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!

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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.

Palmer Vineyards: Sold! August 10, 2018

Palmer Vineyards:  Sold!              August 10, 2018

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This is the building with the tasting room, not to be confused with the first building you come to, which is the wine-making facility.

https://www.palmervineyards.com/#established-1983

The big news locally for those who are interested in wineries was that Paumanok Vineyards bought Palmer Vineyards.  My review will apply to the wines for the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the future brought some changes.  According to one article I read, Paumanok’s winemaker will take over at Palmer.  It will be interesting to return in a couple of years to see how they’re doing.

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Meanwhile, this was our first visit to Palmer since 2016, since a couple of times we stopped by and found the place too noisy and crowded for our comfort.  So we decided to try a Friday afternoon, and found we had the place to ourselves, aside from a few people out on the covered porch area. The last time we came we sat out there, since we were with relatives who had brought their dog with them, and we also shared a cheese platter.  We didn’t get one this time, but do note that they do not allow outside food.

After discussing the menu with the manager and each other, we decided to share two tastings, one of the whites and one of the reds, and settled into a booth.  We enjoy the décor at Palmer, which reminds us of our favorite British pubs, with cozy booths and old signs.  We only wish we liked the wines better.  They are all drinkable, but only one was a standout as far as I’m concerned.  The menu offers three options, all for four wines for $16 to $18.  My husband characterized the pour as “micro”:  each taste was just that, about two sips per person.

  1. 2016 Viognier                 $24.99

Only a few North Fork wineries offer viognier, which is too bad, as I tend to like wines made from this grape.  This one is dry, with an aroma of baked pear, and some nice fruit tastes plus minerality.  The menu says it tastes like quince.  Maybe.

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Small pour!

  1. 2016 Aromatico            $24.99

Often when a wine has a name other than the varietal it is a blend, and that is true of this one, which the manager tells me is, he thinks, 60% muscat and 40% malvasia.  Steel fermented.  When I hear muscat I wonder whether it will be sweet, but this one is not.  It’s fairly interesting, not your average Long Island white, with, according to my tasting pal, “lots of body for a white.”  There’s a taste of gooseberries and a tanginess to it that would make it a good match for the scallops we picked up earlier at Braun’s.

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  1. 2016 Gewürztraminer $23.99

Uh-oh.  The manager describes this as “semi-sweet.”  Too sweet for us!  It smells like honey and nutmeg, but actually doesn’t have much flavor.  There’s a trace of a chemical flavor I dislike, and we dump the last little bit of the small taste.

  1. 2017 Sparkling Rouge Rosé $21.99

He pours this from a partly used bottle with one of those champagne re-sealing corks in it, and at the end I ask him if perhaps it had lost its sparkle by the time he poured our taste.  No, he replies, it’s just not a very bubbly sparkler.  My husband says it has NDA—no detectable aroma.  Not even the strawberry one would expect from a rosé.  It is at least dry, but if you want a sparkling rosé I suggest you seek out Croteaux’s.  Vintage liquor store in the Mattituck shopping center carries all of their wines now.

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Not very sparkling and not very rose.

  1. 2015 Merlot (No price on the menu, but the 2014 is $24.99.)

As I told my brother the last time we were here, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, the reliable grapes that almost everyone grows (despite the opprobrium they got in the movie Sideways).  As expected, it has a cherry aroma and flavor, plus maybe some purple plum.  Dry, with faint tannins and a short finish, it is aged twelve months in French oak.  You could have this with lamb chops, or even roast chicken, but it would not stand up to a steak.

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  1. 2013 Old Roots Merlot $34.99

Why Old Roots?  Not surprisingly, because these grapes come from the oldest vines on the property, dating back thirty-five years.  The grapes are hand harvested, and aged for eighteen months, leading to a slightly more intense merlot experience than the previous taste.  Lots of cherry flavor, but no depth, is our verdict.  Maybe you could have it with grilled sausages, like the ones 8 Hands Farm makes.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

According to the menu, the tastes for this include “subtle cigar box.”  Not sure what that is, but there is a smokiness to the aroma.  Not complex, it has lots of fruit flavor and is pleasant enough to be a wine one could sip as an aperitif.

 

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $28.99

The previous wine is aged for twelve months, while this one ages for eighteen, and it is more complex.  The aroma includes fruit and tobacco, and we taste plums and other dark fruits.  Not much tannin.  I remember a dish I used to make, of tongue in a pickle sauce, and think this would go with that.

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A glimpse of the covered porch. We decided to stay in the air conditioning!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room which looks like an English pub, plus a wide covered porch for outside tastings; the Aromatico and the Cabernet Franc; they serve pitchers of water if you ask; dogs are allowed outside.  Note—the first building you come to is a “self-guided” tour of the winemaking facility, so pull around to the back for the tasting room.

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This is the first building you see, but the tasting room is around the back.

Roanoke: A Highlight of Love Lane July 25, 2018

Roanoke:  A Highlight of Love Lane          July 25, 2018

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

We had some visitors who had never experienced the delights of Love Lane, so we gave them a little guided tour, from the funky Broken Down Valise bar across from the train station to the excellent Village Cheese Shop, with stops along the way to admire the Sweet Shop and Lombardi’s Market and the wall murals.  Then we settled down on the shaded back patio (which would be a nicer setting if it didn’t look out on the parking lot) for a tasting at the Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar.

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One view of the back patio area

You used to be able to go to the Roanoke winery itself (on Sound Avenue just off Roanoke Avenue), but now the only way to taste their wines is in their wine bar on Love Lane, as the winery itself is only open to members of their wine club and their guests.  I particularly remember one chilly winter evening when we were the only people at the winery and had a tasting of red wines and chocolates.  Yum.  However, the wine bar is conveniently located in the middle of the North Fork.

The room itself is rather small, with a bar along one side and a few tables and some comfortable chairs, and so is the back patio.  But even in July, Wednesdays are rather quiet on the North Fork, and for much of our time there we were the only customers.  As has been the rule this week, the weather alternated between rainy and steamy, but we were comfortable on the patio and enjoyed sipping and chatting with our friends.

The tasting menu used to be more extensive, but at the moment there is only one option:  four tastes for $14.  We decided each couple would share one taste, which the server brought out to us one at a time, quickly adapting to our slow and thoughtful pace.  You can also buy bottles of wine from a few other wineries, including our favorite, Channing Daughters, and also Wölffer Estates, Red Hook, and Grapes of Roth.

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  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Pinot Blanc     $24

Our friend’s initial reaction to the aroma of this wine was “pungent!”  And yes, it has a rather sharp aroma of pineapple, with a whiff of some sort of chemical.  A blend of 95% pinot blanc and 5% viognier, this is a light, dry summery wine with tastes of pineapple and citrus.  It would be good with clams or oysters.

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Pretty labels

  1. 2017 Infinite Possibility $22

Just consider all the possibilities of taste and aroma you can get from a blend, in this case of 60% sauvignon blanc, 39.5% chardonnay, and .5% muscat and malvasia.   Our server describes this wine as smelling sweeter than it tastes, and she’s not wrong.   It smells like honeysuckle and tropical fruits, but the taste is dry and lemony, with hints of guava and spice.  Tasty.

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We liked the concept and the label better than the wine for this one.

  1. 2017 Site Specific Chardonnay The Wild! $22

Yes, that is the exact name of this wine, including the italics and the exclamation point.  Made from a muscat clone and steel-tank fermented with wild yeasts, you would never think this was a chardonnay if not for the name.  A year ago we liked it, and the friend we were with bought a bottle.  This year, not so much.  There’s something verging on the unpleasant in the taste, which our friend describes as “yeasty.”  We also get minerals and a touch of the nuttiness we liked last year, though this time it is more like bitter almond.  And that’s why we have to go back every year!

  1. 2016 (Greater Than)  $22

The only red in the tasting, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of 53% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 17% cabernet franc.  It has a pleasant aroma of cherry and other fruit and also tastes of the cherry one would expect with a merlot.  It is very dry, with some nice tannins, and would be good with a juicy hamburger (It is getting close to supper time!)  We are intrigued by the name, and discover that it has a dual meaning.  One is that, as a blend, it is greater than the sum of its parts.  The other involves a dispute over the previous name of the wine, which was Bond.  It turned out a California winery had a prior claim to the name, so the new name is a quiet dig at them…this one’s greater than yours!  We bought a bottle.

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This leafy alley leads to Love Lane on one side and the parking lot on the other.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location amid the shops and restaurants of Love Lane; pleasant backyard patio; Greater Than; you can buy bottles of wine from other wineries; they have a variety of special events for members.

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The back patio is a relaxing place to spend some time drinking wine.

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!

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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Roanoke Vineyards: Sipping and Shopping           August 20, 2017

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

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The view out the door to lovely Love Lane.

Roanoke Vineyards has a tasting room conveniently located on Love Lane in Mattituck, so you can browse the shops before or after your tasting.  The shops include the excellent Love Lane Cheese Shop, the Sweet Shop, a toy store, a yarn store, an art gallery/framing store, a pet accessory store, a dress shop, Orlovsky’s Hardware store, Lombardi’s Market, and several restaurants.  We decided to celebrate having seen a 70% solar eclipse with a wine tasting, while several members of our party (two of whom were too young to drink) cruised the shops.  By the way, although there is parking on Love Lane, there is also ample free parking in the town lot to the west of the street.

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One view of the tasting room.

The tasting room is small but attractive, and is augmented in warm weather by an enclosed patio in the back.  We stood at the bar, which allowed us to chat with the very personable server.  The menu offered two main options:  The Summer Flight, of four wines for $14, or the Special Flight, of three wines for $12.  The three of us decided to share one of each.  The wines from the Special Flight are marked with an *. We also noted that the tasting room sells bottles of wine from two South Fork wineries—Channing Daughters and Wölffer Estates—and Red Hook.  Good to know, since it is sometimes hard to find their wines in stores.

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The back yard patio.

  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc           $26

We started out with this steel fermented white, tart and spicy with some creaminess.  We had an amusing discussion with the server over the aroma of cat pee, which I would also describe as the smell you sometimes get when you have kept flowers in water for too long.  Fortunately, the wine does not taste like the smell.

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  1. *2016 R.V. The Wild     $22

Wild refers to the use of “wild,” or indigenous yeast, or in other words the yeast that just occurs naturally, rather than a purchased yeast.  I would imagine that it takes some courage to do this, since you risk that the wine might not come out well.  Happily, this chardonnay did, with an aroma of gooseberry and a rather nutty taste—as in it tastes like nuts.  We all like it, and our son-in-law buys a bottle to take home.

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  1. 2016 Infinite Possibility $22

This one is also delicious, a blend of 66% chardonnay, 25% sauvignon blanc, 5% viognier and 5% albariño.  We taste pineapple and honeydew in this steel fermented white.  Our relative notes that this is the type of wine, “I could drink all day.”  Perfect summer white.

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  1. *2014 Single Acre Merlot $45

All the grapes for this merlot come from one particular acre, so it has a limited production, and all the pruning, etc., is done by hand.  It has the typical merlot cherry aroma and flavor.  Nice, but not worth a fuss.

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  1. Colorfield   $26

Extra!  Noting my note-taking, and our engagement with the wines, the server says we need to try this one, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot blanc that is not on the menu.  It is light and dry, and, we agree, another wine one could sip “all day.”

  1. 2015 R.V. ARC $34

Arc?  Why?  The server is not sure why this blend of 72% estate cabernet franc and 28% merlot has this name, but by the next wine, we have a theory.  In any event, this is a dry, pleasant red that would go well with burgers.  It has just a touch of cherry taste, plus blackberry and blueberry.

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  1. *2014 Prime Number   $59

Okay, there is a definite theme of mathematic-inspired names.  The server notes that a retired teacher works for the winery, writing copy for the menu and helping come up with names.  We theorize that the teacher must have been a math teacher, and our son-in-law buys a bottle for his father, who is both a retired math teacher and an oenophile.  Perfect!  We decide that he should cellar this wine, which has the types of tannins that make us think it would age well, though now it is “too tight” and “closed.”  A blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot, it had some interesting layers of flavor.  I’d like to taste it in a few years (hint!).

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  1. 2014 R.V. Cabernet Sauvignon   $45

And here’s another wine that we decide would benefit from some aging—and we buy a bottle to store in our cellar.  The aroma is slightly earthy, but mainly plummy, as is the taste.  We tell our companion about how early on so many of the wines out here tasted earthy or barnyard-y, a trait the winemakers seem to have succeeded in ameliorating.

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As you can see from this list, you can buy wines from a number of different wineries at Roanoke’s Love Lane tasting room.

Reasons to visit:  you want to do some shopping on Love Lane and need a respite; The Wild, Infinite Possibility, Prime Number, Cabernet Sauvignon; the ability to buy wines from Channing Daughters, Wölffer Estates, and Red Hook; a pleasantly intimate tasting room.

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Bedell Cellars: Artistic Elegance  July 6, 2017

https://www.bedellcellars.com/

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The weather man was predicting rain, so we decided to take our guests to Bedell, rather than opt for a winery where we would sit outside.  As it happened, the sun came out, but we did not regret our choice.  Bedell has some lovely and interesting wines, and the most artistic labels on Long Island.  As we’ve been told before by servers, the owner is on the board of the Museum of Modern Art, and he commissions labels from various modern artists.  Given the prices on the wines, maybe they could include little reproductions of the artwork with the purchase of each bottle!

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Each label is also a work of art.

The tasting room is small and simply elegant, with a high ceiling and a black and white color scheme. There is also a covered porch to one side.  We settled down at a table for four and perused the flight menu—which didn’t take long, as they have simplified their options.  Now there is only one choice—a flight of five wines for $20.  Each couple opted to share a tasting, which worked out fine.  They also have a small snack menu, with one unusual choice:  an individual serving of North Fork honey.  We had brought some mixed nuts, which helped us appreciate at least one of the wines, as you will see.

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Their menu of snacks.

  1. Sparkling Rosé 2016      $45

What a perfect way to start our tasting, especially since we were also celebrating my husband’s birthday.  A pretty pink—“Nice color for a bridesmaid’s dress,” opined our friend—with an aroma of strawberries, this is made from a mixture of 60% merlot and 40% cabernet sauvignon.  Unlike the sparkling white we had here last time, this is made by injecting CO2, not by the méthode champenoise.  While not complex, the taste is delicious, crisp and dry and fruity.  One of us threatened to drink a whole bottle…

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  1. Taste White 2015 $50

Our server informed us that this was the “wine of the month,” and was therefore on sale at half price.  Noting the vintage, I opined that they wanted to clear out the stock to make space for a newer wine, as many whites are better drunk young, not aged.  Both the blend of grapes and the aroma intrigued us.  It is a combination of 65% albariño, plus chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, and is steel fermented.  We kept sniffing and discussing the smell, which we described variously as mineral, burnt cork, funky, and garden mulch.  The taste was equally complicated, with fruit, mineral, metal, and citrus notes.  We liked it, but were wondering about food pairings, since it has an unusual flavor and would overwhelm something delicate, like sole.  I’m thinking it might have gone well with the grilled swordfish topped with tomato relish my friend had later for dinner at ALure.

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  1. Gallery 2014 $75

That’s quite a price for a Long Island white, and though we enjoyed the wine we did not feel it was worth it.  A combination of 65% chardonnay and 25% viognier aged in oak, plus 10% steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, we thought it was slightly reminiscent of a California chardonnay, though not as oaky.  The taste was complex, with notes of citrus and salt and mineral and some butterscotch.  We felt it was a bit too sweet, though I think that may have been the fruitiness rather than the sweetness.  When we ate some nuts and then tasted it again, we liked it better, so it is definitely a food wine.

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There are not many wineries where the wine labels could also double as art museum labels.

  1. Merlot 2014 $35

We got clean glasses for the reds.  Mmm, this smelled delicious, with lots of fruity, plummy, cherry aromas.  It also tasted quite good, dry, but with lots of fruit and a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  Nice tannins.  It might age well.  You could have this with steak and be quite happy.  Or bison, which, as our server informed us, is what it was paired with in 2009 at a Presidential inauguration lunch.

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  1. Cabernet Franc 2014 $45

“This sends nine months in neutral oak,” our server told us, and we felt pretty neutral about the wine as well.  Just okay, was my judgement.  Definitely tasted red plums and other fruits in this dry red, but it was not as full-bodied as the merlot, which we all preferred.

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One side of the bar.

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A table, with a view out to the porch.

Reasons to visit:  attractive tasting room and covered porch; the pretty labels; the Sparkling Rosé, the Taste White, and the Merlot.  I also noted a trend I’ve seen in more and more tasting rooms—you can buy a bottle to drink there, but it will cost you more than if you buy a bottle to take home.  $10 more in this case!

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Kontokosta Winery: Absorbing the Crowds May 28, 2017

http://kontokostawinery.com/

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The grey skies meant many people opted for wineries rather than beaches.

We should have known better than to try to go to a winery on a non-beach Sunday over Memorial Day weekend.  But we had friends visiting, and we wanted to take them to Croteaux for a tasting.  As we headed east, we passed winery after winery where the parked cars had spilled over onto lawns and roadsides.  Uh oh.  And indeed, Croteaux was filled, with Michael Croteau outside, waving off cars trying to cram into his small lot.  Where to go?  Our friends hadn’t been to Kontokosta since shortly after it opened, and we figured that as far east as it is, and as big as the tasting room is, we would be able to get in there.

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There was plenty of room when we arrived, but by the time we left all the seats were filled.

We were right, and even though parking there had also extended to a grassy area, there was room at one of the long tables in the tasting room for us to sit and enjoy our tasting.  However, by the time we left, it was SRO!  We also observed many people who had chosen to take a glass of wine out onto the expansive lawn and wander down to the Long Island Sound, visible in the distance.

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You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

A tasting consists of any three wines from the menu for $12, so we decided to get three whites and three reds, not tasting the rosé or a few of the others, while our friends opted to share a tasting.  Maybe next time we’ll check out the others.  We also got a couple of bags of my favorite chips—North Fork Potato Chips.  If you haven’t tried them, do.  They are crispy kettle-fried chips, and totally addictive.  Kontokosta also has a menu of cheeses and charcuterie, plus non-alcoholic drinks.  The server poured out our nine tastes, explaining each one, and we took our glasses to a table.

  1. 2015 Sauvignon Blanc   $25

We were talking about getting some oysters later, so we decided to start with what is often a perfect oyster wine.  This wine smelled great—like mango and flowers—and tasted pretty good, too.  We found it tart, with some nice kiwi and vegetable tastes, with a pleasant finish.  One nice detail—it was not served too cold!

  1. 2015 Viognier    $25

Sometimes I think I like to order this wine because the name is fun to say.  In any event, I don’t think I would choose this particular viognier.  My husband’s first judgement was “restrained flavors,” to which I added “undistinguished.”  It has a bit of a wet basement smell, though also some minerality.  The taste is very light and uncomplicated.

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The server lining up our tastes of the whites.

  1. 2015 Field Blend             $22

Our friend also ordered this one, and she immediately categorized it as a “dessert wine.”  It is on the sweet side, though not cloyingly so.  A blend of 47% riesling, 41% viognier, and 12% sauvignon blanc, it has a candy and honeysuckle aroma and tastes like peaches.  We decided it could go with spicy Thai food, where the fruit of the wine would match well with the coconut and peppers of Thai, but not so well with Indian dishes.  You could also have it with charcuterie.

  1. 2014 Merlot      $34

The server tipped the end of the bottle into our glass, which meant we ended up with a fair amount of sediment.  Oh well.  This is a pretty typical North Fork merlot, with lots of cherry tastes, pleasantly dry, with some tastes of tobacco and chocolate.  Nice.

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The reds (of course).

  1. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $29

We liked this one better, with lots of dark fruit tastes like purple plums and berries, plus some tannins.  It is more complex than the merlot, though the finish is quite short.  Dry.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $40

Though, as is often the case with Long Island reds, we felt it was not worth the price—and our friends, who also tried this, agreed—it is very nice indeed, with fruity aromas and soft tannins.  We tasted raspberries and a touch of spice, like pepper.  If I were to get a glass with which to wander down to the water, I would choose this.

  1. 2013 Anemometer Red                $50

Our friends also tried this one, and said it was very good.  A Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and merlot, it has lots of oak and cherry tastes.

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Snack menu. I highly recommend the North Fork Potato Chips!

 

Reasons to visit:  a pretty location next to Long Island Sound, walking distance from Greenport; the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet sauvignon; an attractive modern tasting room with a soaring ceiling and long tables; usually not too crowded, even on busy days—except not this past weekend!

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In the background you can see their wind turbine, an increasingly frequent sight on the North Fork.

 

 

Sannino Bella Vita: Safe Choices April 8, 2017

http://www.sanninovineyard.com/

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We didn’t have any wines we disliked here, nor did we have any that excited us.  I see Sannino Bella Vita’s wines as safe choices.  My husband’s word was “tame.”  I will say that everyone around us certainly seemed to be enjoying their tastings, and the Sanninos do a great job of engaging with visitors and helping them choose the best options for their personal preferences from the list of twelve wines.  A standard tasting is six tastes for $18, all presented to you on a tray, which you label with the numbers of your wines from the menu.  Most of the wines are quite reasonably priced.  They also offer some snacks, like a cheese tray.

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Snack menu

They give an interesting piece of advice to their guests as to how to do a tasting, suggesting that you leave a tiny bit in each glass so you can go back and do comparisons and so that you remember what you liked.  I indicated my notebook and said, “I don’t forget anything!”

Though the bar area is cozy, they also now have a back room with tables, plus an outdoor area.  In addition to the winery, the Sanninos also run a bed and breakfast and offer various wine education classes.

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Our tray of tastes. We had already started on the first one!

 

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc    $20

We decided to begin with their sauvignon blanc, which is steel fermented.  The aroma includes something floral and a hint of green, like asparagus—which should soon be available at the farm stands.  As we sipped, I decided that we needed to try asparagus on the grill with sauvignon blanc.  The taste is light and refreshing, and might also go well with barbequed chicken.  Well, it is spring.

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  1. 2016 Chilly Day Chardonnay       $20

Although this is also steel fermented, it comes on a bit sweet, though the finish is quite dry.  My tasting buddy and I had some disagreements about this one, since I said it tasted like unripe pear and he said cotton candy.  It is a bit tart for those who like sweet wines, but if you like a touch of sweetness in an un-oaked chardonnay you’ll like this.  The aroma is characteristically of honeysuckle.

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A candle made from a wine bottle!

  1. 2016 Viognier    $20

I thought I detected a bit of a basement smell in this one, as well as some minerality, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled.  It is again a bit sweet at the beginning, but nicely dry at the end.  I’m thinking it tastes a bit of peaches or apricots.  It would be nice to sip chilled, with some charcuterie and hard cheeses.  And just as I’m saying that, the couple next to us get the cheese board with some sliced sausage and cheeses including parmigiana and a smoked gouda about which there was much enthusiasm.

  1. 2013 Syrah         $30

Now we switch to the reds.  However, there’s a caveat here.  Most of the 2014s have not yet been bottled, but will be soon, so there may very well be some differences from my notes if you go later in the season.  Based on our experience, though, you’ll not find any wines to dislike if you do.  Again, we had some disagreement, this time on the smell.  I said red candy, and he said motor oil.  Really?  Anyway, we agreed on the taste—not much fruit, a bit of spice (like nutmeg), and very dry.  The menu says “soft tannins” and “jammy,” and we agree with the former but not the latter.

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I always find it very educational to talk with the owners.

  1. 2013 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot     $50

Mr. Sannino and I got into a bit of a discussion over our mutual affection for petit verdot, which is more often used as part of a blend than on its own:  hence the name he gave it.  He wanted to put petit verdot in the “spotlight” for a change.  The aroma is lovely, of berries and bramble, and the taste is nice too.  Fruity and again quite dry, with blackberry and some promising tannins.  If I bought a bottle I’d want to cellar it for a couple of years.  On the other hand, at $50 I wasn’t ready to spring for a bottle.

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon           $38

This wine and the previous one have, according to the menu, won various silver medals.  And it is very drinkable, with an aroma of black cherry and nice fruit tastes.  My husband and I turn to each other and discover that I have written “not challenging” just as he says “tame.”  Again, a safe choice.

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I wonder who does all these blackboards?

  1. 2014 Francesco               $45

Wait, you only get six tastes, right?  Well, when it is clear you are appreciative of and thoughtful about wine sometimes you get something a little extra.  As they say in New Orleans, a “lagniappe.”  Mr. Sannino offers us this taste of his blend of five grape types, heavy on the petit verdot, which is not exactly a Bordeaux blend because it includes at least one variety they don’t use there. It is named for his father.  I smell tobacco and chocolate, and the taste is the most interesting of the day, with some depth.  Speaking of family, we learn that of his four children, three are interested in wine making, including a daughter studying viticulture at Cornell, and one may be interested in oysters.  I opine that those oysters would go well with his sauvignon blanc!

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The bar area is cozy and includes a small selection of wine-related gifts.

Reasons to visit:  personal attention from the owners; a cozy bar setting; the Francesco ’14, the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Petit Verdot.

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