Peconic Cellar Door: New Kids on the Block
If you like the idea of chatting with a pair of passionately committed winemakers, Peconic Cellar Door is the place for you. Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy are the women who own, run, and make the wines for the labels As If, Brooklyn Oenology, and Saltbird Cellars. They are the ones behind the bar in their small, white-washed space on Peconic Lane (adjacent to Anthony Nappa’s Winemaker’s Studio), where they will happily talk to you as much as you like about their wines—or give you space to sip and discuss with each other.
And there was much to talk about, as we learned their ideas about wine-making, why certain wines have the names they do, and their past experiences in wineries. We mostly talked to Robin, who, despite her youthful appearance, has spent many years traveling around the world, learning about wine-making techniques from New Zealand to California, and more. Her label is Saltbird, and as a native North Forker she is certainly familiar with salt air and local birds! Then Alie chimed in as we asked about her wines. She is the founder of Brooklyn Oenology (founded in Brooklyn, and abbreviated BOE), whose beautiful labels sport removable reproductions of works of art by Brooklyn artists. She also makes the As If wines, which are named Serendipity, Persistence, and Courage—some of the qualities she needed to make them.
The entire menu of wines includes about twenty-three choices, most of which are available for tastes at $3-$4 per generous taste. However, they also offer a set menu of four tastes for $14, which they said would change periodically, “So you can come back and have a different experience…and so we don’t get bored.” Most, but not all, of the wines are also available by the glass. If you want a bottle to consume on the premises, they charge a $10 service fee. (Also, they request that you not bring outside food, as they will soon have their own snack menu, and they also request no pets.)
We opted for the Feature Flight, and then, since it was all whites, added three reds at Robin’s recommendation. So the first four are from the flight—and very good choices they were.
- 2015 Saltbird Chardonnay $20
We tend to like steel-fermented chardonnays, and this was no exception. Robin informed us that it spends some time “on the lees,” which gives it more body and taste than your average chard. I found the aroma sweet, with some notes of cut grass, while my husband scented Brussels sprouts. “A seasonal smell,” he joked, as we are happily scanning the farm stands for the first sight of Brussels sprouts on the stem. This is a tasty wine, dry, with some lemon but nice depth. I think I could happily sip this with some brie or camembert.
- 2014 BOE Social Club White $17
Another winner, this blend of seven grapes—chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, vidal blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and viognier—is steel fermented and dry. Lots of tart grapefruity taste, but also some sweetness underneath. If I had to guess, I’d bet that chardonnay is the predominant grape. Very drinkable, especially with a seafood chowder. We buy a bottle.
- 2014 As If Serendipity $35
This is a blend of chardonnay, viognier, and sauvignon blanc, which is aged in neutral French oak. The aroma reminds me of something sticky, though I’m not sure what. The taste is tart, like a green apple. It’s very good, but I don’t think it is worth the price.
- 2013 BOE Broken Land $30
Broken Land? According to Alie, that is the actual meaning of the Dutch name for Brooklyn. Who knew? You could also say it is a wine that breaks with tradition, as this is an orange wine made from pinot gris and gewürztraminer. As Alie explains to us, orange wines are made by leaving white wine grapes to ferment with the skins (which are otherwise usually removed), and the particular grapes she chose have multi-colored skins, lending her wine a deep orange color. It would be a great wine to serve at a Halloween party, especially if you’re serving Chinese food, as I think the flavors of lychee, ginger root, and other fruits would complement that. The aroma reminds me of tangerines.
- 2012 BOE Motley Cru $35
Now we are done with the set flight, and we are given a fresh glass to try the reds, choosing some which happen to be open and on the counter. The name entails another discussion, as it is not inspired by the rock group Motley Crüe! Alie explains that it is made from a motley assortment of grapes—50% cabernet sauvignon, 28% malbec, 9%syrah, 8% petit verdot, and 5% corot noir—and then she added cru as a pun on the wine term. The corot noir, by the way, is a new cold tolerant hybrid made by Cornell. This is a fairly light red, with a pleasant aroma and soft tannins. Not much fruit. This would be a good wine to get if you have a group of people with varying entrees, as it could go with almost anything, from chicken to lamb, or even fish.
- BOE Haywater Cove Merlot $18
Although this is a merlot, it has very little cherry flavor or aroma. Robin agrees, and suggests it has more of a blueberry/bramble flavor, and we think she is right. This is a pleasant red, dry, with soft tannins. The label tells us that Haywater Cove is an actual location on the North Fork, where “three creeks meet at the mouth of Cutchogue Harbor.”
- 2014 As If Persistence $40
Yum. A blend of 60% cabernet franc, 25% petit verdot, and 15% cabernet sauvignon, this has a delicious fruity aroma and lots of dark fruit tastes. For some reason, my tasting buddy says it is “like a new pillow.” Okay. Definitely a wine one could sit and sip, it would also go well with food. I like it the best of the reds.
Reasons to visit: a chance to chat with two charming and interesting winemakers; you want to try some new wines; some of the prettiest and most interesting labels around; the Saltbird Chardonnay, the Social Club White, the Broken Land orange wine, the As If Persistence red; they are right next door to the Winemaker’s Studio, so you can go to two tastings without driving (and Sannino Bella Vita is just a mile or so up the street, plus Greenport Harbor Brewing is just a little further at the corner).