I have a confession to make. Though my blog is titled Nofo for North Fork, my favorite East End winery is actually on the South Fork, just outside Sag Harbor, to be exact. Why do I like Channing Daughters so much? For one thing, I’ve never had a wine of theirs that I disliked. We joined their wine club years ago (we get the wine delivered) and are fascinated by the wide variety of different wines they offer, especially for such a small winery. According to their web site, they have “three dozen different bottlings.” Their web site is worth visiting, to learn about the interesting experiments they do. When they introduced rosés, they made six or seven different ones. I bought a case of six varieties, and we enjoyed them all. They also started making vermouths a few years ago, using local herbs where possible. They do a better job with reds than many Long Island wineries, and their Scuttlehole Chardonnay is the one against which we measure all other steel-fermented chards. In fact, we served it at our daughter’s wedding.
We also like the intimacy of the tasting room, which is augmented in the summer by some outside tables. And in the tasting room, we’ve always found the servers to be knowledgeable about the wines, happy to answer any questions guests pose to them. Certainly our server on this visit fit that description, discussing both the wines and the business of a winery with well-informed intelligence. For example, we started talking about the contrast between summer and fall crowds, especially in the Hamptons, and he discussed the challenges of staffing a tasting room for a seasonal spike in visitors.
Because we are wine club members, we did not have the regular tasting. Instead, our server made sure that we got to try some of their newest releases, including the bottles that had arrived in our most recent shipment. A regular tasting consists of six wines for $14, and the pour is on the generous side. Even though I won’t be writing about most of the wines on the regular tasting menu, I don’t hesitate to recommend that people go there. You won’t be disappointed. And while you’re on the South Fork, you can also visit Wölffer Estate, if you want a second winery visit. (However, I don’t recommend Duck Walk.) Then you can drive into Sag Harbor and walk up and down Main Street, checking out the art galleries, book store, and boutiques, and ending with dinner at Il Cappuccino (or one of the other restaurants). We haven’t been there recently, but we used to be quite enamored of the garlic knots.
- 2015 Scuttlehole Chardonnay $18
As I said, this is our favorite East End chard, named for the street on which the winery is located. It is a crisp, dry, steel-fermented wine, with lots of lemon tastes and, as they say, mouth-watering acidity. It goes great with food, especially fish and seafood, like Peconic Bay scallops.
- 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $23
There is a little tocai fruliano (8%) mixed in with the sauvignon blanc, and both are slightly oaked. The aroma is interesting, almost candy-like, with some floral notes, and the taste is equally complex. We discuss, and identify stone or mineral and peach and peach pit. Because it is only slightly oaked it is still quite crisp, and, like their wines in general, dry. Nice.
- 2012 Envelope $42
Why “Envelope”? Because the idea was to “push the envelope” of what a chardonnay could be. Though “pushing the envelope” could describe what they do with many of their wines (like Research Cab, or Over and Over, or L’Enfant Sauvage), the results with this one are quite good. It is what is called an “orange” wine, though it is not quite orange, because it spends more time on the skins, giving it a deeper color than your average white. A blend of 66% chardonnay, 26% gewürztraminer, and 8% malvasia bianca, it has an almost vegetable-like aroma, which my husband compares to his favorite veggie: Brussels sprouts. Not a sipping wine, it would go great with charcuterie, where its tart edge would complement the richness of the meats.
- 2015 Rosso Fresco $20
This one is also on the regular tasting menu, and is their sort of all-purpose red blend, a mixture this year of 47% merlot, 30% blaufrankisch, 10% syrah, 10% dornfelder, and 3 % cabernet franc. Now that’s a blend I bet you won’t find anywhere else! I compare the aroma to funky cherry pie. The taste is of plums and other dark fruits, and is again dry, with some tannins. My tasting buddy thinks it would go well with a stew, and now that the weather is turning colder perhaps I’ll make one. Our server also mentions that the winemaker used to be a chef, so he is very attuned to making wines that go well with food.
- 2014 Petit Verdot $32.40 (for wine club members)
I tend to like petit verdots, so I was eager to taste this one, and I was not disappointed. Our server described it as “smoky, dark, and full-bodied,” and suggested it was a good wine to cellar. I agree. The taste makes me think of dark chocolate with a cherry inside, but it is quite tannic and I think would benefit from some aging.
- 2015 Muscat de Boom $30 (for a small bottle)
Funny name for a really delicious after dinner wine, this is made with muscat ottonel grapes which are partially fermented and then dosed with grape brandy. It is slightly viscous, like a thin honey, but not cloyingly sweet, and would pair well with dark chocolate and almonds. Almond Joy? Why not!
Reasons to visit: it’s one of the best wineries on Long Island; you’re on the South Fork and want to visit a winery or you’ve decided on a day trip to Montauk and want to stop at a winery on your way; the wood sculptures made by Mr. Channing; a wide variety of wines to suit every taste; the Scuttlehole Chardonnay, the Envelope, the Rosso Fresco, the Petit Verdot…actually, all their wines!