Osprey’s Dominion: Easy to Drink

July 1, 2021

We celebrated summer by heading to Osprey’s Dominion, after spotting an osprey on his or her nest and taking it as an omen.  On this warm summer early afternoon, the capacious tasting room was empty, and only a couple of tables were occupied outside on the pleasant patio. They still seem to be operating on the pandemic model, with a bunch of tables in the tasting room taken up by a varied selection of gift items, many of them unrelated to wine.  Not sure why.

In general, we like their wines, and during lockdown we drank many bottles of their Richmond Creek label, a very reasonably priced and quite drinkable collection.  So this time we opted for other wines on their flight menu. 

Two hard-working gentlemen (they were busy taking phone reservations for groups and unpacking boxes, in addition to serving flights) behind the bar handed us a menu and a paper with circles, where we were to specify which wines we wanted in our flight.  I know to order tastes from lightest or driest to most flavorful, but not everyone does, so it’s too bad no guidance was offered.  The problem is, if you taste, for example, a wine like an oaked chardonnay before a light wine like their sauvignon blanc, the sauv will seem to have no taste. The tastings are $15 for five or $10 for three, your choice from a menu of 23 wines.  They also offer wines by the glass, and a small menu of snack items. One of those was a Boar’s Head platter, of sliced meats and chips, which we know was fresh because the truck had just pulled up outside.  However, we asked about chips, which they did not have, and instead offered us bags of Wheat Thins, which we took, and for which they did not charge us.  They do still allow you to bring your own picnic, and, apparently, dog, since we saw one on the patio.

Ten wines seemed like more than we wanted to drink, so we opted for two tastings, one of five and one of three.  As it happened, the tastes were so small that I think we could have handled five and five.  We carried our trays outside, where a slight breeze made it pleasant, as we listened to soft rock of the James Taylor variety on the loudspeakers.  They have a gazebo out in the garden, labeled cutely “Grand Ole Osprey,” where they have live music on the weekends and Friday evenings.

  1.  2020 Sauvignon Blanc   $19

Our first taste was a perfect summer sipper, their light pleasant steel-fermented sauvignon blanc.  It has a sweet, flowery aroma and tastes of slightly sweetened lime.

  • 2014 Gewurztraminer   $19

You never know what you’re going to get with a gewurtz, as I’ve had both sweet and dry varieties.  This one is not sweet.  It has a bit of the cat pee smell one often encounters, plus some minerality.  My tasting buddy summed it up by saying it “wants to be sweet but isn’t.” Interesting.

  • 2019 Rosé          $19

Many rosés have lovely aromas of strawberries or other fruit, but this one has almost no smell.  However, it is a very drinkable dry rosé, with a touch of citrus, maybe Meyer lemon, and some tropical fruit, perhaps guava.

  •  2012 Merlot     $22

There are many, many merlots on the North Fork, and this one is similar to most, with its cherry aroma, but with another taste we couldn’t quite identify. It’s a simple, casual red, with some tannins. 

  • 2015 Cabernet Franc      $24

I insist this smells like macerated blackberries, at which my husband shrugs.  It is dry, with soft tannins, another easy-to-drink wine.  My husband says “tangy,” at which I shrug.

  • 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $22

We agree we like this one better, from the aroma of berries and flowers to the flavor of mixed berries.  Lots of tannins, so perhaps it could age even more. 

  • 2017 Malbec     $30

Despite the higher price, we would choose any of the preceding reds over this one, which we decide needs more oomph.  My tasting buddy observes that he wouldn’t have thought it was a malbec.  On the other hand, it is another drinkable wine.

  • 2014 Meritage “Flight”  $30

This is a blend, probably of cabernet franc and merlot, and a banner over the bar boasts that it has won awards, so I order it, though originally I was going to end with the petit verdot.  The aroma includes cherry and tobacco, and it tastes of cherries and oak, with more taste than smell.  This is one more in the list of unchallenging, easy-to-drink wines.

Reasons to visit: large tasting room and outside patio areas; all the wines are drinkable, if unchallenging; they allow you to bring a picnic and your pooch (outside), which many places no longer do; music on the weekends; we liked the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet sauvignon best.

Doggie!
I assume this outdoor bar is in anticipation of bigger crowds.

Croteaux: Back to the Garden

June 24, 2021

Friends often ask me which wineries they should go to.  My answer always is, it depends on what you like, but if they want to sit outside in a pretty setting and feel relaxed, Croteaux is my go-to recommendation.  Since I recommend it so frequently, I felt I needed to visit it early on in my renewed project to visit all the wineries!  As my husband likes to say, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Well, I am happy to report that Croteaux continues to be a good choice for the above reasons.  (I was concerned because the winery has new ownership.)

It was another beautiful June day, and we started by running an errand in Greenport and walking around town.  As they did last summer, the town has partially blocked off Front Street so that restaurants and stores can expand their seating and displays.  Lots of outdoor tables and minimal traffic make eating outside here an attractive prospect.  We will be back! 

Front Street in Greenport is now lined with outdoor tables.

The next decision was where to go for a tasting.  According to their website, we did not need a reservation for Croteaux, so off we went.  They have slightly revamped their entry and exit procedures, so you enter directly from the parking lot via the opening in a barn building, where a pleasant young woman walked us to a table.  She brought with her a bottle of water and two glasses, a nice touch. We sipped the water as we waited a short time for our waitress—it is all table service. When you leave and it’s time to pay, you go through a little vestibule which used to be both the exit and entrance, and would get quite crowded, but now was easy to navigate.  Checks are handed out tied to clam or oyster shells, a smart move, since this keeps them from blowing away.

The tasting menu, accessed via a QR code on the table, offered two choices—in addition to individual glasses.  You can try all six of their still rosés for $25, or their three sparkling rosés for $20.  They only make rosés, by the way.  We opted to share the still wines, plus a basket of sliced baguette and a soft Boursin-like cheese for $12, since it was lunch time.  They have a nice little menu of snacks, including some more substantial offerings like lobster roll sliders for $22 for two servings.  (The still wines are $35-$39 per bottle, and sparklers $45-$49.)

Our tastes arrived, three glasses each in two pottery saucers, with the varieties listed beneath the glasses, and we were instructed to taste counterclockwise from a particular spot—or not, depending on what we liked to do!  But I would recommend going in that order, from lightest to strongest, since otherwise a light wine might be overshadowed by a more forceful cousin.  As we sipped and munched, enjoying both our drinks and our snack, we watched the antics of two little dogs which a couple at a nearby table had brought with them.

  1.  Chloe

This is their lightest wine, barely tinged with pink, and is described on the menu as a “white wine drinker’s rosé,” which I can see.  It smells like honeysuckle, and has nice tropical fruit flavors.

  • Merlot 3

The name of this and a couple of other wines refers to the clone of merlot used to make them.  This has a flowery aroma that is quite pleasant, and is also tasty.  Like all their rosés, it is dry, in the French style.  I was trying to decide what I tasted when my tasting buddy suggested mandarin oranges.  Exactly.

  • Merlot 181

Unlike the previous two, this wine has barely any aroma.  It is light and refreshing, a good sipper for a warm day, with a slight strawberry taste and lots of minerality.

  • Merlot Sauvage

If you know French, you may wonder what could be wild about a wine.  The answer is, the yeast.  Instead of using the known quantity of a yeast they have bought, winemakers will sometimes use the indigenous yeast which is found on all grapes, giving them less control over the final product but often delicious results.  Channing Daughters makes a wine they call L’Enfant Sauvage, which uses wild yeast.  This one has a woodsy aroma, a light pink color, and a definite taste of watermelon (which reminded me of a recent taste I had of watermelon infused with a Negroni).  Mouth-watering.

  • Merlot 314

Not sure why, but the menu labels this “bistro-style.”  This is my husband’s least favorite of the day, though it is certainly drinkable.  It has hints of lemon/lime and tangerine.

  • Jolie

Pretty is an apt name for this deep pink wine, with lots of strawberry aroma and taste.  It has more depth than the other rosés, with touches of minerals and herbs, and reminded me of strawberries macerated with white wine.  The menu calls it a “red wine lover’s rosé.”

Reasons to visit: lovely garden setting; pleasant laid-back vibe (the speakers were playing reggae-inflected and soft rock music while we were there); lots of easy-to-drink rosés; nice menu of snacks; I especially liked the Chloe, the Sauvage, and the Jolie; dogs!

Pellegrini: In the Club

June 17, 2021

Quite a few years ago, on a gray wine-soaked winter afternoon, we joined the Pellegrini wine club, for reds only, because they tended to make better reds than some of the other East End wineries.  In general, that still holds true, though we were a bit disappointed in the current selections.  Due to the pandemic, we had not done a tasting at Pellegrini for two years, but we’ve been picking up our wine club bottles regularly, and most of what we’ve gotten has been fine, so I guess it was just this time’s two choices. 

As we parked in the lot, after having encountered a surprising amount of traffic, I started quoting James Russell Lowell’s famous lines, “And what is so rare as a day in June?/Then, if ever, come perfect days,” and commenting that it was about time they came true.  What a month, with the weather alternating between rainy and chilly and too hot to step outside, but this day was finally fine, which is why we decided it was time to sit outside and taste some wine.  Pellegrini has a small tasting room, but a large central patio—often tented for private celebrations—and tables out on their front and back lawns.  They do allow you to bring your own snacks, and no longer serve the little bags of oyster crackers that used to come with every tasting.

Another change is that they have a set menu for a tasting, of four wines for $16:  the 2019 Rosé, 2019 Steel Chardonnay, 2018 Cabernet Franc, and 2020 Barbeque Red.  Since we are in the club, I wanted to taste the wines that were in our current shipment, and so substituted the Steakhouse Red and 2015 Petit Verdot for the reds.  (Our tasting, of course, was free.)  You used to be able to choose from a large number of wines and try six or seven of them.  Change, as they say, is the one constant.

As we approached the door, an employee greeted us and directed us to a table on the front lawn, where I seated myself with my back to the traffic.  We gave her our order, and she brought us our four tastes on a tray, atop a labeled tray liner.

  1. 2019 Rosé          $24.99

This is a 77% merlot, 23% cabernet sauvignon blend, with a slight strawberry aroma with a trace of something metallic or chemical.  It’s a dry rosé, with some tastes of pineapple, which I like.  My tasting buddy says he detects a bit of a vegetable taste.  Maybe.  Nice, but I prefer the North Fork Rosé, also made by Pellegrini, which they sell for $30 for three one-liter bottles.  And while we’re on the subject, the North Fork brand also includes a very nice chardonnay and a merlot, both very good buys and quite drinkable.

  • 2019 Steel Chardonnay $19.99

No aroma at all!  I think I prefer steel-fermented chardonnays to oak-fermented, in general, but this one is a bit too austere.  Maybe what I actually like is slightly oaked chards.  This has a lot of lemon-lime flavor, which would make it a good accompaniment to coquilles St. Jaques.  As it sits and warms up a bit, I like it better.

  • Steakhouse Red               $19.99

A blend of 72% cabernet sauvignon and 28% merlot, this is a simple, dry red that would go well with burgers or meatloaf, but is not much fun to drink on its own.  It smells better than it tastes.

  • 2015 Petit Verdot           $29.99

Sometimes I like wines made from petit verdot, and sometimes I do not.  This is an “I do not.”  The aroma is nice, brambly, with maybe a touch of salt, but the wine is very dry and tannic, with almost no fruit flavor.  My husband sums it up as, “Just a glass of wine.”  Oh well.

Reasons to go:  pleasant outdoor area and intimate tasting room; well-priced wines; you can bring a snack; drinkable wines, though we were not excited about today’s selection.

The view to the courtyard, with my mask in the foreground. On the 17th, they were still asking visitors to wear a mask inside, until they were seated, but obviously I took it off in order to taste the wine.

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.