With all the rain we’ve had recently it may turn out to be really useful that the bar in Jason’s Vineyard is shaped like a ship. To be exact, it is supposed to resemble the Argo, that mythical ship built by the goddess Athena and crewed by all the great warriors of Greece, the Argonauts, led by the hero Jason, on a quest to win the Golden Fleece. It was a heroic quest, and Jason did win the Golden Fleece—with the help of Medea, the king’s daughter—but his story did not end happily, and I’m afraid the same mixture of good and bad applies to Jason’s wines as well.
We had been here in 2009, shortly after it opened, and so we were interested to see how the wines had developed since then. Jason Damianos is the son of the owner of Pindar Winery. A tasting costs $7 for 4 tastes, from a menu of twelve, so we opt for two tastings to be shared, enabling us to try 8 of the wines. Jason’s has an interesting system. When you enter you go to the cashier and pre-pay for your tastings, and she then gives you tokens which you turn over to your server one by one as you try each wine. I would guess it helps everyone keep track of what is happening, as I am sometimes amazed at the ability of servers to remember which wine each of five or six customers is up to. The tasting room is a good size, and there is a large roofed porch to one side, where we saw at least one group sharing snacks and glasses of wine. In addition to wine, they sell some wine-related tchotchkes, t-shirts, nuts and other snacks, and we notice Greenport beer on tap. We left before the live entertainment started.
- 2011 Sauvignon Blanc $22.95
Although this is not the first wine on the tasting menu, our server recommends we start with it, as it is their driest white. Aromas of citrus, asparagus, and minerals greet our noses, followed by a sour grapefruit taste. Though this is dryer than any of the whites we tried in 09, the dryness is not balanced by sufficient fruit, and we differ on how unpleasant we think this is. I would drink it, but my husband says he would prefer not to.
2. 2008 Chardonnay $29.95
We could have chosen the 07 Chardonnay, which is also on the menu, and the server says there is really no difference between the two. Both are aged for 9 months in new French oak, and of course have the typical vanilla/woody aroma of an oaked chard. Though the wine is too cold, we warm it in our palms and sip. Not bad. Strongly vanilla, with some flavors of almonds and toast, it would be nice with a creamy double cream cheese.
3. 2010 White Riesling $24.95
There’s that cat pee aroma. The server describes it as off-dry, but we say sweet. Apricot. Apricot fruit leather!
4. Golden Fleece $16.95
Finally, our quest to taste the first wine on the list is fulfilled! This is a blend of 41% Chardonnay, 24% Seyval Blanc, 20% Cayuga, 9% Vidal Blanc, and 5% Riesling, which we find intriguing, since three of these grapes are not usually grown on Long Island, but instead are found Upstate. After some conferring between the servers, we are told that indeed, all the grapes are grown on Long Island. Well, quests don’t always end happily. The aroma of the wine reminds us of rotted fruit with some wet rock thrown in (like the rock Jason used to make the seed-grown warriors battle each other, perhaps). This is less sweet than the Riesling, with some mid-palate honey tastes, though the finish is a bit tarter. We taste some cantaloupe. Though we like it better than in 09, we find it still too sweet for us.
5. 2001 Merlot $16.95
By the way, here they rinse your glass between each taste, not just at the transition from white to red. I used to think this was a good idea, but I’m coming to wonder if the residual water affects the taste of the wine at all! This Merlot and the 06 both spend 24 months in new French oak. We smell the typical earthy aroma of many Long Island reds, with some notes of fig jam. Some ripe fruit flavors, but all in all we’ve had better Merlots.
6. 2006 Merlot $24.95
Again, local earth smell, but this one is better. It’s dry, with some nice berry/cherry flavors, ending with a tobacco flavor that reminds me of a dessert we once had in Bologna which was sprinkled with tobacco. Really! There are lots of tannins, and we think this could age well.
7. 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon $16.95
Our server informs us that this wine generally tastes best if you open it well before you want to drink it and let it aerate. I guess that would dissipate the phenol/chemical aroma we find so unpleasant, but I’m not sure it would improve the taste, which reminds us of sour sucking candy. I NEVER want to drink this, says my husband.
8. 2010 Malbec $26.95
Finally, a red we like! Though the aroma reminds us of clothes which have sat too long in the closet, with perhaps some trace of cedar, it tastes pretty good. The first taste is of cherry coke, but it ends nicely dry. This is a sippable red and would also pair well with lamb chops.
We skipped the Meritage, which is a blend we’ve tried at other places, and their dessert wine, which is served with a piece of chocolate, and also their lone rosé.
Reasons to visit: You like sweet wines; you want to see a bar shaped like a Greek sailing ship (complete with a furled sail!); the 08 Chardonnay and the 2010 Malbec.