Greenport Harbor: Safe in Port

May 11, 2021
Vaccinated, and it feels so good…Finally, Nofowineaux is able to go out for tastings and, even better, entertain friends. Dear friends we hadn’t seen since a year ago February came to stay over, now that we are all fully vaxxed. You can do a lot on Zoom, but you can’t hug! The weather was bright and sunny, if a bit windy and chilly for May, so we decided to drive out to Greenport to stroll around town before getting back in the car to go to the big Greenport Harbor tasting room in Peconic. The plan, which we successfully implemented, was to do a tasting there and then head to Braun’s to pick up the steamed lobsters we had ordered for dinner.

The young woman who operated the taps moved like lightening. We applauded when she finished!

The town of Greenport has some new stores and restaurants, some empty store fronts—but fewer than we feared—and plenty of old favorites. We hadn’t walked around town since the pandemic started, so we felt as though we were finally exiting a long, dark tunnel. Now if everyone else gets vaccinated, we might actually return to life as we knew it pre-Covid.

One of our friends is a beer aficionado, and though she also likes and appreciates wine, many of the wineries are still requiring reservations, so we decided to go for a beer tasting. What makes Greenport Harbor a great place for return visits is their ever-changing roster of beers and ales. As before, you stand at the bar and write out your list of five preferred tastes, which are then poured into medium-sized glasses (plenty to share) which are set into holes in a carved wooden whale so you can take them to your table. Our designated driver brought over his chosen soda—Boylan ginger ale, which he said was great—and ordered one of their massive pretzels. They heat them up to order, so you get a little buzzer which goes off when your food is ready. (They hold your credit card until you return the whale and glasses, at which time they charge you for what you’ve had.)

Plenty of food options, but we were saving our appetites for those delicious lobsters from Braun’s.

By then, it had warmed up and the wind had died down, so we carried our tastes to a sunny table on the capacious lawn. Other—socially distanced tables—had family groups, including children and dogs. Everyone seemed very happy to be there, as were we. My friend and I have slightly different preferences when it comes to beers, so we ordered mostly different tastes, easy to do when the menu features about 14 beers.

My array of beers. As instructed, we tasted from light to dark.
  1. Haus Pilsner
    Get it, house pilsner? Very cute. I started here, a good place to start. This was a light, refreshing pilsner, a perfect after-gardening quaff. My friend said she could see being served this in a traditional German biergarten.
  2. Otherside IPA
    This was my friend’s first choice. She is fond of citrusy IPAs. I like them if they’re not too hoppy. This is a fairly typical IPA, with tastes of grapefruit and lemon.
  3. Belgian Pale Ale
    I do like ales, and this transported me back to our visit to Belgium, where it seemed every little sidewalk café had its own beers on tap, usually a light and a dark. I liked the yeasty flavor of this, with touches of anise or licorice and clove. At the end, I rated this most interesting taste.
  4. Naturally Juiced
    Juicy! My friend’s second taste, we decided this was even more grapefruity than the Otherside, with notes of mango, and a bit sweeter.
My friend’s panoply of beers.
  • Velvet Sea
    Whoever named this beer chose an apt moniker. This is a smooth, velvety, almost buttery golden ale, very likable and easy to drink. It sort of reminded us of a chardonnay.
  • Facing East
    The menu calls this a New England IPA, but my friend thought it might be more like a West Coast one. Again, it is grapefruity, but softer than the others, without any tropical fruit notes.
  • Second Round Knockout
    I’m going to assume the name is a reference to this IPA’s abv (alcohol by volume) of 8%, although that’s not the highest abv on the menu. Our designated driver had taken a sip or two of the beers we were tasting, and he said of this one that it was “bitter and harsh.” My friend simply said, “I love it.” Refreshingly tart, say I, and not obnoxiously grapefruity. We both got this one, the only overlap amongst our selections.
  • Double Duck Mexican Hot Chocolate
    Time for dessert! This Imperial Porter is like one of those really good dark chocolate bars, with a hint of cinnamon flavor, spice, and vanilla. I wouldn’t want to drink it with food, but to sip in a pub…sure! Yummy, and not cloyingly sweet, it is actually made with cocoa nibs.
  • Double Duck Coffee
    This is another meal-ending or sipping porter, with distinct aromas and flavors of coffee with cream and sugar. We decided we preferred the Hot Chocolate flavor, but liked both porters. Hey, combine one of the IPAs with this and you have breakfast!
    Reasons to visit: Huge facility, though I have seen it completely filled, with a nice big outdoor area. Good menu of foods, in addition to the big pretzels. Basically, all the beers. I’ve never had a beer of theirs I actually disliked, and it you like IPAs they have a particularly good collection of them. I prefer ales and stouts and porters, which they also have. I often buy their Black Duck Porter in the supermarket. Also, at a time when more and more places are barring dogs, you can bring your pooch to the outside area here.

Wining at Home

March 10, 2021

With the approach of spring and COVID vaccines, I begin to feel more hopeful.  Maybe some day we will even feel comfortable going to a winery or brewery for a tasting.  Meanwhile, it occurred to me to mention that I have not been neglecting local wines throughout the lockdown.  Vintage Wines and Spirits, the excellent liquor store in Mattituck, not only carries a reasonable selection of local wines, they also deliver—for free, if you live in Mattituck or thereabouts.  Their web page turns out to be easy to navigate, so ever since we have been avoiding going out, we have been ordering cases of local wines and liquor for delivery.

One delivery made me appreciate how nice it is to live in a small town.  As we unpacked our case, I realized that they had given us a bottle of sweet vermouth instead of the dry vermouth my husband needs for his Gibson martinis.  Uh oh.  I called, and they said, “Oh, one of our guys lives near you.  Just leave the sweet vermouth on your porch and we’ll swap it for the dry.”  Which they did.

I’ve made a point of ordering local wines, all in the $15-25 range, which makes them appropriate for everyday drinking.  On an irregular basis, I’ll be posting notes on those wines.  Here’s the first post:

Bedell 2019 Merlot

Bedell wins in the elegant design category for their bottles and, in this case, for the wine.  Merlot is the most prevalent red out here, and it can range from tasting like Cheracol cough syrup to having just a touch of cherry flavor.  This merlot fits into the latter category. It is dry, a bit tannic, with some cherry but not overly fruity, with a long finish.  It would go well with lamb chops, but we happily drank it with our vegetarian chili on spaghetti.  It cost about $20.

Sherwood House 2016 Red Blend

If I were tasting this at the winery, I’d be asking “a blend of what?”  And sometimes the server knows, and sometimes she doesn’t.  It may include some cabernet franc, and probably some merlot, though it’s not particularly complex.  It’s dry, with soft tannins, perfectly drinkable with tonight’s pork chops, but, according to my lock-down companion, “I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.”  I think it is tasty.  It has, by the way, a screw top, which has the advantage of being easy to open.

Astor Center: Nofowineaux Ventures into Manhattan September 3, 2019

https://www.astorcenternyc.com/

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Astor Center, right around the corner from Astor’s excellent liquor store, is a well-organized and set up venue for learning about wine.  We’ve taken a couple of classes there, and always learn something new.  For example, did you know that on Crete they train the vines to grow in a circle, to conserve moisture and protect from the sea breezes in a semi-arid climate?  Next time you are in a wine store, see if you can find a bottle of Cretan wine with an illustration of circular vines.

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The array of tastes.

The classroom is set up as a two-tiered semi-circle, facing the teacher’s desk and an overhead screen where she can show maps, etc.  When you enter, you see glasses of wine set up at each place, plus water, and, in this case, a basket of bread and a little slate with three cheeses.  The cheeses were there to illustrate how food and wine complement each other, a concept with which I heartily agree.

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We learned that Piedmont is an ancient wine-growing region, with its own unique grapes and set of growing conditions.  For example, the hilly topography means that the best grapes are grown on the upper slopes, where you have the best drainage, and so on down the slope. 

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A map of the region.

We enjoyed all the wines we sampled, which means that the following list will be useful to us when we are in a wine store, wondering whether or not to buy a particular Piedmontese wine.  I’ll just check my own blog!  The prices are ones given to us by Astor as their regular prices, though on that night we could have bought any of them for 20% off.

1.        Gavi di Gavi, La Merlina, 2018     $18.96

Made from the cortese grape, the only white of our tasting was refreshing on a warm night, crisp but with some richness.  I smell wet rock and green apple, and taste citrus at the end.  The rich robiola cheese complements it.

2.       Pelaverga “Basadone,” Castello di Verduno, 2017     $23.96

With a chuckle, Tess Rose Lampert, our teacher, notes that this is a “purported aphrodisiac.”  Maybe because it is a light red, without a lot of alcohol to weigh you down?  It is dry, with a taste of fresh berries, and no tannins.  It is mouth-watering, which is an indication that it has some acidity. Pelaverga is the name of the grape.

3.       Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, Crivelli, 2017    $24.96

In this case, ruchè is the name of the grape, and its presence in the name means the wine is at least 90% made of it.  Tess suggests that this is a nice wine to serve chilled in hot weather, and that it would go well with duck or venison or mushrooms.  It is dry, with tastes of blackberry and other dark fruits, with medium tannins.

4.       Barbera d”Alba “Castle” Barale, 2017   $17.96

I’ve had Barberas before, and Tess tells us that this is a fairly consistent varietal, with acceptable bottles in the $15-20 range, and really good ones for $30.  This is another mouth-watering wine, with cherry tastes that remind me a bit of merlot.  Tess adds that it is a crowd-pleaser, and goes well with pizza, lamb, and even chili.

5.       Barbaresco “Ovello,” Gigi Bianco, 2014   $54.96

Decant this wine at least an hour before you plan to serve it, she tells us.  Made from the Nebbiolo grape, which is, we learn, the most important grape of the region, grown on the best spots, this is a dry, slightly tannic wine with a complex flavor.  She discusses the texture of the wine with us, which she describes as silky and rich, and recommends serving it with similarly rich food, such as beef tartare or home-made pasta with a meat sauce.

6.       Barolo “Ravera,” Cagliero, 2012    $64.96

Another wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, this leads me to venture the opinion that they both have a smell somewhat like licorice.  No one disagrees.  Barolos tend to be expensive, but she cautions us that because of that, more and more of it is being made, so be careful to buy it from a grower.  Delicate and complex, this doesn’t have a lot of fruit, and is somewhat austere.  Tess says it can age a long time. 

7.       Moscato d”Asti, De Forville, 2018   $14.99

Unlike all the other wines, this one isn’t poured until just before we drink it.  It is a dessert or aperitif wine, with an aroma of honey and a sweet, peachy taste, a bit frizzante.  Tess advises it is good with something salty and crunchy.  I wouldn’t buy a bottle of it, but a glass might be nice with a dish of salted nuts.

Clovis Point +Music April 13, 2019

http://www.clovispointwines.com/

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A glass of wine and some pleasant music add up to a civilized way to spend a couple of hours.

There’s something pleasantly civilized about sitting comfortably on a cool spring afternoon, with a glass of wine in hand, listening to live music.  A number of wineries offer live music, especially on the weekends.  Though Live on the Vine is a winter phenomenon, there’s plenty of opportunities to hear live music at other times of the year. 

I’ve signed up for several winery email lists, and so I had a message in my inbox about Clovis Point’s current music offerings.  Having nothing else to do on Saturday, we drove over to Clovis, ordered glasses of cabernet franc (see my tasting write-up from January 4, 2019, so see why that was our choice), and settled on their plastic-walled porch.

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A view of the porch where we sat.

We were lucky to have seats, since, as we learned after we arrived, many of the tables had been reserved.  As more people arrived, the Clovis people quickly set up outdoor tables in the grass just outside the porch.  If we go again, I would make a reservation and be sure to bring some snacks.  Every other table seemed to be enjoying snacks, from chips and dip to cheese and crackers to a whole pizza (though the web site specifies no coolers and no outside alcohol).  The winery also has a menu of nibbles.

The performer was a singer/guitarist whose stage name is Teacherman.  (He’s actually an English teacher named Dave Goldman.)  We enjoyed his set, which included songs by Billy Joel, the Beatles, and the Eagles, among others. 

If you’re interested in a similar experience, I suggest you check out the websites of any wineries you like to see if they have music scheduled.  I’ve noticed that Baiting Hollow and Martha Clara often offer music.

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Watch for signs like this if you’re interested in live music.

Surrey Lane: Serendipity November 18, 2018

Greenport is quiet in the winter, but often quite pretty.

http://www.surreylanevineyard.com/index.html

We were in Greenport to run an errand and stroll around town when my husband remembered that this was the first weekend for the Greenport Farmers’ Market, so we headed over to First and South (also the address of one of our favorite restaurants) to check it out.  We found a sparsely populated room, but with some interesting vendors:  a couple of cheese mongers, a fish market, some organic vegetables, the local jerky maker, etc.  Then we noticed a stand for Surrey Lane winery.

I’d been noticing the colorful signs for the Surrey Lane Vineyard Orchard Farm for a couple of years now, but I also knew that they didn’t have a tasting room, so this seemed like a good chance to find out about their wines.  Don, the friendly guy pouring free tastes of the wines, pointed out that he is also an artist and musician.  We noted his drawings for sale behind him, and as we left we heard him start to entertain the room with some folk-y songs. 

By the way, the link above to their website leads you to a basically blank page.  If you want more information, click the link to their Facebook page which is about all that is on the web page.

I hadn’t planned to do a tasting, so I didn’t have my notebook, and we only tried three wines, but here are my brief impressions.

1.        Sauvignon Blanc

Fairly typical mineral and citrus tastes, but also an intriguing smoky note.

2.       Trebbiano

Very good, with some lemon but also mandarin orange taste.  Dry.


3.       Merlot  $23

A good example of a North Fork merlot, dry, with tastes and smells of cherry and some nice tannins.  We bought a bottle.

If they ever open a tasting room I’ll be sure to check out the rest of their offerings.

Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?            October 27, 2017

Diliberto Winery:  Pizza Parlor or Winery?

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The entrance to the indoor space. They also have an outdoor patio.

 

http://dilibertowinery.com/

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.

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I waited until people left so I could get a good shot of the mural.

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.

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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.

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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.

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This sign reminded me of how my Italian friends like to reminisce about Sunday family dinners, always with “gravy”–a.k.a. spaghetti sauce.

  1. 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.

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Our two flights were delivered all at once, and the server carefully pointed out which wine each one was.

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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There’s some sediment on the bottom of our glass of merlot.

  1. 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.

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At Diliberto, you don’t stand at the bar for a tasting. They bring it to your seat.

  1. 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.

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The flat screen TV shows scenes of Italy. I hear the piano gets used for various musical events.

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.

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The warm weather could fool you into thinking it is still summer, until you look at the vines and see that most of the grapes have been harvested.

Hudson Valley Visit:  Nofowineaux Takes a Trip October 7-13

We decided to take a trip north to see art museums and galleries, visit relatives, and take some hikes in the beautiful Hudson Valley countryside.  No surprise, we also made time for some tastings, visiting one brewery and two wineries.

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Storm King and DIA Beacon have both been on my bucket list for a while, so now I can cross them off.  Both are well worth the visit, Storm King in particular (but be sure to go when the weather is nice, and try to arrive early in the day).  We also enjoyed sauntering up and down Beacon’s main street, popping in and out of little galleries and antique/gift shops.  The Roundhouse Hotel is pricey for the area, but comfortable and well run.

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One view from Storm King.

Another place worth traveling to is Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, New York, where we hiked around the lake with my brother and sister-in-law.  It’s a beautiful place, with the garden aspects integrated into the natural landscape, providing scenic views at every turn.  And if you’re in Kingston, you should make time for the Maritime Museum, with its emphasis on the history of the boats and industries along the Hudson River.

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Innisfree Garden, an amazingly beautiful place.

Our final hike of the week was in the John Boyd Thacher State Park outside Albany, where the scenery reminded us very much of the movie Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  Alas, we did not see him running bare-chested through the trees.  If you go, be sure to stop into the new visitor center.

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So, now on to our tastings…

Hudson Valley Brewery, October 8, 2017

Beacon, New York

http://hudsonvalleybrewery.com/about-us

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Before they put out the tables, we had trouble spotting the brewery.

Finding the brewery was a bit of a challenge, as it is located in the midst of a huge parking lot behind an apartment building, and only a small sign on the door indicates that you have arrived.  We walked past before they opened, and then when we returned there were picnic tables set up outside and the garage-style door had been swung open.  Inside, it is very industrial chic, reminding us that Beacon is sometimes referred to as “Brooklyn north.”  The bar is not very long, so we decided to take our tastes to a picnic table across from it.  We would have sat outside, but all those tables were filled, primarily with a young crowd.

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Industrial chic room

They offer eight different beers, a four-ounce pour in attractive stemmed glasses at $2-$3 per taste.  The chipper server informed us that they only give two tastes per person per time at the bar, so we each took two and then returned for the final four.  We left our credit card to run a tab, thinking we would get a whole glass of whichever beer we liked best, but as it happened there were none we liked enough to get a glass of.  Their beers generally have a sour, fruity flavor profile, which is not a taste I like.

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  1. Pillow Hat IPA

The aroma is very grapefruity, with a touch of something funky.  The taste is super citrusy, and it is the kind of beer I could see downing on a hot day after working in the garden.

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Our second group of tastes

  1. Feel No Way Pilsner

Cement basement aroma, with a touch of sauerkraut.  The taste is sour, oaty and grainy, and reminds my husband of Kix cereal!

  1. Little Memory IPA

This one also smells like grapefruit juice, plus pineapple juice.  I dislike it so much that we don’t finish the taste. It is sour but also fruity.

  1. Plateaux IPA

Okay, this one we decide is like a beery orange juice or an over the hill cider that has gone sour.  If you don’t actually like beer, you might drink this with a burger.

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Our first group of tastes

  1. Amulet Sour Farmhouse

Blueberry pie aroma?  Certainly fruity.  The taste reminds me of very sour candy.  I say bleh; my husband says maybe after a run.  I’d rather drink water in that case!

  1. Flying Colors Sour Farmhouse

By this time, we have invested $2 in a bag of cracked pepper and sea salt chips, which helps us get through the tasting.  This is another fruity-tooty beer, and rather sweet.  As we discuss the tastes, my tasting buddy comments that we are treating this more like a wine tasting in terms of all the aromas and flavors we are finding, which is true.

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  1. Phase Delay Sour Farmhouse

This one smells like an IPA, very citrusy, and tastes rather like sucking on a lemon.  Super sour, say my notes.  At least this one is not objectionably sweet, and is drinkable if what you want is a beer-like lemonade.

  1. Silhouette Brunch Style Sour Beer

Their own tasting notes compare this to a Tropicana juice box, though I again think it resembles a sweet and sour lemonade.  I find it barely potable, and, as with several of the other beers, we don’t finish our taste.

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There are snacks one can buy. Our little bag of chips cost $2.

Reasons to visit:  you’re in Beacon and you want to go to a beer tasting (but I wish we had tried the other brewery in town); you don’t actually like beer that tastes like beer.  That evening we had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant on Main Street which had Singha beer on tap, and much preferred that to any of the beers we had at Hudson Valley.

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Benmarl Winery October 9, 2017

Marlboro, New York

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Entrance to Benmarl winery

http://benmarl.com/

Finding Benmarl Winery would also have been a challenge, if not for Google maps, which easily directed us to this mountain-top site, about twenty minutes outside of Beacon.  They are part of the Shawangunk Wine Trail (who knew?), which includes about fifteen wineries along the Shawangunk Mountains.  We considered visiting one or two more, but many of them were closed on Monday, and others were a bit further than we wanted to venture on this rainy, foggy afternoon.

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Resident kitty

Benmarl has a pleasantly rustic tasting room, and the servers were enthusiastic and chatty.  Outside we noted a large tent set-up, and learned that the day before they had had a special grape-stomping event.  Oh my.  Our server informed us that “Benmarl” means “Hill of Slate,” and the farm is allegedly the “oldest vineyard in America.”  On their 37 acres they grow Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Muscat, then get the rest of their grapes from the Finger Lakes and…Long Island!  The North Fork, to be exact.  Ha.  I had said as we were on our way there that I was interested in comparing their wines to Long Island wines, but, no surprise, they tasted rather familiar.

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For $10 you get to try six (out of 17 or more—they were out of some) of their wines, and since the pour was rather small for a shared tasting and I was curious to try it, we paid an additional couple of dollars to try the Baco Noir.  If you want to keep your glass, your tasting is $12.

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There were lots of options on the menu.

  1. 2016 Sauvignon Blanc   $20

The grapes for this wine are from the North Fork, and it has the characteristic honeysuckle aroma and a taste that combines citrus and minerality.  Good, though a tad sweeter than I like.

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  1. 2016 Stainless Steel Chardonnay $15

Our server told us about how she likes to recommend this wine to anyone who insists they don’t like chardonnay, since what they don’t like is probably the oak-aged buttery California style of chard.  We agree, and like this citrusy light white, with flavors of gooseberry and mineral.  Quite pleasant.  We buy a bottle, which matches well with a pasta and salmon dish my sister-in-law makes for us when we arrive at their house.  These grapes are from Seneca Lake.

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  1. 2016 Traminette $18

This is one of their sweeter wines, but not cloyingly so, with a candy aroma and some tropical fruit tastes.  I could see having it with spicy food.  Finger Lakes grapes.

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  1. 2016 Merlot $20

As we switch to the reds, she gives the glass a quick rinse with some of the wine.  This, I observe, tastes very like a North Fork merlot.  Not surprisingly, since that is where the grapes come from.  You can smell the oak (aged 16 months in French oak) and cherry, and it also has lots of cherry taste, plus maybe a bit of tobacco.

  1. 2015 Slate Hill Red $20

A Bordeaux blend, this is 48% North Fork merlot, 42% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 10% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak.  The aroma is fruity, but also mushroomy, with a hint of something chemical—but that may be due to the cellar, the door to which was opened behind us as we stood there, and from which emanated a basement/chemical smell.  In any event, we didn’t much care for this wine, which had a sour aftertaste and not a lot of fruit.

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  1. 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve $33

Another blend, this is 30% North Fork merlot, 20% Finger Lakes cabernet franc, and 50% North Fork cabernet sauvignon, aged 24 months.  We like it much better than the Slate Hill.  It has lots of fruit—dark plums, cherry, blackberry, coffee—and is pleasantly tannic and dry.

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  1. 2015 Baco Noir $35

I really wanted to try a wine made from estate-grown grapes, and this is all theirs, from vines first planted in 1958.  The aroma is great, with lots of fruit, very plummy, but the taste does not have as much fruit as the smell promised.  It is dry and tannic, but not particularly complex.

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Reasons to visit:  you are traveling up the Hudson Valley and want to do a wine tasting; the sauvignon blanc, stainless steel chardonnay, merlot, and Proprietor’s Reserve; pretty reasonable prices for a small winery; beautiful mountain setting; you want to support a winery that practices “sustainable” agriculture, with no spraying.

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Millbrook Vineyards and Winery October 11, 2017

Millbrook, New York

http://www.millbrookwine.com/

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After the flatness of Long Island, it was refreshing to be in the Catskill Mountains.  We enjoyed the various vistas as we traveled the back roads with my brother and sister-in-law to this winery with its spectacular views over the hills.  Although we felt we had gone rather far off the “beaten path,” a busload of tourists who arrived shortly after we did showed us that we were not as isolated as it had seemed.  Fortunately, Millbrook is well set up to handle a crowd, and we enjoyed our tasting.

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This is only one small part of the winery’s space.

Our bright and well-informed server informed us that John S. Dyson, the founder of the vineyard, was responsible for the “I (heart) NY” logo, which also appears on their glasses (which you get to keep after your tasting).  In addition to the property in Millbrook, the winery also owns vineyards in California (fortunately so far not affected by the fires) and Italy, which expands the varieties of wine they can offer.  One challenge of growing wines this far north is the winter.  They can get temperatures as low as minus fourteen, and anything lower than minus five can give certain grape vines trouble.

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A couple of the wines we did not get to try.

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The shop has a few items, many from Italy.

The Millbrook building is large and attractive, with various areas, including an upstairs lounge and balcony, where one can (and we did) take a bottle or glasses and look out over the scenery while sipping.  Not all of their wines are available for tasting every day, and on this week day our only option was the Portfolio Tasting, of six wines for $12.50.  You pay the cashier when you enter, and then are assigned a spot at one of the bars.

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  1. 2016 Hunt Country White          $16

This is their white blend, a mixture of riesling, tocai friulano, traminette, and pinot grigio, some of which comes from California.  The aroma is of apricots and minerals, and it tastes quite good, of peaches and melon, with a nice long finish.  My brother characterizes it as a “backyard wine,” and my sister-in-law says she has “no complaints.”

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  1. 2016 Tocai Friulano Proprietor’s Special Reserve $18

According to our server, Millbrook was the first winery in the United States to grow this particular grape, which is related to sauvignon blanc.  We like it very much, with its aroma of roasted pears and soft tastes of pears and red grapefruit.  I think it is softer than an Italian tocai, which is flintier, but we like it enough to buy a bottle to take home.

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I peeked into a room where they store wine.

  1. 2015 Chardonnay $18

Just when I think I’ll finally get to compare an upstate chard with a North Fork chard, we are told that one third of the grapes for this wine come from Pellegrini Vineyard on the North Fork!  Other grapes come from the Finger Lakes and from Millbrook’s estate.  In any event, it is a typical not-too-oaky oaked chardonnay.

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  1. 2014 Villa Pillo Borgoforte $19

In case you’re wondering about the Italian name, it comes from Millbrook’s Italian vineyard near San Gimignano, a fascinating town not far from Florence.  This, we are told, is a “Super Tuscan,”  (whenever I hear that term I picture a wine bottle with a heroic cape flying out behind it), a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot grapes.  In any event, it is delicious, with lovely fruit aromas and complex tastes including dark fruits, tobacco, and more.  It is dry and tannic, and we buy two bottles, one to give to my other brother and another to bring to our daughter’s house when we go there for dinner.

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Italian wine in a New York State winery? Yes, when the owner of the winery also owns property in Tuscany.

  1. Hunt Country Red $18

Since this is their blend, it changes year to year, and the current iteration is a mix of 55% cabernet franc, 40% merlot, and 5% syrah, with again some grapes coming from California.  The server says he defines this wine as a wine to have on “any day that ends with a y.”  Ha.  It is their top selling red, and we can see why, as it is an easy to drink, fruity red, with lots of cabernet franc flavors like blueberry and plums.  I say a good pizza wine, and my brother says “good with stuff.”

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Looks like a hunt on the label…

  1. 2013 Merlot Proprietor’s Special Reserve $25

Pellegrini strikes again—all the grapes for this wine are from there.  We decide this is a wine that needs to be served with food, and just then our server brings out a little plate of bread cubes and olive oil (which they just happen to sell there).  Definitely better with food, but still rather earthy, with a chemical basement smell.  Not our favorite.

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We had the upstairs lounge to ourselves.

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The view from the upstairs balcony

Reasons to visit:  you are in the Catskills and you’d like to find a nice winery for a tasting; the Tocai Friulano, the Villa Pillo Borgoforte, the Hunt Country Red; a pleasant outdoor upstairs balcony where you can sip a glass of wine while looking at beautiful scenery.

Roanoke Vineyards: Sipping and Shopping           August 20, 2017

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

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The view out the door to lovely Love Lane.

Roanoke Vineyards has a tasting room conveniently located on Love Lane in Mattituck, so you can browse the shops before or after your tasting.  The shops include the excellent Love Lane Cheese Shop, the Sweet Shop, a toy store, a yarn store, an art gallery/framing store, a pet accessory store, a dress shop, Orlovsky’s Hardware store, Lombardi’s Market, and several restaurants.  We decided to celebrate having seen a 70% solar eclipse with a wine tasting, while several members of our party (two of whom were too young to drink) cruised the shops.  By the way, although there is parking on Love Lane, there is also ample free parking in the town lot to the west of the street.

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One view of the tasting room.

The tasting room is small but attractive, and is augmented in warm weather by an enclosed patio in the back.  We stood at the bar, which allowed us to chat with the very personable server.  The menu offered two main options:  The Summer Flight, of four wines for $14, or the Special Flight, of three wines for $12.  The three of us decided to share one of each.  The wines from the Special Flight are marked with an *. We also noted that the tasting room sells bottles of wine from two South Fork wineries—Channing Daughters and Wölffer Estates—and Red Hook.  Good to know, since it is sometimes hard to find their wines in stores.

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The back yard patio.

  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc           $26

We started out with this steel fermented white, tart and spicy with some creaminess.  We had an amusing discussion with the server over the aroma of cat pee, which I would also describe as the smell you sometimes get when you have kept flowers in water for too long.  Fortunately, the wine does not taste like the smell.

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  1. *2016 R.V. The Wild     $22

Wild refers to the use of “wild,” or indigenous yeast, or in other words the yeast that just occurs naturally, rather than a purchased yeast.  I would imagine that it takes some courage to do this, since you risk that the wine might not come out well.  Happily, this chardonnay did, with an aroma of gooseberry and a rather nutty taste—as in it tastes like nuts.  We all like it, and our son-in-law buys a bottle to take home.

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  1. 2016 Infinite Possibility $22

This one is also delicious, a blend of 66% chardonnay, 25% sauvignon blanc, 5% viognier and 5% albariño.  We taste pineapple and honeydew in this steel fermented white.  Our relative notes that this is the type of wine, “I could drink all day.”  Perfect summer white.

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  1. *2014 Single Acre Merlot $45

All the grapes for this merlot come from one particular acre, so it has a limited production, and all the pruning, etc., is done by hand.  It has the typical merlot cherry aroma and flavor.  Nice, but not worth a fuss.

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  1. Colorfield   $26

Extra!  Noting my note-taking, and our engagement with the wines, the server says we need to try this one, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot blanc that is not on the menu.  It is light and dry, and, we agree, another wine one could sip “all day.”

  1. 2015 R.V. ARC $34

Arc?  Why?  The server is not sure why this blend of 72% estate cabernet franc and 28% merlot has this name, but by the next wine, we have a theory.  In any event, this is a dry, pleasant red that would go well with burgers.  It has just a touch of cherry taste, plus blackberry and blueberry.

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  1. *2014 Prime Number   $59

Okay, there is a definite theme of mathematic-inspired names.  The server notes that a retired teacher works for the winery, writing copy for the menu and helping come up with names.  We theorize that the teacher must have been a math teacher, and our son-in-law buys a bottle for his father, who is both a retired math teacher and an oenophile.  Perfect!  We decide that he should cellar this wine, which has the types of tannins that make us think it would age well, though now it is “too tight” and “closed.”  A blend of 82% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot, it had some interesting layers of flavor.  I’d like to taste it in a few years (hint!).

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  1. 2014 R.V. Cabernet Sauvignon   $45

And here’s another wine that we decide would benefit from some aging—and we buy a bottle to store in our cellar.  The aroma is slightly earthy, but mainly plummy, as is the taste.  We tell our companion about how early on so many of the wines out here tasted earthy or barnyard-y, a trait the winemakers seem to have succeeded in ameliorating.

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As you can see from this list, you can buy wines from a number of different wineries at Roanoke’s Love Lane tasting room.

Reasons to visit:  you want to do some shopping on Love Lane and need a respite; The Wild, Infinite Possibility, Prime Number, Cabernet Sauvignon; the ability to buy wines from Channing Daughters, Wölffer Estates, and Red Hook; a pleasantly intimate tasting room.

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Bedell Cellars: Artistic Elegance  July 6, 2017

https://www.bedellcellars.com/

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The weather man was predicting rain, so we decided to take our guests to Bedell, rather than opt for a winery where we would sit outside.  As it happened, the sun came out, but we did not regret our choice.  Bedell has some lovely and interesting wines, and the most artistic labels on Long Island.  As we’ve been told before by servers, the owner is on the board of the Museum of Modern Art, and he commissions labels from various modern artists.  Given the prices on the wines, maybe they could include little reproductions of the artwork with the purchase of each bottle!

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Each label is also a work of art.

The tasting room is small and simply elegant, with a high ceiling and a black and white color scheme. There is also a covered porch to one side.  We settled down at a table for four and perused the flight menu—which didn’t take long, as they have simplified their options.  Now there is only one choice—a flight of five wines for $20.  Each couple opted to share a tasting, which worked out fine.  They also have a small snack menu, with one unusual choice:  an individual serving of North Fork honey.  We had brought some mixed nuts, which helped us appreciate at least one of the wines, as you will see.

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Their menu of snacks.

  1. Sparkling Rosé 2016      $45

What a perfect way to start our tasting, especially since we were also celebrating my husband’s birthday.  A pretty pink—“Nice color for a bridesmaid’s dress,” opined our friend—with an aroma of strawberries, this is made from a mixture of 60% merlot and 40% cabernet sauvignon.  Unlike the sparkling white we had here last time, this is made by injecting CO2, not by the méthode champenoise.  While not complex, the taste is delicious, crisp and dry and fruity.  One of us threatened to drink a whole bottle…

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  1. Taste White 2015 $50

Our server informed us that this was the “wine of the month,” and was therefore on sale at half price.  Noting the vintage, I opined that they wanted to clear out the stock to make space for a newer wine, as many whites are better drunk young, not aged.  Both the blend of grapes and the aroma intrigued us.  It is a combination of 65% albariño, plus chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, and is steel fermented.  We kept sniffing and discussing the smell, which we described variously as mineral, burnt cork, funky, and garden mulch.  The taste was equally complicated, with fruit, mineral, metal, and citrus notes.  We liked it, but were wondering about food pairings, since it has an unusual flavor and would overwhelm something delicate, like sole.  I’m thinking it might have gone well with the grilled swordfish topped with tomato relish my friend had later for dinner at ALure.

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  1. Gallery 2014 $75

That’s quite a price for a Long Island white, and though we enjoyed the wine we did not feel it was worth it.  A combination of 65% chardonnay and 25% viognier aged in oak, plus 10% steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, we thought it was slightly reminiscent of a California chardonnay, though not as oaky.  The taste was complex, with notes of citrus and salt and mineral and some butterscotch.  We felt it was a bit too sweet, though I think that may have been the fruitiness rather than the sweetness.  When we ate some nuts and then tasted it again, we liked it better, so it is definitely a food wine.

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There are not many wineries where the wine labels could also double as art museum labels.

  1. Merlot 2014 $35

We got clean glasses for the reds.  Mmm, this smelled delicious, with lots of fruity, plummy, cherry aromas.  It also tasted quite good, dry, but with lots of fruit and a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  Nice tannins.  It might age well.  You could have this with steak and be quite happy.  Or bison, which, as our server informed us, is what it was paired with in 2009 at a Presidential inauguration lunch.

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  1. Cabernet Franc 2014 $45

“This sends nine months in neutral oak,” our server told us, and we felt pretty neutral about the wine as well.  Just okay, was my judgement.  Definitely tasted red plums and other fruits in this dry red, but it was not as full-bodied as the merlot, which we all preferred.

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One side of the bar.

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A table, with a view out to the porch.

Reasons to visit:  attractive tasting room and covered porch; the pretty labels; the Sparkling Rosé, the Taste White, and the Merlot.  I also noted a trend I’ve seen in more and more tasting rooms—you can buy a bottle to drink there, but it will cost you more than if you buy a bottle to take home.  $10 more in this case!

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