Sparkling Pointe: Celebration Time

May 24, 2022

The lovely terrace was empty on this Tuesday.

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

The flute of Brut.

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

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

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

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

  •  2017 Brut          $31

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

  • 2017 Blanc de Blancs     $48

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

  • 2016 Blanc de Noirs       $75

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

  • NV Cuvée Carnaval Rosé              $36

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

  • 2019 Topaz Imperial Brut Rosé                 $44

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

  • NV Cuvée Carnaval Blanc             $30

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

  • 2011 Brut Seduction       $70

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

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

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

  • 2016 Reserve Blanc de Blancs     $68

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

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

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

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

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.

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels October 25, 2018

Sherwood House: One Stop, Two Labels               October 25, 2018

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The tasting room used to be a farm house, and it still has a homey feel.

https://www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com/

https://www.hounds-tree.com/

What happens when a vineyard is bought by new owners, who want to make their own style of wine, but the previous owners still use the same grapes for their wines?  You get Sherwood House and Hound’s Tree wines, made from the same grapes but in different styles.  Sherwood’s winemaker, Gilles Martin, likes the French style, while Hound’s Tree’s owners, who are from Oregon, use a West Coast style.  Confusingly, the vineyard is located on the North Fork on Oregon Road.

The last time we were here, the server set us up with parallel tastings, but this time, in the absence of her suggestions, we did a tasting of the Sherwood Classic wines, and then the Hound’s Tree ones.  There are actually four tasting options, but the two we did had no overlap.  In addition to the set tastings, they will also craft an all white or all red tasting on request.

Since the room is so pleasant, and we realized we’d be there a while, we decided to get a small cheese tray, put together by Lombardi’s Market.  $15.  Did we want crackers with that?  As opposed to what, eating the cheese by hand?  That will be an additional $3 for a small sleeve of Carr’s Water Crackers.  That seems a bit chintzy to us, especially since the cheese tray is rather meager.

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The cheese tray is adequate for two, if neither of them is very hungry.

We settled at a table, in sight of the fire in the fireplace, and brought our tastings and our cheese to the table ourselves.  Two other couples came in and took glasses of wine to sit on the couches by the fireplace.  Through an open doorway we could see into the William Riis gallery, where art, sculpture, and antiques are for sale.  Not a bad way to while away an afternoon.

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The first five wines are the Sherwood Classics Flight, $30 for a fairly generous pour.

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The sparkler and the chard

  1. 2016 Blanc de Blancs    $45

This is only the second time they have released a sparkling wine, so it is new to us.  Made from chardonnay grapes, it has a slightly vegetal aroma and is a pleasant dry sparkler.  It has a slightly yeasty taste, and is light.  You could definitely have this with a meal or some charcuterie.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $3

Our server describes this as “lightly oaked,” and I agree that it is not overly oaky or buttery or butterscotchy.  On the other hand, it is fairly nondescript, I say.  Undistinguished, adds my tasting buddy.  Bittersweet, with just a trace of butterscotch, even with the cheese it is just okay.

  1. 2010 Merlot $38

Better than the average North Fork merlot is our assessment of this dry and elegant red.  It has aromas and tastes of cherry, as expected, but also some interesting layers of flavor.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $40

Although this has a nice aroma of brambles and blackberries, there’s not much taste.  It’s a soft red, with no tannins, and some minerality.  Not a sipping wine, it would be okay with a burger.

  1. 2010 Sherwood Manor $45

The tasting ends with their Bordeaux blend, of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot.  The menu describes it as “preciously aged”—whatever that means—in French oak.  I smell plums and other red fruit, but it is too cold to taste much, so I warm it in my palm.  Ah, now I can taste it.  This is quite good, a wine for steak, dry, with various fruit flavors.  It’s also nice with the Marcona almonds on the cheese plate.

 

Each taste comes in its own glass, by the way.  Now we move on to the Hound’s Tree Flight, $25 for five tastes.  We snack on our crackers and cheese a bit to clear our palates.

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  1. 2016 Rosé         $22

The aroma is slightly funky, and smells like fermented berries.  Yum.  This has more taste than the average rosé, though it is served too cold, of course.  It is a blend of 70% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, and 15% cabernet sauvignon.  We taste fruit and minerality, but it’s not overly fruity.  This would be a good summer sipper.

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When wine is too cold, try warming it with your palms.

  1. 2016 Chardonnay $26

What is acacia aged?  The server has told us that this is aged in steel and acacia, but she can’t answer what that means.  We sniff and get minerals and just a touch of citrus.  My husband sips and says, “Watery.”  It is very light.  I say it is “not unpleasant,” which is not exactly high praise.

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Pretty labels.

  1. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

By the way, we find the labels for the Hound’s Tree wines quite attractive.  Although this has almost no aroma, it has, says my husband, “a distinctive taste which lingers in your mouth.”  It’s dry, almost tart, with not much fruit at all and some tannins.  Perhaps it needs to age longer.

  1. 2015 Merlot $29

Unlike the Sherwood merlot, which had lots of cherry aroma, this has almost no aroma.  It is quite dry, with some tannins but no depth, and is drinkable but not at all complex.  Innocuous, is a word we agree on.

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  1. 2015 Cornus Reserve $45

Why “Cornus”?  She doesn’t know, and the web site doesn’t even list this wine.  In any event, it is their Bordeaux blend, of 62% cabernet sauvignon, 19% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, and 3% malbec.  Of all the wines we tried today, this is our favorite.  It has red plum aromas, and a somewhat complex taste with red fruits and tobacco.  The tannins make me think it could improve with age.  It would pair well with lamb or mutton chops.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant, cozy tasting room with a fireplace and comfy couches; the chance to compare two different styles of winemaking using the same grapes (with very different results); the Sherwood Merlot and Manor; the Hound’s Tree Rosé and Cornus Reserve; you can shop the interesting items in the next-door gallery.  If I came there to sit by the fire and sip a glass of wine while listening the

 

 

music, I would get a glass of the Cornus.

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Palmer Vineyards: Sold! August 10, 2018

Palmer Vineyards:  Sold!              August 10, 2018

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This is the building with the tasting room, not to be confused with the first building you come to, which is the wine-making facility.

https://www.palmervineyards.com/#established-1983

The big news locally for those who are interested in wineries was that Paumanok Vineyards bought Palmer Vineyards.  My review will apply to the wines for the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the future brought some changes.  According to one article I read, Paumanok’s winemaker will take over at Palmer.  It will be interesting to return in a couple of years to see how they’re doing.

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Meanwhile, this was our first visit to Palmer since 2016, since a couple of times we stopped by and found the place too noisy and crowded for our comfort.  So we decided to try a Friday afternoon, and found we had the place to ourselves, aside from a few people out on the covered porch area. The last time we came we sat out there, since we were with relatives who had brought their dog with them, and we also shared a cheese platter.  We didn’t get one this time, but do note that they do not allow outside food.

After discussing the menu with the manager and each other, we decided to share two tastings, one of the whites and one of the reds, and settled into a booth.  We enjoy the décor at Palmer, which reminds us of our favorite British pubs, with cozy booths and old signs.  We only wish we liked the wines better.  They are all drinkable, but only one was a standout as far as I’m concerned.  The menu offers three options, all for four wines for $16 to $18.  My husband characterized the pour as “micro”:  each taste was just that, about two sips per person.

  1. 2016 Viognier                 $24.99

Only a few North Fork wineries offer viognier, which is too bad, as I tend to like wines made from this grape.  This one is dry, with an aroma of baked pear, and some nice fruit tastes plus minerality.  The menu says it tastes like quince.  Maybe.

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Small pour!

  1. 2016 Aromatico            $24.99

Often when a wine has a name other than the varietal it is a blend, and that is true of this one, which the manager tells me is, he thinks, 60% muscat and 40% malvasia.  Steel fermented.  When I hear muscat I wonder whether it will be sweet, but this one is not.  It’s fairly interesting, not your average Long Island white, with, according to my tasting pal, “lots of body for a white.”  There’s a taste of gooseberries and a tanginess to it that would make it a good match for the scallops we picked up earlier at Braun’s.

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  1. 2016 Gewürztraminer $23.99

Uh-oh.  The manager describes this as “semi-sweet.”  Too sweet for us!  It smells like honey and nutmeg, but actually doesn’t have much flavor.  There’s a trace of a chemical flavor I dislike, and we dump the last little bit of the small taste.

  1. 2017 Sparkling Rouge Rosé $21.99

He pours this from a partly used bottle with one of those champagne re-sealing corks in it, and at the end I ask him if perhaps it had lost its sparkle by the time he poured our taste.  No, he replies, it’s just not a very bubbly sparkler.  My husband says it has NDA—no detectable aroma.  Not even the strawberry one would expect from a rosé.  It is at least dry, but if you want a sparkling rosé I suggest you seek out Croteaux’s.  Vintage liquor store in the Mattituck shopping center carries all of their wines now.

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Not very sparkling and not very rose.

  1. 2015 Merlot (No price on the menu, but the 2014 is $24.99.)

As I told my brother the last time we were here, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, the reliable grapes that almost everyone grows (despite the opprobrium they got in the movie Sideways).  As expected, it has a cherry aroma and flavor, plus maybe some purple plum.  Dry, with faint tannins and a short finish, it is aged twelve months in French oak.  You could have this with lamb chops, or even roast chicken, but it would not stand up to a steak.

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  1. 2013 Old Roots Merlot $34.99

Why Old Roots?  Not surprisingly, because these grapes come from the oldest vines on the property, dating back thirty-five years.  The grapes are hand harvested, and aged for eighteen months, leading to a slightly more intense merlot experience than the previous taste.  Lots of cherry flavor, but no depth, is our verdict.  Maybe you could have it with grilled sausages, like the ones 8 Hands Farm makes.

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  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

According to the menu, the tastes for this include “subtle cigar box.”  Not sure what that is, but there is a smokiness to the aroma.  Not complex, it has lots of fruit flavor and is pleasant enough to be a wine one could sip as an aperitif.

 

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $28.99

The previous wine is aged for twelve months, while this one ages for eighteen, and it is more complex.  The aroma includes fruit and tobacco, and we taste plums and other dark fruits.  Not much tannin.  I remember a dish I used to make, of tongue in a pickle sauce, and think this would go with that.

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A glimpse of the covered porch. We decided to stay in the air conditioning!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room which looks like an English pub, plus a wide covered porch for outside tastings; the Aromatico and the Cabernet Franc; they serve pitchers of water if you ask; dogs are allowed outside.  Note—the first building you come to is a “self-guided” tour of the winemaking facility, so pull around to the back for the tasting room.

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This is the first building you see, but the tasting room is around the back.

McCall’s Winery: Here’s the Beef July 21, 2018

http://mccallwines.com/

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Why the reference to beef?  Because in addition to running a winery, the McCalls also raise Charolais cattle, and sell their grass-fed meat at the winery when it is available.

If you look on their website, you will see that they care about the environment and have taken steps to protect and improve it.  They also are careful with their grapes, and, while not certified organic, they do try to minimize the use of chemicals.  They focus mostly on red wines, though they do now have some whites.

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We went there on a breezy Saturday afternoon, and had a debate about whether to sit inside or outside.  Though we ended up inside, quite a few people were sitting under the trees on the lawn.  We did note that as they were served with cheese trays several crackers were gone with the wind.

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“Inside” is a converted stable, where you can actually sit in a cozy former horse stall or at a table in the central area.  We noticed all sorts of horse-related objects—saddles, bits, etc.—hanging on the walls, and a large mural showing the original Native American occupants of the land.

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Next time I go I will ask about that mural.

The menu offers three options:  Blancs, three whites and a rosé for $12; Noble, two whites and two reds for $15; and Reserve, four of their better reds for $19.   Knowing they pride themselves on their reds, we decided to share a tasting of the Reserve wines.  They do a two ounce pour, so sharing one tasting was plenty for us.  Mrs. McCall happened to wait on me, and she was happy to give details on each wine as we took them two by two to our table.  In the past we have also chatted with Mr. McCall, and they are both very pleasant and interesting to talk to.

  1. 2013 Hillside Pinot Noir              $48

Mrs. McCall informed me that they leave these grapes on the vines longer than for their other pinot noir, making for a richer wine.  These particular vines are located on a sloping piece of their property, hence the name.  The East End of Long Island is quite flat, but there are some small hills, including one as you approach Greenport that may not be steep but is long, as I recall every time I ascend it on my bicycle.  Back to the wine.  The aroma is fruity, with some cherry and other dark fruit.  The wine is dry, with some tannins, and pleasant fruit tastes, but is overall rather light, especially in this price range.  I think it would be better with food, and my husband opines that is it “closed,” which he defines unhelpfully as “not opened up.”  Maybe it needs more aging.

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Our first two tastes, plus a view of the lawn.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $48

The vines for this wine are thirty-five years old, and the older the vines the better the wines.  This is certainly a cut above the usual Long Island reds.  I think you could even pass this off as a French wine.  It has some layers of flavor and nice fruit, plus enough tannins that you could probably age it.  On the other hand, it has very little aroma.

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The bottles for the Reserve tasting

  1. 2010 Merlot Reserve $48

Like most Long Island merlots, this has distinct cherry flavors and aromas.  I also think I get a faint whiff of pine, or forest.  This is another pleasant wine that doesn’t seem worth the price, though we like it.  Not much tannin.

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Ben’s Blend has a beautiful dark color.

  1. 2013 Ben’s Blend $54

Ben was their original winemaker, who sadly died rather young, so they commemorate him in the name of their Bordeaux blend.  It is 50% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, plus smaller amounts of cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot.  The wine has a beautiful dark color, but is not as rich as one might expect.  The aroma is fruity, with also some funkiness like a forest floor.  The taste is good, not great, but again, maybe it could still age some more.  It feels like it doesn’t quite come together.  My husband thinks it would have gone well with our dinner last night of spaghetti with Italian sausage–or maybe with a steak from the McCalls’ herd.

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Beef

Reasons to visit:  uncrowded setting (limos only by appointment) with a pleasant outdoor area and interesting indoor setting;  the reds, especially the cabernet franc; you can also buy grass-fed beef to take home; no outside food on the weekends, but they do offer a generous cheese tray for $20 (and if a few crackers blow away they bring you extras).  I didn’t ask about dogs, but we saw one couple bringing theirs to the outside area.

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