The parking attendant waved us on to the “additional parking” area, so we had a good view of the activities going on in back of the Martha Clara tasting room and barns. Children and dogs were running around, a couple played Frisbee, many people tossed beanbags into a whole line of targets, and a wagon hitched to horses waited to give rides. The delicious smell came from an old-fashioned Airstream camper that had been turned into a food truck. And that was a good thing, since Martha Clara no longer allows you to bring in outside food, preferring that you buy your own from their menu, catered by Noah’s Restaurant in Greenport.
We were there with a friend who is a member of the Marth Clara wine club, so we first headed to the Tasting Barn with its sign outside limiting it to wine club members. However, it was full, so we headed on into the main building and, not feeling like standing at the bar in the crowded main tasting room, sat at a table in the table service area. At first the server said we’d have to pay full price, but after assuring her that we had been turned away from the members-only barn she said okay—which resulted in a significant saving for our four tastings.
The sleekly bound menu offers four options for tastings, plus a variety of wines by the glass or bottle, and a bunch of snacks. The four flight menus are labeled Aromatic, Sustainable, Northville, and Vintners, and range from $14-$17 for five generous tastes (or $5-$7 for wine club members). The tables were all set with napkins, wineglasses, and water glasses, which we used both for water from the large bottle the server delivered to our table and as a dump bucket. But more on that later.
I opted for the Northville flight, mostly because it included their Syrah, a wine I often like. The two men in the party chose the Vintage flight, and our friend the wine club member decided on the Aromatic because it is all whites, and that’s what she was in the mood for. The Sustainable has a combination of reds and whites, as do the other options. I will tell about my tasting first, and then about the other wines, not all of which I tried myself.
- 2014 Gewürztraminer Estate Reserve $27
Gewürztraminers are tricky, because they can be very sweet or dry, with a lot or not much fruit, depending on how they are handled. This one is steel fermented, so I had hopes, but then the server explained that it was on the sweet side, and she liked it as an after dinner drink or with “spicy Thai food.” The aroma combines flowers, mineral, and creosote—you know, that smell you get from the railroad tracks on a hot summer day. Fortunately it doesn’t taste like what I imagine creosote would taste like, but rather like lychees in sugar syrup with some minerality at the end. This wine also began the Vintage tasting, and we all found it too sweet. In fact, we all dumped at least part of our serving. But if you like a sweet wine, you’d probably like this one.
- 2012 Cabernet Franc $27
A light ruby color, this wine is also light in body, with a red candy and wet rock aroma, and a plum taste. It would be a good burger or roast chicken wine. Aged 14 months in oak.
- 2013 Merlot $24
Merlot does well on Long Island, and this is no exception, a nice, light, dry red with some fruit. I like it. It smells rather oak-y, even though it only spends 12 months in oak.
- 2012 Syrah (Cote Rotie Style) $24
I would be very happy drinking a full glass of this one. It has aromas of red fruit and pepper, with lots of red fruit tastes, some tannins, and a dry finish. It could pair well with lamb or duck. It’s my favorite of the day, too.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
Again, you can definitely smell the oak. This is somewhat dry, with lots of cherry taste and a nice long finish.
And that was the end of my tasting. However, here are some notes on the other flights.
- 2013 Estate Reserve Chardonnay $27
Lots of aromas on this one, including vanilla and nutmeg, which is the first on the Vintage list. It is aged “sur lie” for ten months. If you like a smooth buttery chard, this is one for you.
- 2014 Northern Solstice Blend $18
I liked the bottle for this, featuring an image of a sun, which my friend saw as appropriate for this first on the Aromatic list, since it is, she said, “a perfect summer sipper.” It is a blend of about four or five grapes which the server rattled off too quickly for me to catch. We all sniffed it and agreed that it smelled like ripe pineapple, and my friend said it was “crisp and refreshing” with just a touch of sweetness.
- 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $22
This is a pretty typical North Fork sauvignon blanc, with honeysuckle aroma and lemon tastes, though it is a touch sweeter than some sauvignon blancs.
- 2014 Pinot Grigio $22
And this is another great summer wine, said my friend, with some peach tastes and a touch of bubbles on the tongue. It was her favorite of her tasting.
- 2013 Estate Reserve Riesling $26
We were all intrigued by the smell of this one, identifying vanilla sugar cookie (even though it is steel fermented) and wet rock. Unlike the gewürztraminer, this escapes over-sweetness, and is a light and almost bubbly with some mineral taste. The Aromatic tasting should have ended with the Gewürztraminer, but my friend decided to forego it since she had already tasted it and felt she had had enough wine. As I said, the pour is generous, and we actually dumped some tastes we liked.
- 2014 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir $37
The Vintner tasting includes some of their higher priced wines, and we got into a discussion of value vs. cost, which I may revisit some time this winter when I don’t have a winery to review. My husband informed us that this was a Burgundy-type wine, but a bit sharp for a Burgundy. It had aromas of plum and prune, and a somewhat grapey (I know, shocking) taste. Good, but not complex.
- 2013 Northville Red (Bordeaux style) $27
Again, the server listed the grapes in this too quickly for note taking, but it is a Bordeaux-style blend we all liked very much. In fact, my notes include “yum,” “delicious,” “very drinkable,” “layers of flavor,” and “really nice.” We were happy when our friend bought us a bottle!
- 2013 Estate Reserve Merlot $35
The menu informs us that this was rated a 90 by Wine Advocate. Maybe. It has a touch of that barnyard smell we always used to get from local merlots and hardly ever sense any more, but it tastes nice, with good fruit, some cherry flavor, and is dry.
Reasons to visit: Lots of space to play and a relaxed, welcoming vibe; some agritainment; the Northern Solstice Blend, the Pinot Grigio, the Syrah, the Northville Red; lots of choices ; catering by Noah’s (We didn’t have any, but I like the food in the restaurant!).