Long Island Spirits February 17, 2013


Although in general we only visit one tasting room per excursion, we made an exception this time so we could try some local bourbon.  We have been to the Long Island Spirits tasting room before, but only to taste the vodkas.  Our freezer now contains their entire line of vodka and flavored vodkas, but that’s another story.  The tasting room is up some shiny wood stairs, which, our son-in-law notes, could be a bit of a hazard after a tasting, into a large barn-like room with views over the fields.

Today we want to try the “brown” spirits.  For $13 you can try any two of the three on offer, and you get to keep the glass, plus they give you a little bag of crackers to clear your palate and a small bottle of water.  A tasting of three vodkas is $9. The distillery also has a nice collection of t-shirts and gift baskets for sale.   Since we’ve just come from Comtesse Thérèse, we all share one tasting!

  1.  Pine Barrens American                                $45

This is a single malt whiskey (not Scotch), with some sweetness and aromas of grain and warm spices. They make it from a barley-wine-style ale, we are told.

  1. Rough Rider Bourbon                    $40

I’m not sure, but I wonder whether the name commemorates Teddy Roosevelt’s use of the Montauk dunes to train his Rough Riders before they headed to Cuba.  In any event, this bourbon is actually mostly crafted in the Midwest, but then aged here in Long Island chardonnay casks.  The aroma is of caramel, and while it is okay, it is “not fascinating,” says the son-in-law, an excellent creator of cocktails, and we agree.  It would make a good Old Fashioned or Manhattan, which indeed proves true that evening during our home cocktail hour.

Reasons to visit:  you’re tired of wine (just kidding); you want to try spirits made locally; you want to buy some vodka or whiskey for cocktail time; interesting flavored vodkas; nice gift baskets.

Comtesse Thérèse February 17, 2013

photo (23)http://www.comtessetherese.com/index.html

It was what Winnie-the –Pooh calls a “blustery day” (This is what happens when you hang out with a 21-month-old.), and we thought we’d check out the Jazz on the Vine program at Jamesport Vineyard.  When we couldn’t find a place to park, we left and headed a little way down the road to Comtesse Thérèse, a combination bistro and winery.  We had only been there in the summer, when the tasting room is a charmingly disheveled back patio, with cast iron furniture and a view of the herb garden (and of the chef as he steps out of the kitchen to pick some herbs), so we weren’t sure what to expect.  The wind blew us around the front and through the door of the restored old house, where we quickly found ourselves in a cozy bar with a friendly and accommodating bartender.  Fortunately, since we had promised our granddaughter music, there was quiet jazz playing in the background.  The four of us settled into a corner of the bar and looked over the menu.  The option of 4 tastes for $8 sounded good, and the bartender intelligently figured out how to give us tastes of 8 wines—four and four—so we could sample a wider selection.  Although we didn’t stay for a meal, we have eaten there in the past and been very pleased with its French bistro-style food and emphasis on local produce.

  1. 2011 Chardonnay                             $13

The bartender starts us all off with their steel-fermented chardonnay, which is on sale.  An aroma of fresh-cut grass heralds a taste of steel and green apple, with some honey notes.  It is surprisingly mellow for an all-steel chard, and a bit unctuous, according to our son-in-law.  Very buyable, which we both accomplish.

photo (22)

  1. Russian Oak Chardonnay 2009                   $22

Ooh, nice legs, we say.  This chard spends 4 months in oak, and we do detect an oaky aroma.  The flavor is light, with some notes of Meyer lemon—or maybe lemon dots!

  1. 2011 Sauvignon Blanc                                    $28

I think I smell a trace of something metallic as well as the more typical honeysuckle.  Nicely dry and a bit grassy, all we need now is a dozen local oysters!

  1. 2011 Rosé                                                            $22

Well, Croteaux remains the standard of excellence for NoFo rosés.  This one has a nice raspberry aroma, but has not much character and is somewhat monochromatic.  Well chilled on a hot day it might be fine, and the finish is nice.

  1. 2011 Blanc de Noir                                          $24

We like this rosé better, with its apricot aroma and edge of citrus flavor, though it is a bit sweet for our taste.

photo (21)

  1. 2008 Hungarian Oak Merlot        $24

My notes for this wine are somewhat obscured by a 21-month-old’s “decoration,” but then I gave her a page from my notebook and another pen so she could take notes just like grandma.  Although this wine doesn’t have much aroma, it has a pleasant cherry flavor with some earthiness at first and tannins at the end.

  1. 2007 Aquebogue Estate Merlot                 $25 (for the 08)

Noticing our serious approach to the tasting, the bartender gives us the 07 Merlot rather than the 08 because, he says, it is better.  We do like it.  It has nice fruit with some acidity to add interest.

  1. 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon               $30

This one is a favorite with our daughter and son-in-law, who buy a bottle.  It has aromas and tastes of black fruits, like plums.  It would be good with lamb, because it has enough acidity to cut the fat.

  1. 2007 Canadian Oak Cabernet Sauvignon                               $32

And we prefer this one, and buy a bottle!  This is somewhat heavier than the Estate Cab Sauv, with more complexity and cherry flavors as well.  It would pair well with steak.  The bartender informs us that they are the only winery in the area to use Canadian oak.

Before she opened her own tasting room, we met “Comtesse Thérèse”—actually Tree Dilworth, an attractive young woman—at The Tasting Room, now The Winemaker’s Studio.  We had a delightful conversation with her, and were impressed with her passion for wine, but no, she is not actually a “Comtesse”!

Reasons to visit:  Cozy attractive bar area in the winter, charming garden in the summer; 2011 Chardonnay,2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 06 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 07 Canadian Oak Cabernet Sauvignon; you can go on after the tasting to have a meal in the pretty, intimate bistro.  Oh, and if you want to take notes, they have lots of feather pens.

Channing Daughters Winery February 2, 1213


We decided to celebrate Groundhog Day with a visit to the South Fork, especially since such a trip is easy in the winter, when we don’t have to contend with the traffic on Route 27.  We started with a visit to the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill.  Designed to be reminiscent of a typical Long Island potato barn, it is a long one-story building, with a soaring roof and multiple skylights, letting in plenty of sunlight on this cold but bright day.  Parrish Art Museum

We particularly enjoyed a gallery devoted to William Merritt Chase and his lovely paintings of Long Island scenes as well as his classic portraits.  Another room full of Fairfield Porter paintings was also interesting.  We then headed to our favorite winery, Channing Daughters.  I did write about a visit there last summer, but then we only concentrated on their roses.  This time we decided to do a standard tasting.

Channing Daughters is located on Scuttlehole Road, a charmingly rural road just outside of Sag Harbor (which we used to call the un-Hampton, though it is getting more and more Hamptonized).  Down a pebbled driveway one comes to the small cozy tasting room, which looks out one side to the vineyard and the other into the cellar, where one can see the huge vats of future wine.  The owner of the winery, Walter Channing, named it for his four daughters.  He also has decorated the tasting room and the grounds with his wood sculptures, many of them made from whole trees, with the roots on top, carved into various shapes.  Here’s one from the parking lot:

Tree sculpture

On this cold winter day, there were only a few small groups in the tasting room.  The very well-informed servers noted that they do not allow bus-loads!  The standard tasting that day included six wines for $10.  As wine club members our tasting was free, and we could have chosen any wines from a list of about 20, but we decided not to.

1)  2010 Sylvanus     $24

Sylvanus is named for the legendary Green Man, the Roman equivalent of Pan, the god of woods and fields, and also for the field where this wine’s grapes are grown.  One of the aspects of Channing Daughters we like is their interest in experimentation, and for this wine they used all grapes grown in one field, for a blend of 60% muscot, 30% pinot grigio, and 10% pinot bianco.  An aroma of oranges and perfume precedes a nicely dry wine with pleasant fruit and a hint of almond flavor.  I would like this wine better with food, rather than as a sipping wine, and it would pair well with local oysters or other briny seafood.

2) 2010 Tocai Friuliano     $24

Fermented almost completely in stainless steel, with only a hint of oak, this lovely wine has an almost honey-like texture with a hint of grapefruit at the end.  I could see sipping this on a nice summer afternoon, perhaps with some tomato crostini.  We also notice that, unlike some places, the wines here are not too cold, and the servers confirm that this is indeed the policy.  We like this because when a wine is too cold you can miss the nuances of its taste.

Channing white

3) 2010 Ramato     $34

As a transition from white to red, we sample what is called an “orange” wine, a white pinot grigio fermented on its skins to give it a subtle orange color and interesting complexity.  I detect a faint aroma of orange candy and, not surprising given its 6 months in oak, a taste of oak.  We decide its somewhat unctuous texture does not make it our favorite, though it would pair interestingly with lemon curd or lemon meringue pie (which, my husband notes, he never eats!).

4)  2010 Due Uve     $22

Due uve means two grapes, and that is what this wine contains–syrah and merlot.  Because of Long Island’s climate, you’re never going to get “big hot wines,” says the server, and agrees that this wine exhibits the typical local earthiness which some people “go crazy for” and others dislike.  We like some earthiness, but not when it overwhelms.  This wine has nice fruit–berries–and some hints of black pepper, and just a hint of earth.  It spends 16 months in oak.  I’m thinking it would be good with pasta with a short ribs sauce.

5)  2008 Sculpture Garden     $27

Given that there actually is a sculpture garden on the grounds (ask the server for directions), and that the oldest vineyard (planted in 1982) is named Sculpture Garden, it was perhaps inevitable that one wine would be named this.  Plus the merlot grapes in it come from that vineyard. I could see wandering the sculpture garden on a nice warm day with a glass of this easy-drinking wine in hand, but it’s too cold today!  A blend of 95% merlot and 5% blaufrankisch, this wine has a pleasant berry aroma and cherry tastes, with some earthiness, some pepper, and not a lot of depth.

6)  2007 Mudd     $40

No, the name is not a misspelling of mud!  This wine’s grapes come from the North Fork vineyard run by Steven Mudd, a well-known vineyard manager who works with a number of wineries.  Terrific wine!  This is a Bordeaux blend of 60% merlot, 21% syrah, 9% dornfelder, 5% cabernet franc and 5% blaufrankisch with an aroma reminiscent of a pine forest, and lots of black fruits and plum flavors.  Definitely yummy, and would be good with roasted lamb shanks, as its dryness would cut the fat of the lamb while it has enough fruit not to be overwhelmed.

Channing red

Extra!  Because he has it out, the server asks if we would like to try the Over and Over.  We would.

7)  Over and Over–Variation 5      $37

It is hard to explain the method used to make this wine, so perhaps the best I can do is refer you to Channning Daughters own web site, where it is explained in detail, but basically this is made using the “solera” method, where some wine from various years is combined with wine from other years and then fermented together.  We had tried one iteration (probably 3 or 4, muses the server) we did not care for, but this one is definitely a success, with blackberry flavors and aromas.  Nice.


Reasons to visit:  One of best wineries on Long Island, with lots of interesting experiments.  In addition to the above listed wines, I also love their L’Enfant Sauvage, made with wild yeast, their Scuttlehole Chardonnay, which is basically our “house” white, and their Research Cab, a good red.