August 25, 2022
The last time we were at Chronicle Wines—back in 2019, when it was still called Peconic Cellar Door—the five-year-old daughter of one of the owners put in an appearance with her nanny, so it seemed like a good place to visit with a couple of granddaughters in tow. And indeed it was.
Since our pre-Covid visit, Chronicle, helmed by Robin Epperson-McCarthy and Alie Shaper (both of whom were in the tasting room when we arrived, and gave us a warm welcome), has expanded into the next-door shop-front space previously occupied by Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker’s Studio. Alie assured us that Anthony, who is the winemaker for Raphael, is still very much in the winemaking business, and continues to runs his wine club for the wines he makes separate from Raphael. This new room is outfitted more like a lounge, with cushioned seats and small tables, plus the bar, while their original space has bigger tables. Since there were six in our party (counting the two youngsters) we opted for the big table, promising Robin that we would ignore the stacked boxes of a recent delivery—which they soon began putting away.
The tasting menu offers two options, a white and orange flight of five wines for $25, or a red and rosé flight of five tastes, also $25. Since we wanted to try the full panoply of their wines, we decided to share one of each flight amongst the four of us, which turned out to work beautifully. Alie brought to our table a chilled bottle of water plus a tray of empty glasses so we could share the wines without sharing a glass. We also ordered a few snacks for the girls and ourselves—a box of cranberry almond crisps, a bag of North Fork potato chips, and a jar of olives—plus lemonades for the girls, and settled in.
While we waited for our flights to arrive, we examined the art on the walls, as Alie and Robin make a point of featuring local artists. Today’s paintings are by Cherryl K. Bradley. The granddaughters were quick to observe that “Queen of the Scrambled Brain” contained both a crown and some hearts, and wondered whether it showed the state of mind of someone who had difficulty with love.
Both Robin and Alie stopped by our table from time to time to see if we had any questions and make sure we had everything we needed. Although they work together, they each have their own brands of wines: As If, Brooklyn Oenology (BOE), Chronicle, Haywater Cove, and Saltbird Cellars. The tasting included some from each brand.
- 2024 Chronicle Chardonnay Pét-Nat $30
Sparkling wines are always a nice way to start a tasting, as they get one in a celebratory mood. This one was no exception, having a pleasantly yeasty aroma, nice carbonation, and a taste we discussed as either lemon verbena or lemon pie. One of our guests pronounced it “lively.”
- 2018 BOE Pinot Gris $15 (on sale)
Even though this one is on sale, we opted not to buy any, since we found it both thin and earthy, if that makes sense. I sensed a bit of a metallic taste, or maybe minerality would be a better term.
- 2019 Saltbird Cellar Sauvignon Blanc $25
We sensed an aroma of lemon and green apple, and one guest opined that “it has some sort of fruit taste, but not sure which.” We laughed over our shared tendency to guess gooseberry, though none of us is quite sure what a gooseberry tastes like. This might go nicely with some gravlax.
- 2014 As If Serendipity White Blend $15
Our favorite of the whites, this is a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier, lightly oaked. It has more body than the others, with a “nice roundness,” according to one guest, and a thyme honey taste, while still being tart. We each buy a bottle.
- 2020 BOE “Broken Land” orange wine $30
You may be wondering about how the granddaughters—ages eleven and eight—are occupying themselves as we sit and sip. They have their Kindles to read and snacks to munch, but they are also taking an interest in our discussions. They sniff the wines appreciatively, and agree or disagree with our descriptions of the aromas. Dad asks the eight-year-old, who, with her sister, has been helping him with some amateur basement winemaking, if she knows what an orange wine is. She confidently and immediately replies, “It’s a wine made with white wine grapes, fermented on the skins.” Overhearing this, Alie notes that if she were eighteen she’d hire her on the spot. Meanwhile, we sip this blend of gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc, and pinot gris, and decide we like its aroma of orange blossoms or honeysuckle better than its flavor, which is a bit thin for us.
- NV Haywater Cove Rosé $15
Rosé makes a nice transition from whites to reds, since it is made from red wine grapes, but fermented with minimal skin contact. This one is a blend of merlot and cabernet franc, and is very much in the Provençal tradition of light, dry rosés. We note that it is a good wine for hot weather, and could see drinking a nice chilled glass of this on the porch. My tasting buddy likes its strawberry aroma and flavor.
- 2019 Saltbird Cellars “Red Skies” $30
Though we find this blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon pleasant, we don’t feel it is a $30 bottle. The aroma is earthy, and the wine is light, with tastes of raisins and grapefruit peel.
- 2020 Saltbird Cellars Merlot $27
The aroma has a slight whiff of basement, and the wine is very dry and light, with a touch of cherry flavor. One of us suggests it would go well with roast chicken, to which I reply, “What doesn’t?” We have some difference of opinion over this one, which one guest pronounces sophisticated, but which I find unimpressive.
- 2017 Saltbird Cellars “Harbinger” $36
When a wine has a non-varietal name, that often means it is a blend, which this is: merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot. The night before, we bought steaks at Center Cuts and cooked them on the barbeque, so we were wondering whether any of the reds we tasted today would stand up to such steaks. This one would not. It has some cherry and dark fruit taste, but is again rather light, though one guest notes it has “chewy tannins.”
- 2013 Chronicle Wines Red Blend, limited edition $40 (? Not sure)
Yummy aroma of dried fruits, delicious taste. And yes, this wine could stand up to a big steak. It has lots of dark fruit flavor, is dry, with a nice mouth feel. This is a Bordeaux blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, syrah, and petit verdot. We both buy a bottle.
Reasons to visit: Alie and Robin are eager to please, and will tell you all about their wines; pleasant small tasting room; the Pét-Nat, the As If Serendipity white blend, the Haywater Cove Rosé, and the Chronicle Red Blend; if you are interested in such things, they also sell canned wines and spritzers; dogs allowed outside.