Mattebella Vineyards: Science Experiment! August 9, 2015

The small tasting cottage

The small tasting cottage

“So first you’re going to try the 2009 chardonnay and the 2013 steel chardonnay,” our charming server explains, pointing out the ways in which they compare.  She also sets down in front of us two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie, about which more later.  Mattebella gives you the opportunity to make side by side comparisons of their wines, and in the process you can learn some interesting aspects of wine making, which I’ll tell you along with my discussion of each wine.  We started to compare our experience with doing a fun science experiment.

What amazing hydrangeas!

What amazing hydrangeas!

Another attractive feature of the winery is their beautiful outdoor patio setting, with a variety of comfortable seating surrounded by lush hydrangea and rose bushes.  The tasting “cottage” itself is quite small, so this is a place we reserve for beautiful days when we can sit outside and relax while being served.  Others clearly think so, too, for though the patio was very quiet when we arrived, several groups walked in shortly after we did and all seemed to be enjoying the experience, including one group of young people who entered into a lively discussion with Mr. Tobin, the owner (with his wife, who was also there) of the winery.  It is quite a family place, as evidenced by the active participation of the owners in the tasting room, the name of the vineyard—named for their two children—and the name of most of their wines: Famiglia, Italian for family.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Mr. Tobin entertaining a group.

Service is warm and personal, and the wine tasting includes some small tastes of food, since they believe that food affects how wines taste.  The menu has two main options:  the Light Flight is $17 for 6 whites and 2 rosés, or the Red Flight, $19 for five reds.  (Note—they do not accept American Express, though they take other cards.)  You can also order individual tastes for $2-$6, glasses of any of the wines, or a glass of their wine cocktail or sangria for $14.  Non-drinkers can order their house-made lemonade or water.   We decide to share one of each flight, so we can try all the wines.  Though there are a lot of tastes on the menu, our server tells us that it is a one ounce pour, so we figure we can handle it!

Light Flight

  1. 2009 Chardonnay            $21

We thought the server might have been a little confused when she set two glasses down on the table, but she soon explained that she was serving two wines side by side so we could compare them.  The 09 is an oaked chard from a cold season, she noted, which made it fairly “crisp and sharp” and an interesting foil for the 2013 steel-fermented chardonnay.  She also set down a pretty pottery plate with two pieces of baguette topped with double cream brie.  She recommended that we experiment by tasting each wine, then taking a bite of the cheese, and then sipping the wine again to see how having it with the creamy cheese changed the effect of the wine.   Okay!  The ’09 has a perfume-y aroma of pear and citrus, with, says my husband, “a fair amount going on.”  Once we take a bite of the cheese, we note more vanilla and baked pear tastes, as well as a surprising amount of citrus for an oaked chard.  On to the ’13.

Double cream brie on baguette.  Yum.

Double cream brie on baguette. Yum.

  1. 2013 Steel Chardonnay $21

The aroma is faintly grassy, the taste good, with some fruit but fairly dry, maybe a touch of bitter orange.  We don’t see as much change with this one after the bite of cheese as the other, but it is a good complement to the cheese.  Usually I think of red wine with cheese, but with a soft rich cheese I will now consider whites as well.

  1. 2010 Chardonnay $21

Now we are asked to consider another pairing of the same grape, treated similarly (both lightly oaked, this one 20% oak and 80% steel fermented), but from very different years.  2010 is generally considered to have been a very good year on the North Fork, with warm dry weather which led to great ripening of the grapes.  No surprise, this is a lovely rich chard, with great depth of flavor, the aroma grassy, fruity, and sweet.  If we needed a white at the moment, we’d buy it.

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  1. 2011 Chardonnay $21

In contrast, 2011 was a very rainy year, and so the grapes contain a lot of water.  Wow—this wine is waterier!  Although it is only 5% oaked, the taste has lots of oak in it, perhaps because there’s not as much chard taste to counteract it.  We smell the expected woodsy vanilla aroma, and the taste is quite light, almost evanescent.  Our server characterizes this as a sipping wine.  I think if you put an ice cube in it on a hot day you could almost forget you were drinking wine.

  1. Famiglia 2012 $21

Now we get to try two wines from the same vintage year, same grape, but treated differently.  This is fun, we tell each other.  2012 was another good year.  The Famiglia is 20% oaked, with aromas of vanilla, baked pear, and butterscotch.  It is lighter than one might expect of an oaked chard (so for those of you who say “I don’t like chardonnay,” you need to try a bunch of differently treated chards), with some sweetness at first taste which then dissipates.  Fine, but we like the 2010 better.

  1. Reserve 2012 $28

This chardonnay has been 38% aged in French oak, and we have no trouble telling which is which just on appearance, since this wine has a darker gold color than the other.  Mmm…smells good and tastes good, too.  Lots of oak and fruit tastes, mouth-watering, “softer and sweeter,” opines my drinking pal.  Very easy to drink.  It would be good with spaghetti and fresh clam sauce or sautéed scallops, though you wouldn’t want it with anything too creamy.

  1. 2014 Rosé $20

Mrs. Tobin stops by to say hello and give us a bit of background on the rosé.  It is 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc and chardonnay, she tells us; the merlot is a Pomerol, the 181 clone also used by Croteaux.  The grapes are picked when they are still “crunchy.”  We smell and taste strawberry, green apple, and a touch of lime.  Very light.


The “fun, party” sparkling rose.

  1. 2014 Sparkling Rosé $27

We get a new glass for the sparkling rosé, a tall slim one.  This is a fun wine, Mrs. T. tells us, not at all serious, and the syrah grape juice accidentally spent too long on the skins, hence its dark pink color.  Lots of over-ripe strawberry smells and tastes, almost soda-pop-y, this is much too easy to drink.  I decide to dub it the bachelorette party wine, and indeed I observe the young woman at the next table order a full glass of it, while her companion opts for a glass of sangria.

Red Flight

  1. Famiglia Red         $23

In 2012 we bought the Famiglia Red for $15, and last year it was $21, but prices do tend to rise, even on the non-vintage wines, though this is still a bargain compared to their other reds.  This is a good everyday wine, and goes with pizza and pasta, as our server tells us.  It spends a year in French oak, and then is put into steel to stop the aging.  (By the way, Mattebella is one of the vineyards that uses the facilities at Premium Wine Group to produce their wines.)  We smell leather and fruit, taste some cherry.

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  1. 2008 Old World Blend $44

With this wine a small plate arrives with pairs of treats—fig jam and gorgonzola on baguette, bacon jam and grana cheese on baguette, and little bits of brownie—which we are advised to pair with our next wines.  These are all Bordeaux blends, with varying percentages of the grapes.  The ‘08 is 86% merlot, 7% cabernet franc, and 7% cabernet sauvignon (The petit verdot didn’t ripen in time, we hear.)  We smell dark fruits, though the wine is on the light side.  The taste improves after a bite of the yummy fig jam and gorgonzola, a combo I will definitely try at home.

More yummy snacks!

More yummy snacks!

  1. 2009 Old World Blend $41

Since I asked about the percentages on the last wine, our intelligent server makes sure to tell me these:  93% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 3% petit verdot, 1% cabernet sauvignon.  Remember, this was a cold, rainy year.  The wine is fairly tannic, with aromas of earth and minty candy, not very complex.   Having it with a bite of bacon jam and grana cheese does help.  Then again, what wouldn’t be helped by bacon jam!?

  1. 2010 Old World Blend $48

If you come here for a tasting, you will definitely understand the difference a year makes.  We tend to forget that winemaking is farming, dependent on earth and weather, but this progression of vintages makes that clear.  If their “biodynamic” farming methods are as effective in the fields as they are on the huge hydrangeas we are admiring, they must work amazingly well.  The blend here is 88% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% petit verdot, and we are also advised that this could be cellared for 4-5 years.  We smell dark fruits, taste lots of cherry, a touch of chocolate, good tannins, though not a lot of complexity.  It is good with the brownie!

  1. 2007 Old World Blend $63

84% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 2% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petit verdot.  Of course, they saved the best for last—and also the costliest.  The aroma is delicious and so is the taste, with a “nice mouth feel,” says my pal.  It is very good, but we have had the privilege of tasting world-class Bordeaux, which this is not—on the other hand, it doesn’t cost as much as they do, either!

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

The herb garden near the tasting patio.

Reasons to visit:  a beautiful outdoor setting with friendly table service; the fun of experimenting with tasting wine with and without food (and where else is food included in your tasting?); the fun of comparing vintages and methods of winemaking; a chance to learn about the influence of weather on grape crops and hence on the wines; the 2010 chardonnay; the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay; the 2014 Sparkling Rosé for a fun party drink; the Famiglia Red; the 2010 Old World Blend.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you'll notice that they don't use herbicides.

If you look carefully at this picture of the grape vines, you’ll notice that they don’t use herbicides.

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Mattebella Vineyards: It’s a Family Affair June 16, 2014

The labels feature this charming picture of Matt and Isabella.

The labels feature this charming picture of Matt and Isabella.

The warm greeting you get as you enter Mattebella Vineyards’ pretty patio is only one aspect of the family feeling this winery exudes, starting with the name.  Matt and Isabella are the children of owners Christine and Mark Tobin, and you are likely to see the whole family helping out with tastings and other chores around the property.  You’ll recognize the kids by their portraits on the bottles, though they have grown older since the pictures were drawn.

Regulars are greeted with a kiss by Chris, but even newcomers soon feel at home.  On our visit, we overheard Mark giving excellent advice about places to eat and sights to see to a young couple on their first trip to the North Fork.  She, by the way, was enjoying their home made organic lemonade, as she was in that interesting condition in which women are encouraged not to drink.

The patio has been improved in the two years since our last visit, with plenty of comfortable seating and a combination of sunny and shaded areas, including under a lovely pergola, with pleasant music playing in the background.  The tasting menu is divided into a “Light” flight and a red flight, with tastes also available individually for about $2 for the lights and $4-5 for the reds, or by the glass or bottle.  A Light Flight is $12 for 6 of their whites and rosés (4 chardonnays and 2 rosés), and a Red Flight is $18 for 5 reds.  We opted to share one Red Flight plus two individual wines from the Lights.  They also sell their attractive round-bottomed glasses for $3.50.

photo (13)

1)       2013 Rosé                           $19

If you like sweet rosés, this one is not for you, but if you appreciate a delicate and refreshing rosé with a citrus tang and plenty of minerality, then head to Mattebella forthwith.  We decided it would go well with soft shell crab, a delicious sample of which we had had the night before at the North Fork Table and Inn, where we went to celebrate our anniversary.

The rose and the chardonnay.

The rose and the chardonnay.

2)      2010 Reserve Chardonnay                           $25

Our knowledgeable and efficient server explained that the term “reserve” actually has no established meaning, but at Mattebella it indicates a wine from one of their best years.  This is a 50% oak barrel, 50% steel fermented chard, which means it should not be overly oaky, but we found it pretty oaky, with lots of vanilla and roasted pear aromas and tastes.  For the price, it is quite good, with some nice complexity.  It might go with a seafood in cream sauce dish.

3)      Famiglia                                               $21

No vintage here, this is a blend, trying for consistency across the years, and, said our server, is a “good pizza wine.”  We agree.  It is a pleasant, soft drink, not complex, but with nice fruit and none of the earthy flavor reds sometimes have out here.  It’s a blend of merlot and cabernet franc, so sort of Bordeaux-ish.  Oh, and we get a clean glass for the transition to the reds.

4)      08 Old World Blend                        $40

In this instance, Old World Blend means merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc—a Bordeaux.  This, says our server, is the lightest of the OWBs, because there was a lot of rain at the end of the season.  Along with our glass of wine we get a little snack (I remember Chris saying the last time that we were there that she felt wine should always go with food.) of a piece of baguette topped with fig jam and blue cheese.  We like the snack better than the wine, which is just okay.



5)      2009 Old World Blend                   $35

This time the snack is bacon jam and Parmeggiano Reggiano on a baguette—very yummy—and so is the wine, our favorite of the day (and not just because it came with bacon jam, though maybe…).  A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and “the grape no one knows,” petit verdot, the wine has good tannins and lots of dark fruits, and is interestingly complex.

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6)      2010 Old World Blend                   $43

Our server says this is his favorite of the reds, and talks about a certain “brininess,” which he feels expresses the Long Island terroir, its closeness to the sea.  We get it—there is a hint of a sea salt taste.  This would work well with a nice dinner, maybe of boeuf bourguignon.  The tasting notes suggest this will age well.

7)      2007 Old World Blend                   $48

A blend of the same grapes as the 08, this is the wine that won a Wine Spectator 91 points.  07 was a particularly good—and warm—year on Long Island, and this one has lots of big bold fruity tastes, more like a Napa Valley red.  We smell leather and spice, and maybe, strangely enough, a hint of cat pee.  Since the Tobins have decided that this wine would go well with chocolate, we get a tiny square of homemade chocolate brownie.  Lovely way to end our tasting!

The brownie went well with the red wine.

The brownie went well with the red wine.

Reasons to Visit:  Snacks!; pleasant outdoor space for sipping; warm welcoming family atmosphere; the 2013 Rosé, the Famiglia, the 09 and 07 Old World Blends; homemade lemonade for the non-drinkers in the group.  We go home with two bottles of the Famiglia and one of the 09 OWB.

An old water tower adds charm to the scene.

An old water tower adds charm to the scene.

A bit of the pergola

A bit of the pergola


Mattebella Vineyards

May 19, 2012

I’m catching up on past entries, made before I started this blog.  We visited Mattebella on a beautiful sunny day, our second visit.  This is a fairly new winery, and when we came last year we were almost the only ones there, but now it is more crowded.  Chris, who with her husband owns and operates the winery, remembers us.  She’s lovely–very friendly and outgoing, happy to chat about her wines.  The vineyard is named for their children–Matt and Bella!  Although the tasting room is a tiny shack, they have plenty of chairs and tables on a rustic patio, close to the vines.  They have six wines, at $2-4 per taste, served in lovely round-bottomed glasses.  We opt to share a full flight.  Although Chris is being helped by John, who is very knowledgeable, service is slow.  We actually see one couple get up and leave, having not been served, but it is a lovely warm day and we are in no hurry.

1)  08 Chardonnay          $16

An aroma of honey and, surprisingly, spinach.  We taste apricot and red grapefruit, but it is a bit sweet.  Maybe too sweet to have with a meal…but it would make a good aperitif wine, as it is nice for sipping, with a pleasant finish.

2) 09 Chardonnay          $17

A little plate of creamy brie and sliced baguette comes with this wine, and Chris urges us to taste it both before and after we have the brie. Good move.  The aroma is grassy, and a bit like white grape juice (I know, shocking, a drink made from grapes that smells like grape juice!).  The wine is tart with a light oak taste and some zingy acid at the finish.  After the brie, it is definitely less acid, with nice fruit as the flavors blend in the back of my mouth.  This wine is light, and good cold, and clearly good with brie.

Chris tells us that all their grapes are hand-picked, and they use all organic growing methods.

3) 2010 Rose          $16

This rose is 90% Merlot, with aroma and taste that reminds us of watermelon.  Actually, it reminds me of a watermelon infused with vodka I once had (and I’m not going to say anything more about that).  There’s a slight tingle, and it is a simple, nice wine, but not as good as Croteaux’s roses.

4)  Famiglia           $15

This is a good basic red table wine, which would be fine with pizza.  There’s an aroma of tobacco and dark fruits, and the taste is dry with some minerality.

5)  07 Old World Blend          $30

This is a Bordeaux blend–Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot–and we bought a couple of bottles last time we were here.  The aroma includes tobacco and the earthy terroir typical of the North Fork.  The flavor is interesting, with some cherry, and a good balance of dry and sweet.

6)  08 Old World Blend          $30

Another blend–Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, and Cab Franc.  We are served a little plate of bread, cheese, and fig jam with this wine, and find that there is a fig taste in the wine that is enhanced by the fig jam.  Fascinating.  Other than that, we taste black cherry, and sense again a slight earth aroma.

We buy 2 bottles of Famiglia, one 09 Chardonnay, and one 08 Old World.  Now I just have to get some fig jam.  I wonder if Briermere carries it?

Reasons to visit:  personal service; the chance to see how some of the wines taste with food; support for a mostly-organic vineyard; Famiglia, 08 Old World Blend, 09 Chard.