Laurel Lake:  A Festive Day          September 23, 2017

http://www.llwines.com/

IMG_4372

The winery building is quite pretty.

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

IMG_4397

The tent was being prepared for a wedding party.

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

IMG_4380

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

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

IMG_4374

The tasting room.

  1. 2016 Pinot Gris              $22.99

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

IMG_4378

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

  1. 2014 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $23.99

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

IMG_4383

The outside bar.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $22.99

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

IMG_4379

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $22.99

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

  1. Moscato Sparkling $24.99

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

IMG_4384

  1. Wind Song Red $17.99

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

IMG_4385

  1. 2013 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

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

IMG_4388

My favorite of these was the Syrah.

  1. 2012 Merlot Estate $19.99

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

  1. 2013 Syrah $19.99

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

IMG_4398

  1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

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

  1. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $25.99

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

IMG_4399

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

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

IMG_4377 (1)

Our server did a good job of explaining each wine.

IMG_4401

IMG_4373

The top floor of the two-level outdoor area.

IMG_4367

Mermaids on parade!

Laurel Lake: The Personal Touch May 14, 2016

http://www.llwines.com/

IMG_2648

Juan sat down next to us at the bar and explained his ideas about winemaking.  Although there were several large groups at Laurel Lake, and Juan was actively helping to serve them, he and the servers behind the bar also took the time to answer our questions and solicit our opinions about the wines—which were largely favorable except for one, which I will discuss later.  Introduced to us as “our winemaker from Chile,” Juan told us that he enjoys talking to customers and finding out what they do and do not like about his wines.  “The wines reflect the personality of the winemaker,” he told us, including whether the winemaker is a man or a woman.  If so, then Laurel Lake’s wines should be outgoing and friendly and easy to like.

The main tasting room manages to be both spacious and cozy.

The main tasting room manages to be both spacious and cozy.

The menu offers flights of four tastes for $15, of a fairly generous pour, out of seven whites and nine reds.  We opted to share a flight of whites and a flight of reds, skipping, for example, the rosé and the moscato.  We also skipped the riesling, which we noticed comes in a pretty blue bottle.  That price has actually gone down from our last visit, in 2014, when it was three tastes for $15.  In general, the prices for the wines are quite reasonable.  We noticed people eating snacks brought from home, although once their food truck arrives Laurel Lake no longer permits outside snacks.

The music group on the porch, with a view of a group enjoying the warm weather outside.

The music group on the porch, with a view of a group enjoying the warm weather outside.

As we sipped, a music group set up in the large porch to one side of the attractive tasting room.  The large groups also headed outside, so the main room remained relatively calm.  We also noted a small but amusing collection of wine-related gifts.

Some of the gift items

Some of the gift items

We don't need a mouse pad, but if we did...

We don’t need a mouse pad, but if we did…

  1. 2015 Pinot Gris                                $21.99

Pinot Gris is the French equivalent of Pinot Grigio, one of my frequent choices when opting for a glass of house white, as it tends to be reliably dry.  I would be perfectly happy if I had gotten this as a glass of house wine, as it is dry and mineral-y, with a touch of sweet fruit.  It smells a bit like asparagus, we decide, wondering if our current diet of local asparagus has influenced that thought.  Lobster bisque, we decide, would be a perfect pairing.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $18.99

This is their steel fermented chard, with an aroma of not-quite-ripe pineapple and some mineral.  The taste is again a combination of dry and a touch of sweetness, and fades quickly.  Evanescent, we say.  As the wine warms a bit in the glass we also taste a hint of pineapple or tropical fruit.  We note that people coming to the bar are quite insistent about wanting their wines really cold.  We prefer wines not quite as cold, so you can really taste them.  I decide that chicken cordon bleu would be a good accompaniment.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $23.99

The tasting notes inform us that this spends 12 months in oak, and we have a discussion with one of our servers about preferences for oaked vs. non-oaked chards.  “Which do you like?” she asks, and we realize that it depends.  In general, we don’t like the really heavy buttery taste and texture of a heavily oaked chard, but a bit of oakiness is often quite pleasant.  As is this wine.  If you like Long Island chardonnays you should like this one, with its slightly vanilla smell and touch of citrus and tropical fruit taste.  Nice long finish, too.

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $22.99

It could be an aperitif wine, or a dessert wine, or a wine to have with blue cheese and charcuterie, we decide, but it is a bit too sweet to enjoy just by itself.  The tasting notes say to have this with spicy food, a frequent recommendation for sweeter wines, but we feel you’d lose some of the subtlety of this wine if you did.  The aroma is complex, as is the taste.

  1. Wind Song Red $17.99

The tasting notes say this is “like a nice Chianti.”  I don’t think so!  We feel quite misled by the note, which is an issue we take up with Juan, who sheepishly admits they were written for a previous iteration of this blend.  They needed an inexpensive red crowd pleaser for the menu, hence this wine, the only one that has us looking around for a dump bucket.  A blend of merlot, syrah and a “mystery ingredient,” which, after a guessing game, Juan admits is chardonnay (!), this is quite a sweet red.  We compare it to red candy or fruit salad.  Fresh glasses with most tastes, by the way.

IMG_2641

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

We’ve been on a raspberry pie kick at Briermere recently, with raspberry peach last week and raspberry plum this, and the wine smells to us like those pies.   With 18 months in oak, this has some tannins at the end, and is a fairly light red.  I could see it with veal chops.

  1. 2011 Syrah $19.99

My husband refrains from singing “Que sera, sera” when we choose this wine, for which I am grateful.  This is our favorite of the day, with delicious aromas of dark fruit and rich tastes of dried plum (a.k.a. prune) and other fruits.  It would go well with pastas and meats, and we decide to buy a bottle.

One cabernet

One cabernet

And the other cab

And the other cab

  1. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $25.99

Our server, having engaged us in various discussions of our choices, asks if we would like to divide our final taste between the steel fermented cab sauv and the oaked one.  Sure, we’re always up for that sort of interesting comparison.  The steel cab has a funky aroma and is very dry and tannic, really rather austere.  The Reserve is interesting and complex, also dry and tannic, with tastes of black raspberry and maybe a few other flavors.  We buy a bottle of that, too.

Reasons to visit:  an intimate space that also has ample room on the porch and outside for groups; the chance to chat with Juan or the very friendly and knowledgeable servers; the Pinot Gris, the Syrah, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; reasonably priced wines for Long Island.  While we were there, the owner of CJ’s American Grill came in and we noted that we like their wine policy, which is to feature local wines at a moderate price.  Oh, and yes, the wines are outgoing and friendly and easy to like.

Nice decor

Nice decor

We liked the syrah.

We liked the syrah.

We indeed felt welcome.

We indeed felt welcome.

IMG_2651

Sign of spring!

Sign of spring!