Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?            October 27, 2017

Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?

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The entrance to the indoor space. They also have an outdoor patio.

 

http://dilibertowinery.com/

The yeasty, tomatoey scent of baking pizza filled the small tasting room at Diliberto winery.  Most of the people there seemed to have come for a glass or two of red wine and one of Sal’s thin-crust pizzas.   Well, it was around one p.m. on Friday, so I guess it was lunch time.  The pizza certainly smelled and looked good, and one of the customers told us as she was leaving that it tasted good, too, recommending that we get one.  However, we were not hungry, so we settled on just a tasting.

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I waited until people left so I could get a good shot of the mural.

The tasting room at Diliberto is small, but very pretty, with trompe l’oeil paintings on the wall to give you the sensation that you are sitting in an Italian piazza.  The Visions series films, aerial views of Italy, play on the flat screen TV over the piano, and when it is quiet you can hear music from Italian operas playing in the background.  What you won’t hear is the voices of children, since Diliberto’s has a strict “No one under 21” policy, with the addendum “including children.”  They also do not allow outside food, but since most people seem to come for the $19 pizza, that’s not a problem.  The menu includes a few other food items, and on Sundays they feature a full meal—details on their web page.

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The wine menu features six wines, at $4 per taste or $10 for any three tastes.  Wines are also available by the glass or bottle, with an additional charge if you want to drink the bottle in the winery.  (For example, the Chardonnay is $22 for a bottle, but $27 if you want to drink it there.)  The wines cost $8-$12 for a glass.  We decided to try all six wines, or two tastings, which the server brought to our table all at once.

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In the past, we’ve always spent time chatting with Sal Diliberto, but this time he was not in the winery.  The young woman who was waiting on the tables was very pleasant, but clearly her job was not to discuss the wines.  My guess is that he is there on Sundays, since the dinner includes a cooking demo, and he used to do those for free on the weekends.

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This sign reminded me of how my Italian friends like to reminisce about Sunday family dinners, always with “gravy”–a.k.a. spaghetti sauce.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay          $22

This is an oaked chardonnay, and, according to the menu, spends “five months in French oak,” so I was expecting lots of butterscotch and vanilla.  Not so.  I wonder if he mixes it with steel-fermented chardonnay, since it has a fair amount of citrus flavor.  My husband describes it as “refreshing.”  It is surprisingly tart, with only a hint of vanilla.  Very drinkable, and would be nice with some charcuterie.

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Our two flights were delivered all at once, and the server carefully pointed out which wine each one was.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $19

I would have put this first in the tasting, since it is steel-fermented and quite light.  It has some asparagus aroma, and tastes more like an orange or tangerine than a lemon.  It also has a fair amount of minerality and saltiness.  “Fire Island on the beach,” began my tasting buddy, waxing poetic as he sometimes does.

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  1. 2016 Rosé $17

Now it was time for the menu writer to get poetic, describing this wine as perfect for “life on the patio with friends.”  Well, yes, if your friends are not particularly interested in taste, since this rosé has very little.  There’s nothing objectionable about this light, minerally rosé, with its taste of unripe strawberry and citrus, but we felt the aroma and taste were equally undistinguished.

  1. 2013 Merlot $19

All along I’ve been complaining that it is hard to decide how the wine smells because the aroma of pizza is so strong.  Now I think this one smells like mushrooms, and I’d think it was because of the pizza, but there are no mushrooms on it.  In any event, this is an okay merlot, rather tannic and even a bit harsh, with some black raspberry and nutmeg flavor.  No cherry taste!  We must have gotten the last glass in the bottle, as our taste has some sediment at the bottom.

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There’s some sediment on the bottom of our glass of merlot.

  1. 2014 Cantina $22

Phew, this one is much better.  A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this has aromas of cherry and tobacco and tastes of fruit and spice—more spice than fruit.  Light and not complex, this is the sort of red that goes well with roast chicken (like the one I am planning to make with an 8 Hands chicken tonight) or pizza and pasta.

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At Diliberto, you don’t stand at the bar for a tasting. They bring it to your seat.

  1. 2014 Tre $26

According to the menu, this one is only made in the best vintage years, of a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  I swear it smells like eggplant, though perhaps that’s because I’m trying to decide what I will make with the lovely eggplant I bought at a farm stand this morning.  Anyway, the wine is quite good, with lots of black cherry and purple plum tastes.  Dry, with some tannins, we think it might get better with age.  My husband says it has “the backbone to deal with food,” and I suggest osso buco as a possible dish.

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The flat screen TV shows scenes of Italy. I hear the piano gets used for various musical events.

Reasons to visit:  you have a hankering for a glass of red (I suggest the Tre) and a pizza; you want a quiet, intimate setting for a tasting; the Sauvignon Blanc and the Tre; you don’t mind that they don’t allow children or outside food; you like relatively simple but well-priced wines.

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The warm weather could fool you into thinking it is still summer, until you look at the vines and see that most of the grapes have been harvested.

Diliberto Winery: Sal’s Place April 16, 2016

http://dilibertowinery.com/

A view to the vines, still pretty bare.

A view to the vines, still pretty bare.

Hang out in Diliberto’s tasting room for more than about ten minutes and you are likely to meet Mr. Salvatore Diliberto himself.  He may emerge from the kitchen with a dusting of flour on his shirt from the thin-crust pizza he makes or enter from the cellar, where he has been guiding a barrel tasting.  We’ve been there enough times that he recognizes us, so he sat down at our table to chat for a few minutes.  He’s a friendly guy, and passionate about his wine-making.

The room feels like a piazza in Tuscany--almost.

The room feels like a piazza in Tuscany–almost.

He also loves Italy, as you can tell from the moment you enter the cozy tasting room (augmented by a semi-enclosed outdoor patio) with its trompe l’oeil murals of a “Tuscan hill town” and its sound track of Italian pop music or opera.  Scenes from an aerial film of Italy are projected on a flat screen TV over the piano which is sometimes used for performances of live opera, on occasion sung by Sal himself.  In addition, he guides tours of the Campania region of Italy.  We think it might be fun to go on one of his tours, as we have enjoyed several cooking demos he has given in the tasting room.

It's fun to look over at the video and try to identify which town is being shown.  Oh look, that's Siena!

It’s fun to look over at the video and try to identify which town is being shown. Oh look, that’s Sienna!  A marble quarry?  Pisa and its Leaning Tower!

Your wine tasting, which is brought to your table in attractive round-bottomed glasses, is accompanied by a snack of your choice from the menu.  We had olives and cheese and crackers.  You can choose three wines for $13 or five for $21.  There are six wines on the menu, so we opted to share a tasting of five, which today did not include the rosé.  We also noted that glasses of wine are $10, so if you wanted to come for a lunch of pizza and a glass of wine you could have lunch for $37—which we saw two twenty-something couples doing (note that the winery is adults-only, no children allowed).  Not a bad deal for the North Fork.

Snack!

Snack!

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

We like the pleasantly flowery aroma and dryness of this steel-fermented wine.  It is lemony with nice acidity, and tastes better once our snack arrives and we drink it with the provolone and crackers.

The line-up

The line-up

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $30

This oaked chard is described on the menu as “buttery,” and we agree.  In general I prefer un-oaked chards, but this one is nice.  You can smell the vanilla from the oak casks, and the wine is a bit sweet, so we think lots of people would like it.  I would not advise eating olives with it, however, as the two tastes do not enhance each other.

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  1. 2013 Merlot $29

Soft, is the first word I think of to describe the aroma of this rather typical merlot, and green is what I think of the taste.  It’s a bit thin, a bit tannic, and overall just okay.  We notice some sediment in the glass, and would like to ask Sal about it, but he has disappeared into the kitchen from which two freshly baked pizzas soon emerge.

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  1. 2014 Cantina $27

If you think of a casual red and white checked tablecloth Italian restaurant, you will be right on track for the taste of this wine.  We like it, and think it would pair beautifully with pizza or pasta.  The aroma has a slight note of hay or grass, the taste of this mixture of half merlot, half cabernet franc is more rounded than the merlot by itself.  My husband says “balanced,” and I agree, though he disputes my thought of sweet stewed prunes for the taste.  It goes great with the cheese.  We buy a bottle.

  1. 2013 TRE $37

Tre means three, and there are three grapes in this Right Bank Bordeaux-style wine:  65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  At first we’re not bowled over, but actually as the wine sits we like it better.  Perhaps it needs more aging, as the menu suggests.  We smell black cherry, but the taste lacks depth.  Not bad, but not worth the price.

Array of bottles

Array of bottles

Reasons to visit:  a calm, pretty room in which to sip wine or enjoy lunch; the sauvignon blanc and the Cantina; the pizza; snacks; you can pretend you’re in Italy; Sal.

View to the patio

View to the patio

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Some Suggested Wine-Tasting Itineraries November 3, 2015

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The farm stands are starting to close now, though the ones that are open are still overflowing with pumpkins, kale, eggplant, the last of the tomatoes, and more.  I have to restrain myself from buying everything.  Now that the October crowds have left—and Columbus Day Weekend is the worst time to come to the North Fork, unfortunately, what with the corn maze goers, the pumpkin and apple pickers, and the harvest wine tasters—I thought this would be a good time to discuss a few possible itineraries.

From time to time friends ask me where to go for wine tastings, so here are some summary recommendations for various situations and tastes.  I’m going assume you’re heading from west to east for all of these.  Each itinerary includes three wineries.  I don’t recommend more than that, especially for the driver, who may want to just take a sip of most and dump the rest.  All the wineries are fine about people sharing a tasting, another good way to go.  However, if you space them out and go slowly, eating snacks here and there, you should be fine.  You can get more details on any of these wineries by using the search function on my blog.

  1. A Warm Summer Day

You want to sit outside and relax with a couple of tastings, and then maybe go somewhere for dinner.   Also, you don’t want to cope with the crowds you are likely to find on a warm summer weekend.

Another view of Jamesport's expansive yard.

Another view of Jamesport’s expansive yard.

  1. A nice place to start is Jamesport Vineyards, especially if it is your first stop and it is around lunch time.  Out in the back yard there is a pizza oven and an oyster bar, both well worth trying if you have not brought your own picnic.  Though they may attract lots of people, their outdoor area is quite large, so you won’t feel crowded.  Sometimes they have music, too.   The wines I recommend are:   the Cinq Blanc, the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the Mattituck Cabernet Franc, the Mélange de Trois, the MTK Syrah, and the Jubilant Reserve.  If you’re getting oysters, get the Sauvignon Blanc.

    The patio at Croteaux

    The patio at Croteaux

  2. Quite a bit further out on the Main Road is Croteaux Vineyards, one of our favorite places for outdoor wining. The shady garden has comfortable Adirondack chairs as well as pretty tables for groups and many nooks.  they don’t allow limos or large groups.  I would get a full tasting of all six wines, since they provide an interesting education into the various tastes of rosé—which is all they make here.  Rosé is a perfect summer wine, and Croteaux’s are our favorites.  They also have a limited menu of snacks, and the goat cheese is excellent.  Our favorite of their wines is the 314 Clone, though we like them all.

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

    A view of the tasting shed at One Woman

  3. One Woman Wines & Vineyard is just off Sound Avenue, a bit north and east of Croteaux. The tasting room is tiny, so it is best to go there when you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables on the little deck or stand at the outside bar.  Her whites (yes, there really is a one woman) are best, especially the Grüner Veltliner and the Gewürztraminer.   

After you leave Jamesport, you may want to stop on Love Lane in Mattituck, where you can check out the little shops and maybe stop into the Village Cheese Shop or Lombardi’s Italian Grocery to buy picnic foods or have a snack.  Or you can return there for dinner.  Love Lane Kitchen is a very popular lunch, brunch, and dinner spot, and the food is quite good.  I also recommend A Mano, across the Main Road from Love Lane, for a more upscale lunch or dinner.  Within the strip mall, Michelangelo is a reliable red sauce Italian place, with a casual pizza parlor out front and a slightly more formal dining room in the back.  Oh, and don’t ignore Magic Fountain, the ice cream store with an ever-changing roster of home-made flavors.

  1. A Cool Fall Day

The roads are mobbed, and so are all the wineries you drive past.  It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside, however, so the above choices don’t appeal to you.  Time to go off the beaten path.

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto's.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy instead of Diliberto’s.

  1. On Manor Lane you’ll find Diliberto Winery, just down the street from Woodside Farms apple orchard (which is probably a madhouse if the sun is shining).  Diliberto’s tasting room is quite cozy, painted with scenes of an Italian village in trompe l’oeil fashion, and you are likely to encounter Sal Diliberto himself.  If you’re lucky, he’ll make one of his thin crust pizzas for you.  (He used to serve them for free, but now he does charge for them.)  The wines we like the best are the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre. Get the Tre if you’re having pizza.

    Water for cleansing your palate--or your glass--at Shinn.

    Water for cleansing your palate–or your glass–at Shinn.

  2. Now you’re going to head north on Mill Lane to Oregon Road, where you’ll find Shinn Estates Vineyards.  Surrounded by farm fields, Shinn definitely has a laid-back vibe.  You may even get to pet the resident pooch.  The tasting room is rustic and intimate, so let’s hope it’s not crowded.  Our favorite wines are the First Fruit, the Pinot Blanc, and the Wild Boar Doe, and they also make sherry and eau de vie.  They sell their own snacks.Lieb inside the Oregon Road tasting room
  3. Also on Oregon Road is Lieb Cellars. They have another tasting room on Sound Avenue where they feature their lower-priced wines.  This room is rather elegant, and the last time we were there we had it to ourselves, but others may have found it by now.  However, they do not allow limos or groups, so it will probably be fine.  They have cheese boards available.  We did our last Lieb tasting at their Sound Avenue location, so I’m not sure what’s on the menu now, but we like many of their wines, especially the Reserve Cabernet Franc or, for an inexpensive everyday red, the Red Blend or white, the White Blend. 

When you are done you will be close to Southold, where you have a number of meal options.  If you felt the need for brunch or lunch in between the above choices, you could have stopped at Erik’s, on Sound Avenue, where you order at the counter and they bring you your food.  Very popular, so it may be crowded.  One of our favorite casual spots is Founder’s Tavern, where we love the home-made potato chips, the Buffalo wings, and the house burger.  If you’re looking for a fancy dinner, you can choose between North Fork Table and Inn or a newcomer we liked very much, Caci.  A bit further down the Main Road is the Port of Egypt marina, which houses two restaurants:  A Lure, which features excellent seafood, and Pepi’s, which is fairly classic Italian.  Both give you a view of the water.

  1. Kids in Tow

Now let’s imagine that you have kids with you, which we see quite frequently.  Some places actually ban children, like Diliberto’s, while others accommodate them.  Of course, you’ll probably have to split up, depending on the ages of the children, to supervise them, but at least at these places there will be something for them to do, or at least room for them to run around.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

This is the room where you find live entertainment and food for sale at Martha Clara.

  1. Martha Clara has something for everyone. Some good wines for those who are serious, a big room with tables and chairs and an extensive food menu for those who are hungry, and animals in pens outside to entertain the children.  You can buy pellets with which to feed the animals, and children never seem to get tired of doing so.  They also often have live music in the big room.   The wines I like the best are the 2010 Northville Red, the 2010 Syrah, and the 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  They can get very crowded on busy weekends, so be forewarned.

    Harbes tasting barn

    Harbes tasting barn

  2. Agritainment, thy name is Harbes. From what started as a simple farm stand, Harbes has grown into an industry, causing traffic jams on Sound Avenue in October as crowds head for their corn mazes and pumpkin picking.  They also now have a tasting barn where you can sample their wines, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked them.  There is plenty of room for kids to run around, but I do not recommend you spring for the entry fee to the “Barnyard Adventure,” which is neither very much of a barnyard nor much of an adventure.  However, there are a couple of farm machines kids can climb on without going into the “Adventure.”  Across the street, at Pam’s, you can all go berry picking in season.  We were last there two years ago, so the wines may have changed, but we liked the merlots and the oaked chardonnay.  And while you’re there, I also recommend you buy some of their sweet corn to take home and cook.   It’s the best on the North Fork.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

    Old Field really does feel like an old farm.

  3. Almost all the way to Greenport you come to Old Field Vineyards, a rustic farm setting for the winery. Though they don’t cater to children the way Martha Clara does, they have ample outdoor space with ducks and chicks roaming around, or you can hike along the vines.  Though they do have a small indoor space, this is another spot where the outdoor area is the most comfortable.  We liked the 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, the Cacklin’ Rosé, and the ’07 Commodore Perry.

    The carousel

    The carousel

By now you’re surely ready for an early dinner, and, conveniently, you’re near Greenport.  It is fun to wander around the town, poking into the various antique and boutique shops, but with kids along you should head for the waterfront, where they can walk along the wharf and look at the ships, watch the ferry heading to Shelter Island, and—best of all—ride the carousel.  Even bigger kids like it when they sit on the outer ring of horses and try to grab the brass ring for a free ride.  There are plenty of restaurants in Greenport, but not all are good with kids.  First and South, on a back street, is great, especially in warm weather when you can sit outdoors.  Salamander’s General Store is informal, and has crispy fried chicken.  If you’re in town for lunch, the Coronet is perfect, an old-fashioned diner with huge portions.  Or you can drive a little further down the road and go to the Hellenic Snack Bar, a large Greek restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.  The dips alone are worth the trip.  Mmm…hummus…

  1. Talk to the Owner

One of my favorite things to do when we go wine tasting is chat with the owner of a winery.  You can learn so much about wine and about how the specific wines you’re tasting were made that it makes the whole experience of wine tasting that much richer.  Diliberto’s is one of those places, so do keep that in mind as well, but here are three others where you’re probably guaranteed to chat with the owner, his or her spouse, or a very dedicated member of the wine-making team.

Adam Suprenant in action

Adam Suprenant in action

  1. We’ve had lots of fun chatting with Adam Suprenant, the owner of Coffee Pot Cellars, who actually figured out who I was and that I write this blog. He and his wife Laura Klahre, who is a beekeeper and has plenty of interest to tell you about bees and honey, have always been behind the bar, sharing their enthusiasm for their products.  We like all of his wines,  but especially the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Chardonnay, the Beasley’s Blend and the Meritage.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

    Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

  2. Just a little further down the road, and look carefully or you may miss the turn-off, is Mattebella Vineyards where you have a good chance of talking with the owners—or even their children, for whom the winery is named. They have a lovely outdoor seating area, and serve a few little tastes of food to go with particular wines.  Mr. and Mrs. Tobin, the owners, are generally there, and love to engage customers in conversation about their wines, though they now have a few helpers, so you may not get to talk to them if it is busy.  We really liked the 2010 chardonnay, the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink, the Famiglia Red, and the 2010 Old World Blend.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

    Regan Meader explaining his wines.

  3. You’ll need your GPS to find Southold Farm + Cellar off on a back street, and, due to some permitting issues with the town of Southold you should check to be sure they are open, but once you get there you’ll find it is well worth the trouble. Regan Meader is the owner and winemaker, and he is also a charming and engaging purveyor of his own wines.  We enjoyed chatting with him, particularly about how he came up with the poetic and original names for his wines.  The tasting room is rustic but comfortable.  I suggest you try all his wines, from Tilting at Windmills to Flying and Falling.

Well, here you are, near Greenport again, but this time sans children.  To continue our artisan-ish theme, you might want to go to 1943 Pizza, where you can watch up close and personal as they shove your thin-crust pizza into the oven.  I don’t know if you’ll find him hanging around, but Noah’s has good small plates from which to make a delicious meal.  If you just want coffee and a snack, you should stop in to Aldo’s, where Aldo roasts his own coffee and may be your barista.  He outlasted a Starbuck’s that opened across the street.  Ha. Two other excellent, though pricier, options in town are Scrimshaw, on the dock (ask to sit outside if the weather is right), and The Frisky Oyster.  We haven’t tried American Beech yet, but it looks good.

That’s it for now, but I have other scenarios in mind!

Diliberto Winery: Intimate and Friendly, Plus Pizza 12/13/14

http://www.dilibertowinery.com/

The entrance to the tasting room

The entrance to the tasting room

The strains of Italian opera waft out into the cold December air as we open the door to Diliberto Winery.  A trompe l’oeil street scene of an Italian village greets our eyes as we are warmly welcomed to the small tasting room (expanded in summer by a wrap-around patio).  We had been here fairly frequently in the past, but even though it’s now been over a year, Sal Diliberto remembers us and stops by our table to chat.  He’s been sitting at another table with a couple of friends who have been eating one of his thin-crust pizzas for lunch.  A man who loves cooking and good food as much as he loves making wine, Sal Diliberto is fun to talk to.  We share stories of eating in Italy.

Christmas decorations, and bags of home made Italian food to prepare at home

Christmas decorations, and bags of home made Italian food to prepare at home

At our table, we contemplate the menu of tastings.  There are two choices:  The Regular Tasting, of four wines for $12 or the Premium Tasting, of three wines for $15.  There is also a menu of pizzas ($17 each), cheese trays, or olives.  (No outside food is allowed—and no children, either.  When Sal and Maryann’s grandchildren run in for a moment, they are affectionately but quickly shooed out.)  We opt to do one tasting of each, alternating as we go.  I’ll indicate the Premium wines with a *.

  1. 2009 Chardonnay $26

We like the aroma—of sugar cookies and cinnamon—better than the taste, which has quite a lot of acidity and lemon flavor.  Although we don’t find it appealing, it might be better with food.

  1.  *2003 Sauvignon Blanc                $29

On the other hand, we like this, the only other white on the menus, very much.  The wine appears a bit hazy in the glass, so I’m not sure whether or not it has been filtered.  We get layers of flavor—the oak it was aged in, but also traces of sweetness.  Gooseberry pie flavored with vanilla, I say, at which my husband challenges me to say when I ever had a gooseberry.  No really, I did, once.  It would be lovely with salmon, or with somewhat spicy chicken.  We buy two bottles and get a bit of a discount, since we had done the tastings.

Art on the label--at first, I thought they were looking at cell phones!

Art on the label–at first, I thought they were looking at cell phones!

  1. *2013 Cantina                 $27

This is a new release, a 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc.  We scent spice and berries, with some earthiness, though not that barnyard flavor.  It is a good pasta or pizza wine.

  1. 2012 Merlot                     $27

Aroma of cherry and a taste of not really ripe cherry make this just an average Long Island merlot.

  1. 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

Up to now we’ve been served our wines in pairs—with a fresh glass each time, always a nice touch—but this time we opt to just take one, since our next two tastes will be the two vintages of Tre.   We like the cab sauv, though it lacks depth.  It has lots of fruit smells, and tastes of plums that are not quite ripe.  I could see this with lamb chops, hot from the grill.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2012 Tre $34

Here is their Bordeaux blend, a Right Bank style, because it is primarily merlot.  It is 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  A sniff reveals aromas of wood and fruit, perhaps pine and berries.  Though there aren’t many layers of taste it is very nice, with some tannins.

  1. *2013 Tre $37

This blends the same wines in the same proportions as the 2012, but what a difference!  It is clearly our favorite of the day, with yummy fruit and a beautiful balance of flavors. It is not at all tannic, so I’m not sure how long it would last, but at the moment it is delicious.

The piano is used for live music--which sometimes includes Sal, a true Renaissance man, singing opera.

The piano is used for live music–which sometimes includes Sal, a true Renaissance man, singing opera.

Reasons to Visit:  the best-looking tasting room, especially if, like us, you love Italy; the 03 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Tre; the warmth and friendliness of Sal and Maryann; Sal’s pizza (we didn’t have it this time, but we’ve sampled it in the past).  Oh, and they have a little apartment they rent for $250 per night.d sign

Squint and you can pretend you're sitting in a piazza in Italy.

Squint and you can pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy.

Diliberto Winery April 13, 2013

The trompe l'oeil murals make you feel like you're in Italy.

The trompe l’oeil murals make you feel like you’re in Italy.

http://www.dilibertowinery.com/

“April is the cruelest month,” according to T.S. Eliot, and the weather has certainly borne that out, with a couple of warm days followed by cold and rain. Today is at least sunny, though a bit on the cool side, as we head over to Diliberto’s Winery, one of the places we’ve been to fairly frequently, though not recently.  We look forward to sitting in his cozy tasting room with its trompe l’oeil mural of an Italian street scene, listening to Italian opera, and pretending we’ve gone to warm sunny Italy for a day.

The room is presided over by Sal Diliberto himself and his wife Maryann, though Sal is in and out of the room as he ducks into his big kitchen to prepare his homemade pizza and other treats.  A table of wine club members is getting wines by the glass and two pizzas for a late lunch or early cocktail hour treat, and we know from past tastes that the pizza is good, with a crisp thin crust and fresh ingredients ($15, and there’s also a cheese platter available).  Sometimes, especially in the winter, Sal (also a lawyer, with a practice in Queens) has held cooking classes, showing a room full of tasters how to make pizza, pasta, or gnocchi.  He calls this “Sunday with Grandma,” though HE is “grandma”!

In the past we’ve also liked his wines, especially his reds, which tend to complement Italian food very well (no surprise).  However, this time our response is rather mixed.  Perhaps he’s had an off year or two, since we were last here in 2011—though he does recognize us.  The drill here is to order at the small bar, then sit at one of the ten or so tables—more in the summer, when the patio is open—and wait while the server brings each glass.  The menu lists four wines for $12, and/or two premium wines for $9, and we opt for one of each, and I’ve marked the premium wines with *.  As we sip, we listen to Sal visit with the customers, many of whom are clearly regulars, and to recorded opera (sometimes Sal himself sings, or has a performer in) and watch “Visions of Italy,” a public television show that features aerial views of the cities and countryside of Italy.  One could be in a sidewalk café in an Italian village, especially when he emerges from the kitchen with freshly made pizzelles, a little free treat.

  1.  2008 Chardonnay                            $19

An aroma of wet cardboard and acetone greets our nostrils, but we hope the wine tastes better than it smells.  This is a very tart, lemony chardonnay, with some notes of unripe pineapple, making it a tough chardonnay to like, though it would probably be okay with oysters or with seafood in a rich white sauce.

Wines are served in good glasses.

Wines are served in good glasses.

2. *2007 Tre                                            $39

A blend of three wines—hence the name—including 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc, this should be similar to a Bordeaux.  We had really enjoyed the 03 Tre, so we had high hopes for this one.  Eh.  Brambly aroma, some earthiness, a taste of prunes, some tannin.

3. 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon            $25

Hmmm…is wet laundry a wine word?  Because that’s what this wine smells like!  It is dry, with some blackberry, but would not enter the pantheon of great cabernets, especially as the finish is somewhat sour.

4. 2009 Cantina                                      $18

We’ve liked Cantina in the past, as it is a good Italian table wine, a blend of half merlot and half cabernet franc.   A few years ago we signed up for a barrel tasting with Sal and found ourselves and our guests—my brother and sister-in-law—as the only customers.  We got into such intense and interesting conversations about wine that my notes stop after the first barrel, the 07 cabernet franc, but we really liked that.  However, we find this Cantina somewhat on the thin side, with some earthiness, some tartness, and some fruit.  It would be better with pasta than as a sipping wine.

5. *2002 Merlot                                     $31

The tasting menu proudly proclaims that this is a New York State Gold Medal winner, and indeed it is our favorite of the wines we’ve tasted so far, despite a definite aroma of acetone again. We note a good berry taste, nice legs, and not much tannin.  It also seems to get better as it sits in the glass, and we like the second taste better than the first.

6. 2009 Syrah                                          $20

This wine would also, we decide, be better with food than as a sipping wine, as it lacks some of the richness and depth one expects from a syrah.  The aroma is metallic, and I taste pomegranate.  However, we opt to buy a bottle of this and one of the Cantina, as buying two bottles means the tasting is free, and we often need reds to go with Italian food.

Reasons to visit:  Sal’s cooking and the chance to chat with him about his wines or food or any other subject; a pretty tasting room; opera instead of the usual folk/rock/jazz music; the 2002 Merlot.  An apple orchard is right down the street, and we highly recommend both their apples and their warm cider.  One note: prominent signs indicate No Children and No One Under 21 Allowed, so be forewarned. 

The piano is not just for show, but gets used by performers.

The piano is not just for show, but gets used by performers.