The warm greeting you get as you enter Mattebella Vineyards’ pretty patio is only one aspect of the family feeling this winery exudes, starting with the name. Matt and Isabella are the children of owners Christine and Mark Tobin, and you are likely to see the whole family helping out with tastings and other chores around the property. You’ll recognize the kids by their portraits on the bottles, though they have grown older since the pictures were drawn.
Regulars are greeted with a kiss by Chris, but even newcomers soon feel at home. On our visit, we overheard Mark giving excellent advice about places to eat and sights to see to a young couple on their first trip to the North Fork. She, by the way, was enjoying their home made organic lemonade, as she was in that interesting condition in which women are encouraged not to drink.
The patio has been improved in the two years since our last visit, with plenty of comfortable seating and a combination of sunny and shaded areas, including under a lovely pergola, with pleasant music playing in the background. The tasting menu is divided into a “Light” flight and a red flight, with tastes also available individually for about $2 for the lights and $4-5 for the reds, or by the glass or bottle. A Light Flight is $12 for 6 of their whites and rosés (4 chardonnays and 2 rosés), and a Red Flight is $18 for 5 reds. We opted to share one Red Flight plus two individual wines from the Lights. They also sell their attractive round-bottomed glasses for $3.50.
1) 2013 Rosé $19
If you like sweet rosés, this one is not for you, but if you appreciate a delicate and refreshing rosé with a citrus tang and plenty of minerality, then head to Mattebella forthwith. We decided it would go well with soft shell crab, a delicious sample of which we had had the night before at the North Fork Table and Inn, where we went to celebrate our anniversary.
2) 2010 Reserve Chardonnay $25
Our knowledgeable and efficient server explained that the term “reserve” actually has no established meaning, but at Mattebella it indicates a wine from one of their best years. This is a 50% oak barrel, 50% steel fermented chard, which means it should not be overly oaky, but we found it pretty oaky, with lots of vanilla and roasted pear aromas and tastes. For the price, it is quite good, with some nice complexity. It might go with a seafood in cream sauce dish.
3) Famiglia $21
No vintage here, this is a blend, trying for consistency across the years, and, said our server, is a “good pizza wine.” We agree. It is a pleasant, soft drink, not complex, but with nice fruit and none of the earthy flavor reds sometimes have out here. It’s a blend of merlot and cabernet franc, so sort of Bordeaux-ish. Oh, and we get a clean glass for the transition to the reds.
4) 08 Old World Blend $40
In this instance, Old World Blend means merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc—a Bordeaux. This, says our server, is the lightest of the OWBs, because there was a lot of rain at the end of the season. Along with our glass of wine we get a little snack (I remember Chris saying the last time that we were there that she felt wine should always go with food.) of a piece of baguette topped with fig jam and blue cheese. We like the snack better than the wine, which is just okay.
5) 2009 Old World Blend $35
This time the snack is bacon jam and Parmeggiano Reggiano on a baguette—very yummy—and so is the wine, our favorite of the day (and not just because it came with bacon jam, though maybe…). A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and “the grape no one knows,” petit verdot, the wine has good tannins and lots of dark fruits, and is interestingly complex.
6) 2010 Old World Blend $43
Our server says this is his favorite of the reds, and talks about a certain “brininess,” which he feels expresses the Long Island terroir, its closeness to the sea. We get it—there is a hint of a sea salt taste. This would work well with a nice dinner, maybe of boeuf bourguignon. The tasting notes suggest this will age well.
7) 2007 Old World Blend $48
A blend of the same grapes as the 08, this is the wine that won a Wine Spectator 91 points. 07 was a particularly good—and warm—year on Long Island, and this one has lots of big bold fruity tastes, more like a Napa Valley red. We smell leather and spice, and maybe, strangely enough, a hint of cat pee. Since the Tobins have decided that this wine would go well with chocolate, we get a tiny square of homemade chocolate brownie. Lovely way to end our tasting!
Reasons to Visit: Snacks!; pleasant outdoor space for sipping; warm welcoming family atmosphere; the 2013 Rosé, the Famiglia, the 09 and 07 Old World Blends; homemade lemonade for the non-drinkers in the group. We go home with two bottles of the Famiglia and one of the 09 OWB.
Sounds wonderful! I want to go NOW! Clare
Let us know when you’re on the North Fork and we’ll do a tasting together–and maybe dinner, too!