Wölffer Estate: Trés Elegante     August 2, 2017

http://www.wolffer.com/

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The Wölffer Estate building is quite attractive.

We had an errand to run on the South Fork, one which couldn’t be put off until the winter, so we decided that as long as we would have to brave the traffic on Route 27—and there was a lot of it—we would make a day of it.  So we visited the Parrish Art Museum (great installation of gigantic photos and videos of waves) and then headed to the Wölffer Estate tasting room in Sagaponack.  We arrived there around lunch time, and a very pleasant hostess showed us to a table on the pretty back porch overlooking the vineyard.

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We perused the menu, and were immediately struck by the prices.  Well, we were in the Hamptons.  They offer two tastings, each featuring four wines for $25, the Summer Flight and the Grand Flight.  Figuring it would be a long time before we came back, we decided to get one of each, sharing tastes along the way—a decision facilitated by the fact that the wines in the two flights are well matched.  Each one has a rosé, a chardonnay, and two reds.  I was disappointed to see that All Summer in a Bottle, their popular rosé, was not in either tasting, though it was available by the glass.  Wines by the glass range in price from $10 to $28, and bottle prices go all the way up to $110.  Whew.

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We thoroughly enjoyed this cheese tray.

Since it was lunch time, we also ordered a cheese board from their well-curated menu of snacks.  We got very generous servings of our selections—Humboldt Fog, St. André, and Lamb Chopper—plus crackers (and more crackers when we used up our allotment) and a blob of guava paste for $25.  Our flights arrived at the table in a series of carafes, lined up on nice slate trays, clearly labeled as to each wine, which we then poured at our leisure into our big wine glasses.  And I do mean at our leisure, as we took our time, sipping and munching, for over an hour.  It was a beautiful day, and we felt as though we were on vacation—a feeling facilitated by the view over the vines, the excellent cheeses, and the group at a nearby table conversing in French!

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We also liked the back patio.

If you check out their web site, you will learn that the property also includes a horse farm—and the named wines are all named for horses from Wölffer’s barns—and this note in all caps:  No Bachelorette Parties.  When it was time to head home, we decided that it was worth it to take the ferries back to the North Fork rather than sit in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on 27.  Good decision.  The “Grand” tastes are marked with an *.

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The Grand flight.

  1. Rosé Table Wine 2016                 $42

Our waitress gave a quick run-down of all the wines when she brought over our flights, so my notes are somewhat sketchy.  She also spoke really quickly!  However, I did glean that this rosé is a blend of merlot and I believe she said chardonnay.  In any event, it is a very light dry rosé, so light that with your eyes closed you might think it was a sauvignon blanc, despite the faint strawberry aroma.

  1. *Grandioso Rosé 2016 $54

This rosé spends a little time in oak, which you can slightly sense, and which gives this one a bit more complexity than the other.  Again, it is very dry, with some nice fruit, and was good with the cheeses.  But for my money, I’d rather have any Croteaux rosé.

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The chardonnay is a pretty color.

  1. Chardonnay 2015 $36

A chardonnay for those who think they don’t like chardonnays, according to the waitress, this is mostly steel fermented and is very light and dry, with citrus tastes and a smell of lemon grass.  You could have it with seafood in a cream sauce.

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  1. *Perle Chardonnay 2015 $54

At this point in the tasting, we began to discuss the prices of the Wölffer wines and the fact that they have some of the few Long Island wines that are often rated in wine magazines.  Perhaps, I theorized, if you charge a lot for something, people tend to think it must be superior.  Our waitress had described this chard as her favorite, and I can see why.  Though it is oaked, it is not too oaky or buttery, with a very distinctive aroma.  We discuss the smell, and conclude that there’s a metallic edge to it.  The taste reminds me of baked pear.  It does not complement the cheeses.

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The summer flight

  1. Classic Red Blend 2014 $38

My husband insists that it smells like “wet paper,” as well as cherries, and I don’t disagree.  He also opines that this blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon has “all the requisite elements” of a red blend.  It is on the dry side, with not much by way of tannins, and some nice fruit tastes.  The waitress had mentioned that it was aged in both steel and oak, and that it might even be nice lightly chilled.

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Now you know why there are horses on the labels.

  1. *Fatalis Fatum Red Blend 2014 $58

A fairly classic Bordeaux-style blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot, this is my favorite of the day.  Dry, with good tannins, it has lots of cherry and other dark fruit/berry tastes, though an almost non-existent finish.  It evanesces!  My tasting buddy notes that it is not as complex as a French Bordeaux can be, but it would stand up to a steak.

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You can see that the pour is rather generous.

  1. Caya Cabernet Franc 2014 $58

There’s something I can’t quite identify about the aroma of this one, but also prune plums and tobacco scents.  There’s a bit of a tingle on the tongue when you start to drink it.  It’s dry, with nice tannins, and lots of dark fruit taste.  I think it would go well with grilled lamb chops.

  1. *Christian’s Cuvée Merlot 2013 $110

Yes, you read that price right.  This Long Island merlot, named for the founder of the Wölffer estate, is over $100 a bottle.  It comes from the oldest vines on the estate, and, according to our waitress, Christian said it is a wine one should savor with one’s eyes closed, the better to focus on the taste.  The fruit fly that flew into my glass seemed to like it…until it drowned and I fished it out.  Not sure how they justify the price on what seemed to us a pretty typical Long Island merlot, with lots of cherry taste, which “doesn’t dance in my mouth,” according to my husband.

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According to their web page, they use these juniper berries on the property to make their gin.

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork and you want to visit a winery and sit outside and relax (but if you just want a tasting, I’d recommend Channing Daughters); the Fatalis Fatum Red Blend; the cheese tray.

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We didn’t get to try any, but they also make ciders.

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I think I wanted to try this just because the bottle is so pretty. But it wasn’t in the tasting.

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The inside room also seems nice.

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Resident cat

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On the ferry heading home–how to get around the traffic on Route 27!

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Roanoke Vineyards: Satellite Spot July 26, 2015

http://www.roanokevineyards.net/

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Roanoke’s main tasting room and vineyard are located on the western edge of the North Fork, but their satellite spot, which they call their “wine bar,” is in the heart of wine country, on Love Lane in Mattituck.  As I found out, their main room will close this winter to all except wine club members, so you might as well plan to go to their Love Lane place—especially since Love Lane itself is worth a visit for the Village Cheese Shop, Lombardi’s Italian market, and Love Lane Kitchen restaurant, among others.

One view of the tasting room

One view of the tasting room

The wine bar is a small room, but it is well laid out, with a bar along one side and comfy chairs around tables, as well as a small piazza out the back, overlooking the Love Lane parking lot.  We happened by on a Sunday afternoon, when local Pearl River oysters were on offer, so we decided to partake of some after our tasting ($20 for a dozen).  In addition to their own wines, they also carry bottles by Wölffer Estate (on the South Fork) and Brooklyn Oenology.  In fact, the last time we were there they were doing a side-by-side tasting with Brooklyn Oenology, which we quite enjoyed.  They also carry their own verjus, a non-alcoholic drink people sometimes use in salad dressing or cooking.

We didn't get to try this Wolffer Estate wine, but we really liked the bottle.

We didn’t get to try this Wolffer Estate wine, but we really liked the bottle.

Their menu offers three options, the “Round Trip,” featuring a white, a rosé, and two reds for $12; Whites, four whites for $12; or Reds, four reds for $14.  We opted for one each of the white and the red, so we could try all their wines.  The pour is fairly generous.  Our server was enthusiastic and friendly, fairly well-informed.  In addition, she did a very nice job gift-wrapping a pretty bottle of a Wölffer wine for another customer.

The server helping another couple choose some wines to bring as gifts.

The server helping another couple choose some wines to bring as gifts.

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc                   $19

This is a bit tarter than the usual North Fork sauvignon blanc, with a bit of a woodsy aroma and some tastes of kumquat and lemon.  My husband immediately plans to have this when he gets his oysters, but I’m not sure I like this.  I think I like the Jamesport sauvignon better.

  1. 2014 Rosé $19

The server informs another couple at the bar that this is their top seller, at least this summer, and I can see why.  It is a very light rosé, a blend of 75% merlot and 25% “wild” chardonnay (about which more in a moment), with an initial “rush of sweetness,” according to my tasting buddy.  I taste not fully ripe cantaloupe, which is in my mind because that’s what we got at a farm stand this week.  Good, but we still prefer Croteaux.

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  1. 2014 The Wild! $20

What is wild here is the yeast, meaning that the wine is fermented using only naturally occurring yeasts, a process I find fascinating, since the winemaker gives up a bit of control over the process by doing this.  I quite like this one, though the aroma is a touch musty, with maybe a hint of pencil shavings.  The taste is a little sweet, with some honey and citrus, but not too sweet.  I decide I’ll have this with my oysters, even though the sauvignon is actually a better fit.

I really liked their label designs.

I really liked their label designs.

  1. 2014 Brio $24

Since brio means vivacity or verve, I’m interested to see whether this wine has these qualities.  It is a blend of 66% chardonnay, 14%viognier, 8% malvese, and 20% muscat canelli, according to the menu.  That doesn’t quite compute, according to my math-challenged mind, but the result is interesting.  The aroma is complex, with a touch of toffee, a bit of funk, plus more.  “Lots going on,” says my husband, who doesn’t particularly like the wine.  I disagree.  I taste apricot and gooseberry, and like it.  I also like that the whites are not served too cold.

Nice size pour

Nice size pour

  1. 2012 Merlot $24

Now we switch to reds, and get a fresh glass.  According to the menu, this merlot is “blousy,” and after some hilarity with clothing puns, we decide we have no idea what that means in terms of this wine.  The wine spends 20 months in French oak.  Aroma has a touch of barnyard, but also cherry, and the taste is the typical cherry taste of North Fork merlots, with a bit of tannin at the end.

Another view of the room, featuring bags of Vines and Branches' very popular truffle popcorn.

Another view of the room, featuring bags of Vines and Branches’ very popular truffle popcorn.

  1. 2012 Marco Tulio $24

I figure there must be a story behind this name, and indeed there is.  The wine is named for the owner’s father, who recently passed away at the age of 99.  “He drank wine every day!” our server informs us.  Sounds like quite an endorsement for wine drinking.  This is a wine one could easily drink every day, with an aroma of cherry and dark fruit and a light delicate taste.  It is a blend of 59% merlot, 39% cabernet franc, and 9% petit verdot, and spends 14 months in French oak.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $34

Although this is labeled cab franc, the menu informs us that this too is a blend, of 79% cab franc, 20% merlot, and 1% petit verdot.  There’s some cherry in the aroma, thanks to the merlot, but also plums and spices, perhaps allspice.  This is very good, and I could see drinking it with boeuf bourguignon—soft, with lots of fruit and a bit of woodiness.

Another cool label design

Another cool label design

  1. 2013 Bond $20

One more blend—63% cabernet franc, 22% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petit verdot, and 6% merlot—and the fact that it is a blend and the choice of the name are both appropriate.  They called it “Bond” to commemorate their opening on Love Lane, as a thank you to the other local merchants and how welcoming and friendly they were.  We actually saw that friendliness in action when we ordered the oysters.  The owner of Pearl River asked my husband if he wanted lemon, and then offered a squeeze of “Realemon,” which my husband declined.  Before we had a chance to eat any, he reappeared with some lemons which Lombardi’s had given him and which he quickly sliced for us.  How nice.  And so were the oysters—oh, and so is Bond!  I really liked it, though our server opined that it would be even better in a year or two.  The aroma is quite fruity and the taste has a good balance of fruit and tartness.

Pearl River oysters for sale on Love Lane

Pearl River oysters for sale on Love Lane

Reasons to visit:  a convenient location on Love Lane—you can buy a bottle and then stop in to the cheese shop and put together a picnic (I recommend Bond to go with your cheese.); The Wild!, Brio, Marco Tulio, Cabernet Franc, and Bond; oysters on Sunday afternoons; you can buy bottles of Wölffer Estate and Brooklyn Oenology wines as well.

Our oysters, waiting for the lemon to arrive.  I had The Wild!, but I have to admit that my husband's choice of the Sauvignon Blanc was a better match.

Our oysters, waiting for the lemon to arrive. I had The Wild!, but I have to admit that my husband’s choice of the Sauvignon Blanc was a better match.

Stroll Love Lane in Mattituck and you can visit some cute shops for gifts, food, cheese, and wine.

Stroll Love Lane in Mattituck and you can visit some cute shops for gifts, food, cheese, and wine.