The last time we went to Peconic Bay for a tasting was in 2008. Then it closed. Or did it? They continued to make wines, marketing them through the store they opened in Tanger Mall, Empire State Cellars. We loved that store, which was amply stocked with wines from many of the Long Island wineries, as well as beers and liquors and other items from all over New York State. Unfortunately, they closed. Or did they?
Recently we noticed that Peconic Bay had hung out a sign saying “Open,” and touting a new sparkling wine, so we decided to check it out. We walked into an empty tasting room on a sunny day when every winery we drove past seemed to have a large complement of limos and cars. We were enthusiastically greeted by a woman who seems to be the manager of the place as well as its only employee. Over the course of our tasting, we learned various bits of information about Peconic Bay, but not why it closed and opened—and may or may not close again.
The tasting, which includes four wines, is free. (!) Each taste is small, served in tiny plastic cups. They also offer a tasting of ciders for $5, but we decided not to do that. On the counter were also a dish of Backyard Brine bread and butter-style pickles and another of pretzel sticks with Herlocher sweet mustard for dipping.
As we sipped, we learned that the tasting room had been re-opened by the owner with the mission of selling out his stock of wines. Then they decided to recreate a mini-Empire State Cellar experience, and stocked a variety of New York State beers and other products, including Twin Stills moonshine, an apple-based gin, Greenhook Gunsmith whisky, various ciders, and more. Now they may or may not have “switched gears,” in the words of our friend behind the counter, to continue to sell Peconic Bay wines and other local drinks—or not. We’ll keep our eyes on them!
- 2012 Peconic Bay Riesling $10
Riesling is a wine I never want to buy unless I’ve tasted it, since it can be sweet or dry or somewhere in between, and taste good or…not so good. This is a very nice riesling, dry, with a bit of that cat pee smell, and a taste of grapefruit and unripe peach. Not to be sipped on its own, but it would be fine with food, and the price is certainly alluring.
- 2011 Blanc de Blancs $25
This sparkling wine, made using the sparkling wine bottle-sealing facility at Lenz, is made from their own chardonnay grapes. It has a bit of a yeasty caramel aroma and is pleasant, dry, and not complex. They make it using the méthode champenoise.
- Atwater Estate Bubble Pinot Noir $16
From an upstate Seneca Lake winery, this is a pink sparkling wine made from 85% pinot noir and 15% Cayuga grapes. It has a bit of the strawberry taste you’d expect from a rosé, and is less sweet than I had feared. It’s light, and would be a fine casual wine if you wanted to take a sparkler on a picnic.
- Brotherhood New York Red $10
Another upstate wine, this one from the Hudson Valley area, this is a light, steel-fermented red blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and baco noir (which I had to ask her to spell for me). She described this as a “Beaujolais style picnic wine,” and I agree. It would be perfect with a croque monsieur, for example, and I think I would like it chilled. You can taste the cherry from the merlot, and also a somewhat piney taste.
- 2014 Saperavi $30
Yes, I said four wines, but given our interest and seriousness, she felt we should try one additional wine. A silver medal winner from Standing Stone winery, this is a light, pleasant red, dry, with some tastes of pomegranate and other fruits. It’s a dark red, so I expected it to be richer than it was, but maybe it needs more aging. I researched the grape a bit, and learned it is a cold-weather tolerant grape, originally from Georgia—the country, not the state.
Reasons to visit: a quiet place (unless others figure out that they’re open again); a free tasting; some very inexpensive wines (we bought both the riesling and the Brotherhood New York Red for everyday drinking, which she gave us in a nice canvas Empire State bag); a large choice of a variety of artisanal beers and other New York State drinks. Note: don’t depend on finding them open! It they’re closed, I recommend you go across the street to Coffee Pot Cellars.