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.
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:
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.
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.
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.