Here’s another place where you can often talk to the winemaker or a member of his family. On this beautiful Friday afternoon we were served our wine by a daughter of Anthony Sannino, who has clearly absorbed much of her father’s love of winemaking. I enjoy these discussions, as I always learn something new about wine and wine-making.
The cozy Sannino tasting room is in a converted barn, and they also have a pleasant outdoor area with some shade-giving canopies. Since we had the place to ourselves, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the warm—but not too hot—afternoon. Our decision was facilitated by the fact that they serve all of your tastes at once, on a tray with circles where you can indicate your choices.
A tasting is $18 for six tastes, or $3.50 per taste. As we perused the menu of thirteen wines (plus two that are sold out), Ms. Sannino gave us some useful information about the choices. Most of the whites are new this year, the 2017 vintage, except for a couple of oaked ones. The reds are about to be supplanted by a new vintage, so we may have to come back to try the rest of them. She’s particularly enthusiastic about the 2015 reds, she told us, as it was a good year for reds.
She also offered us a cheese and charcuterie tray, but we had had lunch, so we declined. It did sound very nice. By the way, they don’t allow outside food or drinks. She also proudly pointed out a number of their wines which had recently won awards. We will be looking forward, in a few years, to see the result of an experiment they are trying: they have planted three acres with several different varieties of grapes which no one else on the North Fork is growing.
We finally decided to try all six of the 2017 whites in a shared tasting. How about the reds? We were going to come back another day, but then, after we finished the whites, we decided to go ahead and add the four reds on the menu. (My husband, the designated driver, gallantly offered to have just one sip of each while I finished the rest of the glass. It’s a tough job…) On her own, Ms. Sannino added a taste of the 2015 cabernet franc, which will soon be on the menu.
- 2017 Gewürztraminer $24
Since gewürztraminer can often be sweet, I was wondering why this was first on the menu. One sip told me why—it’s not sweet! The menu describes it as “elegant,” which is not a bad summary, though it doesn’t really tell you much about the wine. The aroma is quite floral and the taste combines spice and fruit and some minerality, plus a touch of grapefruit. Overall it is dry and light, without the veggie taste you sometimes get in a gewürztraminer.
- 2017 Chilly Day Chardonnay $24
The menu also includes an oaked chard, but I tend to prefer steel, so I stuck with this one. There’s not much aroma, though I detect a hint of forest floor. However, it tastes better than it smells, with a toasty warmth and a touch of lime. “Serviceable,” says my tasting buddy. I think it would be good with bluefish.
- 2017 Fresco White Blend $20
Our server notes that since this is a blend of the other wines we have in the tasting, it might be fun to taste back and forth, trying to detect the traces of each in this one. It’s a blend of 55% chardonnay, 15% gewürztraminer, 15% riesling, and 15% sauvignon blanc. I like the aroma, which is sweet and complex, with something a bit funky (like the chardonnay) and minerality. The taste, however, is relatively simple, but dry, with notes of salt and, believe it or not, cucumber. It’s nice to sip outside on a warm summer day. If we hadn’t just replenished our whites I could see buying a bottle.
- 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26
The menu describes this as “off dry,” which sometimes means too sweet for us, but though this does have some sweetness I find it balanced enough that I like it. The aroma is very attractive, and reminds me of 7 Up, of all things. There are tastes of mango and pineapple, but the sweetness dissipates fairly quickly so you get other flavors as well. I think it would pair well with charcuterie, and when I note this to our server she tells us how this wine came to be. Her father, the winemaker, called her one day to say that the wine had, on its own, stopped fermentation. Happy with the result, he left it as is. Good decision.
- 2017 Riesling $22
On the other hand, the riesling is too sweet. It smells like clover honey and tastes like sweet oranges with some spice. It might be okay with Thai food.
- 2017 Bianca Dolce $16
“Gentle pink roses” says the menu of this rosé. I’m not sure what a gentle rose is, but this is a very pleasant rosé, made from 100% merlot with the “free run juice” which comes right off the grapes. Typical strawberry aroma and flavor, this is another dry, light wine. I still prefer Croteaux.
- 2014 Merlot $25
Now we get a fresh tray of reds, labeled on the paper with the number on the menu of the wine. 2014 was not a great year for reds, and this is a fairly light merlot, with typical cherry flavor and aroma. Just okay.
- 2014 Syrah $30
This is from their “certified sustainable” vineyard. It has some tannins and nice fruit, but almost no aroma. This is not a big wine, but would be okay with lamb chops.
- 2014 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot $35
Why “spotlight”? Because, she explains, most wineries use petit verdot as a blending wine, but in this case they wanted to put the spotlight on the petit verdot, just blending in 15% cabernet sauvignon. After the fruity aroma I was expecting a bigger wine, but this is good anyway. My husband notes that it starts stronger than it ends. Perhaps it needs to age more, as we do detect some tannins.
- 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
I insist this smells like grape Jell-O. I am doubted. In any event, this is another dry, rather light red, with some cherry berry tastes. It wouldn’t stand up to a steak, but could go with pork chops.
- 2015 Cabernet Franc $? (Not on the menu, but the sold-out 2014 was $34)
Power of the book, as we often say, but also, I like to think, of our sincere interest in the wines: we get an extra taste. And this is the best of the reds, for sure. I swear it smells like bread and butter pickles, as well as fruit. The wine has lots of tannins but is rather smooth and certainly has potential, perhaps with more aging. Good. I enjoy drinking it. Pairing? How about a marinated strip steak with chimichurri sauce?
Reasons to visit: pleasant small winery with the chance to talk with the winemaker or a family member; on Peconic Lane, so it could be part of a winery walking tour; the Fresco White Blend, the sauvignon blanc, the 2015 cabernet franc; nice outdoor area; small selection of wine-related gift items, including t-shirts and candles. They also offer wine-making classes, tours of the winery, and overnights at their small inn.