“I love Paris” was being crooned on the sound system as we entered Lieb Cellars’ elegant tasting room on Oregon Road. Oregon Road, you may ask? If you’ve been to Lieb, you’ve probably been to their tasting room on the corner of Sound Avenue and Cox Neck Road, but this is their second location, and a lovely one it is. As we walked through the parking lot, we heard birds singing and looked out at a bucolic scene of farm fields and vineyards.
We were greeted by a friendly hostess who escorted us to a table with comfortable chairs in a corner of the attractive tasting room. Many people were sitting outside, but it felt a touch too chilly for us to sit out there. However, I could definitely see coming here on a warm afternoon and getting a glass of wine (suggestions at the end of this review) and some snacks—I’m particularly interested in trying the duck paté—to share with friends.
The pleasant waitress explained to us that they now do table service, though one could still sit at the bar, and handed us menus. The four drink options included 5 of primarily their Bridge Lane whites or 5 Bridge Lane reds for $16, 6 Reserve wines for $20, or 5 “Director’s Cut” options for $12. The last list included their sparkling cider, Rumor Mill, which I liked when I had it in the past. Since we have sampled the Bridge Lane offerings several times at their other location, we decided to go with the reserve list. The waitress brought us a package of slim bread sticks to cleanse our palates along with a tray bearing our first three tastes on a paper with numbered and named spots for each one.
- 2011 Reserve Blanc de Blancs $30
Although this is a Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine, it was served in a regular wine glass, which might have accounted for the paucity of bubbles (or it might have been open for a while). Despite the bubble issue, this is a perfectly pleasant sparkling wine, not too dry, with some minerality and tastes of unripe pear and the typical yeasty toasty aroma. But if I wanted an inexpensive sparkler I’d go for a Cava or Asti Spumonte—or, if I was determined to have a Long Island sparkling wine, one of Sparkling Pointe’s better wines, such as Brut Seduction. They use pinot blanc grapes for this, aged 36 months.
- 2014 Reserve Pinot Blanc $22
Of course, this is also made with pinot blanc grapes, and is, our server told us, their “signature wine.” I’m not sure why, since, though it’s not bad, we did not particularly care for it. It is steel fermented with 0% residual sugar, we were told, which might account for the perception I had of something metallic about the smell and taste. “Like licking foil,” I said, which my companion thought was a rather strange thing to do. It might be better with food, such as something in a cream sauce, since it is quite crisp.
- 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $26
This is a new wine for Lieb, and so far our definite favorite. The aroma is complex, with notes of honey, fresh cut grass, pineapple, and maybe a touch of cat pee (or that smell when you’ve had cut flowers in a vase too long). The taste is also complex, and I compare it to kiwi and something green with a touch of smoke or funk. My husband says, “I could drink a lot of this.” It may not be a crowd pleaser, since it is rather dry, but we like it a lot. We took a mental inventory of our wine cellar and decided not to buy it, but we might change our minds at some future date.
- 2014 Reserve Merlot $24
Now it is time for our reds, and rather than change our glasses the waitress quickly flips over the paper in our little tray to reveal spaces named and numbered for reds. Even though there are a few drops of wine in each glass, we don’t get new glasses, as she pours out our tastes and gives a brief rundown on each wine. The merlot, she notes, also has a bit of cabernet franc in it, and all the reserve reds are aged ten months in Hungarian oak. We feel the merlot is a fairly typical Long Island merlot, with dark fruit aromas and tastes, including plum and cherry, plus a touch of earthiness.
- 2014 Reserve Cabernet Franc $40
I would hope for more depth and complexity in a $40 bottle, though this is a perfectly competent red and would be good with pasta. Aromas of plum and tobacco and dark fruit tastes, as one would expect.
- 2013 Reserve Meritage $35
Described simply as their Bordeaux blend, this is our favorite wine of the day. Though the aroma is similar to the cabernet franc, the taste is much more interesting. Cherry, chocolate, plums, perhaps a touch of leather or tobacco. It could have more body, but we like it enough to also contemplate buying a bottle. I ask our waitress what the proportions of the various grapes are in the wine, and she disappears into the back for quite a while, during which we decide that cabernet sauvignon probably dominates over the merlot. When she returns we discover that we are right, as she hands us a printout with a detailed rundown on the wine: 47% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, 17% malbec, 2% cabernet franc, and 1% petit verdot. Plus more detail than we need, though it is interesting to see the comments on the type of yeast and bacteria used. Winemaking, we have often heard, is both an art and a science. Also, this is aged 16 months in Hungarian oak. As we have heard before, 2013 was an excellent year, and this is a good example of the lovely wines made from that harvest.
Reasons to visit: prettily bucolic location on a back road with comfortable seats and an appealing array of snacks and variety of tasting menu choices; the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and the Reserve Meritage. If I were coming to have the duck paté, I would pair it with the Meritage, though a selection of their cheeses and charcuterie could also go well with a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc—or the Rumor Mill sparkling cider. No limos or buses (though they allow both at their other location).