March 11, 2022
The little sign attached to the big sign said “open,” so in we went. Laurel Lake was one of the last vineyards we went to in 2020, pre-pandemic—on February first—so we were curious to see how the new owners had changed things. From the outside, it didn’t look all that different, but as soon as we opened the doors we were amazed at the changes. If you’ve ever watched “Restaurant Impossible,” you know how much a room can change, but this was huge. The room even retained a faint smell of fresh paint.
Instead of having a warm, country vibe, the room has been transformed into a sleek modern space, with the old-fashioned hearth replaced by a gray stone fireplace. The room seemed particularly bare because they have not yet gotten their furniture. Supply chain issues, I assume. I sympathize, since we recently bought a set of eight dining room chairs, only six of which were in the store. Oh yes, we were told, we will have those other two chairs for you in a couple of weeks. Three months later we ended up with two chairs of a similar design, which we put at the head and foot of the table to minimize the differences.
We moved two wire chairs (I believe holdovers from Laurel Lake) from in front of the fireplace and put them next to a shelf display unit, to improvise somewhere to rest our glasses while we sat and sipped.
If you want to stand at the bar, there’s plenty of space, since it extends all along one side of the room. And once summer comes, they will have a lot of room—assuming their furniture arrives! —on the covered porch and the grassy grounds. Summer will also bring a food truck, at which point they will most likely no longer allow outside food. At the moment, all they have on offer is North Fork Potato Chips, so they likely wouldn’t object if you came with a snack—though there are no tables on which to put it. (By the way, they do allow dogs on leashes.)
We perused the menu, which had three categories: the Ev & Em E2 flight, of four wines for $32; Whalebone wines, available by the glass or bottle; and Laurel Lake wines, which they will continue to sell until they are sold out, of four wines out of a list of thirteen, for $25. Having tasted most of the Laurel Lake offerings, we decided to go for the E2 (E squared?) tasting. Since the new owner has kept the same winemaker, we were curious as to how the E2 offerings would compare. The new owner, by the way, is Dan Abrams, of ABC news fame, and the winery’s unusual name is a tribute to his two children. His book, Kennedy’s Avenger, is for sale at the winery.
So we told Danielle, the friendly and chatty server, our choice, and she poured our first taste into a nice big glass. Each time I got up to fetch our next taste, she and I chatted a bit, and she happily answered all of my questions. I was wondering what the Whalebone Wine was about, and she said it had to do with an interview in a magazine of that name, on display in the tasting room, for which a couple of wines were created.
- 2020 Chardonnay $32
I could immediately tell this was an oaked chard, since it had that piney, woodsy aroma of oak. Fortunately, it was not too heavily oaked, so though it had a bit of an unctuous mouth feel, it also had some refreshing citrus notes and some minerality. My drinking buddy pronounced it “drinkable.”
- 2019 Gewürztraminer $32
Danielle and I had a bit of a discussion about this one, since she said she liked it better than the Laurel Lake version of this grape. I found it too sweet. It has a lovely flowery aroma, and tastes of peaches and nutmeg (peach pie, anyone?). My husband thought it was monochromatic, and definitely too sweet for him. I much prefer the One Woman gewürztraminer, which was, at least the last time I tried it, much more complex. I guess this would be okay with spicy Thai food.
- 2019 Merlot $40
Would you like a clean glass? Yes, I would. Always a nice touch. There are many, many merlots on the North Fork, and every different price point, starting with the North Fork Project’s one liter bottle for $10 (three for $30 at Pellegrini Winery), surely the best NoFo bargain. The E2 merlot is at one of the higher price points, and not really worth it, though it’s not bad. It has a slight fruit/cherry aroma, with soft tannins, and is dry with tastes of fruit and herbs. Short finish, or as we like to say, the taste evanesces.
- 2019 Cabernet Franc $40
Although the winemaker has remained, he has, notes Danielle, tweaked the flavors of the new wines so they are different from the old ones. We discuss what a nice guy Juan Sepúlveda is, as I once had a long and illuminating chat with him when I came for a tasting and he was hanging out in the tasting room. In common with a tasting we had when this was Laurel Lake, the reds are still served too cold, so I warm it in my palm. After it warms up, we quite like this red, with its aroma of berries and wood and tastes of red fruit and spice. Dry, with some good tannins, which makes me wonder if it would age well.
Reasons to Visit: time to try a new place, though I suggest you wait until they get their furniture; pleasant outdoor spaces; they will have a food truck; the chardonnay, if you don’t mind some oakiness, and the cabernet franc; dogs are allowed; you’re a fan of Dan Abrams.