Channing Daughters: Club and Cousins

December 7, 2021

In the midst of a week of unsettled weather, we took advantage of a sunny day to venture to the South Fork.  We had two goals in mind—to have lunch with cousins we hadn’t seen in years, and to pick up our wine club selections at Channing Daughters.  Lunch at Sant Ambroeus in Southampton was delicious, and we took home enough left-over pasta for dinner that night.  The cousinly meeting went so well, that our cousins decided to come with us to Channing Daughters, which they had never been to.  They enjoyed the tasting, so I hope this will not be the last time they trek there.

On the right, you can see two sculptures by Walter Channing, the founder of the vineyard.

Aside from liking their wines, we admire Channing for the wide variety of their wines, the unusual grapes they grow, and their willingness to experiment.  There are about thirty wines on their list, plus five different vermouths, an amazing amount for such a small winery (about 15,000 cases per year).  We also appreciate how generous they are at tastings for wine club members.  We had two tastings of four wines each, but then decided to try a number of other wines, plus a vermouth, and Laura, our server, was delighted to accommodate us. 

We had not been there since Covid, opting to have our selections sent to us, so it was interesting to see their adaptations.  The outside patio area is now enclosed in clear plastic, with propane heaters which quickly made sitting out there comfortable, though we kept our jackets on.  They request that you make a reservation most days, though Tuesday is not one of them, since they are a small space.  They also ask that you wear a mask inside the building, but, obviously, the masks come off when you sit for a tasting!  They have clever wire racks, which hold five glasses vertically, thus making the most of the limited table space, and they also offer a menu of snacks, which is new.  Our cousin picked up a bar of sea salt chocolate for us to share, since we hadn’t had room for dessert at the restaurant.

Before we left, we filled a case with a variety of additional selections, including the “Autumn” vermouth and three bottles of the Scuttlehole Chardonnay (our favorite), and our cousins bought two bottles of L’Enfant Sauvage and two of the Petit Verdot.  Though we encountered some traffic as we wended our way back to the North Fork (the “back road” I discovered years ago is now well known), we felt that the trip was well worthwhile.

A standard tasting is $28 for five tastes, free for wine club members, who may also get wines not yet on the list.

Our wine club bottles.
  •  2019 Sylvanus Petillant Naturel               $28

Starting from the top of the rack, we choose this bubbly white, made from 50% pinot grigio, 40% muscat ottonel, and 10% pinot bianco.  It is light, crisp, and refreshing, the sort of bubbly I could see pairing with charcuterie and some rich cheeses.  Lovely.

  • 2016 L’Enfant Sauvage   $38

Some years I really love this wine, fermented with wild yeast (hence the name) and aged in oak, and other years I do not.  This year’s version is…delicious.  We all like it.  I often don’t care for chardonnays aged in oak, but this one is not at all buttery.  It smells of apples and, according to the cousin, fresh cut grass, and tastes fruity and deep.  It might be nice to drink this with a dish of sauteed wild mushrooms, to match the wild with the wild.   

They have just a few varieties.
  • 2015 Envelope                $42

This is one of their orange wines, made by fermenting white grapes with their skins on, as I explain to the cousins.  As we chat, I realize that, over the years, I have gradually amassed a bunch of random facts about wine.  What a great way to get an education!  It may be psychological, based on the color, but I swear I taste Mandarin oranges plus lychees.  This is a fairly tart wine, and would be good with pork belly, to cut the fatty taste.

  • 2020 Lagrein                    $35

A young red that I think could use some aging, it nonetheless has a delicious aroma of fruit and tobacco.  I taste dark purple plums, and could see serving this with lamb chops.

  • Autumn Vermouth         $28

Spicy, fruity, complex, tasty—these are a few of the adjectives we share after I request a taste of this vermouth.  It is made from red wine, and includes a panoply of ingredients. It will be great as a light cocktail, on the rocks.

  • 2016 Research Cab         $40

Our cousin requests a taste of this, since, she notes, she likes cabernets.  Our server also brings a sample of the Petit Verdot, noting that it has more of the kind of fruity flavor those who like cabernets are looking for.  And she is right.  Though I like this blend of 68% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit manseng, 3% syrah, 2% barbera, 1% malbec, 1% petit verdot, 1% sangiovese, and 1% blaufrankish (I told you Channing likes to experiment!), the cousin does not.  It is quite tannic and dry, and could probably benefit from a few more years in the bottle.  The aroma includes berries and cherries (the merlot, I’m sure) and spice, as does the taste.

  • 2018 Petit Verdot           $38

Oh yes, very nice.  How smart she was to bring us this, as I buy a bottle as well.  It is deeply fruity, yet dry, with some notes of spice (anise?), cherries, and berries.   Just last week I had a petit verdot at Macari which I liked, and this compares well with it.  This may be my favorite red grape!

Reasons to visit:  you are on the South Fork and want to try a winery (you can skip Duck Walk;  Wölffer is also very good); the carved wooden statues by Walter Channing are worth looking at; knowledgeable servers who are generous with “extra” tastes; an astonishing array of wines and vermouths—plus they also carry some local gins and vodkas; L’Enfant Sauvage, Petit Verdot, Autumn Vermouth, plus most of the whites, rosés, and many of the reds; no outside food, but they do sell snacks.

Nofowineaux Goes to Virginia

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Who knew?  Virginia has over 230 wineries, and, according to the Virginia Winery Guide 2013 map, is divided into “9 winemaking regions” and features “25 wine trails.”  I just went to one winery, but I was duly impressed.  A New York area wine lover could do worse than schedule a wine tasting trip to Virginia (and you can visit the house of Thomas Jefferson—founding father AND wine lover—as long as you’re there).

My brother took me to Paradise Springs Winery in the über-cute town of Clifton, Virginia.  The winery itself is down a winding country road bordered by beautiful estates and woods, and features a large tasting barn, an old log cabin, and ample outdoor areas where we saw many people picnicking, tossing Frisbees, and just relaxing.  Lots of people.  Happily, there was room at the long bar in the tasting room, and an attractive and knowledgeable young woman named Kat took care of us.  A tasting of seven of their wines cost only $10, and since it was Father’s Day they added a complimentary tasting of Swagger, their Port style wine.   Small dishes of round crackers on the bar are there as palate cleansers.  They also offer a fairly extensive menu of snacks, including cheeses from $8-$12, but many of the people we saw seemed to have brought their own picnics.

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  1.  2011 Chardonnay                                            $29

For a barrel-fermented chard, this was not overly oaky, with slight aromas of vanilla and apple, and a taste of Granny Smith apple.  Very good, either as a sipping wine or with food.

2.  2011 Petit Manseng                                        $27

Kat explains that this is a grape that is often used for dessert wines, but they harvest it early and make a dry style wine with it.  My brother and I agree that it is delicious, with some tastes of pineapple and pear, with some citrus zing and a slight strawberry aroma.  Kat notes that it would be good with spicy food, a good call.  Buyable!

3.  2012 Sommet Blanc                                         $24

This is a blend, 65% Vidal Blanc, 16% Traminette, 14% Riesling, and 5% Chardonnay.  Now I’m wishing for a nice bowl of lobster bisque, because this wine would go well with any creamy seafood dish, as it is nicely dry but with plenty of fruit and some aromas of spice and flowers.

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4.  2012 Nana’s Rosé                                             $22

Here’s a rosé that could challenge Croteaux, and indeed, Kat tells us that it is a French style rosé, so it is dry and full of flavor from the Merlot grapes from which it is made.  Great summer sipper, as I soon prove.

5.  2011 Mélange                                                    $27

Another blend, this is their Bordeaux-style wine:  53% Cabernet Franc, 24% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Petit Verdot.  We like this one very much, as it has plenty of red berry or cherry fruit, yet enough tannins to be interesting.  We learn that the Cabernet Franc grapes are the only ones grown on the winery’s property, with the rest bought from others, such as Chrysalis vineyard.  Also buyable.

6.  2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon           $32

Perhaps with more time this wine would be better, but we find it a bit thin, not the rich flavor that is promised by the tasting notes.

7.  2011 Norton                                                       $28

My brother is quite eager to have me taste this wine, as the Norton grape is a native Virginia grape, once cultivated by Thomas Jefferson himself.  Thinking of Concord grapes, I’m expecting this to be too sweet and, though it is somewhat “jammy,” it is also good.  Kat says it is great to make mulled wine with this in the winter.  A mineral aroma precedes some sour cherry flavors, with a bit of a not unpleasant vegetable after taste.

8.  Swagger, Edition I                                            $39

Get out the cigars and the small glasses, send the ladies to the parlor, it’s time for that after dinner sip of port!  J.K.  But this is a very nice Port-style wine, again not too sweet but, after being aged 17 months in Virginia bourbon barrels, full of all sorts of deep flavors.

My brother and I each opt to buy a bottle of the Petit Manseng and the Mélange.  Must be something genetic.  Then we each get a glass so we can sit outside and sip and chat.  I opt for the rosé ($7 for a glass), and find that it does indeed hold up well over the course of a full glass. Unfortunately, the young man playing guitar is not nearly as talented as the wine.  Afterwards, we walk up the road and hike down to Bull Run—yes, the actual stream that was the site of a Civil War battle!

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Later that evening, my brother opens a bottle of Horton Vineyards Norton wine, and I like that even better than Paradise Springs’ version.

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Reasons to visit:  You’re in Virginia and you want to try a winery; you’ve hiked the trail to Bull Run and you need some refreshment after your hike; you live in Washington, D.C. and this is the closest winery to the city; plenty of nice wines to try; picnic areas and a family atmosphere; Petit Manseng and Mélange and the chance to try the Norton (nothing to do with Jackie Gleason) grape.