Suppose you like Lieb wines (as we do) and you decide to stop by their small tasting room on the corner of Cox Neck Road and Sound Avenue, only to find it…overrun sounds so judgmental, so let’s just say crowded…by the presence of a couple of limo groups. Never fear, you have a lovely alternative. Just go back onto Sound Avenue and continue a few blocks to Mill Road, turn left, then turn right onto Oregon Road and you will find yourself surrounded by farm houses and fields of sunflowers. You’ll pass Shinn Vineyards—also worth a stop, by the way—and eventually you’ll find Lieb’s second tasting room, carved out of a warehouse (sort of similar to the way their first tasting room shares quarters with the Premium Wine Group, which does the wine-making for quite a few of the North Fork wineries).
This tasting room does not accept limo or bus groups, so it is unlikely to be crowded. When we ask our server why the new room was opened, she gives just this reason, and notes that it is a nice place for their wine club members to come for a quiet tasting or glass of wine. They also have an efficient-looking little kitchen just off the room, where on the weekends they make snacks such as hummus, tomato bruschetta, oysters, and other non-cooked items (since they don’t have an oven on site). On this cloudy Friday, there is just one other group in the room, sitting around a table on the comfortable-looking modern wicker sofas. The room has a sophisticated, semi-industrial look, softened by a swag of cloth and a seashell wreath over the kitchen and a sea-view mural on one wall.
They offer six tasting options: five whites for $10, five reds for $10, a “summer fling” of six mixed types for $14, two sparkling wines for $7, a Reserve tasting of five for $12, and another summer tasting of four wines for $8. They also have a couple of Greenport Harbor beers on tap, in case your party includes a non-wine drinker. We decide to do a white flight and then a red flight, sharing as we go. The pour is fairly generous.
- 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot Blanc $12
But wait, you say, isn’t merlot a red grape? Yes, but if you don’t give it any time on the skins you get a white wine with some merlot characteristics. In this case, that involves some funkiness in the taste. We smell pine and mineral aromas, and the taste is sour, like grapefruit juice with some pineapple at the end. We wouldn’t want to sip this one, but it might go well with food that needs a strong white.
2. 2010 Reserve Pinot Blanc $18
Our well-informed server tells us that they are the only winery on the North Fork to make a Pinot Blanc, and so it is their signature wine. Again, this one is not for sipping, though it would have gone well with the lobster bisque I made from our leftover shells the other night. The aroma has a bit of the cat pee smell, and the wine itself is light and tart and citrusy, with a hint of sweetness at the end.
3. 2010 Bridge Lane Chardonnay $10
We like this steel-fermented chard very much, and the price is certainly right. Scents of cinnamon and mineral, with a bit of sweetness, lead to a classic steel chard with nice fruit, and not too much sweet.
4. 2009 Reserve Chardonnay $24
After eight months in oak, this is a lightly oaked chard, with some baked goods aroma. Very tasty, not too oaky, and again some sweetness at the end.
5. 2010 Sound Influence Riesling $24
Although this is an off-dry Riesling, we find the sweetness overwhelms the tastes of pineapple and tropical fruit and wildflower honey.
6. 2011 Bridge Lane Merlot $15
Now we switch to the reds, and we get a new glass, always a nice touch. Although we smell forest floor, the wine itself does not have any of that earthy dirt taste one sometimes gets. This would make a fine vin ordinaire, to have with pasta and such, as it has nice cherry flavors and just a little tannin. Buyable.
7, 2005 Reserve Merlot $22
18 months in French oak gives this wine an aroma of smoke and tomato. Hmmm…barbecue sauce? This is also a good pasta wine, and would stand up to a rich Bolognese sauce, as it has more tannins than the Bridge Lane Merlot. We taste cherry at the front of this relatively simple wine.
8. 2010 Right Coast Red $30
Here we have their classic Bordeaux blend: 58% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec. I’m assuming the name is a play on Right Bank Bordeaux! The aroma is almost meaty, it is so complex, and the wine itself is lovely, with lots of fruit. It would complement a rack of lamb very nicely, though the end taste is a bit sour.
9. 2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc $26
Our server describes this one as “nice and smooth,” as she also tells us it spent 15 months in French oak. We smell wet rock, and my husband says it smells like a typical Cabernet Franc, but “not to distraction.” Though not complex, this is a good red, with lots of fruit flavors.
10. 2005 Meritage $45
Another blend, this one has 75% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and Petit Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc. This is only the third time Lieb has made this wine, we are told, and they only made 300 cases of it. We are underwhelmed by its aroma of sticky candy and just okay taste.
They don’t offer any wine tchotchkes for sale. We do buy both the Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot. No reduction of tasting price with purchase.
Reasons to visit: you like a quiet tasting room in a bucolic setting; many of their wines, including the reasonably priced Bridge Lane Chardonnay and the Bridge Lane Merlot, are quite good; you want to come on a weekend and check out their snacks (I guess we’ll have to return!).