Greenport was quiet. Some stores had their “closed for the season” signs up, while others had signs saying they would open at 11, but were still closed at 11:10. As a woman in one shop said to me last winter, when I asked about her neighboring shop not being open, “It’s winter in Greenport.” Indeed it is, as a chilly wind reminded us.
After a few errands, including a stop at Eight Hands Farm to pick up some free-range chicken, we headed to Raphael Winery, hoping it was not closed for a private party, which is often the case. It is not surprising that Raphael is a popular venue for weddings and other events, since they have a very spacious and attractive facility. Our enthusiastic and very well-informed server told us that we should come by on Sundays, since they don’t schedule parties on that day and often have free entertainment as well.
On this blustery Friday we were the only people there, so we were able to have great chats with our server, who had answers for all our questions and some good ideas of his own, especially about food pairings. No surprise, he revealed that he had worked in restaurant kitchens. The menu offers a number of options, including a mixed tasting of reds and whites and two premium tastings. The white premium tasting offers four whites for $20, and the red has four reds, also for $20. We decided to get one of each and share. Our server lined up the glasses on the counter and poured all four whites, and then all four reds so they could warm up and breath a bit before we had them. We learned that our complaint about the wineries serving the whites too cold was not their fault, as they had to maintain a certain temperature in case of a food inspector’s visit. Ah-ha. Speaking of food, Raphael does not allow outside food, and suggests you check out the “wide variety” of snacks they offer in their shop. Their gift shop has a more extensive selection of items than many other places.
- 2014 First Label Sauvignon Blanc $39
85% sauvignon blanc and 15% Semillon grapes make this a very nice drink, tart but with good fruit; lemony as one would expect, but more like lemongrass than a strong lemon flavor. The aroma has notes of minerals and toasted almonds. Steel fermented, it would pair well with local oysters.
- 2014 First Label Riesling (Virgin Berry) $39
So our first question was, what does “Virgin Berry” mean? No, it’s not Sir Richard Branson’s latest venture. It means that some of the grapes don’t happen to get fertilized, and these small seedless berries are hand harvested and used to make this Riesling. We end up having a long discussion about this wine, because it is quite tart for a Riesling, actually for any wine, and we wonder about food pairings. I say corn chowder, and our server suggests roast pork with a sweet glaze, and my husband opts for lobster bisque. The aroma is earthy, with some of that cat pee smell you expect, and also cut grass.
- 2014 First Label Chardonnay $39
For an oaked chardonnay, this is pretty good. The menu says it is aged 50/50 in French oak and new oak, which somewhat mellows the oakiness. The aroma is vanilla and Werther’s butterscotch, the taste is quite buttery with a long finish, more like a California chard. Our server suggests it would go with linguini with clam sauce, putting a bit of the wine in the sauce. We also discuss that they no longer make Chardeaux, a chardonnay/sauvignon blanc blend we had liked. That’s why you have to try each winery every year, we say, because things change.
- 2015 White Primo Reserve $45
At first sip I’m not impressed, but as I warm the glass in my palms a lovely Granny Smith apple taste begins to bloom. This is a blend of 31% sauvignon blanc, 20% Semillon, and 49% Riesling, fermented in both stainless steel and oak. The aroma is sweet and flowery, the taste is tart, but an easier to take tart than the Riesling, very crisp. Our server suggests that the cooler temperature is good for sipping, while the warmer is good to go with dinner.
- 2012 Malbec Reserve $69
The prices of the reds somewhat take our breath away (though they have less expensive wines on the other menu), and we get into a discussion of the economies of scale and the problems of pricing wines when you don’t make enough for a mass market. In any event, our server suggests that all of the reds would benefit from a few years in the cellar, which would make them a better investment. The aroma is of prune plums, and so is the taste, with some cherry as well. It’s nicely dry, with plenty of tannins, which probably means it would age well. It would, we agree, go well with pork or lamb chops, both of which we saw at Eight Hands. (We urge our server, as someone who appreciates good food, to pay them a visit.)
- 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve $69
The aroma is the expected blackberry, and also some wood. I say it’s a nice aroma, while my husband says “fireplace logs.” It’s good but a bit simple and a touch sour at the end and quite tannic. “Chewy,” says our server, and we agree it could probably use a couple of years of aging. It could certainly hold its own against a steak.
- 2012 Petit Verdot Reserve $69
I discover that our server and I share a love of Petit Verdot, and he tells of the time he was able to taste the 2005, and how great it was. 2012 should be a good year, and if our cellar were not full we might have considered a bottle, despite the price. The smell is lovely, with dark fruit and maybe some chocolate, and it tastes good. We see some sediment at the bottom of the glass, and he notes that the wines are not filtered. Again, the tannins are strong, and we agree it could use more time in the bottle.
- 2012 Primo Reserve $72
Our favorite of the reds, this is a blend of 64% merlot, 17% Malbec, and 19% cabernet franc. We smell wood and something vegetal—asparagus! Dry, but not as tannic as the others, it has nice fruit tastes and a lovely finish. You could drink this with boeuf bourguignon and be a happy camper. If I came to sit, listen to music, and have a glass of wine this is what I’d choose.
Reasons to visit: a beautiful tasting room that is reminiscent of an Italian villa or monastery; a gift shop with lots of items; the First Label Sauvignon Blanc, the White Primo Reserve, the Petit Verdot Reserve, the Primo Reserve; a great server (if he’s on duty when you go!).