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.

McCall’s Winery: Vintage Matters 5/2/2015

The tasting barn

The tasting barn

It was a beautiful spring day, so we opted to sit at a picnic table in the sunny yard outside McCall’s tasting barn (and it is a barn, with the horse stalls converted to seating areas) for our tasting.  In the past, we had really liked their wines, especially the reds, so we opted to share two tastings, one of their whites and another of their Estate reds.  We hadn’t been to McCall’s since the summer of 2013, and this visit confirmed what we’ve often thought—that you need to taste each vintage to know whether or not you like a particular wine.  In this case, we were less impressed than we have been in the past.

One of the converted horse stalls used as a seating area

One of the converted horse stalls used as a seating area

The tasting menu offers four options of combinations which let you taste their twelve wines.  Each flight offers four two-ounce tastes:  White Flight for $12, Cellar Master for $12, Premium for $14, and Estate for $16.  As we sipped, we watched children run around picking dandelions and other groups snack on picnics they had brought with them.  Our server was friendly and efficient, and if there were any questions she couldn’t answer she quickly found out the answers for us.

I was wondering why no one on the North Fork makes dandelion wine.

I was wondering why no one on the North Fork makes dandelion wine.

I’ll start with the White Flight.

  1. 2014 Marjorie’s Rosé    $18

Okay, so a rosé is not exactly a white, but it’s not a bad way to start a white flight.  This wine is named for the owner’s mother, and is a very light-colored wine.  Instead of the expected aroma of strawberries, we smelled rising dough, more like a champagne.  The taste was tart and lightly citrusy—“a summer wine,” noted our server.  The end taste was more mineral than citrus, and fairly tart.  “Like a sour candy,” noted my tasting buddy.  Though it was not unpleasant, it was just okay.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay $18

“This is our steel-fermented chardonnay,” said our server, adding, “and another good summer wine.”  Indeed, it is fairly light and citrusy, with again a doughy aroma.  Had it undergone malo-lactic fermentation?  She wasn’t sure.  We guessed yes.  She returned to tell us that indeed it had.  We decided the taste reminded us of the key lime pie my husband had enjoyed the night before at A Lure.  I’m not a fan of key lime pie.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée Nicola $24

McCall’s doesn’t grow sauvignon blanc grapes, so this wine is made from grapes from One Woman’s vineyard, and this was the first time McCall’s offered this wine.  Good decision, as this is their best white.  The aroma and taste both remind me of apricots—sort of like apricot fruit leather, with some spice and citrus notes at the end.  It would be good with blue cheese or pasta in a white sauce.  Sippable.

  1. 2013 Chardonnay Reserve $39

No surprises here—this is a typical North Fork oaked chardonnay (nine months in the barrel, we are told), with aromas of vanilla and oak and some fruit tastes as well as some vanilla.  Of course, I say it would go with roast chicken.

mc reds

Now we move on to the Estate Flight of reds.  We are not brought fresh glasses, but we do appreciate that our server has opted to give us two glasses, dividing the taste between us rather than having us share one glass, as we generally do.  I should also note that many of their bottles use twist off caps rather than corks.

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir                $28

What a pretty color this wine has—a light red.  We smell blueberries and wet forest ferns, with maybe a touch of barnyard.  Alas, the color is the best aspect of the pinot, since the taste is rather sour and unappealing.  What a disappointment, since my comments on the 2010 pinot noir include “mmmmm.”

The setting feels quite bucolic.

The setting feels quite bucolic.

  1. 2012 Pinot Noir Hillside $39

Well, perhaps we’ll like this one better.  It spends about 3-4 weeks longer on the vine and three months longer in the barrel.  Okay, definitely better.  Again a blueberry pie aroma (Which reminds us that tonight we’ll be having a blueberry crunch pie from Briermere.) with a touch of cocoa.  The taste has more fruit and more subtlety, but no depth and a fair amount of tartness.  Again, we’re not loving it.  Also, the reds are all too cold, though that may not be anyone’s fault, as the tasting room is quite chilly.

  1. Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012    $39

Nice aroma—plums, some oak—but with a touch of something metallic.  This wine comes from 30-year-old vines, our server tells us proudly, from a vineyard originally planted by the Gristina family says our server (Does she mean Galluccio?), and though the property is now owned by Macari, McCall’s is using the grapes.  Again, this wine is tarter than one would expect, without enough fruit to balance the dryness.  And though our server enthuses that she really likes this one, we are not pleased with it, especially with the aftertaste.

  1. 2010 Ben’s Blend $54

Finally, a wine we can like.  This is their Bordeaux blend (named for their previous winemaker, who died much too young), though the combination is quite different from the last time we sampled it.  This one is 46% cabernet franc, 25% cabernet sauvignon, and 29% merlot, whereas the 07 Ben’s Blend was 60% merlot and also included some petit verdot.  In any event, we scent aromas of dark fruit, such as purple plums, and taste pleasant fruit, though it is not tannic enough to stand up to a steak.  It would be good with brie and pears.

mc tree bloom

Reasons to visit:  the Cuvée Nicola Sauvignon Blanc, the 2010 Ben’s Blend; a pleasant relaxed setting where kids can run around and you can bring a picnic; the surprisingly elegant rest room (!).  We’ll be back when it is time for a new vintage, hoping the wines are better then, since we really liked them in the past.

The tasting barn viewed through a taste.

The tasting barn viewed through a taste.