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.

The Winemaker Studio May 11, 2013

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http://anthonynappawines.com/tws_home.html

I love spring on the North Fork.  We stopped at the Bay View farm stand and bought fresh local spinach and asparagus and leeks and rhubarb and duck breast and bacon, and at Briermere for a blueberry crumb pie.  And now a short pause for a disquisition on Briermere pies…Yum.  Later that evening we had sautéed duck breast with a local red wine, garlic, and maple syrup reduction, accompanied by spinach salad with bacon and hard-boiled egg, with a dressing made from Vines and Branches olive oil and Cara Cara Orange White Balsamic vinegar, and steamed asparagus. All seasoned with artisanal North Fork salt!  Pie for dessert, of course.  With it we had Bordo wine from Anthony Nappa, about which more later.

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After all that shopping we felt thirsty, so we decided to stop into the Winemaker Studio on Peconic Lane.  This attractive store front used to be called The Tasting Room, and though the name and cast of characters have changed, the idea is the same:  to showcase smaller wine producers who lack a place of their own.  Run by Anthony Nappa, it features his wines as well as wines by others whose “day job” is as winemaker for other vineyards.  They buy their grapes, some from upstate, and make their wines at Premium Wine Group, a facility housed at Leib Cellars but used by many.  Nappa used to make wines for Shinn; Russell Hearn, originally from Australia, was the winemaker for Pellegrini until he and his wife Sue decided to make their own label, SuHru (Sue and Russell, with an H for Hearn); John Leo works for Clovis Point and also makes his Leo Family wines; and Erik Bilka works at Premium and also makes his own Influence brand.

The Studio has several features which causes it to stand apart from most tasting rooms, aside from the variety of different labels it offers, because in addition to wine it also offers a beer taste from Southampton Publick House, some coffee drinks, and local gins and whiskies, plus cheese or cheese and salumi platters for $15.  The gin brands include McKenzie and Glorious, and the whiskies and ryes include Pine Barrens and Greenhook.  If you go there for Happy Hour—from 5-7 p.m.—you might want to try them.  The airy room includes a nice bar plus little tables and chairs, with art on the walls by local artists.  Sometimes there is a dog or two in residence, though not today.  Oh, and the room is attached to a pleasant little food shop which includes both local brands and some hard to find labels.

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The wine menu offers nine tastes, at $2-$4 per taste, and we opt to share four whites and four reds, skipping the lone rosé.  Chris, our server and we believe the manager of the shop, is impressively knowledgeable.  We overheard him giving very good advice to some neophytes to the region on which tasting rooms to visit based on which wines they had liked of his selections.  He also knows all about the wines he serves, and yet was tactful enough to let us sip in silence when he saw that was what we preferred.

  1.  2011 Nappa Anomaly                                    $19

This wine is an anomaly because it is a white wine made from pinot noir grapes, and since it spends no time on the skins it is white, not the rosé one would expect.  Yet the aroma reminds us of strawberry candy, a smell one would associate with a rose.  However, the taste is very much its own thing:  some earthiness, some citrus—perhaps key lime—some minerality, dry but fruity and quite delicious.  It is all steel fermented, so it is quite a refreshing, clean drink.

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2.  2012 SuHru Pinot Grigio                                              $16

I often drink pinot grigio, but this does not taste like any I have had.  The aroma is sweet, like white grape juice, with a bit of that cat pee smell.  The taste is also sweeter than a typical pinot grigio, maybe because the grapes come from upstate.  The tasting notes say pear, and I don’t disagree. Though many would like it, it’s not for me.

3.  2012 Nappa Luminous Riesling                                 $18

This is another wine made from upstate grapes, and though Chris categorizes it as “on the dry/off dry cusp,” we find it a bit sweet.  As is typical of the wines in this room, it is not typical!  An aroma of honeysuckle heralds a goldenrod honey and pineapple taste, with a hint of citrus.

4. 2012 Nappa Sciardonné Chardonnay                       $18

Pronounce the name of this wine in the Italian manner, in which “sci” is pronounced like a soft “sh,” and you’ll get the joke of this Italian-style wine’s name.  Although this is a steel-fermented wine it does undergo malolactic fermentation, and so has some of the buttery taste associated with chardonnays.  However, it does not have that overly buttery flavor of an oaked chard, and the aroma of “pine forest after a rain”—my husband’s idea—is quite lovely.  Very buyable.

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 5. 2012 Nappa Bordo                                                           $20

We sniff and discuss—tomato leaves?  Maybe.  Definitely vegetabley, with a hint of minerals.  Good fruit, with some typical cabernet franc tastes of berries, but not too heavy. The color is a light and pretty red.  This would go perfectly with the duck we just bought, we think, and are later proven correct. Buyable.

6.  2011 SuHru Shiraz                                                           $22

The syrah grape is called shiraz in Australia, and Hearn is from Australia, so…I tend to like syrahs or shirazes, whatever they are called, and this is no exception.  A slight cardamom aroma leads to dry but good berry tastes with some nice depth.  Unlike some shirazes, this is not overpowering.  They say a taste of Earl Gray, but I don’t get it.  However, this is definitely a buyable wine.

7.  2010 Nappa Dieci                                                             $35

To get the reason for this name, look no further than the date.  A blend of 37% cabernet sauvignon, 44% merlot, and 19% cabernet franc, this is a Bordeaux style wine, though not as interesting as a French Bordeaux at this price point.  However, it is a pleasant wine and would be good with food.

8.  2007 Leo Family Cellars Red Blend                           $40

Aromas of mineral, earth, and blackberry are not surprising for this merlot/petit verdot blend.  This wine is really interesting, and we comment that it is a humble name for an ambitious wine with lovely depth of flavor. We also admire the label!

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Intrigued by the liquors on offer, we try the McKenzie and Glorious Gins, and end up buying a bottle of Glorious Gin, which has a really interesting herbal flavor and makes a very good Gibson later that night.  We also get two each of the Sciardonné, Bordo, and Shiraz.

Reasons to visit:  A chance to taste some experimental and interesting wines in a pleasant setting; availability of local liquors and beer as well; Happy Hour ; with the little shop next store you could buy dinner (except for produce) and something to drink with it as well; an ever-changing roster of wines.