BL White Merlot

As our server explains, this is a white wine made from a red wine grape, and it is totally clear, having spent no time on the skins.  It has a nice mineral aroma and a pleasant fruitiness.  It would compare favorably with Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly.

  1. 2013 BL White Blend

This blend included chardonnay, pinot blanc, riesling and viognier, and, like the blend we just had at Martha Clara, is steel fermented.  Everyone agrees that we like this one very much, with its nice balance of sweet and dry and its mineral aroma and taste.  It goes well with lunch!

  1. 2013 BL Chardonnay

For those who think they dislike chards, this is a good rebuttal:  dry and tart, with lemon and grapefruit tastes and aromas.  Steel fermented, of course.

  1. 2013 BL Rosé

After some discussion of how much rosés have improved in recent years, we try this blend of merlot and cabernet franc.  Though I still maintain that Croteaux has the best rosés on the North Fork, this one is fine—slight strawberry aroma, very dry, but with no finish.  I think it tastes a bit like unripe strawberries.

Wine and a picnic.

Wine and a picnic.

  1. BL 2013 Red Blend

I explain to my friends that this is a Bordeaux blend:  70% merlot, 15% each malbec and cabernet sauvignon, 7% petit verdot.  It is aged in neutral oak barrels, our server notes.  I think it might improve with more age, since it has some nice tannins.  Though it is not exciting, it is a very drinkable red.

Third and last stop:  Pugliese

The pond at Pugliese

The pond at Pugliese

Everyone exclaims at the lovely scenery as we pull into Pugliese—the pond, the trees, the fountain.  Charming.  We troop into the tasting room, where we admire some artistic items, including pretty prints appropriate to our surroundings, such as sunflowers.

From the gift shop

From the gift shop

limo pug

 

Our fearless leader soon finds us and hands each of us a sheet of four tickets, which we can exchange for tastes, and tells us to adjourn to the outside bar located under a tent next to the pond, where a musician is setting up.  As a result, we scatter, and form into small groups at the bar.  The menu is quite daunting, offering 22 choices from sparkling wines to dessert wines, with reds, whites and rosés in between.   At first the servers offer no guidance other than, “You can choose any four.”  (We expand our options by sharing a couple of tastes, which is why you see six wines mentioned here.) However, we then luck into a rather youthful server who seems to know more, and enjoys giving us information about each wine.   My good friend is a white wine drinker who would like to learn to like reds, so we decide, after one white, to focus on the reds.  For each taste we get a fresh glass—I mean small plastic cup.

The rather lengthy menu at Pugliese.

The rather lengthy menu at Pugliese.

  1. 2013 Pinot Grigio            $17.99

This steel fermented pinot has not much aroma and a tart lemony taste, with no finish, which my friend insists on calling after taste.  Which, after all, is what finish is!  It would be better with food, I think.

Pugliese serves the wine is small plastic cups.

Pugliese serves the wine is small plastic cups.

  1. 2010 Sangiovese             $16.99

Our server boasts that they are the only winery on the North Fork to use this grape, which is the gape used in Chianti.  As we sniff, we note aromas of tobacco and some fruit.  Then we taste, and promptly dump.  Well, this wine is not going to make a red wine drinker out of my friend!  Bad.

  1. 2010 Sunset Meritage                 $29.99

Whew.  This one is better!  A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, this has nice ripe fruit flavors and is just tannic enough to add interest.

One view of the tent and the pergola.

One view of the tent and the pergola.

  1. 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $16.99

This would make a good, everyday table wine.  It has lots of fruit and my friend likes it.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $16.99

For a cab franc this is quite light, though it would be okay with lamb chops, as it has some tannins.  It could use more fruit.

My last ticket.

My last ticket.

  1. 2007 Raffaello White Port $17.99 for 375 ml.

As my final wine of the day, I decide to go for dessert, and try their white port.  Yes, it is sweet, but I think appropriately so, with lots of sweet orange, tangelo, plum, and apple flavors.  At 20% alcohol, you wouldn’t want to drink much of this, but it would be nice with a cheese and nut course.

And so I finish my foray into the world of the limos standing on the shore of Pugliese’s pond, admiring the koi, listening to music, talking to my friends, and sipping sweet wine.  There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.

No fishing!

No fishing!

Suggestions for limo users:  plan to go to just three wineries (maybe four at most, especially if you tend to dump part of each taste) and space them out over five hours so you can appreciate each one; try to go to at least one that doesn’t seem to specialize in big groups (like Lieb, which we thoroughly enjoyed); be sure to eat in between—or during—your tastes so you don’t get too drunk; take your time in each place to savor and discuss the wines; have fun.

limo finale

Pugliese: Limos Galore November 23, 2013

http://www.pugliesevineyards.com/

pug place

We thought we were safe.  Random November Saturday, chilly weekend following a drizzly Friday, just a little after noon—surely Pugliese would be quiet!  And indeed, when we arrived, there were only two limos in the parking lot, and several large parties clustered outside around the picnic tables.  We had passed Pugliese many times during the summer and opted not to go, given the crowded look of the place.  It’s not that we’re misanthropes; it’s just that we prefer to do our tastings in a calm, peaceful atmosphere.  Actually, the grounds around the tasting room are quite pretty, with a scenic pond down in a hollow near the outside tables.

We scanned the menu:  4 tastes for $7.00, $8 for a glass, sangria (from a large vat at one end of the bar) $10 per glass, and beer on tap.  Also they have a cheese tray for $13.  There were many choices—four sparkling wines, four whites, seven reds, and five dessert wines.  The sparkling wines seemed to be very popular with the groups of women, and we heard at least one young man become quite happy at the prospect of having a beer instead of wine.  We decided to share eight different tastes, which our server agreed was a good choice, and she noted that the fourth white was quite sweet, and would probably not be to our taste.  Good call.  I also noted that they had many gift baskets on offer, including hand-painted wine glasses, t-shirts, and other small items, plus the inevitable bags of North Fork potato chips.

1)      2012 Pinot Grigio                             $17.99

In general, I like Pinot Grigios.  This one was just okay, with a vegetable aroma, perhaps asparagus, and a dry, grassy taste.  Not much finish.  When I admire the pretty label, the server notes that another woman there designed them.

We admired the pretty bottles.

We admired the pretty bottles.

2)       2012 Chardonnay Gold                 $12.99

Though this is a steel-fermented Chard, it has a bit of a creamy taste, with nice fruit and a dry finish.  I would say, especially given the price, it is quite buyable.

3)      2012 Riesling                                     $13.99

The honeysuckle aroma is there, but faint.  I wouldn’t actually have realized right away that this is a Riesling, but I did guess (correctly!) that it included grapes from upstate.  Not sure how to describe that upstate flavor, but it is a bit sweet and…grape-juicy.  Just okay.

pug white

4)      Bella Domenica                                                $9.99

We were going to skip this one, but our server—as she rinsed our glasses between each taste—recommended that we try it.  People don’t choose it because of the price, but it’s actually a very nice wine, she said.  And she was right.  It is described as a red table wine, a Merlot/Cabernet blend, and is a perfectly acceptable everyday red.  It would be fine with pasta, or as a picnic wine.  A summery red, with a cherry aroma and nice berry taste, this is a simple wine (as are most of their wines.  Nothing complex or layered here.)  I was about to ask the story behind the name when several large parties suddenly arrived, changing the atmosphere from calm to loud and boisterous.

5)      2009 Sangiovese                              $16.99

We had to try this one, as they are the only vineyard on the North Fork to grow the Sangiovese—a.k.a. Chianti—grape.  The color is a light red, and the taste is similarly light.  Not much to it, my husband notes.  Although it is also an acceptable everyday wine, you wouldn’t necessarily peg it as a Chianti, as it is less robust than you’d expect it to be.

The Sangiovese

The Sangiovese

6)      2009 Cabernet Franc                       $16.99

As with all their wines, we feel this one is also underflavored and relatively simple.  We smell a bit of damp forest, maybe some red candy.

7)      2006 Sunset Meritage                    $24.99

Since we’ve been somewhat disappointed so far, we decide to skip to their pricier—though still reasonably priced for Long Island—reds, and move to their Bordeaux blend:  Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Yay, finally, a wine with something to it!  But not a lot.  The color is nicely dark, the aroma is berries and fruit, and the taste is also of berries with a trace of oak, but compared to other Bordeaux we’ve had this has no depth or layers of flavor.

8)      2007 Merlot Reserve                      $29.99

No sulfites, boasts the tasting notes.  Very dark color, black cherry flavor, no barnyard aromas; this wine may not be worth $30, but it is quite good.

They are having a sale, a case of Bella Domenica for only $75.99.  We are in need of some everyday reds, so we get a case.  No reduction in the tasting fee, by the way, and our server points us to a pile of cartons and suggests we help ourselves, after first checking to be sure the case we take actually has 12 bottles.  By this time we are ready to leave, for the room has become quite noisy as more groups arrive.  But as our server pointed out, without the groups we’d be the only ones there, so they do depend on the limo crowds.  In addition, we discussed the fact that these young people may be developing a lifetime affection for wine, and could be customers for Pugliese in the future.

Lots of limos

Lots of limos

Reasons to visit:  you want to sit outside in a pretty setting; the reasonable prices for the wines; the Chardonnay, the Bella Domenica, the 07 Merlot Reserve; you like a boisterous party atmosphere.

Pretty pond

Pretty pond