Jason’s Vineyard: Ahoy, Matey!

December 7, 2022

The nautical theme begins outside; note the roped pilings.

As we settled ourselves around Jason’s ship-shaped bar (mast and all), I joked, “And it’s not a pirate ship!”  I expected the server to agree, and explain that its design is a reference to the famous Greek ship, the Argo, whose captain was the hero, Jason.  Instead, he offered, “It’s a Viking ship.”  Assuming he was kidding, I laughed—but he wasn’t.  Though he’s worked for the Damianos family for years (They also own Pindar and the two Duck Walk tasting rooms.), no one had ever explained to him the mythological inspiration for the bar.  Jason Damianos, sadly, died in an auto accident not long after opening the tasting room, but the family continues to run it.  Though pleasant and attentive, our server was similarly not informed about the wines.  I hope after our gentle teasing he will be better informed for the next visitors.

The mast is designed like a classic Greek sailing ship‘s mast.

We had chosen to go to Jason’s because our visitors brought with them their very well-behaved pooch, and, according to the web site, they welcome dogs.  Then the sign on the door said, “No Pets.”  What to do?  I poked my head into the empty room, and asked, and the server welcomed us in, doggie and all. Whew. 

Our visiting pup.

We hadn’t been to Jason’s since February 2019, both due to the pandemic and because we had found the wines overall too sweet for our taste.  They seem to have partially corrected that, although Golden Fleece (a reference to the object of Jason’s quest), their most popular wine, is still much too sweet.  By the way, if you like to look at animals, you can stop outside to see the sheep and alpacas, another reference to the famous quest.  Oh, and the rest rooms are labeled Gods and Goddesses, reinforcing the mythological theme.

A tasting consists of four wines for $15, chosen from the list of eleven, served in little plastic cups on a labeled tray.  The servings were adequate for each couple to share a tasting.  We decided to mostly have the same wines, so we could compare notes, and all decided not to buy any wines to take home. They allow you to bring in snacks, and also sell a selection of crackers and cheeses.  Our guests bought a package of crackers as palate cleansers.

  • 2020 Viognier   $27.95

I often find viogniers quite pleasant, and this one was okay.  The aroma reminded me of fresh-cut grass, and the taste was somewhat grassy as well, with some herbal notes.  However, one guest found it somewhat vinegary, and too sharp for her taste.

The plate has an insert of numbers, and our server explained to taste them in a clockwise order.
  • 2021 Sauvignon Blanc    $24.95

Consulting my notes, I see that the last time we were here I characterized the sauvignon blanc as watery, and it still is.  It’s a very light white, with some notes of melon with lemon squeezed over it.

  • Golden Fleece    $18.95

Our guests ordered this one, and gave us a sip to taste as well.  A blend of chardonnay, seyval blanc, Cayuga, vidal blanc, and riesling—according to the tasting menu, though our server was unable to tell us in what proportions—this tasted mostly like a rather sweet riesling.  Not my type, though, as I mentioned above, this is apparently their most popular wine.

There’s an outside porch area, though not for a chilly rainy day.
  • 2019 Merlot       $34.95

“This is a competent merlot,” opined one guest, and I agree.  It is dry, with some cherry taste and aroma, somewhat light, with some notes of oak and smoke.  As we were sipping, we got into a discussion with our server, who by this time had exactly one other group to attend to, about how the Damianos family run three separate wineries.  He explained that, in addition to the eleven wines at Jason’s, the other two places offer thirty different wines each, with each meeting different requirements as to taste.  However, the same winemaker does them all.  That’s impressive, and part of why I find wine so fascinating.  The same grape, grown in the same area and type of soil, can end up tasting quite different, depending on time of harvest and after harvest treatment.

The bottles are adorned with an image of the Argo. It was manned by a group of heroes dubbed the Argonauts.
  • 2019 Meritage   $36.95

Although this is their Bordeaux blend (again, I don’t know proportions or grapes), it is thin, almost watery, with a slight taste of black olives.  Meh.

Reasons to visit:  you like to look at sheep and alpacas; you are fascinated by Greek mythology; you need to bring a dog with you (despite the sign on the door, the website does say, “Pets are welcome!”); you like sweet wine.

This alpaca seemed quite curious about us.

Bedell Cellars: Varied Factors

October 21, 2022

The experience of doing a wine tasting can be affected by many factors, not all of them related to the wines themselves.  For example, the last time we went to Palmer the lackadaisical service made the experience less pleasant than in the past.  On the other hand, the lively presence of Laura Klahre makes every visit to Coffee Pot Cellars a pleasure.  In this case, our feelings about Bedell were colored by the fact that it was a beautiful warm fall day, we had a great seat on the porch looking out at the vines, and we had one of our favorite people in the world with us.  We also had the capacious porch almost entirely to ourselves (no worries about having to vacate our seats, as the sign on the table warned).

Even the parking lot is nicely landscaped.
The walkway leads directly to the porch.
Plenty of room today. Our friend noted it would be a nice venue for a big party or wedding.

We entered the porch from the prettily landscaped parking area, and were greeted by a young man behind the bar, who provided us with menus.  Bedell offers a basic flight of three of their wines for $15, or you can assemble your own flight from their menu of 19 wines for $6-$10 per taste.  Since we wanted to compare notes, we decided to each get the basic flight (with my husband and me sharing, since I was the designated driver), with the idea of getting an additional taste of something else if we wanted it.  The server poured our three tastes, and we carried them to a corner table where the afternoon sun made a nice warm spot.  We hadn’t had lunch, so we ordered a cheese and one of the salumi and some crackers, which were brought to our table.

The snacks came wrapped, with plates and those little wooden knives—which were quite inadequate for slicing the cheese, a nice wedge of Beemster.  It would be helpful to get a real knife.  We also were given little wooden picks for picking up the slices of Napoli salami, which fortunately came pre-sliced.  The crackers were…inoffensive.

As we sipped and chatted and enjoyed the view, soft rock of the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel variety played in the background.  The pour, by the way, was fairly generous, and we felt no need for more wine.

  •  2021 Rosé          $25

The weather was doing a pretty good imitation of late summer rather than early fall, so the rosé felt quite appropriate.  It has an interesting aroma of tropical fruit and minerals, with tastes of guava and minerals.  Nice, dry, and light; our friend notes it would be “nice on an August afternoon,” to sip on its own.

  • 2020 Pinot Gris                 $30

Like the rosé, this has a more interesting aroma than many wines of this variety.  I say mossy and a bit funky, and no one disagrees with me.  The taste is also more complex than many North Fork whites, with some tart Granny Smith apple taste.  We decide that it is best with food, and make some inroads on the cheese and salami.

I noticed the plastic curtains, which should make the porch usable even on not so nice days.
  • 2019 Malbec      $45

But the cheese goes best with this wine, an intense red with crushed berry taste which our friend compares to her favorite soda, Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry, except not sweet.  She starts fantasizing about drinking it with some matzo ball soup, a knish, and a pastrami sandwich.  Maybe!  It is good, though not $45 good, we agree, and I remember that one time when I wrote about Bedell I discussed the issues of price and value in wines.  They still have some very pricey wines, including Musée, at $125 per bottle.  Wow.

We made friends with Barney, who was focused on a crumb I had dropped.

Reasons to visit:  in warm weather, a pleasant outdoor covered porch with a view looking out over the vines; all three of the wines were good, though not good enough that we bought any; they allow dogs, at least on the porch, since as we were getting ready to leave we had a little visit with Barney; you can build your own tasting from their extensive menu of wines.

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company: A Cold Beer on a Hot Day

August 9, 2022

It was hot, hot, hot, and we’d spent the morning on the beach, so a cold beer sounded a lot more appealing than a glass of wine, even a crisp white or chilled rosé.  In addition, our guests had brought their dog with them, limiting the number of wineries that would welcome us all, so a brewery seemed like the best idea.  We knew Greenport was dog friendly, so off we went. 

My list.

At the bar, each couple picked five beers from the extensive list, and, without planning to, we only overlapped on one, so we got to try a panoply of brews.  I asked our server where we could sit with the dog, and she gestured all around and said, “Anywhere you like.”  I asked, because there weren’t any free tables in the main room, and it was too hot to sit outside.  So we settled ourselves in the side room.  Feeling a touch peckish, we added fish dip and freshly made fried potato chips to our order.  The chips were crisp and tasty, and the dip reminded me of one I’ve made with smoked bluefish and mayonnaise, perfect with the beers.

Yummy snack.

We were more than halfway through our flights when a different worker came over and, very apologetically, told us that we’d have to take the dog into the other room.  A health department violation!  Oh my.  There still were not any good four-person tables, but they quickly wheeled in a nice big table and added chairs for us, so no problemo.  At the end, our guests decided to prolong the experience with a glass of Dog Adoption.  For $12, they could have gotten a keepsake glass and Greenport Harbor would donate $4 to Unicef for Ukraine.

Our doggie guest felt comfortable enough to demand a tummy rub.

By the way, there is no attempt to tell you in which order to taste your flight.  You give the server your list of choices, and they put them into the whale-shaped carrier in the order in which you listed them.  However, it is best if you try to order them from lightest to heaviest, since a light beer’s taste will evanesce if you have it following a porter.

Our two flights. Note the PINK beer in the background.

My notes are rather sketchy, since we were enjoying our conversations on other matters, but I would say overall I was a bit disappointed with this particular array of beers.  They mostly seemed aimed at easy summer drinking, which I suppose is appropriate, but, while refreshing, they were a bit short on interest. 

  •  Summer Ale

This is our only overlap, so we tasted it in tandem.  I pronounced it refreshing, while one guest opined that it had a “faint dishwater aftertaste.”  Not being in the habit of sipping dishwater, I can’t verify that judgment, but I would categorize that flavor as reminiscent of mineral water.

  •  Haus Pilsener

This had a fuller taste than the Summer Ale.  It reminded me of beers I had on tap in Prague, and I could see drinking it with a hearty serving of sausages.

  • Dog Adoption

Greenport Harbor really does sponsor a dog adoption service, hence the name of this beer.  Since our visiting dog was adopted from a shelter, it seemed appropriate to include this beer in our tasting.  I’m not a big fan of grapefruity IPAs, which is what this one was.

  • Evil Duck

The cloudy, unfiltered appearance of this one sparked a conversation about whether or not unfiltered beers were healthier.  The jury is out.  Words we used to describe this are sour, fruity, like a green apple or bosc pear…not so evil.

  • Claudio’s Pirate Lager

Ho ho ho.  Better than Bud, opined one of us, but not by much.  So much for pirates.

  • Black Duck Porter

This is a fixture in the panoply of Greenport Harbor brews, and one I like.  It is a stout-y dark brew, with some chocolatey tastes.  Good sipping in a pub stout.

  • The Hot Sauce

I asked the server about this before I added it to my list, and she said, in a cautionary tone, “It’s hot.”  It does have an aftertaste of chilies and lemon, and smells a little bit like hot peppers, but it is not super spicy.  It may give one a bit of heartburn.  I would say, drink this with something bland, like simple hamburgers.

  • Maibock

This is my favorite of the day, in that it has lots of taste for a fairly light beer.  Again, a good summer sipper.

  •  Up in the Mix

Ever have a pink beer?  Me neither—until this one.  One guest dubbed it “candy beer,” and “like a kid’s drink.”  I guess it is a beer for someone who doesn’t like to drink beer, but somehow found themselves dragooned into a visit to a brewery.

Reasons to Visit:  dogs are allowed; lots of choices and a changing menu all the time; Haus Pilsener and Black Duck Porter; freshly made potato chips and fish dip (plus they have a more extensive menu of food than many places).

The beer garden is relatively new–or at least, I had not noticed it before.

McCall Wines: Here’s the Beef

June 24, 2022

If you check out the McCall wines web site and scroll down to the bottom of the shop page, you’ll see something unusual:  ground beef, $15.  Huh?  Yes, the McCalls raise Charolais cattle and sell the grass-fed beef, some of which can be found in the winery shop.  You might also spot the white cows in one of their fields as you drive along the Main Road.  As I was paying our bill after our tasting, Mrs. McCall urged us to come back on a Thursday or Friday, from 4-8, when they serve burgers made from their beef.  If I do, I’ll post about it!  And I already know which wine I’ll get a glass of to go with that burger: Ben’s Blend.

The outdoor setting is quite pleasant.

The turn-off to the McCall winery is rather subtle, and easy to miss, but it is basically across the street from Pellegrini.  You drive around back to a grassy parking area, where you see a lawn dotted with picnic tables and a rustic barn.  Inside, there’s a new bar, which wasn’t there the last time we came in 2018, and a couple of stalls with cozy seating areas.  Since it was a beautiful day, we opted to sit outside, and Mrs. McCall supplied us with menus.  In a few minutes, a server came by with glasses and a bottle of water, a nice touch. 

They have a fairly typical small menu of snacks, but we’d just had lunch, so we didn’t get anything.  The rest of the menu listed four different flights, of three or four wines each, so we decided to share two flights, so we could try a range of their wines.  Then we realized that there was some overlap, in that if we got the pinot flight ($23) and the reserve flight ($30), both included the “Hillside” pinot noir.  Could we sub in the estate merlot instead?  Sure.  And the reserve flight includes a chardonnay aged in oak.  Hmmm.  A discussion ensued, in which we were assured that the chardonnay is “lightly oaked.”  I really do not like those buttery, California-style oaked chards, so we shall see.

We enjoyed the dappled shade of the trees, but that might make this a bit hard to read!

Service is friendly and informative, and we chatted with one server about how they fared during the pandemic, since we had not been there since before it.  “We were busier than ever,” she informed us.  People just were grateful to have someplace to go, and were very respectful, masking if they got up from their tables, for example.  She noted that the outside tables are well-spaced.  The view is bucolic, as you look out onto the grape vines—though the sense of country peace was temporarily marred as a trimming machine was going up and down the rows.  Fortunately, it finished well before we did.

The noisy machine…well. it is a working farm.

Overall, my husband commented, the place got plus marks for setting, but he was not overly impressed with the wines, which we found drinkable but not special.  We did like the way the wines were served, especially since we were sharing the flights.  We each got a wine glass, and then the tastes were brought to the table in little carafes, set down in the order in which they should be tasted. 

Pinot Flight:

Our first flight.
  •  2021 Whole Cluster Rosé           $24

“Better than average,” opined my tasting buddy, as we sipped.  This has lots of strawberry aroma, though the taste is more lemony and tart than some rosés.  It definitely has some character.  I said it was mouth-watering.  Made from pinot noir grapes.

The warm day made our carafe of water quite welcome. We also used it to rinse our glasses between tastes.
  • 2015 Pinot Noir Estate   $30

This one had almost no aroma, and the taste was also somewhat thin.  Very dry.  I got some blackberry or sour cherry flavor.  My husband said it was “simple, not sophisticated.”  I think it would be fine with food, but it’s not a sipper.

  • 2014 Pinot Noir “Hillside”            $59

“Hillside” refers to the fact that this pinot is from a different area of the vineyard, with somewhat different terroir.  We like it better than the previous one, as there is more body to it.  The menu says “hibiscus,” but since I don’t know what that smells or tastes like, I can’t say if that’s accurate.  I do get some berry taste, and it is very dry.

Reserve Flight:

Our second flight, after we had poured the chardonnay back into the carafe and poured the merlot.
  1.  2018 Chardonnay Reserve         $39

As I feared, we do not care for this.  It smells and tastes very strongly of pineapple, and is too sweet for us.  It does have a pretty golden color.  We pour our tastes back into the carafe.

  • 2015 Merlot Estate         $24

This is our replacement for the Hillside pinot, and we like it better.  It’s a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with cherry aroma and taste, dry, with some tannins.

This is about half of what was in the carafe.
  • 2014 Merlot Reserve      $30

I always find it instructional to taste various iterations of the same grape, especially from the same winery.  This merlot is “more interesting,” according to my tasting pal, with aromas of cherry, leather, and tobacco.  It has lots of tannins, and we discuss that it is the opposite of “fruit forward.”  Fruit backward?

  • 2014 Ben’s Blend            $58

Named for their original winemaker, who sadly died too young, this is their Bordeaux blend, a mix of 30% each cabernet franc, pinot noir, and merlot, plus 10% petit verdot.  We like it the best of the day, appreciating its aromas of berries, leather, and tobacco, plus some nice blackberry fruit tastes.  It definitely needs food, however.

Our “extra” taste of the chardonnay, thoughtfully served with clean glasses.

Extra!  Mrs. McCall stops by our table and sees the almost full carafe of chardonnay.  You haven’t tried the chardonnay yet?  She asks.  No, we tell her, we tried it and didn’t care for it.  “Would you like to try our unoaked chardonnay?” she asks.  Sure!  So she brings over a carafe of it.  We like it much better.  It is crisp and refreshing, with tastes of citrus and green apple, and we buy two bottles, at $20 each.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant outdoor setting with a backdrop of the vines; cozy interior; they allow dogs, but call first to be sure there aren’t any other canine visitors; the Whole Cluster Rosé, the Unoaked Chardonnay, Ben’s Blend; no outside food Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so I assume it’s okay during the week; lovely service; Thursday and Friday burger nights, and you can buy the beef.

The trailer from which they serve burgers on Thursdays and Fridays.

Castello di Borghese: Cherry Blossom Time

May 10, 2022

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

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

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

Their solution to how to serve a flight.

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

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

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

Herbie!

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

  •  2020 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

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

  • 2020 Chardonnay           $25

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

  • Fleurette Rosé   $18

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

  • 2020 Rosé of Merlot       $22

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

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

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

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

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

  • 2020 Reserve Cabernet Franc     $44

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

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

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

Duck Walk: Time to Par-tee

March 26, 2022

Our visiting pooch.

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

Dr. “Dan” Damianos overlooks the tasting room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  2020 Reisling*  $21.95

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

  • 2020 Sauvignon Blanc    $21.95

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

  • Windmill Red *                $18.95

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

  • 2020 Pinot Grigio            $21.95

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

  • 2019 Pinot Meunier *    $26.95

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

  • 2018 Merlot      $21.95

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

  • 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon *        $21.95

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

  • 2019 Pinot Noir               $38.95

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

  • 2020 Aphrodite *            $21.95

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

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

Disco-themed bachelorettes!

Jamesport Farm Brewery: Really a Farm; Really a Brewery

February 25, 2022

Yes, they grow their own hops and barley on their farm in Jamesport, and they are quite proud of it, too.  The farm connection is also evident in the actual tasting room building, which was originally a potato barn.  You can read all about the construction in big posters on one wall of the tasting room, which provided a welcome distraction for the small visitors we had with us. 

Once again, we thought carefully about where to take these visitors, who are lovers of wine, beer, cider, and cocktails—which makes finding a place to go easy—and the parents of two young girls—which complicates matters, though in a good way.  We decided on Jamesport for several reasons: it is a short drive from our home; it is a large facility where the girls would be able to be up out of their seats; it is informal, so no one would object to small fry (though the tasting room does not welcome under-21s on weekends); and our guests had never been there.  Also, we ourselves had only been there once, not long after they opened, and we were interested to see how they were doing. 

As it turned out, this was a good choice in every way.  We pushed two of the little picnic tables in the tasting room together, so the girls could sit comfortably and read their books, and we enjoyed tasting the brews.  (We bought soda and chips for the little ones.)  The tasting room is big, with a stage for live performance on one side, picnic tables, a bar with bar stools, and a little shop area selling t-shirts and such.  The menu has fourteen brews on offer, which I guess may change seasonally, so there was plenty of variety.  The four adults shared two flights, of four beers each, so we may go back and try the ones we missed.  A flight, by the way, is $25, and includes not just the four tastes, but also a pint of any brew in a glass you get to keep. 

On this rainy, chilly day, there were only a few other people in the tasting room, though we were told that they’ve been getting good crowds on the weekends, when they have live music.  They have plenty of room outside, with a huge beer garden space, and a very large parking lot, which I wish they would pave, as it was quite muddy.

The parking lot was very muddy!
Our little girl guests were charmed by this well-behaved Australian shepherd.

At the end, we bought a growler of Wined Out to take home, which proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the tacos we bought at Mattitaco.  (I particularly recommend the BLT–bacon, lobster taco–the Korean BBQ, the Chicken Tinga, and the mushroom and cheese quesadilla.) My growler, by the way, was from Greenport Harbor, for which I apologized to Joe, the friendly and informative server.  “That’s okay,” he replied with a smile, “we’re all friends out here.”  

  •  Nite Lite             4.3% ABV (Alcohol by volume—a number which can vary widely for brews)

“Light lager” is the description of this brew, and light it is—only a step up from Bud light.  It is a hot-summer-day-after-mowing-the-lawn beer, almost watery, with slight citrus and bread notes.

  • Prancing Pony   5%

As Lord of the Rings fans, we of course had to try this, even though it is a blackberry wheat beer, and I generally dislike wheat beers and berry-based beers.  However, I find this quite potable, not sweet, crisp, with just a touch of blackberry flavor— “enough to make a Hobbit smile,” says the menu.  We agree it would be a good accompaniment to Thai food.

  • Weekend at Bernie’s      5.4%

I like the sweet aroma of this blond ale.  It drinks like a classic blond ale, tasty, with a long finish.  Good for sipping by the pool  😉

  • Waves of Grain Amber  6%

We all like the distinct, malty, toasty taste of this amber/red ale, with just a nice amount of hops.

  • Wined Out Fresh Hop     6.5%.

This is my favorite so far, an IPA that is not overly grapefruity.  It is made from fresh hops, and is quite refreshing.  We discuss that it would go well with, for example, a vinegary pulled pork, and decide it will be perfect to take home for the Mattitaco take-out we have planned for dinner.  Which it is.

  • Wicked Little Sister         7.2%

There are two little sisters at our table, and one approves in theory while the other approves in actuality of this IPA. It is pleasantly bitter, with plenty of grapefruit and other citrus tastes.  In fact, our visitors like it so much, they buy a four-pack of cans to take home.

  • Gentleman Joe Porter    6.8%

We save the dark beers for last, since drinking them first would make it hard to taste the lighter brews.  I generally like dark beers, and this one has a promising aroma of coffee and chocolate.  However, I find it has too much coffee flavor for me.  I joke that if you have a glass of Wicked Little Sister and another of this, you’ll have breakfast—grapefruit juice and coffee.

  • The Kurgan        10%

I should have asked why name this Scotch ale for a character from “The Highlander,” other than the movie is about Scots.  The menu describes it as “the Scottish version of an English-style barley wine.”  I say it is almost too easy to drink, with some sweetness and caramel flavor.  It is really delicious, and I could definitely see sipping it in a cozy pub. 

I forgot to take a picture of my pint before it was mostly gone–but it was a full glass!

Now it is time to return our trays of tastes, in exchange for which we each get a pint of our choice.  I decide on Wined Out, and our guests opt for Waves of Grain.  At the end, Joe very kindly rinses out our glasses and wraps them in paper towels for us to take home.

Additional options. They could improve their soda and snack selections.

Reasons to visit:  good brewery, with choices for all tastes in beer; big facility, especially in the warm weather; farm to table; dogs allowed; they will have a food truck starting in March, but no outside food is allowed; wines and sodas available; Weekend at Bernie’s, Waves of Grain, Wined Out, Wicked Little Sister, The Kurgan, and, if you like wheat berry beer, the Prancing Pony.

Next time I go, I need to ask what this is!

Pindar Vineyards: Plenty of Variety

February 15, 2022

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

Gina was very pleasant and attentive.

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

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

We got different colored Sharpies to mark up our menus.

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

  •  Premier Cuvée Brut       $32.99

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

  • Dr. Dan’s Extra Dry         $29.99

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

  • 2020 Viognier    $21.99

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

  • 2020 Sunflower Chardonnay      $21.98

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

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

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

  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon           $18.99

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

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

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

  • 2017 Syrah         $18.99

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

  • 2017 Tannat      $21.99

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

  1. Pythagoras         $18.99

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

  1. 2019 Mythology              $$42.99

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

  1. 2019 Merlot Reserve      $34.99

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

  1. 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve           $34.99

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

Windmill!

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

They ship to forty states.

Bridge Lane: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

September 3, 2021

As though to compensate for all the heat and rain we encountered this summer, September is starting out pleasantly warm and dry.  It was a perfect day to go to a winery and sit outside, and, after some discussion and viewing of websites, we and our visitors decided to go to a winery in our immediate neighborhood, Bridge Lane.  Though we had all been there several times in the past, we hadn’t visited in a few years, and notably not since they did a lovely renovation of their outdoor area, with rainbow-striped tables, a pebbled surface, comfy Adirondack chairs, and a couple of shuffleboard courts.  A wooden wall and evergreen trees help screen the area from the cars whizzing past on Sound Avenue. 

Bridge Lane has several aspects that made it a good choice for us, besides its proximity.  It welcomes children, at least during the week, and has ample outdoor space for them to roam, and it also allows you to bring your own snacks.  By the way, it is right across Cox Neck Lane from a little shopping center which includes Wendy’s Deli, Pizza Rita (which has fantastic thin-crust gourmet pizzas, but is only open Thursday-Sunday—and not always then, check their Facebook page to be sure they’re not off doing a catering job), and Ali Katz Kitchen, which also has limited hours but has delicious baked goods as well as other interesting foods, such as quiche.  I think all of those places should work out a deal with Bridge Lane to offer coupons worth something off their food if you are doing a tasting or sitting there with a glass or bottle or can of wine! 

Yes, I did say can.  In what is becoming something of a trend out here, a number of wineries are offering their wines in cans, which hold about two glasses.  Bridge Lane goes further, and also offers boxes and even kegs of their wine.  This fits with their overall philosophy, which is that wine should be a fun, casual, inexpensive drink; all the bottles are $20 each.  Interestingly, they are affiliated with Lieb Cellars, which takes their wine very seriously. 

A few more comments—our visit was enhanced by the presence of Bunker, a sweet and friendly little white poodle, property of our server, who noted that they do allow dogs on the property, unlike many other wineries.  The children in our party fell in love with Bunker.  And in a nice touch, the server brought out to the tables bottles of water with paper cups.  They do have live music on weekends, but this afternoon recorded music of the Billy Joel type provided some background sounds.

If you look over the fence at the back of the tasting room and see huge metal vats, know they are not just there for Bridge Lane wines (though our server did inform us that they sell more wine than most other wineries on the North Fork).   The site also houses Premium Wine Group, which does the winemaking for a number of the smaller vineyards who don’t have their own winemaking equipment.

A tasting consists of all five of their wines for $15, and the pour is quite generous, so my tasting buddy and I were glad we had opted to share.  Our guests bought boxes of the white merlot, the chardonnay, and the red blend to take home.

*White Merlot

I liked this the best of the wines.  It is a light, citrusy, floral white, a good summer sipper, and would have gone well with the oysters from Braun’s we had the night before.

*Sauvignon Blanc

The aroma of this wine is one I don’t care for, as it has hints of kerosene. Also a scent of cut grass.  Otherwise, this is a pleasantly dry white, which would go well with scallops or a fish in a creamy sauce.

*Chardonnay

This wine gave me the opportunity to teach some of the party the word petrichor, which is the scent of earth after rain—or that smell you get in the City when you walk past an apartment building on a hot day and the doorman is out there washing off the sidewalk.  One guest and I agreed that the taste of this was like a not-quite-ripe nectarine or yellow plum, with some pleasant minerality.  Again, this is a light, dry wine.

*Rosé

A couple of days ago we had local duck breast and drank a Channing Daughters rosé made from syrah grapes with it.  This rosé is not nearly as tasty.  It has a slight strawberry aroma, and is extremely light and dry, without much fruit flavor.  “It would be good in a kir,” observed one guest.

*Red Blend

So if you got a pizza from Pizza Rita, this would be the perfect wine to drink with it.  Like all the other wines, it is light and dry and easy to drink; it’s a good pizza/pasta wine.  It’s a good red for non-red-wine drinkers.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant outdoor seating areas; reasonably priced wine and tasting, with a generous pour; the white merlot, the chardonnay, and the red blend; snacks are allowed; dogs are allowed; children are allowed; Bunker!

Osprey’s Dominion: Good Place to Perch February 22, 2020

https://ospreysdominion.com/

On this warm, sunny Saturday, we drove east on Main Road, passing wineries with almost-full parking lots. We theorized that it was the combination of the end of the February vacation and the beautiful weather that had drawn the crowds, plus the promise of music in many of the tasting rooms. I had checked the Winterfest web page before we left home, but it was soon clear that many places had live music they had not bothered to register with the Winterfest page. So I suggest that if you are looking for music, you check individual winery web pages to see what they have scheduled—or just head out to the North Fork and look for the “Live Music” signs.

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Many people were relaxing and enjoying the food they brought with them and the music. We would have preferred if Erich Glaubitz had lowered his volume, though we liked the music.

Fortunately, we liked the folky music the singer/guitarist, Erich Glaubitz, was playing at Osprey’s, because otherwise his overly loud amp would have been unbearable. The loud music did make it hard to converse, but we managed. We stood at the bar; however, the room was filled with people who had brought snacks with them, sharing bottles of wine as they sat at tables and enjoyed the sun-filled space. Osprey doesn’t offer much in the way of food, though a sign on the bar offered the “best guac dip EVAH!”—an assertion with which my husband begged to differ, since he makes an awesome guac. We noticed a number of canine companions, so this is a place you can bring your doggy friend.

We enjoyed an instant rapport with our server, who noted that she also kept a notebook for her tastings, and recommended that if we are ever in Windham we look for a terrific wine bar she found there. She helped us with our choices from the list of many wines, after some discussion of our likes. One tasting option is five wines for $12, which was plenty for us to share. We could also have chosen four of their “Library” wines—aged wines that they have just released—for $15. Then we had to figure out which five wines. There are five whites, one rosé, eight reds, and five Reserve Collection wines, a combination of whites and reds. Not to mention three dessert wines.  Oh boy.

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One thing I like about this winery is that they have a variety of wine prices.

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She set us up with two tastes at a time, and urged us to ask anyone for help if she didn’t happen to be available.

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As I drive around the North Fork, I love spotting the osprey nests, which are huge constructions on the top of poles.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $19

I like to start with a sauvignon blanc, because they tend to be light and dry, and work well with whatever follows them. This was no exception. Our server noted that she tastes grapefruit, and we agree. My tasting buddy thinks it may be a touch sweet, while I find it tart, and then we decide what is reading as sweet to him is a bit of melon taste when you first sip it. Good with light fish dishes.

  1. 2014 Gewürztraminer $19

Certain North Fork wineries make what I consider exemplary versions of particular wines, and for me One Woman makes the best local gewürztraminer. This one, which also contains some riesling, is not as good as hers. The aroma is interestingly complex, including petrichor and gooseberries. We find it a bit too sweet, especially at first sip, though then it ends quite tart, almost acid. It’s not bad, but I find something a bit off-putting about it.

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  1. Richmond Creek Red Blend $14

Richmond Creek is their less expensive label, but we like these wines just fine, and often buy them at Vintage, the wine store in Mattituck. This one is a Bordeaux-style blend, of 42% cabernet sauvignon, 26% cabernet franc, 23% merlot, and 11% pinot noir. The aroma is lovely, combining cherry, mint or eucalyptus, cedar, and tobacco. It is very dry, with some tannins, and nice fruit. This is a good everyday red, a burger or pasta wine.

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  1. 2014 Carmenere $30

I was interested to try this wine, since Osprey is the only winery on the North Fork to grow this grape. The 2008 Carmenere is on the list of Library wines, so clearly they feel this is a good wine for aging. I think the 2014 could use more time. The aroma is of dark berries, and it tastes like red plums. Lots of tannins—my tongue feels dry. This would match nicely with a rich beef stew, maybe a boeuf bourguignon.

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  1. 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $39

Our server urges us to try this one, which she categorizes as their best red, having won many awards. She adds that it is blended with some merlot and petit verdot. It is quite good, full-bodied, with lots of dark fruit flavor and mouth-puckering tannins.  It might benefit from further aging. I could see having this with lamb chops.

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I didn’t expect to like this, but I did. Nice way to end our tasting.

  1. Warm Spice Wine $16

Smiling, our server brings us this “extra” at the end of our tasting, urging us to try it. This is not a wine I would have chosen, but I find it surprisingly pleasant. It is seasoned with orange peel, anise, and cinnamon, with the taste of orange predominating. I thought it would be too sweet, but it is not at all. If I still skied, I could see sipping this by the fire after a day out on the slopes. Essentially, it is glogg, the Swedish mulled wine. Delicious.

Reasons to visit: pleasant large room, with options to stand at the bar or sit at a table; you can bring your own food—and pup; nice selection of gifts, augmented on this day by a woman selling hand-made jewelry; the sauvignon blanc, the Richmond Creek Red Blend, the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; and, surprisingly, the Warm Spice Wine. We also like the Richmond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which we often buy for everyday drinking at our local wine store.

On the way home, we stopped at the North Fork Doughnut Company and bought these doughnuts for dessert.  On the right is Peach Cobbler, and on the left is Hound Dog, which, since it includes peanut butter and bacon, I assume is an homage to Elvis. Yum.