Friends often ask me, “What’s your favorite winery?” I have various answers—rosés at Croteaux, whites at One Woman, reds at Pellegrini, Mattebella for sitting outside, Sherwood for the fireplace in the winter, etc.—but really, Channing Daughters is my favorite. Unfortunately, it is on the South Fork, so we don’t get there as often as we like. However, we had an errand that could only be done in Southampton, so off we went. The errand finished, we took a walk around Sag Harbor, got a bite of lunch at the Golden Pear (really good sandwich), and headed to Channing Daughters.
So why do we like this winery so much? It is the most creative, interesting winery on Long Island, growing about two dozen different grapes and mixing and matching them in unusual ways. And we like almost all their wines. That’s why we joined their wine club, despite the inconvenience of having to be home to sign for the UPS delivery.
The tasting room is small, with a bar along one side and a few barrels on which to rest your tastes, plus some outside tables in the summer. They carry a small selection of wine-related gifts, and offer some plain crackers as palate cleansers. However, we’ve never been there without having interesting conversations with both the people at the bar and the servers, who are very well versed in the wines and eager to share what they know. For really complete analyses of the wines, check out their web site.
A tasting consists of six wines for $18, and though the wines in the tasting are listed on a chalkboard, we overheard the servers customize tastings for people based on what they like or don’t like. As wine club members, we could have tasted any wines, but I wanted to taste the two wines which had just come in our shipment. So we did the standard tasting plus those two. Although we each could have had our own tasting, we decided to share in the interests of sobriety.
- 2015 Vino Bianco $20
A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 26% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Tocai Friulano and 23% Chardonnay, this is a basic good white wine. Dry and refreshing, it has, observed my husband, “lots of taste.” Citrus, flowers, spice, fruit—I agree. They age some of the wine in steel, some in old oak, some in new oak, then blend it all together. As I said, they are creative! We buy two bottles, and think about having some the next time we buy oysters.
- 2016 Rosato di Sculpture Garden $25
This is one of the rosés they make. A number of years ago, they had seven, the result of late heavy rains which made them reluctant to use the red wine grapes for reds, as the flavor would be too diluted. So instead they made rosé. Good move. The rosés were so popular, they now make a bunch every year. This one is a field blend, of 91% merlot, 6% teroldego, and 3% blaufrankisch. Really nice. The aroma is somewhat earthy and minerally, and it has the strawberry taste you expect plus a really nice minerality and maybe some nutmeg. Good.
- 2014 Meditazione $40
Pronouncing the name with Italian verve, our server explained all about orange wine. This is a white wine made using the red wine method of fermenting the juice with the skins, hence the orange color. A blend of 36% Pinot Grigio, 21% Muscat Ottonel, 14% Chardonnay, 13% Tocai Friulano, 7% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Pinot Bianco and 4% Gewurztraminer, this is not an easy wine to drink on its own. We have it with a couple of crackers, which improves the experience. It smells like baked oranges and tastes like apples and spices. They suggest pairing it with game birds or sausages, and that makes sense to me.
- 2017 Rosso Fresco $22
Fresh red? Yes, because this is a light, bright red, more along the lines of a Beaujolais. I could see serving on the deck with hot dogs. It’s another blend, of 76% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 8% Blaufrankisch, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Teroldego, and is barely aged. They even suggest serving it slightly chilled. It would make a great summer red.
- 2017 Petillant Naturel Rosato $28
I usually eschew sparkling pink wines. Fortunately, I did not skip this one. Wow, is it good! Mouthwatering, bubbly, dry, with some strawberry aroma and flavor, this wines makes a good case for never dismissing any type of wine before you taste the iteration in front of you. The servers were going into great detail on the methods used to create this wine, which included freezing the tank at one point and fermenting it in the bottle. Just another Channing Daughter original.
- VerVino Vermouth (500 ml) $28
Yes, the tasting ends with one of the vermouths they make. This is a somewhat sweet one, and would make a fine aperitif or dessert wine. There’s a somewhat chemical aroma—maybe petroleum? —but fortunately the vermouth doesn’t taste like gasoline. I get sweet apples, pears, and other fruit flavors. Vermouth is made by adding various herbs and other ingredients to wine, and at Channing they vary them by season. This one includes such fall produce as apples, Asian pears, pumpkin, butternut squash, calendula, sage, borage etc.
- 2015 L’Enfant Sauvage $38
This is one of the wines in our current shipment, so I added it to the tasting. A chardonnay made with wild yeasts, this wine has varied over the years. Sometimes it’s my favorite, and other times…not so much. This iteration is yummy. Although it spends fifteen months in French oak, it doesn’t have that buttery taste I dislike in oaked chards. I do detect a bit of that woody flavor, which reminds me of when I was a kid and I would sometimes bite my pencils, but I also get lime and baked pear. You could have it with very assertive dishes, like spicy Chinese food, or even as an aperitif. We buy a bottle to add to the one we already have, aging in our cellar.
- 2016 Dornfelder
I wonder if this is a wine which would improve with age, since of all the wines we tried today this is my least favorite. But they do suggest aging it in the bottle, so we will see. A blend of 85% dornfelder and 15% pinot noir, it has red fruit aromas and flavors, but is not a really deep big red.
Reasons to visit: some of the best and most creative wines on Long Island; the Vino Bianco, the Rosato, the Petillant Naturel Rosato, L’Enfant Sauvage, and more; there’s always something new to try; one of the few wineries on the South Fork, so well worth a visit if you find yourself in Sag Harbor.