Channing Daughters: SoFo, So Good September 14, 2018

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https://www.channingdaughters.com/

Friends often ask me, “What’s your favorite winery?”  I have various answers—rosés at Croteaux, whites at One Woman, reds at Pellegrini, Mattebella for sitting outside, Sherwood for the fireplace in the winter, etc.—but really, Channing Daughters is my favorite.  Unfortunately, it is on the South Fork, so we don’t get there as often as we like.  However, we had an errand that could only be done in Southampton, so off we went.  The errand finished, we took a walk around Sag Harbor, got a bite of lunch at the Golden Pear (really good sandwich), and headed to Channing Daughters.

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This line-up of bottles shows just some of the wines Channing Daughters makes.

So why do we like this winery so much?  It is the most creative, interesting winery on Long Island, growing about two dozen different grapes and mixing and matching them in unusual ways.  And we like almost all their wines. That’s why we joined their wine club, despite the inconvenience of having to be home to sign for the UPS delivery.

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Part of the outside area.

The tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and a few barrels on which to rest your tastes, plus some outside tables in the summer.  They carry a small selection of wine-related gifts, and offer some plain crackers as palate cleansers.  However, we’ve never been there without having interesting conversations with both the people at the bar and the servers, who are very well versed in the wines and eager to share what they know. For really complete analyses of the wines, check out their web site.

 

A tasting consists of six wines for $18, and though the wines in the tasting are listed on a chalkboard, we overheard the servers customize tastings for people based on what they like or don’t like.  As wine club members, we could have tasted any wines, but I wanted to taste the two wines which had just come in our shipment.  So we did the standard tasting plus those two.  Although we each could have had our own tasting, we decided to share in the interests of sobriety.

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The upside down tree is their logo, and references one of Walter Channing”s skills, which is carving.

  1. 2015 Vino Bianco           $20

A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 26% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Tocai Friulano and 23% Chardonnay, this is a basic good white wine.  Dry and refreshing, it has, observed my husband, “lots of taste.”  Citrus, flowers, spice, fruit—I agree.  They age some of the wine in steel, some in old oak, some in new oak, then blend it all together.  As I said, they are creative!  We buy two bottles, and think about having some the next time we buy oysters.

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  1. 2016 Rosato di Sculpture Garden $25

This is one of the rosés they make.  A number of years ago, they had seven, the result of late heavy rains which made them reluctant to use the red wine grapes for reds, as the flavor would be too diluted.  So instead they made rosé.  Good move.  The rosés were so popular, they now make a bunch every year.  This one is a field blend, of 91% merlot, 6% teroldego, and 3% blaufrankisch.  Really nice.  The aroma is somewhat earthy and minerally, and it has the strawberry taste you expect plus a really nice minerality and maybe some nutmeg.  Good.

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Orange wine!

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  1. 2014 Meditazione $40

Pronouncing the name with Italian verve, our server explained all about orange wine.  This is a white wine made using the red wine method of fermenting the juice with the skins, hence the orange color.  A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 21% Muscat Ottonel, 14% Chardonnay, 13% Tocai Friulano, 7% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Pinot Bianco and 4% Gewurztraminer, this is not an easy wine to drink on its own.  We have it with a couple of crackers, which improves the experience.  It smells like baked oranges and tastes like apples and spices.  They suggest pairing it with game birds or sausages, and that makes sense to me.

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  1. 2017 Rosso Fresco $22

Fresh red?  Yes, because this is a light, bright red, more along the lines of a Beaujolais.  I could see serving on the deck with hot dogs.  It’s another blend, of 76% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 8% Blaufrankisch, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Teroldego, and is barely aged.  They even suggest serving it slightly chilled.  It would make a great summer red.

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  1. 2017 Petillant Naturel Rosato $28

I usually eschew sparkling pink wines.  Fortunately, I did not skip this one.  Wow, is it good!  Mouthwatering, bubbly, dry, with some strawberry aroma and flavor, this wines makes a good case for never dismissing any type of wine before you taste the iteration in front of you.  The servers were going into great detail on the methods used to create this wine, which included freezing the tank at one point and fermenting it in the bottle.  Just another Channing Daughter original.

 

  1. VerVino Vermouth (500 ml) $28

Yes, the tasting ends with one of the vermouths they make.  This is a somewhat sweet one, and would make a fine aperitif or dessert wine.  There’s a somewhat chemical aroma—maybe petroleum? —but fortunately the vermouth doesn’t taste like gasoline.  I get sweet apples, pears, and other fruit flavors.  Vermouth is made by adding various herbs and other ingredients to wine, and at Channing they vary them by season.  This one includes such fall produce as apples, Asian pears, pumpkin, butternut squash, calendula, sage, borage etc.

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The “wild child” name references the use of wild yeast.

  1. 2015 L’Enfant Sauvage $38

This is one of the wines in our current shipment, so I added it to the tasting.  A chardonnay made with wild yeasts, this wine has varied over the years.  Sometimes it’s my favorite, and other times…not so much.  This iteration is yummy.  Although it spends fifteen months in French oak, it doesn’t have that buttery taste I dislike in oaked chards.  I do detect a bit of that woody flavor, which reminds me of when I was a kid and I would sometimes bite my pencils, but I also get lime and baked pear.  You could have it with very assertive dishes, like spicy Chinese food, or even as an aperitif.  We buy a bottle to add to the one we already have, aging in our cellar.

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  1. 2016 Dornfelder

I wonder if this is a wine which would improve with age, since of all the wines we tried today this is my least favorite.  But they do suggest aging it in the bottle, so we will see.  A blend of 85% dornfelder and 15% pinot noir, it has red fruit aromas and flavors, but is not a really deep big red.

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Lots of choices!

Reasons to visit:  some of the best and most creative wines on Long Island; the Vino Bianco, the Rosato, the Petillant Naturel Rosato, L’Enfant Sauvage, and more; there’s always something new to try; one of the few wineries on the South Fork, so well worth a visit if you find yourself in Sag Harbor.

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Mr. Channing’s sculptures decorate the tasting room and the grounds.

 

Bedell Cellars: Price/Quality Question September 8, 2018

Bedell Cellars:  Price/Quality Question    September 8, 2018

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https://www.bedellcellars.com/

I’ve read a number of articles about the price of a bottle in relation to the quality of the wine inside it, with many opining that it is not a simple relationship.  Often, what you are paying for with an expensive bottle is some measure of prestige or canny marketing, not necessarily the experience of drinking the wine.  My husband and I have had the good fortune and pleasure to go to events which included very expensive wines—vintage Dom Perignon, premium Bordeaux—which we certainly enjoyed.  But the question is, were they that much better than the $20 bottles of wine we often have with dinner.  Better, yes, but exponentially better?  Not so sure.  I was thinking about this because the wines at Bedell, while mostly pleasant and drinkable, are overall fairly expensive for what you get.

On a surprisingly chilly day (It’s been too hot to sit outside most of the summer, and then today it was too cold!), we headed to Bedell Cellars, knowing they have a pleasant tasting room, and not planning to sit on the porch—which was good, since the outdoor area was closed in preparation for a wedding.  We stood at the bar in the elegant black and white room and studied the menu, which didn’t take long since they only have one flight option, of five wines for $20, though you can add tastes of any other wines for $5-$7 each.  They are already sold out of two of their wines.

Our server was enthusiastic and chatty, though somewhat self-conscious about my notebook, even though I assured her that our main interest was in the wines.  She informed us at the end of our tasting that we could take our receipt and go over to Corey Creek, now owned by Bedell, for two free tastes of the wines on tap there, about which more later.

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1.        2017 Sparkling Rosé      $45

Just as I said, “This would make a perfect bachelorette party drink,” as if on cue, a group of women surrounding one who wore a headband that proudly proclaimed “Bride” entered.  Pink, bubbly, fruity, with a touch of minerality, this blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot seems like it would be pleasant to drink.  However, we felt that ultimately it did not cohere and was a bit too sweet for us.  We still would prefer Croteaux.

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The label is certainly pretty.

2.       2017 Viognier    $30

Although only a few wineries on the North Fork grow viognier, we just happen to have visited both Palmer and Kontokosta recently, and their bottles of viognier are $25, while at Bedell it costs $30.  We liked all three of the viogniers, and Bedell’s is no better than the others. This one has an orange blossom aroma with a slight metallic tang.  It has some nice fruitiness, and while I found it a bit too sweet my husband felt it had a nice balance between sweetness and minerality.  While we were discussing the wine, several people stopped in for glasses of wine, and two of them got the viognier, so clearly it is a wine people like.  My tasting buddy said it was a good summer wine, and I theorized that it could stand up to an assertive dish like bouillabaisse. 

3.       2016 Taste White            $40

Both the wine and the image on the bottle are blends.  The wine mixes 64% albariño, 18% chardonnay,10% sauvignon blanc, and 8% viognier.  How is the image a blend?  According to our server, the artist did a composite portrait of five people to end with a face that looks like Marilyn Monroe.  (The owner of the winery sits on the board of MOMA, as we are always informed.)  The aroma and taste are both relatively complex and interesting, with smells of honeysuckle, baked pear, and something vegetal, maybe asparagus or grass.  I laugh and say it tastes like white grapes, because it seems funny to think that a drink made from grapes rarely tastes like grapes.  We also detect a hint of pineapple, and other fruits, plus pleasant acidity.  It’s not a white for sipping, nor would you want it with something very delicate.

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4.       2016 Cabernet Franc      $45

The tasting menu describes this light red as juicy and ripe.  I say meh.  It is barely aged—six to nine months in neutral French oak—and has no depth and a very short finish.  It evanesces, as we say.  The aroma is of dark fruit, but the wine mostly tastes of minerals and a little fruit.  If you want a robust red, don’t pick this nothing burger!

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It is a fairly generous pour.

5.       2016 Malbec     $50

I’m not too crazy about this red either, though I think people would find it easy to drink.  It’s a very simple, slightly cherry-flavored red, with no tannins.  It does develop a bit more flavor as it sits, and we think it might be better with something like lamb chops.

 

On to Corey Creek!

https://www.bedellcellars.com/the-tap-room/

 

              Just a little further east from Bedell is Corey Creek, which used to be a separate winery until Bedell took it over.  There they offer wine from a tap, like beer, and you can bring a bottle to be filled.  The building is pleasantly rustic, with a pretty back porch overlooking pinot gris vines.  The atmosphere is more informal than Bedell, and we saw families whose children were running around outside, plus several dogs on leashes.  The bachelorette party was here, too. 

              Many of the wines here are aged in clay vessels, an ancient method being revived, so we were interested to see if the cabernet franc here tasted any different than the one we’d just had.  They also offer Frosé, a frozen concoction of rosé, sugar, and water.  No, thank you. 

 

1.       Syrah

For a syrah, this is a very light wine, with not much in the way of aroma or taste.  My husband says it has “forward tongue tingle.” 

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Our Corey Creek tastes

2.       Cabernet Franc

This is another not-much-there wine, though if you found reds challenging you might like it.  Our conclusion?  “Free is the right price” for these tastes.

 

Reasons to visit:  elegant tasting room, artistic labels, the Viognier and the Taste White; Corey Creek has a pleasantly rustic setting and the novelty of wine on tap, plus a taste is free if you’ve been to Bedell.

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Look how big those grapes are getting!

Kontokosta: The Far East August 28, 2018

Kontokosta: The Far East              August 28, 2018

https://kontokostawinery.com/

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Don’t be fooled by the weathered barn look; this is a fairly recently built tasting room.

East of Greenport sits the last winery on the North Fork wine trail:  Kontokosta.  We were there on yet another of the ridiculously hot and humid days of this hot and humid August, but a small contingent of our party braved the heat to hike the property to a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound.  Then they returned to the tasting room, red-cheeked and sweaty, to be revived with Kontokosta’s own sparkling water and grape soda.  It may have been the effect of the heat, but one member of our party who describes herself as a “grape soda connoisseur” said it was the best grape soda she’d ever had.

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That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance. It was really hot out there!

 

The rest of us stayed inside and shared tastings and glasses of wine, enjoying the air-conditioning and the company of each other—and the wine.  We sat at one of the long tables in Kontokosta’s airy, modern tasting room, transporting our tastings to the table ourselves.  A tasting consists of your choice of any three of their twelve wines for $16.  My husband and I decided that we would share a tasting of three whites and another of three reds, since it is a one-ounce pour.  So clearly, we could return for a completely different set of six tastes, which we may yet do.

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Part of the bar area.

They also offer a menu of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.  No dogs or outside food allowed.

  1. 2017 Viognier   $25

The aroma is sweet, of honeysuckle and peach, and the taste has some peachiness as well.  One friend described it as an “unctuous peachiness,” and we went on the discuss its appropriateness as an aperitif.  “It’s a crowd pleaser,” he said.  We also thought it would pair well with a chicken dish that had either a white sauce of something citrusy, or perhaps charcuterie.  It’s a refreshing, pleasant white.

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Our three whites. We took the glasses to a table.

  1. 2016 Field Blend $22

A field blend means just what it sounds like—a blend of various grapes, all grown in the same field.  This one blends 50% riesling, 30% viognier, and 20% sauvignon blanc.  The aroma is mostly mineral, and the wine itself is super dry, rather tart, with not much fruit.  It really needs to be drunk with food, but since we had just had a big delicious lunch at the Olive Branch café in Greenport, we were not about to buy any snacks.  We were not particularly fond of this one.

  1. 2014 Anemometer White $35

Another blend, this time of 45% chardonnay, 40% sauvignon blanc, and 15% viognier, Anemometer (the name a reference to the windmill which provides much of their power) is aged in neutral French oak, so it is not too oaky.  There is a subtle vanilla aroma, but also minerality.  One friend compares it to a Chablis, not surprising given the chardonnay in it.  The taste combines minerality, pineapple, some tropical fruit, and a touch of saltiness.  I don’t usually like oaked chardonnays, but this one has only a hint of butteriness.  Our friend says it is rather rich for a white, and could actually go with a steak, albeit not one with a lot of taste.  Maybe a filet mignon with a sauce that included some of the wine?

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The reds.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $29

Now we move on to our second group of three, the reds.  We asked the server for her recommendations, not having any reason to choose one red over another, and this was her first pick, as she noted it scored 90 points in Wine Enthusiast.  It’s good, fairly light for a red, with lots of fruit aroma and dried fruit tastes, with some tannins.

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One part of the tasting room, looking towards the door.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve $40

I often wonder about wines labeled “reserve,” and priced higher than the same grape from the same place.  However, this wine is actually better than the previous one.  The aroma combines dark fruits like black cherry, plus pepper.  It has more character than the other cab franc, and is softer and less tannic.  It would go well with duck, like the duck breasts from Bayview we plan to barbeque that evening.

  1. 2014 Anemometer Red $50

When they first opened, the anemometers were their least expensive wines, but now they are the most expensive.  This one is a blend of 40% cabernet franc, 22% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 18% syrah, which makes it their Bordeaux type.  Meh.  I much prefer the Cabernet Franc Reserve.  Not a lot of fruit to this one, nor is it at all complex.  One friend notes that it is “not challenging to drink,” and reminds him of a rioja.  Lots of tannins, so maybe given time…

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Now there’s something you don’t see at every winery.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting on the shore of Long Island Sound; modern, airy tasting room; menu of snacks; the Viognier and the Cabernet Franc Reserve; the grape soda.

Sannino Vinveyard: Another Denizen of Peconic Lane July 13, 2018

www.sanninovineyard.com/

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As you near the southern end of Peconic Lane, you come to Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard, formerly Ackerly Pond.

Here’s another place where you can often talk to the winemaker or a member of his family.  On this beautiful Friday afternoon we were served our wine by a daughter of Anthony Sannino, who has clearly absorbed much of her father’s love of winemaking.  I enjoy these discussions, as I always learn something new about wine and wine-making.

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This view encompasses most of the tasting room.

The cozy Sannino tasting room is in a converted barn, and they also have a pleasant outdoor area with some shade-giving canopies.  Since we had the place to ourselves, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the warm—but not too hot—afternoon.  Our decision was facilitated by the fact that they serve all of your tastes at once, on a tray with circles where you can indicate your choices.

A tasting is $18 for six tastes, or $3.50 per taste.  As we perused the menu of thirteen wines (plus two that are sold out), Ms. Sannino gave us some useful information about the choices.  Most of the whites are new this year, the 2017 vintage, except for a couple of oaked ones.  The reds are about to be supplanted by a new vintage, so we may have to come back to try the rest of them.  She’s particularly enthusiastic about the 2015 reds, she told us, as it was a good year for reds.

She also offered us a cheese and charcuterie tray, but we had had lunch, so we declined.  It did sound very nice.  By the way, they don’t allow outside food or drinks.  She also proudly pointed out a number of their wines which had recently won awards.  We will be looking forward, in a few years, to see the result of an experiment they are trying:  they have planted three acres with several different varieties of grapes which no one else on the North Fork is growing.

We finally decided to try all six of the 2017 whites in a shared tasting.  How about the reds?  We were going to come back another day, but then, after we finished the whites, we decided to go ahead and add the four reds on the menu. (My husband, the designated driver, gallantly offered to have just one sip of each while I finished the rest of the glass.  It’s a tough job…)  On her own, Ms. Sannino added a taste of the 2015 cabernet franc, which will soon be on the menu.

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Five whites and one rose

  1. 2017 Gewürztraminer                 $24

Since gewürztraminer can often be sweet, I was wondering why this was first on the menu.  One sip told me why—it’s not sweet!  The menu describes it as “elegant,” which is not a bad summary, though it doesn’t really tell you much about the wine.  The aroma is quite floral and the taste combines spice and fruit and some minerality, plus a touch of grapefruit.  Overall it is dry and light, without the veggie taste you sometimes get in a gewürztraminer.

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Another couple of months and they’ll be wine.

  1. 2017 Chilly Day Chardonnay $24

The menu also includes an oaked chard, but I tend to prefer steel, so I stuck with this one.  There’s not much aroma, though I detect a hint of forest floor.  However, it tastes better than it smells, with a toasty warmth and a touch of lime.  “Serviceable,” says my tasting buddy.  I think it would be good with bluefish.

  1. 2017 Fresco White Blend $20

Our server notes that since this is a blend of the other wines we have in the tasting, it might be fun to taste back and forth, trying to detect the traces of each in this one.  It’s a blend of 55% chardonnay, 15% gewürztraminer, 15% riesling, and 15% sauvignon blanc.  I like the aroma, which is sweet and complex, with something a bit funky (like the chardonnay) and minerality.  The taste, however, is relatively simple, but dry, with notes of salt and, believe it or not, cucumber.  It’s nice to sip outside on a warm summer day.  If we hadn’t just replenished our whites I could see buying a bottle.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $26

The menu describes this as “off dry,” which sometimes means too sweet for us, but though this does have some sweetness I find it balanced enough that I like it.  The aroma is very attractive, and reminds me of 7 Up, of all things.  There are tastes of mango and pineapple, but the sweetness dissipates fairly quickly so you get other flavors as well.  I think it would pair well with charcuterie, and when I note this to our server she tells us how this wine came to be.  Her father, the winemaker, called her one day to say that the wine had, on its own, stopped fermentation.  Happy with the result, he left it as is.  Good decision.

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  1. 2017 Riesling $22

On the other hand, the riesling is too sweet.  It smells like clover honey and tastes like sweet oranges with some spice.  It might be okay with Thai food.

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The rose is a pretty color.

  1. 2017 Bianca Dolce $16

“Gentle pink roses” says the menu of this rosé.  I’m not sure what a gentle rose is, but this is a very pleasant rosé, made from 100% merlot with the “free run juice” which comes right off the grapes.  Typical strawberry aroma and flavor, this is another dry, light wine.  I still prefer Croteaux.

  1. 2014 Merlot $25

Now we get a fresh tray of reds, labeled on the paper with the number on the menu of the wine.  2014 was not a great year for reds, and this is a fairly light merlot, with typical cherry flavor and aroma.  Just okay.

  1. 2014 Syrah $30

This is from their “certified sustainable” vineyard.  It has some tannins and nice fruit, but almost no aroma.  This is not a big wine, but would be okay with lamb chops.

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  1. 2014 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot $35

Why “spotlight”?  Because, she explains, most wineries use petit verdot as a blending wine, but in this case they wanted to put the spotlight on the petit verdot, just blending in 15% cabernet sauvignon.  After the fruity aroma I was expecting a bigger wine, but this is good anyway.  My husband notes that it starts stronger than it ends.  Perhaps it needs to age more, as we do detect some tannins.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon          $30

I insist this smells like grape Jell-O.  I am doubted.  In any event, this is another dry, rather light red, with some cherry berry tastes.  It wouldn’t stand up to a steak, but could go with pork chops.

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An array of bottles bearing awards

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $?  (Not on the menu, but the sold-out 2014 was $34)

Power of the book, as we often say, but also, I like to think, of our sincere interest in the wines:  we get an extra taste.  And this is the best of the reds, for sure.  I swear it smells like bread and butter pickles, as well as fruit.  The wine has lots of tannins but is rather smooth and certainly has potential, perhaps with more aging.  Good.  I enjoy drinking it.  Pairing?  How about a marinated strip steak with chimichurri sauce?

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Some wine-related gifts. I bought one.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant small winery with the chance to talk with the winemaker or a family member; on Peconic Lane, so it could be part of a winery walking tour; the Fresco White Blend, the sauvignon blanc, the 2015 cabernet franc; nice outdoor area; small selection of wine-related gift items, including t-shirts and candles.  They also offer wine-making classes, tours of the winery, and overnights at their small inn.

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Though they’ve sold out all the Ackerly Pond wines, they keep the sign up out of respect for their predecessor at the site.

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!

Macari Vineyards: A Quiet Winter Day December 20, 2017

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The vines are bare now.

http://macariwines.com/visit/mattituck/

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It’s pretty quiet on the North Fork now. There’s a skim of ice on the shallow parts of the Mattituck Inlet and almost all of the farm stands have closed. A few wineries are closed for the season, while others are only open on weekends. Macari’s tasting room on the Main Road is closed, but its other location, on the corner of Bergen Road and Sound Avenue, is open every day, so that’s where we went on this chilly day.

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The large tasting room was decorated for Christmas with lights and pine branches, and if we had wanted to buy gifts of local or other gourmet jams, pickles, etc., we could have found plenty of choices on the shelves near the entrance, where they also have cheeses, charcuterie, and crackers for sale. (No outside food allowed.) There was only one other couple at the bar, and one table of people in the adjoining room, so we had plenty of time to chat with the enthusiastic and well-informed server.

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Our favorite local pickles!

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No outside food allowed, but they have plenty for sale.

The menu offers three different flights of five tastes each: the Estate Flight for $20, the Cuvée Flight for $25, or the Vintage Flight for $30. There’s also a dessert wine flight, or, the server offered, she could custom build a flight if, for example, you only liked reds. As you might expect, as the flights increased in price, so did the wines in each one. We decided to share the Cuvée Flight, and the pour was generous enough that we felt that was plenty (plus we got a couple of extra tastes, courtesy of my notebook!).

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After the tasting we bought one bottle of red wine and a jar of our favorite local pickles, Backyard Brine’s “Dill Death do us Part.”

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1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $24
As our server poured this first taste, she enthused about what a great summer wine it is. No argument there. It is a steel-fermented, crisp, lemony white, with an aroma of mineral and gooseberry. It would go well with a big plate of chilled oysters.

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2. 2016 “Lifeforce” Sauvignon Blanc $28
But now, she added, at this time of year, she prefers this version of the grape, and poured us an “extra” taste. Instead of being fermented in steel or wood, they use a concrete “egg” as a vat, and the result is quite a different wine. Though still somewhat citrusy, it is not nearly as lemony, and has some tropical fruit flavors, like pineapple. The aroma is almost woodsy or yeasty. There is definitely more going on in the taste of this one, and it could be sipped on its own. It is called Lifeforce because the egg shape causes the wine to stir itself. She showed us a whole explanation of the effects of using concrete, some of which is on this page of their web site: http://macariwines.com/wine/2016-sauvignon-blanc-lifeforce/

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An explanation of the concrete “egg.”

3. 2015 Chardonnay Estate $24
This is a fairly typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with a touch of sweetness, some citrus, and a bit of roasted pear taste. Nice finish. It would be good with charcuterie.

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An array of whites.

4. 2016 Rosé $20
Made from cabernet franc and merlot grapes, this is a very light, dry, almost white, rosé. The aroma does not have the expected strawberry scent, but is almost chemical, like a band-aid. However, it tastes fine, less fruity than some of Croteaux’s rosés, with plenty of citrus. I could see having it with lobster bisque or some other creamy, buttery seafood dish.

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The rose is a very light pink.

5. 2013 Merlot Reserve $40
Now we move on to the reds, and she rinses our glass with a bit of red wine. We decide this is better than the average North Fork merlot. Aged sixteen months in new French oak, it has a delicious aroma of dark fruits and complex tastes of black cherry and cherry pie, dry, with good tannins. It could probably age well.

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Our favorite of the reds, the Dos Aguas.

6. 2013 Dos Aguas $32
The name of this one is a nod to the two waters of the North Fork—the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. A blend of 50% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec, it is only made in good years, which 2013 clearly was. We really like it! We smell cherry, tobacco, and other dark fruits, and taste them as well. Lots of tannins. Dry, it would go well with steak or lamb chops, and we decide to buy a bottle and keep (or try to keep!) it for a couple of years.

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If you are serious and thoughtful about your tasting, sometimes you get extras!

7. 2014 Syrah $45
We are so enthusiastic about the Dos Aguas that our server wonders if we would like to try their syrah. Sure, I reply, I often really like syrahs. I like this one, too, with its spicy aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg and soft tannins. I see that I have written good twice in my notes.

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Plenty of room at the bar in the winter, but it is often crowded in the summer.

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There are many tables in the next room, plus more outside.

Reasons to visit: A good all-around winery, with a long bar and ample tables; a good selection of cheeses, etc., so you can put together a snack, plus some local gourmet items; the Lifeforce Sauvignon Blanc, the Merlot Reserve, the Dos Aguas—actually, we liked all the wines, but those were especially interesting; two locations, so in the summer, if one is overcrowded you can try the other.

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When you stand at the bar, you can look into the wine cellar.

Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block         October 20, 2017

Peconic Cellar Door:  New Kids on the Block

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/

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If you like the idea of chatting with a pair of passionately committed winemakers, Peconic Cellar Door is the place for you.  Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy are the women who own, run, and make the wines for the labels As If, Brooklyn Oenology, and Saltbird Cellars.  They are the ones behind the bar in their small, white-washed space on Peconic Lane (adjacent to Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker’s Studio), where they will happily talk to you as much as you like about their wines—or give you space to sip and discuss with each other.

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The menu is rather extensive, but not all the wines are available for tasting or by the glass.

And there was much to talk about, as we learned their ideas about wine-making, why certain wines have the names they do, and their past experiences in wineries.  We mostly talked to Robin, who, despite her youthful appearance, has spent many years traveling around the world, learning about wine-making techniques from New Zealand to California, and more.  Her label is Saltbird, and as a native North Forker she is certainly familiar with salt air and local birds!  Then Alie chimed in as we asked about her wines.  She is the founder of Brooklyn Oenology (founded in Brooklyn, and abbreviated BOE), whose beautiful labels sport removable reproductions of works of art by Brooklyn artists.  She also makes the As If wines, which are named Serendipity, Persistence, and Courage—some of the qualities she needed to make them.

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Their space is small, so they request no large groups.

The entire menu of wines includes about twenty-three choices, most of which are available for tastes at $3-$4 per generous taste.  However, they also offer a set menu of four tastes for $14, which they said would change periodically, “So you can come back and have a different experience…and so we don’t get bored.”  Most, but not all, of the wines are also available by the glass.  If you want a bottle to consume on the premises, they charge a $10 service fee.   (Also, they request that you not bring outside food, as they will soon have their own snack menu, and they also request no pets.)

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We opted for the Feature Flight, and then, since it was all whites, added three reds at Robin’s recommendation. So the first four are from the flight—and very good choices they were.

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  1. 2015 Saltbird Chardonnay         $20

We tend to like steel-fermented chardonnays, and this was no exception.  Robin informed us that it spends some time “on the lees,” which gives it more body and taste than your average chard.  I found the aroma sweet, with some notes of cut grass, while my husband scented Brussels sprouts.  “A seasonal smell,” he joked, as we are happily scanning the farm stands for the first sight of Brussels sprouts on the stem.  This is a tasty wine, dry, with some lemon but nice depth.  I think I could happily sip this with some brie or camembert.

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One of Brooklyn Oenology’s artistic labels.

  1. 2014 BOE Social Club White $17

Another winner, this blend of seven grapes—chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, vidal blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and viognier—is steel fermented and dry.  Lots of tart grapefruity taste, but also some sweetness underneath.  If I had to guess, I’d bet that chardonnay is the predominant grape.  Very drinkable, especially with a seafood chowder.  We buy a bottle.

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  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, and sauvignon blanc, which is aged in neutral French oak.  The aroma reminds me of something sticky, though I’m not sure what.  The taste is tart, like a green apple.  It’s very good, but I don’t think it is worth the price.

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Very orange orange wine! That’s Alie in the background.

  1. 2013 BOE Broken Land $30

Broken Land?  According to Alie, that is the actual meaning of the Dutch name for Brooklyn.  Who knew?  You could also say it is a wine that breaks with tradition, as this is an orange wine made from pinot gris and gewürztraminer.  As Alie explains to us, orange wines are made by leaving white wine grapes to ferment with the skins (which are otherwise usually removed), and the particular grapes she chose have multi-colored skins, lending her wine a deep orange color.  It would be a great wine to serve at a Halloween party, especially if you’re serving Chinese food, as I think the flavors of lychee, ginger root, and other fruits would complement that.  The aroma reminds me of tangerines.

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It might be fun to buy the Motley Cru for a Motley Crue fan.

  1. 2012 BOE Motley Cru $35

Now we are done with the set flight, and we are given a fresh glass to try the reds, choosing some which happen to be open and on the counter.  The name entails another discussion, as it is not inspired by the rock group Motley Crüe!  Alie explains that it is made from a motley assortment of grapes—50% cabernet sauvignon, 28% malbec, 9%syrah, 8% petit verdot, and 5% corot noir—and then she added cru as a pun on the wine term.  The corot noir, by the way, is a new cold tolerant hybrid made by Cornell.  This is a fairly light red, with a pleasant aroma and soft tannins.  Not much fruit.  This would be a good wine to get if you have a group of people with varying entrees, as it could go with almost anything, from chicken to lamb, or even fish.

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Another really pretty label

  1. BOE Haywater Cove Merlot $18

Although this is a merlot, it has very little cherry flavor or aroma.  Robin agrees, and suggests it has more of a blueberry/bramble flavor, and we think she is right. This is a pleasant red, dry, with soft tannins.  The label tells us that Haywater Cove is an actual location on the North Fork, where “three creeks meet at the mouth of Cutchogue Harbor.”

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As If refers to Alie’s initials and also her approach to wine making.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

Yum.  A blend of 60% cabernet franc, 25% petit verdot, and 15% cabernet sauvignon, this has a delicious fruity aroma and lots of dark fruit tastes.  For some reason, my tasting buddy says it is “like a new pillow.”  Okay.  Definitely a wine one could sit and sip, it would also go well with food.  I like it the best of the reds.

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This time of year they are open Friday through Monday only. It might be a good idea to call or check their web page before you go.

Reasons to visit:  a chance to chat with two charming and interesting winemakers; you want to try some new wines; some of the prettiest and most interesting labels around; the Saltbird Chardonnay, the Social Club White, the Broken Land orange wine, the As If Persistence red; they are right next door to the Winemaker’s Studio, so you can go to two tastings without driving (and Sannino Bella Vita is just a mile or so up the street, plus Greenport Harbor Brewing is just a little further at the corner). 

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Hudson Valley Visit:  Nofowineaux Takes a Trip October 7-13

We decided to take a trip north to see art museums and galleries, visit relatives, and take some hikes in the beautiful Hudson Valley countryside.  No surprise, we also made time for some tastings, visiting one brewery and two wineries.

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Storm King and DIA Beacon have both been on my bucket list for a while, so now I can cross them off.  Both are well worth the visit, Storm King in particular (but be sure to go when the weather is nice, and try to arrive early in the day).  We also enjoyed sauntering up and down Beacon’s main street, popping in and out of little galleries and antique/gift shops.  The Roundhouse Hotel is pricey for the area, but comfortable and well run.

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One view from Storm King.

Another place worth traveling to is Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, New York, where we hiked around the lake with my brother and sister-in-law.  It’s a beautiful place, with the garden aspects integrated into the natural landscape, providing scenic views at every turn.  And if you’re in Kingston, you should make time for the Maritime Museum, with its emphasis on the history of the boats and industries along the Hudson River.

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Innisfree Garden, an amazingly beautiful place.

Our final hike of the week was in the John Boyd Thacher State Park outside Albany, where the scenery reminded us very much of the movie Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  Alas, we did not see him running bare-chested through the trees.  If you go, be sure to stop into the new visitor center.

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So, now on to our tastings…

Hudson Valley Brewery, October 8, 2017

Beacon, New York

http://hudsonvalleybrewery.com/about-us

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Before they put out the tables, we had trouble spotting the brewery.

Finding the brewery was a bit of a challenge, as it is located in the midst of a huge parking lot behind an apartment building, and only a small sign on the door indicates that you have arrived.  We walked past before they opened, and then when we returned there were picnic tables set up outside and the garage-style door had been swung open.  Inside, it is very industrial chic, reminding us that Beacon is sometimes referred to as “Brooklyn north.”  The bar is not very long, so we decided to take our tastes to a picnic table across from it.  We would have sat outside, but all those tables were filled, primarily with a young crowd.

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Industrial chic room

They offer eight different beers, a four-ounce pour in attractive stemmed glasses at $2-$3 per taste.  The chipper server informed us that they only give two tastes per person per time at the bar, so we each took two and then returned for the final four.  We left our credit card to run a tab, thinking we would get a whole glass of whichever beer we liked best, but as it happened there were none we liked enough to get a glass of.  Their beers generally have a sour, fruity flavor profile, which is not a taste I like.

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  1. Pillow Hat IPA

The aroma is very grapefruity, with a touch of something funky.  The taste is super citrusy, and it is the kind of beer I could see downing on a hot day after working in the garden.

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Our second group of tastes

  1. Feel No Way Pilsner

Cement basement aroma, with a touch of sauerkraut.  The taste is sour, oaty and grainy, and reminds my husband of Kix cereal!

  1. Little Memory IPA

This one also smells like grapefruit juice, plus pineapple juice.  I dislike it so much that we don’t finish the taste. It is sour but also fruity.

  1. Plateaux IPA

Okay, this one we decide is like a beery orange juice or an over the hill cider that has gone sour.  If you don’t actually like beer, you might drink this with a burger.

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Our first group of tastes

  1. Amulet Sour Farmhouse

Blueberry pie aroma?  Certainly fruity.  The taste reminds me of very sour candy.  I say bleh; my husband says maybe after a run.  I’d rather drink water in that case!

  1. Flying Colors Sour Farmhouse

By this time, we have invested $2 in a bag of cracked pepper and sea salt chips, which helps us get through the tasting.  This is another fruity-tooty beer, and rather sweet.  As we discuss the tastes, my tasting buddy comments that we are treating this more like a wine tasting in terms of all the aromas and flavors we are finding, which is true.

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  1. Phase Delay Sour Farmhouse

This one smells like an IPA, very citrusy, and tastes rather like sucking on a lemon.  Super sour, say my notes.  At least this one is not objectionably sweet, and is drinkable if what you want is a beer-like lemonade.

  1. Silhouette Brunch Style Sour Beer

Their own tasting notes compare this to a Tropicana juice box, though I again think it resembles a sweet and sour lemonade.  I find it barely potable, and, as with several of the other beers, we don’t finish our taste.

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There are snacks one can buy. Our little bag of chips cost $2.

Reasons to visit:  you’re in Beacon and you want to go to a beer tasting (but I wish we had tried the other brewery in town); you don’t actually like beer that tastes like beer.  That evening we had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant on Main Street which had Singha beer on tap, and much preferred that to any of the beers we had at Hudson Valley.

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Benmarl Winery October 9, 2017

Marlboro, New York

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Entrance to Benmarl winery

http://benmarl.com/

Finding Benmarl Winery would also have been a challenge, if not for Google maps, which easily directed us to this mountain-top site, about twenty minutes outside of Beacon.  They are part of the Shawangunk Wine Trail (who knew?), which includes about fifteen wineries along the Shawangunk Mountains.  We considered visiting one or two more, but many of them were closed on Monday, and others were a bit further than we wanted to venture on this rainy, foggy afternoon.

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Resident kitty

Benmarl has a pleasantly rustic tasting room, and the servers were enthusiastic and chatty.  Outside we noted a large tent set-up, and learned that the day before they had had a special grape-stomping event.  Oh my.  Our server informed us that “Benmarl” means “Hill of Slate,” and the farm is allegedly the “oldest vineyard in America.”  On their 37 acres they grow Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Muscat, then get the rest of their grapes from the Finger Lakes and…Long Island!  The North Fork, to be exact.  Ha.  I had said as we were on our way there that I was interested in comparing their wines to Long Island wines, but, no surprise, they tasted rather familiar.

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For $10 you get to try six (out of 17 or more—they were out of some) of their wines, and since the pour was rather small for a shared tasting and I was curious to try it, we paid an additional couple of dollars to try the Baco Noir.  If you want to keep your glass, your tasting is $12.

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There were lots of options on the menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $20

The grapes for this wine are from the North Fork, and it has the characteristic honeysuckle aroma and a taste that combines citrus and minerality.  Good, though a tad sweeter than I like.

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  1. 2016 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $15

Our server told us about how she likes to recommend this wine to anyone who insists they don’t like chardonnay, since what they don’t like is probably the oak-aged buttery California style of chard.  We agree, and like this citrusy light white, with flavors of gooseberry and mineral.  Quite pleasant.  We buy a bottle, which matches well with a pasta and salmon dish my sister-in-law makes for us when we arrive at their house.  These grapes are from Seneca Lake.

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  1. 2016 Traminette $18

This is one of their sweeter wines, but not cloyingly so, with a candy aroma and some tropical fruit tastes.  I could see having it with spicy food.  Finger Lakes grapes.

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  1. 2016 Merlot $20

As we switch to the reds, she gives the glass a quick rinse with some of the wine.  This, I observe, tastes very like a North Fork merlot.  Not surprisingly, since that is where the grapes come from.  You can smell the oak (aged 16 months in French oak) and cherry, and it also has lots of cherry taste, plus maybe a bit of tobacco.

  1. 2015 Slate Hill Red $20

A Bordeaux blend, this is 48% North Fork merlot, 42% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 10% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak.  The aroma is fruity, but also mushroomy, with a hint of something chemical—but that may be due to the cellar, the door to which was opened behind us as we stood there, and from which emanated a basement/chemical smell.  In any event, we didn’t much care for this wine, which had a sour aftertaste and not a lot of fruit.

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  1. 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve $33

Another blend, this is 30% North Fork merlot, 20% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 50% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 24 months.  We like it much better than the Slate Hill.  It has lots of fruit—dark plums, cherry, blackberry, coffee—and is pleasantly tannic and dry.

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  1. 2015 Baco Noir $35

I really wanted to try a wine made from estate-grown grapes, and this is all theirs, from vines first planted in 1958.  The aroma is great, with lots of fruit, very plummy, but the taste does not have as much fruit as the smell promised.  It is dry and tannic, but not particularly complex.

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Reasons to visit:  you are traveling up the Hudson Valley and want to do a wine tasting; the sauvignon blanc, stainless steel chardonnay, merlot, and Proprietor’s Reserve; pretty reasonable prices for a small winery; beautiful mountain setting; you want to support a winery that practices “sustainable” agriculture, with no spraying.

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Millbrook Vineyards and Winery October 11, 2017

Millbrook, New York

http://www.millbrookwine.com/

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After the flatness of Long Island, it was refreshing to be in the Catskill Mountains.  We enjoyed the various vistas as we traveled the back roads with my brother and sister-in-law to this winery with its spectacular views over the hills.  Although we felt we had gone rather far off the “beaten path,” a busload of tourists who arrived shortly after we did showed us that we were not as isolated as it had seemed.  Fortunately, Millbrook is well set up to handle a crowd, and we enjoyed our tasting.

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This is only one small part of the winery’s space.

Our bright and well-informed server informed us that John S. Dyson, the founder of the vineyard, was responsible for the “I (heart) NY” logo, which also appears on their glasses (which you get to keep after your tasting).  In addition to the property in Millbrook, the winery also owns vineyards in California (fortunately so far not affected by the fires) and Italy, which expands the varieties of wine they can offer.  One challenge of growing wines this far north is the winter.  They can get temperatures as low as minus fourteen, and anything lower than minus five can give certain grape vines trouble.

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A couple of the wines we did not get to try.

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The shop has a few items, many from Italy.

The Millbrook building is large and attractive, with various areas, including an upstairs lounge and balcony, where one can (and we did) take a bottle or glasses and look out over the scenery while sipping.  Not all of their wines are available for tasting every day, and on this week day our only option was the Portfolio Tasting, of six wines for $12.50.  You pay the cashier when you enter, and then are assigned a spot at one of the bars.

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  1. 2016 Hunt Country White          $16

This is their white blend, a mixture of riesling, tocai friulano, traminette, and pinot grigio, some of which comes from California.  The aroma is of apricots and minerals, and it tastes quite good, of peaches and melon, with a nice long finish.  My brother characterizes it as a “backyard wine,” and my sister-in-law says she has “no complaints.”

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano Proprietor’s Special Reserve $18

According to our server, Millbrook was the first winery in the United States to grow this particular grape, which is related to sauvignon blanc.  We like it very much, with its aroma of roasted pears and soft tastes of pears and red grapefruit.  I think it is softer than an Italian tocai, which is flintier, but we like it enough to buy a bottle to take home.

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I peeked into a room where they store wine.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay $18

Just when I think I’ll finally get to compare an upstate chard with a North Fork chard, we are told that one third of the grapes for this wine come from Pellegrini Vineyard on the North Fork!  Other grapes come from the Finger Lakes and from Millbrook’s estate.  In any event, it is a typical not-too-oaky oaked chardonnay.

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  1. 2014 Villa Pillo Borgoforte $19

In case you’re wondering about the Italian name, it comes from Millbrook’s Italian vineyard near San Gimignano, a fascinating town not far from Florence.  This, we are told, is a “Super Tuscan,”  (whenever I hear that term I picture a wine bottle with a heroic cape flying out behind it), a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot grapes.  In any event, it is delicious, with lovely fruit aromas and complex tastes including dark fruits, tobacco, and more.  It is dry and tannic, and we buy two bottles, one to give to my other brother and another to bring to our daughter’s house when we go there for dinner.

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Italian wine in a New York State winery? Yes, when the owner of the winery also owns property in Tuscany.

  1. Hunt Country Red $18

Since this is their blend, it changes year to year, and the current iteration is a mix of 55% cabernet franc, 40% merlot, and 5% syrah, with again some grapes coming from California.  The server says he defines this wine as a wine to have on “any day that ends with a y.”  Ha.  It is their top selling red, and we can see why, as it is an easy to drink, fruity red, with lots of cabernet franc flavors like blueberry and plums.  I say a good pizza wine, and my brother says “good with stuff.”

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Looks like a hunt on the label…

  1. 2013 Merlot Proprietor’s Special Reserve $25

Pellegrini strikes again—all the grapes for this wine are from there.  We decide this is a wine that needs to be served with food, and just then our server brings out a little plate of bread cubes and olive oil (which they just happen to sell there).  Definitely better with food, but still rather earthy, with a chemical basement smell.  Not our favorite.

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We had the upstairs lounge to ourselves.

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The view from the upstairs balcony

Reasons to visit:  you are in the Catskills and you’d like to find a nice winery for a tasting; the Tocai Friulano, the Villa Pillo Borgoforte, the Hunt Country Red; a pleasant outdoor upstairs balcony where you can sip a glass of wine while looking at beautiful scenery.

Laurel Lake:  A Festive Day          September 23, 2017

http://www.llwines.com/

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The winery building is quite pretty.

We had been to the Greenport Maritime Festival, where we watched pint-size mermaids parade and cruised past booths offering art, food, lavender, and more.  Now it was time to continue the festive mood by bringing our guests to a winery, and we decided on Laurel Lake, which we had not been to in more than a year.  One reason we hadn’t been there sooner was that the last time we tried to go they were about to close for a wedding.  This time they were also going to close for a wedding, but we had more than an hour for our tasting, so in we went.

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The tent was being prepared for a wedding party.

The tasting room is pleasant, with an antique bar at one end and plenty of tables, all of which were empty.  We opined that everyone on the North Fork was probably at the Greenport Festival or apple picking at Harbes.  Then the server behind the bar suggested we seat ourselves near the outside bar, where we had never been.  Out we went, to find long tables in the shade, a few more customers, and a very genial server who timed his visits to our table perfectly.  A look at the attractively rustic setting made it clear why people favor Laurel Lake as a wedding venue.  A food truck run by CJ’s restaurant was parked near us, but we had already had lunch in Greenport.

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There is a food truck on the premises, so they request that you not bring your own food.

Laurel Lake offers an extensive menu, of seven whites and nine reds, and a tasting consists of four tastes for $15.  By some judicious selecting and sharing, our group of six was able to taste many of the offerings.  Each couple shared a tasting, and then we gave each other sips.  Overall, we tended to prefer the whites to the reds, but the reds do have the advantage, rare on the North Fork, of being mostly reasonably priced.  One nice touch—our server brought us clean glasses for each taste.  That’s such a great idea.  So often they either pour the next taste right into your glass, where it may be affected by the previous wine, or they rinse it with water, which runs the risk of wine that tastes like chlorine.  One other clever method is when they rinse your glass with a few drops of the next taste, though that seems a tad wasteful to me.  I hate to see wine being poured into a dump bucket!

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The tasting room.

  1. 2016 Pinot Gris              $22.99

We hadn’t yet settled on a sharing method, so two of us ordered this.  I tend to like pinot gris (a.k.a. pinot grigio), and this one was no exception.  It smells a bit like pineapple juice, and tastes a bit like it, too. It is tart, with notes of mineral and salt.  Our daughter-in-law, who is good at thinking about wine and food pairings, thought it would go well with something made with capers.  How about smoked salmon with capers, we asked.  Yes.  Very buyable.

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They give you a good-sized pour, so all six of us could share tastes.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $23.99

Their oak aged chard, this has the expected aromas of vanilla and wood or caramel, with some citrus flavors.  Interestingly, this one also tasted of pineapple, but in this case of very ripe pineapple.  Food pairing?  How about pork with pineapple.

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The outside bar.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $22.99

This new release is light, crisp, and lemony, with some tastes of grilled peaches.  A nice summer wine, it might pair well with a salad with grilled peaches.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $22.99

Our server informed us that this is their “third sweetest white.”  Though I am not a fan of sweet wines, this one is well-balanced enough that, with, let us say, spicy Thai food, it would be fine.  I smell flowers and something metallic, and taste oranges.

  1. Moscato Sparkling $24.99

One member of our group prefers sweet wines to dry, and he was very pleased with this sparkler.  It is sweet, with strawberry and melon tastes and a candy-like aroma.  Perhaps one could drink it with a chocolate soufflé?

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  1. Wind Song Red $17.99

Fair warning—we are told this is their sweetest red.  Our server explains that they make it by blending all the leftovers from other wines, and it has no vintage because it could contain juice from various years.  I would say this was not a successful blend, as it has a somewhat medicinal taste, like Cheracol cough syrup.

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  1. 2013 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

Another newly bottled release, this was aged in used oak barrels, so it does not have the flavors you get from oak.  Some say the nice aspect of this is you get the pure taste of the grape.  We find it rather flat and one-dimensional, though not unpleasant.  Perhaps one could drink this with molé, as it is a light red.  Not caring for this or the previous red, our guests try their own blend, mixing the two.  Not a success.

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My favorite of these was the Syrah.

  1. 2012 Merlot Estate $19.99

Better.  Whew.  A pretty typical oak-aged merlot, with cherry aromas and taste and some tannins.

  1. 2013 Syrah $19.99

Two-thirds of us agree that we like this one.  It has tastes of plums, pepper, and nutmeg, plus some nice tannins.  Someone suggested pairing it with moussaka.  Sounds good to me.

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  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

Interestingly, this is aged in steel.  It is an easy to drink, fresh-tasting pizza wine, with soft tannins, and fruity aromas and tastes.

  1. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $25.99

As the afternoon progressed, our server became more and more chatty, and he described the interesting method used to make this wine.  They take two-thirds of the cab sauv to make rosé, and they take the skins from that plus the rest of the grapes to make this wine, which is then aged in used oak.  It has a “dark richness,” said someone, not sure who.  It is dry, not as fruity as you might expect given how it is made, with some nice tannins.  I wonder how it would age.

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They have a small selection of wine-related gift items.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting, inside and out; the Pinot Gris, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Syrah, the Cabernet Sauvignon; reasonably priced wines for Long Island, especially the reds; food truck.

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Our server did a good job of explaining each wine.

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The top floor of the two-level outdoor area.

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Mermaids on parade!

Clovis Point: Good Things Come in Small Packages            September 3, 2017

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

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“We’re small,” said our very well-informed multi-tasking server, “only 3,500 cases per year.”  She added that they have just eight acres of vines, and we discussed the issues Croteaux is having with Southold town over how many acres you need to have in order to do a tasting room.  But Clovis Point is in the town of Riverhead, so no problem.  Small also describes the one-ounce pour (which she warned us about in advance), but not the reputation of this boutique winery, which has garnered a number of high ratings from wine judges.

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One view of the pleasant tasting room

The tasting room, a former potato barn, is a nice size, and there is also a covered porch to one side.  The walls are adorned with a display of art for sale, so the space functions as a gallery as well.  The flower garden leading to the door is also esthetically pleasing!

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The art on the walls is for sale.

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Some of the pretty flowers by the entrance

The menu offers two flights:  a Cold Flight of four wines for $13 and a Red Flight of four reds for $15, plus a few premium wines at $5 per taste.  We were with friends, and decided each couple would do all eight wines, given that the pour is so small.  We also bought a generous tray of Spanish cheeses and baguette slices for $12, plus an eight-dollar jar of delicious fig spread, much of which we took home.  While we often don’t order food with our tastings, it is true that having wine with food enhances the experience.

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We had pretty much decimated the cheese plate before I thought to take a picture. It was very good.

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Some nice options on the snack menu

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $28

“This is a seasonal wine,” our server informed us, “and we usually sell out of it by winter.”  I can see why, as it is a light, easy to drink summery wine, with a floral and mineral aroma and peach taste.  Steel fermented, it is tart and dry.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $25

Another steel-fermented wine, this chardonnay is mixed with 3% gewürztraminer, which might account for a touch of pineapple taste.  The aroma is mineral, earth, and pine, and our friend says it tastes like a Granny Smith apple to her.  We agree.  Our server explains that because it is steel fermented it does not undergo malolactic fermentation, and therefore gives you the “pure expression” of the grape.

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The arrowhead on the label is a Clovis point, a type of prehistoric arrowhead.

  1. 2015 Black Label Chardonnay $28

A nice touch—before each new taste, the server rinses the glass with a bit of the next wine.  This is better than when they rinse the glasses with water, as a little water always is left behind and can influence the taste of the wine.  And when they don’t rinse the glasses at all, you may get a bit of the previous wine mixing with your next taste.  In any event, this chardonnay is a mixture of steel and oak fermented wine, so it is not heavily oaked.  Not being fans of oaky chards, we are pleased with this one, which has lots of citrus taste and only a touch of vanilla.  It’s not fruity.

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You can see how small the pour is.

  1. Rosé $22.50

Also seasonal, according to our server, the rosé tends to sell out by the end of summer.  It is composed of 100% cabernet franc, and is made by the saignée method, where the grapes sit on the skins for three days.  This is such a light rosé that we agree one might, if tasting it with eyes closed, not know it was a rosé.  It’s steel fermented and quite dry, with only a faint strawberry aroma and a taste more like raspberry than strawberry.

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  1. 2014 Merlot $29

All the reds are aged in either French or Hungarian oak, we are told, as our server puts out fresh glasses for the red tasting.  A blend of 85% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 2% syrah, 2% malbec, 2% petit verdot, and 1% cabernet sauvignon, this is not as complex or deep as one would think given all the ingredients.  However, it is a good merlot, dry and pleasant to drink.  “It’s my after work wine,” notes our server.  Yes, it would be relaxing to sit and sip a glass of this, perhaps with some cheese.

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They have two bars for when the room gets busy.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $35

Yum.  This time I agree with Robert Parker, who has given this wine a score of 90%.  A blend of 96% cabernet franc with 3% cabernet sauvignon and 1% petit verdot, this has fascinating aromas of mushroom, forest, and smoke, plus what our friend describes as “really ripe plums.”  It is delicious, dry at the end with some nice tannins, tasting of over-ripe cherries.  Nicely complex.  If I were here for a music event, this is the wine I would get by the glass.

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You can see how small the bottle is for the Syrah and the Malbec.

  1. 2014 Syrah $34

Syrah is usually blended with other wines, but Clovis Point decided to try bottling it by itself.  Since they didn’t have that much of it, they also decided to use 500 ml. bottles, so that price is quite high.  I insist that it smells like black olives, and my friend adds that it actually smells meaty.  It is dry, tannic, and spicy.  I like it.

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  1. 2014 Malbec $34

Meh.  Another 500ml. bottle, this is a blend of 94% malbec, plus 4% merlot, 1% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% syrah.  It has a nice fruity aroma, but the wine itself is rather light, with no depth.  “Flat,” says my friend.  I add that it lacks body.

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A view of the porch

Reasons to visit:  small winery with a nice room and some good choices; the 2015 chardonnay, the Black Label chardonnay, the 2014 Cabernet Franc; you are the designated driver but you want to taste the wines where the pour is small.

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The grapes are starting to ripen.

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