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.

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.

Castello Borghese: On a Winter’s Day February 9, 2020

https://castellodiborghese.com/

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All the leaves are brown…

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…and the sky is grey.

It’s been a quiet, damp winter out here on the East End of Long Island. The farm stands have all been closed since Christmas, some restaurants have signs reading “See you in the spring,” and there’s no traffic on the roads. On the other hand, the Riverhead Farmer’s market on Saturday was quite lively and busy, and we were happy to find our favorite pickle man there, as well as fresh eggs and other treats. It’s a nice time of year to visit the wineries—though you do need to check they are open, particularly during the week—since you can often have the undivided attention of your server. On the other hand, if you want a livelier atmosphere, you can check out the Winterfest web page (https://longislandwinterfest.com/) to see where you can find musical performances.

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For most of the time, we had the tasting room to ourselves.

We decided to head to Castello Borghese, which we hadn’t been to since August 2018. It is now under the control of Ann Marie and Marco Borghese’s son, after their untimely deaths in 2014. We were very sad when we heard that news, especially since we had had some pleasant chats with Ann Marie in the tasting room. However, Peter, our server, more than made up for that loss, by being very well-informed and passionate about the wines. It didn’t hurt our experience that, charmed by our discussion of our likes and dislikes and by my notebook, he gave us several extra tastes.

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Sometimes they have musical performances in this room.

The main tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and a couple of barrels for extra stand-and-taste space, with an adjacent room with small tables and chairs and a large party space. Outside, there are a few picnic tables. It is very much a winery for serious tasters, and Peter described with some amusement how it served as a refuge for those who accidentally went to Vineyard 48 (since closed for being an out of control party place).

The menu offers five different flights: five whites for $20, five reds for $25, three rosés for $15, a “Classic Flight” of a variety of wines for $20, or “Battle of the North Fork,” a comparison of two whites and two reds. As we discussed which option to take, I announced that I often did not like oaked chardonnays, which Peter took as a challenge, and led to our first “extra.” We decided on the Classic Flight. (I’ve marked the extras with an asterisk.)

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They give you a rather generous pour.

  1. 2018 Chardonnay $20

The flight starts off with the 2018 chardonnay, a fairly classic North Fork chard, with aromas of pear, flowers, and minerals and tastes of green apple, mineral, and lemon. It’s very good, and would be perfect with oysters, like the ones we had here one time in the summer.

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We were fascinated by the difference in color between the two chardonnays. The one on the left is oaked.

  1. * 2015 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $24

“Try this,” urged Peter, “it may change your mind.” Well, not totally, though I liked it more than I thought I would, which was explained when I learned it was aged in neutral oak (which means old oak, rather than new, and so is less oaky). It didn’t have that big buttery taste I have come to dislike. Peter told an amusing story about a woman who ordered a glass of this chard, took it outside to drink with her friends, and came back in to complain that she’d been given the wrong wine. Turned out she was from California, where the chardonnays tend to be big and buttery, but Peter was able to match her with a wine she liked. Anyway, this is a bit woodsy, with an aroma of crushed ferns, rather lean and elegant.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24

I’m not counting this as an extra, but it is not the SB on the flight menu, but rather a different one that Peter thought we’d prefer. Meanwhile, this is light and bright, tart and lemony, with an aroma of cucumbers and a touch of funkiness. I could see pairing it with scallops.

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  1. Rosé of Merlot $18

Peter offers us brief descriptions of each rosé, and we decide to stick with the one on the flight menu. Ever since the changes at Croteaux, we have been on the lookout for good NoFo rosés. This is pretty good, with a slight aroma of strawberry and the flavor of macerated strawberries. It is nicely dry, and we buy a bottle to drink some time in the near future.

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  1. *2018 Pinot Noir $50

“You have to try the Pinot Noir,” says Peter, and we do not disagree. It is a French style pinot, he explains, lean and dry rather than big and jammy like a California pinot. We like it, and if not for the price might have bought a bottle. It has a dark fruit aroma and taste, with slight tannins.

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  1. 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve $44

This has a lovely garnet color, but a slight chemical odor which one sometimes gets with reds out here. However, the taste is fine, though at the end it evanesces. We taste dark berries and cherries and tobacco, with some nice acidity. We wonder whether this would improve over time.

  1. *2018 Merlot Select $35

Now we discuss the popularity of merlot and the influence of the movie Sideways, which led to a dip in sales. It is the most popular red grape on the North Fork, and with good reason. This has aromas and tastes of cherry, with a taste that lingers after you sip. 2018 was a very good weather year locally, and so growers expect good things from this vintage. This is also dry, with some tannins. I suggest pairing it with lamb, Peter suggest rib eye, and my husband agrees with us both.

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  1. 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $44

Good way to end our tasting, this is another tasty red, with lots of fruit and some minerality. I like it a lot. Like all their wines, it tends to be elegant and lean rather than big and very fruity. It could also stand up to a steak, or even go with roast pork.

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Many of their wines have won awards.

Reasons to visit: serious tasting room with serious wines; the chardonnay, the Rosé of Merlot, the pinot noir, the cabernet sauvignon reserve; a generous pour.

RG/NY: A Shared Aesthetic January 17, 2020

https://rgnywine.com/

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Don’t be fooled by that blue sky–it was cold!

The starkly simple sign outside leads you into an entry area that is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. The tasting room is similarly pared down to essentials, as are the wines. Even the bottles share this aesthetic, looking like examples of modern art. Our friendly and well-informed server, Tina, tells us that an attractive stair-step design on the labels has a symbolic meaning. The wines are named “Scielo,” which a neon sign, the only décor in the tasting room, informs us means Heaven. The steps are a route to the heaven you find in the bottle.

The Rivero González family bought this winery and vineyard from Martha Clara in 2018, but they have been winemakers in Mexico since 1998. We had waited to check them out until we figured they had time to make their own wines, which they have. The only hold-overs from Martha Clara are some of the reds—and Tina herself, who greets arriving wine club members like old friends. She tells us that the new owners want to keep the family-friendly atmosphere of Martha Clara, while putting their own stamp on the wines and décor. For example, dogs will be allowed outside on the grounds (though today there is one in the tasting room! Well, it is certainly too cold to hang around outside.).

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This pooch was so well-behaved we didn’t even realize she was there until someone greeted her.

I ask Tina about snacks, and she shows me a menu which is available on weekends in the winter, and every day in season. (No outside food.) Meanwhile, there is a refrigerated case and various snack items in the shop area, so you can make a DIY snack. We decide we are not that hungry, and anyway, each tasting comes with a little dish of very tasty crackers.

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The snack menu, which is available on weekends in the winter.

The tasting menu offers a choice of three different flights: the Scielo selection of four wines for $17, four whites for $20, or RG Selection of higher-level wines, four for $22. The final choice on that menu is a Martha Clara red, but Tina, noting that we have been to Martha Clara, says she could substitute the RG Tinto if we prefer. We decide to go with the Scielo flight.

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  1. 2018 Scielo Chardonnay $25

I am happy to learn that this is a primarily steel-fermented chard, with just 2% oaked. I find in general that I prefer steel chards, but a little bit of oak adds depth and a nice mouth feel. It has an aroma of ripe apples and flowers, and tastes like a Granny Smith apple as well. There’s also a touch of lime. My tasting buddy insists that it is slightly sweet, but after some discussion we realize that his taste is influenced by some residual sweetness from the cracker he munched. He says this would be a good seafood wine, and I agree, though I think a seafood in cream dish would go best.

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  1. 2018 Riesling $24

Before we opted for this flight, I asked if the riesling was sweet or dry, and Tina reassured me that it was dry. She wasn’t kidding. It is bone dry, and very light. The aroma is of honeysuckle and metal, and there’s a touch of metal in the taste as well. Like touching your tongue to a pole? Well, I’m not that dumb. I also taste pears. We get into a discussion about how the new wines are very dry, whereas the Martha Clara wines tended to be more on the sweet side. Some former customers are unhappy with the new taste, while we prefer it.

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The stair step pattern on the label has a symbolic meaning.

  1. 2018 Scielo Rosé $22

Yum. This is a blend of 48% merlot, 32% malbec, and 20% cabernet franc, and the complexity of that blend shows up in the flavor, which is more interesting than a standard rosé. Tasty, says my husband. It has the strawberry aroma one would expect, and in addition to some strawberry flavor a definite note of lychee. We decide to get a bottle to go with the scallops we bought earlier at Braun’s.

  1. 2018 White Merlot $32

Power of the book—she was pouring this for someone else, so she offered us a taste of this white wine made from merlot grapes. Nice. It tastes like a cross between red and white, light and drinkable, with an aroma of wood and leather and white cherry taste.

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  1. 2018 Tinto $30

Our server compares this to a Beaujolais, and it is light like a Beaujolais, though it is made from a Bordeaux blend: 43% merlot, 37% cabernet sauvignon, 10% petit verdot, and 10% cabernet franc. I would guess that they were in a hurry to get out a red of their own, because we think this could benefit from more aging. It has a nice cherry aroma and taste, but no depth and some tannins. It is very young, and I could see drinking it with meatloaf or hamburgers.

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  1. 2018 Cabernet Franc $37

There’s just a little bit left in this bottle, not enough to give anyone a regular taste, so Tina asks if we’d like a sip of this. Of course, we would. I get spice and leather, not much fruit. Again, I think this would benefit from more time, and we resolve to come back in a year or so to see how the wines have developed.

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There’s a very large side room.

Reasons to visit: A chance to try a new place; very roomy surroundings, in case you are with a group; the rosé, the White Merlot. One note—the bar has almost no overhang, so there’s nowhere to put your knees when you sit there, and the stools are rather uncomfortable. Perhaps they will fix that in the future.

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From the outside, you con’t tell that there are significant changes both inside the building and inside the bottles.

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But there are still some Martha Clara wines available for purchase.

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The gift shop has many fewer items than it used to have.

 

 

Peconic Cellar Door: Women Rule December 20, 2019

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/peconic-cellar-door

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Unlike most wineries on the North Fork, Peconic Cellar Door is owned and run by women: Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy. It is another of the very small tasting rooms, and in fact adjoins last week’s site, The Winemaker Studio, but is even smaller. Despite its small size, however, it offers quite an array of wines to taste, under four labels: As If Wines, Brooklyn Oenology, Haywater Cove, and Saltbird Cellars. All the wines are now under the umbrella name Chronicle, with the tag line, “Every bottle holds a story.” Ask Robin (or whomever is behind the counter) about the logo, because it tells a story, too.

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Robin was our server, and since there were no other customers, we had time to chat. There were a couple of visitors who came by just wish Robin and Alie happy holidays. Robin told us about her travels around the world to learn the craft and art of wine-making, particularly her six months in New Zealand, which influenced the style of some of her wines. She is clearly passionate about wine-making, and she and Alie have their own original ideas about it. We enjoyed all of their experiments.

The menu offers two flights, the Cellar Door flight, of five wines for $15, and the Signature Flight, of five higher-priced wines for $20. We decided to share the Signature Flight, and perhaps return for the Cellar Door, though Robin cautioned us that they change the options every month. Given that the price list includes 28 wines, I guess they can come up with quite a few permutations. We may have to go back more than once…

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Though they don’t allow outside food (or pets), the only snack on offer is packs of cookies from local baker Ali Katz. I do recommend a visit to her little bakery and food shop in Mattituck (only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). We’ve only been there a couple of times, but found her baked goods excellent.

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  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

If the name of this wine describes how it came to be, it was a fortunate accident indeed. A blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and viognier, it is aged more than one expects for a white, particularly on the North Fork, where most whites are from the most recent vintage. This wine has a floral and mineral aroma, and is nicely dry. Some notes of lemony citrus, but also more depth than one expects from a white. As we sip, I find the viognier taste, which I quite like, coming through.

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I thought this label was particularly pretty.

  1. 2017 Saltbird Migratus $27

Of course, I have to ask about the name of this wine, which comes in a bottle with a very pretty painting of birds in flight. Robin explains that it is a reference to her own migrations, away from the North Fork and back, but also to the birds she loves. The making of this wine was influenced by her time in New Zealand. Though plenty of cheap sauvignon blanc comes here from there, the wines they keep for themselves tend to be made like this one, spending six months on the lees and aged in oak. When I note a faint oak taste, she mentions that “one of the barrels” was new oak, so it came out a bit oakier than she wanted. Overall, it is a good wine, with a nice mouth feel and a taste my drinking buddy compares to “drinking flowers.” Well, it does have an aroma that combines something vegetal with flowers.

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This rose is almost like a light red.

  1. 2016 As If Courage $28

Robin calls this a rosé made from a Meritage blend. I guess it does take courage to make a rosé from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and syrah, a classic Bordeaux blend. She compares the aroma to buckwheat honey, and I agree. This is almost as much a very light red as it is a rosé. It has some strawberry and citrus tastes, but more depth (again) than your typical rosé. She suggests serving it with a pork roast, an excellent idea.

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  1. 2016 Saltbird Harbinger $36

A blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this is a wine they only make in good years, so there is no 2018 but will surely be a 2019. I’ve heard in several tasting rooms that this was a very good year on the North Fork, with the right amount of warm days and rain. It has some cherry taste, but is not really fruity, dry, with some tannins. Nice legs, if that means anything!

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The array of our tasting.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

I’m glad they persisted with making this wine, a blend of cabernet franc, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon. Despite the price, we decide to buy a bottle to save in the cellar for a special occasion. I think it could age a few more years, but it is also delicious to drink now. Fruitier than the previous wine, it has some interesting flavors, and could stand up to a steak.

Reasons to visit: another small winery, where you can talk to the winemakers and learn about what inspired them and how they made each wine; we liked all the wines, but especially the Serendipity and the Persistence; they change their offerings periodically, so you can go more than once; though they don’t allow groups larger than six, if you happen to be with a group you can split up, with some going to the Winemaker Studio, connected by an open doorway and a window in the wall.

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Coffee Pot Cellars: Consider Yourself at Home November 3, 2019

http://www.coffeepotcellars.com/

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Why a huge mural of a monarch butterfly? Read the review and find out!

The name may seem a bit misleading—it refers to the nickname of the Orient Point lighthouse—but the building in which this winery is housed is totally appropriate. It is a house, and you will feel as though you are a guest in Laura Klahr’s living room as soon as you enter the intimate, yellow-walled space.

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If you’ve ever been there before, she is likely to recognize you (even if you are not, as she and her husband, winemaker Adam Suprenant, figured out, a wine blogger like me). And even if you are visiting for the first time, you will get a warm welcome and soon feel at home, as you learn about Laura’s bee hives and Blossom Meadow farm, the delicious wines, and Beasley, the resident red-wine loving pug.  Beasley, by the way, has recently been joined by Molly, a chardonnay-sipping goldfish. (Never fear, the pets’ wine preferences are part of Laura’s quirky sense of humor.)

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That’s the wine-o-saur.

Out on the front lawn is the wine-o-saur, a dinosaur of wire “fleshed out” with wine corks, many of them contributed and decorated by fans of Coffee Pot. Laura promises to finish it, now that jam-making season is over. She also called our attention to a wall hanging made by her mother, which illustrates, using colored yarn, the daily temperatures in 2015. Other wall décor calls attention to the Merlot for Monarchs campaign, which teams up with the Girl Scouts and others to plant milkweed every time a bottle of merlot is bought—1,821 so far—which helps support the endangered monarch butterflies. We bought a bottle of the merlot, but not just because of the campaign. It’s good!

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As we were discussing with Laura the phenomenon of people who are winemakers for large wineries—Adam is the winemaker for Osprey’s Dominion, whose wines we also like, and of which he is also proud—also having their own label, Adam entered, bearing what I bet was a lunch for his wife. He agreed that it is interesting, and they both talked about the benefit of having the freedom to do what you like. (There are other winemakers on the East End who do the same, like Anthony Nappa, who has his own label in the Winemaker’s Studio and is also the winemaker for Raphael, and Roman Roth, who makes the Grapes of Roth as well as Wölffer Estate wines.) For both their jams and their wines, Laura and Adam like to be “true to the fruit.”

A complete tasting consists of all six wines for $12, so we opted to share one tasting.

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  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $21.99

Laura explained that this is aged in steel barrels, rather than vats, which gives it a more concentrated flavor. When I opined that it was “zippy,” she smiled and said that was a word Adam would never use, but she liked it. This has a floral aroma, of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass, and tastes lemony, with, as she noted, more depth of flavor than your typical sauvignon blanc. We buy a bottle.

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  1. 2015 Chardonnay $19.99

I wondered whether I would like this, since it is oaked, but after Laura explained that it is aged in fourteen-year-old oak for just six months, I was ready to taste it. She characterized it as their fall/winter chard, and I can see why. It has more body than a steel chard, but is not heavy or oaky or buttery. I taste wood and honey and citrus. They get most of their grapes, by the way, from a vineyard in Jamesport, plus some from other vineyards.

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  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $21.99

Gewürztraminer is a wine that becomes rather popular in November, since many people like it as an accompaniment to turkey. I can see that. This is a blend of gewürztraminer plus 12% riesling, steel fermented, and nicely fruity. My tasting buddy says it is sweet, but I disagree. What he sees as sweet I see as tropical fruit flavors. In fact, it even smells like lychee fruit. I also get pineapple and a touch of nutmeg.

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  1. 2013 Merlot $21.99

This is their newest release, and Laura proudly informs us that it just got 91 points and an Editor’s Choice award from Wine Enthusiast. I don’t give scores (as a retired English teacher, I am DONE giving grades), but I can see why this was highly rated. It has the cherry aroma and taste I have come to expect from North Fork merlots, but also more depth of flavor than many, with a touch of smokiness that is just enough to add interest. We buy a bottle, and not just to support the monarch butterflies. It’s delicious.

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  1. 2015 Beasley’s Blend $23.99

Beasley is featured on the label of this blend of 60% cabernet franc and 40% merlot, and he certainly has good taste. This has aromas of dark fruit and tobacco, with tastes of black raspberry and dark chocolate, plus enough tannins that I think it could age well. By this time Adam has joined us, and he agrees.

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  1. 2014 Meritage $27.99

Adam tells us that he calls 2014 the “immaculate summer,” in that the weather was perfect for grape-growing, with cool nights and warm sunny days, and just the right amount of rain. Viticulture is, of course, farming, though those of us who just deal with the finished product don’t often think about that. (In fact, I think that might be the first time I’ve ever written that word!) He’s justly pleased with the way this blend has turned out, and we agree that it could also age well. We buy a bottle of this and label it to wait a couple of years in the cellar. He also discusses the use of petit verdot in this blend of 56% merlot, 23% petit verdot, 14% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon. It adds dark color and some blueberry flavor, he notes. This is another yummy wine, with aromas and flavors of dark fruits, like blackberries, plus cocoa and spice.

Reasons to visit: intimate atmosphere for tasting, with personal attention; Laura; all six wines, but especially the sauvignon blanc, the merlot (save the monarchs!), and the Meritage; Beasley, the official greeter and employee of the month; jam and honey and other bee-related products for sale. Laura also described to us the fun of a honey tasting, where you put out several varieties of honey and taste the differences amongst them, since honey gets its flavor from the flowers the bees visit. I do have one suggestion: perhaps at some point in the future they could replace the bar stools with more comfortable seating options.

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Macari Vineyard: No Tricks, Several Treats October 30, 2019

http://macariwines.com/

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It was the day before Halloween, and oddly warm, when we drove over to Macari. We had the tasting room to ourselves, so it wasn’t surprising that there were no pre-made cheese trays available. (No outside food allowed.) However, we could have bought any package of cheese on display, plus some crackers, and our server would have supplied us with a knife and cheese board.  We decided to content ourselves with a bag of very tasty black truffle-flavored potato chips. Then I worried that they were interfering with the tasting, so I requested a glass of water, which was quickly forthcoming.

The tasting room on Bergen Road is large, with a beautiful stone fireplace on one side, and ample displays of their wines all around. There is also a second large room filled with tables, and seating on a veranda off to one side. We stood at the bar and shared an Estate tasting, of five wines for $30. The other flight is called Vintage, and also includes five wines for $30. My tasting buddy complained that it was a small pour, though I noted that the glass was large.

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The main tasting room.

When you stand at the bar you have a clear view of the huge steel vats in the wine-making area, and we watched with interest as a worker tethered himself with a safety harness before checking on one vat. Makes sense, I suppose. What a way to go, drowned in a vat of wine!

In general, we have liked Macari wines, and often buy a bottle with dinner in local restaurants. Today was no exception, though in general we liked the whites better than the reds, and really liked the rosé we tried.

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  1. 2018 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $24

Why Katherine’s Field? All our server could tell us was that the grapes for this wine all came from an area of the vineyard called Katherine’s Field, and that it is the part closest to Long Island Sound. Perhaps that closeness to the water accounts for the slight note of saltiness I detected. The wine is light and easy to drink, with tastes of green apple, mineral, and pineapple. Like many NoFo sauvignon blancs, it would go well with local oysters. Good.

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  1. 2017 Dos Aguas White $22

Dos Aguas is, of course, a reference to the two waters which surround the North Fork: the Sound and Peconic Bay. This is a blend of 52% grüner veltliner, 27% viognier, 10% sauvignon blanc, 7% pinot gris, 3% friulano, and 1% gewürztraminer. It smells very much like honeysuckle, which I think might be due to the grüner, and also gets some of its fruitiness from that. My husband thinks it is too sweet, but I argue what he’s tasting as sweet is actually fruitiness. It has some lemon taste, as well as gooseberry. I would buy it, and it would go well with spicy food, but he doesn’t like it as much as I do.

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Even visually, you can tell this rose is more robust than most.

  1. 2018 Lifeforce Rosé $28

The term “lifeforce” in the title of a Macari wine refers to the fermentation method used. Instead of steel or wood, these wines are fermented in a concrete “egg.” They used to explain that egg on their website, but I couldn’t find that information now. In any event, this rosé is made from cabernet franc grapes, and was described by our server as their “fall rosé.” It is heavier and darker than a typical rosé, and as we discussed it he told us that what had happened was that in 2018 they were not happy with the way the cabernet was turning out, so rather than make a red from it they decided to turn it into a rosé. We are happy they did, as we quite liked it. Though it has some typical strawberry aroma and flavor, it has more oomph than many rosés. We bought a bottle. I think it will go great with seared rare duck breasts, which we get at Bayview farm stand.

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By this time our server–a bright young man–had figured out how I like to pose these photos. We had a nice chat about how he has learned to like wine.

  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve $40

Our server tells us this in aged twenty months, 9% in new French oak, so it is not super oaky or tannic. It smells fruity, like black cherries. The taste is soft and pleasant, but rather unidimensional. At that price, I’d want a more exciting wine. However, it is quite drinkable.

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  1. 2016 Dos Aguas $35

This is another blend, this time a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 62% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec, 8% petit verdot, and 6% cabernet franc. I like the aroma of red raspberries, but again the taste is good but not exciting. Dry, soft, with no tannins, this is an everyday type of red that you could even have with roast chicken. It would not stand up to a steak.

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Reasons to visit: spacious tasting room; the sauvignon blanc, the Dos Aguas white, and the Lifeforce Rosé; we often get the Sette in restaurants, a nice blend of half and half cabernet franc and merlot; no food allowed, but they do have a large selection of snacks and will do cheese trays on busier days.

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The grapes have been picked, and soon the leaves will be gone as well, leaving the vines bare until spring.

Kontokosta Winery: Close to Greenport October 4, 2019

https://www.theharborfrontinn.com/kontokosta-winery

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The flowers are being blown sideways by the wind.

We had errands to run in Greenport (oil and vinegar at Vines & Branches, for one), so we decided to visit the closest winery to Greenport, Kontokosta. As we got out of our car, a gust of wind reminded us that the Long Island Sound is in sight of the tasting room, and we noted the vanes of the windmill spinning rapidly. No shortage of wind energy here!

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That’s my new notebook in the corner of the photo. I filled the old one!

The tasting room is large and airy, and, mostly empty on this October Friday, seemed somewhat echoey. Since we’d spent some time walking around Greenport, we decided we wanted to sit, so we took our tastes over to one of the long wooden tables. We also, feeling a bit peckish, ordered a round of St. Stephen’s 4 Fat Fowl cheese, which was $17, plus $2.50 if we wanted crackers with it. It seemed a bit chintzy to us to charge separately for crackers, but they do offer gluten free crackers as an option. No outside food allowed. The cheese was quite delicious, and more than enough for the two of us, so we had the server wrap up our leftovers to take home.

While in Greenport we amused ourselves by figuring out from what angle the pictures of Greenport were taken which appear in the new TV series “Emergence.” It’s mostly shot in New Jersey (one look at the beach where a plane crashes makes it clear it was not shot on the North Fork), but it is set in Southold and Greenport and uses shots of Front Street and Main Street for atmosphere.

A tasting consists of three one-ounce pours for $16, so we decided to do one tasting of three of the four whites, and another of three of the four reds. The servers gave us basic information on the wines, and the tasting menu had a few brief notes, but otherwise we were on our own.

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Our flight of whites.

  1. 2018 Orient Chardonnay $22

This is a fairly classic example of a North Fork chard, steel-fermented, with a floral aroma and a lemony, fruity, minerally taste. We also detected a slight salty note in this and some other wines, and wondered if the vineyard’s location so close to the Sound caused that. It went well with the soft, creamy cheese.

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That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance.

  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $25

Another easy-to-drink white, this smells to me like thyme honey. The taste is a touch sweet, but not too sweet, with some pineapple taste. Sometimes sauvignon blancs have a lot of lemon taste, but this one does not. It does have a touch of minerality.

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Each glass was labeled with the wine in it, so we would know which we were tasting.

  1. 2018 Field Blend $22

As I’ve mentioned before, the name field blend implies that it is made from various grapes which all grow in the same field. This one is 50% riesling, 33% viognier, and 17% chardonnay. I detect the riesling in the aroma, which had a bit of that cat pee smell, as well as honeysuckle. We like it the best of the whites, as it is more interesting than most. I think it tastes like a Granny Smith apple, and he agrees.

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The reds.  We did not try the rose, which you can see off to one side.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $29

I return our three empty glasses to the bar and order our three reds. To make sure we know what we’re drinking, the server uses a white marker of some sort to put the initials of each wine on the base of the glass. Clever. This is aged four months in Hungarian oak, she tells me. The aroma is jammy, like blackberry jam. The wine tastes like dark figs, with some nice acidity, but it is rather lean, with no finish.

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The cheese was delicious, and went well with the wines.

  1. 2015 Merlot $34

Typically, merlots around here taste and smell like cherries, and this is no exception. It has no depth, and is rather monochromatic, says my tasting pal. I agree that it would be a good pizza/pasta wine, if not for the price. I also note that it was served too cold, a common fault.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

Aged twelve months in Hungarian oak, this wine finally has some tannins. I smell black olives and pine, maybe something a bit funky. My poor husband is suffering from a major allergy attack, perhaps brought on by pollens blown on that brisk breeze, so he’s not much help in the what-does-it-smell-like department. His comment on this one is, “I can taste that it’s wine.” They do say that smell is a crucial element in taste. I taste purple plums, but I agree that it’s not very complex, though, like all the wines here, very drinkable.

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Perhaps if we’d stood at the bar we could have had more discussions about the wine.

Reasons to visit: it’s close to Greenport, which is getting quite popular these days; large tasting room with a view of Long Island Sound; menu of good cheeses (though I think the crackers should be included in the cost. What are you going to do, spread the cheese on your fingers?); all the wines are pleasant, if unexciting, but we especially liked the Field Blend white and the cabernet franc.

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Pretty view out the window.

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The grapes, covered with netting to keep critters out, look about ready to harvest. At some wineries we pass, they have already been picked.

Sannino Vineyard: New Digs September 20, 2019

https://www.sanninovineyard.com/

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After about nine years of having a tasting room on Peconic Lane, having taken over the Ackerly Ponds winery, the Sannino family has built their own tasting room on Route 48 (a.k.a. Middle Road or Sound Avenue).  It is a very attractive space, with two bars and ample seating, plus a pleasant patio out back, where we sat for our tastings.  They bring the tasting to your seat, all together on a labeled tray, so it is a relaxing place to sit and sip.  The few parties who were there on this sunny September Thursday seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Unfortunately, we did not care for most of the wines.  I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my taste buds today, but my tasting buddy had the same reaction.  I wondered whether they had paid too much attention to the planting of new vines and the building of the new tasting room, and not enough to the making of the wine.  We plan to return in a year or so, hoping for better results, since we have in the past met Anthony Sannino and thought he was a nice guy. 

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We enjoyed sitting on the patio.

Because a tasting consists of six wines for $20, and there are eleven wines, we decided to try them all.  When I discussed with the server what to do with the twelfth spot, she suggested that she could give us a taste of their port-like dessert wine, which sounded like a great idea.  In general, we found the whites too light, almost watery, and the reds without tannins or depth, but I did like the port.

They do not allow outside food, and have a little menu of cheeses, chocolates, or nuts  A nice touch:  they bring a bottle of water and glasses to your table.

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Oops, we drank a couple of the whites before I remembered to take a picture!

1.        2018 Semi-Chard           $18

A 50/50 mix of semillon and chardonnay, this has a sweet aroma of flowers and honey, but the taste is flat, tart, and almost watery.

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2.       2018 Sauvignon Blanc    $25

The aroma is appropriately lemony and pineapple-y, but again the taste is mono-dimensional.  Light.

3.       2018 Chilly Day Chardonnay       $28

Although this is steel fermented, it smells almost woodsy.  I guess the term is forest floor.  It’s a fairly standard North Fork chard, though it lacks fruitiness.  (When I mentally compare it with our favorite East End chard, Scuttlehole Chardonnay from Channing Daughters, I realize how much better Scuttlehole is.) 

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I kept sipping water, hoping if I rinsed my mouth the wines would taste better.

4.        2018 Fresco White Blend            $22

Shortly after we tried this, our server stopped by to see what we liked so far, so I asked her (not having anything nice to say) what the blend consisted of.  Chardonnay, semillon, and sauvignon blanc, she told us.  I had thought it might have a touch of gewürztraminer, since the aroma has some of that floral quality and the wine has a touch of sweetness.  This is the best so far, with some pleasant citrus flavor and a good blend of tart and sweet.

5.       2018 Bianca Dolce Rosé               $20

The smell reminds me of red candy, and so does the taste—or strawberry shortcake.  I find it has a pleasant acidity (the quality that makes your mouth water), but my husband says it is “just sweet.”

6.       2015 Prima Rossa Red Wine       $18

This is their inexpensive, everyday blended red.  We don’t care for it, finding it actually rather harsh.  My husband characterizes it as “red fruit juice.”

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The reds did spend some time sitting in the sun, so perhaps they’d be better if they hadn’t.

7.       2015 Syrah Naturale      $22

The menu informs us that this is made with “indigenous yeast and minimal winemaker influence.”   We smell black raspberries.  The taste is soft, with some fruit and a touch of funkiness.  It’s okay to drink.

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In addition to the patio, there are comfortable seating areas out on the lawn.

8.       2015 Merlot      $27

We’ve been drinking a merlot we get at the liquor store labeled North Fork Merlot, from a vineyard in Cutchogue, but we don’t know who makes it.  However, we buy it a lot for everyday drinking because it is inexpensive and delicious, with lots of cherry flavor but not sweet.  This wine does have the cherry smell of a typical merlot, but the best we can say about the taste is that it is “not unpleasant.”  I get tart plum taste.

9.       2015 Spotlight Petit Verdot         $40

Every time we come across a winery that makes a straight petit verdot, they make a big deal about how it is usually used for blending, but here it is on its own.  The same is true at Sannino, where the name indicates that they’ve put a “spotlight” on the petit verdot, combined with just 15% cabernet sauvignon.  The aroma is nice, of red fruit and dark berries, but once again we find the wine uninteresting and a bit thin.

10.   2015 Cabernet Sauvignon           $38

Another red with a nice aroma but no depth or tannins.  My tasting buddy says it tastes like “red grapes.”  How strange.

11.   2015 Francesco               $45

According to the menu, they only make this wine, a four grape blend named for Mr. Sannino’s dad, when they have a good year.  2015 was a good year on the North Fork, with plenty of hot dry weather and a long growing season, so we have hopes.  Drinkable, but, alas, nothing special, though the aroma is promising.  “Everything has nothing,” says my husband, and I have to agree.

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12.   Dessert Wine (Port)

It does taste like a port, nicely sweet with good fruitiness, and would be lovely to sip after a meal, though my tasting pal finds it too sweet.  I don’t know what they call it or how much it costs, because I didn’t see that information.

Reasons to visit:  nice tasting room with a pleasant outdoor patio; if I had to drink a glass of their wine, I’d choose the Fresco, the Merlot, or the port, a.k.a. “fortified dessert wine.”  One cute note—the single occupancy rest rooms are labeled “Saints” and “Sinners.”  Which to choose?!

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A little Sannino family history.

Channing Daughters: Just Some New Releases August 27 2019

https://www.channingdaughters.com/

The last time we went to Channing, it was with the intent to resign our wine club membership.  We were persuaded to stay in the club when we learned we could switch from home delivery to pick-up at the winery, and go whenever we had time, even if it meant getting several selections at once. 

We only had one installment to pick up, but we had decided to take some guests on the ferries from Greenport to Sag Harbor, and make a day of it.  The ferries are not cheap, so it would not be cost-effective to go that route every time we needed to pick up wine (since we can drive around, through Riverhead), but on the other hand there was no way we were going to brave the traffic on Route 27 in the summer.  Been there, sat there.

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On the ferry!

The ferries were fun for our visitors, especially two little ones who were excited to get out of their car seats and stand in the car while it floated across Peconic Bay.  We also enjoyed strolling through Sag Harbor, visiting old favorites like the Wharf Shop and Blooming Shells.  After a picnic lunch at the beautifully re-done Mashashimuet Park playground, we headed to Channing, intending to just pick up our shipment.  But we hadn’t reckoned with the blandishments of the hospitable tasting room servers, who suggested that we “just try the new releases.” 

The small members of the party admired Walter Channing’s huge wood sculptures and read their books while we did a quick tasting.

My notes are skimpy, because we hadn’t intended to do a tasting, plus, as the designated driver I only took a sip of each wine.  But I think you can get a sense of what we love about Channing:  the great variety of their wines and their brave spirit of experimentation.

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1.        2018 Sauvignon Blanc                 $23

With its lovely lemon grass flavor, this is a perfect oyster go-with.

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This has a slight pink tinge, and is best served icy cold.

2.       2018 Rosato Petillant Naturel Cabernet Sauvignon          $28

Delicious!  A fizzy, fruity, yeasty, dry sparkler, we agreed we could drink this as a toast or an aperitif or with food.  Charcuterie, perhaps?

3.       2018 Sylvanus Petillant Naturel                $28

A blend of 50% pinot grigio, 40% muscat-ottonel, and 10% pinot bianco, this is a great illustration of the Channing experimentalism.  It has a nice aroma of pineapple, but I did not particularly like it.   

4.       2016 Blaufrankish                         $28

Another unusual blend, this is 75% blaufrankish and 25% dornfelder.  It is dry, with tastes of blackberry and other dark fruits.  Channing suggest you can age this 6-8 years.  By the way, it is great fun to read the descriptions of their wines on their web site, which goes into intricate detail on the wines.

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5.       Vermouths         $28 (most of them)

I didn’t taste the vermouths, but those who did said they would be great to drink on ice or in a cocktail.

Reasons to visit:  still the greatest variety of wines anyone makes on the East End; best winery on the South Fork (though Wölffer is also quite good, it is a much more formal setting); vermouths, petillant naturels (they make ten in all, though not all are available at all times); beautiful sculptures made by Walter Channing.