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!

Wine and Food Pairings (Inspired by Newsday)

Wine and Food Pairings (Inspired by Newsday)

IMG_4434

https://www.newsday.com/

https://paper.newsday.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?edid=b162131d-f983-4571-8d34-226583242f16&pnum=1

Today, for Valentine’s Day, Newsday ran a nice little piece, “Perfect Pairings,” about wine and food pairings. But they missed an opportunity, which Nofowineaux will attempt to remedy.  For example, they mentioned Peconic Bay oysters, but not the Long Island wines one could drink with them.  So what follows is my own list of the foods and types of wines they mentioned, updated with my own recommendations of local wines to use.

IMG_5532

We get a new red-wine-friendly glass with the reds.

  1. Roast chicken

Newsday says have pinot noir or an oaked chardonnay.  I say, try Castello Borghese’s or McCall’s pinot noir, or Castello’s oaked chardonnay.

IMG_5870

  1. Pasta with a Bolognese sauce

Chianti would be perfect, of course, and it is made with the sangiovese grape, which is found on Long Island in a few places.  Try the sangiovese from Pugliese, or the Meritage from Laurel Lake, a blend that includes sangiovese.

IMG_3804

The second three of the still wines. A coaster under each glass identifies the wine.

  1. Lobster

They say a steel fermented chardonnay or a rosé.  Of course, as soon as I hear rosé, I think of Croteaux, which has lovely dry Provençal-style rosés.  For a steel chard, my favorite is Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay.

IMG_5657
  1. Chicken Tikka Masala

Aside from my own kitchen, I don’t know anywhere on the North Fork to get Indian food.  When I make Indian food (as I did last night, making curried cauliflower and cucumber raita), I like to pair it with a slightly sweet white, which is also what Newsday suggests.  They say use a gewürztraminer, and you have three good options on the North Fork:  Osprey’s Dominion, Coffee Pot Cellars, or, my preference, One Woman.  We drank Meditazione from Channing Daughters, a delicious orange wine made from a blend that includes gewürztraminer.

img_6065

  1. Roasted White Fish

There are lots of good options for white fish fillets at Braun’s, and there’s almost always cod.  Newsday suggests a sauvignon blanc.  Almost every winery has a drinkable sauvignon blanc, but I prefer Channing Daughters to most of the others.  It is nicely dry, but has enough fruit to give it taste.  Other good ones: Diliberto’s, Duck Walk, Clovis Point, and Coffee Pot Cellars.

IMG_5871

  1. Rib-Eye Steak

Two sources of good beef are Wayside Market and 8 Hands (though 8 Hands doesn’t always have beef—check their web page or call before you go).  As to wines, Newsday recommends either a cabernet sauvignon or a sparkling wine (and many people believe sparkling wines go with everything).  Big reds are in short supply on the North Fork, but Laurel Lake has a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that’s pretty good.  Sparkling Pointe, of course, only makes sparkling wines.  Their Brut Magnum is lovely, but if you don’t care to buy a huge bottle you could try Roanoke Vineyard’s sparkling wine.

IMG_5788

The sparkler and the chard

  1. Oysters

In general, I like sauvignon blancs with oysters.  I find the lemony taste of the wine complements the bivalves very nicely.  They suggest a Muscadet or a sparkling wine.  You might try the Sherwood House blanc de blancs, or one of the above suggestions.

IMG_5152

  1. Cauliflower Steak

As Newsday notes in its article, it is often hard to pair wine and vegetables.  They suggest a grüner veltliner with this dish, and I agree.  One Woman makes a grüner that is one of my favorite North Fork whites.

As with all suggested wine and food pairings, personal taste is paramount.  If you just don’t like red wines or white wines (but why?), just go with what you like.  A light red can go with fish or chicken, and a heavy white, like an oaked chardonnay, can go with meats.  However, I can’t picture having any white with steak.  Instead, have a beer! Happy Valentine’s Day.

Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece February 9, 2019

Jason’s Vineyard: Not-So-Golden Fleece               February 9, 2019

https://www.jasonsvineyard.com/

If you remember your Greek mythology, you will realize that the boat-shaped bar at Jason’s Vineyard is meant to evoke the famous ship, the Argo, on which the Argonauts, led by Jason, set out to find the Golden Fleece—not, as we once heard a guest guess, a pirate ship.

IMG_6199

A view to the outdoor veranda and a portrait of Jason.

Jason was (he sadly died young, just a few years ago) a member of the Damianos family, whose other vineyards are Duck Walk and Pindar, which we reviewed recently.  We decided to check out Jason’s and make it a trifecta.  Having met and had a great chat with Jason, whom we ran into in a local store, back when he was planning to open this winery, we wanted to like it.  Though we were pleased by some of the wines, overall we found some of the same issues as with the other Damianos family wines, a tendency to over-sweetness and simplicity.

The tasting room is of average size, but they also have a plastic-sheeted veranda and an outdoor seating area for larger crowds in the summer.  The bar is surrounded by bar stools, so you can perch as you sip.  We observed one group nibbling on food they had clearly brought with them, and there are also a few snack items for sale.  In an outdoor enclosure we saw several sheep and alpacas, I suppose another reference to that famous fleece.

The menu offers five tastes for $15, and after some calculating we realized that we could do two tastings and try almost all of their wines.  You pay in advance and get a little pile of black “coins,” which the server collects as she pours each new taste.  The tastes, by the way, are quite generous, so that we found ourselves dumping those that didn’t delight with more frequency than usual.  They also have Greenport Harbor beer on tap.

IMG_6188

  1. 2015 Chardonnay          $21.95

The aroma of this steel-fermented wine is rather typically chardonnay-ish, with plenty of lemon and tropical smells.  The taste is also rather strong for a chard, and we decided it would go better with chicken than any sort of delicate seafood.

IMG_6187

No that’s not water–our water glasses are in the back–that’s how light the sauvignon blanc is.

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc $24.95

The first thing I noticed was the very light, almost watery color of the wine.  That turned out to be predictive of the taste, which I described as wine-flavored water.  Grassy aroma.

IMG_6190

  1. 2017 Pinot Blanc $34.95

“Are they keeping the wine outside?” wondered my tasting buddy, as we tried to warm up the very cold glass so we could assess the wine.  On the other hand, we liked this the best so far.  Although the aroma is slightly chemical, the taste balances citrus with a sweeter fruitiness, perhaps guava.  This is a white you could have with pork chops.

  1. 2015 White Riesling $24.95

Isn’t saying white riesling redundant, we asked our server, who chuckled and admitted she was equally baffled.  In this case, the chem lab aroma led to a taste we did not care for.  It was sweet, but with a bitter aftertaste, like honey being used to disguise medicine, as my mother used to do to give me aspirin when I was little.

IMG_6191

  1. Golden Fleece $18.95

Given the name, we were not surprised to hear her describe this as their “signature white.”  It is a blend of chardonnay, seyval blanc, Cayuga, vidal blanc, and riesling.  Though she didn’t have any information on the proportions, she said it was predominantly chardonnay.  Having been forewarned that this was on the sweet side, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, although it did remind us of white grape juice mixed with tropical fruit and tangerines, it was not cloyingly sweet.  However, we did dump most of this and the previous taste.

  1. 2014 Merlot $27.99

Our server poured this along with an “extra” of a taste of the 2000 Merlot, which they are offering for just $12 a bottle.  One sip and we knew why the low price—my husband described it as “if not over the hill, at least standing at the top and about to walk down.”  It smelled like forest floor and machine oil and tasted smoky and thin.  Which made the 2014 taste better.  It’s a typical North Fork merlot, with dominant cherry tastes and light tannins.  The extra, by the way, was not given to us because of the book, but according to the server is being given to everyone, so they are clearly looking to offload the 2000.  We dumped our taste.

IMG_6196

  1. 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $27.95

We had hopes for this wine, as it smelled really good, of dark fruits, but the taste was very light, with no depth and not much fruit.  Dump.

IMG_6197IMG_6203

  1. 2015 Meritage $29.95

This is an unusual blend for a red, of cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay, aged 24 months in French oak.  The aroma reminded me of Cheracol cough syrup, but the taste was not bad.  My husband described it as “not sophisticated, but tasty.”  A light red, it would be fine with pasta or, for a Greek meal, pastitsio.

IMG_6195

  1. 2013 Malbec $29.95

We get some wet basement funkiness in the smell, but fortunately it tastes better than that.  Though it is not complex, we get some nice dark fruits and light tannins.  Dry and drinkable.  We decide it could go with barbeque, but for this level of wine we’d rather head to Vintage, our local liquor store, for one of their $12 bottles.

IMG_6194

  1. 2007 Dessert Wine $28.95

As we were deciding which wines to get, we hesitated between this and the rosé in order to total ten tastes.   Our server, seeing what we liked, steered us to this one, telling us that the rosé was on the sweet side.  This, of course, is sweet as well, comparable, she said to a port, with 19.5% alcohol, made from cabernet.  A good drink for a cold day, she suggested.  It does taste port-like, rather sweet, but, my husband opines, with no depth or gravitas.  We try it with the heart-shaped chocolates that are in a bowl in front of us, which does improve the experience.  I could see sipping this by the fire with a piece of chocolate cake.  Or maybe just the cake…

IMG_6181

We noted the nautical theme even at the entrance.

Reasons to visit:  you like to visit the sheep and alpacas, though you are sternly warned not to feed them; very generous pour; you can bring your own snacks; the chardonnay, the Meritage, the malbec; the bar is cool; they also have the Absenthe, which we tried at Pindar.

IMG_6206

 

Which Wineries to Visit: A Summary

After several recent requests for specific guidance as to which winery to visit, I realized that, while my blog does detail my week-by-week impressions, I had given no summary of recommendations.  So, here are some suggestions:

If you are going East with a group, and you are interested in a party atmosphere, with a likelihood of live music (though many places now feature live performers, some are more likely to than others—check their web sites), two good choices would be Peconic and Vineyard 48.  Both have some good wines and both are often quite crowded on the weekends, with a number of vans and buses in the parking lot.  The last time we were at Peconic (in February of 2011) we liked the La Barrique Chardonnay 07 and the 08 Merlot.  We also visited Vineyard 48 that February, and liked the Sauvignon Blanc and the 05 Merlot Reserve.  We tend to visit these crowded places in the winter, as you may deduce.

If you will have children with you, Martha Clara is probably your best bet, as they do quite a bit of agritainment and they have a farm with interesting animals—llamas!—you may visit.  We haven’t been there in a few years, so I can’t really recommend any wine in particular, though I do remember being favorably impressed with their sparkling wines.  Pellegrini would also be okay, if it is nice weather, as you may take your tray of tastes outside and the children can play on the lawn.  A few wineries, such as Diliberto’s, specifically say no children.

If it is a beautiful day and you would like to relax in a pretty courtyard setting—and you like rosés (though if you’re not, Croteaux may make a rosé convert of you)—Croteaux is a lovely place to spend some time.  French music plays in the background, and it has comfortable Adirondack chairs and a laid-back atmosphere.  Another good outdoors spot is Old Field, with its mis-matched calico tablecloths and country farm background, though seating is not as comfy.

On the other hand, if what you are interested in is possibly chatting with the winery owner or a server who is very knowledgeable about the wines, and you like a small intimate setting, there are several wineries we like very much.  One is Diliberto’s, which we have been to frequently, though not recently.  It is just down Manor Lane from an apple orchard, so you can combine apple-picking (or just buying a bag of apples and a pie) with your winery visit.  On occasional Sundays, “Grandma” (a.k.a. Sal Diliberto himself) does cooking demos, making pizza or pasta, tastes of which he then distributes. He also sometimes has a singer and/or musician in. The room is small, painted in trompe l’oeil fashion to resemble the town square of a little Italian town, and we tend to like his reds.  Water’s Crest, which I have reviewed in the blog, is also a small intimate space, as are One Woman, McCall’s, Sannino Bella Vita, and Mattebella.  Though we’ve never encountered an owner at Shinn’s, it also has a cozy tasting room a bit off the main roads, though we only liked a couple of their wines.

Jamesport has some nice whites, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc, and often sells local oysters to consume with them.  We have been there on nice days when it feels like a big family party, with children playing on the lawn and musicians performing under a tent.  One time we were there and the guitarist played Blues Sonata, one of my favorite jazz pieces.

There are a couple of wineries I do NOT recommend (lest you think I like everything).  One is Duck Walk, which despite multiple tasting rooms on both the North and South Forks and the presence of crowds every weekend, had several wines we actively disliked, and a rather coldly commercial atmosphere.  The other is Raphael, which has a beautiful tasting room they often rent out for weddings and other parties, but which again had wines we did not particularly care for.  However, they do have a nice selection of wine-related gifts.  Baiting Hollow, also not one of our favorites, sells real food and lots of gift items, if that is what you are looking for.

Finally, there is one rather all-purpose winery which is probably our favorite:  Pellegrini.  We like most of their wines, and they tend to do a rather better job with reds than many North Fork wineries.  In addition, you can either stand at the bar and talk with the servers (especially Judy, who is quite passionate about the wines and knows everything about them) or take your carefully arranged tray of tastes to an inside or outside table.

To me, an ideal fall day on the North Fork would start with breakfast at Erik’s, go on to pumpkin or apple picking at Harbes or another farm and/or a stroll on a beach (Even if you’re not a resident, you can now park since it is after Labor Day. Head south on Cox Neck Road, go towards Cooper’s Farm stand—best eggs ever—and on to Breakfront Beach for a good walking beach.), then lunch at Love Lane Kitchen, a visit to a winery such as Diliberto’s, a walk around Greenport to check out the galleries and antique stores, and then another winery stop at Pellegrini’s or Old Field before stopping at Briermere to buy a pie and then heading home—or to Riverhead for dinner at Tweed’s.

Well, there’s much this leaves out, but you get the idea!  Enjoy.