“We’re actually here for the air-conditioning,” we only partially joked with our server, as we arrived at Shinn in the midst of a heat wave. And even though the outside patio area has been beautifully re-done and expanded since our last visit, no one was tempted to sit outside.
We were particularly curious to check out Shinn, a winery we like for several reasons, since it is under new ownership for the first time since it was founded. As we sipped and discussed the wines and I wrote in my notebook, the new owner, Randy Frankel, entered and introduced himself. He was talking to everyone in the room, but he was evidently intrigued by my notebook and asked what we thought of the wines so far. We had just finished our flight of three whites and a rosé, and my husband summarized our opinion by saying we found the wines, “Safe.” Randy seemed a bit perturbed by that description and he said, “Wait, the winemaker is right here. Tell him. Patrick!”
As we discussed the fact that we found the wines quite drinkable but rather light and simple, he suggested that we try the other rosé, not the one we had chosen from the menu. And indeed, we liked it better, and found it more interesting. We discussed Croteaux, and lamented the closing of their garden, and he eagerly informed us that they would be hosting a Croteaux pop-up event at their winery that week.
Then he suggested we check out the new party room he was having remodeled, just across the patio from the tasting room. As we walked over, we noticed that the patio was even larger that we had seen at first, with some comfortable-looking seating. Not quite as pretty as Croteaux’s garden, but with a few more flowers it would come close. The room he led us to has comfortable leather couches and a big fireplace. My husband said, “It reminds me of Sherwood House.” Randy introduced us to the designer, who was there, and who also designed Sherwood’s tasting room! Good eye, dear. Randy then gave another couple the same tour. We have learned that if you take your tasting seriously, especially if you take notes, you often get extra attention from servers.
We finally confessed to our server that I write a blog, and she insisted we try a taste of their most expensive wine. Then, as we bought two bottles of wine, she comped us our tastings. Plenty of places will comp your tasting if you buy a certain number of bottles, but I assume this was in response to my being a blogger. (Full disclosure!)
The wine menu lists ten wines under the heading “Traditional Wine Tasting,” of which you can choose four for a $16 tasting, and five “Small Production” wines, of which you can choose four for a $24 tasting. They also have two brandies and an eau de vie available by the glass, at $15 for the brandies and $10 for the eau de vie. You get all of your tastes at once, identified by little labels, so you can easily have your tasting at a table inside or outside. They do not allow outside food, and have a small menu of snacks, including North Fork doughnuts and a charcuterie platter. We got a dish of mixed nuts for $5.
By the way, Shinn also has a four-room B and B at the winery, which Randy said has also been remodeled, and they offer tours of the winery for $35 if you book ahead.
- 2017 Coalescence $19
A blend, this is the perfect illustration that the year matters. In the past we have alternated liking and not liking this wine. This time we liked it! 36% sauvignon blanc, 34% chardonnay, 2.6% riesling, 2.5% semillon, and 1.5% pinot blanc is the blend. I got a faint whiff of cat pee aroma, but mostly honeysuckle and minerals. The taste is light and lemony, dry yet mouth-watering. It would be great with bluefish.
- 2017 First Fruit $22
The menu labels this as made with “aromatic sauvignon blanc,” but we don’t find it particularly aromatic. It is also very light, maybe too light. As my tasting pal notes, one could guzzle this and not even notice. I feel as though I taste some toasted coconut, though he disagrees.
- 2016 Riesling $22
We wondered whether this was made with local grapes or grapes from upstate, since the menu identifies it as coming from the “Robert Schreiber vineyard.” No, we are told, the vineyard is just down the street. Though I detect a bit of cotton candy aroma, there is no sweetness to this very dry riesling. In fact, opines my husband, he would not even think it was a riesling, it is so dry and light. “It’s almost not there,” he says.
- 2016 Rosé $19
According to our server, this is the less sweet of the two rosés, so we choose it. 100% merlot, it smells like strawberry-rhubarb pie and has some strawberry taste, but again, it is very light and the taste quickly evanesces.
- 2017 Rose Hill Rosé $24
As I noted above, this is an extra taste we were given, and I’m glad we were. The color of this is very light, almost white, but the taste is much more interesting than the other rosé. It is a blend of merlot, chardonnay, and riesling, and Patrick informs us that it spends very little time on the skins, hence the light color. We get lots of fruit tastes plus refreshing minerality. They have it on tap at the winery! We decide we will buy a bottle.
- 2017 Cabernet Franc $30
Now we line up four reds to taste, starting with this one, which is steel fermented and has no sulfites. It was made at the request of a restaurant, and then the winery decided to make some for themselves as well. As you would expect from a steel-fermented red, this is fruity, with cherry flavor and not much else. No tannins. “Undistinguished but pleasant,” says my husband. I could see making it into sangria.
- Non-Vintage Red Blend $19
Lots of wineries have a wine like this, a blend of various wines from various years. Some attempt to produce some sort of consistent taste from year to year, and others just try to make a drinkable wine. Not sure what the philosophy is here, but it is quite a nice wine. A blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and petit verdot, it has a fruity aroma and taste with some pleasant tannins. It would be good with lamb chops. We buy a bottle of this, too, as we are always on the lookout for everyday dinner wines.
- 2015 Estate Merlot $30
Cherry aroma and taste define this as a rather typical North Fork merlot. Nothing wrong with that. This one is a bit on the light side, with some soft tannins.
- 2015 Seven Barrels $38
Guess how many barrels of this they’ve made. 93% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% petit verdot: I summarized this one as “cherry berry.” This is the most interesting of the wines so far, with some tannins and minerality, very drinkable. It would be good with a wide range of foods, including steak.
- 2013 Grace $90
Yes, that’s $90 a bottle. We generally don’t spend that much for a bottle of wine unless it’s for a very special occasion, but this is a very good wine. Maybe someday. A blend of 66% cabernet franc, 31% merlot, and 3% cabernet sauvignon, there are only three barrels of it. It smells delicious, complex, with layers of flavor. There’s fruit, but also tannins that make me think it could age well.
Reasons to visit: pleasantly rustic room and patio a bit off the beaten path; the Rose Hill Rosé, the 2013 Grace, the 2017 Coalescence, the Non-Vintage Red Blend, the Seven Barrels; small menu of snacks; they serve a bottle of chilled water with your tasting; I didn’t ask the current owners, but in the past they allowed dogs on the patio; an inn where you can spend the night.