Sparkling Pointe: Celebration Time

May 24, 2022

The lovely terrace was empty on this Tuesday.

There are certain people who make every get-together feel like a celebration.  So where better to take that couple than to Sparkling Pointe, where the sparkling wines make every sip feel like a party. In addition, one of our guests is a wine aficionado who has been to many wineries, so I wanted to take him somewhere unusual.  I made a reservation that was clearly superfluous, since we had the entire terrace to ourselves, but I wanted to be sure it was open, since we went on a Tuesday when many wineries, stores, and restaurants are closed (at least until after Memorial Day). 

The flute of Brut.

We settled ourselves on the flagstone terrace, commenting on how pretty the view out across the vines was.  Natalia, our lively and intelligent server, quickly brought each of us a welcoming flute of the 2017 Brut and explained the menu.  The bubbly wines—which can’t be called champagne because they are not made in the Champagne region of France—are made using the méthode champenoise, a labor-intensive process.  Some are dry, and some are sweet, with the Carnaval labels more on the sweet side.  Since one of our guests prefers sweeter wines, we decided that they would share the Flagship flight ($20, for three), which features two of the Carnaval wines, and we would share the Prestige Flight ($30, for three), which has drier sparklers.

We hungrily attacked the cheese board before I had a chance to take a photo.
We quickly finished the baguette slices and, though I like Taralli, they are not ideal as cheese holders.

Since it was lunchtime, we also ordered a cheese board, which included three cheeses, a little dish of jam, a tiny jar of honey, and some Taralli crackers and sliced baguette.  It was plenty for the four of us.  (Outside food is not allowed.) As we sipped and munched, we talked and laughed and told stories, and I sometimes forgot to take notes, we were having such a good time. 

Tastes are brought to your table one at a time, so the bubbles don’t dissipate, and Natalia quickly noticed that it was taking us longer than average to consume each one, so she allowed extra time between samples.  Then, I guess because there was no one else there, or because we were clearly serious about tasting, or because of my notebook, she brought each couple one additional taste.  As a result, I could theoretically tell you all about nine of their wines—but, as I said, we were having so much fun being together, my notes are a bit sketchy.  I list the wines more or less as we had them, not separated by who had which.

  •  2017 Brut          $31

Everyone gets a flute of this “welcome toast,” a very nice gesture.  It is made from a blend of 54% chardonnay, 33% pinot noir, and 13% pinot meunier.  You might note that two of those grapes are red, yet the wine is pale yellow.  That’s because the color in the wine comes from contact with the grape skins—and Sparkling Pointe does have some rosés and even a red sparkler—but this wine has no skin contact.  These three grape varieties, by the way, are the same ones traditionally used in the Champagne region of France to make champagne.  Anyway, we like it.  It is sophisticated and dry, and tastes very like a traditional champagne, though one guest notes it has fewer bubbles.

  • 2017 Blanc de Blancs     $48

As you might guess from the name, this is made from all white grapes—100% chardonnay—and has that zippy citrusy taste you might expect from a chard. 

  • 2016 Blanc de Noirs       $75

In contrast, this is made only from red grapes, 65% pinot noir and 35% pinot meunier.  This has a more complex fruity taste, maybe raspberry, and has a nice aroma of yeast, with a touch of something funky.  Dry.

  • NV Cuvée Carnaval Rosé              $36

If you examine the Sparkling Pointe menu, you will note that in addition to the usual descriptions of the wines, each wine also has the additional information of when it was disgorged and what the “dosage” of sugar is.  The sugar number is easy to decipher, since the higher the number the sweeter the taste.  This one has a dosage of 14 g/l, while the previous wine’s is 6.  The disgorgement date is the date when the yeast and sediment in the bottle are removed, ending the second fermentation, and giving you a good idea of exactly how old a wine is.  Since this is a non-vintage wine (NV), you might like to have that information.  A light pink blend of 50% pinot noir, 41% chardonnay, and 9% merlot, this is the bubbly equivalent of a still rosé, slightly sweet, with some strawberry taste.

  • 2019 Topaz Imperial Brut Rosé                 $44

I was concerned, looking at the pink color, that this blend of 50% chardonnay, 34% pinot noir, and 26% pinot meunier would be too sweet for my taste, but in fact I quite liked it.  It has the strawberry taste one expects in a rosé, but is more complex, with some lemon and bread notes.

  • NV Cuvée Carnaval Blanc             $30

The sweet wine lover in the group declared this to be her favorite, while her companion compared it to a prosecco.

  • 2011 Brut Seduction       $70

The usually very well-informed Natalia couldn’t tell me why this is called seduction (though I’ll bet she’ll know next time someone asks), but we speculated it could be because it is so good it seduces you.  This is the oldest vintage they have, though it was disgorged in 2020, so it aged for quite a long time.  It is complex and interesting, with layers of flavor, including some of the buttery flavor you get in an oaked chardonnay.  It has almost no bubbles.  54% chardonnay, 46% pinot noir.

A red sparkling wine is a bit unusual.
  • NV Carnaval Rouge         $36

This is unusual—a red sparkling wine.  It is almost startling to look at.  It smells like cranberry juice, and could almost be mistaken for a Cosmo, but, according to our friend, has almost no flavor.  “Tastes like wet paper, like a spitball,” he opines.  On the other hand, it is an “extra,” not included in the tasting, so no complaints.  The menu says it tastes like bubblegum!

  • 2016 Reserve Blanc de Blancs     $68

We are very happy with our extra, and in fact, it is my favorite of the day.  This is dry, lemony, with some warm pear tastes.  Very nice.

An array of unfinished glasses, which eventually we did finish!

Reasons to visit:  time to celebrate, as they only have sparkling wines, which most people consider as party wines; lovely terrace outside, and elegant room inside, with thoughtful table service; the 2017 Brut, the Blanc de Blancs, and the Blanc de Blancs Reserve, to my taste; the Carnaval Blanc if you like sweeter wine (the term “Carnaval” refers to the  owners’ love of Brazil, which can also be seen in some of the gift shop offerings).  

The “Bubbly Boutique” has a limited selection of items, which used to be bigger. You can see the Brazilian influence.

Castello di Borghese: Cherry Blossom Time

May 10, 2022

After a stroll through Greenport, admiring the blooming cherry trees and checking out which stores were open (many are closed on Tuesdays), we headed to the “Founding Vineyard,” Castello di Borghese. 

This painting in the Borghese gallery reminded us of the cherry-tree lined streets of Greenport.

The last time we were there was February 9, 2020, just before the world shut down.  When we shared this fact with our server, she told us about her experience of working in the tasting room during that time.  Right around St. Patrick’s Day, she recalled, they had a huge influx of people from the city, who all commented on how happy they were to find something open, where they could gather and socialize.  We were ready to close for the night, she remembered, but the people didn’t want to leave.  By the next day, she began to worry, and helped scrub down the place.  Then they closed, then reopened only for curbside pickup, when they actually had a very profitable time, as people were buying bottles and cases. 

Their solution to how to serve a flight.

When it was time to offer tastings again, they spent some time figuring out how to manage serving flights, since previously most of their service was to people standing at the bar, chatting and getting their tastes one at a time.  Finally, they decided to use little plastic baskets and clear plastic cups, with the variety written on paper inside the basket, under each cup.  She noted that she felt bad about all the plastic they were now using, and I suggested she look into the corn-based plastic used by Old Field, which she promised to do.

The room is large, but rather plain, though they have tried to enliven it with Christmas lights.

We were sitting at a table in the large room they now use for tastings, which was lined with paintings by local artist Patricia Feiler, whose paintings of seascapes and blossoming cherry trees felt very familiar.  Once again, we were the only customers—until, as we were leaving, another couple arrived—so we took our time to sip and discuss each wine.  Our server asked us if we would like some pretzels, and when we said yes supplied us with two little bags of them.  They do allow outside food.  They also seem to allow dogs, since as we entered, we met Herbie, the owner’s classic black dog, and very friendly he was indeed. 

Herbie!

They have two flight options:  Classic, of two whites, a rosé (picked from three options), and two reds; or the Red Flight, which has many of their more expensive reserve wines, of five reds.  We opted to share a Classic Flight, which she brought to us in a little plastic basket.  She also thoughtfully gave us each a glass so we could easily share each taste by pouring it into the glass.  Since it was a slow day, she treated us to all three rosés, which is why I can comment on them in this piece. 

  •  2020 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

This is a fairly typical NoFo sauvignon blanc, with some citrus and almost-ripe pear taste, crips, dry, and summery.  It has a pleasant floral aroma with a touch of ginger.

  • 2020 Chardonnay           $25

My tasting buddy thinks this and the sauvignon blanc are a little sweet, but I counter that what he sees as sweet is fruity, and he says, “I’ll accept that,” then adds, “It borders on sweet.”  We agree that this steel-fermented chard is good, with tart peach flavor (they say nectarine and starfruit), but not outstanding. 

  • Fleurette Rosé   $18

The menu describes this blend of merlot and chardonnay as an “aperitif wine,” and “off-dry.”  I can agree with both descriptions, and could see sipping this somewhat sweet wine with charcuterie, where the sweetness of the wine would be balanced by the saltiness of the meat.  It is relatively complex for a rosé, with tastes of ripe cantaloupe and lemon zest.  It smells sort of melon-y, too.

  • 2020 Rosé of Merlot       $22

“I could see sitting on the deck and sipping this after a day at the beach,” opines my husband, and I agree.  This has the typical strawberry aroma and flavor of most local rosés, with again a touch of citrus.  I say that people who like sweet wine would not call this sweet, he adds “enough.”

I thought giving us each a glass so we could easily share was a nice idea.
  • 2021 Rosé Pinot Noir     $50

I had to check the price list twice, since I can’t see any reason why this rosé costs so much.  My buddy describes it as “zippy,” and I add that it is very dry and citrusy, with almost no aroma.  Sophisticated? Maybe.

You can just see the handwritten labels.
  • 2017 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon                          $25

Nice.  Is that damning with faint praise?  It is a light, bright, and pleasant red, with aromas of cedar and black cherry and tastes of cherry, too.  I think it would be better with food, like roast chicken.  Or a hot dog, offers my pal.

  • 2020 Reserve Cabernet Franc     $44

Like all the wines we have sampled today, this is very drinkable but not outstanding.  It has a delicious aroma of blackberry jam and spice, and has nice dark fruit tastes, with soft tannins.

This is a fairly typical painting by Patricia Feiler, at least one of whose paintings was featured on the cover of Dan’s Paper.

Reasons to Visit:  calm, laid-back place with pleasant wines; art gallery featuring various local artist shows; you can bring a picnic and your dog (certainly outside); the chardonnay, the Fleurette (though it is a bit sweet), and the merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend.

Kontokosta: For the Sophisticated

April 20, 2022

The exterior is deceptively rustic.

This time, our guests were a pair of sophisticated Manhattanites, who spend weeks at a time in Italy, where they often visit wineries, so we knew we needed to find a winery that was equally sophisticated.  We also needed a place where we could offer them lunch with their tasting, plus they had almost never been to the North Fork, and we wanted to give them a bit of a tour.  After some cogitation, we decided Kontokosta, just a little bit past Greenport’s Main Street, fit the bill in all particulars.

You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

They arrived before noon, giving us plenty of time before our reservation—which is required, and is held with a fee of $5 per person—to have a leisurely drive east.  (Reservations are via Tock, which seems to work about the same as Open Table, etc.)  As I drove, I pointed out the various wineries and other sites along Sound Avenue, giving a bit of information about each, feeling very much like a tour guide.  Our guests noted how rural it is out here, and admired the beginnings of spring blooms.

The inside is quite modern and sophisticated.

One aspect of Kontokosta I appreciate is their eco-consciousness.  They use a windmill to generate electricity, and serve their wines in those corn-based “non-plastic plastic” cups, also used by Old Field.  Snacks are served on bamboo plates, with bamboo utensils (though the bamboo knife did not do a great job of slicing the cheese).  They say they farm “sustainably,” whatever that means.

The outside of the tasting room is deceptively rural, looking like an old barn, while the inside is sleek and modern, in stark black and white.  We were greeted at the door, where our reservation was confirmed, and we were each given a wine glass to keep.  So I guess each glass cost $5!  We were directed to the bar, at the far end of the room, where a friendly server guided us to a snack menu and a tasting menu.  We ordered two cheeses, some crackers, and a plate of sliced salami while we perused the wines.

A tasting consists of three wines for $18, but on this day they added either of the rosés for free, since they are having a special sale on the rosés.  It was hard to choose from the menu of thirteen wines, but my husband and I and our guests decided each couple would share one tasting, and mostly got the same wines so we could discuss.  I may go back some time to try more of their wines.  Our tastings were delivered to our table in small cups, in a wooden holder, with each cup labeled as to the wine in it.  The taste is rather small.

We spent a pleasant afternoon sipping and tasting, and the snacks proved more than adequate for lunch.  Afterwards, we took our guests for a brief stroll around Greenport, and then drove home via Main Road, so they could see the towns of Southold and Cutchogue and Mattituck.

  •  2020 Orient Chardonnay            $22

We all liked this interesting chard, with its lovely flowery aroma and tastes of peach and citrus.  I mentioned that I thought it went very well with the cheddar and salami.  I used to think that cheese and charcuterie demanded red wines, but I have come to prefer whites.  My friend called it “vibrant.”  Nice description.

  • 2020 Viognier    $29

We differed on our second white, since they got the Field Blend.  I liked the viognier, too.  It has some taste of nectarine, and smells flowery.  It has a touch of lime at the end, and I think it would be good to have with seafood in a cream sauce.

  • 2020 Field Blend             $25

Our guests described this as “light and summery.”

  • 2020 White Merlot         $29 (half off if you buy six bottles)

We were somewhat disappointed in this wine, since white merlots are often quite tasty.  This was extremely light, and, as my tasting buddy noted, “monochromatic,” one of his favorite wine description words for wines he finds boring.  It tasted more like a white than a rosé, and even with a 50% discount, neither of us was interested in buying it.

  • 2016 Merlot      $29

Since merlot is the most characteristic red wine on the North Fork, we decided to have that as our final taste.  This is a fairly typical NoFo merlot, with cherry taste and aroma, dry, with a touch of oak/tobacco.  One guest called it “chewy.”

  • 2020 Rosé          $29
This is the glass of rose, which, unlike the white merlot, at least looks like a rose.

Since this rosé is also half off if you buy six, our guest decided to try a glass of it, pouring off a sip for us to taste.  We liked it better than the white merlot, as it has more strawberry taste and aroma, but not enough to get six bottles.

Hmm…whiskey? Maybe next time.

Reasons to Visit:  you want a winery close to Greenport; you want to have some snacks with your tasting; the Orient Chardonnay, the Viognier, and the Merlot; the property overlooks the Sound, and you can stroll down to a bluff overlooking the water.

They have plenty of outdoor tables, though it was a bit too chilly to sit outside when we were there. The Sound is in the distance.

Lenz Winery: Classic

April 8, 2022

You can enter through this archway or, if you’re feeling claustrophobic, go around it.

After days of rain, the sun came out and we decided to do our walk in Greenport, strolling up and down Front and Main Streets.  As we did, we noted the crop of newer restaurants we had not yet tried, and vowed to return if the pandemic allows.  On the way home, we stopped in to Lenz to do a tasting, and were glad we did.  Founded in 1978, Lenz is the second oldest winery on the North Fork, and both the tasting room and the wines are classic. 

The room has the barn-like country vibe of many North Fork tasting rooms, with several tables, plus a bunch of picnic tables in the outside courtyard.  Though it felt too chilly to us to sit outside, there was one couple out there, sharing a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers. Inside, two groups talked quietly as they sipped their wines.  The wines are, for the most part, good representatives of the local terroir.  We liked several of them in particular.

Tastings used to be primarily stand-up, at the bar, but now they show you to a table.  Lenz used to allow outside food, but now they have a menu of real foods, in addition to cheese and charcuterie items.  We were not hungry, but some of the sandwiches sounded good.  I almost went with the tasting menu of chocolates paired with wines…maybe next time. 

The tasting menu offers four options:  the Library Flight, of their most expensive wines, one taste for $20; the Spring Flight, of a variety of wines, five tastes for $25; the Grand Flight, of some of their higher end wines, five tastes for $30; and the aforementioned Chocolate Pairing, of five wines paired with five chocolates, for $35.  We decided to share the Spring Flight, as it seemed to promise the most variety and wines we might buy.  Our flight arrived on a well-labeled tray, and our server gave us her well-practiced spiel about the wines.

  •  2016 Estate Selection Gewürztraminer                 $20

Right from the first sniff, I loved the delicate floral aroma of this wine—orange flowers?  The taste is also delicious, not at all sweet but full of fruit flavor.  A few weeks ago, I had a guava, a flavor I found here, as well as perhaps a touch of nutmeg.  We liked it so much, we bought a bottle.

  • 2020 Firefly Rosé          $20

A blend of cabernet sauvignon and malbec, this is a really luscious rosé, with ripe melon and citrus flavors, dry.  The aroma is so faint, I likened it to driving past a strawberry field with the windows open.

Another area of the tasting room.
  • 2016 Estate Select Chardonnay $22

Our server went into some detail in her introduction to this wine, telling us how it is made from grapes half fermented in steel and half in medium French oak, and asserting it is her favorite white.  I disagree.  It has some pineapple taste, which is fine, but also something else I find unpleasant, sort of a chemical or metallic note.  I also don’t like the smell, which reminds me of plastics. My tasting buddy thinks it is fine. Chacun à son goût…

  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon           $25

Well, this is pleasanter.  I smell red lollipop, though my husband says, not that sweet.  Our server noted that this is her go-to red to bring to parties, and I can see why.  It is a soft, very unchallenging red, with fruity flavors of red plum and berries.  It would be fine to sip on its own, but would not stand up to steak.  A crowd pleaser.

There’s a small selection of gift items, primarily t-shirts.
  • 2015 Estate Selection Select Merlot                     $35

Although this is called a merlot, it is blended with some cabernet franc and petit verdot, which gives it more depth and complexity than a simple merlot.  It has some tannins, and I can taste the oak and some fruit.  Nice.

The courtyard will be a good place for tasting when the weather gets warmer.

Reasons to visit:  a classic old-school vineyard, with solid wines and no glitz; the gewürztraminer, the rosé, and the merlot; the cabernet sauvignon if you like soft, simple reds; reasonable prices but also some VERY high-end wines (as in $130 per bottle); nice menu of cheeses and also sandwiches. Note: my husband says the restroom is very small.

I appreciate it when bars have these hooks for one’s belongings.
The vines are still bare–no bud break yet!

Duck Walk: Time to Par-tee

March 26, 2022

Our visiting pooch.

This time the only complicating factor—we thought—was the well-behaved pooch our visitors brought with them.  So we carefully planned to go to Jason’s Winery for a tasting, even though we knew Jamesport was holding a St. Patrick’s Day Parade that Saturday.  Looking at a map of the parade route, we thought we could get to Jason’s.  A couple of detours later, we got there—only to discover that it was the site of an after-parade party, with the grounds packed with cars.  Plan B.  We parked on a side road and called a couple of other tasting rooms.  No dogs; no dogs; okay for a dog, but there’s one here now, said the lovely woman at McCall’s, and the room is small.  We popped our heads in anyway, and were barked at.  Never mind.  Then I remembered that Duck Walk is owned by the same family that owns Jason’s and Pindar—the family of Dr. “Dan” Damianos—and is also “pet friendly.” 

Dr. “Dan” Damianos overlooks the tasting room.

Though the rain had commenced to fall heavily, we decided to head to Duck Walk as our last possibility, as the afternoon was slipping away.  In we went, to be greeted by a wall of sound. Though the live entertainment consisted of one man with a guitar, his amp and mic must have been set on the loudest settings, and the room is cavernous, so it was so noisy we could barely hear the woman at the cash register inside the door.  The noise was abetted by perhaps five or six bachelorette parties, easily identifiable by the woman in the midst of each wearing a white veil, including one group whose theme was “disco,” and who were dressed in sparkling outfits.  Should we stay?  We decided to stay. 

The bride-to-be is easily identifiable.
By the time we left, the sun was out. That’s March–if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.

The visiting pooch was a big hit with the bachelorettes, who had a great time petting him and receiving doggie kisses in exchange.  We also noted that Duck Walk allows outside food, and one party was happily consuming picnic lunches, most likely provided by the limo company.  Some bags of pretzels and popcorn are for sale, plus bottles of water.

We paid for two tastings, at $13 for four tastes, and received a little slip of paper to present at the bar.  You can also pay directly at the bar, as we observed.  However, considering how hard the two—later three—servers were working, I’m glad we didn’t give them that additional task.  After seating ourselves at a picnic table as far as possible from the music—which would have been fine at a lower decibel level—we headed to the bar and perused a menu.  There we were confronted with twenty-three possibilities on a complicated list which has the categories “white wine varietal,” “white blends and rosé,” “red blends,” “red wines varietal,” and “dessert & sparkling wines.”  Whew.  One guest prefers her wines on the sweet side, so she consulted with Matt, a superlative server, who kindly marked the sweeter wines—eight in all—on her menu.  Also on offer, they make Absenthe, the “traditional distilled spirit with wormwood,” for $5 per taste.  At the bar, I noted a couple of taps for Greenport Harbor beers.  As I went to get one of my tastes, a couple walked up to the bar and the young man told his companion, “I want a beer,” so I hope they were happy with what they found.

Not sure what the plastic cups are for. Our tastes, of about an ounce and a half, came in nice glasses.

We opted to get up and get each taste, since there was no way to carry all four to our table and we didn’t want to stand at the bar.  Matt did a great job of remembering me each time I came back, and helping me keep track of what we had had.  I’m not sure how he did it, with the crowd around the bar.

I’ll list the wines in the order in which I tasted them, indicating which were in our guests’ tasting with an *.

  •  2020 Reisling*  $21.95

Reislings can vary in their level of sweetness, which is why I rarely buy one I haven’t tasted, and this one is definitely on the side of sweeter.  Our guest compared the taste to “sucking on a lollipop.”  I smell honeysuckle; she tastes peach and butterscotch.

  • 2020 Sauvignon Blanc    $21.95

This is a light, dry sauv, with lots of citrus.  I say lemon/lime, and my tasting buddy says more on the lime-y side.

  • Windmill Red *                $18.95

Yuk.  This smells like dirt—and not the somewhat pleasant petrichor smell—and tastes worse.  It has no depth and an unpleasant taste.  None of us wants to drink it, so I return the glass to the bar, where Matt very kindly replaces it with a red he hopes we’ll like better, for no extra charge.

  • 2020 Pinot Grigio            $21.95

Finally, a wine we like.  This has a pleasantly peachy flavor, with lemon at the end.

  • 2019 Pinot Meunier *    $26.95

Matt gave us this as a replacement, probably thinking of my friend’s penchant for sweet wines.  “Shades of Manischevitz,” is the comment.  Yes, I agree, this tastes very like grape juice.

  • 2018 Merlot      $21.95

We have a brief discussion of merlot, and how it is so popular on the North Fork.  This is a fairly typical merlot, with some nice cherry flavor and good mouthfeel.  Nothing special, but drinkable.

  • 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon *        $21.95

“Not as good as the merlot,” is our consensus, “but okay.”  It is dry, with a hint of tannins, and some dark fruit flavor.

  • 2019 Pinot Noir               $38.95

I get a pleasant bramble aroma and taste, with very soft tannins.  I can see how someone who is put off by big reds would find this pleasant.  Just okay.

  • 2020 Aphrodite *            $21.95

Save this for last, counsels Matt.  Right.  It is, after all, a dessert wine, and comes in a slim, pretty 375 ml. bottle featuring a picture of the goddess of love.  But we don’t love it.  It’s too sweet even for my sweet-loving guest.  It tastes like a sugary fruit salad, though I guess if you paired it with foie gras or walnuts it would be tolerable.  The menu suggests pouring this gewürztraminer wine over vanilla ice cream.  Yes, it is that sweet.

Reasons to visit:  you need a place that welcomes dogs and/or outside food; you are with a group of bachelorettes; the pinot grigio and the merlot; you like sweet wine.

Disco-themed bachelorettes!

Ev & Em Vineyards: Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

March 11, 2022

The little sign attached to the big sign said “open,” so in we went.  Laurel Lake was one of the last vineyards we went to in 2020, pre-pandemic—on February first—so we were curious to see how the new owners had changed things.  From the outside, it didn’t look all that different, but as soon as we opened the doors we were amazed at the changes.  If you’ve ever watched “Restaurant Impossible,” you know how much a room can change, but this was huge.  The room even retained a faint smell of fresh paint.

From the outside it doesn’t look all that different.

Instead of having a warm, country vibe, the room has been transformed into a sleek modern space, with the old-fashioned hearth replaced by a gray stone fireplace.  The room seemed particularly bare because they have not yet gotten their furniture.  Supply chain issues, I assume.  I sympathize, since we recently bought a set of eight dining room chairs, only six of which were in the store.  Oh yes, we were told, we will have those other two chairs for you in a couple of weeks.  Three months later we ended up with two chairs of a similar design, which we put at the head and foot of the table to minimize the differences. 

We moved two wire chairs (I believe holdovers from Laurel Lake) from in front of the fireplace and put them next to a shelf display unit, to improvise somewhere to rest our glasses while we sat and sipped.

Even the wood floor looks different, as it is now a lighter color than before.
You can see the large porch area and the grassy field beyond it, where we once sat on a summer’s day.

 If you want to stand at the bar, there’s plenty of space, since it extends all along one side of the room.  And once summer comes, they will have a lot of room—assuming their furniture arrives! —on the covered porch and the grassy grounds.  Summer will also bring a food truck, at which point they will most likely no longer allow outside food.  At the moment, all they have on offer is North Fork Potato Chips, so they likely wouldn’t object if you came with a snack—though there are no tables on which to put it.  (By the way, they do allow dogs on leashes.)

We perused the menu, which had three categories:  the Ev & Em E2 flight, of four wines for $32; Whalebone wines, available by the glass or bottle; and Laurel Lake wines, which they will continue to sell until they are sold out, of four wines out of a list of thirteen, for $25.  Having tasted most of the Laurel Lake offerings, we decided to go for the E2 (E squared?) tasting.  Since the new owner has kept the same winemaker, we were curious as to how the E2 offerings would compare.  The new owner, by the way, is Dan Abrams, of ABC news fame, and the winery’s unusual name is a tribute to his two children.  His book, Kennedy’s Avenger, is for sale at the winery.

Of course, Dan Abrams’ book is for sale in the tasting room.

So we told Danielle, the friendly and chatty server, our choice, and she poured our first taste into a nice big glass.  Each time I got up to fetch our next taste, she and I chatted a bit, and she happily answered all of my questions.  I was wondering what the Whalebone Wine was about, and she said it had to do with an interview in a magazine of that name, on display in the tasting room, for which a couple of wines were created.

  •  2020 Chardonnay          $32

I could immediately tell this was an oaked chard, since it had that piney, woodsy aroma of oak. Fortunately, it was not too heavily oaked, so though it had a bit of an unctuous mouth feel, it also had some refreshing citrus notes and some minerality.  My drinking buddy pronounced it “drinkable.”    

We improvised a place to rest our wine glasses as we discussed our tastes.
  • 2019 Gewürztraminer   $32

Danielle and I had a bit of a discussion about this one, since she said she liked it better than the Laurel Lake version of this grape.  I found it too sweet.  It has a lovely flowery aroma, and tastes of peaches and nutmeg (peach pie, anyone?).  My husband thought it was monochromatic, and definitely too sweet for him.  I much prefer the One Woman gewürztraminer, which was, at least the last time I tried it, much more complex.  I guess this would be okay with spicy Thai food.

  • 2019 Merlot      $40

Would you like a clean glass?  Yes, I would.  Always a nice touch.  There are many, many merlots on the North Fork, and every different price point, starting with the North Fork Project’s one liter bottle for $10 (three for $30 at Pellegrini Winery), surely the best NoFo bargain.  The E2 merlot is at one of the higher price points, and not really worth it, though it’s not bad.  It has a slight fruit/cherry aroma, with soft tannins, and is dry with tastes of fruit and herbs.  Short finish, or as we like to say, the taste evanesces.

  •  2019 Cabernet Franc     $40

Although the winemaker has remained, he has, notes Danielle, tweaked the flavors of the new wines so they are different from the old ones.  We discuss what a nice guy Juan Sepúlveda is, as I once had a long and illuminating chat with him when I came for a tasting and he was hanging out in the tasting room.  In common with a tasting we had when this was Laurel Lake, the reds are still served too cold, so I warm it in my palm.  After it warms up, we quite like this red, with its aroma of berries and wood and tastes of red fruit and spice.  Dry, with some good tannins, which makes me wonder if it would age well. 

From the tasting room you can peek into the wine-making area. Here you can see the light fixtures reflected in the glass.

Reasons to Visit:  time to try a new place, though I suggest you wait until they get their furniture; pleasant outdoor spaces; they will have a food truck; the chardonnay, if you don’t mind some oakiness, and the cabernet franc; dogs are allowed; you’re a fan of Dan Abrams.

Suhru Wines: Shelter from the Storm

February 19, 2022

There’s a convenient parking lot out back.

It was the type of day when, as they say, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.  In the morning, with some guests, we explored the Southold Winter Festival, and it was sunny though cold and windy.  We admired the ice sculptures being chiseled out of blocks of ice, stopped in to a couple of our favorite shops, and headed home to warm up and have a snack.  Then we ventured out again in the afternoon, as the sunny day turned cloudy, and snowflakes flew past us, to have a tasting at Suhru in Cutchogue.  By the time we emerged, the storm was over and it was sunny again.  (And then later another snow squall moved through!) 

There wasn’t much to the first Southold Winter Festival, but the ice sculptor was cool.

We were all glad we had ventured out, because we thoroughly enjoyed our tasting experience at Suhru’s small but well laid out tasting room, which we had to ourselves most of the afternoon.  The young man in charge of the room was attentive, engaging, and well-informed about the wines, bringing us water and making sure we had all that we needed.

Suhru is a winery without a vineyard, as the winemaker, Russell Hearn (who is also the winemaker for Leib and Bridge Lane), buys his grapes each year based on whose crop he favors.  For example, he makes wine from teroldego grapes, which were planted by Southold Farm + Cellar, who sadly had to move to Texas.  At the moment, Russell offers ten wines for tasting, with four different flight options: February Favorites, four wines for $17; Whites and Rosé, four for $14; Red Wines, four for $21, and Choose Your Own, any four for $19.  You can also ask for individual tastes, glasses, or a bottle.  Our friends went with the red flight, while my husband and I decided to choose our own adventure. 

I hadn’t been here since 2018, so I didn’t know they now have a nice lttle menu of snacks, mostly cheese and charcuterie, but also a few other items.  Our friends decided to have the Marcona almonds, which turned out to be a miniscule serving for $2, so we added a bag of North Fork potato chips. 

Our selections arrived in a cute round tray, with each wine resting on its labeled spot, and we proceeded to taste clockwise.  I’ll detail my tasting first, then the two wines they had that differed from mine.

  •  NV Brut              $29

I’ve decided to try sparkling wines everywhere they are offered—last week I tasted two at Pindar—and so far, so good.  In fact, very good.  We like this dry, tasty sparkler, made in the méthode champenoise, so much that our friends add a taste to their flight after we all finish.  It has that lovely yeasty aroma of good bubbly, with tiny bubbles, and tastes of pear and maybe a touch of citrus.  Mouth-watering.  It’s a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, according to our helpful server.

  • 2020 Pinot Grigio            $19

Although we are told that this is their “signature wine,” I am not enamored of it.  On the other hand, my tasting buddy really likes it.  As they say, there are no wrong answers in wine (well, there are, but, as they say in French, “Chacun à son gout.”)  I get lemon and green apple tastes, but also something like cardboard.  It is light and dry. 

  • 2020 Teroldego               $30

Teroldego is a Northern Italian grape, not often grown on Long Island, so I ask our server where the grapes came from, which is how I learn the vines were planted by the owners of Southold Farm + Cellar.  I was sorry to see that winery close, because they made some lovely wines, were very nice people, and had the most creative wine names I ever saw, but they had some sort of difficulties with local regulations and eventually closed up shop and moved to Texas, where they now have a winery.  In any event, I’m glad the grapes are being used, because this is a delicious wine.  It has a beautiful aroma of roses, and tastes of red raspberry and other berries.  It is a somewhat light red which would go well with charcuterie, and could even be slightly chilled to accompany seared tuna.  Last week I bought some fresh tuna steaks at Braun’s and my friend and I seared them with a pan sauce of capers, lemon, and garlic, and this would have gone well with that.

  • 2019 Shiraz        $25

When our daughter got married, we had a little wine tasting to decide which wines to serve.  We already had the white picked out—Channing Daughter’s Scuttlehole Chardonnay—but we needed a red to go with lamb.  This shiraz would definitely have been a contender.  It is a bit peppery—apparently some people compare the taste to Dr. Pepper! –which would cut the fat of the lamb nicely.  Good red fruit tastes plus something deeper.

  • 2019 Cabernet Franc      $30

“This tastes lighter than I expected,” opines our friend, who nonetheless finds the wine, which is in her tasting, not mine, quite pleasant.  It has some teroldego mixed in, we are told.  Good berry tastes.  Our friends got up to peruse the display of bottles, and were charmed to realize that they have actually tasted wine from this winery, as one with the T’Jara label is carried in their local wine shop in Queens. In fact, according to a map on the wall, Suhru ships to many of the states.

  • 2019 Ember       $25

Our friends like this so much, that I add a taste of it after I finish my flight.  This is Suhru’s Bordeaux blend, a merlot-heavy mixture including cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, and malbec.  It is so drinkable that I resent sharing it with my tasting buddy.  Kidding.  Or maybe not.  It is complex and balanced, with aromas of fruits, including cherry, and lots of interesting fruit tastes.  The name?  They had a little competition in the family, and apparently one cousin felt ember was a good name, as it evoked the long-lasting warmth of a fire.  I can see that. I buy two bottles to take home.

The rather petite serving of almonds.

Reasons to visit:  intimate tasting room where you can sometimes interact with the owners; all the wines are good, but especially the Brut, the Teroldego, the Shiraz, and the Ember; they have a nice little menu of snacks, but don’t bother with the Marcona almonds, unless you think $2 for about ten nuts is a good price; there is a backyard patio seating area for warm weather; if you’re planning a picnic, note that they offer several of their wines in cans.

This is a fascinating shop in the Feather Hill shopping center in Southold.
Another favorite shop is About Food, where you never know what you will find.

Pindar Vineyards: Plenty of Variety

February 15, 2022

The first time we went to Pindar, years ago, we did not like many of the wines we tasted.  However, in recent years, we have found much more to our liking, so on this chilly winter afternoon we brought two friends with us to do a tasting.  It took some thought to decide where to go with them, since we have taken them to a number of wineries and breweries over the years.  However, the breweries were off our list, since in the winter many of them are closed mid-week, or only open late in the day.  We also wanted somewhere we could sit at a table and chat as we sipped, and where we didn’t need to make a reservation.  If we had wanted to bring our own snacks, Pindar allows that, plus they also allow dogs, a piece of information we are storing for later.

Gina was very pleasant and attentive.

Aside from one couple, who left, we had the place to ourselves, and we joked with our friends, did they like that we had reserved a winery for their tasting.  That’s midweek in February for you.  Gina, our server, was very pleasant, and patiently answered our friend’s many questions, asked us how we were liking our tastings, brought us cups of water, and gave advice as to which wines to pick from their long list, based on our preferences.  And I do mean long—thirty wines in all!  That included three reserve reds, which usually cost extra, but, since she had the bottles open, she offered to include them in our standard flight of five.  How nice.

Pindar’s tasting room is in a converted barn, which has been expanded over the years, still retaining its rustic beams, with a gorgeous stained-glass window.  One not so pleasant note—the restrooms are in a separate structure, a cold walk outside in the winter, though it wouldn’t matter in the summer.  Maybe they should consider adding indoor facilities!

We got different colored Sharpies to mark up our menus.

I suggest choosing your flight carefully, as some of their wines are too sweet for our taste, but we were happy with today’s selections.  We shared three tastings amongst us, with some overlap. The tastes arrived in rustic wooden boxes, clearly labeled as to the order in which to drink them.

  •  Premier Cuvée Brut       $32.99

More and more North Fork wineries are offering sparkling wines, some made with the “méthode champenoise,” so I was curious to try theirs.  This was a nice, dry, sparkler, with lots of bubbles and some pear taste and smell.  100% chardonnay.

  • Dr. Dan’s Extra Dry         $29.99

“Dr. Dan” refers to the founder of Pindar—and also Duck Walk—Dr. Dan Damianos, who died in 2014, one of the East End wine pioneers.  His family have continued to run his wineries, though his son, Jason, who started Jason’s Vineyard, died in a car accident in 2017.  Made from a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, this is another sparkling wine, but we didn’t like it as much.  It has some green apple taste, but also a touch of something chemical.

  • 2020 Viognier    $21.99

We decided to steer clear of the sweeter whites, so we opted for the viognier, but found it too light, with again, a bit of a chemical aroma.  It’s not bad, but there’s not much to it.

  • 2020 Sunflower Chardonnay      $21.98

According to Gina, this is one of their most popular whites, and I can see why.  It is very lightly oaked, so there are only traces of vanilla, with some nice citrus flavor and a lovely floral aroma.  However, again, it is very light, though I think it would be nice with seafood, like the steamed lobsters we plan to pick up at Braun’s later.

The Gamay is a pretty light red.
  • 2020 Gamay Noir            $21.99

The ever-attentive Gina informs us that this is their lightest red, and she is right, though is is quite tasty.  This would be a good red for someone who thinks they don’t like reds.  It has a red lollipop smell, and lots of berry taste.  It could go with roast chicken, like a Beaujolais.

  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon           $18.99

I teach our friends the word “petrichor,” which, I say, is the smell of this wine.  Though it is dry, it is also very light, and we don’t care for it.

Just part of the array of wines.
  • 2017 Cabernet Franc      $21.99

In contrast, this red smells lovely, like a dried fruit compote, and tastes like slightly under-ripe purple plums.  Quite drinkable, and we sense some nice tannins.

  • 2017 Syrah         $18.99

This was in my friend’s tasting, so I only got a small sip, but she compares the taste to “burnt toast.”  I say black tea?

  • 2017 Tannat      $21.99

I don’t think anyone else on the North Fork grows this grape, which usually comes from the Basque area.  It had a lovely flowery smell, like violets.  It is not unpleasant to drink, but my friend says the taste reminds her of “canned plum tomatoes,” and theorizes it would be a good wine to add to a ragu Bolognese.

  1. Pythagoras         $18.99

You may have noted that some of the wine names are a nod to the Damianos family’s Greek roots, like this one, named for the founder of that theorem you had to memorize in high school.  This is a Bordeaux blend—perhaps of three grapes? —hence the name.  I insist that this smells like that white paste we used to use in elementary school, and which some kids—not me! –liked to taste.  As it sits and we chat, it develops a better taste and smell, with some good berry flavor.

  1. 2019 Mythology              $$42.99

This wine, and the two which follow, are categorized as reserve red wines, and normally cost an extra $4.00 per taste.  We are happy to try it, and find it good, drinkable, with nice tannins which make me think it could be cellared, but not worth the cost.

  1. 2019 Merlot Reserve      $34.99

This had typical merlot cherry flavor and aroma, though it is not as big a wine as one would expect from one labeled reserve.   

  1. 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve           $34.99

It seems we saved the best for last, as we all agree we like this one the most.  It has an intriguing aroma of forest floor and berries, and plenty of interesting dark fruit flavors. 

Windmill!

Reasons to visit:  informal tasting room, with lots of room at the bar and plenty of outdoor space; they allow picnics and dogs; the Premier Cuvée Brut, Sunflower Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (plus others we did not taste if you like sweeter wines); many different wines to fit different palates; if you live elsewhere, they ship to forty states.

They ship to forty states.

Palmer Vineyards:  Cozy Setting, Not So Warm Welcome

February 11, 2022

The tasting room is in here, not the first building you see from the road.

A break in the cold and snow, and a reduction in Covid rates, gave us the impetus to venture out for a tasting.  We decided to head to Palmer, which we hadn’t been to since 2018, because I was curious to see if its new ownership made any difference.  Fortunately, my favorite aspect of the tasting room—the cozy booths that remind us of our favorite London pubs—is still the same.  The service, however, was lackadaisical.  There were three workers in the tasting room, and we were the only customers (one hardy couple was seated outside), but the service consisted of one person setting our wines on the table, indicating the order in which to taste them, and referring us to the menu for all other information.  Did anyone stop by our table to ask how we liked the wines?  Nope.  When we finished, did anyone ask if we wanted anything else?  Nope.  I wanted a taste of the Albariño after we finished, but as I sat there with four empty glasses, while my tasting buddy visited the rest room, the server spent his time looking at his phone and carefully NOT looking my way until I was finally able to catch his eye.  Sigh.

No problem with social distancing!

In any event, the wines were all quite drinkable, and the pour was generous.  We opted for a tasting of four reds, for $25.  Our other options were a tasting of whites and a rosé, for $22, or a Reserve tasting, of their higher end wines, for $35.  Another page of the menu offers glass and bottle rates (the latter higher if you are consuming it on the premises) and a third page lists snacks, local beers, and coffee or tea.  They do not allow outside food.  There was a food truck parked in the parking lot, and I wanted to ask about it, but felt the servers had no interest in conversation.

  •  2016 Merlot     $25

“Pleasant and tasty,” said my drinking buddy.  If you like a very cherry merlot, this is not it, as it is not at all fruity, but it is somewhat interesting.  It smells of cherries and tobacco and fresh-cut wood, with some berry tastes and maybe a touch of vanilla.  Dry.

Can’t tell the players without a scorecard.
  • 2016 Cabernet Franc      $30

This one has a flowery aroma, and tastes like purple plums.  Like the merlot, it is dry, with some nice tannins, but no finish.  Last week we had some lovely little lamb chops from 8 Hands Farm, which I seasoned with the last of the sage from the garden and marjoram, and this would have gone well with them.

Cozy booth.
  • Weekend Red    $22

We actually considered buying this, our favorite of the flight, especially since Palmer offers a 5% discount if you buy three.  This is their Bordeaux blend—70% cabernet franc, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% merlot.  I think it smells like red lollipops, but my husband disagrees.  However, we both like the taste, of black raspberry with a touch of cherry, and lots of tannins.

The decor includes these faux posters, some the worse for wear. Since we’ve been watching the Olympics, this one amused us.
  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon           $30

I was wondering if I had nose fatigue, since I could barely get any aroma, but my tasting pal agreed.  He also said he was not impressed with it, as the initial fruit flavor quickly faded away.  I felt there was an unpleasant taste at the end.

Servers ignoring us.
  • 2021 Albariño   $30

I really wanted to try this, since I often like albariño, and not many Long Island wineries use this grape, or only use it in blends.  I did like this version, which had delicious aromas of lychee and flowers, and tastes of apples and nectarines, and was pleasantly tart.  When it came time to pay for our tasting, I reminded the server that I had had this extra taste, and he said, “No charge.”  Well, that was nice. 

Mystery food truck…

Reasons to visit:  cozy tasting room, plus an ample veranda and outside seating area; the Weekend Red and the Albariño; in the past, they allowed dogs at the outside tables, but I would ask before bringing Fido.

Plenty of room outside.

Pellegrini: A Brief Visit

http://www.pellegrinivineyards.com

Uh-oh. What happened to Rudolph?!

December 21, 2021

It was time, we were reminded in a phone call, to pick up our wine club selections for December, so we popped over to Pellegrini on a gray, chilly afternoon.  Inside, Teri gave us a warm welcome, remembering that we are in the “red only” category.  We decided to do a tasting, mainly sampling the wines in our box to see how we would use them, or whether we wanted more.

We also decided to try this iteration of the gewürztraminer for two reasons:  it is a grape I sometimes like and sometimes do not, depending on how sweet its wine is, and they were offering a special, that if you bought two bottles at $24.99, you got a third one free.  We did, and also bought a three-pack of the North Fork Project Merlot, the best wine bargain on the North Fork:  three big bottles of a very nice merlot for $30.

There were two other small groups in the tasting room, quietly enjoying their tastings, so social distancing was not a problem, and we all wore masks when away from the tables.

Since Teri had some free time, I asked her about a name for one of the wines, a white blend called REJOYCE.  I asked the right person!  It used to be called White Medley, until a winery in California got in touch and informed them that they already had a patent on that name.  Uh-oh.  What to call it?  So Pellegrini had a little contest to come up with a new name.  Teri thought of REJOYCE as a play on words, since Mrs. Pellegrini’s first name is Joyce.  She won three bottles of wine, and a bit of local fame.

  •  2019 Gewürztraminer $24.99

Delicious!  Sweet floral aroma, and tropical fruit tastes, with pineapple and mango predominant.  It would be great with spicy food, and it is not too sweet at all.

  • Steakhouse Red               $19.99

A non-vintage (so they can blend it for consistency) blend of 72% cabernet sauvignon and 28% merlot red, this is a tasty though somewhat light wine, with mouth-watering tannins.  We discuss whether or not this merits the name “Steakhouse,” since it is not the kind of big intense red one often thinks of to go with steak, but I think the tannins might do well to cut the fattiness of meat.  Maybe it would complement lamb chops.

  • 2015 Richmond Creek Cabernet Franc    $29.99

“Serviceable” is the term my tasting buddy applies to this pleasant, but not big red.  “Itsy-bitsy” is his next comment.  Nice tastes of fruit and spice.  We’ll be happy to drink it, probably with pasta. (After we got home, I remembered that Osprey also labels wines Richmond Creek, so I’ll have to ask about that next time.)

  • 2015 Regalo       $49.99

“Regalo” means gift, a good term for this blend of 50% petit verdot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 5% cabernet franc, because it is lovely.  We like this the most, and plan to put it in the cellar for special guests.  It is relatively complex, with good tannins and tastes of fruit and tobacco.

Reasons to visit:  what I’ve said in past reviews, plus this time all the wines we sampled, but especially the gewürztraminer and the Regalo.