Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece February 9, 2019

Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece               February 9, 2019

https://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

If you remember your Greek mythology, you will realize that the boat-shaped bar at Jason’s Vineyard is meant to evoke the famous ship, the Argo, on which the Argonauts, led by Jason, set out to find the Golden Fleece—not, as we once heard a guest guess, a pirate ship.

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A view to the outdoor veranda and a portrait of Jason.

Jason was (he sadly died young, just a few years ago) a member of the Damianos family, whose other vineyards are Duck Walk and Pindar, which we reviewed recently.  We decided to check out Jason’s and make it a trifecta.  Having met and had a great chat with Jason, whom we ran into in a local store, back when he was planning to open this winery, we wanted to like it.  Though we were pleased by some of the wines, overall we found some of the same issues as with the other Damianos family wines, a tendency to over-sweetness and simplicity.

The tasting room is of average size, but they also have a plastic-sheeted veranda and an outdoor seating area for larger crowds in the summer.  The bar is surrounded by bar stools, so you can perch as you sip.  We observed one group nibbling on food they had clearly brought with them, and there are also a few snack items for sale.  In an outdoor enclosure we saw several sheep and alpacas, I suppose another reference to that famous fleece.

The menu offers five tastes for $15, and after some calculating we realized that we could do two tastings and try almost all of their wines.  You pay in advance and get a little pile of black “coins,” which the server collects as she pours each new taste.  The tastes, by the way, are quite generous, so that we found ourselves dumping those that didn’t delight with more frequency than usual.  They also have Greenport Harbor beer on tap.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay          $21.95

The aroma of this steel-fermented wine is rather typically chardonnay-ish, with plenty of lemon and tropical smells.  The taste is also rather strong for a chard, and we decided it would go better with chicken than any sort of delicate seafood.

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No that’s not water–our water glasses are in the back–that’s how light the sauvignon blanc is.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

The first thing I noticed was the very light, almost watery color of the wine.  That turned out to be predictive of the taste, which I described as wine-flavored water.  Grassy aroma.

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  1. 2017 Pinot Blanc $34.95

“Are they keeping the wine outside?” wondered my tasting buddy, as we tried to warm up the very cold glass so we could assess the wine.  On the other hand, we liked this the best so far.  Although the aroma is slightly chemical, the taste balances citrus with a sweeter fruitiness, perhaps guava.  This is a white you could have with pork chops.

  1. 2015 White Riesling $24.95

Isn’t saying white riesling redundant, we asked our server, who chuckled and admitted she was equally baffled.  In this case, the chem lab aroma led to a taste we did not care for.  It was sweet, but with a bitter aftertaste, like honey being used to disguise medicine, as my mother used to do to give me aspirin when I was little.

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  1. Golden Fleece $18.95

Given the name, we were not surprised to hear her describe this as their “signature white.”  It is a blend of chardonnay, seyval blanc, Cayuga, vidal blanc, and riesling.  Though she didn’t have any information on the proportions, she said it was predominantly chardonnay.  Having been forewarned that this was on the sweet side, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, although it did remind us of white grape juice mixed with tropical fruit and tangerines, it was not cloyingly sweet.  However, we did dump most of this and the previous taste.

  1. 2014 Merlot $27.99

Our server poured this along with an “extra” of a taste of the 2000 Merlot, which they are offering for just $12 a bottle.  One sip and we knew why the low price—my husband described it as “if not over the hill, at least standing at the top and about to walk down.”  It smelled like forest floor and machine oil and tasted smoky and thin.  Which made the 2014 taste better.  It’s a typical North Fork merlot, with dominant cherry tastes and light tannins.  The extra, by the way, was not given to us because of the book, but according to the server is being given to everyone, so they are clearly looking to offload the 2000.  We dumped our taste.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $27.95

We had hopes for this wine, as it smelled really good, of dark fruits, but the taste was very light, with no depth and not much fruit.  Dump.

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  1. 2015 Meritage $29.95

This is an unusual blend for a red, of cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay, aged 24 months in French oak.  The aroma reminded me of Cheracol cough syrup, but the taste was not bad.  My husband described it as “not sophisticated, but tasty.”  A light red, it would be fine with pasta or, for a Greek meal, pastitsio.

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  1. 2013 Malbec $29.95

We get some wet basement funkiness in the smell, but fortunately it tastes better than that.  Though it is not complex, we get some nice dark fruits and light tannins.  Dry and drinkable.  We decide it could go with barbeque, but for this level of wine we’d rather head to Vintage, our local liquor store, for one of their $12 bottles.

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  1. 2007 Dessert Wine $28.95

As we were deciding which wines to get, we hesitated between this and the rosé in order to total ten tastes.   Our server, seeing what we liked, steered us to this one, telling us that the rosé was on the sweet side.  This, of course, is sweet as well, comparable, she said to a port, with 19.5% alcohol, made from cabernet.  A good drink for a cold day, she suggested.  It does taste port-like, rather sweet, but, my husband opines, with no depth or gravitas.  We try it with the heart-shaped chocolates that are in a bowl in front of us, which does improve the experience.  I could see sipping this by the fire with a piece of chocolate cake.  Or maybe just the cake…

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We noted the nautical theme even at the entrance.

Reasons to visit:  you like to visit the sheep and alpacas, though you are sternly warned not to feed them; very generous pour; you can bring your own snacks; the chardonnay, the Meritage, the malbec; the bar is cool; they also have the Absenthe, which we tried at Pindar.

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Foodie Tour: Liquids Too September 16,2018

Foodie Tour:  Liquids Too

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For years we’d seen the posters advertising the North Fork Foodie Tour (This is the 12th annual one.), but somehow we’d never managed to go.  The dates or the weather never quite worked, but this year it was scheduled for a weekend we were free and the forecast was for a beautiful day, so we stopped in to the Mattituck Florist and bought two tickets for $25 each.

You bring your ticket to whichever stop you choose to go to first, where volunteers at a little table sign you in and give you a wrist band, which then gives you admission to the rest of the sites.

There are twenty in all.  I laid out a somewhat ambitious itinerary which we ended up scrapping, visiting only three of the stops on the tour.  However, we felt we had gotten our money’s worth.

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Our first stop was Browder’s Birds, on a back street in Mattituck. http://browdersbirds.com/

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They have a bunch of bee hives, too.

We got there in time for the 11 a.m. tour, led by Mr. Chris Browder himself.  He told us that he’s had anywhere from 15 to 50 people in past years, but this time it was just us and one other couple.  After sampling a yummy quiche made with Browder’s eggs, we set off across the field to the mobile chicken and turkey coops. Along the way we learned about the rewards and perils of raising fowl—the satisfaction of hands-on work, the depredations of foxes—and the methodology he uses.

After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Chris visited one farm described in the book, where the farmer uses a system of mobile hen houses to move his chickens from one square of pasture to another.  Chris decided to put the same system into effect on his organic farm.  We could see the denuded earth where the coop had just been and the new growth where it had been the previous week.

The chickens eat a diet of insects and greens they get from the field plus organic feed.  We were struck by the total absence of any foul odors, as you sometimes find around chicken coops.  Chris explained that the constant movement of the coops keeps everything clean.  Then he showed us how he can move the lightweight coop himself, and how when the chickens realize he’s about to start pulling it they line up along the front of the coop so they can move along with it.

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The surviving turkeys seemed as curious about us as we were about them.

He also showed us his one turkey coop, which had originally held 60 young turkeys.  Unfortunately, a fox got into the coop a week or so ago and killed 29 of them.

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They also sell sweaters knit with wool from their sheep.

After our tour of the fields, we returned to the area near the house to check out the greenhouse-like structure where the baby chicks live until they are big enough to be out in the field.  We also learned about how the Browders slaughter their chickens themselves, in a very humane and efficient way.  We then said hi to the sheep and ducks, which like to hunker down in the shade next to the house.  Finally, we looked over the little store, which is open on weekends and Friday afternoons, where they sell their chickens, eggs, duck eggs, home-made honey, brining mixture, etc.  Since this was our first stop, we weren’t ready to buy anything, but we promised we’d be back.

It was almost noon, and I saw from the tour booklet that Greenport Harbor Brewery was giving a tour at noon of their Peconic facility.  Despite being caught behind a tractor on one leg of our journey, we made it there just as the tour was beginning.  https://greenportharborbrewing.com/

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No, this silo is not decorative. It actually is used to store the grain they use to make beer.

Rich Vandenburgh, one of the co-funders of Greenport Harbor, led the tour.   An engaging and amusing guide, he explained all the stages of making beer as well as regaling us with some stories from his years with the brewery.  If you ever go on the tour, make sure you hear about the strange scrapes on the high ceiling of the storage room.  We learned about hops and barley and grain and yeast.   Among other things, we learned about how they try to be responsible about the environment at the brewery.  They plan to install a water catching system so they can use rain water, and another system which captures the CO2 from the brewing process which can then be reinjected into the beer to carbonate it.  The spent mash goes to farms for animal feed and mulch.  Because it tastes sweet, the animals really like it, including the bison at Tweed’s bison farm on Roanoke Avenue.  Rich related how when the bison catch sight of the truck approaching the farm they hurry over to the fence, eager for their treat.

It was almost one o’clock by the time we had finished seeing the bottling room and asking all the questions which Rich patiently answered.  Then we showed our bracelets at the bar and were told we could each have three free tastes of any beers we liked.  After all that walking and standing around, we were ready for a respite, so we bought a big pretzel to go with our beers.  Although we’d been to Greenport Harbor twice in recent months, they already had some new beers for us to taste.  We sipped Tidal Lager, Lawn Chair ale, Devil’s Plaything, Respect to Process, and Black Duck Porter, which remains my favorite, but we liked them all.

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The bottling machine. They are in the midst of bottling their fall special, Leaf Pile Ale. We saw the bags of nutmegs, etc., they use for the pumpkin pie spice flavor.

Where to go next?  We could have headed to Craft Master Hops, to learn about how hops are harvested, or to Shared Table Farmhouse, to see a “homesteading operation,” or any of a number of other places, but we decided to rest until 3 p.m., when a tour was scheduled at Macari Vineyards.

http://macariwines.com/

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The grapes look great, but are not quite ripe yet.

We checked in for the final time with the Foodie Tour volunteers, and headed around to the back of the property where a group of foodies—some of whom we recognized from the brewery tour—gathered.  We were soon joined by two employees of the winery who laid out a platter of cheeses and crackers and served us tastes of three of Macari’s wines.  As we sipped, our guide explained the philosophy behind each wine and how it was made, as well as some background on the Macari family and how they had come to own a winery.  Joseph T. Macari, Jr., started making wine with his father in their cellar in Corona, Queens.  We also learned a little bit about their commitment to biodynamic farming.  Common to all three places we visited was concern for the environment and a sincere commitment to making a great product.

We started with the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, a zesty, crisp, refreshing white.  I agreed with the guide that it would pair well with local oysters.  Then we moved on to the 2016 Chardonnay Estate, a very nice steel-fermented chard.  It was interesting to hear his discussion of the differences between the grapes and how they were treated.  We ended with Sette, a red that mixes half merlot and half cabernet franc.  The wine is named for Settefratti, the town in Italy to which the Macari family traces their roots.

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This machine is used to separate the grape juice from the skins.

Well-fortified, we headed inside to tour the various aspects of the wine-making facility, from huge steel tanks with precise temperature control to stacks of oak barrels where wine is aged.  Our guide’s parting words were that our Foodie Tour wrist bands would get us 10% off any wines in the winery.

 

And that was the end of our day.  Though we only got to three of the twenty possible sites, it was a thoroughly satisfying experience.  I hope that next year weather and timing cooperate so we can do this again!