The last time we were here, two years ago, we had a great conversation with Ann Marie Borghese, the owner, with her husband, of this excellent winery. Since then, alas, they both have died. However, their three children—Allegra, Fernando, and Giovanni—have committed to keeping the vineyard going. We were wondering what the tasting room experience would be like under the new regime, and were happy to find the same careful, well-informed, personal, and cheerful service as before. Whew. The wines were also pretty good!
The tasting room is divided into two areas, one with the bar and a few gift items, and the other with tables and chairs, an art gallery, and a small stage. Alas, Marguerite Volans, a frequent musical performer, was not there.
Our enthusiastic and well-versed server explained the menu choices to us. For $10 you can choose any four wines from the Estate wines side of the menu, and for $15 you can choose any five wines from either the Estate side or the Reserve side. Since if we each tried five wines we would be able to cover most of their choices, we decided to go with that option, which would also let us taste some similar wines side by side. We opted to skip the rosé, since we are such Croteaux fans, and a few others. In addition to the menu items, we were also offered the opportunity to taste some newly bottled examples of the 2013 vintage. I’ll mark the wines from the Reserve menu and the new vintages with an *.
- 2013 Chardonnay $18
The steel-fermented chard got our tasting off to a good start. We got lots of pineapple smells, as well as a bit of grapefruit. Typical of a steel chard, this is crisp and fairly tart, with nice citrus flavors. Kumquat, says my husband, and I agree, kumquat with the skin on. Good with scallops, suggests our server.
- *2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $26
I don’t always like oaked chards, but this one only spent six months in oak, so it is still fairly delicate, with butterscotch aromas and some wheat toast flavors as well as fruit. 2012 was a great year on the North Fork, with a dry September that allowed grapes to really ripen. It was also interesting to taste these two very different wines made from the same grape.
- 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $24
Yum, another good white. This wine is also steel-fermented, with an aroma that reminds me of white grape juice. How odd, a wine that smells like grapes…This is also dry, with citrus taste dominated by grapefruit, and I could be very happy pairing it with some local oysters.
- *2013 Founders Field Sauvignon Blanc $24
How interesting. Still some of that grape juice smell, with a bit of butterscotch from its two months in oak, but the taste is quite different, almost funky, with a bit of a metallic tang. “Austere,” says my husband. I think it needs to be drunk with food, I counter, and our server agrees. Maybe seafood in a cream sauce, like a New England clam chowder, would be a good idea.
- *2013 Bianco di Pinot Noir $50
I always like to try something new, so I suggest we try two whites which sound interesting. This one is made from pinot noir grapes, which are usually used to make red wines. In this case, they took the skins off in order to make a white wine. Hmmm…it smells really nice. Chocolate, suggests my tasting pal, and I have to agree. But it smells better than it tastes, tart, with a very short finish, and not complex. It’s good with cheese and crackers, we are told, and I can see that.
- *2012 White Meritage $60
Usually, Meritage means a red blend, so I’m intrigued. This is a mixture of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, and in contrast to the previous wine has more and better taste than aroma. It smells somewhat like acetone (phenols, says my scientific companion) but has some good citrus and grapefruit tastes.
- 2012 Pinot Noir $30
Now we switch to reds, and get new glasses, always a nice touch. Pinot noir is the Burgundy grape, lighter than Bordeaux, and so it is. The menu says “soft tannins,” but I don’t sense any. I smell raspberry and a woodsy aroma and taste lightly fruity berries. I could see this slightly chilled on a summer picnic with roast chicken. Speaking of chilled, we were pleased that none of the wines were served too cold, which often happens, and which makes it harder to really taste the wines.
- *2013 Pinot Noir Reserve $55
This is one of the new releases, and we are interested to see how it compares with the 2012 Pinot. Again, we get a woodsy and raspberry aroma, with some additional fruit smells. We like this one much better (though maybe not $25 better). It has lots of cherry flavor, not much in the way of tannins, and is also a fairly light red. We are told that pinot noir is a “heartbreak grape,” as it can be finicky and doesn’t always deliver on its promise. We are also told that the snow is actually good for the vines, as it acts as almost a blanket for the dormant vines.
- *2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44
This is also a new release, and we are advised to try it before the cab sauv. The aroma is again a bit funky, but with lots of red fruit to it. We like it, but again think it would benefit by being served with food. It is dry, with some nice fruit tastes, and would complement a barbeque very nicely. I envision digging our Weber out from the snow bank it currently inhabits. Not gonna happen!
- *2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44
I think this wine demonstrates the risk of serving a newly bottled wine, as we feel it would benefit from more time. It’s closed, says my husband, who has been reading wine magazines for years. It has some good tannins and dark fruit—black cherry in particular—tastes. We think it might be good in a few years, and if we had room in the cellar might have given it a chance. Time to drink some more reds from the cellar!
- 2010 Allegra $36
If you’re counting, you realize that we should be at the end of our tasting, but our server, noticing our seriousness and my note-taking, asks if we want to try anything else. Well, I ask, is there anything we should try? Okay, she says, you have to try our dessert wine, made from chardonnay grapes. A new, smaller glass appears, and we get a taste. Very delicious! Aromas of honeysuckle and freshly cut grass, tastes of honey and apricot, but not too sweet, not at all cloying, we agree, and we buy a bottle. Then, all the way home, we discuss what to have it with. I think if we did a dessert course of Catapano goat cheese and local peaches it would go beautifully. Or if we had an appetizer course of paté…It was named, by the way, for Allegra Borghese, on the occasion of her 16th birthday. She must be a lovely person!
Reasons to visit: you want to try an all-around good winery that is not inundated with buses; you’re curious about the oldest vineyard (it was originally Hargreaves) on the North Fork; some interesting choices; the 2013 steel Chardonnay, the 2012 Barrel Chardonnay, the 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve, the 2010 Allegra; servers who really know the wines.