Old Man Winter certainly has the North Fork in his grip. (Why old? Why man? I haven’t the foggiest.) All the farm stands, even Bayview and Briermere, are closed, and the fields are quiet under a coating of snow and ice. So we thought about the warmth of the Greek Isles and headed to Pindar, named for the Greek poet. While the room wasn’t overly warm—we kept our jackets on, though unzipped—the greeting certainly was. The tasting room is in a converted potato barn, featuring multiple rows of tasting bars and a beautiful stained glass window. When we entered we were surprised to see the room was empty, since there were plenty of cars in the lot, but our server informed us that there was a large group in another building for a barrel tasting, and the room was soon quite busy for a January afternoon. They have a selection of wine-related gift items and plenty of cheese and crackers for sale, which is fortunate since they don’t allow outside food.
This room is only one of the sites run by Dr. Damianos, the owner, and his family. They also own Duck Walk, which has a site on the South Fork as well, and his son Jason owns Jason’s Vineyard (which I reviewed back in June), plus they have a satellite tasting room in Port Jefferson for those who don’t care to trek to the North Fork. They also like to tout how eco-friendly they are, with a wind turbine for power, composting and recycling, and other green techniques.
As we sipped, we appreciated the quiet guitar and folk-ish singing of John Kroo in the background. Tastings consist of 5 tastes for $10, chosen from a menu with 15 choices, plus limited production wines available for $3 each. We opted to do five whites and five reds, sharing tastes of each. Our server, who was young and enthusiastic and clearly engaged in learning all he could about wine, carefully rinsed our glass between tastes and was able to answer most of our questions about the wines. We were happily surprised by how many of the wines we liked, since we had not been to Pindar in years because we remembered not liking many of the wines. There was still one we dumped, but more about that later.
1) Autumn Gold $10.99
Our server looked at the choices we circled on the tasting menu and then carefully coordinated our tasting so we went in the best order, starting with the lightest white. The tasting notes compare this to a Pinot Grigio, which I can see, as it is a dry white with lots of pineapple taste and a bit of funkiness. The funkiness is probably from the Seyval Blanc grape, an upstate grape, which is here blended with Chardonnay. Fine for an everyday white.
2) 2012 Sauvignon Blanc $18.99
The aroma is a combination of mineral and lemon, and the taste is also citrus-y. Also a light wine, this would be good with oysters, as in general we feel Sauvignon Blancs are. There’s plenty of acid here, and the tasting notes say lemon grass, which seems about right.
3) 2012 Sunflower Chardonnay $!8.99
Why sunflower, we ask? In the summer, the field next to the winery is filled with sunflowers, the sale of which goes to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation, we are told. I like the label. The wine? Okay. My husband says it reminds him or Werther’s Butterscotch Candy, so if you like a really oaky Chard, go for it. There is, however, a bit of acid which helps make this a sippable white, and I think lots of people would like it well chilled on a summer afternoon.
4) 2012 Peacock Chardonnay $12.99
Why peacock? Uh-oh, our usually well-informed server doesn’t know, but I bet he will as soon as he gets a chance to find out. Smells and tastes like a Granny Smith apple, with maybe a hint of banana. That makes it sound like fruit salad, but actually it is a pleasant white.
5) Winter White $10.99
This may be their most popular white, but our savvy server has already figured out that we won’t care for it. He says he recommends it to people who say, “I don’t really care for wine, so what should I try?” Sweet! Another Seyval Blanc/Chardonnay blend. We dump it after one sip each, and it was this taste that reminded us why we hadn’t been back in years.
6) Pythagoras $$14.99
Remember the Pythagorean theory? I do—sort of. At least, I remember being taught it. The label, which features an illustration of the theory, also calls this a “geometrical blend.” More conventionally, this is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It has the classic black currant aroma but is softer than I expect, with some notes of oak and mineral. It would be an okay everyday wine, and is fairly dry, though surprisingly simple for a blend like this.
7) 2010 Syrah $14.99
So 2010 is one of those great years for Long Island wines—and 2013 is forecast to be even better—so we are interested to taste these reds. Not that many places on the North Fork make a Syrah, and we quite like this one. The aroma is complicated, with some cedar notes and a mouth-puckering flavor of unripe plums that would be great with a fatty meat like lamb. Actually, we like it, and buy a couple of bottles.
8) 2010 Merlot $16.99
This is a good, typical Long Island Merlot, with tastes of tobacco and dark chocolate and plum, without the barnyard odor or flavor you sometimes get.
9) 2009 Pegasus Cabernet Sauvignon $$16.99
On the other hand, this wine does have some barnyard odor, plus allspice and prunes. The taste is better than the smell, and I will borrow my description of the taste from my granddaughter who guesses wine will taste wine-y (without ever having tasted it!). Why the flying horse? No idea, but the label is pretty.
10) 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $34.99
Extra! Noting our serious demeanor and knowledge of wine, our server adds a small taste of the Reserve Cab Sauv to our tasting, which turns out to be a smart move as we later buy a bottle to keep in the cellar. Excellent. Although the aroma reminds me of a red candy, the taste is complex, with lots of black cherry and plum, plus other notes. It would be great with a steak on the grill.
11) 2010 Cabernet Franc $34.99
Pine forest aroma and black berry taste make this a nice wine, though not worth the price. It has lots of fruit but is pleasantly dry.
Reasons to visit: Large tasting room with plenty of space for big groups; the 2010 Syrah and the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; the Sunflower Chardonnay if you like an oaky Chard; good prices for Long Island wines;attractive labels; they care about the environment.