In the summer, Jamesport has a wood-fired oven on the back patio, where they make thin-crust pizzas. They also often serve local oysters, and we have enjoyed sitting outside there with a glass of white wine and a plate of oysters in the summer sun, listening to music. However, this was the day after Groundhog Day, the icy parking lot made it clear there would be no sitting outside today, and when a couple came in seeking pizza they were referred to the restaurant Grana, just down the street. They were offered a cheese and charcuterie plate ($42), which a couple of large parties were having at their tables. (Jamesport does not allow pets or outside food, and allows children only outside in the back yard, not in the bar area.)
While some people might have been disappointed at the lack of pizza, they would not be disappointed in the wines. We tried ten (well, actually eleven) and liked most of them. The tasting menu offers any five wines for $20 from a list that includes six whites, six reds, three petillant naturels (sparkling wines), and a verjus. We decided to share two tastings, starting with the whites and then doing reds.
The nice-sized barn-like tasting room was surprisingly full for a mid-week winter day, but the lone server bustled about and was able to attend to everyone’s needs, including chatting with us about the wines and customizing our tasting. I am often so impressed with the people who serve in the wineries, with their ability to keep everyone’s tastings straight, recommend wines for varying tastes, and stay cheerful throughout.
- 2015 East End Chardonnay $18.95
Through a window in the wall of the tasting room you can see the steel vats in which this chardonnay is fermented. We sniff and identify citrus, orange, flowers, and another smell and taste we can’t quite identify until our server suggests almonds. Yes, bitter almond it is. We like this chardonnay, with its full taste and long finish, not too sweet, with a bit of minerality. We discuss what to pair it with, and settle on tuna, like the lovely tuna steaks we bought at the Riverhead Farmers Market last week.
- 2015 Estate Chardonnay $22.95
Oaked chards are not my favorite, but this one is not too oaky, with some lime and pear tastes, and almonds again. Both chards have a long finish. The tasting notes say “honey,” which I identify as the mouth feel of the wine. I could see having this with a spicy Italian seafood dish, like a fra diavolo.
- 2014 Sauvage Reserve $30.95
Our server is able to tell us that this wine uses sauvignon blanc clones, but not whether or not the word “sauvage” refers to wild yeast. In any event, this is another nice wine, a bit on the light side even though it is aged in oak, with a taste that reminds me of a fruit salad seasoned with a bit of liqueur. If I were here in the summer and having oysters, I’d get a glass of this, though we are told that a new vintage of this will be coming out soon, so I’d try a taste before I committed to a glass.
- 2013 Estate Riesling $22.95
There are two rieslings on the menu, and we choose this one because the other is called Demi-Sec, and is described as slightly sweet. Interestingly, this one is actually sweeter, as we discover when we tell our server it is too sweet for us. Here, he says, try a little taste of the 2013 Demi-Sec Riesling ($22.95). We like it better. It is less cloying and lighter, with an aroma that reminds us of cider. The menu describes the Estate Riesling as “crisp.” Nope.
- 2015 East End CINQ Blanc $18.95
No surprise, this is a blend of five whites: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, albariño, and pinot blanc. We describe this as a good, everyday table wine, and our friend the server agrees. It has a touch of sweetness, but not too much, with tastes of kiwi and peach and some minerality. You could have it with an omelet in the morning, he suggests, which leads to various humorous comments about a day that starts like that. How about with a quiche, I offer. If I needed some whites at home, I might have bought this one.
- 2014 East End CINQ Red $19.95
New glass as we switch to our red tasting, starting with another blend of five, this time of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, and pinot noir. I decide it smells like a Bordeaux, and if I had to guess I would bet that it has more cabernet sauvignon than merlot. It smells like dark fruits and berries and tastes like that, too. It is a somewhat light red, with no depth and some tannins, and would make a perfect picnic wine.
- 2013 Merlot Estate $27.95
This is another easy to drink wine, with the expected cherry aroma and taste, plus some hints of dark chocolate. It would go well with lamb or pork, but is not big enough to have with steak.
- 2015 Estate Syrah $24.95
I tend to like syrahs, and I like this one, too. I smell and taste dark fruits, especially purple plum, plus some spice, perhaps pepper. Really dry, this has strong tannins that make me think it could age. This wine would be fine with steak.
- 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc $32.95
And aging is what I think this cab needs. It doesn’t have much aroma. Lots of tannins, and it is dry, but the fruit seems underdeveloped to me. Just okay.
- 2014 Mélange de Trois $34.95
If you know French, you can deduce that this is a blend of three grapes and a play on “ménage à trois”: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. It is aged for two years in French oak, and then another two years in the bottle. We get into a discussion of the various grapes in this wine, and our server tells us how cabernet sauvignon does not do well every year. In fact, last year rather than use their cabernet sauvignon grapes in their own wine, they felt they did not meet Jamesport’s standards and sold the whole crop to Premium Wine Group. We like this wine, too, though it is more austere than luscious. Dry, with good tannins, it has blackberry and spice tastes. I could see having this with leg of lamb or steak frites.
Reasons to visit: in the summer, a big outdoor area with music and wood-oven pizza and oysters; in the winter, a cozy tasting room with cheese trays; the East End Chardonnay, the Sauvage Reserve, the East End CINQ Blanc and Red, the Mélange de Trois. We didn’t get to try the sparkling wines, but they have three if you were interested to try them.