Suhru Wines: Early Return (Not Election Related)

November 12, 2022

This photo was taken in February, the last time I was here.

Because there are so many wineries on the North Fork, I generally don’t return to one more often than once a year.  However, my daughter and a group of her friends were having a little reunion of their group, and invited me to meet them at Suhru, which I had last been to in February.  How could I resist? 

Suhru was a perfect venue for the six of them (plus me) to get together, since they were able to sit comfortably at a table, the room was cozy and quiet, and the server combined just the right amount of service and letting be.  She started the afternoon off right by bringing us chilled bottles of water and glasses.

I still wasn’t going to blog this visit, but then I saw that the menus, both for drinks and food, had changed, so I fished some scrap paper out of my purse and jotted down a few notes.

The menu of flights has four possibilities:  Holiday Favorites ($19), Whites & Rosé ($14), and Red Wines ($19), each consisting of four tastes.  You could also put together your own four tastes for $19.  As it happened, everyone opted for the Holiday Favorites, with much discussion about who was hosting Thanksgiving and what wines would go with turkey.  We all agreed, as my daughter learned when she and her husband toured the Champagne region of France, that sparkling wines go with everything. 

The snack menu has also changed.  I was glad to see they no longer offered the measly portion of marcona almonds for $2.  The group, wanting to try local products, ordered the North Fork Cheese Plate, which, for $32, included a good-sized scoop of Goodale Farms herb chevre and a small slab of goat gouda, plus crackers, honey, and candied orange rind (all out of apricots).  They also got artichoke and lemon spread, a small container whose label we read to be sure it was okay for the lactose intolerant in the group, which came with (at least a dollar’s worth of) marcona almonds and crackers.  Plus two bags of North Fork potato chips.  It was plenty.

  •  NV Brut               $29

According to the tasting notes, this has won a number of medals, and I can see why.  It has a lovely bready aroma and tastes of ripe apple and minerals. Lots of tiny bubbles.  Everyone likes it.

  • 2020 Sauvignon Blanc                   $21

“Grassy,” says my daughter as she sniffs and sips this one, and I agree.  It reminds me of the smell of fresh-cut grass.  I also taste green apple and some minerality, and smell thyme honey.  Very nice.

  • 2021 Riesling                     $19

Our server explains that Suhru is a winery without a vineyard, and they buy all their grapes from various North Fork vineyards—except the riesling, which they buy from the Finger Lakes, a region famous for its rieslings.  I was glad this was a dry riesling, since I often find sweet rieslings undrinkable (except for dessert, or with very spicy food).  I explain the aroma, which some describe as “cat pee,” but for me reminds me of the smell of water that has had flowers in it for a bit too long.  Fortunately, it tastes better than it smells, with some stone fruit and flower notes.

  • 2021 Teroldego                $30

This and the sauvignon blanc are both new releases.  (The emphasis, by the way, is on the second syllable.)  This is an easy-to-drink red, and could go with turkey (as could all of the wines we tasted!).  It has notes of cherry and tobacco (from aging in oak), and is dry, with a touch of tannins. 

You can see how distracted I was by the lively conversation–I forgot to take a photo of the tasting until it was gone!

Reasons to Visit:  cozy, intimate tasting room with a beachy vibe; all the wines, including one I did not taste but others in the group tried, Ember; nice menu of snacks.

Bedell Cellars: Varied Factors

October 21, 2022

The experience of doing a wine tasting can be affected by many factors, not all of them related to the wines themselves.  For example, the last time we went to Palmer the lackadaisical service made the experience less pleasant than in the past.  On the other hand, the lively presence of Laura Klahre makes every visit to Coffee Pot Cellars a pleasure.  In this case, our feelings about Bedell were colored by the fact that it was a beautiful warm fall day, we had a great seat on the porch looking out at the vines, and we had one of our favorite people in the world with us.  We also had the capacious porch almost entirely to ourselves (no worries about having to vacate our seats, as the sign on the table warned).

Even the parking lot is nicely landscaped.
The walkway leads directly to the porch.
Plenty of room today. Our friend noted it would be a nice venue for a big party or wedding.

We entered the porch from the prettily landscaped parking area, and were greeted by a young man behind the bar, who provided us with menus.  Bedell offers a basic flight of three of their wines for $15, or you can assemble your own flight from their menu of 19 wines for $6-$10 per taste.  Since we wanted to compare notes, we decided to each get the basic flight (with my husband and me sharing, since I was the designated driver), with the idea of getting an additional taste of something else if we wanted it.  The server poured our three tastes, and we carried them to a corner table where the afternoon sun made a nice warm spot.  We hadn’t had lunch, so we ordered a cheese and one of the salumi and some crackers, which were brought to our table.

The snacks came wrapped, with plates and those little wooden knives—which were quite inadequate for slicing the cheese, a nice wedge of Beemster.  It would be helpful to get a real knife.  We also were given little wooden picks for picking up the slices of Napoli salami, which fortunately came pre-sliced.  The crackers were…inoffensive.

As we sipped and chatted and enjoyed the view, soft rock of the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel variety played in the background.  The pour, by the way, was fairly generous, and we felt no need for more wine.

  •  2021 Rosé          $25

The weather was doing a pretty good imitation of late summer rather than early fall, so the rosé felt quite appropriate.  It has an interesting aroma of tropical fruit and minerals, with tastes of guava and minerals.  Nice, dry, and light; our friend notes it would be “nice on an August afternoon,” to sip on its own.

  • 2020 Pinot Gris                 $30

Like the rosé, this has a more interesting aroma than many wines of this variety.  I say mossy and a bit funky, and no one disagrees with me.  The taste is also more complex than many North Fork whites, with some tart Granny Smith apple taste.  We decide that it is best with food, and make some inroads on the cheese and salami.

I noticed the plastic curtains, which should make the porch usable even on not so nice days.
  • 2019 Malbec      $45

But the cheese goes best with this wine, an intense red with crushed berry taste which our friend compares to her favorite soda, Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry, except not sweet.  She starts fantasizing about drinking it with some matzo ball soup, a knish, and a pastrami sandwich.  Maybe!  It is good, though not $45 good, we agree, and I remember that one time when I wrote about Bedell I discussed the issues of price and value in wines.  They still have some very pricey wines, including Musée, at $125 per bottle.  Wow.

We made friends with Barney, who was focused on a crumb I had dropped.

Reasons to visit:  in warm weather, a pleasant outdoor covered porch with a view looking out over the vines; all three of the wines were good, though not good enough that we bought any; they allow dogs, at least on the porch, since as we were getting ready to leave we had a little visit with Barney; you can build your own tasting from their extensive menu of wines.

Roanoke Wine Shop: Four for Four

October 13, 2022

The entrance to the patio from the parking lot is well-shaded.

The sky was threatening rain, so I was glad I was able to park just steps from the back door of Roanoke’s Love Lane wine shop in the roomy parking lot off Pike Street.  Roanoke has two tasting rooms, but the one at the vineyard is for members only.  However, all are welcome to their Love Lane venue, a small but pleasant store front in the midst of Love Lane’s shops.  Love Lane, by the way, is a great destination for foodies, since in one small block you have the terrific Village Cheese Shop, the Sweet Shoppe and its gourmet chocolates, Ammirati’s sandwich restaurant with its many choices, Lombardi’s Italian market, North Fork Donut Company, and Love Lane Kitchen, where the lines outside prove its popularity.  Not to mention, just around the corner, Agora, a Greek market, and Good Food, where I get empanadas.

The view out the front window, where you can see Lombardi’s market, which has all sorts of prepared foods and pizza, as well as meats, etc.

Despite all these offerings on Love Lane, we and our guests had just had lunch at CJ’s Grill, in the Mattituck Marketplace, where the service was a bit slow, but the food was delicious and the servings were generous.  This was fortunate, since the pour at Roanoke is also generous, and it was good to have a well-lined stomach.  The tasting menu just has one flight listed for non-club members, of four wines for $16.  We liked them all so much, and the price was so reasonable, that I bought one each of all four wines, something I have never done before.

Roanoke does have a well-shaded patio in back, where we would have sat if the weather had cooperated.  However, it had turned chilly, so our party of five voted to sit inside.  We had the room to ourselves, which was nice, and our server and a friend of his who was hanging out at the bar helped us push two small tables together and rearrange the chairs so we were quite comfortable.  Each couple shared a tasting, with the designated driver supplied with a glass of water (which we all also got). 

Though we didn’t need any snacks, one of our guests asked for a cracker or two, and got a nice little basket of crackers.

As I was paying for our tastings and bottles, I noticed a small list of cheeses and snacks, but I forgot to ask about their policy for bringing in food.  I’ll assume dogs are probably allowed on the outside patio, but I would call and ask before coming.  By the way, Roanoke also carries Wölffer Estate wines, including their very popular rosé, Summer in a Bottle. 

As we sipped, one of our guests asked how this year had been, and our server told us that it looked likely to be a very good year for the harvest, as grapes enjoy the hot dry weather we had for most of the summer.  Something to look forward to!

The labels are quite attractive.
  •  2021 Sauvignon Blanc   $26

This is a steel fermented wine, with a bit of that mineral aroma steel-fermented wines get, plus a lovely floral scent.  We all like the crisp, lemon-lime taste, with more depth than many sauvignon blancs.  This is a very drinkable wine, and would be good with food, like a lobster roll.

  • 2021 The Wild                   $23

What’s so wild about this?  It uses wild yeast, which cedes some control over the result to nature, rather than using commercial yeasts.  Channing Daughters also uses wild yeasts—those occurring naturally in the air and soil—for their L’Enfant Sauvage.  As a result, the taste of the wine can vary from year to year.  This one worked out well.  A clone of chardonnay, with some muscat, it is steel-fermented, but is softer than some steel chards.  Instead of citrus, it has a toasted nut flavor and a long finish. Our guests buy two bottles.

  • 2020 > (Greater Than)                   $25

Why is the name of this Bordeaux-style blend the mathematical symbol for greater than?  There’s a story behind it.  Originally, this was called Bond, but it turned out a California winery also had a wine called Bond—a very high-end wine—and they had copyrighted the name.  Uh-oh.  So Roanoke asked its wine club members for alternative names, and someone came up with the idea of greater than, as in greater than the sum of its parts.  And indeed it is.  This is a blend of 67% cabernet franc, 19% merlot, and 14% cabernet sauvignon.  The aroma includes cherries (likely from the merlot) and spice.  I say nutmeg.  The tasting menu compares it to a Briermere cherry tart.  It’s not sweet, but it is soft, with no tannins, so it’s surely a drink-now wine.  I’d have it with mac and cheese—maybe the mac and cheese from Meats Meat, also in Mattituck, just around the corner on Main Road.

  • 2020 Marco Tulio             $28

There’s a story behind the name of this Bordeaux blend as well.  It is named for the father of one of the founders, who lived to be 99 years old, and died just short of his 100th birthday.  His photo adorns the bottle.  This one has much more of the cherry aroma and flavor, not surprising, given that this blend is 66% merlot, 21% cabernet franc, and 13% cabernet sauvignon.  This is drier than >, with some slight tannins.  I taste tart plums and a little spice.  I think I’d pair it with spaghetti carbonara.

Reasons to visit:  cozy tasting room conveniently located in the midst of Love Lane’s food mecca; all four of the tasting menu wines; a place to buy Wölffer Estate wines.

Chronicle Wines: A Family Story

August 25, 2022

The winery is in a storefront on Peconic Lane.

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.

The bar is a holdover from the Winemaker’s Studio.

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 lounge area.

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.

Snacks!

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.

The Queen of the Scrambled Brain
Follow the Sun

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. 

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company: A Cold Beer on a Hot Day

August 9, 2022

It was hot, hot, hot, and we’d spent the morning on the beach, so a cold beer sounded a lot more appealing than a glass of wine, even a crisp white or chilled rosé.  In addition, our guests had brought their dog with them, limiting the number of wineries that would welcome us all, so a brewery seemed like the best idea.  We knew Greenport was dog friendly, so off we went. 

My list.

At the bar, each couple picked five beers from the extensive list, and, without planning to, we only overlapped on one, so we got to try a panoply of brews.  I asked our server where we could sit with the dog, and she gestured all around and said, “Anywhere you like.”  I asked, because there weren’t any free tables in the main room, and it was too hot to sit outside.  So we settled ourselves in the side room.  Feeling a touch peckish, we added fish dip and freshly made fried potato chips to our order.  The chips were crisp and tasty, and the dip reminded me of one I’ve made with smoked bluefish and mayonnaise, perfect with the beers.

Yummy snack.

We were more than halfway through our flights when a different worker came over and, very apologetically, told us that we’d have to take the dog into the other room.  A health department violation!  Oh my.  There still were not any good four-person tables, but they quickly wheeled in a nice big table and added chairs for us, so no problemo.  At the end, our guests decided to prolong the experience with a glass of Dog Adoption.  For $12, they could have gotten a keepsake glass and Greenport Harbor would donate $4 to Unicef for Ukraine.

Our doggie guest felt comfortable enough to demand a tummy rub.

By the way, there is no attempt to tell you in which order to taste your flight.  You give the server your list of choices, and they put them into the whale-shaped carrier in the order in which you listed them.  However, it is best if you try to order them from lightest to heaviest, since a light beer’s taste will evanesce if you have it following a porter.

Our two flights. Note the PINK beer in the background.

My notes are rather sketchy, since we were enjoying our conversations on other matters, but I would say overall I was a bit disappointed with this particular array of beers.  They mostly seemed aimed at easy summer drinking, which I suppose is appropriate, but, while refreshing, they were a bit short on interest. 

  •  Summer Ale

This is our only overlap, so we tasted it in tandem.  I pronounced it refreshing, while one guest opined that it had a “faint dishwater aftertaste.”  Not being in the habit of sipping dishwater, I can’t verify that judgment, but I would categorize that flavor as reminiscent of mineral water.

  •  Haus Pilsener

This had a fuller taste than the Summer Ale.  It reminded me of beers I had on tap in Prague, and I could see drinking it with a hearty serving of sausages.

  • Dog Adoption

Greenport Harbor really does sponsor a dog adoption service, hence the name of this beer.  Since our visiting dog was adopted from a shelter, it seemed appropriate to include this beer in our tasting.  I’m not a big fan of grapefruity IPAs, which is what this one was.

  • Evil Duck

The cloudy, unfiltered appearance of this one sparked a conversation about whether or not unfiltered beers were healthier.  The jury is out.  Words we used to describe this are sour, fruity, like a green apple or bosc pear…not so evil.

  • Claudio’s Pirate Lager

Ho ho ho.  Better than Bud, opined one of us, but not by much.  So much for pirates.

  • Black Duck Porter

This is a fixture in the panoply of Greenport Harbor brews, and one I like.  It is a stout-y dark brew, with some chocolatey tastes.  Good sipping in a pub stout.

  • The Hot Sauce

I asked the server about this before I added it to my list, and she said, in a cautionary tone, “It’s hot.”  It does have an aftertaste of chilies and lemon, and smells a little bit like hot peppers, but it is not super spicy.  It may give one a bit of heartburn.  I would say, drink this with something bland, like simple hamburgers.

  • Maibock

This is my favorite of the day, in that it has lots of taste for a fairly light beer.  Again, a good summer sipper.

  •  Up in the Mix

Ever have a pink beer?  Me neither—until this one.  One guest dubbed it “candy beer,” and “like a kid’s drink.”  I guess it is a beer for someone who doesn’t like to drink beer, but somehow found themselves dragooned into a visit to a brewery.

Reasons to Visit:  dogs are allowed; lots of choices and a changing menu all the time; Haus Pilsener and Black Duck Porter; freshly made potato chips and fish dip (plus they have a more extensive menu of food than many places).

The beer garden is relatively new–or at least, I had not noticed it before.

Raphael: Pretend You’re in Italy

July 15, 2022

Looking like a villa in Tuscany, the Raphael tasting room sits on the Main Road in Peconic.  A covered veranda in the back looks out onto the grape vines, and the warm weather this week made it really feel like Italy.  We drove in past the miniature villa gateposts, around the Italianate fountain, and parked in the lot.  Through heavy wooden doors that would not be out of place on a palazzo we went, entering a huge space where a disembodied voice said, “Welcome!”

The voice soon materialized into a young woman, who cheerily asked us if we wanted to sit inside or outside.  Noting that there was plenty of room to be socially distant from other tasters, we opted to sit inside at a table facing outside, where she left us with a couple of menus.

As we perused the menus, she returned with two bottles of Poland Spring water.  I no longer buy bottled water, but these would be convenient for the future.  It was lunch time, and on a previous visit we’d had very good flatbread pizzas.  However, they no longer have them (or at least, not during the week), and the menu features a selection of cheeses, crackers, hummus, etc., all a la carte (so if you want crackers with your cheese, you need to order them).  We also noticed that every tasting comes with a “snack.”  “What is that?” we asked.  “Sort of a grown-ups Lunchables,” she replied. Ah.  We decided to add a serving of hummus ($8) and tortilla chips ($10), most of which we ended up taking home, as the chips were a huge bag and the humus a 10-ounce container (very good, by the way). The snack was indeed quite mini, consisting of about four crackers and as many slices of bland cheese, plus some slices of spicy sausage. However, it did remind us of how in Italy one is often served some sort of snack with a glass of wine, like a dish of olives, or like the time in Bologna when there were three of us sharing a bottle of wine, and the waiter brought a plate of cheeses and sausages (no charge).

Meanwhile, we were debating over which flight to get, as they have six different options.  We could see by looking at other tables that the serving per taste is quite generous, but we wanted to try a panoply of wines, so we decided to just plan not to finish each glass, and get a flight of four whites for $25 and four reds for $25.  Both flights were brought to our table on labeled strips of paper.  Our waitress launched into her little scripted speech about each wine, enlivened by her personal preferences, with which we agreed.  For example, we had a little chat about riesling, which she noted she sometimes dislikes as too sweet, but felt the current iteration of Raphael’s riesling is one she likes.   I was a bit concerned when she described a couple of the reds as “summer reds,” and when I tasted them I saw why.

As we sat and sipped and munched and looked out at the vines, my tasting buddy said that Raphael gets an A+ for service and setting.  As to the wines…

  •  2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir               $30

Our server explained that this is a “true” rosé, made from red wine grapes treated like white grapes.  It is a pretty color, and had a pleasantly fruity aroma.  We liked the taste, too, with notes of citrus and black cherry, not too sweet, not too dry.  A good summer sipper.

The snack.
In an effort to counteract the blandness of the cheese and the spiciness of the sausage, I combined them.
  •  2021 Sauvignon Blanc                  $30

All their whites are fermented in steel, which sometimes leaves a slightly metallic aroma, which this has.  It is a touch petillant, crisp and light.  A little fruity.  Nice.

  • 2021 Pinot Grigio             $30

In France, they call this grape pinot gris.  We like this wine the best so far, with a taste of baked pears.  Not much aroma.  Good for sipping or with food, like roast chicken, or even pork chops.

  • 2021 Riesling      $30

Many rieslings have a smell described as “cat pee,” which, having had a cat in the past, I can say this one has, though faintly.  There is some sweetness here, but there is also a bit of a funkiness which takes the edge off the sweetness.  Pleasant.  Though my husband finds it too sweet for him, I think it would be fine with something spicy, like Thai food.

  • 2019 Cabernet Franc       $36

This is one of the wines she described as “summery,” and I think I know why.  It is soft and fresh and easy to drink, with slight tannins, a berry aroma, and tastes of ripe dark fruits.

  • 2019 Pinot Noir                $50

“Not a very exciting red,” opines my drinking pal, and I agree.  It’s not bad, just kind of mellow and soft.  When I tell him the price, he says, “We’re not getting it!”  He also thinks that people may not, in general, want strong reds, which would account for the popularity of a wine like this.

If you plan to go, check their website, and the winery is sometimes closed for private parties.
  • 2019 Estate Merlot          $30

As our waitress noted, we are in the middle of merlot country here, as that grape is “happy” on the North Fork.  This is a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with nice cherry flavor, but ultimately meh.

The Malbec.
  • 2020 Estate Malbec         $36

This is my favorite of the reds, with a beautiful dark color, yummy fruit aroma, and dark fruit tastes—though again, no tannins.  “It’s not oomphy,” says my husband, and I agree.

Reasons to visit:  beautiful building and veranda, with vineyard views; attentive service; generous pour for the flights; the whites more than the reds, though all the wines were drinkable; the Rosé of Pinot Noir, the Pinot Grigio, the Malbec; nice place to come with a couple of friends.

There’s a fairly extensive gift shop, which may be another reason to visit.

McCall Wines: Here’s the Beef

June 24, 2022

If you check out the McCall wines web site and scroll down to the bottom of the shop page, you’ll see something unusual:  ground beef, $15.  Huh?  Yes, the McCalls raise Charolais cattle and sell the grass-fed beef, some of which can be found in the winery shop.  You might also spot the white cows in one of their fields as you drive along the Main Road.  As I was paying our bill after our tasting, Mrs. McCall urged us to come back on a Thursday or Friday, from 4-8, when they serve burgers made from their beef.  If I do, I’ll post about it!  And I already know which wine I’ll get a glass of to go with that burger: Ben’s Blend.

The outdoor setting is quite pleasant.

The turn-off to the McCall winery is rather subtle, and easy to miss, but it is basically across the street from Pellegrini.  You drive around back to a grassy parking area, where you see a lawn dotted with picnic tables and a rustic barn.  Inside, there’s a new bar, which wasn’t there the last time we came in 2018, and a couple of stalls with cozy seating areas.  Since it was a beautiful day, we opted to sit outside, and Mrs. McCall supplied us with menus.  In a few minutes, a server came by with glasses and a bottle of water, a nice touch. 

They have a fairly typical small menu of snacks, but we’d just had lunch, so we didn’t get anything.  The rest of the menu listed four different flights, of three or four wines each, so we decided to share two flights, so we could try a range of their wines.  Then we realized that there was some overlap, in that if we got the pinot flight ($23) and the reserve flight ($30), both included the “Hillside” pinot noir.  Could we sub in the estate merlot instead?  Sure.  And the reserve flight includes a chardonnay aged in oak.  Hmmm.  A discussion ensued, in which we were assured that the chardonnay is “lightly oaked.”  I really do not like those buttery, California-style oaked chards, so we shall see.

We enjoyed the dappled shade of the trees, but that might make this a bit hard to read!

Service is friendly and informative, and we chatted with one server about how they fared during the pandemic, since we had not been there since before it.  “We were busier than ever,” she informed us.  People just were grateful to have someplace to go, and were very respectful, masking if they got up from their tables, for example.  She noted that the outside tables are well-spaced.  The view is bucolic, as you look out onto the grape vines—though the sense of country peace was temporarily marred as a trimming machine was going up and down the rows.  Fortunately, it finished well before we did.

The noisy machine…well. it is a working farm.

Overall, my husband commented, the place got plus marks for setting, but he was not overly impressed with the wines, which we found drinkable but not special.  We did like the way the wines were served, especially since we were sharing the flights.  We each got a wine glass, and then the tastes were brought to the table in little carafes, set down in the order in which they should be tasted. 

Pinot Flight:

Our first flight.
  •  2021 Whole Cluster Rosé           $24

“Better than average,” opined my tasting buddy, as we sipped.  This has lots of strawberry aroma, though the taste is more lemony and tart than some rosés.  It definitely has some character.  I said it was mouth-watering.  Made from pinot noir grapes.

The warm day made our carafe of water quite welcome. We also used it to rinse our glasses between tastes.
  • 2015 Pinot Noir Estate   $30

This one had almost no aroma, and the taste was also somewhat thin.  Very dry.  I got some blackberry or sour cherry flavor.  My husband said it was “simple, not sophisticated.”  I think it would be fine with food, but it’s not a sipper.

  • 2014 Pinot Noir “Hillside”            $59

“Hillside” refers to the fact that this pinot is from a different area of the vineyard, with somewhat different terroir.  We like it better than the previous one, as there is more body to it.  The menu says “hibiscus,” but since I don’t know what that smells or tastes like, I can’t say if that’s accurate.  I do get some berry taste, and it is very dry.

Reserve Flight:

Our second flight, after we had poured the chardonnay back into the carafe and poured the merlot.
  1.  2018 Chardonnay Reserve         $39

As I feared, we do not care for this.  It smells and tastes very strongly of pineapple, and is too sweet for us.  It does have a pretty golden color.  We pour our tastes back into the carafe.

  • 2015 Merlot Estate         $24

This is our replacement for the Hillside pinot, and we like it better.  It’s a fairly typical North Fork merlot, with cherry aroma and taste, dry, with some tannins.

This is about half of what was in the carafe.
  • 2014 Merlot Reserve      $30

I always find it instructional to taste various iterations of the same grape, especially from the same winery.  This merlot is “more interesting,” according to my tasting pal, with aromas of cherry, leather, and tobacco.  It has lots of tannins, and we discuss that it is the opposite of “fruit forward.”  Fruit backward?

  • 2014 Ben’s Blend            $58

Named for their original winemaker, who sadly died too young, this is their Bordeaux blend, a mix of 30% each cabernet franc, pinot noir, and merlot, plus 10% petit verdot.  We like it the best of the day, appreciating its aromas of berries, leather, and tobacco, plus some nice blackberry fruit tastes.  It definitely needs food, however.

Our “extra” taste of the chardonnay, thoughtfully served with clean glasses.

Extra!  Mrs. McCall stops by our table and sees the almost full carafe of chardonnay.  You haven’t tried the chardonnay yet?  She asks.  No, we tell her, we tried it and didn’t care for it.  “Would you like to try our unoaked chardonnay?” she asks.  Sure!  So she brings over a carafe of it.  We like it much better.  It is crisp and refreshing, with tastes of citrus and green apple, and we buy two bottles, at $20 each.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant outdoor setting with a backdrop of the vines; cozy interior; they allow dogs, but call first to be sure there aren’t any other canine visitors; the Whole Cluster Rosé, the Unoaked Chardonnay, Ben’s Blend; no outside food Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so I assume it’s okay during the week; lovely service; Thursday and Friday burger nights, and you can buy the beef.

The trailer from which they serve burgers on Thursdays and Fridays.

Sparkling Pointe: Celebration Time

May 24, 2022

The lovely terrace was empty on this Tuesday.

There are certain people who make every get-together feel like a celebration.  So where better to take that couple than to Sparkling Pointe, where the sparkling wines make every sip feel like a party. In addition, one of our guests is a wine aficionado who has been to many wineries, so I wanted to take him somewhere unusual.  I made a reservation that was clearly superfluous, since we had the entire terrace to ourselves, but I wanted to be sure it was open, since we went on a Tuesday when many wineries, stores, and restaurants are closed (at least until after Memorial Day). 

The flute of Brut.

We settled ourselves on the flagstone terrace, commenting on how pretty the view out across the vines was.  Natalia, our lively and intelligent server, quickly brought each of us a welcoming flute of the 2017 Brut and explained the menu.  The bubbly wines—which can’t be called champagne because they are not made in the Champagne region of France—are made using the méthode champenoise, a labor-intensive process.  Some are dry, and some are sweet, with the Carnaval labels more on the sweet side.  Since one of our guests prefers sweeter wines, we decided that they would share the Flagship flight ($20, for three), which features two of the Carnaval wines, and we would share the Prestige Flight ($30, for three), which has drier sparklers.

We hungrily attacked the cheese board before I had a chance to take a photo.
We quickly finished the baguette slices and, though I like Taralli, they are not ideal as cheese holders.

Since it was lunchtime, we also ordered a cheese board, which included three cheeses, a little dish of jam, a tiny jar of honey, and some Taralli crackers and sliced baguette.  It was plenty for the four of us.  (Outside food is not allowed.) As we sipped and munched, we talked and laughed and told stories, and I sometimes forgot to take notes, we were having such a good time. 

Tastes are brought to your table one at a time, so the bubbles don’t dissipate, and Natalia quickly noticed that it was taking us longer than average to consume each one, so she allowed extra time between samples.  Then, I guess because there was no one else there, or because we were clearly serious about tasting, or because of my notebook, she brought each couple one additional taste.  As a result, I could theoretically tell you all about nine of their wines—but, as I said, we were having so much fun being together, my notes are a bit sketchy.  I list the wines more or less as we had them, not separated by who had which.

  •  2017 Brut          $31

Everyone gets a flute of this “welcome toast,” a very nice gesture.  It is made from a blend of 54% chardonnay, 33% pinot noir, and 13% pinot meunier.  You might note that two of those grapes are red, yet the wine is pale yellow.  That’s because the color in the wine comes from contact with the grape skins—and Sparkling Pointe does have some rosés and even a red sparkler—but this wine has no skin contact.  These three grape varieties, by the way, are the same ones traditionally used in the Champagne region of France to make champagne.  Anyway, we like it.  It is sophisticated and dry, and tastes very like a traditional champagne, though one guest notes it has fewer bubbles.

  • 2017 Blanc de Blancs     $48

As you might guess from the name, this is made from all white grapes—100% chardonnay—and has that zippy citrusy taste you might expect from a chard. 

  • 2016 Blanc de Noirs       $75

In contrast, this is made only from red grapes, 65% pinot noir and 35% pinot meunier.  This has a more complex fruity taste, maybe raspberry, and has a nice aroma of yeast, with a touch of something funky.  Dry.

  • NV Cuvée Carnaval Rosé              $36

If you examine the Sparkling Pointe menu, you will note that in addition to the usual descriptions of the wines, each wine also has the additional information of when it was disgorged and what the “dosage” of sugar is.  The sugar number is easy to decipher, since the higher the number the sweeter the taste.  This one has a dosage of 14 g/l, while the previous wine’s is 6.  The disgorgement date is the date when the yeast and sediment in the bottle are removed, ending the second fermentation, and giving you a good idea of exactly how old a wine is.  Since this is a non-vintage wine (NV), you might like to have that information.  A light pink blend of 50% pinot noir, 41% chardonnay, and 9% merlot, this is the bubbly equivalent of a still rosé, slightly sweet, with some strawberry taste.

  • 2019 Topaz Imperial Brut Rosé                 $44

I was concerned, looking at the pink color, that this blend of 50% chardonnay, 34% pinot noir, and 26% pinot meunier would be too sweet for my taste, but in fact I quite liked it.  It has the strawberry taste one expects in a rosé, but is more complex, with some lemon and bread notes.

  • NV Cuvée Carnaval Blanc             $30

The sweet wine lover in the group declared this to be her favorite, while her companion compared it to a prosecco.

  • 2011 Brut Seduction       $70

The usually very well-informed Natalia couldn’t tell me why this is called seduction (though I’ll bet she’ll know next time someone asks), but we speculated it could be because it is so good it seduces you.  This is the oldest vintage they have, though it was disgorged in 2020, so it aged for quite a long time.  It is complex and interesting, with layers of flavor, including some of the buttery flavor you get in an oaked chardonnay.  It has almost no bubbles.  54% chardonnay, 46% pinot noir.

A red sparkling wine is a bit unusual.
  • NV Carnaval Rouge         $36

This is unusual—a red sparkling wine.  It is almost startling to look at.  It smells like cranberry juice, and could almost be mistaken for a Cosmo, but, according to our friend, has almost no flavor.  “Tastes like wet paper, like a spitball,” he opines.  On the other hand, it is an “extra,” not included in the tasting, so no complaints.  The menu says it tastes like bubblegum!

  • 2016 Reserve Blanc de Blancs     $68

We are very happy with our extra, and in fact, it is my favorite of the day.  This is dry, lemony, with some warm pear tastes.  Very nice.

An array of unfinished glasses, which eventually we did finish!

Reasons to visit:  time to celebrate, as they only have sparkling wines, which most people consider as party wines; lovely terrace outside, and elegant room inside, with thoughtful table service; the 2017 Brut, the Blanc de Blancs, and the Blanc de Blancs Reserve, to my taste; the Carnaval Blanc if you like sweeter wine (the term “Carnaval” refers to the  owners’ love of Brazil, which can also be seen in some of the gift shop offerings).  

The “Bubbly Boutique” has a limited selection of items, which used to be bigger. You can see the Brazilian influence.

Castello di Borghese: Cherry Blossom Time

May 10, 2022

After a stroll through Greenport, admiring the blooming cherry trees and checking out which stores were open (many are closed on Tuesdays), we headed to the “Founding Vineyard,” Castello di Borghese. 

This painting in the Borghese gallery reminded us of the cherry-tree lined streets of Greenport.

The last time we were there was February 9, 2020, just before the world shut down.  When we shared this fact with our server, she told us about her experience of working in the tasting room during that time.  Right around St. Patrick’s Day, she recalled, they had a huge influx of people from the city, who all commented on how happy they were to find something open, where they could gather and socialize.  We were ready to close for the night, she remembered, but the people didn’t want to leave.  By the next day, she began to worry, and helped scrub down the place.  Then they closed, then reopened only for curbside pickup, when they actually had a very profitable time, as people were buying bottles and cases. 

Their solution to how to serve a flight.

When it was time to offer tastings again, they spent some time figuring out how to manage serving flights, since previously most of their service was to people standing at the bar, chatting and getting their tastes one at a time.  Finally, they decided to use little plastic baskets and clear plastic cups, with the variety written on paper inside the basket, under each cup.  She noted that she felt bad about all the plastic they were now using, and I suggested she look into the corn-based plastic used by Old Field, which she promised to do.

The room is large, but rather plain, though they have tried to enliven it with Christmas lights.

We were sitting at a table in the large room they now use for tastings, which was lined with paintings by local artist Patricia Feiler, whose paintings of seascapes and blossoming cherry trees felt very familiar.  Once again, we were the only customers—until, as we were leaving, another couple arrived—so we took our time to sip and discuss each wine.  Our server asked us if we would like some pretzels, and when we said yes supplied us with two little bags of them.  They do allow outside food.  They also seem to allow dogs, since as we entered, we met Herbie, the owner’s classic black dog, and very friendly he was indeed. 

Herbie!

They have two flight options:  Classic, of two whites, a rosé (picked from three options), and two reds; or the Red Flight, which has many of their more expensive reserve wines, of five reds.  We opted to share a Classic Flight, which she brought to us in a little plastic basket.  She also thoughtfully gave us each a glass so we could easily share each taste by pouring it into the glass.  Since it was a slow day, she treated us to all three rosés, which is why I can comment on them in this piece. 

  •  2020 Sauvignon Blanc   $29

This is a fairly typical NoFo sauvignon blanc, with some citrus and almost-ripe pear taste, crips, dry, and summery.  It has a pleasant floral aroma with a touch of ginger.

  • 2020 Chardonnay           $25

My tasting buddy thinks this and the sauvignon blanc are a little sweet, but I counter that what he sees as sweet is fruity, and he says, “I’ll accept that,” then adds, “It borders on sweet.”  We agree that this steel-fermented chard is good, with tart peach flavor (they say nectarine and starfruit), but not outstanding. 

  • Fleurette Rosé   $18

The menu describes this blend of merlot and chardonnay as an “aperitif wine,” and “off-dry.”  I can agree with both descriptions, and could see sipping this somewhat sweet wine with charcuterie, where the sweetness of the wine would be balanced by the saltiness of the meat.  It is relatively complex for a rosé, with tastes of ripe cantaloupe and lemon zest.  It smells sort of melon-y, too.

  • 2020 Rosé of Merlot       $22

“I could see sitting on the deck and sipping this after a day at the beach,” opines my husband, and I agree.  This has the typical strawberry aroma and flavor of most local rosés, with again a touch of citrus.  I say that people who like sweet wine would not call this sweet, he adds “enough.”

I thought giving us each a glass so we could easily share was a nice idea.
  • 2021 Rosé Pinot Noir     $50

I had to check the price list twice, since I can’t see any reason why this rosé costs so much.  My buddy describes it as “zippy,” and I add that it is very dry and citrusy, with almost no aroma.  Sophisticated? Maybe.

You can just see the handwritten labels.
  • 2017 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon                          $25

Nice.  Is that damning with faint praise?  It is a light, bright, and pleasant red, with aromas of cedar and black cherry and tastes of cherry, too.  I think it would be better with food, like roast chicken.  Or a hot dog, offers my pal.

  • 2020 Reserve Cabernet Franc     $44

Like all the wines we have sampled today, this is very drinkable but not outstanding.  It has a delicious aroma of blackberry jam and spice, and has nice dark fruit tastes, with soft tannins.

This is a fairly typical painting by Patricia Feiler, at least one of whose paintings was featured on the cover of Dan’s Paper.

Reasons to Visit:  calm, laid-back place with pleasant wines; art gallery featuring various local artist shows; you can bring a picnic and your dog (certainly outside); the chardonnay, the Fleurette (though it is a bit sweet), and the merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend.

Kontokosta: For the Sophisticated

April 20, 2022

The exterior is deceptively rustic.

This time, our guests were a pair of sophisticated Manhattanites, who spend weeks at a time in Italy, where they often visit wineries, so we knew we needed to find a winery that was equally sophisticated.  We also needed a place where we could offer them lunch with their tasting, plus they had almost never been to the North Fork, and we wanted to give them a bit of a tour.  After some cogitation, we decided Kontokosta, just a little bit past Greenport’s Main Street, fit the bill in all particulars.

You can see the Long Island Sound in the distance.

They arrived before noon, giving us plenty of time before our reservation—which is required, and is held with a fee of $5 per person—to have a leisurely drive east.  (Reservations are via Tock, which seems to work about the same as Open Table, etc.)  As I drove, I pointed out the various wineries and other sites along Sound Avenue, giving a bit of information about each, feeling very much like a tour guide.  Our guests noted how rural it is out here, and admired the beginnings of spring blooms.

The inside is quite modern and sophisticated.

One aspect of Kontokosta I appreciate is their eco-consciousness.  They use a windmill to generate electricity, and serve their wines in those corn-based “non-plastic plastic” cups, also used by Old Field.  Snacks are served on bamboo plates, with bamboo utensils (though the bamboo knife did not do a great job of slicing the cheese).  They say they farm “sustainably,” whatever that means.

The outside of the tasting room is deceptively rural, looking like an old barn, while the inside is sleek and modern, in stark black and white.  We were greeted at the door, where our reservation was confirmed, and we were each given a wine glass to keep.  So I guess each glass cost $5!  We were directed to the bar, at the far end of the room, where a friendly server guided us to a snack menu and a tasting menu.  We ordered two cheeses, some crackers, and a plate of sliced salami while we perused the wines.

A tasting consists of three wines for $18, but on this day they added either of the rosés for free, since they are having a special sale on the rosés.  It was hard to choose from the menu of thirteen wines, but my husband and I and our guests decided each couple would share one tasting, and mostly got the same wines so we could discuss.  I may go back some time to try more of their wines.  Our tastings were delivered to our table in small cups, in a wooden holder, with each cup labeled as to the wine in it.  The taste is rather small.

We spent a pleasant afternoon sipping and tasting, and the snacks proved more than adequate for lunch.  Afterwards, we took our guests for a brief stroll around Greenport, and then drove home via Main Road, so they could see the towns of Southold and Cutchogue and Mattituck.

  •  2020 Orient Chardonnay            $22

We all liked this interesting chard, with its lovely flowery aroma and tastes of peach and citrus.  I mentioned that I thought it went very well with the cheddar and salami.  I used to think that cheese and charcuterie demanded red wines, but I have come to prefer whites.  My friend called it “vibrant.”  Nice description.

  • 2020 Viognier    $29

We differed on our second white, since they got the Field Blend.  I liked the viognier, too.  It has some taste of nectarine, and smells flowery.  It has a touch of lime at the end, and I think it would be good to have with seafood in a cream sauce.

  • 2020 Field Blend             $25

Our guests described this as “light and summery.”

  • 2020 White Merlot         $29 (half off if you buy six bottles)

We were somewhat disappointed in this wine, since white merlots are often quite tasty.  This was extremely light, and, as my tasting buddy noted, “monochromatic,” one of his favorite wine description words for wines he finds boring.  It tasted more like a white than a rosé, and even with a 50% discount, neither of us was interested in buying it.

  • 2016 Merlot      $29

Since merlot is the most characteristic red wine on the North Fork, we decided to have that as our final taste.  This is a fairly typical NoFo merlot, with cherry taste and aroma, dry, with a touch of oak/tobacco.  One guest called it “chewy.”

  • 2020 Rosé          $29
This is the glass of rose, which, unlike the white merlot, at least looks like a rose.

Since this rosé is also half off if you buy six, our guest decided to try a glass of it, pouring off a sip for us to taste.  We liked it better than the white merlot, as it has more strawberry taste and aroma, but not enough to get six bottles.

Hmm…whiskey? Maybe next time.

Reasons to Visit:  you want a winery close to Greenport; you want to have some snacks with your tasting; the Orient Chardonnay, the Viognier, and the Merlot; the property overlooks the Sound, and you can stroll down to a bluff overlooking the water.

They have plenty of outdoor tables, though it was a bit too chilly to sit outside when we were there. The Sound is in the distance.