Chronicle Wines: A Family Story

August 25, 2022

The winery is in a storefront on Peconic Lane.

The last time we were at Chronicle Wines—back in 2019, when it was still called Peconic Cellar Door—the five-year-old daughter of one of the owners put in an appearance with her nanny, so it seemed like a good place to visit with a couple of granddaughters in tow.  And indeed it was.

The bar is a holdover from the Winemaker’s Studio.

Since our pre-Covid visit, Chronicle, helmed by Robin Epperson-McCarthy and Alie Shaper (both of whom were in the tasting room when we arrived, and gave us a warm welcome), has expanded into the next-door shop-front space previously occupied by Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker’s Studio.  Alie assured us that Anthony, who is the winemaker for Raphael, is still very much in the winemaking business, and continues to runs his wine club for the wines he makes separate from Raphael.  This new room is outfitted more like a lounge, with cushioned seats and small tables, plus the bar, while their original space has bigger tables.  Since there were six in our party (counting the two youngsters) we opted for the big table, promising Robin that we would ignore the stacked boxes of a recent delivery—which they soon began putting away.

The lounge area.

The tasting menu offers two options, a white and orange flight of five wines for $25, or a red and rosé flight of five tastes, also $25.  Since we wanted to try the full panoply of their wines, we decided to share one of each flight amongst the four of us, which turned out to work beautifully.  Alie brought to our table a chilled bottle of water plus a tray of empty glasses so we could share the wines without sharing a glass.  We also ordered a few snacks for the girls and ourselves—a box of cranberry almond crisps, a bag of North Fork potato chips, and a jar of olives—plus lemonades for the girls, and settled in.

Snacks!

While we waited for our flights to arrive, we examined the art on the walls, as Alie and Robin make a point of featuring local artists. Today’s paintings are by Cherryl K. Bradley. The granddaughters were quick to observe that “Queen of the Scrambled Brain” contained both a crown and some hearts, and wondered whether it showed the state of mind of someone who had difficulty with love.

The Queen of the Scrambled Brain
Follow the Sun

Both Robin and Alie stopped by our table from time to time to see if we had any questions and make sure we had everything we needed.  Although they work together, they each have their own brands of wines:  As If, Brooklyn Oenology (BOE), Chronicle, Haywater Cove, and Saltbird Cellars.  The tasting included some from each brand.

  •  2024 Chronicle Chardonnay Pét-Nat       $30

Sparkling wines are always a nice way to start a tasting, as they get one in a celebratory mood.  This one was no exception, having a pleasantly yeasty aroma, nice carbonation, and a taste we discussed as either lemon verbena or lemon pie.  One of our guests pronounced it “lively.”

  • 2018 BOE Pinot Gris        $15 (on sale)

Even though this one is on sale, we opted not to buy any, since we found it both thin and earthy, if that makes sense.  I sensed a bit of a metallic taste, or maybe minerality would be a better term.

  • 2019 Saltbird Cellar Sauvignon Blanc       $25

We sensed an aroma of lemon and green apple, and one guest opined that “it has some sort of fruit taste, but not sure which.”  We laughed over our shared tendency to guess gooseberry, though none of us is quite sure what a gooseberry tastes like.  This might go nicely with some gravlax.

  • 2014 As If Serendipity White Blend           $15

Our favorite of the whites, this is a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, lightly oaked.  It has more body than the others, with a “nice roundness,” according to one guest, and a thyme honey taste, while still being tart.  We each buy a bottle.

  • 2020 BOE “Broken Land” orange wine     $30

You may be wondering about how the granddaughters—ages eleven and eight—are occupying themselves as we sit and sip.  They have their Kindles to read and snacks to munch, but they are also taking an interest in our discussions.  They sniff the wines appreciatively, and agree or disagree with our descriptions of the aromas.  Dad asks the eight-year-old, who, with her sister, has been helping him with some amateur basement winemaking, if she knows what an orange wine is.  She confidently and immediately replies, “It’s a wine made with white wine grapes, fermented on the skins.”  Overhearing this, Alie notes that if she were eighteen she’d hire her on the spot. Meanwhile, we sip this blend of gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc, and pinot gris, and decide we like its aroma of orange blossoms or honeysuckle better than its flavor, which is a bit thin for us.

  • NV Haywater Cove Rosé               $15

Rosé makes a nice transition from whites to reds, since it is made from red wine grapes, but fermented with minimal skin contact.  This one is a blend of merlot and cabernet franc, and is very much in the Provençal tradition of light, dry rosés.  We note that it is a good wine for hot weather, and could see drinking a nice chilled glass of this on the porch.  My tasting buddy likes its strawberry aroma and flavor.

  • 2019 Saltbird Cellars “Red Skies”               $30

Though we find this blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon pleasant, we don’t feel it is a $30 bottle.  The aroma is earthy, and the wine is light, with tastes of raisins and grapefruit peel.

  • 2020 Saltbird Cellars Merlot        $27

The aroma has a slight whiff of basement, and the wine is very dry and light, with a touch of cherry flavor.  One of us suggests it would go well with roast chicken, to which I reply, “What doesn’t?”  We have some difference of opinion over this one, which one guest pronounces sophisticated, but which I find unimpressive.

  • 2017 Saltbird Cellars “Harbinger”              $36

When a wine has a non-varietal name, that often means it is a blend, which this is: merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  The night before, we bought steaks at Center Cuts and cooked them on the barbeque, so we were wondering whether any of the reds we tasted today would stand up to such steaks.  This one would not.  It has some cherry and dark fruit taste, but is again rather light, though one guest notes it has “chewy tannins.”

  • 2013 Chronicle Wines Red Blend, limited edition                              $40 (? Not sure)

Yummy aroma of dried fruits, delicious taste.  And yes, this wine could stand up to a big steak.  It has lots of dark fruit flavor, is dry, with a nice mouth feel.  This is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, syrah, and petit verdot.  We both buy a bottle.

Reasons to visit:  Alie and Robin are eager to please, and will tell you all about their wines; pleasant small tasting room; the Pét-Nat, the As If Serendipity white blend, the Haywater Cove Rosé, and the Chronicle Red Blend; if you are interested in such things, they also sell canned wines and spritzers; dogs allowed outside. 

Castello di Borghese: Cherry Blossom Time

May 10, 2022

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

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

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

Their solution to how to serve a flight.

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

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

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

Herbie!

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

  •  2020 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

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

  • 2020 Chardonnay           $25

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

  • Fleurette Rosé   $18

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

  • 2020 Rosé of Merlot       $22

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

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

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

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

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

  • 2020 Reserve Cabernet Franc     $44

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

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

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

Lenz Winery: Classic

April 8, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

  •  2016 Estate Selection Gewürztraminer                 $20

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

  • 2020 Firefly Rosé          $20

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

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

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

  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon           $25

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duck Walk: Time to Par-tee

March 26, 2022

Our visiting pooch.

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

Dr. “Dan” Damianos overlooks the tasting room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  2020 Reisling*  $21.95

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

  • 2020 Sauvignon Blanc    $21.95

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

  • Windmill Red *                $18.95

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

  • 2020 Pinot Grigio            $21.95

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

  • 2019 Pinot Meunier *    $26.95

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

  • 2018 Merlot      $21.95

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

  • 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon *        $21.95

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

  • 2019 Pinot Noir               $38.95

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

  • 2020 Aphrodite *            $21.95

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

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

Disco-themed bachelorettes!

Pindar Vineyards: Plenty of Variety

February 15, 2022

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

Gina was very pleasant and attentive.

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

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

We got different colored Sharpies to mark up our menus.

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

  •  Premier Cuvée Brut       $32.99

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

  • Dr. Dan’s Extra Dry         $29.99

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

  • 2020 Viognier    $21.99

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

  • 2020 Sunflower Chardonnay      $21.98

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

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

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

  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon           $18.99

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

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

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

  • 2017 Syrah         $18.99

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

  • 2017 Tannat      $21.99

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

  1. Pythagoras         $18.99

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

  1. 2019 Mythology              $$42.99

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

  1. 2019 Merlot Reserve      $34.99

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

  1. 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve           $34.99

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

Windmill!

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

They ship to forty states.

Palmer Vineyards:  Cozy Setting, Not So Warm Welcome

February 11, 2022

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

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

No problem with social distancing!

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

  •  2016 Merlot     $25

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

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

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

Cozy booth.
  • Weekend Red    $22

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

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

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

Servers ignoring us.
  • 2021 Albariño   $30

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

Mystery food truck…

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

Plenty of room outside.

Channing Daughters: Club and Cousins

December 7, 2021

In the midst of a week of unsettled weather, we took advantage of a sunny day to venture to the South Fork.  We had two goals in mind—to have lunch with cousins we hadn’t seen in years, and to pick up our wine club selections at Channing Daughters.  Lunch at Sant Ambroeus in Southampton was delicious, and we took home enough left-over pasta for dinner that night.  The cousinly meeting went so well, that our cousins decided to come with us to Channing Daughters, which they had never been to.  They enjoyed the tasting, so I hope this will not be the last time they trek there.

On the right, you can see two sculptures by Walter Channing, the founder of the vineyard.

Aside from liking their wines, we admire Channing for the wide variety of their wines, the unusual grapes they grow, and their willingness to experiment.  There are about thirty wines on their list, plus five different vermouths, an amazing amount for such a small winery (about 15,000 cases per year).  We also appreciate how generous they are at tastings for wine club members.  We had two tastings of four wines each, but then decided to try a number of other wines, plus a vermouth, and Laura, our server, was delighted to accommodate us. 

We had not been there since Covid, opting to have our selections sent to us, so it was interesting to see their adaptations.  The outside patio area is now enclosed in clear plastic, with propane heaters which quickly made sitting out there comfortable, though we kept our jackets on.  They request that you make a reservation most days, though Tuesday is not one of them, since they are a small space.  They also ask that you wear a mask inside the building, but, obviously, the masks come off when you sit for a tasting!  They have clever wire racks, which hold five glasses vertically, thus making the most of the limited table space, and they also offer a menu of snacks, which is new.  Our cousin picked up a bar of sea salt chocolate for us to share, since we hadn’t had room for dessert at the restaurant.

Before we left, we filled a case with a variety of additional selections, including the “Autumn” vermouth and three bottles of the Scuttlehole Chardonnay (our favorite), and our cousins bought two bottles of L’Enfant Sauvage and two of the Petit Verdot.  Though we encountered some traffic as we wended our way back to the North Fork (the “back road” I discovered years ago is now well known), we felt that the trip was well worthwhile.

A standard tasting is $28 for five tastes, free for wine club members, who may also get wines not yet on the list.

Our wine club bottles.
  •  2019 Sylvanus Petillant Naturel               $28

Starting from the top of the rack, we choose this bubbly white, made from 50% pinot grigio, 40% muscat ottonel, and 10% pinot bianco.  It is light, crisp, and refreshing, the sort of bubbly I could see pairing with charcuterie and some rich cheeses.  Lovely.

  • 2016 L’Enfant Sauvage   $38

Some years I really love this wine, fermented with wild yeast (hence the name) and aged in oak, and other years I do not.  This year’s version is…delicious.  We all like it.  I often don’t care for chardonnays aged in oak, but this one is not at all buttery.  It smells of apples and, according to the cousin, fresh cut grass, and tastes fruity and deep.  It might be nice to drink this with a dish of sauteed wild mushrooms, to match the wild with the wild.   

They have just a few varieties.
  • 2015 Envelope                $42

This is one of their orange wines, made by fermenting white grapes with their skins on, as I explain to the cousins.  As we chat, I realize that, over the years, I have gradually amassed a bunch of random facts about wine.  What a great way to get an education!  It may be psychological, based on the color, but I swear I taste Mandarin oranges plus lychees.  This is a fairly tart wine, and would be good with pork belly, to cut the fatty taste.

  • 2020 Lagrein                    $35

A young red that I think could use some aging, it nonetheless has a delicious aroma of fruit and tobacco.  I taste dark purple plums, and could see serving this with lamb chops.

  • Autumn Vermouth         $28

Spicy, fruity, complex, tasty—these are a few of the adjectives we share after I request a taste of this vermouth.  It is made from red wine, and includes a panoply of ingredients. It will be great as a light cocktail, on the rocks.

  • 2016 Research Cab         $40

Our cousin requests a taste of this, since, she notes, she likes cabernets.  Our server also brings a sample of the Petit Verdot, noting that it has more of the kind of fruity flavor those who like cabernets are looking for.  And she is right.  Though I like this blend of 68% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit manseng, 3% syrah, 2% barbera, 1% malbec, 1% petit verdot, 1% sangiovese, and 1% blaufrankish (I told you Channing likes to experiment!), the cousin does not.  It is quite tannic and dry, and could probably benefit from a few more years in the bottle.  The aroma includes berries and cherries (the merlot, I’m sure) and spice, as does the taste.

  • 2018 Petit Verdot           $38

Oh yes, very nice.  How smart she was to bring us this, as I buy a bottle as well.  It is deeply fruity, yet dry, with some notes of spice (anise?), cherries, and berries.   Just last week I had a petit verdot at Macari which I liked, and this compares well with it.  This may be my favorite red grape!

Reasons to visit:  you are on the South Fork and want to try a winery (you can skip Duck Walk;  Wölffer is also very good); the carved wooden statues by Walter Channing are worth looking at; knowledgeable servers who are generous with “extra” tastes; an astonishing array of wines and vermouths—plus they also carry some local gins and vodkas; L’Enfant Sauvage, Petit Verdot, Autumn Vermouth, plus most of the whites, rosés, and many of the reds; no outside food, but they do sell snacks.

Macari Vineyards: Fun with Friends

December 3, 2021

Friends who are also relatively new to the North Fork—actually, unless you can trace your ancestry back at least several local generations, you are considered a newbie—invited us to do a members’ tasting at Macari Vineyards with them.  We accepted happily, since Macari now requires reservations to do a tasting and we hadn’t bothered to do so.  The last time we were there was October of 2019, so it was certainly time to return.

The sun was shining brightly, but the wind was cold, so we hustled inside, where we were escorted to an enclosed porch area, well heated by blowers, with chairs draped with furry throws. 

Later in the afternoon, most of the tables filled up.

Each table was set with a placemat containing five circles listing wines, and three glasses.  As our friends explained, a tasting consists of any three of the five listed wines, with wine club members having a few additional choices.  Our waitress brought over all the wines currently on offer, and gave each of us our selected tastes, and then took our order for snacks.  We got truffled potato chips, crackers and hummus, and a little cheese tray, which she characterized as a single serving, but which, with everything else, was more than enough.  The chips are addictive, and the serving is large, so I definitely recommend them.  The hummus was also very good, liberally sprinkled with za’atar, but the cheese tray was rather small, consisting of a chunk of brie, three slices of cheddar, a tiny jar of fig jam, and a few Marcona almonds, slices of salami, and bread. 

As we sipped and munched, we engaged in getting to know each other better, and I learned to my astonishment that my new friends had been to wineries in all 48 contiguous states!  They hadn’t set out to do so, but after happening to visit wineries in eleven states a friend told them to keep going, so they did.  I was astonished to learn there was a winery in Wyoming, and many in Texas.  Mississippi? I asked. Yes.  Iowa?  Uh huh. I am sure there are many stories to come of their odysseys.  Meanwhile, we discussed the North Fork winery scene, and exchanged names of our favorites. 

We enjoyed the Macari wines, though, due to being caught up in conversation, my notes are a bit sketchier than usual.  I particularly liked the wines labelled “Life Force,” their descriptor for wines aged in concrete “eggs,” rather than wood.

  • 2020 Life Force Sauvignon Blanc              $28

Sometimes sauvignon blanc can be a bit sharp, but clearly aging in a concrete egg cures that.  This is a nicely rounded wine, with an aroma of honeysuckle, and smooth citrus tastes.  I like it.

  •  2019 Cabernet Franc     $38

This is a light, slightly spicy cab franc, with few tannins.  My friend noted it, “Left me flat,” and I agreed. However, my husband had opted for the Life Force Cabernet Franc, which I liked much better.

  • Life Force Cabernet Franc            $30

This was quite different, with more berry taste and aroma.  I would definitely choose this one.

The view out the window.
  • 2017 Dos Aguas $35

The name of this—and also a white blend—refers to the “two waters” of the North Fork, a factor both in the breezes we feel and the moderating of the climate.  This is a Bordeaux-type blend of 60% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 15% petit verdot, and 9% cabernet franc.  I would have easily guessed at the merlot, because it has a definite cherry flavor and aroma, plus a touch of tobacco from the oak aging.  Nice tannins, and a better than average North Fork red.

  • 2017 Syrah         $45

Though it has a very promising aroma, I found the taste somewhat disappointing, and commented that there was not much to it.

  • 2015 Petit Verdot (no price listed, since it is in short supply)

This was my favorite of the day, a wine aged two years in oak and quite delicious.  Petit verdot is most often used in a Bordeaux-stye blend, but I often like it on its own. It had some interesting depth of flavor, some nice spice and fruit taste.  We like it so much that we order a bottle while we continue chatting and snacking.

Snacks available for purchase. There’s also a little fridge with cheeses, etc.

Reasons to visit: pleasant porch seating with beautiful décor; nice view out to the vines; some good snacks, especially the truffled potato chips and the hummus; the Life Force wines, in particular the sauvignon blanc and the cabernet franc; the petit verdot, if it hasn’t sold out yet.

Terre Vite: New Name, New Look, Mostly New Wines

November 17, 2021

We used to love to go to Diliberto, and went so often that Sal Diliberto greeted us as friends.  But, as is increasingly common on the North Fork, at some point he decided to sell his beloved vineyard, and it was bought by Jacqui Fusco and Greg Goodale, North Fork natives.  One aspect of the tasting room we loved was the trompe l’oeil mural that made you feel as though you were sitting in an Italian piazza.  Well, that is gone, but the room is beautifully re-done, decorated by one of the owners of Lumber + Salt, a salvage and antique store that specializes in reclaimed and repurposed items.  For example, the shelving behind the bar, which itself includes part of a gate, is made of hardware pieces from the 1940s. A gigantic lamp is made from the top of a windmill.

Giant lamp made from the top of a windmill!
As more and more wineries and restaurants are doing, they put their menu online, accessed through a QR code.

Is Sal’s pizza oven still in the kitchen, we asked, and our server said it was, but they were not currently offering pizza, though, she noted, Sal was very generous as he helped them take over his place.  Instead, they offer fairly standard cheese and charcuterie platters and a few other snacks.  We decided to try BobbySue’s nuts, which turned out to be a variety called “Nuts Over Olives,” but which we did not particularly like.  After we discussed the taste of them—a somewhat sweet amalgam of nuts and bits of olive—and admitted we did not care for them, she kindly offered us plain nuts, and then, when we declined, took the $5 bag of nuts off our bill.

We had the tasting room mostly to ourselves on this chilly November Thursday, but we noted that the renovation meant they have more seats, plus more tables and chairs on the porch and out on the lawn.  Cute touch—the chairs around the porch table were draped with cozy-looking blankets.  By the way, if you check out their web site you will see quite a few Italian words, honoring the new owners’ love of Italian culture, food, and wines.  They even have an espresso machine behind the bar.

Wanting to try the full array of their wines, we opted for two flights, one of whites and one of reds, for $22 and $24, respectively.  The tastes came to the table in sturdy wooden boxes, four round-bottomed glasses in each, filled with a generous amount of wine.  We didn’t finish most of them, not because we didn’t like them, but because it was more wine than we wanted to have.  Our server noted that the merlot and the Tre are still Diliberto’s wines, but the rest are their own.   Overall, we felt that the wines were pleasant, but not exciting.

  •  2020 Sauvignon Blanc   $32

The tasting notes mention “white peach,” and I agree, plus lemon.  This is a light, dry, refreshing white, good to have with oysters (which I hear are offered here on weekends).

  •  2020 Sole Chardonnay $35

Our server noted that the name is Italian for sun—not fish, though it would be good with a nice filet of sole.  It is a light, steel-fermented chard, with a slightly piney aroma, some citrus, and what the tasting notes call “apple and guava.”  I would say, green apple.

  • 2020 White Merlot         $40

This category of wines—whites made from red grapes, with minimal skin contact, but not categorized as rosés—seems to be getting more popular.  This one is a pretty pale pink, with an aroma of cherries, a touch sweet, and easy to drink.

  • 2018 Reserve Chardonnay          $40

I’m often not fond of oaked chardonnays, but this one is not too oaky, so I don’t mind it.  The aroma is slightly funky and woodsy, and so is the taste.  My tasting buddy says it is “nice,” which is pretty much what we’ve sa;id of all the wines so far.

  • 2017 Cabernet Franc      $33

I smell peppercorns, and my tasting buddy agrees.  This is a light red, a bit peppery but mild, dry, a red one could drink with roast chicken.

The array of wines, including a couple of holdovers from Diliberto’s.
  • 2017 Mercato   $35 

A 50/50 blend of cabernet franc and merlot, we again categorize this wine as nice.  I know, not a very expressive term, but it seems apropos.  We taste some cherry from the merlot, and some spice from the cab franc, but, as my husband says, “there’s not much to it.”

  • 2015 Merlot      $42

This wine is still Diliberto’s bottling, and, in contrast to the above, my pal says “there’s something to it.”  I agree, that it is the most interesting wine so far today, with lots of typical merlot cherry aroma and taste, plus purple plum. 

  • Tre Blend            $45

As the name suggests, this is a Bordeaux-type blend of three wines—65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 15% cabernet franc.  This is actually one of the few wines we finish, as it is very pleasant to drink, and would go well with a cheese tray, if we had ordered one. I don’t know how much longer this will be available, since it is another one of Diliberto’s wines.

Reasons to visit:  fascinating décor, worth examining; intimate room; all the wines are easy to drink, though none are outstanding, but my favorites were the sauvignon blanc and the Tre; generous pour. 

Peconic Bay Vineyards: Under New Ownership

October 21, 2021

I expect I will be able to use the subtitle “under new ownership” quite a few times this year, as recently a number of wineries have changed hands.  In some cases, already existing wineries have expanded by buying their neighbors, while in others new owners have entered the North Fork wine scene.  Peconic Bay is a case of the latter, as the Soloviev family has been actively investing in the North Fork over the past few years.  Peconic has been officially closed for about eight years, though we stopped in there in 2017 when it was briefly open, as the previous owner was, according to our server, trying to sell out his stock.

Since they have been closed, they have been selling their grapes to other local wineries, which is why they only have limited quantities of certain varieties.  However, we were told by Sam, our charming and chatty server, those contracts are about to end, so she is looking forward to seeing what their winemaker—who is the same one who worked at Peconic before—will come up with.  For now, they offer seven wines, though two of them—the sauvignon blanc and the merlot—are in such limited quantity that they are not selling them by the bottle. 

It was another beautiful warm day, so we planned to sit outside wherever we went, and when we walked into Peconic we were sure, as the inside area is quite small, with uncomfortable-looking stools at the bar.  Outside, however, featured a roomy patio, with nice wooden chairs (maybe they could add seat cushions in the future?) and comfy Adirondack chairs grouped around fire pits.  The fire pit areas, we were told, are all reserved already for “movie night,” when they will be showing Hocus Pocus.  They also plan to have live music at various times.  However, today we and one other couple were the only visitors, though Sam assured us it was busier on the weekends.

The menu offers a flight of three wines, called the “Crossroads Flight” for $18, and seemed to be limited to just the chardonnay, riesling, and red blend.  However, Sam told us we could substitute any other wines if we preferred, and after she described the riesling as semi-sweet, we did prefer—not to have it—so we opted for the viognier instead.  Good choice.  After we shared the small flight, we decided we would like to sit and enjoy the beautiful afternoon a while longer, so we shared a glass of the sauvignon blanc and a bag of North Fork potato chips.  The food menu features the usual cheese and charcuterie choices, as well as a chocolate tasting from Disset, a new fancy chocolatier in Cutchogue, and, on the weekends, local oysters.   As we contemplate the menu, Sam brings us a carafe of chilled water, always a nice touch.

  •  2020 Viognier   $22

I get a touch of kerosene and metal when I sniff, but fortunately it tastes of pineapple, not gas!  We like it.  It is dry with nice fruit tastes, refreshing, and different from most North Fork wines.

  • 2020 Chardonnay           $25

Sam informs us that this is the “musque” clone of chardonnay grape, which I have not knowingly encountered before.  In any event, the taste is quite distinct, a smooth, mellow sip that reminds me of thyme honey, though it is not sweet.  Most local chardonnays have a citrus flavor, but this does not.  The menu suggests pairing it with hard cheese, and I think it would go well with a truffle-infused pecorino we had from the Love Lane Cheese Shop recently.

  • Horizon Red Blend          $32

We decided to describe this as a “starter” red, or in other words a red for someone who is not yet into reds.  It is light and dry, with soft tannins, and tastes of wood and cherry.  Sam suggests calling it a “summer” red.  A blend of 73% malbec, 18% merlot, and 9% cabernet sauvignon, the aroma, of cherry, wood, tobacco, and coffee, promises more than the wine delivers.

  • 2020 Sauvignon Blanc

As I mentioned, we decided to share a glass of wine, and, based on a discussion with Sam, we opted for the sauvignon blanc, at $12 for a glass, plus a $4 bag of North Fork potato chips.  Again, this is a different-tasting sb than the usual out here.  It is mellow, not citrusy, with an almost thick mouth feel, and a trace of saltiness and fruit.  We chuckle over the observation that it actually goes very well with the chips.

Reasons to visit:  someplace new; nice outdoor area, with firepits for colder weather; local oysters on the weekend; the viognier and the sauvignon blanc; oh, and for $55 per person you can tour the vineyard in the Moke, an adorable electric vehicle that looks like a mini safari car, with tastings of three wines next to the vines where they grow.

The Moke!