Suhru Tasting House: New(ish) Kid on the Block June 10, 2018

https://www.suhruwines.com/

IMG_5231

We arrived in time for the grand opening!

Although Suhru wines have been around for a while (We first tasted them at The Winemaker’s Studio.), they didn’t have their own tasting room—until now.  They have opened up their own place in the small building in Cutchogue which briefly housed Waters Crest’s tasting room.  As soon as we walked in, we noticed that they had done a very nice job of renovating the space, expanding the room and decorating it in a breezy, beachy style.  Our server informed us that they soon hope to be able to display work by local artists.  They also have a small outdoor area in the back, which faces their parking lot.

IMG_5229

The back yard

We happened to enter during the Grand Opening, so a table in the rear of the room held cheese and bread and sausages from Touch of Venice, which we were urged to sample.  In the future, they hope to have a menu of snacks from that restaurant, which is right across the street.  Good idea!

Suhru—the name is an amalgam of Susan, Russell, and Hearn, for Susan the owner, Russell the winemaker, and Hearn, their last name—joins the club of wineries which are the personal products of winemakers who work for large wineries, like Coffee Pot Cellars and Anthony Nappa.  They also have another label, T’Jara, which they own with another couple.  That name is a nod to where they are from, which is Australia, and literally means “place where I’m from” in the aboriginal language.  By the way, they are careful to emphasize the “h” in the winery’s name, since Suru is the name of a Japanese saki company! We were given all this information by our cheery and friendly server—who also happens to be Susan and Russell’s daughter.  She was helped at the bar by her mother, so this is quite a family affair.

IMG_5240

In future iterations of the label, the H (which now looks like a football goalpost) will be in white, to emphasize that it is part of the name.

The menu offers several options:  a tasting of three Suhru wines for $9, a tasting of two whites and a rosé from both labels for $8, or a red wine tasting of three, again combining both labels, for $11.   But, we said, we want to try all eight varieties on offer (two wines are not available for tasting, only by the bottle).  No problem, Ms. Hearn replied, and carefully set us up with two tastings of three each, plus one extra of each, which would cost less than buying eight individual tastes.  Wines are also available by the glass.  She also delineated the order in which to taste the wines and made useful comments on each.

IMG_5234

We liked the calm, beachy décor. The other end of the tasting room has some comfortable couches.

  1. 2016 Pinot Grigio           $24

“This is the wine which started it all,” said Ms. Hearn.  I can see why.  It is a light, bright, dry white with tastes of citrus and green apple and a pleasantly flowery aroma.  I felt it needed food, and a bite of bread and cheese showed me that I was right.  It would also be good with charcuterie.

IMG_5236

We were so deep in conversation, I forgot to take a picture until we had drunk everything except the rose. The reds are served the same way.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

Her parents met while hiking in New Zealand, so this is a nod to the New Zealand style of sauvignon blanc, noted Ms. Hearn, though it is not exactly like them.  After all, the climate and terroir here are different.  The aroma has a whiff of chemicals, but the wine itself is quite nice, dry, with some citrus, though my husband finds it a bit too fruity for him.  Again, it benefits by being tasted along with a bite of bread and cheese.

  1. 2014 Dry Riesling $25

The grapes for the riesling come from the Finger Lakes region, she tells us, and we get into a discussion of the relative merits of grapes from the two areas.  Susan Hearn joins in, and I tell them how last fall we were in Beacon and went to a winery which used some grapes from Long Island!  This riesling also includes some gewürztraminer.  It is very dry, not at all sweet, and tastes of ripe pear and minerals.  Cat pee aroma, I note!

IMG_5235

  1. 2017 T’Jara Rosé $25

A combination of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc, this is a very light, almost watery rosé, not fruity or at all sweet. Though it is a refreshing summer drink, it would not replace Croteaux for us.  (By the way, the Croteaux tasting room is closed, due to a problem with the town, though you can still buy their wines online or at local stores.)

IMG_5232

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $33

Now we move on to the reds, and a new tray of nice, round-bottomed glasses.  The labels for T’Jara wines, by the way, feature designs inspired by aboriginal art.  The vineyard for the reds is in Mattituck, where Bordeaux grapes are grown.  This is a very drinkable red, with soft tannins and dark fruit tastes, dry, with very little aroma.

  1. 2012 Ember $27

This is their Bordeaux blend, predominantly merlot plus cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot.  I really like this, and we buy a bottle.  Again, very drinkable, food friendly as Ms. Hearn says, with red current aroma and some minerality as well as dark fruits.  It would be good with a beef stew.

  1. 2012 Shiraz $30

Again, this name is a nod to their Australian roots, since the grape is called shiraz in Australia and syrah elsewhere, so in America winemakers can choose either.  She tells us this is a “cool climate inspired” wine.  It’s good, but fairly light for a shiraz.  I wouldn’t pair it with a steak, but maybe with veal or pasta.  Again, it has soft tannins and lots of fruit.

IMG_5237

The array of reds. Note the aboriginal art-inspired designs on the T’Jara labels.

  1. 2015 T’Jara Merlot $33

Unlike most North Fork merlots, this one has no cherry taste.  It is more like a cabernet franc, I would say.  I think it might improve with age, but right now it is quite young and not particularly distinguished.

IMG_5233

Lucky us, the grand opening included free snacks!

Reasons to visit:  pretty little tasting room that so far is not crowded (We had started out to go to Shinn, but couldn’t even get into the parking lot!); the pinot grigio, the Ember, the sauvignon blanc, the cabernet franc; the chance to chat with the owners and get deeply into the wines; they serve your tastes on a tray, so if you are with a group you can take it to a table and sit and sip; snacks (at some point soon) from Touch of Venice.

The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017

http://winemaker-studio.com/index.html

IMG_3536

To celebrate April 15 NOT being tax day, we decided to return to The Winemaker Studio, where winemakers who work for some of the big wineries experiment with their own labels. It does fascinate me that people whose job is winemaking feel the need to express more of their ideas about wine with their own experiments—but when the results are as good as this, why not?  On this day, the Studio was featuring the wines of Anthony Nappa, who owns the place and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Russell Hearn, who is the winemaker for Lieb.  Hearn actually has two different labels available:  Suhru for one line, and T’Jara for wines whose grapes all come from one vineyard.

We stood at the bar and enjoyed chatting with our server, who seemed to know everything about all the wines.  On that day, the menus offered any five of Nappa’s ten wines for $15, and all five of Hearn’s wines, also for $15.  We decided to do one of each, alternating as we went, with some guidance from our server as to sequence and choices from Nappa’s list.  We could also have ordered cheese or other snacks, which come from the little food store attached to the tasting room.  Before we started, the server gave us glasses of chilled water, which he regularly replenished.

IMG_3538

The room is simple. The tables are sometimes inside and sometimes outside.

One other couple entered, and we enjoyed chatting with them about where they had been that day and their love of Key West.  Then a large group came in, and though they don’t usually permit groups without a reservation, since it was so quiet the server agreed to take care of them, and seated them in the food store room.  We were concerned we’d lose our source of information, but he competently took care of everyone!

IMG_3548

The sign seems clear enough…

  1. 2016 Suhru Sauvignon Blanc      $20

We decided it was best to start with what was likely the lightest of the wines, and we were right.  This is a really nice light sauvignon blanc, with some aromas of cat pee and asparagus.  It’s a bit fruity for a sauvignon blanc, and also has lots of minerality and some saltiness.  Very refreshing.  Good summer sipper, or to have with clams or oysters.

IMG_3535

  1. 2016 Nappa White Pinot Noir   $19

White pinot noir?  Isn’t that the wine that used to be called Anomaly?  Well, yes.  Apparently there was some sort of allegation of copyright infringement from a winery in Napa Valley, so Anthony Nappa had to rename his wine.  The first time we had this we really liked it, then not so much the next time, but this time it was back into the plus file.  The aroma combines strawberry—like a rosé, which this basically resembles—with a touch of funkiness that adds some interest.  The wine is somewhat dry, with some strawberry taste as well.  It would pair well with a stinky cheese, like an aged blue.

IMG_3539IMG_3540

  1. 2014 Suhru Dry Riesling               $18

Not sure why, but my tasting buddy insisted the smell reminded him of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  It is a strong aroma, with a touch of mineral or metal.  If you like a dry riesling, this is for you.  The server noted that it had .7% residual sugar, quite a contrast to the Nappa riesling we were going to taste next.  I always enjoy these side by side tastings, where you try the same grapes made in different ways.  Like the Suhru sauvignon blanc, this also has a bit of a salty tang, with some gooseberry taste.

  1. 2016 Nappa New York Riesling   $18

So different!  Made with grapes from upstate’s Sheldrake vineyard, this riesling has 1.9% residual sugar.  Although it is much sweeter, it is well balanced, and would be fine with something really spicy, like Thai food.  “Almost candy,” says my husband, but I get tropical fruit and spices like nutmeg, and a complex aroma that is rather alluring.

  1. 2012 Suhru Shiraz           $25

Although the scent promises lots of dark fruit, the wine itself is rather light for a shiraz.  I could see this with roast chicken, not steak.  Nice tannins, so maybe it will age well.

IMG_3541

  1. 2016 Nappa Bordo Antico           $22

If you care about such things, you might like to know that this wine is certified organic.  It is made from cabernet franc grapes, steel fermented.  It smells like forest floor, with a bit of a mushroomy funk.  The taste is good, fruity, direct and simple.  I might pair it with duck breasts.

 

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc         $30

Here we go again—same grape, different preparation—though this is a bit of a blend, 87% cabernet franc with 10% merlot and 3% cabernet sauvignon.  This is oak fermented, and has lots of fruit tastes like dark plums, and a long finish.  Delicious.  It would complement lamb chops.

IMG_3544

  1. 2014 Nappa Nemesis Pinot Noir               $35

Why “Nemesis”?  We learn that pinot noir is notoriously hard to work with, so the danger is that it could prove to be the winemaker’s nemesis.  Not in this case, though it is not our favorite of the day.  Made with grapes from Macari and Peconic Bay, this is a light, dry, slightly fruity red.

  1. 2013 T’Jara Merlot         $28

A blend of 92% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc, and 2% malbec, the wine is aged 20 months in Hungarian oak and tastes to us more or less like a typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry flavor.  Very nice.

IMG_3543

Both the design on the label and the name of the label come from Australian Aborigines. Hearn is from Australia.

  1. 2013 Nappa Tredici        $35

Tredici?  As in three grapes:  67% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 18% cabernet sauvignon?  Nope, as in 2013—named for the year.  And why not, since it was a very good year.  We smell cherries, and the taste is very much of the merlot, but with more interesting flavors than the Hearn blend.  It has lots of tannins, and if we had room in the wine cellar (we really must drink more of our wine!) we might have bought a bottle to age for a few years.

IMG_3547

There are wines from a variety of winemakers available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to taste wines you won’t find elsewhere; an intimate setting with knowledgeable servers (not just this time, but every time we’ve come); the Nappa White Pinot Noir (formerly Anomaly) and Tredici; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc and T’Jara 2012 Cabernet Franc; lots of availability of magnums, if you happen to want to buy one!

IMG_3537

Lots of magnums!

IMG_3532

The Studio is on Peconic Street, where you will also find a nice little food store and a gift shop.

The Winemaker Studio May 11, 2013

photo (43)

http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

I love spring on the North Fork.  We stopped at the Bay View farm stand and bought fresh local spinach and asparagus and leeks and rhubarb and duck breast and bacon, and at Briermere for a blueberry crumb pie.  And now a short pause for a disquisition on Briermere pies…Yum.  Later that evening we had sautéed duck breast with a local red wine, garlic, and maple syrup reduction, accompanied by spinach salad with bacon and hard-boiled egg, with a dressing made from Vines and Branches olive oil and Cara Cara Orange White Balsamic vinegar, and steamed asparagus. All seasoned with artisanal North Fork salt!  Pie for dessert, of course.  With it we had Bordo wine from Anthony Nappa, about which more later.

photo (45)

After all that shopping we felt thirsty, so we decided to stop into the Winemaker Studio on Peconic Lane.  This attractive store front used to be called The Tasting Room, and though the name and cast of characters have changed, the idea is the same:  to showcase smaller wine producers who lack a place of their own.  Run by Anthony Nappa, it features his wines as well as wines by others whose “day job” is as winemaker for other vineyards.  They buy their grapes, some from upstate, and make their wines at Premium Wine Group, a facility housed at Leib Cellars but used by many.  Nappa used to make wines for Shinn; Russell Hearn, originally from Australia, was the winemaker for Pellegrini until he and his wife Sue decided to make their own label, SuHru (Sue and Russell, with an H for Hearn); John Leo works for Clovis Point and also makes his Leo Family wines; and Erik Bilka works at Premium and also makes his own Influence brand.

The Studio has several features which causes it to stand apart from most tasting rooms, aside from the variety of different labels it offers, because in addition to wine it also offers a beer taste from Southampton Publick House, some coffee drinks, and local gins and whiskies, plus cheese or cheese and salumi platters for $15.  The gin brands include McKenzie and Glorious, and the whiskies and ryes include Pine Barrens and Greenhook.  If you go there for Happy Hour—from 5-7 p.m.—you might want to try them.  The airy room includes a nice bar plus little tables and chairs, with art on the walls by local artists.  Sometimes there is a dog or two in residence, though not today.  Oh, and the room is attached to a pleasant little food shop which includes both local brands and some hard to find labels.

photo (40)

The wine menu offers nine tastes, at $2-$4 per taste, and we opt to share four whites and four reds, skipping the lone rosé.  Chris, our server and we believe the manager of the shop, is impressively knowledgeable.  We overheard him giving very good advice to some neophytes to the region on which tasting rooms to visit based on which wines they had liked of his selections.  He also knows all about the wines he serves, and yet was tactful enough to let us sip in silence when he saw that was what we preferred.

  1.  2011 Nappa Anomaly                                    $19

This wine is an anomaly because it is a white wine made from pinot noir grapes, and since it spends no time on the skins it is white, not the rosé one would expect.  Yet the aroma reminds us of strawberry candy, a smell one would associate with a rose.  However, the taste is very much its own thing:  some earthiness, some citrus—perhaps key lime—some minerality, dry but fruity and quite delicious.  It is all steel fermented, so it is quite a refreshing, clean drink.

photo (41)

2.  2012 SuHru Pinot Grigio                                              $16

I often drink pinot grigio, but this does not taste like any I have had.  The aroma is sweet, like white grape juice, with a bit of that cat pee smell.  The taste is also sweeter than a typical pinot grigio, maybe because the grapes come from upstate.  The tasting notes say pear, and I don’t disagree. Though many would like it, it’s not for me.

3.  2012 Nappa Luminous Riesling                                 $18

This is another wine made from upstate grapes, and though Chris categorizes it as “on the dry/off dry cusp,” we find it a bit sweet.  As is typical of the wines in this room, it is not typical!  An aroma of honeysuckle heralds a goldenrod honey and pineapple taste, with a hint of citrus.

4. 2012 Nappa Sciardonné Chardonnay                       $18

Pronounce the name of this wine in the Italian manner, in which “sci” is pronounced like a soft “sh,” and you’ll get the joke of this Italian-style wine’s name.  Although this is a steel-fermented wine it does undergo malolactic fermentation, and so has some of the buttery taste associated with chardonnays.  However, it does not have that overly buttery flavor of an oaked chard, and the aroma of “pine forest after a rain”—my husband’s idea—is quite lovely.  Very buyable.

photo (42)

 5. 2012 Nappa Bordo                                                           $20

We sniff and discuss—tomato leaves?  Maybe.  Definitely vegetabley, with a hint of minerals.  Good fruit, with some typical cabernet franc tastes of berries, but not too heavy. The color is a light and pretty red.  This would go perfectly with the duck we just bought, we think, and are later proven correct. Buyable.

6.  2011 SuHru Shiraz                                                           $22

The syrah grape is called shiraz in Australia, and Hearn is from Australia, so…I tend to like syrahs or shirazes, whatever they are called, and this is no exception.  A slight cardamom aroma leads to dry but good berry tastes with some nice depth.  Unlike some shirazes, this is not overpowering.  They say a taste of Earl Gray, but I don’t get it.  However, this is definitely a buyable wine.

7.  2010 Nappa Dieci                                                             $35

To get the reason for this name, look no further than the date.  A blend of 37% cabernet sauvignon, 44% merlot, and 19% cabernet franc, this is a Bordeaux style wine, though not as interesting as a French Bordeaux at this price point.  However, it is a pleasant wine and would be good with food.

8.  2007 Leo Family Cellars Red Blend                           $40

Aromas of mineral, earth, and blackberry are not surprising for this merlot/petit verdot blend.  This wine is really interesting, and we comment that it is a humble name for an ambitious wine with lovely depth of flavor. We also admire the label!

photo (44)

Intrigued by the liquors on offer, we try the McKenzie and Glorious Gins, and end up buying a bottle of Glorious Gin, which has a really interesting herbal flavor and makes a very good Gibson later that night.  We also get two each of the Sciardonné, Bordo, and Shiraz.

Reasons to visit:  A chance to taste some experimental and interesting wines in a pleasant setting; availability of local liquors and beer as well; Happy Hour ; with the little shop next store you could buy dinner (except for produce) and something to drink with it as well; an ever-changing roster of wines.