Diliberto Winery: Pizza Parlor or Winery?
The yeasty, tomatoey scent of baking pizza filled the small tasting room at Diliberto winery. Most of the people there seemed to have come for a glass or two of red wine and one of Sal’s thin-crust pizzas. Well, it was around one p.m. on Friday, so I guess it was lunch time. The pizza certainly smelled and looked good, and one of the customers told us as she was leaving that it tasted good, too, recommending that we get one. However, we were not hungry, so we settled on just a tasting.
The tasting room at Diliberto is small, but very pretty, with trompe l’oeil paintings on the wall to give you the sensation that you are sitting in an Italian piazza. The Visions series films, aerial views of Italy, play on the flat screen TV over the piano, and when it is quiet you can hear music from Italian operas playing in the background. What you won’t hear is the voices of children, since Diliberto’s has a strict “No one under 21” policy, with the addendum “including children.” They also do not allow outside food, but since most people seem to come for the $19 pizza, that’s not a problem. The menu includes a few other food items, and on Sundays they feature a full meal—details on their web page.
The wine menu features six wines, at $4 per taste or $10 for any three tastes. Wines are also available by the glass or bottle, with an additional charge if you want to drink the bottle in the winery. (For example, the Chardonnay is $22 for a bottle, but $27 if you want to drink it there.) The wines cost $8-$12 for a glass. We decided to try all six wines, or two tastings, which the server brought to our table all at once.
In the past, we’ve always spent time chatting with Sal Diliberto, but this time he was not in the winery. The young woman who was waiting on the tables was very pleasant, but clearly her job was not to discuss the wines. My guess is that he is there on Sundays, since the dinner includes a cooking demo, and he used to do those for free on the weekends.
- 2016 Chardonnay $22
This is an oaked chardonnay, and, according to the menu, spends “five months in French oak,” so I was expecting lots of butterscotch and vanilla. Not so. I wonder if he mixes it with steel-fermented chardonnay, since it has a fair amount of citrus flavor. My husband describes it as “refreshing.” It is surprisingly tart, with only a hint of vanilla. Very drinkable, and would be nice with some charcuterie.
- 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $19
I would have put this first in the tasting, since it is steel-fermented and quite light. It has some asparagus aroma, and tastes more like an orange or tangerine than a lemon. It also has a fair amount of minerality and saltiness. “Fire Island on the beach,” began my tasting buddy, waxing poetic as he sometimes does.
- 2016 Rosé $17
Now it was time for the menu writer to get poetic, describing this wine as perfect for “life on the patio with friends.” Well, yes, if your friends are not particularly interested in taste, since this rosé has very little. There’s nothing objectionable about this light, minerally rosé, with its taste of unripe strawberry and citrus, but we felt the aroma and taste were equally undistinguished.
- 2013 Merlot $19
All along I’ve been complaining that it is hard to decide how the wine smells because the aroma of pizza is so strong. Now I think this one smells like mushrooms, and I’d think it was because of the pizza, but there are no mushrooms on it. In any event, this is an okay merlot, rather tannic and even a bit harsh, with some black raspberry and nutmeg flavor. No cherry taste! We must have gotten the last glass in the bottle, as our taste has some sediment at the bottom.
- 2014 Cantina $22
Phew, this one is much better. A 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, this has aromas of cherry and tobacco and tastes of fruit and spice—more spice than fruit. Light and not complex, this is the sort of red that goes well with roast chicken (like the one I am planning to make with an 8 Hands chicken tonight) or pizza and pasta.
- 2014 Tre $26
According to the menu, this one is only made in the best vintage years, of a blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc. I swear it smells like eggplant, though perhaps that’s because I’m trying to decide what I will make with the lovely eggplant I bought at a farm stand this morning. Anyway, the wine is quite good, with lots of black cherry and purple plum tastes. Dry, with some tannins, we think it might get better with age. My husband says it has “the backbone to deal with food,” and I suggest osso buco as a possible dish.
Reasons to visit: you have a hankering for a glass of red (I suggest the Tre) and a pizza; you want a quiet, intimate setting for a tasting; the Sauvignon Blanc and the Tre; you don’t mind that they don’t allow children or outside food; you like relatively simple but well-priced wines.