Lenz Winery: Solid Place, Slushy Day January 24, 2015


Despite the slushy roads, people still come to the wineries.

Despite the slushy roads, people still come to the wineries.

Lenz has some of the oldest vines on Long Island, having planted its first ones in 1978, and they are quite proud of the fact that all of their wines are made from their own grapes.  The attractively rustic tasting room (open every day all year long) is not very big, though it is augmented by an outdoor seating area in the summer, and their selection of wine-related gifts tends to be somewhat less hokey than others.  In addition, a winery dog made a brief appearance—always a plus in my book.  Both of the servers we talked with were smart, attentive, and knowledgeable, with an evident passion for the wines.

Low beams are marked with this warning.  Can one watch one's head without a mirror, wondered my husband.

Low beams are marked with this warning. Can one watch one’s head without a mirror, wondered my husband.

Despite the slushy streets and cold rain, we shared the room with a small group of women who had arrived in a limo and a few other couples and small groups.

The tasting menu offers two main options, the Estate menu of 5 wines for $12 and the Premium list of 5 wines for $15.  You can also put together an all white or an all red tasting, plus there are a few additional wines—dessert, sparkling, and Late Harvest wines—not included in the tastings.  We opted to do one of each menu, sharing tastes as we went, and our server quickly caught on to what we were doing and carefully arranged the samples, pointing out which of the two or three tastes to begin with.  I mark the Premium selections with an *.

  1. *2010 Old Vines Gewürztraminer            $30

This, our server tells us, in an Alsatian style Gewürz, so it is dry and refreshing.  Indeed, it is quite dry, with lots of pineapple and mineral tastes.  Hmmm, maybe a bit too dry, and a bit harsh on the finish.

When we commented on the cute label for the Tete-a-Tete we learned that it was designed by a former winery worker, who also still comes in and does the blackboards.

When we commented on the cute label for the Tete-a-Tete we learned that it was designed by a former winery worker, who also still comes in and does the blackboards.

  1. 2011 Tete-à-Tete $25

Since they only make the Gewürztraminer in years when they are particularly happy with the grapes, they decided to use the Gewürztraminer grapes in a blend in 2011, so this wine is 50% Gewürztraminer and 50% Pinot Gris.  Good decision!  We really like this one.  The aroma is rather mineral, but when we taste it we definitely get the pineapple of the Gewürztraminer and then some earthiness, maybe mushroom?  I could see enjoying this with a creamy clam chowder.



  1. *2010 Cuvee $40

100% pinot noir grapes were fermented using the Champagne method, we are told.  Sniff.  “Apple pie!” exclaims my husband, perhaps, I think, suffering from Briermere pie withdrawal (they are closed for the season).  But he’s right.  Not only does it smell all warm and toasty and apple-y, it also has a definite apple taste.  This is a relatively simple sparkling wine, but quite pleasant.

  1. 2011 White Label Chardonnay $15

We are now about to have one of my favorite tasting experiences—tasting two very different wines made from the same grape.  The White Label Chard is steel fermented, yielding a light, crisp, flinty, very drinkable wine, perfect for summer sipping.  The aroma is of baked pear.  Very buyable, which we do.

Chardonnays going head to head

Chardonnays going head to head

  1. *2012 Gold Label Chardonnay $20

After ten months in oak, the wine definitely has the typical vanilla and freshly baked bread aroma of an oaked chard, but it is not too oaky.  The finish is both tart and sweet, and my husband tries to convince me that it reminds him of Reese’s Pieces.  I was with him on the apple pie, but not on this!

  1. 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $25

The reds all seem to note that they are unfiltered and unfined.  We’re doing another head to head comparison, this time of cab sauvs.   This one has a delicious woodsy and berry aroma, and a taste of ripe plums.  It is good, but simple, with no tannins.  “It lacks gravitas,” opines my tasting companion.  I could see it with barbequed sausages.

  1. *2007 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvnignon $40

You can age this wine for ten years, enthuses our server.  We’re not so sure, as it also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of tannins.  However, it is a lovely wine, with a delicious aroma and good fruit tastes—raspberries, plums.  Though it is primarily cab sauv, it also is blended with merlot, malbec, and cabernet franc.

Not one, not two, but three merlots!

Not one, not two, but three merlots!

  1. 2011 Merlot $20

This is a perfectly fine table wine, we agree.  We smell spice and cherry, with none of the earthy smell some North Fork merlots can have.  The taste is also of cherry.  The tasting notes suggest having it with roast turkey, and I think duck would also work well.

  1. 2010 Merlot $28

We have in front of us a line-up of three merlots.  What fun!  This one is a bit of a blend, and though it is 80-90% merlot it also has some cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.  We do smell a touch of earthiness, but also lots of cherry.  The wine itself is very dense, tannic, and dry.  Despite the blend, the taste is rather simple with a flat finish, but overall we like it.

  1. *2007 Old Vines Merlot $60

Now this one you can age for 20 years, we are told.  We should live so long, as my grandmother used to say.  You can definitely smell the wood from the oak it was aged in, and also another smell my husband compares to rubber bands.  Perhaps.  The taste is terrific, with dark fruit flavors and lots of interesting layers, though again not much in the way of tannins.  For the price I would probably try to find a Bordeaux—from France.

A view of the tasting bar

A view of the tasting bar

lenz more boards

Reasons to visit: pleasant tasting room with good selection of gift items; very knowledgeable and attentive staff; the Tete-à-Tete, the White Label Chardonnay, the 2007 Old Vines Merlot.

lenz board

Not a good day for sitting outside...

Not a good day for sitting outside…

Lenz Winery: Lots of Lovely Options December 7, 2013


In the summer grape vines cover the facade.

In the summer grape vines cover the facade.

It’s that time of year on the North Fork when most farmstands have closed, and those that are open feature Christmas trees and firewood, plus a few frost-touched Brussels sprout stalks and cauliflower heads.  However, most of the wineries are still open, at least on the weekends, and there are still plenty of limos wandering the streets.   When we saw five of them in the parking lot of Lenz we almost turned around, knowing their tasting room was on the small side, but I’m very glad we did not.  The vibe inside was mellow rather than frenetic, and by the time we finished our leisurely and very enjoyable tasting we had the room to ourselves.

For some reason Lenz funnels arriving parties through a small wooden archway, but you can get to the vine-covered tasting room directly from the end of the parking lot as well.  The room itself is rustic, with wooden beams like a barn, and tables around the perimeter offer a variety of wine-related gifts.

Some of the gift items.

Some of the gift items.

They offer two tastings, the Estate Flight is of their wines which are produced every year, and is $10 for five generous tastes, and the Premium Flight is $14 for five of their wines produced “only in years our winemaker feels they are good enough.”  We opt to share one of each, and our knowledgeable and enthusiastic server helps us alternate, suggesting which to taste first of each pair.  She not only knows lots about each wine, she is clearly a fan of the vineyard, and talks about her visits to it before she actually became an employee.  They will soon be releasing a Malbec—not, alas, in labeled bottles yet—and her positive review of it causes us to decide we will be sure to pick up a bottle once it is released.

Lenz is one of the older vineyards on the North Fork, and many of its better wines are labeled Old Vines.  In general, their winemaker, Eric Fry, goes for a French style of winemaking, and the results are overall excellent.  We only had one wine we didn’t care for.  I’ve marked the Premium wines with an *.

1)      2008 Gewürztraminer                                    $20

A few years ago we went to several wineries looking for the best Gewürztraminer for our Thanksgiving dinner, and settled on Lenz.  It’s still a good choice.  This is a dry Gewürztraminer, with floral and spice aromas—cardamom, says my husband, and I agree—and plenty of fruit.  It was allowed to age in the bottle, our server points out, and is made in the Alsatian style.

Lenz white

2)      *2010 Pinot Gris                                               $25

This is, of course, the French version of Pinot Grigio, which is my go-to choice when I have to get a glass of house wine, but this is so much better than most Pinot Grigios!  We scent aromas of mineral and lime, maybe clementine, and taste pear and apple.  The wine is dry but not tart, with a creamy mouth feel.  The server says the Pinot Gris tastes like wine while Pinot Grigio tastes like water!  I’d be happy sipping this on its own, or with seafood.

3)      *1999 Cuvee RD                                               $60

The price tag is a bit steep, though this is a lovely sparkling wine, with that slightly green-olive scent I find in many Champagnes.  If you like lots of bubbles, however, you’ll be disappointed, as the bubbles dissipate quickly, though it is a bit petillant on the tongue.  Lots of layers of flavor to this dry wine.

4)      2010 White Label Chardonnay                   $15

Steel fermenting means this is a clean crisp chard, with a honey candy aroma and a citrus taste—maybe pink grapefruit?  Very food friendly, we agree.

5)      2010 Gold Label Chardonnay                      $20

Though I often don’t care for oaked chards, this one is very well done.  It spends ten months in French oak barrels, we are told, and we do smell the vanilla aroma of oak, plus some pumpkin spice smells.  Taste?  Baked apples and pears!  This could be a lovely aperitif wine, or it would pair well with most chicken dishes, especially ones that combined chicken and fruit.  Our server notes that this is one of their few California-style wines, but it is not overly oaked as some of those are.

6)      *2010 Old Vines Chardonnay                                     $30

In contrast to the previous chard, this one is in the Burgundian style, our server informs us, and is aged in neutral oak barrels.  She does a great job, by the way, of giving us time to chat with each other while also being attentive to when we are ready for the next round.  Though we agree the wine has good balance, my husband notes there are “no fireworks.”  There’s also a bit of a chemical taste at the end, and we have a discussion with the server about what exactly we are sensing.

7)      2009 Cabernet Sauvignon                                            $23

At this point everyone else has left, and the servers outnumber the customers, which does not faze us one bit.  Though this wine has an attractive aroma of raisins and chocolate—Goobers, we exclaim—we find the wine itself thin and disappointing and actually dump the rest of the glass.

Lenz red

8)      *2007 Old Vines Cabernet                                           $40

What a contrast.  We love this one!  Aroma of dried cherries in brandy and a lovely dark color precede a taste of dried fruits and intense berries.

9)      2008 Estate Selection Merlot                                     $24

This is much better than the average 20-something dollar Merlot, and indeed was made from wine that had been intended for a premium bottling, but then didn’t meet the winemaker’s exacting specifications.  Lucky us.  We smell coffee, chocolate, and a bit of a floral aroma, with none of that barnyard smell so common out here.  Delicious taste, too, with plenty of dark fruit.  Very buyable.

10)   *2007 Old Vines Merlot                                                                $60

Old vines indeed, our server notes, as these grapes come from vines first planted in 1978—ancient history for Long Island wines!  Lots of lovely aromas, cherries, layers of dark fruit, very mouth-filling.  This could age for twenty years, our server informs us.  I bet it could.

We buy several bottles as gifts and may come back to get more for ourselves when we deplete the cellar.

Lenz board

Reasons to visit:  nine out of the ten wines are very drinkable, and quite a few are excellent; pleasant rustic barn-like setting; enthusiastic and well-informed servers; the Estate Selection Merlot and the Pinot Gris and the Gold Label Chardonnay and the Old Vines Cabernet and the Gewürztraminer and—you get the picture.

Lenz room