Channing Daughters: To Club or Not to Club June 5, 2019

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https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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As the NoFo Wineaux, I hate to admit this, but my favorite winery is actually on the South Fork:  Channing Daughters.  Why?  They have the widest—and wildest—variety of wines, and they are constantly experimenting with new combinations and flavors.  As a result, we are always excited to open the box when our wine club shipments arrive.  BUT…UPS requires the signature of an adult in order to deliver alcohol.  And if you’re not home three days in a row, you need to either pick up your shipment in Farmingdale (not happening) or have it returned to sender and re-shipped—and hope you’re home for it.  What to do?

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A view from the ferry.

We headed to the Shelter Island ferries to make the trek to the South Fork, planning to tell Channing we were resigning from the club and then do one last tasting.  It takes a good hour and a half to travel to Scuttlehole Road this way, plus about $40 for the ferries, and even longer in the summer if you come around by land and cope with Hamptons summer traffic.  Then we made a wonderful discovery.  We could opt for pick-ups rather than mailed selections, but—and here comes the important revelation—we could come at our convenience and pick up several different releases.  Game changer, as they say.  It’s easy to travel to Sag Harbor in November!

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Wine Club news about new releases is posted on a chalkboard. Note the impressive array of wine types.

So we tried a few recent releases, bought two bottles of Scuttlehole Chardonnay and two of Pinot Grigio, and headed home, happy to remain in the wine club.

If you are on the South Fork, I recommend you make a visit to Channing Daughters’ cozy tasting room (no dogs or food allowed) and check out their delicious wines.  A flight of six wines will set you back $20, but it is well worth it.  The flight includes one of their interesting vermouths, as well.  We did not do a standard flight, so this is what we had.

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The standard tasting, which we did not have.

  1. 2017 Bianco Petillant Naturel                   $28

As soon as we identified ourselves as wine club members, our server poured us a taste of the newest release, their sparkling white wine.  It is crisp and dry, with lovely little bubbles.

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  1. 2017 Rosato Petillant Naturel      $28

This is a rosé sparkler, made from merlot, and equally crisp and dry, with a lovely strawberry taste.  We got into a discussion with another wine club member—who noted that she also does her pick-ups on her own schedule, avoiding Route 27 in the summer—about how Channing really doesn’t do sweet wines.  So if you like your wines tasty but not sweet, this is the place to come.

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  1. Cuvee Tropical

Alas, this taste proved how important vintage is.  In the past, this has been a very flavorful wine, with tastes of guava and lychee, but this iteration was quite plain, with not much flavor.

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Note the tree sculpture on the label. Walter Channing was a talented sculptor, and some of his work can be seen on the grounds.

  1. 2017 Pinot Grigio $20

Fortunately, we liked the pinot grigio, nicely lemony, and very easy to drink.  Buyable.

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  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

This remains our favorite steel-fermented chard, dry, very tasty.  I think of it as our “house” white!

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This price list doesn’t even include all of their wines.

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork (where the only other options are Wölffer—lovely, but more formal—and Duck Walk—not so lovely); all the wines they have on offer for a tasting; the petillant naturals; an intimate setting where you can discuss the wines with well-informed servers; a wine club well worth joining (if you can do pick-ups!).

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There’s a small selection of wine-related gifts.

Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

Channing Daughters: Lots of Options October 2, 2018

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Yes, we were just at Channing Daughters on September 14th, and we usually visit a winery once a year.  However, my brother and sister-in-law were visiting.  Like us, they are members of the Channing Daughters wine club, and they wanted to pick up both their regular shipment and an additional case of wines.  We were happy to make the trek over to the South Fork again, enjoying our ferry rides, a walk on the beach, and a stroll around Sag Harbor before heading to Scuttlehole Road.

A plus of a repeat visit to Channing Daughters is that they have so many different wines, plus six vermouths, that there was no danger of running out of wines to taste.  I don’t think any other winery on the East End does as many different, interesting, creative wines as they do.  We were also interested in getting some wine for the seafood dinner we planned for the next night, which would include my sister-in-law’s delicious scallop ceviche.  (After a trip to Braun’s, we added a main course of pan-fried blowfish tails.  Yum.)

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This panorama barely begins to capture the impressive array of wines on offer at Channing Daughters.

The server recognized us, and we had a very friendly visit, which included chatting with various other visitors to the tasting room.  At the end, she gave us a loaf of Orwasher’s bread, which they get for free in exchange for giving Orwasher’s their leftover grape yeast for bread-making.  It went perfectly with the ceviche.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

The grapes for this wine come from the Mudd vineyard on the North Fork.  We agreed that it was a good wine, “clean and green,” according to our tasting crew.  Lemony, crisp, and light, it is a perfect seafood wine.

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This remains our favorite East End chardonnay.

  1. 2017 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18

We first fell in love with Channing wines because of this chard, which we bought by the case for our daughter’s wedding.  Steel-fermented, it has aromas of honeysuckle and green apple with tastes of citrus, pineapple, and minerals.

  1. 2016 Vino Bianco $20

“I just had this one a couple of weeks ago,” I said, planning to skip it until our server pointed out that I had tried the 2015 and this was the 2016.  Oh.  And yes, it is a bit different, with more taste of mango and more complexity, with a somewhat earthy end.  My sister-in-law described it at “roundy,” by which I think she meant it had no sharp edges.  Very nice.  As I recall, this was the one we decided to have with the ceviche, and it paired well.

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The image on the bottle is of one of Walter Channing’s sculptures.

  1. 2015 Brick Kiln Chardonnay $25

I was a bit hesitant about this one, since it is an oaked chard, and I often don’t like that buttery, vanilla taste.  However, this one is aged in neutral Slovenian oak and 18% steel, so it is not at all buttery.  Instead, we tasted pineapple and Mandarin orange, with just a touch of sweetness.  It can stand on its own as an aperitif, we agreed.

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano $24

This one has aromas of caramel, earth, and pine.  The taste is very light and minerally, with a short finish.  Good with charcuterie, was the consensus opinion.

Then we decided to try one of the vermouths.  Oh no, insisted our server, you have to try them all!  She lined up six glasses on the bar and the four of us shared the six tastes.  Each one is inspired by a different season of the year and constellation of local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.  I can’t give a complete list, because the blends are secret, but I will say they are all good in different ways.  These are vermouths to sip over ice as an aperitif, though you could also make some interesting cocktails with them.  They are identified by number.

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Vermouths made from white, rose, and red wines plus seasonal local herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

  1. Herbaceous, dry, and spicy, this is made from herbs which all grow within seven miles of the winery, and was the first vermouth they made.  I bought a bottle.
  2. This one includes cucumbers and jalapeno peppers, and is rather spicy. You could season a salsa with it.  Maybe you could serve it at a piñata party!
  3. She identified this one as “mid-summer.” It is also a bit spicy, made from rosé wine with a touch of honey as well.  Earthy.
  4. Summer, she said as she poured this one. Watermelon, shiitake mushrooms, mint, caraway, and more, all of which appear in the aroma and flavor.  It tastes of mint and rye bread.
  5. Late summer/early fall: Muskmelon, dill, peaches.  This is the lightest of them all so far, very minerally.
  6. Fall (of course): squash, pumpkin, apple, pear.  This last one was made from red wine, and is the smoothest to drink and feels the least like a vermouth.

We were thinking about getting on the road again when my sister-in-law noted that we hadn’t tried any of their sparkling wines.  Out came three more glasses and the chance to taste three sparkling wines.  It really pays to be in the wine club!  My notes at this point are a bit sketchy (no surprise), especially because my husband was our designated driver and left most of our share of the tastings to me.

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Sparklers!

  1. Sylvanus

“Amazing,” said our relatives.  Very sparkly, with just a touch of sweetness.

  1. Bianco

“Just okay,” was the consensus.

  1. Rosato

I have extensive comments on this petillant naturel on my last blog, but I will just add that, though we are not normally fans of pink sparkling wines, this one is pleasantly drinkable.

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There’s a small selection of wine-related gifts. I bought my brother and sister-in-law a stopper for closing sparkling wines, since we had discussed the problem of opening a sparkler for just two people.

Reasons to visit:  an amazing variety of wines, so you can come back frequently and try different ones; a wine club worth joining; a cozy tasting room where you can really engage with the servers and learn about the wines and the wine-making.

Channing Daughters: The Best of the South Fork December 7, 2017

Channing Daughters: The Best of the South Fork

https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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The entrance to Channing Daughters.

It had been over a year since we’d been to one of our favorite wineries, so it was time to make the trek to the South Fork.  We took the ferry from Greenport to Shelter Island, and then from Shelter Island to Sag Harbor, as wind whipped the usually calm Gardiner’s Bay into waves and sea spray hit our windshield.  Despite the loss of the Sag Harbor movie theater to fire, the town looked much the same as ever, though new boutiques are gradually replacing some of the quirkier shops.  Happily, we noted that the Sag Harbor Variety Store and the Wharf Shop are still there.

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One of the wood sculptures made by Walter Channing.

And so is the Channing Daughters tasting room, down a pebbled driveway off Scuttlehole Road, sitting amidst vineyards and wood sculptures made by the owner.  The tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and no tables, though in the summer there are some outside.  A standard tasting is five wines for $16, or you can order a glass of wine for $15.  Simple crackers are put out as palate cleansers.

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This is the standard tasting–which is not what we had!

We had the room to ourselves on this sunny but blustery winter day, so we had the full attention of the genial and very well-informed server.  He was delighted to hear that, after having resigned from the wine club last spring due to various changes in our lives, we were ready to rejoin it.  The wine club involves accepting six shipments of two bottles each per year, and then you get free tastings of any wines you like to try plus invitations to various events during the year and discounts on other purchases.

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The tasting room is small, but augmented in the summer by outside tables.

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A view of the outside patio.

As a result of rejoining the club, our tasting was free, and we tasted quite a few wines—so many that we ended up dumping parts of the last few tastes, just so we could stay on our feet.  And even after trying eleven wines we had not begun to exhaust the panoply of wines on offer, a truly varied and impressive array for a small winery.  One of the reasons we love Channing, and rejoined their club despite living on the North Fork and having access to so many other wineries, is their willingness to experiment and try new ideas all the time.  Check out their web site to see all they offer and to read about their philosophy of wine making.  According to the web site, they make almost three dozen different wines!

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  1. 2016 Scuttlehole Chardonnay   $18

Of all the chardonnays on Long Island, this remains our favorite, a steel-fermented beautiful expression of the fruit.  We taste some pineapple and minerality, with aromas of pear and citrus.  Yum.

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Our favorite chardonnay. The upside down tree on the label represents one of Mr. Channing’s sculpture techniques, using an entire tree turned upside down.

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A sculpture made from an entire tree turned upside down.

  1. 2014 Sylvanus $24

A combination of muscat ottonel, pinot grigio, and pinot bianco, the name recalls the Roman god of the fields and agriculture (like Pan or Bacchus) for a very good reason.  It is what is called a “field blend,” which means it is a blend of various grapes all of which were grown together in one field.  So they share the same terroir, yet the taste varies from year to year, depending on how each variety grows.  As we discussed with our server, this is more like the way people grew grapes in the past, planting whatever vines they got wherever they fit.  And the vineyard in which it grows is named Sylvanus. In any event, this year’s iteration is quite good, a light, delicate dry white with just a touch of wood.  He thinks it would be good with appetizers, perhaps a charcuterie platter.

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An image of Sylvanus, god of fields and harvests.

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  1. 2015 Cuvée Tropical $23

This is another blend, of 78% chardonnay, 8% tocai friulano, 8% pinot grigio, and 8% muscat ottonel.  As I said, they like to experiment.  The name comes from the flavor, which has notes of tropical fruits, like lychee and guava and pineapple.  In the past I really liked the fruitiness of this wine, and this iteration is less fruity, a bit more austere, so though he recommends it with spicy food, I don’t think that’s necessary.

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I love the image on this label, of vines in the snow.

  1. 2014 Clones $29

Why Clones?  Because this wine includes ten different clones of chardonnay, plus gewürztraminer, tocai friulano, pinot grigio, and sauvignon blanc.  Now here comes the experimentation—some of the wine is aged on the skins for a little while, they use wild yeast, and it spends twelve months in old French oak barrels (plus maybe more I forgot…).  Another good one.  Dry, with just a touch of the oak, with citrus flavors of lime more than lemon, and some interesting complexity.  Our server recommends it with smoked trout or bluefish, and we recommend that he check out the North Fork Smoke House the next time he’s in Greenport.

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  1. 2014 Mosaico $29

Again, the name relates to how the wine was made. This is another field blend, but this time the vines are literally planted in a mosaic pattern, and include pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscat ottonel, tocai friulano, and gewürztraminer.  Whew.  Another winner.  Aromas of celery, citrus, and herbs and maybe chamomile, and a complex flavor that includes pear, pineapple, and citrus.  Because the juice also spends some time on the skins, the color is a deeper gold than usual.

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  1. 2014 L’Enfant Sauvage

The “wild child” is a reference to the use of wild yeast, sometimes a risk for the winemaker, and this time, I have to say, not as successful for me as in the past.  I have loved earlier versions of this white, but this one is more minerally than fruity.  That’s not necessarily bad, but I liked the fruit in the past.  This is 100% chardonnay, aged in new French oak and also Slovenian oak, so maybe the Slovenian oak is a taste I don’t care for.  The aroma is of over-ripe apples and something chemical.  My husband says it has a “strong backbone.”

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Yes, this wine is orange.

  1. 2014 Ramato $25

You can only get this wine if you are in the wine club.  It’s an orange wine, which means it was fermented on the skins for quite a while until it has an orange hue, and was made from 100% pinot grigio.  Our server tells us the grape itself has a pinkish hue, which adds to the color.  It is tart and dry, with some taste of apricot.

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A sparkling wine you can open with a beer bottle opener!

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  1. 2016 Bianco Petillant Naturel $28

What is this, you wonder, especially as you look at the bottle, which is sealed with a bottle cap and has a layer of sediment on the bottom.  This is a lightly fizzy sparkling wine which does not taste at all like champagne, nor does it try to.  Instead of the méthode champenoise, this is the méthode ancestrale, in which the yeast remains in the bottle and is not disgorged.  This is a blend of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and tocai friulano and tastes like a great wine for a meal—light and fizzy and good to complement food.  That’s the way they drink Cava in Barcelona, where we saw people ordering an inexpensive bottle to go with lunch or a few tapas.

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I love doing side by side tastings of related wines.

  1. 2013 Dorn and Blau $28

At this point we said we would share a taste, so our server poured this red and the next one at the same time so we could compare them.  These German grapes—a combination of 62% dornfelder and the rest blaufrankish—are also grown in the Sylvanus vineyard.  If you’re thinking you haven’t heard of these grapes as growing on Long Island, you wouldn’t be mistaken.  As far as I know, Channing is the only one that has them.  This is a fairly light and dry red, with aromas of red fruit and tobacco and something funky.  It is another wine with more minerality than fruit.  I could see it with something rich, though my tasting buddy finds it a bit too austere.

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  1. 2014 Blaufrankish $28

Reverse the proportion of grapes, and you get 62% blaufrankish and the rest dornfelder, and then, just to see what happens, use grapes from a different vineyard, in this case the Mudd vineyard on the North Fork.  We like this one much better!  The aromas are of dark fruits plus minerals or wet rock, and the taste is of red berries and plums with layers of flavor, including some minerality.  Both of these wines have soft tannins, so I’m not sure how they would age, but they’d be fine to drink right now.

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  1. 2015 Petit Verdot $38

I often like petit verdots, and this one is no exception.  Though the aroma is somewhat smoky and funky, the taste is delicious, with depth of flavor, including blueberries, blackberries, and spice.  Our server is willing to keep going, but since we have to get back in the car we decline.

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An array of bottles and a view into the cellar.

Reasons to visit:  the most interesting wines on Long Island, with something new every year; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Cuvee Tropical, the Clones, the Mosaico, the Blaufrankish…actually, you can’t go wrong with any of their wines; and we didn’t even get to the rosés, which we’ve had and enjoyed in the past; you’re looking for a winery in the Hamptons that’s less formal and pricey than Wölffer (which does have the advantage of tables where you can sit and snack on their cheese, etc.), and did I mention they also make really good vermouths, which are excellent just over ice as an aperitif.

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Vermouth!

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There are a few wine-related gifts for sale, though they no longer carry the bottle collars we like, which you put around the neck to catch drips.

 

 

 

Channing Daughters: Secret Favorite November 5, 2016

http://www.channingdaughters.com/

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

Outside the tasting room you are greeted by this statue made by Mr. Channing from a tree turned upside down.

I have a confession to make.  Though my blog is titled Nofo for North Fork, my favorite East End winery is actually on the South Fork, just outside Sag Harbor, to be exact.  Why do I like Channing Daughters so much?  For one thing, I’ve never had a wine of theirs that I disliked.  We joined their wine club years ago (we get the wine delivered) and are fascinated by the wide variety of different wines they offer, especially for such a small winery.  According to their web site, they have “three dozen different bottlings.”  Their web site is worth visiting, to learn about the interesting experiments they do.  When they introduced rosés, they made six or seven different ones.  I bought a case of six varieties, and we enjoyed them all.  They also started making vermouths a few years ago, using local herbs where possible. They do a better job with reds than many Long Island wineries, and their Scuttlehole Chardonnay is the one against which we measure all other steel-fermented chards.  In fact, we served it at our daughter’s wedding.

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We also like the intimacy of the tasting room, which is augmented in the summer by some outside tables.  And in the tasting room, we’ve always found the servers to be knowledgeable about the wines, happy to answer any questions guests pose to them.  Certainly our server on this visit fit that description, discussing both the wines and the business of a winery with well-informed intelligence.  For example, we started talking about the contrast between summer and fall crowds, especially in the Hamptons, and he discussed the challenges of staffing a tasting room for a seasonal spike in visitors.

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Because we are wine club members, we did not have the regular tasting.  Instead, our server made sure that we got to try some of their newest releases, including the bottles that had arrived in our most recent shipment.  A regular tasting consists of six wines for $14, and the pour is on the generous side.  Even though I won’t be writing about most of the wines on the regular tasting menu, I don’t hesitate to recommend that people go there.  You won’t be disappointed.  And while you’re on the South Fork, you can also visit Wölffer Estate, if you want a second winery visit.  (However, I don’t recommend Duck Walk.)  Then you can drive into Sag Harbor and walk up and down Main Street, checking out the art galleries, book store, and boutiques, and ending with dinner at Il Cappuccino (or one of the other restaurants).  We haven’t been there recently, but we used to be quite enamored of the garlic knots.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

In Sag Harbor you can also see a film at the cinema, which shows off-beat or art house type films.

  1. 2015 Scuttlehole Chardonnay   $18

As I said, this is our favorite East End chard, named for the street on which the winery is located.  It is a crisp, dry, steel-fermented wine, with lots of lemon tastes and, as they say, mouth-watering acidity.  It goes great with food, especially fish and seafood, like Peconic Bay scallops.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

Part of the array of different wines they make.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $23

There is a little tocai fruliano (8%) mixed in with the sauvignon blanc, and both are slightly oaked.  The aroma is interesting, almost candy-like, with some floral notes, and the taste is equally complex.  We discuss, and identify stone or mineral and peach and peach pit.  Because it is only slightly oaked it is still quite crisp, and, like their wines in general, dry.  Nice.

Envelope has a rich color.

Envelope has a rich color.

  1. 2012 Envelope $42

Why “Envelope”?  Because the idea was to “push the envelope” of what a chardonnay could be.  Though “pushing the envelope” could describe what they do with many of their wines (like Research Cab, or Over and Over, or L’Enfant Sauvage), the results with this one are quite good.  It is what is called an “orange” wine, though it is not quite orange, because it spends more time on the skins, giving it a deeper color than your average white.  A blend of 66% chardonnay, 26% gewürztraminer, and 8% malvasia bianca, it has an almost vegetable-like aroma, which my husband compares to his favorite veggie:  Brussels sprouts.  Not a sipping wine, it would go great with charcuterie, where its tart edge would complement the richness of the meats.

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  1. 2015 Rosso Fresco $20

This one is also on the regular tasting menu, and is their sort of all-purpose red blend, a mixture this year of 47% merlot, 30% blaufrankisch, 10% syrah, 10% dornfelder, and 3 % cabernet franc.  Now that’s a blend I bet you won’t find anywhere else!   I compare the aroma to funky cherry pie.  The taste is of plums and other dark fruits, and is again dry, with some tannins.  My tasting buddy thinks it would go well with a stew, and now that the weather is turning colder perhaps I’ll make one.  Our server also mentions that the winemaker used to be a chef, so he is very attuned to making wines that go well with food.

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  1. 2014 Petit Verdot $32.40 (for wine club members)

I tend to like petit verdots, so I was eager to taste this one, and I was not disappointed.  Our server described it as “smoky, dark, and full-bodied,” and suggested it was a good wine to cellar.  I agree.  The taste makes me think of dark chocolate with a cherry inside, but it is quite tannic and I think would benefit from some aging.

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  1. 2015 Muscat de Boom $30 (for a small bottle)

Funny name for a really delicious after dinner wine, this is made with muscat ottonel grapes which are partially fermented and then dosed with grape brandy.  It is slightly viscous, like a thin honey, but not cloyingly sweet, and would pair well with dark chocolate and almonds.  Almond Joy?  Why not!

Menu

Menu

Reasons to visit:  it’s one of the best wineries on Long Island; you’re on the South Fork and want to visit a winery or you’ve decided on a day trip to Montauk and want to stop at a winery on your way; the wood sculptures made by Mr. Channing; a wide variety of wines to suit every taste; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Envelope, the Rosso Fresco, the Petit Verdot…actually, all their wines!

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More of the array of wines.

More of the array of wines.