Sannino Bella Vita October 13, 2013

One view of the tasting room.

One view of the tasting room.

I told my husband he’d miss the Jets/Steelers game because we’d be out for the afternoon, but he was in luck—it was playing (with the sound off) on the flat screen TV in the Sannino Bella Vita/Ackerly Ponds tasting room.  And that wasn’t the only way the good-humored staff was helpful.  The three of us were going to share a tasting when one confessed he might be coming down with a cold.  Could we split one taste by sharing it 2/3 in one glass and 1/3 in another?  We could!  Everyone was happy, including the honeymooning couple who were staying in the Bed and Breakfast associated with the winery, and enjoying their complimentary tasting and so were the drunken fruit flies.

Each time we’ve come, we’ve noticed improvements to the tasting room, and they now have more space than they did at first in their rustic barn.  Bella Vita took over the site from Ackerly Ponds, which continues in the names of some of the wines. On the list, some of them are marked BV, which means they are Bella Vita’s own. There are two tasting options:  eight wines for $15 or four wines for $8.  Since there are eleven wines on the list, plus spice wine, we decide to go with one 8 and one 4. They also offer a cheese tray for $15, and request that people not bring in outside picnics.  As we sipped and chatted, a guitarist with a James-Taylor-type sound began to play in one corner of the room.

Be singer

  1.  2012 Riesling                                    $17

Not surprisingly, since this is made with grapes from the Finger Lakes Region, this is a somewhat sweet wine, though not cloyingly so.  There’s an aroma of spice and goldenrod honey.  It would pair nicely with something spicy.

2.  2012 Chilly Day Chardonnay        $18

Just like most steel-fermented chardonnays, this one has a green apple smell, with tasting notes of citrus.  It is a bit sweeter than one would expect, and one of the well-informed servers tells us that they try to accommodate a variety of preferences, and many people prefer a sweeter wine.

3.  2012 BV Chardonnay                      $23

Only one month in oak make this an only slightly oaked chard, with some ripe pear tastes and the usual vanilla aroma.  It is drier than the first two.

4.  2012 BV Bianca White Merlot    $17

“What a lovely color,” I said, admiring the pale pale pink of this 100% merlot rosé, made from the first press of the grapes, having spent almost no time on the skins.  “Tastes like strawberries,” notes our son.  We agree it is a nicely complex, not too sweet wine, with good fruit flavors.  Quite buyable.

5.  2012 BV Snow Rose of Merlot    $15

And now a wine from the second press, with twelve hours on the skins.  The color is so dark it almost looks like a red, with a bit of a funky aroma.  “Garbage smell?” asks our son.  Fortunately it tastes better than it smells, though its notes of over-ripe fig may not appeal to everyone,

be bit

6.  2010 Cabernet Franc                       $40

Now we move on to the reds.  This one doesn’t have a lot of fruit flavor, and does have some of that earthy smell and taste one gets out here.

7.  2004 Ackerly Ponds Merlot         $19.99

Very nice!  Dry, with ripe purple plum tastes, this would be great with pasta and meatballs.

8.  2nd Bottle Red                                    $12

The name of this wine needs a bit of explaining, as there’s a philosophy behind it.  So often a host wants to serve a good wine as a first round, but feels it is not necessary to serve as good (or expensive) a wine for the second round.  Hence…2nd Bottle.  It is true that one thing the North Fork could use is more less-expensive reds for everyday drinking, and this does fill that ecological niche.   A blend primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this is a fine table wine, though it would be overpowered by anything big, like a steak.

9.  2010 Merlot                                       $35

Lots of “2s” here—22 months aging in oak, with juice from 23 year old vines.  We like this one, too.  Dry, with a bit of berry taste.

10.  2010 BV Prima Rossa                      $35

Another blend, this one is also aged 22 months, and includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.  We smell cinnamon, spice, cedar and find the taste lighter than one would expect from the smell, with some hints of licorice.  It would go great with a Middle Eastern lamb dish.

11.  2010 BV Spotlight Petit Verdot   $45

Another good red, and strong enough to stand up to a steak dinner, this is primarily Petit Verdot with about 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and has tastes of berry and ripe cherries.  In general, we’re liking the reds better than we did a year ago when we visited Bella Vita.

12.   Warm Spice Wine

Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice make this wine “smell like Christmas and taste like Thanksgiving,” according to out server.  If you’ve ever had Swedish glögg you know what this tastes like.  Throw in some cranberries and some cut up oranges and you have a nice party drink.


We buy some bottles of 2nd Bottle and our son gets some White Merlot and 04 Merlot.  Good choices

Reasons to visit:  you want to get a step or two off the beaten path (limos or groups larger than 6 only by appointment);  the White Merlot and the 04 Merlot, plus 2nd Bottle if you’re looking for an everyday table wine; a warm friendly atmosphere.

Woodside Orchard October 12, 2013

cider sign

Harvest time!  Crisp fall air, crisp falling leaves, crisp fresh apples…and even better, crisp hard apple cider!  On a whim, we stopped in at Woodside Orchard’s Main Road tasting room, remembering some delicious hot mulled (non-hard) cider we had there on a chilly day last winter.  What we found was quite a crowd, sitting around some outside picnic benches and milling around the small tasting room, happily sampling the ciders on offer, and also buying candy apples, apple pie, apple butter, cider donuts, honey, cider, and, of course, bags of apples.  Oh, and growlers of hard cider.  There’s apple wine, too, but there didn’t seem to be any tastes on offer.

cider apples

A blackboard on the wall informs us that it is $6.00 for a pint glass, in which one can get samples of the four (which turned out to be five!) ciders on offer.  A growler costs $16.00 and only $13 if you are coming in with an empty for a refill.  We decided to share one tasting, which was a good idea, since they fill the glass about 1/3rd of the way full, and cider is about 6.5% alcohol (more than most beers, less than wine, according to the server).  The crowd kept the servers quite busy, especially when they had to fill a growler from the beer- style taps, but everyone seemed cheerful and patient.

cider board

cider candy

1.        Traditional Hard Cider

Ooh, fizzy!  This is a pleasant drink, with a taste like a somewhat sweet fruity wine but a dry finish.  Back in the day, this is what everyone drank three meals a day, as water was not to be trusted, and is the drink that made John Chapman (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed) rich.

2.        Sour Cherry Hard Cider

This is the surprise add-on, as it is not on the menu.  The color is a light pinkish red and it feels a bit tingly on the tongue.  I taste cherry on the side of my mouth, but not a lot of flavor.  Neither here nor there, we decide.

cider outside

3.       Traditional Sweet Hard Cider

Lovely apple smell and a taste like regular cider—but with a kick—make this our favorite so far.

4.       Apple Raspberry Hard Cider

“It’s like liquid Briermere,” theorizes my husband.  “Whoa, that’s sweet,” is my reaction.  Again, there’s a bit of a tingle on the tongue.  We smell apples and raspberries (surprise).  Too sweet for me, but I guess you could have this instead of dessert, or mix it in a cocktail.

5.       Cinnamon Apple Hard Cider

A good whiff of this will make you think of apple pie and Thanksgiving, and it tastes like an apple pie, too, with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg.  We could see serving this well chilled as a refreshing summer drink—or with Thanksgiving dinner!

They have another place on Manor Lane, where you can also do u-pick in the orchard once all the trees behind this place have been picked out.

Reasons to visit:  you’re tired of wine (Is that possible?) and want something different; you’re curious about hard cider and want to try before you buy; you want to buy apples or apple treats and might as well taste some hard ciders while you’re at it; the apples are yummy, too.

cider apple

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company October 5, 2013

Alert readers will note this photo is from a previous visit.

Alert readers will note this photo is from a previous visit.

Hmmm, you think, brewing company?  That doesn’t sound like a winery.  And you’re right.  In honor of Oktoberfest, we decided to go to a brewery tasting room to sample some local beers, and a very good decision it was, too, though quite a few other people had the same idea, making the room a bit crowded.  Greenport Harbor’s brewery and tasting room are located just off Main Street in Greenport, and we often cut across the bank parking lot to get there.  Since they opened, they have moved the tasting room up a steep flight of stairs (labeled the “Stairway to Heaven”—you may start humming now) to a somewhat rustic room with a bar, plus low stools in the center of the space.  Around the walls they display an ever-changing selection of works of art for sale, so the room also functions as an art gallery.  There are also t-shirts, totes, and hats displaying their clever logo—a schematic map of Long Island emphasizing its whale-like shape, with a star for Greenport.

A sign informs us “No pints, just flights,” which is fine with us, as that’s what we’ve come for.  The procedure is that you pay $8.00 for a glass in which they give you your tastes, and then you get to keep the glass.  We’re amassing quite a collection, I must admit.  If you want to take some home, you buy a “Growler” (so named, according to one theory, for the sound the beer makes as it splashes into the container), which they fill from the tap and top with a screw cap, for $19.  Since our last visit they have added a smaller size for $13, which is perfect for two.  The servings are quite generous, and two could even share one tasting.  You get six samples from their ever-changing menu, anchored by the Harbor Ale, which they always feature.

greenport brewery

1.        Greenport Harbor Ale  5.2%

This is a classic American beer, but better than Bud, and would be perfect with baseball and peanuts.  It is nicely hoppy, with some citrus and unripe pineapple notes.

2.       Black Duck Porter  4.9%

Why “black duck?” we ask our server.  She’s not sure, but thinks it is named for the color—which is indeed quite black—and Long Island ducks.  They try to have names which reflect the local color.  I remember fondly one called DisOrient Harbor which they were forced to discontinue.  Apparently the State in its wisdom thinks it is a bad idea to give alcoholic drinks names which reflect an effect they might have.  I really like the Black Duck, which both smells and tastes a bit like espresso, but also dark unsweetened chocolate and spice.  It would be perfect with kielbasi.  Sometimes they make a similar beer called Canard Noir…

3.       Oyster Stout  4.9%

This is another dark beer, but not nearly as strong and full-flavored as the porter.  Dark beer for those who don’t care for dark beer, opines my husband, who also nails the spice taste we’re trying to identify.  Cardamom!  Do we detect a slight fishy smell, or are we influenced by the name?  They suggest it would be good with oysters, and though I generally prefer white wine with those bivalves, this would work since it would not overwhelm them.

4.       Devil’s Plaything IPA  5.5%

“Made exclusively for Salvation Taco,” the sign reads.  We know the spot, a restaurant in Manhattan we walked into and promptly walked out of, unwilling to bear the extreme noise level.  I do hear their tacos are good, and so is this beer.  It is brewed with hot peppers in it, we are told, and we can sense an underlying chili flavor, though it is not spicy.  The aroma reminds me of tomato leaves.  This is not a beer for sipping, as it is a bit sharp, but I can see how its refreshing taste would go well with spicy Mexican or Szechuan dishes.  There’s a touch of citrus, so I can certainly see this with a bowl of guacamole.

5.       Otherside IPA  7.5%

Why Otherside, inquiring minds want to know.  The hops for this one come from the West Coast, is the answer, huge quantities of Apollo, Cascade, Centennial, and Chiana hops.  Befitting its making, we note a complexity of flavor in this very hoppy beer (please, no happy/hoppy puns).  It would be great with a hamburger and chips or fries.

6.       Leaf Pile Ale  5.4%

Halloween is coming, and so is Thanksgiving, so it is time for pumpkin pie—or pumpkin ale.  We do indeed taste cinnamon and nutmeg and some sweetness.  If you don’t particularly like beer, this might be the quaff for you.  I like it better than I thought I would!

After we finish, our server rinses out our glasses and puts in a paper towel to dry them.  We buy a small growler of Black Duck Porter, which we enjoy later that evening with barbecued pork loin.  Excellent combination.

A view out the window at the brewery, including their interesting sign.

A view out the window at the brewery, including their interesting sign.

Reasons to visit:

You’re walking around Greenport and need a break from shopping; you’ve tried all the wineries and are ready for something different; you like artisanal beer; you want some really fresh beer for dinner; you like interesting beers.


Random Restaurant Notes

“You will never know hunger,” believe it or not, was the message I got in a fortune cookie just as I embarked on a series of restaurant reviews for a newspaper in Pittsburgh. The reviews were based on the premise that it was useful to point out at least one good dish in each place, regardless of the rest of the menu. That fortune became the logo of the column, and would not be a bad slogan for this post as well.

No winery this week, so instead I thought it would be fun to write about some of the restaurants on the North Fork.  This is, like my post on the farm stands, totally idiosyncratic, and not really reviews, but just some notes on places we like.  A few weeks ago a friend asked for restaurant recommendations on the North Fork, and after going on for about half an hour on the phone I thought it would have been so much more convenient if I could have sent her to my blog—as I did for wineries!  I’ve organized them by town.  Oh, and though I usually use my own iPhone snaps for the photos, here I’ve borrowed pictures from the websites.


Tweeds Restaurant and Buffalo Bar

Since it is right in the middle of Riverhead, on East Main Street, the easiest way to access this restaurant is to go to the municipal parking lot (free) off Peconic Avenue.  When you pull into the lot, head to the left corner, where you will see the back entrance to Tweeds.  In an old hotel that has been there since 1896, Tweeds’ narrow room has lots of charm, and is particularly cozy on cold winter nights when there is a fire in the fireplace.  We love all the bison dishes, made from bison raised nearby on a farm owned by the restaurant’s owner, and I’m a big fan of the bison burger.  The first time I had it, I had one portion for dinner…and lunch…and dinner.  Thank goodness for “doggy bags.”  The bison hangar steak is also delicious, but be sure to get it rare or medium rare. With very little fat, bison well-done is not a good idea.  As you dine, you can contemplate a huge shaggy bison head, allegedly the last one shot by Teddy Roosevelt.  There are plenty of other menu items (in case looking at an animal’s head while you eat its relative creeps you out), including local seafood and fish, and the salads are very good.  A bit pricey, but worth it.


Hellenic Snack Bar

On the North Fork, “snack bar” actually translates as diner, or informal restaurant.  I love that the Modern Snack Bar has décor that immerses you in the 1950s.  The Hellenic, out past Greenport, is worth the trip.  In the summer they have lots of outdoor seating, though the dining room is quite plain.  The food is great, and served in such generous portions that we invariably take home enough for one or two more meals.  Anything Greek is worth getting, from the various spreads—hummus, taramasalata, etc.—to the grilled fish to the Greek salad.  If you want to get the spreads, I suggest you go with a party of at least four, because your meal will seem somewhat superfluous by the time you devour them.  Everything comes with piles of toasted pita. Nofowineaux is happy to report that the wine list features quite a few local wines.   Reasonably priced.


It’s fun to sit at one of the sidewalk tables and watch the passing parade on Greenport’s Front Street.  The small plates here could easily add up to a meal.  We don’t care as much for the inside, which feels somewhat cold and can be noisy.


aMano Osteria and Wine Bar

Upscale Italian food is their specialty.  I particularly love the carbonara with local smoked duck and the roasted beet and Catapano Farms goat cheese salad.  My husband is a fan of the lasagna.  They have a lovely menu that is worth reading just for the salivary factor, and feature local wines as well as many local ingredients.  They also make very nice thin-crust pizzas.  They can get quite crowded, especially on weekends in the summer, and during the summer they don’t take reservations for small parties, so if you go then you may have to wait in the crowded bar area.

Crazy Fork

This is the newest place we’ve tried.  The restaurant itself, across the street from the Mattituck shopping center, is very plain, so you might prefer to get take-out.  They specialize in seafood, much of it fried, but very well done. We have fallen for the Rhode Island-style calamari, fried, mixed with hot pepperoncini peppers, and served with a marinara dipping sauce.

Love Lane Kitchen

Love Lane Kitchen

This is a popular spot, and you’ll see crowds there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (dinner on weekends).  It is particularly nice in the summer to sit outside and have lunch while you watch people pass by on Love Lane.  They feature all sorts of local produce and products, and everything I’ve had there has been good.  Inside, the restaurant can get a bit noisy, so I prefer to go there in the winter, when it is less crowded.

Michelangelo’s Pizza (also spelled Michael Angelo)

No web page of their own!

A local chain, with several places on the North Fork, this is one of those typical storefronts with a brightly-lit pizza eatery and take-out place in front, and a more formal restaurant in the back.  The one in Mattituck, in the Waldbaum’s shopping center, is particularly nice, especially since they expanded the back part.  We generally get the pasta dishes, and don’t bother with an appetizer since the house salad that comes with the entrees provides that for us.  This is a place where one dinner often produces enough leftovers for a second dinner, so the reasonable prices become even more reasonable.  There’s nothing refined or fancy about the food, but it’s always good.

Old Mill Inn

We’ve been here for dinner, which is fine, though the service tends to be slow, but what we generally come here for is oysters.  From 3-5 p.m., the bar serves fresh local oysters for $1 each.  We each get a dozen and a glass or two of wine.  Lovely way to while away an afternoon.  They’re closed in the winter, so if you’re going you need to go soon—or wait for the spring.  If you come for dinner, try to sit near the windows so you can look out on the water of Mattituck Inlet.  I don’t recommend the outside tables once the mosquitoes have hatched…


A Lure Restaurant and Oyster-ia

As you might guess from the name, this is owned by the same people as aMano, but concentrates on seafood.  What is nice here is that you can sit at dinner and look out at the water, as it is located in Port of Egypt Marina.  Recently they had a special of a whole grilled sea bass that was delicious.  You can also get that roasted beet salad here!

Founder’s Tavern

With one side a popular Irish-style pub, and the other side a nice family restaurant, Founder’s is great for many reasons.  I’ve had specials there that were really good (I’m thinking of the tuna steak with wasabi mashed potatoes, for example.), but we often just get the same dishes each time:  a shared order of Buffalo wings, the Tavern Burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos, the home-made potato chips (themselves worth a detour, as the Michelin Guides say), and beer on tap.  Reasonably priced, too.

North Fork Table and Inn

The best—and priced accordingly. With Manhattan-level prices and food quality, the best bet here is to get the tasting menu, especially since it includes dessert, which is spectacular.  We’ve gone here a few times for special occasions and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the service.


O’Mally’s main claim to fame is that when other places close, they are still open (note their URL), with a kitchen open until midnight, unusual on the early-to-bed North Fork.  They have a huge burger menu, and though theirs are not as good as Founder’s, they’re not bad.  Plenty of other options, plus a nice list of local wines by the glass or beers on tap, make this a good casual place.


New Suffolk:


Legends has a split personality.  To the right of the entry foyer is an informal sports bar, with a menu of burgers, salads, and other snack-type foods, while to the left is a lovely little restaurant with fusion dishes they call New American, such as shrimp and vegetable spring rolls with ginger pineapple dipping sauce.   When I recently made a reservation for eight, they asked somewhat anxiously if the party included children, so I would guess they prefer that children dine on the right side.  All eight of us, by the way, were happy with our entrees (except for one that came out cold—twice—and was eventually comped).  If you check out the on-line menu you’ll see that they have interesting dishes, plus there are specials.  We’ve been happy eating on either side!  The sports bar side does have one advantage—the big windows give you a nice view of the somewhat scruffy waterfront of New Suffolk.