It was a beautiful spring day, so we opted to sit at a picnic table in the sunny yard outside McCall’s tasting barn (and it is a barn, with the horse stalls converted to seating areas) for our tasting. In the past, we had really liked their wines, especially the reds, so we opted to share two tastings, one of their whites and another of their Estate reds. We hadn’t been to McCall’s since the summer of 2013, and this visit confirmed what we’ve often thought—that you need to taste each vintage to know whether or not you like a particular wine. In this case, we were less impressed than we have been in the past.
The tasting menu offers four options of combinations which let you taste their twelve wines. Each flight offers four two-ounce tastes: White Flight for $12, Cellar Master for $12, Premium for $14, and Estate for $16. As we sipped, we watched children run around picking dandelions and other groups snack on picnics they had brought with them. Our server was friendly and efficient, and if there were any questions she couldn’t answer she quickly found out the answers for us.
I’ll start with the White Flight.
- 2014 Marjorie’s Rosé $18
Okay, so a rosé is not exactly a white, but it’s not a bad way to start a white flight. This wine is named for the owner’s mother, and is a very light-colored wine. Instead of the expected aroma of strawberries, we smelled rising dough, more like a champagne. The taste was tart and lightly citrusy—“a summer wine,” noted our server. The end taste was more mineral than citrus, and fairly tart. “Like a sour candy,” noted my tasting buddy. Though it was not unpleasant, it was just okay.
- 2013 Chardonnay $18
“This is our steel-fermented chardonnay,” said our server, adding, “and another good summer wine.” Indeed, it is fairly light and citrusy, with again a doughy aroma. Had it undergone malo-lactic fermentation? She wasn’t sure. We guessed yes. She returned to tell us that indeed it had. We decided the taste reminded us of the key lime pie my husband had enjoyed the night before at A Lure. I’m not a fan of key lime pie.
- 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée Nicola $24
McCall’s doesn’t grow sauvignon blanc grapes, so this wine is made from grapes from One Woman’s vineyard, and this was the first time McCall’s offered this wine. Good decision, as this is their best white. The aroma and taste both remind me of apricots—sort of like apricot fruit leather, with some spice and citrus notes at the end. It would be good with blue cheese or pasta in a white sauce. Sippable.
- 2013 Chardonnay Reserve $39
No surprises here—this is a typical North Fork oaked chardonnay (nine months in the barrel, we are told), with aromas of vanilla and oak and some fruit tastes as well as some vanilla. Of course, I say it would go with roast chicken.
Now we move on to the Estate Flight of reds. We are not brought fresh glasses, but we do appreciate that our server has opted to give us two glasses, dividing the taste between us rather than having us share one glass, as we generally do. I should also note that many of their bottles use twist off caps rather than corks.
- 2012 Pinot Noir $28
What a pretty color this wine has—a light red. We smell blueberries and wet forest ferns, with maybe a touch of barnyard. Alas, the color is the best aspect of the pinot, since the taste is rather sour and unappealing. What a disappointment, since my comments on the 2010 pinot noir include “mmmmm.”
- 2012 Pinot Noir Hillside $39
Well, perhaps we’ll like this one better. It spends about 3-4 weeks longer on the vine and three months longer in the barrel. Okay, definitely better. Again a blueberry pie aroma (Which reminds us that tonight we’ll be having a blueberry crunch pie from Briermere.) with a touch of cocoa. The taste has more fruit and more subtlety, but no depth and a fair amount of tartness. Again, we’re not loving it. Also, the reds are all too cold, though that may not be anyone’s fault, as the tasting room is quite chilly.
- Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012 $39
Nice aroma—plums, some oak—but with a touch of something metallic. This wine comes from 30-year-old vines, our server tells us proudly, from a vineyard originally planted by the Gristina family says our server (Does she mean Galluccio?), and though the property is now owned by Macari, McCall’s is using the grapes. Again, this wine is tarter than one would expect, without enough fruit to balance the dryness. And though our server enthuses that she really likes this one, we are not pleased with it, especially with the aftertaste.
- 2010 Ben’s Blend $54
Finally, a wine we can like. This is their Bordeaux blend (named for their previous winemaker, who died much too young), though the combination is quite different from the last time we sampled it. This one is 46% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon, and 29% merlot, whereas the 07 Ben’s Blend was 60% merlot and also included some petit verdot. In any event, we scent aromas of dark fruit, such as purple plums, and taste pleasant fruit, though it is not tannic enough to stand up to a steak. It would be good with brie and pears.
Reasons to visit: the Cuvée Nicola Sauvignon Blanc, the 2010 Ben’s Blend; a pleasant relaxed setting where kids can run around and you can bring a picnic; the surprisingly elegant rest room (!). We’ll be back when it is time for a new vintage, hoping the wines are better then, since we really liked them in the past.