Rose Hill: A Rose By Any Other Name

May 21, 2021

A recent trend in the North Fork wine country is the takeover of wineries by new owners, who often change the name.  So Martha Clara is now RG/NY, and Shinn is now Rose Hill.  Pretty name.  And the new owners have made some nice changes to the place, too.  I didn’t go inside, but the outdoor patio area is lovely, paved with flagstones and shaded by big umbrellas, with one area in the sun if you are so inclined.  It was a perfect day to sit outside, brightly sunny and just breezy enough to make a sweater or sweatshirt welcome.

We were there with my brother and sister-in-law, visiting from upstate, now that we are all vaxxed.  What a delight to hug people again!  We decided to try Rose Hill because it was new, a bit off the beaten path—it’s on Oregon Road—and they serve a variety of lunchy snacks.  According to the web page, you need to make a reservation, which we did, through Open Table (one of my favorite apps), but it turned out not to be necessary.  Still, I would make reservations as long as occupancy is limited, so you don’t get turned away. 

Several hand-written signs in the parking area (which is quite small, by the way; they should consider ways to make more spaces) direct you to go around to the back for the entrance to the tasting room.  A few parking spaces are reserved for the B&B, in a house at the front of the property.  Around the back, the soft splash of fountains frames the entrance to the patio, where a server indicated we could choose any seat we wanted.  We took a nicely sized table for four, and a very pleasant young woman rushed over to clean it off before we sat down.  A nice touch—Rose Hill has continued the Shinn practice of putting large bottles of chilled water plus glasses on the table.

The menu is accessed through a QR code card on the table, and by the time a waiter came by to ask us if we’d “had time” to look at it—clearly expecting this table of people of a certain age not to know what to do with a QR code—we had read it and decided on our order.  They offer two different flights, which have one overlap, both consisting of five wines for $24, so each couple got one flight to share, which was plenty to drink.  We also got the cheese and charcuterie board for $26 and a basket of roasted sweetened nuts for $11, both of which were very good.  Another nice touch—the disposable plates are made of bamboo, which means they are recyclable. 

We had a pleasant afternoon, sitting and talking and catching up on a year’s worth of news, but our one disappointment was the wine.  No wine was undrinkable, but no wine seemed worth the cost.  Since my brother wanted to buy a couple of wines to take back as thank you gifts, we drove over the Vintage wine shop after the tasting.

Classic Flight

* 2019 Sparkling Rosé      $42

My flight started with a slight, pleasant sparkler, made with the méthode champenoise.  It has a typical bready aroma and a bit of sweetness, plus citrus.

  • 2019 Coalescence           $25

We had liked the Shinn version of this wine, by the same name, and the aroma was promising, nicely flowery.  However, this blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot blanc, riesling, and semillon lacked depth and complexity, and was very soft and light, with a bit of citrus flavor.

  • 2020 Pinot Blanc            

Again, we commented that there was “not much to it.”  The wine had aromas and tastes of mineral and unripe pear.

  • 2020 Rose Hill Rosé        $28

Both flights included this merlot-based rosé, which my brother characterized as “highly ordinary,” with a “soft mouth feel” and “very little character.”  It is a very light wine, dry, in the Provençal style. 

  • Non-vintage Red Blend                $25

Since this blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec, and cabernet franc is made with grapes from both 2017 and 2018, they call it non-vintage.  It has a very piney aroma, which my brother humorously dubbed “eau de Pine-Sol.”  A bit tannic, dry, but again, lacking depth and substance.

New Release Flight

  • 2020 First Fruit                $28

Steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, very light.

  • 2020 Concrete Blond     $42

Macari also makes a wine in a concrete “egg,” in their case a rosé, while this is a sauvignon blanc.  This wine has a lovely aroma of pear and honeysuckle, and a flowery taste, though a bit sour on the end, and has “more presence” than the first wine.

  • Rose Hill Rosé

I already talked about this one.

  • 2020 Rosé          $25

This was my favorite wine of the day, a more robust merlot-based rosé, with nice strawberry flavor and aroma.

  • 2020 Cabernet Franc      $32

Though this has some nice pomegranate flavor, overall it is rather thin, with no body.  As my brother commented, “When the best thing you can say about a tasting is that the nuts are good, you have a problem.”

Reasons to visit:  Nice location a bit off the beaten track, with a lovely outdoor patio area; good cheese and charcuterie board and roasted nuts; the 2020 Rosé, and maybe the Concrete Blond.  Most of the other wines are drinkable, but not very flavorful or complex, and we felt the price/value ratio was a bit off.  You can stay in the B&B and do tastings.

Peconic County Brewing: Another County Heard From

May 13, 2021

Riverhead is becoming quite a beer-making town, with several new breweries we have yet to visit.  Now that’s a challenge I’m happy to meet.  Our friends were still here, happily, so off we went to Riverhead, hoping to combine a tasting with lunch at one of the new breweries, Peconic County, which is located in a new building, with a deck facing the Peconic River.  (Ah, commented one friend, so that’s why the town is called river-head.  Yup.) 

PCB, as it is abbreviated (I assume they do not want to suggest any ties to the chemical.), has a lovely outdoor deck, furnished with comfy blue-upholstered chairs around large square tables, as well as less inviting metal chairs around barrels or small tables. We were lucky enough to score the blue chairs, room for four.  Leaving two of us to guard the seats, we went inside to choose our flights and order food.  Inside is less inviting.  The whole industrial vibe of breweries fascinates me.  Greenport Harbor, for example, is located in a former automobile dealership, and North Fork in a former fire house, so they come by their décor naturally, but then PCB is in a brand-new building, yet has the same industrial esthetic.  I wonder why.

Anyway, we had time to scan the menus for both beers and food while the lone server worked as fast as he could to wait on a sudden spate of customers, including a number of employees of the Riverhead Aquarium, which is right next door (A place well worth a visit, if you haven’t been there—or a return visit if you have!).  But everyone was jolly and good-natured, and we didn’t mind the wait.  A flight consists of four beers, chosen from the list of ten, served in medium-sized glasses set into a wooden carrier, with little inserts on which the server puts the number of your selection, so you know what you’re drinking.

For lunch, we ordered wings and a charcuterie and cheese platter to share, while our designated driver opted for a burger and fries and a Pepsi (no Coke…).  By the way, the “toasties” on the menu are variations on grilled cheese sandwiches.  We received a buzzer which would alert us when the food was ready, and carried our beverages outside, where we found those who had been saving seats busily shedding sweaters and sweating.  PCB needs to figure out some way to shade their lovely deck, as even on this slightly cool day it was so hot in the sun that my phone overheated. 

A little while after we began tasting our beers, the buzzer went off.  We had been warned that the wings were boneless, and in fact they were more like crispy pieces of deep-fried chicken bathed in hot sauce than traditional wings, though served with the obligatory blue cheese dip and celery sticks.  Tasty, and the hot sauce was appropriately hot, though I did need to cool down my taste buds in order to assess the rest of my beers.  The cheese-and-charcuterie platter was quite generous, and we almost didn’t finish it all.  The big juicy-looking burger received a good review, and the thin fries were nice and crispy, so lunch was certainly a success. 

We liked the beers, too, though in general we feel Greenport Harbor’s are better, and overall, these were a bit sweet for our taste. Without planning, once again my friend and I had only one overlap, so we tasted seven beers in all.

  • Dream Girl IPA

I decided I had to start with this one, since they call it their “flagship” IPA.  The menu describes it as “hoppy but smooth,” and I agree.  It’s a fairly classic IPA, but a bit sweet.

  •  Big Duck Rye Saison

If you like rye bread—which I do—you’re likely to like this saison, which is flavored with rye malt.  This is a Belgian style of beer, amber in color. My friend opined that it would work well in a stew—maybe beef carbonnades.  The name, by the way, refers to the famous Big Duck, an East End landmark currently located in Flanders.

  • Colonial Amber Lager

Again, this is a classic in its category, a bit sweet and bland—though my judgment might have been clouded by my first bite of those spicy wings.  Nice to drink, especially with food.

  • Iron Pier Rocky Road Nitro Stout

The description of this dark stout includes the warning that it contains lactose, good to know for those who are lactose intolerant.  The menu has the accurate description that it is a “marshmallow and vanilla milk stout with notes of chocolate and caramel,” and that it “doesn’t taste too thick or syrup like.”  Like the Double Ducks we had at Greenport, this is not really a drink with food stout, but would be fine as a dessert or just to sip.  The name, by the way, refers not just to Rocky Road ice cream (which includes marshmallows), but a popular Riverhead beach, called Iron Pier because it has…an iron pier.

  • Hampton Haze

I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised that this was sweet-ish, since the menu describes this IPA as “soft and fruity.”

  • Dis-Orient-Ed Double IPA

Clearly a reference to the town of Orient, the name could also be a reference to the high abv—8.2%–of this IPA.  My friend called it “very IPA-ish.”

  • Flying Point Golden Ale

Another pleasant sipper, this ale has notes of tropical fruit and a bit of sweetness.  It’s good, but I like the bitterness many beers have.  The name is a reference to a beach in Southampton.

Reasons to visit:  Lovely outdoor deck overlooking the river (but only if they put up umbrellas or awnings!); convenient location next to the Riverhead Aquarium; all the beers were quite drinkable, if not my favorite style; generous cheese-and-charcuterie platter, which included pickled Brussels sprouts, plus other good food options.

Greenport Harbor: Safe in Port

May 11, 2021
Vaccinated, and it feels so good…Finally, Nofowineaux is able to go out for tastings and, even better, entertain friends. Dear friends we hadn’t seen since a year ago February came to stay over, now that we are all fully vaxxed. You can do a lot on Zoom, but you can’t hug! The weather was bright and sunny, if a bit windy and chilly for May, so we decided to drive out to Greenport to stroll around town before getting back in the car to go to the big Greenport Harbor tasting room in Peconic. The plan, which we successfully implemented, was to do a tasting there and then head to Braun’s to pick up the steamed lobsters we had ordered for dinner.

The young woman who operated the taps moved like lightening. We applauded when she finished!

The town of Greenport has some new stores and restaurants, some empty store fronts—but fewer than we feared—and plenty of old favorites. We hadn’t walked around town since the pandemic started, so we felt as though we were finally exiting a long, dark tunnel. Now if everyone else gets vaccinated, we might actually return to life as we knew it pre-Covid.

One of our friends is a beer aficionado, and though she also likes and appreciates wine, many of the wineries are still requiring reservations, so we decided to go for a beer tasting. What makes Greenport Harbor a great place for return visits is their ever-changing roster of beers and ales. As before, you stand at the bar and write out your list of five preferred tastes, which are then poured into medium-sized glasses (plenty to share) which are set into holes in a carved wooden whale so you can take them to your table. Our designated driver brought over his chosen soda—Boylan ginger ale, which he said was great—and ordered one of their massive pretzels. They heat them up to order, so you get a little buzzer which goes off when your food is ready. (They hold your credit card until you return the whale and glasses, at which time they charge you for what you’ve had.)

Plenty of food options, but we were saving our appetites for those delicious lobsters from Braun’s.

By then, it had warmed up and the wind had died down, so we carried our tastes to a sunny table on the capacious lawn. Other—socially distanced tables—had family groups, including children and dogs. Everyone seemed very happy to be there, as were we. My friend and I have slightly different preferences when it comes to beers, so we ordered mostly different tastes, easy to do when the menu features about 14 beers.

My array of beers. As instructed, we tasted from light to dark.
  1. Haus Pilsner
    Get it, house pilsner? Very cute. I started here, a good place to start. This was a light, refreshing pilsner, a perfect after-gardening quaff. My friend said she could see being served this in a traditional German biergarten.
  2. Otherside IPA
    This was my friend’s first choice. She is fond of citrusy IPAs. I like them if they’re not too hoppy. This is a fairly typical IPA, with tastes of grapefruit and lemon.
  3. Belgian Pale Ale
    I do like ales, and this transported me back to our visit to Belgium, where it seemed every little sidewalk café had its own beers on tap, usually a light and a dark. I liked the yeasty flavor of this, with touches of anise or licorice and clove. At the end, I rated this most interesting taste.
  4. Naturally Juiced
    Juicy! My friend’s second taste, we decided this was even more grapefruity than the Otherside, with notes of mango, and a bit sweeter.
My friend’s panoply of beers.
  • Velvet Sea
    Whoever named this beer chose an apt moniker. This is a smooth, velvety, almost buttery golden ale, very likable and easy to drink. It sort of reminded us of a chardonnay.
  • Facing East
    The menu calls this a New England IPA, but my friend thought it might be more like a West Coast one. Again, it is grapefruity, but softer than the others, without any tropical fruit notes.
  • Second Round Knockout
    I’m going to assume the name is a reference to this IPA’s abv (alcohol by volume) of 8%, although that’s not the highest abv on the menu. Our designated driver had taken a sip or two of the beers we were tasting, and he said of this one that it was “bitter and harsh.” My friend simply said, “I love it.” Refreshingly tart, say I, and not obnoxiously grapefruity. We both got this one, the only overlap amongst our selections.
  • Double Duck Mexican Hot Chocolate
    Time for dessert! This Imperial Porter is like one of those really good dark chocolate bars, with a hint of cinnamon flavor, spice, and vanilla. I wouldn’t want to drink it with food, but to sip in a pub…sure! Yummy, and not cloyingly sweet, it is actually made with cocoa nibs.
  • Double Duck Coffee
    This is another meal-ending or sipping porter, with distinct aromas and flavors of coffee with cream and sugar. We decided we preferred the Hot Chocolate flavor, but liked both porters. Hey, combine one of the IPAs with this and you have breakfast!
    Reasons to visit: Huge facility, though I have seen it completely filled, with a nice big outdoor area. Good menu of foods, in addition to the big pretzels. Basically, all the beers. I’ve never had a beer of theirs I actually disliked, and it you like IPAs they have a particularly good collection of them. I prefer ales and stouts and porters, which they also have. I often buy their Black Duck Porter in the supermarket. Also, at a time when more and more places are barring dogs, you can bring your pooch to the outside area here.

Wining at Home

March 10, 2021

With the approach of spring and COVID vaccines, I begin to feel more hopeful.  Maybe some day we will even feel comfortable going to a winery or brewery for a tasting.  Meanwhile, it occurred to me to mention that I have not been neglecting local wines throughout the lockdown.  Vintage Wines and Spirits, the excellent liquor store in Mattituck, not only carries a reasonable selection of local wines, they also deliver—for free, if you live in Mattituck or thereabouts.  Their web page turns out to be easy to navigate, so ever since we have been avoiding going out, we have been ordering cases of local wines and liquor for delivery.

One delivery made me appreciate how nice it is to live in a small town.  As we unpacked our case, I realized that they had given us a bottle of sweet vermouth instead of the dry vermouth my husband needs for his Gibson martinis.  Uh oh.  I called, and they said, “Oh, one of our guys lives near you.  Just leave the sweet vermouth on your porch and we’ll swap it for the dry.”  Which they did.

I’ve made a point of ordering local wines, all in the $15-25 range, which makes them appropriate for everyday drinking.  On an irregular basis, I’ll be posting notes on those wines.  Here’s the first post:

Bedell 2019 Merlot

Bedell wins in the elegant design category for their bottles and, in this case, for the wine.  Merlot is the most prevalent red out here, and it can range from tasting like Cheracol cough syrup to having just a touch of cherry flavor.  This merlot fits into the latter category. It is dry, a bit tannic, with some cherry but not overly fruity, with a long finish.  It would go well with lamb chops, but we happily drank it with our vegetarian chili on spaghetti.  It cost about $20.

Sherwood House 2016 Red Blend

If I were tasting this at the winery, I’d be asking “a blend of what?”  And sometimes the server knows, and sometimes she doesn’t.  It may include some cabernet franc, and probably some merlot, though it’s not particularly complex.  It’s dry, with soft tannins, perfectly drinkable with tonight’s pork chops, but, according to my lock-down companion, “I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.”  I think it is tasty.  It has, by the way, a screw top, which has the advantage of being easy to open.

Viral Musings, June 18, 2020

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I haven’t had the heart to do a blog entry since my last one, on February 22nd, about Osprey’s Dominion. Shortly after that, and even before the announcement of various closures, we had started to feel uncomfortable with the idea of going out to do a tasting, since it brings you into such close contact with people. Then the wineries closed down.

Since then, they have mostly been either completely closed, or open only for curbside pick-up and/or delivery. We have still been doing our bit for the East End wine economy—our local liquor store has a good stock of local wines, and does free local delivery. A little time with their web site and we are able to amass a good list of North Fork wines for them to deliver. My blog has been useful for this, since I can check to see how we like a particular wine before I order it.

If you haven’t ever tried the search function, it is one of my favorite features of my blog, and I used to use it when we dined out at local restaurants. Just go to the blog and type in the name of the wine or winery in the search box, and up pop all my entries on that winery.

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Nofowineaux couldn’t resist these. I would say please…

Now, a tentative reopening is starting. Pellegrini, whose wine club we belong to, offers outside seating and will serve you a bottle of wine to go with the snacks they allow you to bring. Some other wineries are doing similar partial openings, so it’s worth checking their web sites to see what they are offering. Croteaux says their outdoor tasting area is open, for tastings and their own snacks. Personally, we are not ready to go anywhere yet, since we are in an at-risk category.

 

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This is just one side of the courtyard at Pellegrini, which likely has tables in it now.

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After you enter, turn right to find parking on the grass.

I keep thinking about all the lovely people we have encountered over our years of going to wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries, and worrying about how they are doing during quarantine. Servers are almost always friendly and helpful, happy to make recommendations for selections from the menus. Some of them seem to know only a little more than basic information about each wine, but others are passionate about wine or their specific winery, and can tell you as much as you want to know about the grapes, the methods used in the wine-making process, and what foods would go well with each wine.

I think about a young man who had trained as a chef, and who loved to go into detail with us as we chatted about what dishes to pair with each wine. I remember an older gentleman whom we met at a couple of different places, who had a comic routine to rival the best Catskill comedians. Then there was the very skinny woman who plied us with wine off the tasting menu until we joined her winery’s wine club (we haven’t regretted joining…). Another winery always had at least one server who was from France, doing an internship at the winery. Then, although we generally only visited each place once a year, there were those who actually remembered us—and my notebook.

Ah yes, reactions to my notebook. I remember fondly all the times we were treated to an extra taste or two, based on how serious we were about the wines—and my note-taking. Sometimes I would be asked outright if I wrote for a wine magazine. No, I always replied, and sometimes told them about my blog. But I think anyone who is serious and thoughtful about wine will find kindred spirits (no pun intended) at the wineries.

On our recent drives around the North Fork, we have noticed many restaurants have takeout with curbside delivery, and are improving their outside table availability. For example, at Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck you can order food, and then eat it on their outdoor patio. A pleasant day trip out here is still doable. I would always call ahead to any winery or restaurant you were thinking of going to, and pay attention to their requests for masks and social distancing. And one warning—the local towns are being very strict about parking near their beaches, so it may be hard to get near the water, if that is what you want. However, a pleasant hike in Hallock State Park will bring you to a rocky Sound beach, good for walking on and collecting shells. The last time I drove past, they were open.

Farm stands are mostly open, and asparagus is one of those vegetables that is noticeably better when it is fresh. And the best strawberries I have ever had are at Patty’s Berries and Bunches, right across the street from Harbes (same family) on Sound Avenue. They are also open for u-pick berries. Just don’t forget your masks!

I do miss going to the wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries, and look forward to when they are open again.

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.

North Fork Brewing Company: Who Let the Dogs Out? February 17, 2020

https://www.northforkbrewingco.com/

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The logo represents a barn swallow, which has several symbolic meanings.

After the fourth or fifth dog entered, owner in tow, our son-in-law turned to us and said, “I feel as though we should have brought a dog with us.” We had arrived at the North Fork Brewing Company tasting room around lunch time, and almost every person who entered seemed to have a sweet, well-behaved dog with them. (I stopped counting when I got to six!) The room is well adapted to canine visitors, since the brewery is located in a former fire station, with concrete floors and an industrial vibe. Many of the visitors were having a glass of beer and a sandwich, from the food truck outside, while others, like us, had opted for a tasting.

The last time we went to North Fork was exactly a year ago, and that time, too, it was with our daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters after a couple of hours at the Safari Play Space in Riverhead. The girls settled in with coloring books and books, and split a root beer (which W. said went very well with her orange lollipop from Safari), while we tasted and discussed. We decided that the beers had improved over the year. The last time we felt that while we appreciated the creative choices they were making, there was also no beer we wanted to just sit and drink. In contrast, this time there were several we could see getting in a growler, and in fact our son-in-law took home a growler of “It Must Have Been Light, But It’s Darker Now.”

A flight is four glasses of your choice from a list of eleven beers on tap for $9, and comes in a little muffin tin. You write your choices on a little card, and they are put in the pan in number order, with the numbers on the bottom of each spot.

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The number in the bottom of the muffin tin which holds your tastes.

After a little while, we got sandwiches from the food truck, which had a limited menu because, we heard the person in it explain, they had not expected to be open this day. Our daughter is lactose intolerant, so she was delighted to try the vegan cheese and pesto sandwich, which was very tasty ($10). My husband and I shared a grilled cheese sandwich, which was a rather ordinary offering of grilled cheddar on white ($6). The brewery also sells bags of North Fork potato chips for $3.

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In between sips, I chatted with the server, who explained that the logo represents a barn swallow. The barn swallow symbolizes their commitment to be a farm brewery—they grow many of their own hops—and also was a tattoo sailors would get to symbolize their home-coming.

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  1. It Must Have Been Light, But It’s Darker Now 5% Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

This is a dark beer for someone who is making the transition from being a light beer drinker to darker beers. It is dark in color, with a caramel aroma, pleasantly bitter, with a refreshing, complex flavor, lighter than most dark beers. A German bock style, our son-in-law says it compares favorably with bocks he’s had in Germany.

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The flight I shared with my tasting buddy.

  1. Change (In the House of Hops) 9%

Change indeed. This IPA smells and tastes like mandarin oranges. My daughter and I agree on what to drink it with—I say a po’boy sandwich and she says a basket of fried clams.

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They have their own food truck, called the North Fork Chewing Company, parked right outside the tasting room.

  1. Dark Side of Maple 6%

I have liked porters ever since I first tasted one in an English pub many years ago, but I think this one is a bit too sweet. Another of our group says it is “a good porter.” I think it needs more body. You can definitely smell and taste the maple syrup used in making it.

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The menu is sometimes more extensive, but they hadn’t expected to be open on a Monday. I suppose they forgot it was a holiday.

  1. Gaffer’s Hearth 9%

On the other hand, I really like this stout, which is also brewed with maple, plus North Fork Roasting Company coffee. It had a delicious coffee flavor and aroma, with just the right amount of bitterness. Our son-in-law describes it as a “breakfast stout,” and reminisces about a place he went to when he was in college that would serve at breakfast a glass of stout with an egg beaten into it. Really? Much discussion ensues over whether that is a good idea or not.

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The other flight our group had. You can see how cloudy Run the Juice is.

  1. Hold Me Closer Tiny Lager 5%

I’m at the end of my flight, but our daughter and son-in-law have a couple of different choices in their flight, and this is one of them. This is a light, fizzy, German pilsner. Refreshing, but not to be sipped on its own.

  1. Run the Juice 4%

Like many IPAs, this smells and tastes like grapefruit, though this one also has a touch of funkiness. It is cloudy in color. Refreshing.

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You can peek into the brewery itself.

Reasons to visit: you want to go out for a beer and not leave your dog at home alone; all the beers, but especially It Must Have Been Light, But It’s Darker Now; Gaffer’s Hearth; Hold Me Closer; they have their own food truck; convenient to downtown Riverhead.  Note:  Google map directions are not accurate!  They tell you you have arrived when you are actually around the corner from the parking lot.

Greenport Harbor: What’s That Strange Glowing Orb in the Sky? February 12, 2020

https://greenportharborbrewing.com/

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We’ve never seen the parking lot this empty. And look–blue sky!

After what seemed like forty days and nights of rain, the sun made a brief appearance on Wednesday, so we took advantage of the pleasant weather to get out of the house. We took our friends to the Riverhead Aquarium, where it was actually nice enough to sit outside and watch the sea lion show and wander around to see the playful otters and penguins, as well as the other exhibits inside. We all stood mesmerized at the shark tank as those giants glided past the windows, and tried to pick out each variety of colorful fish in the coral reef tank. The butterfly room felt like a brief visit to the tropics.

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After a couple of hours, our feet were tired and our mouths were dry, so we headed to Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s Peconic location (the original place in Greenport has limited hours in the winter, like much of the rest of the town). It was the least crowded we’ve ever seen, with only a few people in the tasting room. Usually, you have to go into the room off to the side to order food, but today the man behind the bar was filling all orders, so we ordered a giant pretzel. They actually have real food, but we were planning to go out for an early dinner, so we didn’t want to eat too much. We did, however, end up getting a second pretzel!

At the bar you are presented with a printed list of the available beers, and you simply circle your five choices, which are then handed to you in the form of small glasses set into a wooden carrier shaped like a whale/Long Island (their logo). There’s plenty of beer for two people to share. Our friend chose some of the same beers we did, but also some different ones, so we were able to try eight beers in all. Our designated driver was happy with a Boylan Black Cherry Soda (made with real cane sugar).

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Soda for the designated driver.

We took our flights to a table looking out at the yard, enjoying the sunny day.

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This room was also empty.

  1. Vapor Kisses 5% ABV (alcohol by volume)

This is described on the menu as a “smoked Helles Lager,” and indeed it does have a slight aroma and taste of smoke. It is a refreshing, post-lawn-mowing-on-a-hot-day type of beer. Light and crisp.

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The flight I chose. You drink them in order, from light to dark.

  1. Respect to Process 6%

“Unfiltered pale ale with Galaxy and Citra,” reads the menu for this one, but I think it could just as well have said “grapefruit juice,” which is what it smells and tastes like. I’m glad it was my friend’s choice rather than mine, since I don’t care for this type of beer.

  1. Far Out There Series 4 7%

I guess the “far out there” refers to the very hoppy quality of this IPA. Although I sometimes don’t like hoppy IPAs, I don’t mind this one, which just begs for a snappy hot dog accompaniment. It has some bitter lemon taste, but also warm grain taste.

  1. The Hot Sauce IPA 6%

No, the name does not refer to what you should drink this with, but what it is made with: Thai Bird chili peppers! My friend compares it to biting into a jalapeno, and opines that she would rather cook with it than drink it. For example, she continues, you could braise chicken in it and then use that to stuff enchiladas. I think it is fun to drink, and would be good with nachos that were more cheesy than spicy.

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Our friend’s choices.

  1. Otherside IPA 8%

I’ve had this before, and find it pleasantly piney, dry and crisp.

  1. OG Double Otherside 1%

As the name suggests, this is a more intense version of the Otherside IPA (whose name refers to the fact that the hops come from the West Coast). I taste grapefruit pith as well as pine. Preferences are so personal—My friend likes it and I do not! Happily, it is also from her flight, as one sip is plenty for me.

  1. Inner Glow 8%

Although I’m not sure I agree with the menu’s description of this as “decadent,” I can certainly taste the coffee mixed with golden stout. However, they also say cocoa is involved, and I don’t taste that at all. This is a sit-in-a-pub and sip stout, and goes down easily. The coffee flavor is not super intense.

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  1. Fork and Beans 5%

On the other hand, this has robust espresso coffee flavor, and is made with NoFoRoCo coffee. It has an aroma of roasting coffee as well. You could have a glass of this and a glass of the Respect to Process and call it breakfast, I joke—coffee and grapefruit juice. It is tasty, but our friend thinks it could have more body to it. True, it is not a real heavy stout. Our friend says she likes a brewery where there are a couple of reliably good beers you can get any time, and I tell her the Harbor Ale and Black Duck Porter, both often available in local markets, are both good choices.

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I like the art they commissioned for their labels.

Reasons to visit: lots of good beers; a roomy space (formerly a car dealership) which nonetheless can be very full on busy days; of the ones I tried today, my favorites were the Hot Sauce IPA (definitely not for everyone), the Inner Glow Stout, and the Fork & Beans Stout; big, hot, soft pretzels served with cheddar sauce and mustard; a menu of “real” foods if you want lunch.

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!

 

Castello Borghese: On a Winter’s Day February 9, 2020

https://castellodiborghese.com/

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All the leaves are brown…

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…and the sky is grey.

It’s been a quiet, damp winter out here on the East End of Long Island. The farm stands have all been closed since Christmas, some restaurants have signs reading “See you in the spring,” and there’s no traffic on the roads. On the other hand, the Riverhead Farmer’s market on Saturday was quite lively and busy, and we were happy to find our favorite pickle man there, as well as fresh eggs and other treats. It’s a nice time of year to visit the wineries—though you do need to check they are open, particularly during the week—since you can often have the undivided attention of your server. On the other hand, if you want a livelier atmosphere, you can check out the Winterfest web page (https://longislandwinterfest.com/) to see where you can find musical performances.

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For most of the time, we had the tasting room to ourselves.

We decided to head to Castello Borghese, which we hadn’t been to since August 2018. It is now under the control of Ann Marie and Marco Borghese’s son, after their untimely deaths in 2014. We were very sad when we heard that news, especially since we had had some pleasant chats with Ann Marie in the tasting room. However, Peter, our server, more than made up for that loss, by being very well-informed and passionate about the wines. It didn’t hurt our experience that, charmed by our discussion of our likes and dislikes and by my notebook, he gave us several extra tastes.

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Sometimes they have musical performances in this room.

The main tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and a couple of barrels for extra stand-and-taste space, with an adjacent room with small tables and chairs and a large party space. Outside, there are a few picnic tables. It is very much a winery for serious tasters, and Peter described with some amusement how it served as a refuge for those who accidentally went to Vineyard 48 (since closed for being an out of control party place).

The menu offers five different flights: five whites for $20, five reds for $25, three rosés for $15, a “Classic Flight” of a variety of wines for $20, or “Battle of the North Fork,” a comparison of two whites and two reds. As we discussed which option to take, I announced that I often did not like oaked chardonnays, which Peter took as a challenge, and led to our first “extra.” We decided on the Classic Flight. (I’ve marked the extras with an asterisk.)

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They give you a rather generous pour.

  1. 2018 Chardonnay $20

The flight starts off with the 2018 chardonnay, a fairly classic North Fork chard, with aromas of pear, flowers, and minerals and tastes of green apple, mineral, and lemon. It’s very good, and would be perfect with oysters, like the ones we had here one time in the summer.

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We were fascinated by the difference in color between the two chardonnays. The one on the left is oaked.

  1. * 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

“Try this,” urged Peter, “it may change your mind.” Well, not totally, though I liked it more than I thought I would, which was explained when I learned it was aged in neutral oak (which means old oak, rather than new, and so is less oaky). It didn’t have that big buttery taste I have come to dislike. Peter told an amusing story about a woman who ordered a glass of this chard, took it outside to drink with her friends, and came back in to complain that she’d been given the wrong wine. Turned out she was from California, where the chardonnays tend to be big and buttery, but Peter was able to match her with a wine she liked. Anyway, this is a bit woodsy, with an aroma of crushed ferns, rather lean and elegant.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24

I’m not counting this as an extra, but it is not the SB on the flight menu, but rather a different one that Peter thought we’d prefer. Meanwhile, this is light and bright, tart and lemony, with an aroma of cucumbers and a touch of funkiness. I could see pairing it with scallops.

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  1. Rosé of Merlot $18

Peter offers us brief descriptions of each rosé, and we decide to stick with the one on the flight menu. Ever since the changes at Croteaux, we have been on the lookout for good NoFo rosés. This is pretty good, with a slight aroma of strawberry and the flavor of macerated strawberries. It is nicely dry, and we buy a bottle to drink some time in the near future.

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  1. *2018 Pinot Noir $50

“You have to try the Pinot Noir,” says Peter, and we do not disagree. It is a French style pinot, he explains, lean and dry rather than big and jammy like a California pinot. We like it, and if not for the price might have bought a bottle. It has a dark fruit aroma and taste, with slight tannins.

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  1. 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

This has a lovely garnet color, but a slight chemical odor which one sometimes gets with reds out here. However, the taste is fine, though at the end it evanesces. We taste dark berries and cherries and tobacco, with some nice acidity. We wonder whether this would improve over time.

  1. *2018 Merlot Select $35

Now we discuss the popularity of merlot and the influence of the movie Sideways, which led to a dip in sales. It is the most popular red grape on the North Fork, and with good reason. This has aromas and tastes of cherry, with a taste that lingers after you sip. 2018 was a very good weather year locally, and so growers expect good things from this vintage. This is also dry, with some tannins. I suggest pairing it with lamb, Peter suggest rib eye, and my husband agrees with us both.

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  1. 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44

Good way to end our tasting, this is another tasty red, with lots of fruit and some minerality. I like it a lot. Like all their wines, it tends to be elegant and lean rather than big and very fruity. It could also stand up to a steak, or even go with roast pork.

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Many of their wines have won awards.

Reasons to visit: serious tasting room with serious wines; the chardonnay, the Rosé of Merlot, the pinot noir, the cabernet sauvignon reserve; a generous pour.