Macari: Still a Good One January 2, 2016

The entrance

The entrance

For our first winery of the new year, we headed to Macari, which we had last visited when it boasted the award of “Best Winery of 2014.”  We would have been back sooner, but cancelled our visits when the attractive tasting room proved too crowded and noisy for us.  This time, in the doldrums of January, there were still plenty of people, including a large group in the room off to one side, but we found a place at the bar and a smart and attentive server.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

Plenty of space for large groups in the side room.

The menu offers three options—Estate, of four of their lower priced wines for $10; Cuvee, of five for $15; and Vintage, of five of their best wines for $20.  Since none of the lists overlapped, we decided to share two tastings, one of the Cuvee and one of the Vintage.  Because both menus included whites and reds of varying types, we wanted to alternate so as not to try to follow a riesling with a sauvignon blanc.  Why?  As we’ve learned, if you try to taste a light dry wine like a steel-fermented sauvignon blanc after a sweeter, more substantial wine like a riesling, you won’t be as able to appreciate the lighter wine.

Our server first wanted to pour our two tastings simultaneously, but after we explained the philosophy behind our preference she quickly caught on, and made sure to pour the wines in an order that made sense.    We were particularly impressed with her ability to keep track of what we were doing since she also was serving other customers and running off to the side room as well.  She also was enthusiastic about the wines, sharing her preferences and knowledge about the wine, only once having to resort to a “cheat sheet” to give us information we requested.


As we sipped, we admired the nicely done holiday decorations and the attractive labels on the wines, and afterwards we browsed the small but good collection of wine-related gifts. Note they don’t allow outside foods, and sell a variety of snack and cheese items.   I’m listing the wines in the order in which we had them, marking the Vintage wines with an *.


  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14       $24

This is a steel –fermented sauvignon blanc, with an aroma that reminds me of the water in a vase after the flowers have begun to decay—which doesn’t sound all that appealing, but is fine when combined with citrus.  Good, we decide, nicely crisp, but delicate, with a touch of sweetness—perhaps more Meyer lemon than lemon.  Of course it would pair well with local oysters or clams, but if you had it with shrimp I would leave out the cocktail sauce, which would overwhelm this wine.


  1. Sauvignon Blanc ’14 (concrete egg) $27

Ooh, this is just the sort of exercise I love: Trying two wines side by side, made from the same grapes, but treated differently.  In this case, “concrete egg” refers to the egg-shaped concrete cask they use to ferment the wine, our server explains, and adds that since concrete is more porous than steel but less porous than wood, and without the flavor added by a wood cask, the results are quite different and, she thinks, better.  We agree.  The aroma is complex, with perhaps a hint of nutmeg or other spices and a taste that is a touch sweeter without being too sweet, with some acidity and a taste of greengage plums.  No finish.  Mysteriously, the label bears the word “Lifeforce.”

  1. *Dos Aguas ’13 $27

“Dos Aguas” refers to the two waters between which the vineyards are located:  Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.  Many people feel that these “two waters” contribute to the North Fork’s excellence as a grape-growing region, since they have the effect of moderating the climate.  This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, riesling, and sauvignon blanc, and is another good wine.  The aroma makes me think of sticky fruits and the taste includes minerality, figs, and tangerines.  Though the riesling does contribute some sweetness, it is well balanced with some acidity.  It would go well with one of my favorite dishes, pasta tossed with a variety of seafood.

  1. *Riesling ’13 $23

Ah yes, we are definitely glad that we tasted this one last of the whites, as its sweetness would have interfered with appreciating the others.  This is the only wine, our server informs us, that uses grapes not grown on the estate, since the riesling grapes in this come from the Finger Lakes region (not unusual for Long Island wineries, as upstate is known for its good riesling).  The aroma is honey, the taste like a green apple on the sweeter side, like a Mutsu, not a Granny Smith.  “Toot suite,” jokes my husband, as he complains that this wine is sweeter than he likes.  It is sweeter than a dry riesling, but I don’t find it unpleasantly so.  With spicy food you’d welcome that flavor.


  1. Merlot Estate $15

Burnt sugar?  Cinnamon toast?  We discuss the smell, which in any event is not typical for a Long Island merlot.  Our server lets us in on the secret that although this wine is more than 80% merlot it also has some syrah, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, which may help explain the aroma.  It may also explain the taste, which is quite good for an inexpensive merlot, and makes this a good choice for a table wine.  It is fairly soft, with no tannins and some acid, and would go well with veal or pork, rather than steak.

Full disclosure:  We already knew we like Sette.

Full disclosure: We already knew we like Sette.

  1. Sette NV $19

We are quite familiar with Sette, since we often order it in local restaurants.  In fact, we just shared a bottle of it at Michelangelo’s last week, when it went well with eggplant parmesan and pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe.  This is a blend of 50/50 merlot and cabernet franc (not of seven wines, as you might assume from the name, which instead refers to the town Settefratti, which was the home town of the Macari family).  The smell is warm, with some spice and wood, the taste cherry with again some acid but not much tannin.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

Cute drawing on the Dos Aguas.

  1. *Dos Aguas Red Blend ’10 $30

Blend?  Yes, of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot.  We smell wet hay and wood, taste pleasant dark fruits. This is a soft, easy to drink red, and would be good, I opine, to sip while cooking—and ruining the food? theorizes my husband.  Ha.

  1. *Merlot Reserve ’10 $36

After aging 26 months in French oak, this wine has more tannins than the previous reds, with a typical merlot aroma of cherry plus oak.  Not powerful, but pleasant, this is a good wine if you want to introduce someone to Long Island merlots.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

Apparently the Bergen Road is also available in a huge bottle.

  1. *Bergen Road ’10 $46

Since I ask, our server looks up the proportions of this red blend:  56% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 13% cabernet franc, 3% malbec, and 2% petit verdot.  A Right Bank Bordeaux.  The color is quite dark, and so is the taste, with plenty of tannin and acid and delicious dark fruits.  Yum.

Block "E" looks and tastes very like a sherry.

Block “E” looks and tastes very like a sherry.

  1. Block “E” ’12 $32 (for a small bottle)

Ice wine is supposed to be made with grapes picked after the first frost, but since that frost tends to come pretty late on the North Fork (as in it just happened), instead the grapes are picked fairly late, when they have developed quite a bit of sugar, and then frozen before being made into a dessert wine.  In both color and taste this reminds us of a semi-sweet sherry, with a bit of a honey aroma.  When I ask, we are informed it is made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec grapes.  Good dessert wine, it would be nice with some almonds.


Reasons to visit:  good all-around winery, with plenty of tasty options and a big room with tables for groups; nice selection of gifts; reasonable prices (if we didn’t have all the wine we need at the moment we would have bought several of the wines); the “concrete egg” Sauvignon Blanc, the Dos Aguas white and red, the Merlot Estate, the Sette, the Bergen Road.



Castello di Borghese March 16, 2013

Borghese room

“March winds do blow/And we shall have snow…”  Yes, indeed we shall.  As flurries swirled around us, we drove along Route 48, trying to decide on a winery to visit.  First we went past Vineyard 48, but the presence of no less than eight buses in the parking lot dissuaded us (but if you want a party, that might be the place for you) and so we headed on down the road to Castello di Borghese, Long Island’s oldest vineyard.  It was originally started by the Hargraves, who then sold it to Prince Marco and Princess Ann Marie Borghese (hence the name castello=castle) in 1999.

The pleasant tasting room has two main areas, a nicely set up bar and gift shop area and a larger room with tables and chairs, where Marguerite Volonts was singing beautifully and playing guitar.  When she segued from songs like “Autumn in New York” to some French cabaret songs we could imagine we were in Paris.  The tasting menu offers two basic options, as well as separate tastings of their more pricey offerings, such as Meritage.  You can taste four of their Estate wines for $9.00 or five of their Reserve wines for $12.00, so we opt for one of each.  However, as Nancy our server notes our careful swirling and sipping and note-taking, she begins to suspect something, and when Ann Marie Borghese comes out from the back room she asks point blank if I am a blogger.  They’re onto me!  So we get some additional tastes, but I note that two other groups who also evince seriousness about wine are also given some extras.  Borghese also offers an $18 cheese plate.

The following notes are in the order in which we tasted the wines, with the Estate wines marked with a *.  Oh, and they were sold out of the Riesling which we wanted to taste.

Borghese white

  1.  *2011 Estate Chardonnay                            $18

This is a fairly typical steel-fermented chardonnay, with aromas of vegetable, mineral, and pine sap.  Though not for sipping, it is nicely tart, with notes of green apple and lemon, and would be a good summer wine, maybe with a rich seafood dish.

     2.  2011 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay        $26

Typical aromas of vanilla and oak greet our noses, but the wine itself is much less buttery than most oaked chards, is a bit too lemony for our taste, and the finish is weak.

3.  *2011 Sauvignon Blanc                                  $24

They are quite proud of their Sauvignon Blanc, which has won some competitions, and (having already ascertained that I am a blogger) they give us both tastes of this.  I have to admit that it does not knock my socks off (and, as my husband notes, it is hard to knock my socks off), which seems to disappoint them, though it is a pleasant wine.  There’s not much aroma, primarily of some minerality, but it tastes better than it smells, though it is very light.  I could see having this with oysters (which would probably improve how much I like it), which would highlight the flavors of lemon and herb (thyme?).

Borghese red

The Borgheses are justifiable proud of their reds, and they give two reasons for why they are so good.  One is that the vines are older than most others on the North Fork, and the other is that Cutchogue has a very favorable micro-climate, with more sunny days than anywhere else in New York State, giving the grapes more time and warmth in which to ripen.  They are expecting great things of the 2012 vintage, since it was the warmest year yet, with a very warm spring followed by a hot summer and a harvest that came just before Hurricane Sandy.

4.  *2008 Pinot Noir Estate                                                 $30

As we hold the glass up to the light, we comment on the pretty light ruby color of the wine.  The aroma has some earthiness as well as sticky berry scents.  Though there is not much tannin, the taste is very good, with a balance of sweet and dry and not-quite-ripe Bing cherry tastes.  Nice long finish, too.

5.  2008 Pinot Noir Barrel Fermented                            $48

“The oldest Pinot Noir grapes on Long Island,” we are informed.  Aroma?  Cedar?  Terroir? Pencil shavings!  Fortunately, it tastes of berries, not pencil shavings, with nicely balanced tannins and a tart finish.  Very good indeed.

6.  *2007 Merlot Estate                                                       $25

The color of this is slightly darker than the Pinot, but also very attractive.  A strong aroma of berries precedes tastes of sweet berry, cedar, and just a touch of tobacco, with a long fruity finish.  Excellent, and very buyable, which we do.

7.  2007 Merlot Reserve                                                      $30

We love doing side by side tastings of two wines made from the same grape in the same year, but given different treatments.  Interestingly, we like the Estate better than the more expensive Reserve, though this is also a very good wine.  We again scent cedar and taste lots of fruit, and less sweetness than the Estate Merlot, so perhaps more balanced.  The difference in treatment is that the Estate is aged for 13 months and the Reserve for 18, both in oak barrels.

8.  *2010 Cabernet Franc Estate                                      $27

Nice legs!  No, we’re not being sexist, we’re just commenting on the way the wine forms “legs”—drips, essentially, along the sides of the glass when we swirl it.  Aromas of plums and spice herald tastes of dark ripe cherry and spice, and the tannins promise room to grow.  Nancy also points out that this has won awards, and would be a good wine to cellar.  We agree, and buy two bottles of this as well.

9.  2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve                                     $44

Again, it’s interesting to taste two similar wines side by side.  This Cab Franc has more fruit aroma than the other, with some notes of toast and earth but lots of delicious fruit.  We taste blackberry, and they say mulberry (which we might agree with if we remembered what mulberry tasted like), and nicely balanced tannins.  I’d love to have this with venison or some other lean game, maybe bison from North Quarter Buffalo Farm!

10.  *2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate                            $29

Okay, so if you’re counting you realize that our tasting should be done, but we never turn down extras (and we almost never spit, either).  We smell pine tar and fruit, and then taste a dry red with a surprising hint of citrus at the end.  We’re not liking this until Nancy offers us drinks of water to refresh our palates, at which point we find it tastes much better.  This would be great with pizza or Italian pasta dishes.

11.  2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve                           $44

Lovely aromas with lots of fruit, maybe currants, and not much earthy terroir, this is a good wine, but we’re not sure it is worth the price, since we’re not sure how well it would age.  Again, we seem to prefer the Estate version.

12.  Meritage                                                                             $60

I have wandered off to peruse the few gift items, assuming our tasting is over, when I am called back for one last bonus tasting, the Bordeaux-style Meritage.  This is a blend, 50% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it would certainly give a French Bordeaux a run for its money (especially given its great legs).  Beautiful color and nice legs, an aroma of mineral and spice, and a really delicious taste of berry and spice make this a wine I’d happily drink any time, though the price would limit when!  If you go, definitely taste it, as it is worth the extra fee.

Reasons to go:  pleasant room with well-informed and generous servers and the chance to chat with an owner; the red wines, many of which are better than the average Long Island reds (not so much the whites, though maybe the Riesling would have been an exception); avoidance of busloads; a pleasant room in which to sit and listen to music if they are offering that (check their web site).