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 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.