Anyone unfamiliar with Greek mythology could be forgiven for thinking, when they sighted the ship-shaped bar, complete with mast and furled sail, that it was supposed to resemble a pirate ship. However, the design of the bar—and of the ship on the wine labels—is meant to evoke the great ship the Argo, which set off with its crew of heroes, led by Jason, to find the Golden Fleece. Jason Damianos, the son of the owner of Pindar and Duck Walk, was clearly quite pleased with his namesake hero, and not only designed his bar to resemble the Argo but also named some of his wines after elements of the heroic voyage and opted to raise sheep (golden fleece, get it?) on his property. Sadly, Jason was killed two years ago in a car accident. However, the family has continued to own and run his vineyard and his small herd of sheep (plus at least one llama).
Jason’s is a fairly large facility, with an expansive outdoor covered porch where a singer was entertaining guests the day we came (but so loudly that we opted to stay inside). The servers keep track of your tasting by giving you a pile of tokens, taking one away each time they serve a taste. That works well for large groups, which they do welcome. The menu offers a flight of five wines for $10. Since they have thirteen different wines, we decided to do two tastings, one of whites and then another of reds, which we clarified with our server after a bit of discussion. As we thoughtfully considered each wine, our server became more and more enthusiastic about helping us, pouring a couple of “extras.” As a result, the only wines we did not try are the two rosés.
There were no signs about whether or not they allow outside food, so I assume they do. They also had a small selection of cheeses and crackers in a refrigerated case. By the way, I only have vintages for a few of the wines. The menu doesn’t mention them and neither did our server, who whisked most bottles away before I could check.
- Golden Fleece $18.95
Apparently, this was a wine Jason meant to be his signature one, a blend of 41% chardonnay, 24% seyval blanc, 21% Cayuga, and 9% vidal blanc. Noting this unusual collection of grapes, we asked if any of them came from Upstate. Yes, said our server, she thought the Cayuga did, but wasn’t sure about the rest. However, according to the winery web page the Cayuga is actually grown locally. Tasting it, we were wondering whether this would be a collection of wines we would even want to taste, as it was much too sweet for us. The menu describes it as “crisp,” but it made me think of candied or canned pears in syrup. The aroma had combined minerality with floral and cat pee notes, so I was hoping the wine would be more interesting than it proved to be.
- Sauvignon Blanc $24.95
I have to say that this had a rather unpleasant smell, like rotting garbage, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled. That’s one of the aspects of wine that fascinates me—how the smell and the taste can be so different. Anyway, this one WAS crisp, and rather nice, dry, with tastes of lemon and mineral. It would pair well with oysters.
- Pinot Blanc $34.95
We liked this one, too. The smell combined a funky, forest-floor element with a metallic scent, and the taste had lots of citrus. I was thinking blood orange, with end notes of pineapple, and found it mouth-watering. It would complement spicy food nicely, like maybe a shrimp fra diavolo.
- Chardonnay $29.95
In general, I’m not a fan of oaked chardonnays, and this one did not convert me, though it was not too heavily oaked. As my tasting buddy said, “It’s neither here nor there.” Aromas of vanilla and almonds, tastes of butterscotch and lemon, and a rather thin mouth feel. Our server informed us that this was the last of the 2012 vintage, on sale for only $12.95 a bottle, or $100 a case. A good buy, but not enough to tempt us.
- White Riesling $27.95
What, we wondered, is a white riesling? Aren’t all rieslings white? Our usual server was occupied elsewhere, and the cheerful young lady who poured this one for us had no idea why this one was labeled “white.” In any event, we dumped most of the glass, as it was unpleasantly sweet.
- 2006 Merlot $26.95
The servers rinse your glass with water between tastes, which is nice—except when they don’t dump out all the water. This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with scents of cherry, wood, and tobacco and a taste of cherry, though with a somewhat bitter finish.
- 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95
The cabernet sauvignon is aged 24 months in new French oak, “unfined and unfiltered,” according to the menu. Though the aroma is lovely, of black cherry and dark chocolate, the taste is disappointing. My husband characterizes it as a pizza wine, though I would prefer a nice Chianti. We think it is at the end of its useful life, and so must the winery, since this is also on sale for $100 a case.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25
This is our first “extra.” Our server suggests we compare it to the 05, and is interested to see what we think of it. Much better! The aroma has hints of something spicy, like maybe A-1 sauce, and the wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and a taste that reminds me of a dried fruit compote.
- Hercules $28.95
According to the menu, this is a unique wine, a “late harvest blend of merlot and cabernet.” “Late harvest” would imply great ripeness and sweetness, and the label calls it a “sweet red.” However, it is not as sweet as we were afraid it would be, and we actually liked it. I said it was sweet on top and tart on the bottom, which I know makes no sense, but that was what I felt. We agreed we’d love to try it with a nice piece of chocolate cake. Hercules, by the way, is named not just for the great hero who went on the Argo (in addition to his famous twelve labors), but also for Jason Damianos’s dog. Check out the photo…
- Meritage $28.95
Meritage is the North Fork’s version of Bordeaux wines, a blend in this case of merlot, cabernet, malbec, and pinot noir. Very nice—not surprising, since Jason studied wine-making in France. It smells pleasantly of sweet dark fruits, and tastes like cherries, other fruits, and some pepper.
- 2010 Malbec $28.95
As my Grandma Ruthie would say, “This one beats the bunch.” Definitely the star of the day, this has a delicious aroma of dark fruit, plums, and chocolate and tastes quite fruity as well, while still being dry. If we had decided to sit on the porch and listen to the singer, this is the wine I would have chosen to have in my glass.
- Dessert Wine $28.95
Yes, that is what it is called on the menu. Our server offers us this “on me,” she says, having enjoyed serving people who are interested in the wine and not just in “getting drunk.” Thanks! At 19.5% alcohol, this is definitely an after-dinner drink, really a Port wine, with its sweetness balanced by dryness. Quite yummy, it would be pleasant to sip this while cracking walnuts and almonds.
Reasons to visit: fun to see the bar shaped like a ship; the pinot blanc and the malbec; the Hercules and the Dessert Wine are good if you’re looking for an after-dinner sweet sipper; you can see—but not feed—the sheep and the llama.