The Winemaker Studio: Experimental Success April 15, 2017

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

IMG_3536

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

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

IMG_3538

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

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

IMG_3548

The sign seems clear enough…

  1. 2016 Suhru Sauvignon Blanc      $20

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

IMG_3535

  1. 2016 Nappa White Pinot Noir   $19

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

IMG_3539IMG_3540

  1. 2014 Suhru Dry Riesling               $18

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

  1. 2016 Nappa New York Riesling   $18

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

  1. 2012 Suhru Shiraz           $25

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

IMG_3541

  1. 2016 Nappa Bordo Antico           $22

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

 

  1. 2012 T’Jara Cabernet Franc         $30

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

IMG_3544

  1. 2014 Nappa Nemesis Pinot Noir               $35

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

  1. 2013 T’Jara Merlot         $28

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

IMG_3543

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

  1. 2013 Nappa Tredici        $35

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

IMG_3547

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

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

IMG_3537

Lots of magnums!

IMG_3532

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

The Winemaker Studio: Moment of Fame March 26, 2016

IMG_2558

http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

“We’re going to Nappa’s tasting room,” I said to our guests, who, having recently returned from a tour of California’s wine country, wondered why we weren’t heading to JFK rather than further east.  I clarified, “N-a-p-p-a; it’s his name.”  Ah.  We further explained that although Anthony Nappa owns and operates The Winemaker Studio, it earns its name as a studio because it is a showcase for a variety of wines produced in small quantities under their own labels or names by winemakers who also work for larger vineyards.  Just as an artist may do commercial work but also produce his or her own creations, these winemakers have the artistic freedom to experiment and express their own ideas about wine production.  A good example of this is Nappa’s Anomaly, about which more in a moment.

We were particularly interested in visiting this tasting room because we had just read an interesting article about one of their wines in the most recent issue of Wine Press magazine.

The menu varies from time to time, and today’s menu offered a choice between four of Nappa’s wines for $12 or five of Russell Hearn’s wines for $12.  We also could have opted for a local beer on tap or coffee, and the Provisions shop connected to the tasting room offers a variety of sandwiches and other edibles.  However, having just had a delicious and very satisfying brunch/lunch at A Mano in Mattituck, we were happy just to taste some wines.  In order to facilitate our conversations about the wines, we decided that each couple would share one tasting of the Nappa wines, choosing four out of the menu of six varieties.  Both couples opted to skip the riesling, made from Upstate grapes, when the server informed us that it was on the somewhat sweet side.    Our server, by the way, was very informative and friendly, and we had some nice chats with him about wine.

Our server did a great job.

Our server did a great job.

  1. 2014 Anomaly  $19

Anomaly is a good illustration of what happens when a winemaker decides to experiment.  It is a white-ish wine made from red pinot noir grapes, and each time I’ve had it it has been different.  A couple of years ago it was a very light pink and I liked it very much.  The last time it was definitely white, though a somewhat darker yellow than many whites, and I didn’t care for it.  This year it was almost orange, and we all liked it!  The aroma included peach and spice, and we tasted citrus and boysenberry with nice tartness and acidity, with still some fruit on the finish.  As we speculated on what it would go with, we decided it would make a nice aperitif.  One friend speculated that it would go well with “odds and ends from the refrigerator.”  Hers must be well stocked, as she began to muse on eggplant dip and bits of charcuterie.  Or with a salade niçoise, she continued, and it would make terrific vinegar.  They bought a bottle.

Pretty color

Pretty color

  1. 2013 Sciardonné $20

Because it is made from chardonnay grapes, steel fermented but allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, this wine can be drunk on its own, as it is less tartly citrusy than other chards.  It would be great, we agree, with lobster, or with mussels cooked with bacon or sausage.  We are still full from lunch, but I guess food is on our minds.  Before we move on to the reds, we’d like some water, but before our friend can pull a bottle from her bag our observant server offers us all glasses of chilled water.  Many H2O jokes ensue.  One can drink it chilled or at room temperature; recent vintage; crisp and light; no residual alcohol.  I’ll spare you the rest…

The 2016 H2O vintage...

The 2016 H2O vintage…

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

We were particularly curious to try this wine since it was featured in an article in Wine Press magazine, a very useful free publication you can pick up at many restaurants and wineries on the North Fork.  You would think from the name that this is a Bordeaux-style wine, but “bordo” is in fact the Italian name for cabernet franc (which is an ingredient in Bordeaux wines).  We sniffed and noted an aroma of cherry, but also something metallic.  “Burnished copper,” said my husband; “Like a wet penny,” opined one guest.  The taste was somewhat peppery, a touch earthy, with some cherry, and rather light.  You could drink it with cheese or pizza, but it is not a wine you would want to sip by itself.

The famous Bordo

The famous Bordo

  1. 2014 La Strega $22

At this point we diverged for our last tastes.  We opted for La Strega, partly because I wondered why name a wine “the witch.”  “Malbec is not the easiest grape to work with,” chuckled our server.  If you are expecting a big bold Argentinian malbec, this is not the wine for you.  It is steel fermented, said the server, with a perfume-y smell, with perhaps a whiff of oatmeal, and is much lighter than most malbecs.  Rather crisp and delicate, it is not our favorite.

The witch!

The witch!

  1. 2013 Tredici $35

Meanwhile, our friends opted for the Bordeaux blend, of 67% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  This is another dry wine, with not a ton of fruit, with tastes of fig and tobacco.  It is aged 18 months in oak.  We sense something green about it, perhaps a bit of a taste of asparagus. Our friends think it would pair well with paella, with its blend of seafood and sausage and strong flavors.

IMG_2553

You can see the next door food shop through this window.

You can see the next door food shop through this window.

Reasons to visit:  The chance to taste some offbeat wines off the beaten track; a cute tasting room with colorful folding chairs; one can buy sandwiches, etc., next door, so they do ask you not to bring your own food; the Anomaly and the Sciardonné.  We haven’t tried it, but they do a happy hour from 4-7 on weekends, which might be fun. 

IMG_2550

The Winemaker Studio: Studying Wine May 16, 2015

http://www.anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

w sign

Proving once again that regular visits to all wineries are essential, we noted several changes at Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker Studio since our last visit there in July.  For example, the emphasis has gone from looking at the wines of many winemakers to a focus on Nappa’s own wines, although others are available, including for purchase.  Today, the choice is between a set menu of five wines for $10 by Russell Hearn, under his SuHru and T’Jara labels, or any of fourteen wines by Nappa at $2 per taste.  After some serious discussion, we decide to share two tastings, one of the Hearn wines and the other of five wines from Nappa’s list.  We also could have had a beer from Greenport Brewing Company or hard cider or espresso.

Note the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company tap.

Note the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company tap.

The building is over 100 years old, which contributes to the cozy feeling of the place, and is divided into two halves, with one half the tasting room with a bar and some little tables and chairs, and the other half a store called Provisions, which offers both a selection of groceries and a menu of sandwiches and snacks.  While we were there we saw one party enjoying some paninis—which smelled delicious—with their wine.  We could also have bought wines by the bottle from Leo Family, Race Wines, Coffee Pot Cellars (which now has their own place), and Influence Wines.

You can see Provisions through the window.

You can see Provisions through the window.

Some of the snack choices

Some of the snack choices

Our server, by the way, was quite pleasant and very knowledgeable, and we overheard her giving a pair of North Fork novices some good advice as to which wineries they would and would not like.  Based on their preferences, we suggested their next stop should be One Woman Winery.    I’ll list the wines as we drank them, with the Anthony Nappa wines second.

One view of the room

One view of the room

  1. SuHru Pinot Grigio         $17

Nice way to start a tasting.  This is a bright, citrusy white with a slightly funky, mineral aroma.  Though somewhat too dry to be a sipper, it would go great with oysters.

w suhru

  1. 2013 Frizzante                 $20

As you may have guessed from the name, this is a sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Champenoise from pinot noir, riesling, and gewürztraminer.  Because it is unfiltered, it is somewhat cloudy.  Given the grapes it is made from, I thought it might be sweet, but, though it has a touch of sweetness, it is dry, with aromas of pear and orange flower.  Our server compares it to a Prosecco, and says she likes it with sushi.  I think it would be great with some charcuterie!  And given the price, one could drink this without waiting for an occasion.

w frizz

  1. 2013 SuHru Sauvignon Blanc $19

As I’m sniffing and thinking, hmmm…toast, lemon peel, minerals, my husband says, “This is very like a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, and so anyone who liked that would like this.”  I’ll have to do some research to verify that, but meanwhile I taste lemon and gooseberries.

  1. 2013 Anomaly $19

The Anomaly is Nappa’s signature wine, a white made from red pinot noir grapes, and it is quite nice, though we liked it better the first time we had it.  The aroma is a tad funky, with some minerality and a smell like raw yeast dough.  It is fairly crisp, and we taste sour cherries.

w anomaly

  1. 2010 T’Jara Cabernet Franc $30

New glasses for the reds.  Aged in oak, this has aromas of asparagus, coffee beans, and cherry juice, with tastes of spice and dark fruit.  It’s quite good, and we like the finish, and think it would pair well with veal Milanese.  Since Russell Hearn used to be the winemaker for Pellegrini, and we like their reds, it’s logical that we would like the reds he makes under his own label.

  1. 2014 Bordo $20

I kind of expected this to be a Bordeaux, based on the name, but it is made from steel-fermented cabernet franc.  Our server describes it as a “rustic Italian” wine, and says, among other flavors, that it has tastes of calamata olives.  We agree, and also think we taste dark plums and raisins, plus maybe some black cherry.  Although there’s lots of fruit tastes, it is relatively simple, in that there aren’t layers of flavor.  In any event, it would go great with pizza or pasta!

We really liked the clean, simple, modern style of Nappa's labels.

We really liked the clean, simple, modern style of Nappa’s labels.

  1. 2010 T’Jara Merlot $25

Just as my husband noted that the barnyard odors we used to sense frequently in North Fork wines are mostly gone, and I reminded him that it was merlots that featured it, we sniff this and find just a touch of barnyard.  Otherwise, lots of berry aromas and sour plum tastes in this somewhat tannic red.  Not at all soft, it would go well with pasta with a rich meat sauce.

  1. 2012 “dodici” $35

Named for the vintage year, this is a blend of 67% merlot, 28% cabernet franc, and 5% cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak for 18 months.  A Right Bank Bordeaux, says my drinking pal.  Aroma:  Captain Black tobacco, chocolate, red fruits.  Taste:  cherry, dry yet soft, with some tannins.  Compared with how it tasted a year ago, we decide it has aged well so far, though it could be overwhelmed by a big steak dinner.

I love doing side by side comparisons.

I love doing side by side comparisons.

  1. 2007 T’Jara Reserve Merlot $35

Also aged in French oak, this is, despite the name, a bit of a blend:  89% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, 2% malbec, 2% cabernet sauvignon.  “Unripe peach pit,” opines my pal, as he sniffs.  Really?  Okay, maybe.  Also currants, perhaps.  We taste and agree on dried fruits and unsweetened cocoa.  In a head to head with dodici, we choose the T’Jara.

w blackbird

  1. 2012 Blackbird $40

Why Blackbird?  Because merlot is the French word for blackbird, says the server.  Well, close, it is “merle,” and this is Nappa’s Reserve Merlot.  Red cherry taste, quite tannic, not much aroma:  we think it would be better with food, but are not thrilled with this wine.  Not bad, mind you, but not worth the price.

One corner of the room.  The furniture is cute, but could be more comfy.

One corner of the room. The furniture is cute, but could be more comfy.

Reasons to visit:  the chance to taste and buy wines from more than one winemaker; some offbeat choices like the Frizzante and the Anomaly; the lovely food from Provisions; a relaxed atmosphere; the Suhru Sauvignon Blanc, the Bordo, the T’Jara Reserve Merlot, the Dodici; freshly made espresso or cappuccino for those who have had enough wine.

w outside

The Winemaker Studio: Wine as Art? July 4, 2014

http://www.anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

Rainy Fourth of July!

Rainy Fourth of July!

The rain washed out our barbeque, but not our determination to do a wine tasting, so off we set in a tropical downpour to the welcoming environs of The Winemaker Studio.  Odd name for a tasting room, you are probably thinking, especially since it occupies the premises previously called The Tasting Room, a more obvious name.  However, as Anthony Nappa, the proprietor, discussed with us on a previous visit, the idea is to provide a space where a variety of winemakers can showcase their wares, and to also have the space function as an art gallery, with art for purchase on the walls.

photo (65)

Many of the winemakers carried here are also—or have been—winemakers for larger wineries, such as Raphael or Osprey’s Dominion, but felt they wanted to make wines their own way, under their own label.  Like art, these are labors of love.  As you can tell by the site’s URL, Anthony Nappa makes his own wines, and his selections dominate the tasting menu of fifteen wines, all available for $2 or $3 a taste.  In addition to selling wine by the glass they also feature Greenport Harbor beer on tap and a number of local hard liquors—gin, vodka, whiskey—plus espresso and cappuccino and a menu of sandwiches crafted by Nappa’s wife, Sarah Evans Nappa, a chef who previously worked at the North Fork Table and Inn.  They also run a small store attached to the tasting room called Provisions, which stocks a variety of both local and imported foods, including cheeses, pastas, and charcuterie.  Like many places with their own food, they ask you not to bring your own snacks, but are happy to sell you cheeses, etc.

Some of the provisions at Provisions.

Some of the provisions at Provisions.

The room is small, simple, and rustic, with a wooden bar and small tables with folding chairs both inside and outside.  Sometimes you find a dog or two around, but today they had been left home because the thunder was freaking them out.  Our friends, animal lovers, were disappointed that the dogs were not in residence, but happy about the wines they tasted.  Frequent North Fork visitors, they had not heard of The Winemaker Studio, but will now add it to their list.  We each made a variety of choices from the menu, with each couple sharing one tasting, a good decision since the pour was quite generous.  We were left on our own to decide the order of tastes.  I’ve marked the Anthony Nappa wines with an AN at the end.

Tasting menu

Tasting menu

1)       2013 Frizzante Sparkling                              $20

It had been a year since we were here, and there were quite a few new wines, including a sparkling wine made from riesling, pinot noir, and gewürztraminer, and not filtered, so it has an intriguing cloudy look.  We smell and taste lots of minerality, plus unripe pineapple and some lemon.  We envision drinking it on the deck with charcuterie, and our friend suggests using it in a cocktail with Limoncello and some raspberries.  Sounds good!  AN

Frizzante--note the cloudiness.

Frizzante–note the cloudiness.

2)      2013 Reminisce                 $22

This is their sauvignon blanc, and it spends three days on the skins, giving it lots of complex flavors, including ripe grapefruit.  Good!  AN

3)      2013 Spezia Gewürztraminer                      $25

Spezia means spicy, a good name for this spicy dry gewürztraminer, with its pleasant honeysuckle aroma.  Though it lacks depth (We prefer One Woman’s gewürztraminer.), it is a good wine.  Pair it with stinky cheeses, they suggest.  AN

It's a fairly generous pour.

It’s a fairly generous pour.

4)      2012 Dodici                         $35

So a year ago we had the 2010 Dieci, which this replaces (brush up on your Italian numbers to decipher the names).  A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc, this Bordeaux type is another good wine.  Mouthwatering fruit flavors.  AN

5)      2012 Black Bird Reserve Merlot                  $40

Though we are told that this is a wine made only in good years, spending 18 months in the barrel, we are unimpressed.  There’s a touch of that earth smell you sometimes get in North Fork merlots, some dark cherry taste, and not much else.

6)      Red Blend by Greg Gove of Race Wines      $22

This is another Bordeaux-type blend, of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot.  Again, just okay—and fairly oaky, too.

Our friends also tried and really like Nappa’s Anomaly, a white wine made from red grapes, which we have liked in the past, and they enjoyed as well.  They bought a bottle of the Frizzante, perhaps to try that cocktail idea in the near future!  Then we browsed a bit in Provisions, and, though we didn’t find anything we needed for that night, having shopped already, we did make mental notes of things we would buy.

Part of the Provisions menu

Part of the Provisions menu

Reasons to visit:  a chance to try a variety of wines not readily available elsewhere; the Frizzante, the Dodici, the Reminisce; the opportunity to shop at Provisions; art on the walls; the availability of other drinks and food for those who aren’t wine drinkers.  We haven’t tried it, but they have Happy Hour from 5-7 every day, with 30% off on glasses of wine.

Not a great day for sitting outside...maybe next time!

Not a great day for sitting outside…maybe next time!