Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece February 9, 2019

Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece               February 9, 2019

https://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

If you remember your Greek mythology, you will realize that the boat-shaped bar at Jason’s Vineyard is meant to evoke the famous ship, the Argo, on which the Argonauts, led by Jason, set out to find the Golden Fleece—not, as we once heard a guest guess, a pirate ship.

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A view to the outdoor veranda and a portrait of Jason.

Jason was (he sadly died young, just a few years ago) a member of the Damianos family, whose other vineyards are Duck Walk and Pindar, which we reviewed recently.  We decided to check out Jason’s and make it a trifecta.  Having met and had a great chat with Jason, whom we ran into in a local store, back when he was planning to open this winery, we wanted to like it.  Though we were pleased by some of the wines, overall we found some of the same issues as with the other Damianos family wines, a tendency to over-sweetness and simplicity.

The tasting room is of average size, but they also have a plastic-sheeted veranda and an outdoor seating area for larger crowds in the summer.  The bar is surrounded by bar stools, so you can perch as you sip.  We observed one group nibbling on food they had clearly brought with them, and there are also a few snack items for sale.  In an outdoor enclosure we saw several sheep and alpacas, I suppose another reference to that famous fleece.

The menu offers five tastes for $15, and after some calculating we realized that we could do two tastings and try almost all of their wines.  You pay in advance and get a little pile of black “coins,” which the server collects as she pours each new taste.  The tastes, by the way, are quite generous, so that we found ourselves dumping those that didn’t delight with more frequency than usual.  They also have Greenport Harbor beer on tap.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay          $21.95

The aroma of this steel-fermented wine is rather typically chardonnay-ish, with plenty of lemon and tropical smells.  The taste is also rather strong for a chard, and we decided it would go better with chicken than any sort of delicate seafood.

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No that’s not water–our water glasses are in the back–that’s how light the sauvignon blanc is.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

The first thing I noticed was the very light, almost watery color of the wine.  That turned out to be predictive of the taste, which I described as wine-flavored water.  Grassy aroma.

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  1. 2017 Pinot Blanc $34.95

“Are they keeping the wine outside?” wondered my tasting buddy, as we tried to warm up the very cold glass so we could assess the wine.  On the other hand, we liked this the best so far.  Although the aroma is slightly chemical, the taste balances citrus with a sweeter fruitiness, perhaps guava.  This is a white you could have with pork chops.

  1. 2015 White Riesling $24.95

Isn’t saying white riesling redundant, we asked our server, who chuckled and admitted she was equally baffled.  In this case, the chem lab aroma led to a taste we did not care for.  It was sweet, but with a bitter aftertaste, like honey being used to disguise medicine, as my mother used to do to give me aspirin when I was little.

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  1. Golden Fleece $18.95

Given the name, we were not surprised to hear her describe this as their “signature white.”  It is a blend of chardonnay, seyval blanc, Cayuga, vidal blanc, and riesling.  Though she didn’t have any information on the proportions, she said it was predominantly chardonnay.  Having been forewarned that this was on the sweet side, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, although it did remind us of white grape juice mixed with tropical fruit and tangerines, it was not cloyingly sweet.  However, we did dump most of this and the previous taste.

  1. 2014 Merlot $27.99

Our server poured this along with an “extra” of a taste of the 2000 Merlot, which they are offering for just $12 a bottle.  One sip and we knew why the low price—my husband described it as “if not over the hill, at least standing at the top and about to walk down.”  It smelled like forest floor and machine oil and tasted smoky and thin.  Which made the 2014 taste better.  It’s a typical North Fork merlot, with dominant cherry tastes and light tannins.  The extra, by the way, was not given to us because of the book, but according to the server is being given to everyone, so they are clearly looking to offload the 2000.  We dumped our taste.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $27.95

We had hopes for this wine, as it smelled really good, of dark fruits, but the taste was very light, with no depth and not much fruit.  Dump.

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  1. 2015 Meritage $29.95

This is an unusual blend for a red, of cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay, aged 24 months in French oak.  The aroma reminded me of Cheracol cough syrup, but the taste was not bad.  My husband described it as “not sophisticated, but tasty.”  A light red, it would be fine with pasta or, for a Greek meal, pastitsio.

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  1. 2013 Malbec $29.95

We get some wet basement funkiness in the smell, but fortunately it tastes better than that.  Though it is not complex, we get some nice dark fruits and light tannins.  Dry and drinkable.  We decide it could go with barbeque, but for this level of wine we’d rather head to Vintage, our local liquor store, for one of their $12 bottles.

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  1. 2007 Dessert Wine $28.95

As we were deciding which wines to get, we hesitated between this and the rosé in order to total ten tastes.   Our server, seeing what we liked, steered us to this one, telling us that the rosé was on the sweet side.  This, of course, is sweet as well, comparable, she said to a port, with 19.5% alcohol, made from cabernet.  A good drink for a cold day, she suggested.  It does taste port-like, rather sweet, but, my husband opines, with no depth or gravitas.  We try it with the heart-shaped chocolates that are in a bowl in front of us, which does improve the experience.  I could see sipping this by the fire with a piece of chocolate cake.  Or maybe just the cake…

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We noted the nautical theme even at the entrance.

Reasons to visit:  you like to visit the sheep and alpacas, though you are sternly warned not to feed them; very generous pour; you can bring your own snacks; the chardonnay, the Meritage, the malbec; the bar is cool; they also have the Absenthe, which we tried at Pindar.

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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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Jason’s Vineyard: No, It’s Not a Pirate Ship           June 24, 2017

http://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

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Ancient Greek ships, like the Argo, had painted on eyes to help navigate.

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The ship-shaped bar even has a mast and sail, and the ceiling is painted to look like the sky.

Anyone unfamiliar with Greek mythology could be forgiven for thinking, when they sighted the ship-shaped bar, complete with mast and furled sail, that it was supposed to resemble a pirate ship.  However, the design of the bar—and of the ship on the wine labels—is meant to evoke the great ship the Argo, which set off with its crew of heroes, led by Jason, to find the Golden Fleece.  Jason Damianos, the son of the owner of Pindar and Duck Walk, was clearly quite pleased with his namesake hero, and not only designed his bar to resemble the Argo but also named some of his wines after elements of the heroic voyage and opted to raise sheep (golden fleece, get it?) on his property.  Sadly, Jason was killed two years ago in a car accident.  However, the family has continued to own and run his vineyard and his small herd of sheep (plus at least one llama).

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The llama–and the sheep, we were told–had all recently been shorn.

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Jason’s is a fairly large facility, with an expansive outdoor covered porch where a singer was entertaining guests the day we came (but so loudly that we opted to stay inside).  The servers keep track of your tasting by giving you a pile of tokens, taking one away each time they serve a taste.  That works well for large groups, which they do welcome.  The menu offers a flight of five wines for $10.  Since they have thirteen different wines, we decided to do two tastings, one of whites and then another of reds, which we clarified with our server after a bit of discussion.  As we thoughtfully considered each wine, our server became more and more enthusiastic about helping us, pouring a couple of “extras.”  As a result, the only wines we did not try are the two rosés.

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One view of the porch.

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There were no signs about whether or not they allow outside food, so I assume they do.  They also had a small selection of cheeses and crackers in a refrigerated case.  By the way, I only have vintages for a few of the wines.  The menu doesn’t mention them and neither did our server, who whisked most bottles away before I could check.

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The winery building is quite attractive.

  1. Golden Fleece                 $18.95

Apparently, this was a wine Jason meant to be his signature one, a blend of 41% chardonnay, 24% seyval blanc, 21% Cayuga, and 9% vidal blanc.  Noting this unusual collection of grapes, we asked if any of them came from Upstate.  Yes, said our server, she thought the Cayuga did, but wasn’t sure about the rest. However, according to the winery web page the Cayuga is actually grown locally. Tasting it, we were wondering whether this would be a collection of wines we would even want to taste, as it was much too sweet for us.  The menu describes it as “crisp,” but it made me think of candied or canned pears in syrup.  The aroma had combined minerality with floral and cat pee notes, so I was hoping the wine would be more interesting than it proved to be.IMG_3926

  1. Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

I have to say that this had a rather unpleasant smell, like rotting garbage, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  That’s one of the aspects of wine that fascinates me—how the smell and the taste can be so different.  Anyway, this one WAS crisp, and rather nice, dry, with tastes of lemon and mineral.  It would pair well with oysters.

  1. Pinot Blanc $34.95

We liked this one, too. The smell combined a funky, forest-floor element with a metallic scent, and the taste had lots of citrus.  I was thinking blood orange, with end notes of pineapple, and found it mouth-watering.  It would complement spicy food nicely, like maybe a shrimp fra diavolo.

  1. Chardonnay $29.95

In general, I’m not a fan of oaked chardonnays, and this one did not convert me, though it was not too heavily oaked.  As my tasting buddy said, “It’s neither here nor there.”  Aromas of vanilla and almonds, tastes of butterscotch and lemon, and a rather thin mouth feel.  Our server informed us that this was the last of the 2012 vintage, on sale for only $12.95 a bottle, or $100 a case.  A good buy, but not enough to tempt us.

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The servers use these tokens to keep track of how many tastes you get.

  1. White Riesling $27.95

What, we wondered, is a white riesling?  Aren’t all rieslings white?  Our usual server was occupied elsewhere, and the cheerful young lady who poured this one for us had no idea why this one was labeled “white.”  In any event, we dumped most of the glass, as it was unpleasantly sweet.

  1. 2006 Merlot $26.95

The servers rinse your glass with water between tastes, which is nice—except when they don’t dump out all the water.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with scents of cherry, wood, and tobacco and a taste of cherry, though with a somewhat bitter finish.

  1. 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $12.95

The cabernet sauvignon is aged 24 months in new French oak, “unfined and unfiltered,” according to the menu.  Though the aroma is lovely, of black cherry and dark chocolate, the taste is disappointing.  My husband characterizes it as a pizza wine, though I would prefer a nice Chianti. We think it is at the end of its useful life, and so must the winery, since this is also on sale for $100 a case.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $25

This is our first “extra.”  Our server suggests we compare it to the 05, and is interested to see what we think of it.  Much better!  The aroma has hints of something spicy, like maybe A-1 sauce, and the wine is dry, with lots of tannins, and a taste that reminds me of a dried fruit compote.

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Hercules…and…

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Hercules! The wine is named for this cute pooch.

  1. Hercules $28.95

According to the menu, this is a unique wine, a “late harvest blend of merlot and cabernet.”  “Late harvest” would imply great ripeness and sweetness, and the label calls it a “sweet red.”  However, it is not as sweet as we were afraid it would be, and we actually liked it.  I said it was sweet on top and tart on the bottom, which I know makes no sense, but that was what I felt.  We agreed we’d love to try it with a nice piece of chocolate cake.  Hercules, by the way, is named not just for the great hero who went on the Argo (in addition to his famous twelve labors), but also for Jason Damianos’s dog.  Check out the photo…

  1. Meritage $28.95

Meritage is the North Fork’s version of Bordeaux wines, a blend in this case of merlot, cabernet, malbec, and pinot noir.  Very nice—not surprising, since Jason studied wine-making in France.  It smells pleasantly of sweet dark fruits, and tastes like cherries, other fruits, and some pepper.

  1. 2010 Malbec $28.95

As my Grandma Ruthie would say, “This one beats the bunch.”  Definitely the star of the day, this has a delicious aroma of dark fruit, plums, and chocolate and tastes quite fruity as well, while still being dry.  If we had decided to sit on the porch and listen to the singer, this is the wine I would have chosen to have in my glass.

  1. Dessert Wine $28.95

Yes, that is what it is called on the menu.  Our server offers us this “on me,” she says, having enjoyed serving people who are interested in the wine and not just in “getting drunk.”  Thanks!  At 19.5% alcohol, this is definitely an after-dinner drink, really a Port wine, with its sweetness balanced by dryness.  Quite yummy, it would be pleasant to sip this while cracking walnuts and almonds.

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Some snacks are available for purchase.

Reasons to visit:  fun to see the bar shaped like a ship; the pinot blanc and the malbec; the Hercules and the Dessert Wine are good if you’re looking for an after-dinner sweet sipper; you can see—but not feed—the sheep and the llama.

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A portrait of Jason Damianos hangs on the wall. We met him a number of years ago, before he opened the winery, at a shop on Love Lane. We got into a discussion and he told us how excited he was to open his own winery. Nice guy. We were sad to hear he had died.

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Roanoke Vineyards and Brooklyn Oenology: Face Off! August 9, 2014

http://www.roanokevineyards.net/

http://www.brooklynoenology.com/

One corner of the tasting room

One corner of the tasting room

“Wow, that was fun,” we agreed, as we left the Roanoke Vineyards Tasting Bar on Love Lane in Mattituck.  We had arrived about 3:30, not knowing that a pop-up event was about to happen, pairing Roanoke wines with wines made by Brooklyn Oenology (BOE).  Though the event was due to start at 4, we were able to do the tasting early, and, because the room was fairly calm at the moment, we had lots of attention from Roanoke’s Robin and BOE winemaker Alie Shaper.

Normally, Roanoke features wine from Grapes of Roth and Wölffer Estates (on the South Fork) as well as their own, and they offer a menu of choices from each.  I would have liked to taste some of the Wölffer wines, as it had been years since I’d tried them, but the only Wölffer selections on offer were hard ciders.  However, once we realized we could do the Roanoke vs. BOE face-off, we knew what we had to do.  For $20 we got to taste eight wines, four from each, paired for similarity of grape and type.  I love tasting two wines made from the same grape, grown in the same region, and seeing how they differ.

The Tasting Bar is a small storefront, augmented by tables on a petite patio in the back and some tables for two along the side of the building, and includes the tasting bar and some small tables and a few comfortable chairs where it would be nice to sit and sip a glass.

As we tasted each selection, Robin and Alie alternated telling us about each wine, how it was made, and so on.

The whites

The whites

  1. Roanoke Vineyards (RV) 2013 The Wild                 $20

Why “The Wild”?  This is made with, said Robin, “indigenous yeast,” or in other words naturally occurring yeast, using chardonnay grapes from a Mudd vineyard which was originally planted in 1982.  They’re not sure which clone it was, but it may have been a muscat, which would account for some of the sweetness in the wine.  We detect an aroma of cedar shavings with tastes of pineapple and mango.  It reminds me a bit of Channing Daughter’s L’Enfant Sauvage, which is also made with wild yeasts.  Yum, in any event!  I could happily sip this wine on the deck on a summer night.

2.  BOE 2013 Social Club White         $18

I guess this is paired with the wild because it is a similar weight white, but this is a blend of grapes from Upstate and the North Fork (Alie joked that she would love to have permission to plant vines in a park in Brooklyn, but that’s, alas, not likely.) The blend is 60% chardonnay, with smaller amounts of pinot gris, pinot blanc, Vidal blanc, riesling, and gewürztraminer.  I hadn’t heard of Vidal blanc before, and Alie noted that it is a Finger Lakes grape, as are the riesling and the gewürztraminer and the pinot gris.  With all those Finger Lakes grapes I was expecting sweet, but this is a lovely dry wine with some citrus aromas and a bit of a taste of tangerine.

The roses--note the pretty label and pretty colors

The roses–note the pretty label and pretty colors

3.  RV 2013 Derosa Rosé $19

Poetically, my husband compares the aroma to a “forest after the rain,” and I do agree that it has some flowery sweetness—in the taste as well as the aroma.  It’s not a bad rosé, and many people would probably like it, but we prefer it drier.  The name, by the way, is after the family’s Grandma Rose.

4.  BOE 2013 Cabernet Franc Rosé $18

I have to give the prize in this comparison to the BOE wine, which is made with wild yeast and uses Finger Lakes grapes.  The color is very pretty, the aroma is very strawberry, and the taste is a bit reminiscent of a berry sorbet—so, too sweet for us, but more complex and interesting than the Roanoke.  I admire the beautiful label, and Alie enthusiastically tells us that all her labels are designed by Brooklyn artists, with a special peel-off feature if you want to save the pretty pictures.  This particular one was designed by Patricia Fabricant, and after they chose her design they learned that she is the daughter of Florence Fabricant, who writes about food and wine for The New York Times.

5.  RV 2010 Bond $19

We get fresh glasses for the reds, a nice touch.  Their Bordeaux blend, this wine varies its composition from year to year, depending on the qualities of the grapes.  This one is mainly merlot, and spends 10 months in neutral oak casks, then stainless steel.  We smell cedar and berries, and taste blackberry.  Though not a bad wine, it is a bit thin, and lacks depth.

6.  BOE 2012 Social Club Red $20

So I had to ask, “Why Social Club?”  Alie explains that when she moved to Brooklyn (the winery’s tasting room is located in Williamsburg, of course) she noticed all the immigrant social clubs, and decided to name her wines for them. She liked the idea of wines that were casual and friendly.   Also a Bordeaux blend, Alie’s wine is 77%merlot, 18%, cabernet sauvignon, and 5% Corot noir.  Corot noir?  The grape is a hybrid created at Cornell, and adds a dark color to the wine, without the use of chemicals.  We like it very much, tasting plenty of fruit with a bit of side of the tongue sweetness yet dry at the end.

7.  RV 2010 Merlot $45

2010 was a great year on the North Fork, but we’re not crazy about this wine.  We smell cinnamon, plus some of that local earthiness, and taste some fruit and some smoke.  Perhaps it needs more time.

On to the reds

On to the reds

8.  BOE 2010 Merlot $25

Okay, same grape, same year, though BOE adds 4% petit verdot, sourced from Onabay’s vineyard in Cutchogue.  Again, we smell cinnamon, some earthiness, but the taste differs.  It has more fruit , a dry finish, and is softer, with no smoke.  We like it!

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We buy a bottle each of the BOE Merlot and the RV The Wild and browse the small selection of gifts.  They have the Govino glasses, which we have bought as gifts in the past.  They’re a high quality plastic, nice on a picnic or a boat.  Oh, and as to who won the face off?  I’d have to say we did, because we got to sample wines from two wineries and only had to travel to one!

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Reasons to visit:  convenient tasting room in the middle of the North Fork on Love Lane, which is itself a destination with its cheese shop, Bookhampton book store, Love Lane Country Kitchen, and more; The Wild; the chance to taste wines from other vineyards as well.

The back patio

The back patio