Pindar Vineyards: The Server Matters January 25, 2018

https://www.pindar.net/

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You might guess from the red tile roof that there is some Mediterranean culture behind this winery. You’d be right.

I have been to wineries where the server knew just enough to spout a brief memorized description of the wines, and to others where the winemaker him or herself was there to tell me everything I could possibly want to know about the wines.  Both models work, but there’s another way: a well-informed server who knows the wines and is enthusiastic about them, without getting too technical.  The last is the type we encountered on a cold day in January in the almost empty tasting room at Pindar.

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Don’t let that sunny blue sky fool you. It was COLD!

Since the tasting room is quite large, and obviously set up to serve many people, it felt kind of funny that there were at most two couples at any one time during the hour or so we were there.  But it did mean that we got plenty of individualized attention from our excellent server.  We learned some interesting details about the wines and some of the labels, and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.

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Plenty of room for more people.

Pindar is both one of the older and larger wineries, and their prices reflect the economies of scale, being lower in general than many of the other places.  The wine list offers 27 different varieties, with almost all of them available for the basic $10 for five tastes.  The menu is divided into the categories of White Wines and Dry Rosé, Red Wines, Proprietary Blends, On the Sweeter Side, Dessert Wines, and Limited Production.  We quickly decided to eliminate the Sweeter Side category and also that we needed to share two tastings in order to get any sense of their offerings.  Since the Red Wines category included eight wines, we also decided to focus our attention there, and only try three of the four regular whites.  Due to the power of the book, we ended up getting a few extra tastes, as our server appreciated our enthusiasm and began to grok our taste.  As the pour is rather generous, I ended up having to drink more of each taste as the afternoon went on, since I was not the driver.  Tough job…

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Pindar requests that you not bring in outside food, and offers a selection of cheeses to which they will add crackers, etc.  They also have a modest selection of wine-related gift items.

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Snacks to have with your wine.

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Some of the gift items for sale.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

We started at the top of the menu with their sauvignon blanc, a wine we find often pairs well with oysters or clams.  This one would do so, too, but has an assertive enough flavor that it could also go with bluefish.  The aroma has a touch of cat pee, plus a fruit the menu identifies as white peach.  The taste is pleasant, with a touch of sweetness, and some citrus and mineral notes.

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The beautiful art is supposed to reflect the taste of the wine.

  1. 2016 Viognier $18.99

“What a beautiful bottle,” we said, and learned that it had been painted by Sylvia, a former patient of the founder of Pindar, Dr. Dan Damianos.  We also found out that she was a quadriplegic who painted with a brush in her mouth, and that she designed the pretty pastel floral image to reflect the taste of the wine.  Wow.  Viognier is a grape you don’t find too often on Long Island (a quick search of my blog found three or four other wineries that had it), and our server told us that they didn’t bottle it every year, since the grapes did not always meet their standards.  We’re glad it was on the menu this time.  Though not a sipper, it is a really nice wine, with lots of tart pear and some woody/mineral tastes.  She suggests serving it with shrimp or lobster, and I bet it would go well with Peconic Bay scallops, too.  We decided to buy a bottle.

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I love looking at the fields of sunflowers in the summertime on the North Fork.

  1. 2015 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

We were going to try the Peacock Chardonnay, but our friend warned us that it had been reformulated and was on the sweet side.  We had been reluctant to have the Sunflower, since the menu said it was 100% new barrel fermented, and we tend not to like really oaky chardonnays.  However, she reassured us that it was not like that, but rather tasted mostly of pineapple.  She was exactly right.  She said that the particular clone of chardonnay that was used for this wine tended more towards tropical fruit flavors.  Interesting.

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  1. Pythagoras $16.99

Now we moved on to the reds, getting a clean glass for these tastes.  The name of this wine, the images on several of the bottles, and the name of the winery, reference the Damianos family’s Greek heritage.  (We went to a class on Greek wines several months ago, and were quite pleased to discover that they were no longer limited to retsina and harsh reds, but included many wines we enjoyed. Wines occupy an important role in Greek mythology, and not just because they have a god of wine!)  This is their Bordeaux blend, and varies from year to year.  It likely includes some combination of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and Malbec, and was described as a “good pizza wine.”  That it is, and has lots of fruit with a touch of tannins.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably heavy on the merlot.

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Another image made to hint at the flavor of the wine.

  1. 2014 Syrah $16.99

Here’s another label painted by Sylvia, which is supposed to convey the “stormy and dark” taste of the wine.  Not so sure about the stormy part, but it is certainly dark, with black cherry flavor, a bit of oak, and nice tannins. It smells a bit like nutmeg.  It is not complex, but is very good, and we also plan to buy a bottle of this one.  It would go well with a soup and bread and cheese dinner.

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A beautiful stained glass window in the tasting room.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

We were going to give this one a pass, but now it seems we will be trying all of the reds.  Our server has poured out a glass of one of the Limited Production wines, to let it breathe while we taste the others.  The cabernet franc has lots of tannins, with some tastes of fruit, spice, and wood, and would be okay with food.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

2014 was a good year for reds on the North Fork, so we’re not surprised that we like most of the reds we taste.  This is a very drinkable red, not very deep or complex, with a pleasant fruity aroma.

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Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology.

  1. 2014 Merlot $18.99

Oops.  Finally one we don’t particularly like.  The smell is a bit funky and earthy, the wine rather thin. We dump the rest of this taste.

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We like the image of the Argo, the boat for Jason and the Argonauts, better than the wine inside.

  1. 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $21.99

Like a number of the other reds, this is aged two years in French oak.  We do detect a bit of oak in the aroma, plus purple plum and toast.  The wine is quite yummy, though not complex, tasting of plums and cherries.  It would be overpowered by red-sauce Italian foods, but would be good with meat loaf.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $16.99 (on sale, was $21.99)

This one could be on the edge of going over the edge, we decide.  It also has a somewhat funky aroma, and has a slight cherry taste.  Just okay.

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  1. 2014 Mythology $27.99

Their Meritage blend, this is 40% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 10% petit verdot, and 10% Malbec.  Nevertheless, my notes say “not much to it.”  I swear it smells like cheese, though the menu says it has “cassis, bing cherry and raspberry on the nose.”  It is dry, with some tannins and dark fruit tastes.

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A wine well worth buying.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014       $24.99

After Dr. Damianos died, his children decided to make some special wines in his memory.  They did a great job with this one, the special taste our server had set aside to breathe for us.  Given the price point, it is quite impressive, with lots of delicious dark fruit tastes and some complexity.  The tannins are strong enough that we feel it could age several years and get even better, so we decided to get a bottle of this and label it to be drunk a few years from now.  It could stand up to steak or lamb chops, for sure.

  1. Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot 2014       $24.99

Well, she had a bottle of this open and had served a taste to the other couple at the bar, so we might as well try it, too.  We like this better than their other merlots.  It tastes of black cherry and spice, perhaps nutmeg, with tannins that could let this one age as well.

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Reasons to visit:  big place that can accommodate a crowd (which it definitely gets in the summer); lots of different wines at good prices; despite the mass appeal, many of the wines are quite good; the Viognier, the Syrah, Dr. Dan’s Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in particular, plus many of the other wines; dogs are allowed on the back deck in the summertime.

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Someone collects corkscrews at Pindar!

Pindar: Sunshine on a Cloudy Day February 20, 2016

http://www.pindar.net/

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

It was a cloudy day as we headed to Pindar.

A beautifully deep rich voice singing “sunshine on a cloudy day” greeted us as we entered Pindar’s large tasting room, and that seemed like an appropriate message.  It was a cloudy day, and, as the French say, “A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.”  Pindar often offers musical entertainment, and is often crowded.  Today, however, there were only a few couples at the bar and the tables in a room that, according to their web site, can accommodate 3,000 (!).  Because of the crowds, we hadn’t been there in a few years, but this visit reminded us that we like many of their wines, though not all.  Their prices also are quite reasonable, which may have something to do with the economies of scale, as they say they are the largest vineyard on Long Island.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

We quite enjoyed her singing.

The menu offers 5 tastes for $10, out of 14 choices, including four characterized as “sweeter” and two dessert wines, plus another list of three “limited” wines at $3 per taste, and a sparkling wine.  The list is further divided into reds, whites, and “proprietary blends,” so it took us a while and some discussion to decide what to do.  We finally decided to share two tastings, first the whites, including two of the proprietary blends (marked with an * in my review), and then five of the reds.  We chose to skip the rosés, as we tend to find no one’s measure up to Croteaux’s.   Since the pour is rather generous, we were glad we chose to share.  They also offer a selection of cheeses and crackers, and do not allow outside foods.

One view of the bar--one of the bars!

One view of the bar–one of the bars!

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc    $14.99

In general, we feel Long Island sauvignon blancs tend to go better with food, as they tend to be too lemony to just sip, and that’s true of this one as well.  The aroma is of mineral and peach.  Very refreshing, I could see having this with lobster, as its tartness would offset the crustacean’s richness.  My husband notes that the end is too lemony for too long for his liking, especially sans food.

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  1. *Autumn Gold $10.99

This is a blend of Cayuga, Seyval, and chardonnay grapes, our server informs us, as will be our next choice, though in different proportions and different residual sugar amounts. We ask if the Cayuga is from upstate, since it is an upstate grape, and are informed that they grow all their grapes in their own vineyards.  We like this better than the first wine.  It has a touch of sweetness and a bit of funkiness which are well balanced with green apple and citrus tastes.  I also smell some minerality.  This is a very buyable wine, and we get a bottle of it to take home.

  1. *Winter White $10.99 for 750 ml., $17.99 for 150 ml.

“Our most popular white,” notes our server as he pours this blend.  We smell tropical fruits, and are ready to like this one but find it much too sweet for our tastes. The menu describes it as “semi-dry,” which makes us wonder about the wines they categorize as “sweeter.”   You could serve it to someone who actually would prefer soda—or maybe with Thai food.  We dump it.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera's favorite bird.

The mysterious peacock, which may be a reference to Hera’s favorite bird.

  1. 2013 Peacock Chardonnay          $9.99

There’s a pretty peacock on the label, so we ask (as we did two years ago) about the name of the wine.  Still no answer!   This spends eight months in French oak, and we do smell a bit of that woody smell.  We don’t really care for this one, either.  The taste reminds me of over-ripe bananas plus a really tart grapefruit—they say “citrus rind”—and then too much sweetness.  We don’t dump, but we also are not fans.

  1. 2013 Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve $18.99

Why sunflower?  This time we get an answer—a sunflower appeared spontaneously in the midst of the vineyard.  The menu describes this as “100% new barrel” fermented, from a “special 3.9 acre vineyard block.”  Sniff—vanilla and grape juice.  This has more body than any white so far.  I say nice.  My tasting buddy says it is “not offensive at the end.”  One could sip this, and it would also be good with a seafood diavolo, since it has some sweetness to it, but not too much.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $21.99

Now we switch to reds, and get a new glass.  Our server tells us this was just released.  Hmmm…smells good.  Berries, forest floor, maybe wet leaves.  Tastes light, more of a roast chicken or game bird red than a steak red. It would have gone well with the quail from Feisty Acres we bought at the Riverhead Farmer’s Market and had for Valentine’s Day dinner.  But it is soft, pleasant, and quite drinkable.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $18.99

Another pretty label, this one with Pegasus, the flying horse, on it, reminds us that Pindar is named for the Greek poet and owned by the Damianos family, who are Greek.  The wine spends two years in American oak barrels, and has just been out for six months.  I like the aroma, which has a bit of a black olive smell.  This is another fairly light red, dry, with some tannins and tastes of stewed prune and spice, maybe allspice.  My husband thinks it could use more time.

Pegasus, the flying horse

Pegasus, the flying horse

  1. 2013 Merlot $18.99

Merlot is the most popular red wine grape around here, and this is a fairly typical example of a merlot, though with more of a café au lait aroma than most.  My tasting buddy says it reminds him of Hopjes candy.  I’m thinking mocha.  Again, nice and soft, dry at the end, with some nice fruit flavor, but not particularly interesting.

Another Greek reference--the Argo, Jason's chip.

Another Greek reference–the Argo, Jason’s ship.

  1. 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $34.99

“This,” says our server enthusiastically, “is my favorite!”  Yes, I can see why.  It is quite good.  Oak (two years in French oak), cherry, and tobacco aromas, with lots of berry tastes, this would have gone well with the lamb chops we had last night.  Very drinkable.

  1. 2010 Reserve Merlot $34.99

The menu informs us that these grapes were hand-picked and the wine spent two years in French oak.  We smell black cherry and dark plum and taste lots of dark fruit tastes.  Yes, it is better than their other merlot.  Then again, everyone says 2010 was a very good year, especially for reds.

Lots of snacks

Lots of snacks

Reasons to visit:  big room that accommodates a crowd (which might also be a reason not to go!); frequent music performances; good prices for Long Island; the Autumn Gold, Sunflower Chardonnay, 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 Reserve Merlot; they sell cheese and crackers and other snacks; lots of choices; wines that non-wine drinkers may prefer.

Plenty of room at the bars

Plenty of room at the bars

Me

Pretty stained glass window

Pretty stained glass window

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Clearly they've won lots of awards.

Clearly they’ve won lots of awards.

Pindar Vineyards: Greek Poetry January 25, 2014

http://www.pindar.net/

Pindar's Field

Pindar’s Field

Old Man Winter certainly has the North Fork in his grip.  (Why old?  Why man?  I haven’t the foggiest.)  All the farm stands, even Bayview and Briermere, are closed, and the fields are quiet under a coating of snow and ice.  So we thought about the warmth of the Greek Isles and headed to Pindar, named for the Greek poet.  While the room wasn’t overly warm—we kept our jackets on, though unzipped—the greeting certainly was.  The tasting room is in a converted potato barn, featuring multiple rows of tasting bars and a beautiful stained glass window.  When we entered we were surprised to see the room was empty, since there were plenty of cars in the lot, but our server informed us that there was a large group in another building for a barrel tasting, and the room was soon quite busy for a January afternoon.  They have a selection of wine-related gift items and plenty of cheese and crackers for sale, which is fortunate since they don’t allow outside food.

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This room is only one of the sites run by Dr. Damianos, the owner, and his family.  They also own Duck Walk, which has a site on the South Fork as well, and his son Jason owns Jason’s Vineyard (which I reviewed back in June), plus they have a satellite tasting room in Port Jefferson for those who don’t care to trek to the North Fork.  They also like to tout how eco-friendly they are, with a wind turbine for power, composting and recycling, and other green techniques.

Rows of tasting bars

Rows of tasting bars

As we sipped, we appreciated the quiet guitar and folk-ish singing of John Kroo in the background.  Tastings consist of 5 tastes for $10, chosen from a menu with 15 choices, plus limited production wines available for $3 each.  We opted to do five whites and five reds, sharing tastes of each.  Our server, who was young and enthusiastic and clearly engaged in learning all he could about wine, carefully rinsed our glass between tastes and was able to answer most of our questions about the wines.  We were happily surprised by how many of the wines we liked, since we had not been to Pindar in years because we remembered not liking many of the wines.  There was still one we dumped, but more about that later.

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1)      Autumn Gold                           $10.99

Our server looked at the choices we circled on the tasting menu and then carefully coordinated our tasting so we went in the best order, starting with the lightest white.  The tasting notes compare this to a Pinot Grigio, which I can see, as it is a dry white with lots of pineapple taste and a bit of funkiness.  The funkiness is probably from the Seyval Blanc grape, an upstate grape, which is here blended with Chardonnay.  Fine for an everyday white.

2)      2012 Sauvignon Blanc           $18.99

The aroma is a combination of mineral and lemon, and the taste is also citrus-y.  Also a light wine, this would be good with oysters, as in general we feel Sauvignon Blancs are.  There’s plenty of acid here, and the tasting notes say lemon grass, which seems about right.

3)      2012 Sunflower Chardonnay              $!8.99

Why sunflower, we ask?  In the summer, the field next to the winery is filled with sunflowers, the sale of which goes to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation, we are told.  I like the label.  The wine?  Okay.  My husband says it reminds him or Werther’s Butterscotch Candy, so if you like a really oaky Chard, go for it.  There is, however, a bit of acid which helps make this a sippable white, and I think lots of people would like it well chilled on a summer afternoon.

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4)      2012 Peacock Chardonnay                  $12.99

Why peacock?  Uh-oh, our usually well-informed server doesn’t know, but I bet he will as soon as he gets a chance to find out.  Smells and tastes like a Granny Smith apple, with maybe a hint of banana.  That makes it sound like fruit salad, but actually it is a pleasant white.

5)      Winter White                          $10.99

This may be their most popular white, but our savvy server has already figured out that we won’t care for it.  He says he recommends it to people who say, “I don’t really care for wine, so what should I try?”  Sweet!  Another Seyval Blanc/Chardonnay blend.  We dump it after one sip each, and it was this taste that reminded us why we hadn’t been back in years.

6)      Pythagoras                                                $$14.99

Remember the Pythagorean theory? I do—sort of.  At least, I remember being taught it.  The label, which features an illustration of the theory, also calls this a “geometrical blend.”  More conventionally, this is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.  It has the classic black currant aroma but is softer than I expect, with some notes of oak and mineral.  It would be an okay everyday wine, and is fairly dry, though surprisingly simple for a blend like this.

Note illustration on label!

Note illustration on label!

7)      2010 Syrah                 $14.99

So 2010 is one of those great years for Long Island wines—and 2013 is forecast to be even better—so we are interested to taste these reds.  Not that many places on the North Fork make a Syrah, and we quite like this one.  The aroma is complicated, with some cedar notes and a mouth-puckering flavor of unripe plums that would be great with a fatty meat like lamb.  Actually, we like it, and buy a couple of bottles.

8)      2010 Merlot              $16.99

This is a good, typical Long Island Merlot, with tastes of tobacco and dark chocolate and plum, without the barnyard odor or flavor you sometimes get.

The ship on the label seems to be a reference to the Argonaut, Jason's ship, and a theme of Jason's tasting room.

The ship on the label seems to be a reference to the Argo, Jason’s ship, and a theme of Jason’s tasting room.

9)      2009 Pegasus Cabernet Sauvignon  $$16.99

On the other hand, this wine does have some barnyard odor, plus allspice and prunes.  The taste is better than the smell, and I will borrow my description of the taste from my granddaughter who guesses wine will taste wine-y (without ever having tasted it!).  Why the flying horse?  No idea, but the label is pretty.

pindar pegasus

10)   2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon                  $34.99

Extra!  Noting our serious demeanor and knowledge of wine, our server adds a small taste of the Reserve Cab Sauv to our tasting, which turns out to be a smart move as we later buy a bottle to keep in the cellar.  Excellent.  Although the aroma reminds me of a red candy, the taste is complex, with lots of black cherry and plum, plus other notes.  It would be great with a steak on the grill.

11)   2010 Cabernet Franc                              $34.99

Pine forest aroma and black berry taste make this a nice wine, though not worth the price.  It has lots of fruit but is pleasantly dry.

Someone at Pindar clearly likes to collect corkscrews.

Someone at Pindar clearly likes to collect corkscrews.

Reasons to visit:  Large tasting room with plenty of space for big groups; the 2010 Syrah and the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; the Sunflower Chardonnay if you like an oaky Chard; good prices for Long Island wines;attractive labels; they care about the environment.

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