We slogged through the slushy remains of the March snow to do some errands on Love Lane in Mattituck, and found the new tasting room for Roanoke Vineyards open in a pretty little storefront, right across the street from the very popular Love Lane Kitchen and just down the block from the worth-a-detour Love Lane Cheese Shop. We had been to their other tasting room, a small barn-style building near the western edge of the “Wine Trail,” and had enjoyed our visits there, especially one day a couple of years ago when they had a paired wine and chocolate tasting. Roanoke also carries wines from Wölffer Estate, on the South Fork, and the wines made under his own label by Roman Roth, the winemaker for both. We were particularly interested to try Roth’s Riesling, which had recently been called the best Riesling on Long Island, so we were disappointed to find it was not on the tasting menu. Not to worry! Robin, the very knowledgeable and chatty server said, “Oh, I have a bottle open, so you can have a taste.” Great. The standard tasting is $10 for four wines, out of a list of eleven, and the pour is quite generous. You can also buy tastes at $3 each, or wine by the glass. The Riverhead room is open until 9 on weekends, but this one is open until 7 on Saturday and 6 on Sunday, at least for the moment. By the way, if you want their wines you’ll have to either go to the tasting room or order them by mail, as at last word they do not sell in restaurants or stores.
- 2010 Dry Riesling by Grapes of Roth $22
A light and pleasant aroma that combines lemon and wet hay met our noses, as we warmed the glasses in our hands to get the chill off, with a not unpleasant undertone that reminded our son of paint thinner. The taste starts a bit sweet, but then finishes quite tart, with notes of Meyer lemon and green apple. It would be great with turkey or duck, or even on its own, and we decide to buy a bottle, as does our son. I don’t know if it’s the “best” Riesling, but it is certainly very good.
- 2011 The Wild $20
I was interested to taste this, since I love Channing Daughter’s L’Enfant Sauvage, which also uses wild yeasts. Basically, this is a chardonnay plus a muscat field clone left to ferment with the wild yeasts in the air, and the results were, on the whole, quite successful. The aroma was a bit funky, which worried us, but it tasted delicious. After a somewhat sweet beginning, we began to taste a bit of pepper, some unripe pear, and pink grapefruit on the good long finish. The wine also has a bit of a tingle on the tongue. Very nice.
- 2009 Cabernet Franc $34
Robin informs us that Roanoke’s field on the far west of the North Fork provides a slightly warmer and longer growing season, which allows them to do a better job of ripening their Cab Franc than other locations. The aroma of sweet blackberry, with a hint of oak, certainly seems promising, but the taste is less so. Perhaps with time? It’s not bad, just a bit flat and lacking in complexity.
- 2009 Prime Number $40
There’s a complicated story behind this name, and Robin laughs as she explains how they had One and Two and then decided to combine them and make one better wine, but didn’t want to call it Three. Also, prime indicates their ambition for this cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend, as does the pole vaulter on the label. They’ve raised the bar. Indeed they have. This Bordeaux style features aromas of plums and a hint of smoke (but not too much smoke, sometimes an issue), with plenty of cherry and berry flavors and enough tannins to make it a good match for elk or venison or other lean game.
Reasons to visit: Two locations, including a centrally located one on Love Lane in Mattituck, a street worth exploring; Prime Number; Roman Roth’s Riesling; a pleasantly intimate setting; closeness to the Cheese Shop, one of my favorite places on the North Fork, where you can pick up good bread and almost any cheese you would want to buy for a picnic lunch; also close to Bookhampton, one of the few independent book sellers around, well worth a visit,