Osprey’s Dominion: Good Place to Perch February 22, 2020

https://ospreysdominion.com/

On this warm, sunny Saturday, we drove east on Main Road, passing wineries with almost-full parking lots. We theorized that it was the combination of the end of the February vacation and the beautiful weather that had drawn the crowds, plus the promise of music in many of the tasting rooms. I had checked the Winterfest web page before we left home, but it was soon clear that many places had live music they had not bothered to register with the Winterfest page. So I suggest that if you are looking for music, you check individual winery web pages to see what they have scheduled—or just head out to the North Fork and look for the “Live Music” signs.

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Many people were relaxing and enjoying the food they brought with them and the music. We would have preferred if Erich Glaubitz had lowered his volume, though we liked the music.

Fortunately, we liked the folky music the singer/guitarist, Erich Glaubitz, was playing at Osprey’s, because otherwise his overly loud amp would have been unbearable. The loud music did make it hard to converse, but we managed. We stood at the bar; however, the room was filled with people who had brought snacks with them, sharing bottles of wine as they sat at tables and enjoyed the sun-filled space. Osprey doesn’t offer much in the way of food, though a sign on the bar offered the “best guac dip EVAH!”—an assertion with which my husband begged to differ, since he makes an awesome guac. We noticed a number of canine companions, so this is a place you can bring your doggy friend.

We enjoyed an instant rapport with our server, who noted that she also kept a notebook for her tastings, and recommended that if we are ever in Windham we look for a terrific wine bar she found there. She helped us with our choices from the list of many wines, after some discussion of our likes. One tasting option is five wines for $12, which was plenty for us to share. We could also have chosen four of their “Library” wines—aged wines that they have just released—for $15. Then we had to figure out which five wines. There are five whites, one rosé, eight reds, and five Reserve Collection wines, a combination of whites and reds. Not to mention three dessert wines.  Oh boy.

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One thing I like about this winery is that they have a variety of wine prices.

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She set us up with two tastes at a time, and urged us to ask anyone for help if she didn’t happen to be available.

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As I drive around the North Fork, I love spotting the osprey nests, which are huge constructions on the top of poles.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $19

I like to start with a sauvignon blanc, because they tend to be light and dry, and work well with whatever follows them. This was no exception. Our server noted that she tastes grapefruit, and we agree. My tasting buddy thinks it may be a touch sweet, while I find it tart, and then we decide what is reading as sweet to him is a bit of melon taste when you first sip it. Good with light fish dishes.

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $19

Certain North Fork wineries make what I consider exemplary versions of particular wines, and for me One Woman makes the best local gewürztraminer. This one, which also contains some riesling, is not as good as hers. The aroma is interestingly complex, including petrichor and gooseberries. We find it a bit too sweet, especially at first sip, though then it ends quite tart, almost acid. It’s not bad, but I find something a bit off-putting about it.

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  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend $14

Richmond Creek is their less expensive label, but we like these wines just fine, and often buy them at Vintage, the wine store in Mattituck. This one is a Bordeaux-style blend, of 42% cabernet sauvignon, 26% cabernet franc, 23% merlot, and 11% pinot noir. The aroma is lovely, combining cherry, mint or eucalyptus, cedar, and tobacco. It is very dry, with some tannins, and nice fruit. This is a good everyday red, a burger or pasta wine.

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  1. 2014 Carmenere $30

I was interested to try this wine, since Osprey is the only winery on the North Fork to grow this grape. The 2008 Carmenere is on the list of Library wines, so clearly they feel this is a good wine for aging. I think the 2014 could use more time. The aroma is of dark berries, and it tastes like red plums. Lots of tannins—my tongue feels dry. This would match nicely with a rich beef stew, maybe a boeuf bourguignon.

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  1. 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $39

Our server urges us to try this one, which she categorizes as their best red, having won many awards. She adds that it is blended with some merlot and petit verdot. It is quite good, full-bodied, with lots of dark fruit flavor and mouth-puckering tannins.  It might benefit from further aging. I could see having this with lamb chops.

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I didn’t expect to like this, but I did. Nice way to end our tasting.

  1. Warm Spice Wine $16

Smiling, our server brings us this “extra” at the end of our tasting, urging us to try it. This is not a wine I would have chosen, but I find it surprisingly pleasant. It is seasoned with orange peel, anise, and cinnamon, with the taste of orange predominating. I thought it would be too sweet, but it is not at all. If I still skied, I could see sipping this by the fire after a day out on the slopes. Essentially, it is glogg, the Swedish mulled wine. Delicious.

Reasons to visit: pleasant large room, with options to stand at the bar or sit at a table; you can bring your own food—and pup; nice selection of gifts, augmented on this day by a woman selling hand-made jewelry; the sauvignon blanc, the Richmond Creek Red Blend, the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; and, surprisingly, the Warm Spice Wine. We also like the Richmond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which we often buy for everyday drinking at our local wine store.

On the way home, we stopped at the North Fork Doughnut Company and bought these doughnuts for dessert.  On the right is Peach Cobbler, and on the left is Hound Dog, which, since it includes peanut butter and bacon, I assume is an homage to Elvis. Yum.

Lieb Cellars: Comfy Seating February 11, 2020

http://liebcellars.com/

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No sitting on the patio today!

Our dear friends had come for a rare visit, and we wanted to do a tasting where we could sit comfortably and chat while we sipped, so we braved the puddles on Oregon Road and headed to Lieb Cellars. Our friends were quite charmed with the room at Lieb, with its comfy couches and living-room-like groupings of seats around coffee tables. We spent a leisurely afternoon tasting and talking, a brief escape from the continuous rain of this February.

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The somewhat industrial style of the building makes the warm and welcoming interior a pleasant surprise.

We also enjoyed contemplating the art on the walls, which was for sale.  There is a separate room which could be a nice venue for a small party or a large group tasting.

We had the room to ourselves, except for a pair of women who ordered a cheese tray and glasses of wine. Lieb has a very nice list of meats and cheeses one can use to customize a snack board, but we had just had some delicious tomato soup from 8 Hands, and were not hungry. We were, however, happy to sip the water Jessica, the server, brought us in a chilled bottle.

The flight menu offers three options: four whites for $16, four reds for $16, or the Lieb Estate flight of five of their estate wines for $22. Since the first two flights include Bridge Lane wines which we have had at the Bridge Lane tasting room, on the corner of Cox Neck Road, we opted for the Lieb Estate flight, while our friend, who generally prefers reds, ordered the red flight. Our designated driver opted for a glass of non-alcoholic sparkling lemonade, which was served to him in a pretty champagne flute, and which he said was quite good.

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Sparkling lemonade!

  1. 2017 Sparkling Pinot Blanc $38

Our three whites came all on one round terracotta tray, with clear labels for the order in which to drink them. I wondered how long the sparkler had been open, since it barely bubbled. We had no guidance from the very pleasant server as to the details of each wine, but the website informs me that it is made using the méthode champenoise. We taste and smell green apples, plus something a touch woodsy and funky, with lemon at the end. Pleasant, but not as exciting as a bubbly wine should be.

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They give you a fairly generous pour.

  1. 2016 Pinot Blanc $24

This is a very, very light white; in fact, my husband describes it as “barely there.” I get lemon and minerals.

  1. 2018 Chardonnay $28

Fermented in a combination of steel and neutral oak, this chardonnay has only a touch of butter. It is smooth, with lots of pineapple taste. Not bad at all.

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The reds from the estate flight (minus a couple of sips).

  1. 2017 Merlot $30

Now we get our three reds, again in a labeled tray, starting with the merlot. This is a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with the expected cherry flavors and aromas, though there is a whiff of chemicals in the smell. It is soft and drinkable. Not at all a challenge.

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The red flight.

  1. *Red Blend $20

The Red Blend is part of the red flight, and we sip from our friend’s glass. It is a soft, fruity, very drinkable red, described on the website as a Bordeaux blend. Our friend characterizes it as a “cheese and crackers” wine, and my tasting buddy adds, “You could drink a lot of this before you fell over.” At Bridge Lane you can get this in a box as well as a bottle.

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It was nice to have chilled water to cleanse our palates between tastes.

  1. 2018 Cabernet Franc $35

We get into a discussion, trying to characterize the aroma of this wine, and settle on something vegetal, though there is some disagreement over whether it is celery and fennel or Brussels sprouts. It is a dry red, with some tannins, dark fruit taste, a touch of nutmeg, and nice acidity. I like it the best of the wines we try.

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The array of Lieb Estate wines.

  1. 2018 Petit Verdot $45

Sometimes I like petit verdot, and sometimes it just doesn’t knock my socks off. This is the latter. We sniff and get forest floor, mint, and mushrooms. The taste includes blackberries and tobacco, but my husband opines it “lacks gravitas.” Since 2018 was a good year locally, I wonder whether it just needs more time to age. As we discuss our summary impressions, he adds that perhaps the winemaker is too conservative. The winemaker is Russell Hearn, who has his own label of Suhru wines, which we liked better. Perhaps he should bring some of that creativity and risk-taking to these wines, if the owners will let him.

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You can just tell from the labels that the Bridge Lane wines are meant to be taken less seriously.

Reasons to visit: comfortable and attractive tasting room off the beaten track; nice menu of cheeses and meats; the Estate Chardonnay, the Red Blend, the Estate Cabernet Franc. Note that they accept reservations, not a bad idea in the busy season, but certainly not needed during the week in the winter!

 

Laurel Lake: Not Their Fault, But… February 1, 2020

http://www.llwines.com/

We have had several prior visits to Laurel Lake which we enjoyed, including once in the early fall when we sat outside with some friends and experienced good table service and a leisurely afternoon, and another time in the winter when we had the tasting room mostly to ourselves and had a lovely chat with the winemaker. However, this time a very noisy crowd of women having a bachelorette party, succeeded by an even noisier group celebrating a birthday, made it hard for us to relax and enjoy our tasting. Part of the problem is that the room is all hard surfaces, promoting echoing sounds. Not anyone’s fault, but it did color our appreciation of the wines.

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The room looks empty, but off to the left there’s a large and rather noisy group.

There’s plenty of room for groups—which must reserve ahead—at Laurel Lake, especially if you include the outside area, but the main tasting room is a middle size. We decided to sit at a table, and get up to ask for each of our four tastes. The menu offers four tastes for $16, from a menu of six whites and eight reds (minus the sauvignon blanc, which was used up). With some guidance from the servers—one of whom, Maureen, amazingly recognized us from our visit over a year ago—we chose our four.

 

  1. 2018 Pinot Gris $23.99

A good place to start, this is a relatively simple, direct white, the French version of pinot grigio. The wine doesn’t have much aroma, just perhaps a touch of flowers and minerals. It is dry, with tastes of unripe pear, salt, and minerals. It would be fine with a delicate fish dish.

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  1. 2018 Gewürztraminer $23.99

The menu wisely includes a little pronunciation guide to this wine, which people might otherwise hesitate to order! And order it they should, as it is very likely a crowd pleaser. It has enough fruit to make it easy to drink, but not so much sweetness that we were put off by it. The aroma is of thyme honey and oak, and it tastes like peaches and apricots. It would be fine to sip on its own, but even better with kung pao chicken.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $22.99

I was thinking of getting their red blend, called Wind Song Red, but the server warned me that it is “semi-sweet.” So, no. Instead I got the cab franc, which had a very promising aroma of fruit, leather, nutmeg, and plums. It is, she informed me, their most popular red. We found it pleasant, but one-dimensional, light-bodied, with slight tannins and nice acidity. I taste purple plums and maybe a touch of black olive. I could see how people would find it easy to drink. The tasting notes suggest pairing it with grilled tuna, and I agree.

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  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $29.99

The word “reserve” can mean anything a winery wants it to mean, but generally it denotes their higher end wines. All of Laurel Lake’s wines are moderately priced, with this the most expensive one on the menu. It is a dry, smooth, pleasant (there’s that word again—am I damning with faint praise?) red, with light tannins, tasting of dark fruits and berries. The menu describes it as having an “intense aroma,” but we thought not. Interestingly, the last time we were here we tried the 2012 iteration of this wine, and liked it very much. Just shows the importance of tasting each vintage.

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Reasons to visit: pleasant tasting room, if it’s not filled with noisy groups; nice outside area for warm weather; at the moment they allow outside snacks; the gewürztraminer and the cabernet franc, small selection of amusing wine-related gifts.

 

Channing Daughters: Amazing Variety January 22, 2020

https://www.channingdaughters.com/

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The figure to the right is one of Walter Channing’s sculptures, which he made from tree trunks.

Although we live on the North Fork surrounded by an abundance of wineries, we choose to belong to the wine club of one of the few wineries on the South Fork: Channing Daughters. Why? Aside from the excellence of their wines, they have the biggest variety of wines we’ve seen, and the most innovative ideas as well. They grow varieties of grapes no one else out here has, over two dozen varieties, according to their web site. Since they also blend them and use them in constantly varying ways, there is always something new to try. And if you are a wine club member, there is no end to the trying!

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These are the wine club selections we brought home. As you look over my notes, you will see that I didn’t even get to taste four of them. I’ll have to add to this entry when I do.

With a slight warming trend in the weather to encourage us, we drove over to Channing on a cold but sunny day to collect two shipments worth of club wines and try whatever was new. And try we did, ending up by tasting eleven wines—we started dumping after a few sips, just so we could keep up. Anthony, our server, seemed to know everything about every wine, and spoke reverentially about Christopher Tracy, the winemaker. When I looked up Christopher’s bio on the winey web page, I was interested to see that he had been a chef. Perhaps that accounts for his experimental, creative, and innovative approach to wine-making.

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Rocky is a resident pooch, but they ask that you not bring your own dog here. They ended up with so many people bringing dogs that it became a problem.

The tasting room is small, just a bar along one side and a few barrels where one could rest a glass while tasting, though there are tables outside in warm weather. No food, though a tray of crackers was on offer to cleanse our palates. No dogs, either, though we were enthusiastically greeted by a resident pooch named Rocky.

If you are not a wine club member, the standard flight of five wines plus one vermouth is $20. Though I expressed an interest in trying the standards, Anthony, noting the notebook, our membership, and the attention we paid to the wines, kept urging us to try various other wines. We were not loath to do so. (By the way, if you are a wine clubber you also get access to some wines not on offer to the general public. And because they are such a small winery, some varieties do sell out.)

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  1. 2016 L’Enfant Sauvage $38

This “wild child” is an oaked chardonnay made with wild yeasts—“what Mother Nature provides,” noted Anthony. And she provided very well with this vintage. Although it is oaked, it is not at all buttery, instead having an aroma of pears and wild honey and a taste of ripe pears and, perhaps, cranberries. We tasted this at room temperature, which was just right for this flavorful white.

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  1. 2018 Pinot Grigio $20

I’ve drunk a lot of pinot grigio, since that is often my go-to choice if I am getting wine by the glass. This one is unusual (no surprise). It smells of flowers and vegetables, with a taste that suggests roasted asparagus and wild thyme honey, while being also dry and minerally. I am not surprised when Anthony informs us that a small amount of the wine is fermented in neutral oak, which gives it some of those interesting characteristics.

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano $24

I don’t think anyone else out here grows this grape, or if they do, I’ve not had their wine. Anthony informs us that it is related to sauvignon blanc, and in Europe it is called “sauvignon vert.” This one doesn’t have much aroma, and the taste is very green apple-y, and not at all citrusy. There’s some minerality in it as well. My tasting buddy likes it more than I do, though I think I’d like it better with food.

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  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $26

This is a dry, crisp, mineral-y, almost salty white, with some tastes of lime and grapefruit. It would go well with oysters, but again I don’t care to drink it on its own.

  1. 2016 Cuvee Tropical $23

What a contrast! This is a lush blend of 75% chardonnay, 10% pinot grigio, 9% tocai friulano, and 6% muscat ottonel, with some of the juice fermented in oak and some in steel, and I don’t know what else, but the result is yummy. I get notes of pineapple and guava and peaches, with just a trace of sweetness.   This is a wine I could happily sip on its own, but I bet it would pair well with Thai food or other spicy, interesting cuisines.

  1. 2014 Meditazione $40

Orange! Not only is this an orange wine, I swear it tastes like kumquats. It is made by fermenting white wine grapes on their skins, like red wines, and fermenting it partially in oak and partially in steel. Made from 36% Pinot Grigio, 21% Muscat Ottonel, 14% Chardonnay, 13% Tocai Friulano, 7% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Pinot Bianco and 4% Gewurztraminer, it is moderately dry and very tasty. According to the web site (which is worth visiting just for the descriptions of the wines), this is good with wild game birds. I could surely see having this with duck.

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By the way, the pet nat wines all come with crown caps, so they are easy to open.

  1. 2019 Gewürztraminer Petillant Naturel $28

Though I’ve been dumping parts of most of the last few tastes, I can’t resist finishing this really delicious sparkling wine. In fact, I like it so much that we buy a bottle. It has a lovely tingle on the tongue, and some typical gewürztraminer tastes, like lychee and peaches. I could see having this as an aperitif with some nice charcuterie from 8 Hands Farm.

  1. 2018 Rosso Fresco $23

This is a lightweight red blend—of merlot, cabernet franc, dornfelder, and blaufrankisch (there’s a line-up you’re not likely to find anywhere else…)—that could be served slightly chilled, with barbequed chicken. It has a slight cherry flavor, and no tannins.

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  1. 2017 Dornfelder $30

Noting that we were not enthusiastic about the Rosso Fresco, Anthony suggested we try the dornfelder, which includes 3% pinot noir and 2% pinot grigio. The aroma is rather funky, like that barnyard smell so many reds out here used to have, but fortunately the taste is better than the smell. We get blackberries, and nice acidity (which makes your mouth water). It may need more aging.

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  1. 2017 Petit Verdot $38

This is a nice red, with a fruity aroma and some cherry tastes and smells (probably because it is 15% merlot), plus minerality and spice. Very drinkable, though at this point I only dare take a couple of sips. I could see this with hearty food, like steaks and stews.

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  1. Muscat de Boom $30

We are getting ready to go, packing up the wines from our club shipment plus the extras we’ve bought, when Anthony realizes we haven’t tasted this dessert wine, which is one of our club selections. The small bottle contains an orange wine with a flavor Anthony compares to marzipan. I definitely get almond and oranges, and, though it is a sweet dessert wine, it is not too sweet. I taste baked apples and raisins as well. I could see sipping this while cracking walnuts after a big meal.

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They have a small selection of wine-related gifts.

Reasons to visit: the widest and wildest variety of wines on Long Island; a great option on the South Fork, right near Sag Harbor, our favorite town on that fork (though it is increasingly Hamptonized, children favorites the Variety Store, Wharf Shop, and Blooming Shells are still there, as well as Canio’s Book Store plus plenty of restaurants); all the wines, but especially the Cuvee Tropical, the Meditazione, L’Enfant Sauvage, Petit Verdot, and Muscat de Boom; and I didn’t even mention the vermouths, which are as interesting and complex and original as the wines! I heartily recommend joining the wine club, though if you have the selections shipped to you in New York State you need to be home to sign for them, which is why we now pick ours up at the winery.

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After our tasting, we sobered up on a nice brisk walk around Sag Harbor.

Addendum:  Just tried the 2014 Dorn & Blau.  It is a blend of 81% dornfelder and 19% blaufrankisch.  A very dark, almost black red, it has an almost spicy aroma and taste, with lots of tannins, and some dark fruit tastes.  It is lean and elegant, and we had it with one of our favorite winter meals, a thick soup plus bread and cheese.

RG/NY: A Shared Aesthetic January 17, 2020

https://rgnywine.com/

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Don’t be fooled by that blue sky–it was cold!

The starkly simple sign outside leads you into an entry area that is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. The tasting room is similarly pared down to essentials, as are the wines. Even the bottles share this aesthetic, looking like examples of modern art. Our friendly and well-informed server, Tina, tells us that an attractive stair-step design on the labels has a symbolic meaning. The wines are named “Scielo,” which a neon sign, the only décor in the tasting room, informs us means Heaven. The steps are a route to the heaven you find in the bottle.

The Rivero González family bought this winery and vineyard from Martha Clara in 2018, but they have been winemakers in Mexico since 1998. We had waited to check them out until we figured they had time to make their own wines, which they have. The only hold-overs from Martha Clara are some of the reds—and Tina herself, who greets arriving wine club members like old friends. She tells us that the new owners want to keep the family-friendly atmosphere of Martha Clara, while putting their own stamp on the wines and décor. For example, dogs will be allowed outside on the grounds (though today there is one in the tasting room! Well, it is certainly too cold to hang around outside.).

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This pooch was so well-behaved we didn’t even realize she was there until someone greeted her.

I ask Tina about snacks, and she shows me a menu which is available on weekends in the winter, and every day in season. (No outside food.) Meanwhile, there is a refrigerated case and various snack items in the shop area, so you can make a DIY snack. We decide we are not that hungry, and anyway, each tasting comes with a little dish of very tasty crackers.

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The snack menu, which is available on weekends in the winter.

The tasting menu offers a choice of three different flights: the Scielo selection of four wines for $17, four whites for $20, or RG Selection of higher-level wines, four for $22. The final choice on that menu is a Martha Clara red, but Tina, noting that we have been to Martha Clara, says she could substitute the RG Tinto if we prefer. We decide to go with the Scielo flight.

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  1. 2018 Scielo Chardonnay $25

I am happy to learn that this is a primarily steel-fermented chard, with just 2% oaked. I find in general that I prefer steel chards, but a little bit of oak adds depth and a nice mouth feel. It has an aroma of ripe apples and flowers, and tastes like a Granny Smith apple as well. There’s also a touch of lime. My tasting buddy insists that it is slightly sweet, but after some discussion we realize that his taste is influenced by some residual sweetness from the cracker he munched. He says this would be a good seafood wine, and I agree, though I think a seafood in cream dish would go best.

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  1. 2018 Riesling $24

Before we opted for this flight, I asked if the riesling was sweet or dry, and Tina reassured me that it was dry. She wasn’t kidding. It is bone dry, and very light. The aroma is of honeysuckle and metal, and there’s a touch of metal in the taste as well. Like touching your tongue to a pole? Well, I’m not that dumb. I also taste pears. We get into a discussion about how the new wines are very dry, whereas the Martha Clara wines tended to be more on the sweet side. Some former customers are unhappy with the new taste, while we prefer it.

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The stair step pattern on the label has a symbolic meaning.

  1. 2018 Scielo Rosé $22

Yum. This is a blend of 48% merlot, 32% malbec, and 20% cabernet franc, and the complexity of that blend shows up in the flavor, which is more interesting than a standard rosé. Tasty, says my husband. It has the strawberry aroma one would expect, and in addition to some strawberry flavor a definite note of lychee. We decide to get a bottle to go with the scallops we bought earlier at Braun’s.

  1. 2018 White Merlot $32

Power of the book—she was pouring this for someone else, so she offered us a taste of this white wine made from merlot grapes. Nice. It tastes like a cross between red and white, light and drinkable, with an aroma of wood and leather and white cherry taste.

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  1. 2018 Tinto $30

Our server compares this to a Beaujolais, and it is light like a Beaujolais, though it is made from a Bordeaux blend: 43% merlot, 37% cabernet sauvignon, 10% petit verdot, and 10% cabernet franc. I would guess that they were in a hurry to get out a red of their own, because we think this could benefit from more aging. It has a nice cherry aroma and taste, but no depth and some tannins. It is very young, and I could see drinking it with meatloaf or hamburgers.

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  1. 2018 Cabernet Franc $37

There’s just a little bit left in this bottle, not enough to give anyone a regular taste, so Tina asks if we’d like a sip of this. Of course, we would. I get spice and leather, not much fruit. Again, I think this would benefit from more time, and we resolve to come back in a year or so to see how the wines have developed.

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There’s a very large side room.

Reasons to visit: A chance to try a new place; very roomy surroundings, in case you are with a group; the rosé, the White Merlot. One note—the bar has almost no overhang, so there’s nowhere to put your knees when you sit there, and the stools are rather uncomfortable. Perhaps they will fix that in the future.

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From the outside, you con’t tell that there are significant changes both inside the building and inside the bottles.

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But there are still some Martha Clara wines available for purchase.

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The gift shop has many fewer items than it used to have.

 

 

Peconic Cellar Door: Women Rule December 20, 2019

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/peconic-cellar-door

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Unlike most wineries on the North Fork, Peconic Cellar Door is owned and run by women: Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy. It is another of the very small tasting rooms, and in fact adjoins last week’s site, The Winemaker Studio, but is even smaller. Despite its small size, however, it offers quite an array of wines to taste, under four labels: As If Wines, Brooklyn Oenology, Haywater Cove, and Saltbird Cellars. All the wines are now under the umbrella name Chronicle, with the tag line, “Every bottle holds a story.” Ask Robin (or whomever is behind the counter) about the logo, because it tells a story, too.

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Robin was our server, and since there were no other customers, we had time to chat. There were a couple of visitors who came by just wish Robin and Alie happy holidays. Robin told us about her travels around the world to learn the craft and art of wine-making, particularly her six months in New Zealand, which influenced the style of some of her wines. She is clearly passionate about wine-making, and she and Alie have their own original ideas about it. We enjoyed all of their experiments.

The menu offers two flights, the Cellar Door flight, of five wines for $15, and the Signature Flight, of five higher-priced wines for $20. We decided to share the Signature Flight, and perhaps return for the Cellar Door, though Robin cautioned us that they change the options every month. Given that the price list includes 28 wines, I guess they can come up with quite a few permutations. We may have to go back more than once…

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Though they don’t allow outside food (or pets), the only snack on offer is packs of cookies from local baker Ali Katz. I do recommend a visit to her little bakery and food shop in Mattituck (only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). We’ve only been there a couple of times, but found her baked goods excellent.

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  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

If the name of this wine describes how it came to be, it was a fortunate accident indeed. A blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and viognier, it is aged more than one expects for a white, particularly on the North Fork, where most whites are from the most recent vintage. This wine has a floral and mineral aroma, and is nicely dry. Some notes of lemony citrus, but also more depth than one expects from a white. As we sip, I find the viognier taste, which I quite like, coming through.

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I thought this label was particularly pretty.

  1. 2017 Saltbird Migratus $27

Of course, I have to ask about the name of this wine, which comes in a bottle with a very pretty painting of birds in flight. Robin explains that it is a reference to her own migrations, away from the North Fork and back, but also to the birds she loves. The making of this wine was influenced by her time in New Zealand. Though plenty of cheap sauvignon blanc comes here from there, the wines they keep for themselves tend to be made like this one, spending six months on the lees and aged in oak. When I note a faint oak taste, she mentions that “one of the barrels” was new oak, so it came out a bit oakier than she wanted. Overall, it is a good wine, with a nice mouth feel and a taste my drinking buddy compares to “drinking flowers.” Well, it does have an aroma that combines something vegetal with flowers.

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This rose is almost like a light red.

  1. 2016 As If Courage $28

Robin calls this a rosé made from a Meritage blend. I guess it does take courage to make a rosé from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and syrah, a classic Bordeaux blend. She compares the aroma to buckwheat honey, and I agree. This is almost as much a very light red as it is a rosé. It has some strawberry and citrus tastes, but more depth (again) than your typical rosé. She suggests serving it with a pork roast, an excellent idea.

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  1. 2016 Saltbird Harbinger $36

A blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this is a wine they only make in good years, so there is no 2018 but will surely be a 2019. I’ve heard in several tasting rooms that this was a very good year on the North Fork, with the right amount of warm days and rain. It has some cherry taste, but is not really fruity, dry, with some tannins. Nice legs, if that means anything!

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The array of our tasting.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

I’m glad they persisted with making this wine, a blend of cabernet franc, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon. Despite the price, we decide to buy a bottle to save in the cellar for a special occasion. I think it could age a few more years, but it is also delicious to drink now. Fruitier than the previous wine, it has some interesting flavors, and could stand up to a steak.

Reasons to visit: another small winery, where you can talk to the winemakers and learn about what inspired them and how they made each wine; we liked all the wines, but especially the Serendipity and the Persistence; they change their offerings periodically, so you can go more than once; though they don’t allow groups larger than six, if you happen to be with a group you can split up, with some going to the Winemaker Studio, connected by an open doorway and a window in the wall.

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Winemaker Studio: Nappa, not Napa December 15, 2019

http://winemaker-studio.com/

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Note the wine geeks sign, pointing to the entrance to Peconic Cellar Door, which we are also due to visit.

Anthony Nappa may have the perfect name for a winemaker, but I do wonder how often he has to explain that his name is not a reference to the famous wine region in California. In actuality, he is both the winemaker for Raphael Vineyards and for his own label, which he sells in the Winemaker Studio, a small tasting room which adjoins Peconic Cellar Door, another small label, in a shopfront adjacent to the LIRR train tracks on Peconic Lane. Like several other winemakers, he seems to enjoy making his own wines, even though his “day job” is making wine.

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Maybe some day he’ll add some comfortable seating!

According to our very knowledgeable and informative server, Nappa buys his grapes from several different vineyards, including Raphael. This year he is offering several wines made from organically grown grapes, but may not in the future, since the grower has decided to make his own wines. We were just at Raphael on December 7th, so it was interesting to compare the two places. We decided that we much prefer the styles of the wines Nappa offers under his own label. But, as we discussed with our server, taste in wine is a very personal thing, so my preferences clearly are not those of other people.

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Shared Table Farm belongs to Anthony and Sarah Nappa, who have added kimchi, honey, and jam to their wine offerings.

Our visit this year proves yet again that it is a good idea to try each year’s vintage, since wines can be quite different from harvest to harvest. This is particularly true here, since Nappa clearly likes to experiment and try varying combinations. For example, his sparkling wine, labeled Frizzante, is quite different from previous years.

A tasting consists of any five wines from a menu of twelve for $15. We consulted with our server over our choices and, power of the book, got two extra wines for an intriguing side-by-side comparison of different vintages. That turned out to be a good move, as we bought a bottle of one of the extras!

  1. NV Frizzante $20

The last time, several years ago, that we tried Nappa’s sparkling wine, it was made from pinot noir, riesling, and gewürztraminer and was a rather conventional yellow color. This time it is composed of 51% pinot noir and 49% viognier, and is an orange wine with a pleasant fizz. The aroma is somewhat vegetal—Brussels sprouts, maybe?—and yeasty. The taste is pleasantly dry, with a touch of fruitiness. I don’t know if the color is influencing my thoughts, but I think it tastes a bit like oranges, maybe kumquats. At this price, one could drink it as an everyday wine, and I think it would go well with charcuterie. (NV means non-vintage.)

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The sauvignon blanc is light in both color and taste.

  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $22

This wine uses sauvignon blanc grapes from Raphael for 88%, and 12% semillon from another vineyard. The aroma is somewhat floral, unlike the Raphael sauvignon blanc, which was citrusy. This does have a tart, lemon/lime flavor, similar to Raphael’s, but is lighter in both color and flavor. It would be better with food, like a nice dish of local oysters or scallops. Alas, the scallop harvest this year is dreadful, as there was a die-off earlier in the season, when the water was too warm. Darn global climate change.

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  1. 2018 La Strega               $29

Made from organic malbec grapes, this is called the witch because malbec is notoriously difficult to deal with here. Aged mostly in steel, and only six months in French oak, this is a very light red, with fruity aromas of currents and blueberries. No tannins. When our server asks, I say I would characterize this as a red wine for white wine drinkers, and he concurs, noting that he had actually bought a bottle for someone who usually only drinks whites and she had liked it.

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  1. 2014 Quattordici Cabernet-Merlot $35

A blend of 63% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, and 25% cabernet sauvignon, this Bordeaux-style wine is quite lovely. I smell cherries, black licorice, and fruit salad, and taste black raspberries and maybe a touch of black olives. My tasting buddy disputes that last assertion, but adds that it has a “lotta fruit.” We agree on that. It has a surprisingly long finish. I could see this with a nice slice of rare leg of lamb.

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I feel like I learn so much about wine when we do one of these parallel tastings.

  1. 2012 Merlot $48

Now comes the treat! Because he happens to have a bottle of the 2012 merlot open for wine club members, with one of whom we have been having a pleasant chat, our server asks if we would like to taste the three different vintages of merlot they have on offer. Of course we would! They are encouraging the wine club members to drink this wine now, and I can see why. It still has the merlot cherry aroma and taste, but the taste has become more minerally, with few tannins. No finish. It’s fine—and we like it better than any of the Raphael $72 bottles of red—but definitely is at the end of its life.

  1. 2014 Merlot $40

In 2014, they got their merlot grapes from Shinn, unlike the other two vintages. This is also dry, with more tannins, and an aroma of cherries and olives.  It does have a mouth-watering acidity, and could go well with barbequed pork chops.

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This window allows easy communication with the next-door tasting room, which included some friendly banter.

  1. 2015 Reserve Merlot $40

This one “beats the bunch,” as my grandma would say with the birth of each new great-grandchild. It has an interesting complexity of flavor, and the type of tannins that makes us think it would do well after a couple of years.  Of course, it has cherry flavors and aromas, but there is more to it that just cherry, more depth. We decide to buy a bottle and put it in the cellar for a couple of years, “we should live so long,” as my grandma would also say.

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Reasons to visit: intimate setting where you can discuss and savor the wines at leisure with a well-informed server (he remembered we had been there before); well-priced wines; the Frizzante for casual sparkling wine drinking; the Quattordici, the 2015 Reserve Merlot. Note that they used to be connected to a store which sold cheeses, etc., but it is now another tasting room, the Peconic Cellar Door. Next time we’ll try the rosés and the other reds.  They also have for sale honey, jam, and kimchi made at their Shared Table Farm.

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We bought a jar of their kimchi, which turned out to be quite excellent.

Raphael: Beautiful Room December 7, 2019

https://www.raphaelwine.com/ 

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From the outside, the Raphael Winery looks like a villa in Tuscany, with its red-tiled roof and white walls, and the inside is similarly impressive.  From spring through fall, and then around Christmas, they are often closed for parties, as they have a big, beautiful facility.  At this time of year, they are decorated for Christmas, with lots of twinkling lights and greenery.  They also have a pretty nice selection of wine-related gifts.

As we walk up to the circular bar we are greeted by a gentleman who looks familiar.  Indeed, he turns out to be the same person who served us the last time we were there, back in February, 2018.  We have a nice visit with him, even as he works hard, serving several couples at the bar and a large group of women having a party at two long tables.

The menu offers five options:  four sweet wines for $16, four white estate wines for $16, four red estate wines for $16, four premium whites for $20, and four premium reds for $20.  Our server describes the premium wines as “heavier,” and when I ask what that means he clarifies that they are “more full-bodied.”  They are also pricier, but after some discussion with my tasting buddy we decide to go ahead and share the two premium flights.

There is a menu of snacks, which includes flat breads, and they don’t allow outside food. The pour is generous, and we end up opting not to finish several of the wines.  All four glasses of the flight are poured at once, so we could have taken them to a table, but we end up standing at the bar.

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  1.  2017 First Label Sauvignon Blanc     $39

This is primarily sauvignon blanc, with 10% semillon, steel fermented.  Served too cold, as is often the case.  It has a slight citrus aroma, and lots of lemon taste.  Also mineral.  It is rather tart, and we end up opting not to finish the glass.  Needs food, we decide.

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2.  2014 First Label Riesling     $39

Our server assures us that this is not a sweet riesling, and indeed, he is correct.  He also confides that at first he didn’t care for it, but now that it has aged a bit he likes it better.  We don’t.  The smell is a bit off-putting, with the chemical/gasoline aroma some rieslings have.  It is ultra dry, but not at all fruity to balance the dryness, and a bit of a metallic taste.  My husband says it is “monochromatic,” and I agree.  Again, we opt not to finish the glass.

3.  2012 White Primo Reserve    $39

This is doubly a blend, first of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% semillon, and 49% riesling, and then aged 50/50 in steel and oak.  All that work leads to the white we like the best.  Though the aroma still has a trace of that gasoline smell, it also has a pleasantly funky note.  As we sip, we note that it combines lemon and butter (from the oak), and I wonder if it would be good to make a sauce for fish with lemon, butter, and a glug of this wine.  Could work.

4.  2016 Riesling Port     $40

Each of the premium flights ends with a port, in this case a white one with lots of the characteristics of the riesling, but balanced with sweetness.  It would be a fine after-dinner sipper.  However, we recently took inventory and realized that we have a number of after dinner sweet wines which we should probably try to use one of these days!

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5.  2014 Merliance     $72

Now we move on to the reds, which are once again lined up in front of us.  “Merliance” refers to a cooperative venture amongst East End wineries–in this case Raphael combined with Wölffer Estates and Macari–to make a blend of the best of their merlots.  As usual, it has aromas of cherries and oak, and cherry taste as well.  It is dry, with nice tannins, but a bit “thin” (says my tasting pal) for the price.

6.  2015 Cabernet Franc Reserve     $72

If not for the price, I might have considered getting a bottle of this, but it seems to me like a good burger wine.  It has pleasant forest floor, fruit, and spice aromas, and tastes like purple plums plus nutmeg.  Dry, slightly tannic, perhaps it needs to age a bit more.

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7.  2015 Primo Reserve     $72

This is their Bordeaux blend, of 58% merlot, 17% petit verdot, and 25% cabernet sauvignon, aged in oak.  It is good, but, observes my husband, “these prices are a joke.”  That may be a bit harsh, but they do seem out of line with the quality of the wines.  We have had the good fortune to taste high end Bordeaux, and this does not compete with them.  It has a fruity aroma, mostly cherry, and some tannins.  The taste is dry, with some fruit.  It might be nice with lamb.

8.  2014 Merlot Port     $45

Another dessert wine.  This smells strangely of olives, I say, and my husband agrees.  It is too thin to support the sweetness of the black raspberry taste, with a strangely sharp edge.

Reasons to visit:  beautiful room, and they have a pleasant outdoor patio for warm weather; a better than most gift shop;  the White Primo Reserve, the Riesling Port, and the Red Primo Reserve; they have good flatbreads (which we had last time we were there); knowledgable and friendly servers.

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We saw this sign of the season in the parking lot. Plenty of places to find Christmas trees on the North Fork!

Coffee Pot Cellars: Consider Yourself at Home November 3, 2019

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

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Why a huge mural of a monarch butterfly? Read the review and find out!

The name may seem a bit misleading—it refers to the nickname of the Orient Point lighthouse—but the building in which this winery is housed is totally appropriate. It is a house, and you will feel as though you are a guest in Laura Klahr’s living room as soon as you enter the intimate, yellow-walled space.

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If you’ve ever been there before, she is likely to recognize you (even if you are not, as she and her husband, winemaker Adam Suprenant, figured out, a wine blogger like me). And even if you are visiting for the first time, you will get a warm welcome and soon feel at home, as you learn about Laura’s bee hives and Blossom Meadow farm, the delicious wines, and Beasley, the resident red-wine loving pug.  Beasley, by the way, has recently been joined by Molly, a chardonnay-sipping goldfish. (Never fear, the pets’ wine preferences are part of Laura’s quirky sense of humor.)

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That’s the wine-o-saur.

Out on the front lawn is the wine-o-saur, a dinosaur of wire “fleshed out” with wine corks, many of them contributed and decorated by fans of Coffee Pot. Laura promises to finish it, now that jam-making season is over. She also called our attention to a wall hanging made by her mother, which illustrates, using colored yarn, the daily temperatures in 2015. Other wall décor calls attention to the Merlot for Monarchs campaign, which teams up with the Girl Scouts and others to plant milkweed every time a bottle of merlot is bought—1,821 so far—which helps support the endangered monarch butterflies. We bought a bottle of the merlot, but not just because of the campaign. It’s good!

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As we were discussing with Laura the phenomenon of people who are winemakers for large wineries—Adam is the winemaker for Osprey’s Dominion, whose wines we also like, and of which he is also proud—also having their own label, Adam entered, bearing what I bet was a lunch for his wife. He agreed that it is interesting, and they both talked about the benefit of having the freedom to do what you like. (There are other winemakers on the East End who do the same, like Anthony Nappa, who has his own label in the Winemaker’s Studio and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Roman Roth, who makes the Grapes of Roth as well as Wölffer Estate wines.) For both their jams and their wines, Laura and Adam like to be “true to the fruit.”

A complete tasting consists of all six wines for $12, so we opted to share one tasting.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $21.99

Laura explained that this is aged in steel barrels, rather than vats, which gives it a more concentrated flavor. When I opined that it was “zippy,” she smiled and said that was a word Adam would never use, but she liked it. This has a floral aroma, of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass, and tastes lemony, with, as she noted, more depth of flavor than your typical sauvignon blanc. We buy a bottle.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $19.99

I wondered whether I would like this, since it is oaked, but after Laura explained that it is aged in fourteen-year-old oak for just six months, I was ready to taste it. She characterized it as their fall/winter chard, and I can see why. It has more body than a steel chard, but is not heavy or oaky or buttery. I taste wood and honey and citrus. They get most of their grapes, by the way, from a vineyard in Jamesport, plus some from other vineyards.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $21.99

Gewürztraminer is a wine that becomes rather popular in November, since many people like it as an accompaniment to turkey. I can see that. This is a blend of gewürztraminer plus 12% riesling, steel fermented, and nicely fruity. My tasting buddy says it is sweet, but I disagree. What he sees as sweet I see as tropical fruit flavors. In fact, it even smells like lychee fruit. I also get pineapple and a touch of nutmeg.

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  1. 2013 Merlot $21.99

This is their newest release, and Laura proudly informs us that it just got 91 points and an Editor’s Choice award from Wine Enthusiast. I don’t give scores (as a retired English teacher, I am DONE giving grades), but I can see why this was highly rated. It has the cherry aroma and taste I have come to expect from North Fork merlots, but also more depth of flavor than many, with a touch of smokiness that is just enough to add interest. We buy a bottle, and not just to support the monarch butterflies. It’s delicious.

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  1. 2015 Beasley’s Blend $23.99

Beasley is featured on the label of this blend of 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot, and he certainly has good taste. This has aromas of dark fruit and tobacco, with tastes of black raspberry and dark chocolate, plus enough tannins that I think it could age well. By this time Adam has joined us, and he agrees.

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  1. 2014 Meritage $27.99

Adam tells us that he calls 2014 the “immaculate summer,” in that the weather was perfect for grape-growing, with cool nights and warm sunny days, and just the right amount of rain. Viticulture is, of course, farming, though those of us who just deal with the finished product don’t often think about that. (In fact, I think that might be the first time I’ve ever written that word!) He’s justly pleased with the way this blend has turned out, and we agree that it could also age well. We buy a bottle of this and label it to wait a couple of years in the cellar. He also discusses the use of petit verdot in this blend of 56% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon. It adds dark color and some blueberry flavor, he notes. This is another yummy wine, with aromas and flavors of dark fruits, like blackberries, plus cocoa and spice.

Reasons to visit: intimate atmosphere for tasting, with personal attention; Laura; all six wines, but especially the sauvignon blanc, the merlot (save the monarchs!), and the Meritage; Beasley, the official greeter and employee of the month; jam and honey and other bee-related products for sale. Laura also described to us the fun of a honey tasting, where you put out several varieties of honey and taste the differences amongst them, since honey gets its flavor from the flowers the bees visit. I do have one suggestion: perhaps at some point in the future they could replace the bar stools with more comfortable seating options.

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Macari Vineyard: No Tricks, Several Treats October 30, 2019

http://macariwines.com/

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It was the day before Halloween, and oddly warm, when we drove over to Macari. We had the tasting room to ourselves, so it wasn’t surprising that there were no pre-made cheese trays available. (No outside food allowed.) However, we could have bought any package of cheese on display, plus some crackers, and our server would have supplied us with a knife and cheese board.  We decided to content ourselves with a bag of very tasty black truffle-flavored potato chips. Then I worried that they were interfering with the tasting, so I requested a glass of water, which was quickly forthcoming.

The tasting room on Bergen Road is large, with a beautiful stone fireplace on one side, and ample displays of their wines all around. There is also a second large room filled with tables, and seating on a veranda off to one side. We stood at the bar and shared an Estate tasting, of five wines for $30. The other flight is called Vintage, and also includes five wines for $30. My tasting buddy complained that it was a small pour, though I noted that the glass was large.

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The main tasting room.

When you stand at the bar you have a clear view of the huge steel vats in the wine-making area, and we watched with interest as a worker tethered himself with a safety harness before checking on one vat. Makes sense, I suppose. What a way to go, drowned in a vat of wine!

In general, we have liked Macari wines, and often buy a bottle with dinner in local restaurants. Today was no exception, though in general we liked the whites better than the reds, and really liked the rosé we tried.

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  1. 2018 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $24

Why Katherine’s Field? All our server could tell us was that the grapes for this wine all came from an area of the vineyard called Katherine’s Field, and that it is the part closest to Long Island Sound. Perhaps that closeness to the water accounts for the slight note of saltiness I detected. The wine is light and easy to drink, with tastes of green apple, mineral, and pineapple. Like many NoFo sauvignon blancs, it would go well with local oysters. Good.

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  1. 2017 Dos Aguas White $22

Dos Aguas is, of course, a reference to the two waters which surround the North Fork: the Sound and Peconic Bay. This is a blend of 52% grüner veltliner, 27% viognier, 10% sauvignon blanc, 7% pinot gris, 3% friulano, and 1% gewürztraminer. It smells very much like honeysuckle, which I think might be due to the grüner, and also gets some of its fruitiness from that. My husband thinks it is too sweet, but I argue what he’s tasting as sweet is actually fruitiness. It has some lemon taste, as well as gooseberry. I would buy it, and it would go well with spicy food, but he doesn’t like it as much as I do.

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Even visually, you can tell this rose is more robust than most.

  1. 2018 Lifeforce Rosé $28

The term “lifeforce” in the title of a Macari wine refers to the fermentation method used. Instead of steel or wood, these wines are fermented in a concrete “egg.” They used to explain that egg on their website, but I couldn’t find that information now. In any event, this rosé is made from cabernet franc grapes, and was described by our server as their “fall rosé.” It is heavier and darker than a typical rosé, and as we discussed it he told us that what had happened was that in 2018 they were not happy with the way the cabernet was turning out, so rather than make a red from it they decided to turn it into a rosé. We are happy they did, as we quite liked it. Though it has some typical strawberry aroma and flavor, it has more oomph than many rosés. We bought a bottle. I think it will go great with seared rare duck breasts, which we get at Bayview farm stand.

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By this time our server–a bright young man–had figured out how I like to pose these photos. We had a nice chat about how he has learned to like wine.

  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve $40

Our server tells us this in aged twenty months, 9% in new French oak, so it is not super oaky or tannic. It smells fruity, like black cherries. The taste is soft and pleasant, but rather unidimensional. At that price, I’d want a more exciting wine. However, it is quite drinkable.

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  1. 2016 Dos Aguas $35

This is another blend, this time a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 62% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec, 8% petit verdot, and 6% cabernet franc. I like the aroma of red raspberries, but again the taste is good but not exciting. Dry, soft, with no tannins, this is an everyday type of red that you could even have with roast chicken. It would not stand up to a steak.

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Reasons to visit: spacious tasting room; the sauvignon blanc, the Dos Aguas white, and the Lifeforce Rosé; we often get the Sette in restaurants, a nice blend of half and half cabernet franc and merlot; no food allowed, but they do have a large selection of snacks and will do cheese trays on busier days.

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The grapes have been picked, and soon the leaves will be gone as well, leaving the vines bare until spring.