Sannino Bella Vita: Small Place, Big List June 27, 2015

This used to be the Ackerly Pond Vineyard, and, though none of the wines are labeled Ackerly, the sign is still there.

This used to be the Ackerly Pond Vineyard, and, though none of the wines are labeled Ackerly, the sign is still there.

The sign outside Sannino Bella Vita says no groups of over six without a reservation, and that’s a good idea, because this small venue really can’t handle a big influx, as we saw when a group with a Groupon and another group there for Anthony Sannino’s wine tour arrived at the same time.  However, the cheerful and hard-working tasting room staff did their best to compensate, and we were in no hurry anyway.  Our youthful server was new to the winery, and actually learned a few facts from us, but she was so charming we didn’t mind at all.

Anthony Sannino off to give a tour.

Anthony Sannino off to give a tour.

This is a great spot if you hope to interact with an owner, as Anthony Sannino is usually on site.  In addition, for a small winery they have an interesting range of choices, with a menu of eleven different wines to choose from for a tasting.  Since their standard tasting is six wines for $18, we decided to share two tastings, thus getting to sample all the wines (except one that is off the menu).  They generally set up all of your tastes on a tray, but with the influx of the groups they asked if we would mind getting our tastes one at a time, since they were worried they would run out of glasses!  No problem.  We also could have ordered a cheese and meat tray for $18.

One side of the room

One side of the room

We opted to sit on stools at the bar, but most other people sat outside on the side patio.  The room has, according to one of the servers, “a certain rustic charm,” and we agree.  There’s also a small selection of amusing wine-related gifts, and the Sanninos run a B and B next door to the winery.  They are just down the street from Greenport Harbor Brewery’s Peconic location, where mass quantities of people were flocking for a barbeque cook off.  We decided to give it a miss.

Some gift items

Some gift items

bella bib

  1. 2014 Chilly Day Chardonnay $18

There’s an interesting vegetable aroma which we note in several other of their wines.  Maybe asparagus?  Also a touch of baked pear, even though this is a steel-fermented chard.  The taste is a touch sweet for a steel chard, but ends with a tart lemony flavor.  Nice, and quite buyable.  We also note that the whites are served at a good temperature—not too cold.

  1. 2013 Off-Dry Riesling                    $17

“Bronze Medal in the FLI,” says the menu, which we later learn stands for Finger Lakes International.  We’re somewhat iffy on rieslings, but this one is quite nice, with green plum aromas and tastes, plus a touch of citrus.  It’s not too sweet, and would be a nice chilled summer sipper or an accompaniment to Thai food.

bella bottles

  1. 2014 Sauvignon Blanc $22

“I’d definitely have this with oysters,” I say.  Lots of not-overly-ripe pineapple taste, tart, lemon at end, with a touch of cabbage in the aroma.  Also worth buying, I think.

  1. 2014 Chardonnay $20

The menu says this is “fermented in steel and accented in oak,” and though at the moment there was no one to tell us exactly what this meant, we can figure it out, as this is an only lightly oaked chard.  We smell honey and almond butter, but the taste is dry and crisp.  If you find steel chards a bit too crisp and oaked chards too buttery, you’d probably like this one.

Pretty color

Pretty color

  1. Bianca White Merlot $16

This is a rosé, of course, so, as always, we compare it to Croteaux.  The color is a pretty dark pink, with sweet strawberry aromas with again a touch of that vegetable scent.  It’s good, though sweeter than Croteaux’s 314, and with less going on.

  1. 2014 Bianca Dolce $15

Our server confidently informs us that this is their sweetest wine, and notes that “people come in just for it.”  I get that.  This has a lighter color than the Bianca, and is quite sweet, almost enough to be a dessert wine.  However, it is light and not cloying. Might be nice over ice.

bella second

  1. 2nd Bottle Red $20

Why 2nd Bottle?  Because this is a wine you serve second, because “nobody cares by the second bottle.”  A non-vintage blend of varietals, this is a fine barbeque wine, with no depth and not a lot of fruit, but quite drinkable.  Something in the aroma reminds me of a black olive tapenade, like the one we sampled earlier in the day at Vines and Branches in Greenport.

  1. 2012 Merlot $25

Another FLI Bronze Medal winner, this 100% merlot spends 22 months in French and Hungarian oak.  We smell plums and a hint of smoke and taste cherry.  Neither sweet nor dry, this is a passable merlot, though my husband says he “would not go out of my way for it.”

  1. 2012 Prima Rossa $34

50% cabernet sauvignon, 33% cabernet franc, 17% merlot, we inform our eager-to-learn server, means this is a Left Bank Bordeaux-type blend.  It’s also quite good, with aromas of coffee, cigars, and grape juice and lots of dark fruit tastes.  This one is also aged for 22 months in French and Hungarian oak.

  1. 2012 Cabernet Franc $34

Ooh, this wine won a Silver Medal in the FLI.  The menu describes it as “elegant.”  Well, there is something restrained about it.  Quite dry, with a bit of a woody aroma, it would be okay with lamb, but we liked the Prima Rossa much better.

Our favorite of the reds

Our favorite of the reds

  1. 2012 Spotlight Petit Verdot $42

We opt to get two tastes of this one, to complete our twelve, and decide that was a good choice, as we like this the best of the reds.  A blend of 85% petit verdot and 15% cabernet sauvignon, aged 22 months in French and Hungarian oak, this wine has lots of dark fruit aromas with just a touch of smoke, and tastes very good.  Lots of fruit, maybe some jam—I could see this with the Crescent Farm duck breasts I served with a strawberry-rhubarb sauce last week.  It certainly merited its Silver Medal in the FLI.

This serious-looking canine statue stands guard over the parking lot.

This serious-looking canine statue stands guard over the parking lot.

Reasons to visit:  you like an intimate setting, with the chance to chat with an owner (if he’s not giving a tour—or you could sign up for the tour!); the Chilly Day Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, the Prima Rossa, the Spotlight Petit Verdot; a cute selection of gifts.

bella baby

The vines are in full leaf now.

The vines are in full leaf now.

Sannino Bella Vita October 13, 2013

One view of the tasting room.

One view of the tasting room.

I told my husband he’d miss the Jets/Steelers game because we’d be out for the afternoon, but he was in luck—it was playing (with the sound off) on the flat screen TV in the Sannino Bella Vita/Ackerly Ponds tasting room.  And that wasn’t the only way the good-humored staff was helpful.  The three of us were going to share a tasting when one confessed he might be coming down with a cold.  Could we split one taste by sharing it 2/3 in one glass and 1/3 in another?  We could!  Everyone was happy, including the honeymooning couple who were staying in the Bed and Breakfast associated with the winery, and enjoying their complimentary tasting and so were the drunken fruit flies.

Each time we’ve come, we’ve noticed improvements to the tasting room, and they now have more space than they did at first in their rustic barn.  Bella Vita took over the site from Ackerly Ponds, which continues in the names of some of the wines. On the list, some of them are marked BV, which means they are Bella Vita’s own. There are two tasting options:  eight wines for $15 or four wines for $8.  Since there are eleven wines on the list, plus spice wine, we decide to go with one 8 and one 4. They also offer a cheese tray for $15, and request that people not bring in outside picnics.  As we sipped and chatted, a guitarist with a James-Taylor-type sound began to play in one corner of the room.

Be singer

  1.  2012 Riesling                                    $17

Not surprisingly, since this is made with grapes from the Finger Lakes Region, this is a somewhat sweet wine, though not cloyingly so.  There’s an aroma of spice and goldenrod honey.  It would pair nicely with something spicy.

2.  2012 Chilly Day Chardonnay        $18

Just like most steel-fermented chardonnays, this one has a green apple smell, with tasting notes of citrus.  It is a bit sweeter than one would expect, and one of the well-informed servers tells us that they try to accommodate a variety of preferences, and many people prefer a sweeter wine.

3.  2012 BV Chardonnay                      $23

Only one month in oak make this an only slightly oaked chard, with some ripe pear tastes and the usual vanilla aroma.  It is drier than the first two.

4.  2012 BV Bianca White Merlot    $17

“What a lovely color,” I said, admiring the pale pale pink of this 100% merlot rosé, made from the first press of the grapes, having spent almost no time on the skins.  “Tastes like strawberries,” notes our son.  We agree it is a nicely complex, not too sweet wine, with good fruit flavors.  Quite buyable.

5.  2012 BV Snow Rose of Merlot    $15

And now a wine from the second press, with twelve hours on the skins.  The color is so dark it almost looks like a red, with a bit of a funky aroma.  “Garbage smell?” asks our son.  Fortunately it tastes better than it smells, though its notes of over-ripe fig may not appeal to everyone,

be bit

6.  2010 Cabernet Franc                       $40

Now we move on to the reds.  This one doesn’t have a lot of fruit flavor, and does have some of that earthy smell and taste one gets out here.

7.  2004 Ackerly Ponds Merlot         $19.99

Very nice!  Dry, with ripe purple plum tastes, this would be great with pasta and meatballs.

8.  2nd Bottle Red                                    $12

The name of this wine needs a bit of explaining, as there’s a philosophy behind it.  So often a host wants to serve a good wine as a first round, but feels it is not necessary to serve as good (or expensive) a wine for the second round.  Hence…2nd Bottle.  It is true that one thing the North Fork could use is more less-expensive reds for everyday drinking, and this does fill that ecological niche.   A blend primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this is a fine table wine, though it would be overpowered by anything big, like a steak.

9.  2010 Merlot                                       $35

Lots of “2s” here—22 months aging in oak, with juice from 23 year old vines.  We like this one, too.  Dry, with a bit of berry taste.

10.  2010 BV Prima Rossa                      $35

Another blend, this one is also aged 22 months, and includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.  We smell cinnamon, spice, cedar and find the taste lighter than one would expect from the smell, with some hints of licorice.  It would go great with a Middle Eastern lamb dish.

11.  2010 BV Spotlight Petit Verdot   $45

Another good red, and strong enough to stand up to a steak dinner, this is primarily Petit Verdot with about 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and has tastes of berry and ripe cherries.  In general, we’re liking the reds better than we did a year ago when we visited Bella Vita.

12.   Warm Spice Wine

Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice make this wine “smell like Christmas and taste like Thanksgiving,” according to out server.  If you’ve ever had Swedish glögg you know what this tastes like.  Throw in some cranberries and some cut up oranges and you have a nice party drink.


We buy some bottles of 2nd Bottle and our son gets some White Merlot and 04 Merlot.  Good choices

Reasons to visit:  you want to get a step or two off the beaten path (limos or groups larger than 6 only by appointment);  the White Merlot and the 04 Merlot, plus 2nd Bottle if you’re looking for an everyday table wine; a warm friendly atmosphere.