“Wow, that was fun,” we agreed, as we left the Roanoke Vineyards Tasting Bar on Love Lane in Mattituck. We had arrived about 3:30, not knowing that a pop-up event was about to happen, pairing Roanoke wines with wines made by Brooklyn Oenology (BOE). Though the event was due to start at 4, we were able to do the tasting early, and, because the room was fairly calm at the moment, we had lots of attention from Roanoke’s Robin and BOE winemaker Alie Shaper.
Normally, Roanoke features wine from Grapes of Roth and Wölffer Estates (on the South Fork) as well as their own, and they offer a menu of choices from each. I would have liked to taste some of the Wölffer wines, as it had been years since I’d tried them, but the only Wölffer selections on offer were hard ciders. However, once we realized we could do the Roanoke vs. BOE face-off, we knew what we had to do. For $20 we got to taste eight wines, four from each, paired for similarity of grape and type. I love tasting two wines made from the same grape, grown in the same region, and seeing how they differ.
The Tasting Bar is a small storefront, augmented by tables on a petite patio in the back and some tables for two along the side of the building, and includes the tasting bar and some small tables and a few comfortable chairs where it would be nice to sit and sip a glass.
As we tasted each selection, Robin and Alie alternated telling us about each wine, how it was made, and so on.
- Roanoke Vineyards (RV) 2013 The Wild $20
Why “The Wild”? This is made with, said Robin, “indigenous yeast,” or in other words naturally occurring yeast, using chardonnay grapes from a Mudd vineyard which was originally planted in 1982. They’re not sure which clone it was, but it may have been a muscat, which would account for some of the sweetness in the wine. We detect an aroma of cedar shavings with tastes of pineapple and mango. It reminds me a bit of Channing Daughter’s L’Enfant Sauvage, which is also made with wild yeasts. Yum, in any event! I could happily sip this wine on the deck on a summer night.
2. BOE 2013 Social Club White $18
I guess this is paired with the wild because it is a similar weight white, but this is a blend of grapes from Upstate and the North Fork (Alie joked that she would love to have permission to plant vines in a park in Brooklyn, but that’s, alas, not likely.) The blend is 60% chardonnay, with smaller amounts of pinot gris, pinot blanc, Vidal blanc, riesling, and gewürztraminer. I hadn’t heard of Vidal blanc before, and Alie noted that it is a Finger Lakes grape, as are the riesling and the gewürztraminer and the pinot gris. With all those Finger Lakes grapes I was expecting sweet, but this is a lovely dry wine with some citrus aromas and a bit of a taste of tangerine.
3. RV 2013 Derosa Rosé $19
Poetically, my husband compares the aroma to a “forest after the rain,” and I do agree that it has some flowery sweetness—in the taste as well as the aroma. It’s not a bad rosé, and many people would probably like it, but we prefer it drier. The name, by the way, is after the family’s Grandma Rose.
4. BOE 2013 Cabernet Franc Rosé $18
I have to give the prize in this comparison to the BOE wine, which is made with wild yeast and uses Finger Lakes grapes. The color is very pretty, the aroma is very strawberry, and the taste is a bit reminiscent of a berry sorbet—so, too sweet for us, but more complex and interesting than the Roanoke. I admire the beautiful label, and Alie enthusiastically tells us that all her labels are designed by Brooklyn artists, with a special peel-off feature if you want to save the pretty pictures. This particular one was designed by Patricia Fabricant, and after they chose her design they learned that she is the daughter of Florence Fabricant, who writes about food and wine for The New York Times.
5. RV 2010 Bond $19
We get fresh glasses for the reds, a nice touch. Their Bordeaux blend, this wine varies its composition from year to year, depending on the qualities of the grapes. This one is mainly merlot, and spends 10 months in neutral oak casks, then stainless steel. We smell cedar and berries, and taste blackberry. Though not a bad wine, it is a bit thin, and lacks depth.
6. BOE 2012 Social Club Red $20
So I had to ask, “Why Social Club?” Alie explains that when she moved to Brooklyn (the winery’s tasting room is located in Williamsburg, of course) she noticed all the immigrant social clubs, and decided to name her wines for them. She liked the idea of wines that were casual and friendly. Also a Bordeaux blend, Alie’s wine is 77%merlot, 18%, cabernet sauvignon, and 5% Corot noir. Corot noir? The grape is a hybrid created at Cornell, and adds a dark color to the wine, without the use of chemicals. We like it very much, tasting plenty of fruit with a bit of side of the tongue sweetness yet dry at the end.
7. RV 2010 Merlot $45
2010 was a great year on the North Fork, but we’re not crazy about this wine. We smell cinnamon, plus some of that local earthiness, and taste some fruit and some smoke. Perhaps it needs more time.
8. BOE 2010 Merlot $25
Okay, same grape, same year, though BOE adds 4% petit verdot, sourced from Onabay’s vineyard in Cutchogue. Again, we smell cinnamon, some earthiness, but the taste differs. It has more fruit , a dry finish, and is softer, with no smoke. We like it!
We buy a bottle each of the BOE Merlot and the RV The Wild and browse the small selection of gifts. They have the Govino glasses, which we have bought as gifts in the past. They’re a high quality plastic, nice on a picnic or a boat. Oh, and as to who won the face off? I’d have to say we did, because we got to sample wines from two wineries and only had to travel to one!
Reasons to visit: convenient tasting room in the middle of the North Fork on Love Lane, which is itself a destination with its cheese shop, Bookhampton book store, Love Lane Country Kitchen, and more; The Wild; the chance to taste wines from other vineyards as well.