Pellegrini: Club Time Again

September 8, 2021

Many wineries offer visitors the opportunity to join their wine club.  We have limited ourselves to two—Channing Daughters and Pellegrini—but I’ve often read the brochures of other places.  I can certainly see the advantages of wine clubs, both for the members and the wineries.  As a member, you get a regular—usually quarterly—supply of wines from a winery you have liked, plus various perks, including free tastings and/or glasses of wine, reduced prices on bottles, and invitations to or reduced prices on various events at your chosen winery, such as musical performances or catered meals.  And the winery, obviously, has a guaranteed income stream, plus a loyal following.  Win/win.

 

Living on the North Fork offers the added convenience of needing only a short drive to pick up one’s wine club selections—though I think all of them also will mail your selections to you, subject to the laws in your state. 

Another perk of living on the North Fork is the fascination of watching the vines go from winter dormancy to spring bud break to fall ripening.  Right now, the vines are beautiful.  The little newsletter which came with our club choices describes what is happening to the grapes now:

“Veraison refers to the time when the grapes begin turning color and the vines start to transport their energy from their roots into the grapes.  During this period of ripening, the acid levels in the grapes fall (particularly malic acid which leaves tartaric acid as the primary acid) and hexose sugars (glucose, fructose) begin to accumulate in the grape.  The chlorophyll in the berries is replaced by carotenoids in white varieties and xanthophylls in the reds.  The end result is that the fruit begins to get more flavorful, colorful, concentrated, and sweeter, which is crucial to making delicious wine!”

We took our four tastes to what we now think of as “our” table, out on the front lawn, on this warm, breezy day, and had a pleasant time, despite the traffic going by on Main Road.  Two other small groups sat nearby, drinking glasses of wine.  The courtyard was tented yet again, and the server noted they’d had two weddings the past weekend, and another was scheduled for the weekend to come.  We took care to try wines we’d not had the last time—easy given the menu of fourteen wines.

*2019 Gewürztraminer $24.99

This is probably the hardest wine to spell, and also one that is not always easy to like.  I liked this one, but my tasting buddy did not, proclaiming it “too sweet.”  I insisted that what he was calling sweet was actually fruitiness, and said I tasted gooseberries.  He disclaimed any knowledge of what gooseberries taste like.  We both agreed that the aroma was agreeably fruity, and there was a definite citrus flavor, like a sweetish lemon.  I noted some minerality on the finish, and that it would be good with spicy food.

*2020 REJOYCE $24.99

A blend of 65% chardonnay and 35% sauvignon blanc, this wine has a pleasant smell of freshly cut grass plus metal.  It’s definitely not sweet, with flavors of lemon (a lot) and cucumber.  It would be good with oysters or clams.

*2015 Cabernet Sauvignon         $69.99

According to the description on the placemat, this wine spends 19 months in French oak—which might have been a bit too much.  It is quite oaky, with some berry taste, but I compared it to chewing on tree bark.  My husband said it was “tangy.”  The aroma is of sweet berries and tobacco.  Maybe it needs to age longer.

*2020 East End Select Barbeque Red      $24.99

Made from 100% petit verdot grapes, but aged in steel rather than oak, this is, as the name suggests, intended as a more casual wine.  I taste berries and plums, and assert it is dry.  My tasting buddy and I diverge again, as he insists it is too sweet.  I argue that he’s seeing fruit, once again, as sweetness.  “Not in my mouth!” he replies.  Well, that’s wine tasting for you.  Disagreement is perfectly acceptable.  He also notes that he could see drinking this with cheese during cocktail hour, but not with a meal.

Reasons to visit:  good all-around winery; snacks allowed; they also sell the North Fork merlot, chardonnay, and rosé, all well-priced reliable everyday wines ($30 for three big bottles); the gewürztraminer, REJOYCE, and BBQ Red.

Bridge Lane: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

September 3, 2021

As though to compensate for all the heat and rain we encountered this summer, September is starting out pleasantly warm and dry.  It was a perfect day to go to a winery and sit outside, and, after some discussion and viewing of websites, we and our visitors decided to go to a winery in our immediate neighborhood, Bridge Lane.  Though we had all been there several times in the past, we hadn’t visited in a few years, and notably not since they did a lovely renovation of their outdoor area, with rainbow-striped tables, a pebbled surface, comfy Adirondack chairs, and a couple of shuffleboard courts.  A wooden wall and evergreen trees help screen the area from the cars whizzing past on Sound Avenue. 

Bridge Lane has several aspects that made it a good choice for us, besides its proximity.  It welcomes children, at least during the week, and has ample outdoor space for them to roam, and it also allows you to bring your own snacks.  By the way, it is right across Cox Neck Lane from a little shopping center which includes Wendy’s Deli, Pizza Rita (which has fantastic thin-crust gourmet pizzas, but is only open Thursday-Sunday—and not always then, check their Facebook page to be sure they’re not off doing a catering job), and Ali Katz Kitchen, which also has limited hours but has delicious baked goods as well as other interesting foods, such as quiche.  I think all of those places should work out a deal with Bridge Lane to offer coupons worth something off their food if you are doing a tasting or sitting there with a glass or bottle or can of wine! 

Yes, I did say can.  In what is becoming something of a trend out here, a number of wineries are offering their wines in cans, which hold about two glasses.  Bridge Lane goes further, and also offers boxes and even kegs of their wine.  This fits with their overall philosophy, which is that wine should be a fun, casual, inexpensive drink; all the bottles are $20 each.  Interestingly, they are affiliated with Lieb Cellars, which takes their wine very seriously. 

A few more comments—our visit was enhanced by the presence of Bunker, a sweet and friendly little white poodle, property of our server, who noted that they do allow dogs on the property, unlike many other wineries.  The children in our party fell in love with Bunker.  And in a nice touch, the server brought out to the tables bottles of water with paper cups.  They do have live music on weekends, but this afternoon recorded music of the Billy Joel type provided some background sounds.

If you look over the fence at the back of the tasting room and see huge metal vats, know they are not just there for Bridge Lane wines (though our server did inform us that they sell more wine than most other wineries on the North Fork).   The site also houses Premium Wine Group, which does the winemaking for a number of the smaller vineyards who don’t have their own winemaking equipment.

A tasting consists of all five of their wines for $15, and the pour is quite generous, so my tasting buddy and I were glad we had opted to share.  Our guests bought boxes of the white merlot, the chardonnay, and the red blend to take home.

*White Merlot

I liked this the best of the wines.  It is a light, citrusy, floral white, a good summer sipper, and would have gone well with the oysters from Braun’s we had the night before.

*Sauvignon Blanc

The aroma of this wine is one I don’t care for, as it has hints of kerosene. Also a scent of cut grass.  Otherwise, this is a pleasantly dry white, which would go well with scallops or a fish in a creamy sauce.

*Chardonnay

This wine gave me the opportunity to teach some of the party the word petrichor, which is the scent of earth after rain—or that smell you get in the City when you walk past an apartment building on a hot day and the doorman is out there washing off the sidewalk.  One guest and I agreed that the taste of this was like a not-quite-ripe nectarine or yellow plum, with some pleasant minerality.  Again, this is a light, dry wine.

*Rosé

A couple of days ago we had local duck breast and drank a Channing Daughters rosé made from syrah grapes with it.  This rosé is not nearly as tasty.  It has a slight strawberry aroma, and is extremely light and dry, without much fruit flavor.  “It would be good in a kir,” observed one guest.

*Red Blend

So if you got a pizza from Pizza Rita, this would be the perfect wine to drink with it.  Like all the other wines, it is light and dry and easy to drink; it’s a good pizza/pasta wine.  It’s a good red for non-red-wine drinkers.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant outdoor seating areas; reasonably priced wine and tasting, with a generous pour; the white merlot, the chardonnay, and the red blend; snacks are allowed; dogs are allowed; children are allowed; Bunker!

Osprey’s Dominion: Easy to Drink

July 1, 2021

We celebrated summer by heading to Osprey’s Dominion, after spotting an osprey on his or her nest and taking it as an omen.  On this warm summer early afternoon, the capacious tasting room was empty, and only a couple of tables were occupied outside on the pleasant patio. They still seem to be operating on the pandemic model, with a bunch of tables in the tasting room taken up by a varied selection of gift items, many of them unrelated to wine.  Not sure why.

In general, we like their wines, and during lockdown we drank many bottles of their Richmond Creek label, a very reasonably priced and quite drinkable collection.  So this time we opted for other wines on their flight menu. 

Two hard-working gentlemen (they were busy taking phone reservations for groups and unpacking boxes, in addition to serving flights) behind the bar handed us a menu and a paper with circles, where we were to specify which wines we wanted in our flight.  I know to order tastes from lightest or driest to most flavorful, but not everyone does, so it’s too bad no guidance was offered.  The problem is, if you taste, for example, a wine like an oaked chardonnay before a light wine like their sauvignon blanc, the sauv will seem to have no taste. The tastings are $15 for five or $10 for three, your choice from a menu of 23 wines.  They also offer wines by the glass, and a small menu of snack items. One of those was a Boar’s Head platter, of sliced meats and chips, which we know was fresh because the truck had just pulled up outside.  However, we asked about chips, which they did not have, and instead offered us bags of Wheat Thins, which we took, and for which they did not charge us.  They do still allow you to bring your own picnic, and, apparently, dog, since we saw one on the patio.

Ten wines seemed like more than we wanted to drink, so we opted for two tastings, one of five and one of three.  As it happened, the tastes were so small that I think we could have handled five and five.  We carried our trays outside, where a slight breeze made it pleasant, as we listened to soft rock of the James Taylor variety on the loudspeakers.  They have a gazebo out in the garden, labeled cutely “Grand Ole Osprey,” where they have live music on the weekends and Friday evenings.

  1.  2020 Sauvignon Blanc   $19

Our first taste was a perfect summer sipper, their light pleasant steel-fermented sauvignon blanc.  It has a sweet, flowery aroma and tastes of slightly sweetened lime.

  • 2014 Gewurztraminer   $19

You never know what you’re going to get with a gewurtz, as I’ve had both sweet and dry varieties.  This one is not sweet.  It has a bit of the cat pee smell one often encounters, plus some minerality.  My tasting buddy summed it up by saying it “wants to be sweet but isn’t.” Interesting.

  • 2019 Rosé          $19

Many rosés have lovely aromas of strawberries or other fruit, but this one has almost no smell.  However, it is a very drinkable dry rosé, with a touch of citrus, maybe Meyer lemon, and some tropical fruit, perhaps guava.

  •  2012 Merlot     $22

There are many, many merlots on the North Fork, and this one is similar to most, with its cherry aroma, but with another taste we couldn’t quite identify. It’s a simple, casual red, with some tannins. 

  • 2015 Cabernet Franc      $24

I insist this smells like macerated blackberries, at which my husband shrugs.  It is dry, with soft tannins, another easy-to-drink wine.  My husband says “tangy,” at which I shrug.

  • 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon           $22

We agree we like this one better, from the aroma of berries and flowers to the flavor of mixed berries.  Lots of tannins, so perhaps it could age even more. 

  • 2017 Malbec     $30

Despite the higher price, we would choose any of the preceding reds over this one, which we decide needs more oomph.  My tasting buddy observes that he wouldn’t have thought it was a malbec.  On the other hand, it is another drinkable wine.

  • 2014 Meritage “Flight”  $30

This is a blend, probably of cabernet franc and merlot, and a banner over the bar boasts that it has won awards, so I order it, though originally I was going to end with the petit verdot.  The aroma includes cherry and tobacco, and it tastes of cherries and oak, with more taste than smell.  This is one more in the list of unchallenging, easy-to-drink wines.

Reasons to visit: large tasting room and outside patio areas; all the wines are drinkable, if unchallenging; they allow you to bring a picnic and your pooch (outside), which many places no longer do; music on the weekends; we liked the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet sauvignon best.

Doggie!
I assume this outdoor bar is in anticipation of bigger crowds.

Croteaux: Back to the Garden

June 24, 2021

Friends often ask me which wineries they should go to.  My answer always is, it depends on what you like, but if they want to sit outside in a pretty setting and feel relaxed, Croteaux is my go-to recommendation.  Since I recommend it so frequently, I felt I needed to visit it early on in my renewed project to visit all the wineries!  As my husband likes to say, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Well, I am happy to report that Croteaux continues to be a good choice for the above reasons.  (I was concerned because the winery has new ownership.)

It was another beautiful June day, and we started by running an errand in Greenport and walking around town.  As they did last summer, the town has partially blocked off Front Street so that restaurants and stores can expand their seating and displays.  Lots of outdoor tables and minimal traffic make eating outside here an attractive prospect.  We will be back! 

Front Street in Greenport is now lined with outdoor tables.

The next decision was where to go for a tasting.  According to their website, we did not need a reservation for Croteaux, so off we went.  They have slightly revamped their entry and exit procedures, so you enter directly from the parking lot via the opening in a barn building, where a pleasant young woman walked us to a table.  She brought with her a bottle of water and two glasses, a nice touch. We sipped the water as we waited a short time for our waitress—it is all table service. When you leave and it’s time to pay, you go through a little vestibule which used to be both the exit and entrance, and would get quite crowded, but now was easy to navigate.  Checks are handed out tied to clam or oyster shells, a smart move, since this keeps them from blowing away.

The tasting menu, accessed via a QR code on the table, offered two choices—in addition to individual glasses.  You can try all six of their still rosés for $25, or their three sparkling rosés for $20.  They only make rosés, by the way.  We opted to share the still wines, plus a basket of sliced baguette and a soft Boursin-like cheese for $12, since it was lunch time.  They have a nice little menu of snacks, including some more substantial offerings like lobster roll sliders for $22 for two servings.  (The still wines are $35-$39 per bottle, and sparklers $45-$49.)

Our tastes arrived, three glasses each in two pottery saucers, with the varieties listed beneath the glasses, and we were instructed to taste counterclockwise from a particular spot—or not, depending on what we liked to do!  But I would recommend going in that order, from lightest to strongest, since otherwise a light wine might be overshadowed by a more forceful cousin.  As we sipped and munched, enjoying both our drinks and our snack, we watched the antics of two little dogs which a couple at a nearby table had brought with them.

  1.  Chloe

This is their lightest wine, barely tinged with pink, and is described on the menu as a “white wine drinker’s rosé,” which I can see.  It smells like honeysuckle, and has nice tropical fruit flavors.

  • Merlot 3

The name of this and a couple of other wines refers to the clone of merlot used to make them.  This has a flowery aroma that is quite pleasant, and is also tasty.  Like all their rosés, it is dry, in the French style.  I was trying to decide what I tasted when my tasting buddy suggested mandarin oranges.  Exactly.

  • Merlot 181

Unlike the previous two, this wine has barely any aroma.  It is light and refreshing, a good sipper for a warm day, with a slight strawberry taste and lots of minerality.

  • Merlot Sauvage

If you know French, you may wonder what could be wild about a wine.  The answer is, the yeast.  Instead of using the known quantity of a yeast they have bought, winemakers will sometimes use the indigenous yeast which is found on all grapes, giving them less control over the final product but often delicious results.  Channing Daughters makes a wine they call L’Enfant Sauvage, which uses wild yeast.  This one has a woodsy aroma, a light pink color, and a definite taste of watermelon (which reminded me of a recent taste I had of watermelon infused with a Negroni).  Mouth-watering.

  • Merlot 314

Not sure why, but the menu labels this “bistro-style.”  This is my husband’s least favorite of the day, though it is certainly drinkable.  It has hints of lemon/lime and tangerine.

  • Jolie

Pretty is an apt name for this deep pink wine, with lots of strawberry aroma and taste.  It has more depth than the other rosés, with touches of minerals and herbs, and reminded me of strawberries macerated with white wine.  The menu calls it a “red wine lover’s rosé.”

Reasons to visit: lovely garden setting; pleasant laid-back vibe (the speakers were playing reggae-inflected and soft rock music while we were there); lots of easy-to-drink rosés; nice menu of snacks; I especially liked the Chloe, the Sauvage, and the Jolie; dogs!

Pellegrini: In the Club

June 17, 2021

Quite a few years ago, on a gray wine-soaked winter afternoon, we joined the Pellegrini wine club, for reds only, because they tended to make better reds than some of the other East End wineries.  In general, that still holds true, though we were a bit disappointed in the current selections.  Due to the pandemic, we had not done a tasting at Pellegrini for two years, but we’ve been picking up our wine club bottles regularly, and most of what we’ve gotten has been fine, so I guess it was just this time’s two choices. 

As we parked in the lot, after having encountered a surprising amount of traffic, I started quoting James Russell Lowell’s famous lines, “And what is so rare as a day in June?/Then, if ever, come perfect days,” and commenting that it was about time they came true.  What a month, with the weather alternating between rainy and chilly and too hot to step outside, but this day was finally fine, which is why we decided it was time to sit outside and taste some wine.  Pellegrini has a small tasting room, but a large central patio—often tented for private celebrations—and tables out on their front and back lawns.  They do allow you to bring your own snacks, and no longer serve the little bags of oyster crackers that used to come with every tasting.

Another change is that they have a set menu for a tasting, of four wines for $16:  the 2019 Rosé, 2019 Steel Chardonnay, 2018 Cabernet Franc, and 2020 Barbeque Red.  Since we are in the club, I wanted to taste the wines that were in our current shipment, and so substituted the Steakhouse Red and 2015 Petit Verdot for the reds.  (Our tasting, of course, was free.)  You used to be able to choose from a large number of wines and try six or seven of them.  Change, as they say, is the one constant.

As we approached the door, an employee greeted us and directed us to a table on the front lawn, where I seated myself with my back to the traffic.  We gave her our order, and she brought us our four tastes on a tray, atop a labeled tray liner.

  1. 2019 Rosé          $24.99

This is a 77% merlot, 23% cabernet sauvignon blend, with a slight strawberry aroma with a trace of something metallic or chemical.  It’s a dry rosé, with some tastes of pineapple, which I like.  My tasting buddy says he detects a bit of a vegetable taste.  Maybe.  Nice, but I prefer the North Fork Rosé, also made by Pellegrini, which they sell for $30 for three one-liter bottles.  And while we’re on the subject, the North Fork brand also includes a very nice chardonnay and a merlot, both very good buys and quite drinkable.

  • 2019 Steel Chardonnay $19.99

No aroma at all!  I think I prefer steel-fermented chardonnays to oak-fermented, in general, but this one is a bit too austere.  Maybe what I actually like is slightly oaked chards.  This has a lot of lemon-lime flavor, which would make it a good accompaniment to coquilles St. Jaques.  As it sits and warms up a bit, I like it better.

  • Steakhouse Red               $19.99

A blend of 72% cabernet sauvignon and 28% merlot, this is a simple, dry red that would go well with burgers or meatloaf, but is not much fun to drink on its own.  It smells better than it tastes.

  • 2015 Petit Verdot           $29.99

Sometimes I like wines made from petit verdot, and sometimes I do not.  This is an “I do not.”  The aroma is nice, brambly, with maybe a touch of salt, but the wine is very dry and tannic, with almost no fruit flavor.  My husband sums it up as, “Just a glass of wine.”  Oh well.

Reasons to go:  pleasant outdoor area and intimate tasting room; well-priced wines; you can bring a snack; drinkable wines, though we were not excited about today’s selection.

The view to the courtyard, with my mask in the foreground. On the 17th, they were still asking visitors to wear a mask inside, until they were seated, but obviously I took it off in order to taste the wine.

Rose Hill: A Rose By Any Other Name

May 21, 2021

A recent trend in the North Fork wine country is the takeover of wineries by new owners, who often change the name.  So Martha Clara is now RG/NY, and Shinn is now Rose Hill.  Pretty name.  And the new owners have made some nice changes to the place, too.  I didn’t go inside, but the outdoor patio area is lovely, paved with flagstones and shaded by big umbrellas, with one area in the sun if you are so inclined.  It was a perfect day to sit outside, brightly sunny and just breezy enough to make a sweater or sweatshirt welcome.

We were there with my brother and sister-in-law, visiting from upstate, now that we are all vaxxed.  What a delight to hug people again!  We decided to try Rose Hill because it was new, a bit off the beaten path—it’s on Oregon Road—and they serve a variety of lunchy snacks.  According to the web page, you need to make a reservation, which we did, through Open Table (one of my favorite apps), but it turned out not to be necessary.  Still, I would make reservations as long as occupancy is limited, so you don’t get turned away. 

Several hand-written signs in the parking area (which is quite small, by the way; they should consider ways to make more spaces) direct you to go around to the back for the entrance to the tasting room.  A few parking spaces are reserved for the B&B, in a house at the front of the property.  Around the back, the soft splash of fountains frames the entrance to the patio, where a server indicated we could choose any seat we wanted.  We took a nicely sized table for four, and a very pleasant young woman rushed over to clean it off before we sat down.  A nice touch—Rose Hill has continued the Shinn practice of putting large bottles of chilled water plus glasses on the table.

The menu is accessed through a QR code card on the table, and by the time a waiter came by to ask us if we’d “had time” to look at it—clearly expecting this table of people of a certain age not to know what to do with a QR code—we had read it and decided on our order.  They offer two different flights, which have one overlap, both consisting of five wines for $24, so each couple got one flight to share, which was plenty to drink.  We also got the cheese and charcuterie board for $26 and a basket of roasted sweetened nuts for $11, both of which were very good.  Another nice touch—the disposable plates are made of bamboo, which means they are recyclable. 

We had a pleasant afternoon, sitting and talking and catching up on a year’s worth of news, but our one disappointment was the wine.  No wine was undrinkable, but no wine seemed worth the cost.  Since my brother wanted to buy a couple of wines to take back as thank you gifts, we drove over the Vintage wine shop after the tasting.

Classic Flight

* 2019 Sparkling Rosé      $42

My flight started with a slight, pleasant sparkler, made with the méthode champenoise.  It has a typical bready aroma and a bit of sweetness, plus citrus.

  • 2019 Coalescence           $25

We had liked the Shinn version of this wine, by the same name, and the aroma was promising, nicely flowery.  However, this blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot blanc, riesling, and semillon lacked depth and complexity, and was very soft and light, with a bit of citrus flavor.

  • 2020 Pinot Blanc            

Again, we commented that there was “not much to it.”  The wine had aromas and tastes of mineral and unripe pear.

  • 2020 Rose Hill Rosé        $28

Both flights included this merlot-based rosé, which my brother characterized as “highly ordinary,” with a “soft mouth feel” and “very little character.”  It is a very light wine, dry, in the Provençal style. 

  • Non-vintage Red Blend                $25

Since this blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec, and cabernet franc is made with grapes from both 2017 and 2018, they call it non-vintage.  It has a very piney aroma, which my brother humorously dubbed “eau de Pine-Sol.”  A bit tannic, dry, but again, lacking depth and substance.

New Release Flight

  • 2020 First Fruit                $28

Steel-fermented sauvignon blanc, very light.

  • 2020 Concrete Blond     $42

Macari also makes a wine in a concrete “egg,” in their case a rosé, while this is a sauvignon blanc.  This wine has a lovely aroma of pear and honeysuckle, and a flowery taste, though a bit sour on the end, and has “more presence” than the first wine.

  • Rose Hill Rosé

I already talked about this one.

  • 2020 Rosé          $25

This was my favorite wine of the day, a more robust merlot-based rosé, with nice strawberry flavor and aroma.

  • 2020 Cabernet Franc      $32

Though this has some nice pomegranate flavor, overall it is rather thin, with no body.  As my brother commented, “When the best thing you can say about a tasting is that the nuts are good, you have a problem.”

Reasons to visit:  Nice location a bit off the beaten track, with a lovely outdoor patio area; good cheese and charcuterie board and roasted nuts; the 2020 Rosé, and maybe the Concrete Blond.  Most of the other wines are drinkable, but not very flavorful or complex, and we felt the price/value ratio was a bit off.  You can stay in the B&B and do tastings.

Peconic County Brewing: Another County Heard From

May 13, 2021

Riverhead is becoming quite a beer-making town, with several new breweries we have yet to visit.  Now that’s a challenge I’m happy to meet.  Our friends were still here, happily, so off we went to Riverhead, hoping to combine a tasting with lunch at one of the new breweries, Peconic County, which is located in a new building, with a deck facing the Peconic River.  (Ah, commented one friend, so that’s why the town is called river-head.  Yup.) 

PCB, as it is abbreviated (I assume they do not want to suggest any ties to the chemical.), has a lovely outdoor deck, furnished with comfy blue-upholstered chairs around large square tables, as well as less inviting metal chairs around barrels or small tables. We were lucky enough to score the blue chairs, room for four.  Leaving two of us to guard the seats, we went inside to choose our flights and order food.  Inside is less inviting.  The whole industrial vibe of breweries fascinates me.  Greenport Harbor, for example, is located in a former automobile dealership, and North Fork in a former fire house, so they come by their décor naturally, but then PCB is in a brand-new building, yet has the same industrial esthetic.  I wonder why.

Anyway, we had time to scan the menus for both beers and food while the lone server worked as fast as he could to wait on a sudden spate of customers, including a number of employees of the Riverhead Aquarium, which is right next door (A place well worth a visit, if you haven’t been there—or a return visit if you have!).  But everyone was jolly and good-natured, and we didn’t mind the wait.  A flight consists of four beers, chosen from the list of ten, served in medium-sized glasses set into a wooden carrier, with little inserts on which the server puts the number of your selection, so you know what you’re drinking.

For lunch, we ordered wings and a charcuterie and cheese platter to share, while our designated driver opted for a burger and fries and a Pepsi (no Coke…).  By the way, the “toasties” on the menu are variations on grilled cheese sandwiches.  We received a buzzer which would alert us when the food was ready, and carried our beverages outside, where we found those who had been saving seats busily shedding sweaters and sweating.  PCB needs to figure out some way to shade their lovely deck, as even on this slightly cool day it was so hot in the sun that my phone overheated. 

A little while after we began tasting our beers, the buzzer went off.  We had been warned that the wings were boneless, and in fact they were more like crispy pieces of deep-fried chicken bathed in hot sauce than traditional wings, though served with the obligatory blue cheese dip and celery sticks.  Tasty, and the hot sauce was appropriately hot, though I did need to cool down my taste buds in order to assess the rest of my beers.  The cheese-and-charcuterie platter was quite generous, and we almost didn’t finish it all.  The big juicy-looking burger received a good review, and the thin fries were nice and crispy, so lunch was certainly a success. 

We liked the beers, too, though in general we feel Greenport Harbor’s are better, and overall, these were a bit sweet for our taste. Without planning, once again my friend and I had only one overlap, so we tasted seven beers in all.

  • Dream Girl IPA

I decided I had to start with this one, since they call it their “flagship” IPA.  The menu describes it as “hoppy but smooth,” and I agree.  It’s a fairly classic IPA, but a bit sweet.

  •  Big Duck Rye Saison

If you like rye bread—which I do—you’re likely to like this saison, which is flavored with rye malt.  This is a Belgian style of beer, amber in color. My friend opined that it would work well in a stew—maybe beef carbonnades.  The name, by the way, refers to the famous Big Duck, an East End landmark currently located in Flanders.

  • Colonial Amber Lager

Again, this is a classic in its category, a bit sweet and bland—though my judgment might have been clouded by my first bite of those spicy wings.  Nice to drink, especially with food.

  • Iron Pier Rocky Road Nitro Stout

The description of this dark stout includes the warning that it contains lactose, good to know for those who are lactose intolerant.  The menu has the accurate description that it is a “marshmallow and vanilla milk stout with notes of chocolate and caramel,” and that it “doesn’t taste too thick or syrup like.”  Like the Double Ducks we had at Greenport, this is not really a drink with food stout, but would be fine as a dessert or just to sip.  The name, by the way, refers not just to Rocky Road ice cream (which includes marshmallows), but a popular Riverhead beach, called Iron Pier because it has…an iron pier.

  • Hampton Haze

I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised that this was sweet-ish, since the menu describes this IPA as “soft and fruity.”

  • Dis-Orient-Ed Double IPA

Clearly a reference to the town of Orient, the name could also be a reference to the high abv—8.2%–of this IPA.  My friend called it “very IPA-ish.”

  • Flying Point Golden Ale

Another pleasant sipper, this ale has notes of tropical fruit and a bit of sweetness.  It’s good, but I like the bitterness many beers have.  The name is a reference to a beach in Southampton.

Reasons to visit:  Lovely outdoor deck overlooking the river (but only if they put up umbrellas or awnings!); convenient location next to the Riverhead Aquarium; all the beers were quite drinkable, if not my favorite style; generous cheese-and-charcuterie platter, which included pickled Brussels sprouts, plus other good food options.

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/

IMG_7048

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.

IMG_7046

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.

IMG_7047

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. 

IMG_7050

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.