Laurel Lake Vineyards: Cold Day, Cold Wine 11/22/14

Some customers browsed the selection of wine-related gifts.

Some customers browsed the selection of wine-related gifts.

After braving the cold winds to do some pre-holiday shopping at Tanger Outlets, we were ready to sit down and taste some wines.  Happily, Laurel Lake is well set up to accommodate those who prefer to sit rather than stand at their very attractive bar.  You pay for your tasting in advance–$15 for three tastes—and get tickets which you then turn in before each glass.  The menu offers choices among eight whites and eight reds, so we decided to do two tastings, three of each, sharing as we went.  Since the pour is fairly generous, our plan worked well.  We received two glasses, and kept the second glass for our reds.


As we sat, we noticed a few groups who had brought extensive snacks with them.  One couple braved the heated outdoor porch, and others opted to stand at the bar.  We also noticed a small selection of wine-related gift items, most with humorous messages.  Overall it was a quiet day there, in contrast to a few weeks ago when we pulled into the parking lot and found no empty spaces because a convention of Corvettes had taken them all.

The bar where we could have stood.

The bar where we could have stood.

  1. 2013 Pinot Gris                 $21.99

This, our first choice, like all the rest, was served much too cold, so we spent some time warming the glass before sampling.  They need to raise the temp in their fridge!  Once it warmed up, we smelled a vegetable aroma, almost like freshly cut grass and flowers.  The taste was dry and tart, with a touch of sweetness at first, reminiscent of a slightly under-ripe pineapple.  Though not a sipper, it would be fine with food.  I’m thinking local scallops with pasta and herbs.

laurel white

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $20.99

For this one, the tasting notes recommend having it with sushi, and I can see that, though I usually get sake with sushi.  It has a woodsy and citrusy aroma and tastes of white grapefruit.  Again, this is a dry white with plenty of acidity, and we liked it.

  1. 2012 Chardonnay Estate Reserve $22.99

We skip their un-oaked chard and are very happy with our choice to sample this one.   It spends 10 months in French oak, the notes tell us (The problem with sitting is that we don’t get to chat with the servers.), giving it the characteristic vanilla scent of oaked chards.  However, it is not too heavily oaked, with a lovely mellow almost creamy taste and a nice long vanilla finish.  Very buyable, we decide—and we do.

We bought this one.

We bought this one.

  1. 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve $29.99

Interestingly, this is stainless steel fermented and then aged in used French oak barrels for 12 months.  My husband says the smell reminds him of a warm blanket on a cold day.  I think he may just be tired after all that shopping and this is just wishful thinking, since I would describe the aroma as mainly blackberry.  In any event, this is a light pleasant red, with cherry and plum flavors.  The notes call it “rich and fleshy,” but we say “not so much.”

laurel bottles

  1. 2010 Cabernet Franc $19.99

Nice aromas of pepper and cedar and maybe grape jam precede tastes that we decide are nice but not exciting, with some good fruit but not much finish.

The pour is fairly generous.

The pour is fairly generous.

  1. 2011 Syrah $19.99

This is my favorite of the reds we try.  It has lots of dark berry aromas and tastes of purple plums, with a bit of a vegetable taste on the finish—or maybe kumquat.  The tannins cause a slight tingle on the tongue.  If we needed reds, I would buy it.

You can see the large heated porch through the windows.

You can see the large heated porch through the windows.

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room where you can bring a picnic; the 2012 Chardonnay Estate Reserve and the 2011 Syrah; most of the wines are reasonably priced (for the North Fork); lots of choices; a generous pour.


The building is quite attractive.

The building is quite attractive.

Southold Farm + Cellar: Something New

Regan Meader, owner and winemaker and tasting room server!

Regan Meader, owner and winemaker and tasting room server!

“I like to experiment,” enthused Regan Meader, the owner, with his wife Carey, of Southold Farm + Cellar, one of the newest wineries on the North Fork, and a very promising one.  Mr. Meader went on to discuss the fun and the intellectual challenges inherent in wine making.  He came to the North Fork a number of years ago knowing very little about wine making, and apprenticed himself to a couple of wine makers. He has learned his lessons well.

Southold Farm + Cellar is a bit off the beaten track, and so are its wines.  When you turn in off the back road, you find a lovingly restored rustic tasting shed (open only on weekends) with a view across the field to the vines.  The vines are still too young to make wine, so “The birds get to eat most of the grapes.”  (Though his one year old daughter also gets some.) Until next year, he’s sourcing his grapes and wine from other vineyards on the North Fork, then developing his wines in his own way.  He intends to be an organic farm and to use all natural fermentation.

The tasting room

The tasting room

The tasting menu, written on a blackboard, features four wines for $15, poured into very attractive glasses.

  1. La Belle Fille     $36

The tasting starts with a lovely sparkling wine with an interesting back story.  Peconic Winery closed last year, but they still had some wine, including this one, which had not yet been disgorged.  So Mr. Meader bought it and disgorged it “with no dosage.”  Alas, he had no bottles available, or we would have bought one—or two.  A delicious aroma like yeast bread baking presaged a toasty caramel taste we really enjoyed.  Made from pinot noir grapes.

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  1. The Devil’s Advocate Chardonnay $26

Made from a musque clone from Mudd’s vineyard, this is not your average Long Island chardonnay.  Though it spent some time in oak, there is only a trace of oak in the flavor.  The aroma is lightly lemony, and because the wine is not filtered it is a bit cloudy, with an almost viscous texture.  We also liked this wine, with its touch of lemon but also tropical fruit.  As we were discussing what it would go well with, Mr. Meader suggested duck breast pastrami!  He also, in the tasting notes, suggested one of my favorite cheeses, Humboldt Fog, a California goat cheese, as an accompaniment.  Oh, and the name references those who would dismiss chardonnay.

  1. Damn the Torpedoes $28

Okay, I had to know—who named these wines?  Blushing faintly, Mr. Meader admitted he did.  I told him he was a poet.   This wine is described as an “ode to dry Lambrusco.”  A blend of merlot, petit verdot, and pinot noir, this is a slightly frizzante light red.  He recommends having it lightly chilled in the summer as an alternative to rosé.  I have to say this was not my favorite of the afternoon, though many would probably enjoy its tart strawberry flavor.

Nice legs

Nice legs

  1. Cast Your Fate to the Wind $32

Love those names.  This is his 2013 cabernet franc and is made from certified organic grapes.  He fermented whole clusters for less than seven months in extra large oak casks.  Why large casks?  You get some oak taste, but less than with regular casks.  Sweet aroma.  Super dark color.  Delicious taste.  Lots of dark fruit.  No dirt taste!  Yum.

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  1. Grace Under Pressure 2013

Yes, there were four wines in the tasting, but Mr. Meader adds in one more (which he also gave to a group of young women who were here before us).  This is a wine that is not quite ready to drink, but he’s pretty excited about it and wants to share.  He told us this blend of cabernet franc, malbec, and merlot was an “ode to Rex Farr,” whose organic farm in Calverton supplies the grapes.  The aroma is brambly blackberry, but the taste is very closed in, with some nice tannins.  Even as we were discussing the wine, the taste in the glass improved.  Given time, it should be quite good.

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Reasons to visit:  you want to get off the beaten track and try something new; Mr. Meader and his enthusiasm for his wines; La Belle Fille, The Devil’s Advocate, Cast Your Fate to the Wind.  We can’t wait to see what Regan Meader does next year when he gets to harvest his own grapes!

The attractively rustic tasting room

The attractively rustic tasting room

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California: The Winery Collective September 15, 2014

View of San Francisco Bay from near the tasting room

View of San Francisco Bay from near the tasting room

I know, you would think if Nofowineaux went to California she would visit Napa/Sonoma, but this was a very short visit to San Francisco to see an old and dear friend, so time was limited. However, we did get to a tasting room (of course!) in San Francisco for a winery located, surprisingly, IN San Francisco. The Winery Cooperative is located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, just a little way to the left (as you have your back to the bay) of Ghirardelli Square and near the surprisingly well done little National Park Service museum about the bay and its history. They represent several boutique wineries, but we ended up tasting only the wines from The Winery SF.

The Winery actually has a vineyard located in San Francisco, on an island in the bay called Treasure Island, which was formed primarily from land fill. They also use grapes from Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties. The tasting menu had a number of options, and we chose to share a tasting of four wines for $15. Some other options were $20. The room itself is fairly small, and is mostly taken up by a long wooden bar with stools. Our server was pleasant and enthusiastic, but couldn’t answer all of our questions about the wines.

Map of Treasure Island, sans X marks the spot.

Map of Treasure Island, sans X marks the spot.

  1. 2013 Sauvignon Blanc $15.99

Sunday afternoon we had had fresh briny Hog Island oysters with beers at The Ferry Marketplace, and we decided they would have also gone well with this wine. An aroma of tangerine precedes tastes of citrus and mineral in this rather bright and tart wine with a nice long finish. Their tasting notes characterize it as “Napa and New Zealand Style.”


  1. 2012 Chardonnay $24.99

Our server tells us that this spends “some, but not too much” time in oak, so is not as buttery as some California chards. We agree that it is not too buttery (good), but that it is overall just okay, with a taste my husband compares to unripe grapes. Hmmm, a wine that tastes like grapes…We scent some mineral, and some of that vanilla-ish wood smell.

  1. 2010 People’s Blend $15.99

“This wine has everything but the kitchen sink,” our server chuckles. Yes, it does: syrah, zinfandel, mourvedre, cabernet sauvignon, petite syrah, and malbec. The leftovers? Maybe! Given the complexity of the grapes, this is a surprisingly mono-dimensional wine, dry, but with some fruit. The aroma has some chemical notes—cleaning fluid, opines my husband—as well as dark berries. It would be a fine pizza wine, and indeed the brief tasting notes mention what a good value it is twice. The notes also explain the name, “as diverse as the People of San Francisco.”


  1. 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon $24.99

Mmmm, this smells very nice, like plums and cherries. However, the taste is, again, just okay. It is dry with some spice and fruit, but a bit thin. One could drink it with lamb. We ask how long it was aged, and no one seems to know. ”Two years?” guesses one server.

  1. WSF Glitter Sparkling Wine $20.00

Yes, the tasting was for four wines, but for only $1 we could add a taste of a sparkling wine. Why not? Well, at least the price was right. It starts tingly and nice, then pow! hits you with sugar. Actually pretty bad—if it had been a bigger pour we would have dumped it!


Reasons to visit: you’re in San Francisco and searching for something to occupy a half hour or so in the Fisherman’s Wharf area; you’d like to sit down and rest a bit inside somewhere; the sauvignon blanc.


Wine Clubbing: Pellegrini Vineyards March 29, 2014

Chilly, rainy, dank, gray:  We really want winter to end and spring to come!  As we drive past the wineries, we note that despite the unpromising weather some have quite a few cars and limos—and even a bus or two—parked outside.  Pellegrini, however, is very quiet, as we stop in to pick up our wine club shipment and taste the wines included in it.

We take our tasting of four reds to a table and sip and chat and listen to a lively group ask their server questions such as the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Asking questions of your server is a great way to increase your understanding of wines, as we’ve found.

If you want a more detailed description of the winery, check out my entry from September 7, 2013.

1)       2007 Merlot                      $19.99

We start with the Merlot, which is included for no extra charge in every tasting, and is also a wine club selection.  This is actually a bit of a blend; though it is 90% Merlot it also includes 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot.  It is aged 18 months in French oak, and, like Pellegrini reds in general, is somewhat high in alcohol: 13.9%.  The aroma combines cherries and pine and what is often described as “forest floor.”  It is quite tannic, and my husband says his tongue feels like it needs to be brushed.  My feeling is that it would be good with food, though not for sipping, and indeed our club shipment includes a recipe for Merlot Pot Roast with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes.  Pasta would also do.

2)      2010 Cabernet Sauvignon            $29.99

Another blend, despite the name, this one is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Merlot, aged 19 months in French oak, with 13.6% alcohol.  The aroma is lovely, a sweet berry smell with just a trace of that Long Island earthiness.  Though not tannic, it is dry, with nice fruit, and definitely sippable.  As it is also in our club box, I envision sipping it by the fire next fall—or maybe even today, given the weather!

3)      2010 Petit Verdot                            $49.99

Lovely dark color on this one, which is 98% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot.  Actually, many wines—so I have been told—are at least a small percentage Merlot.  As they age in the cask, some of the wine evaporates (“the angel’s share”) and so many wine makers use Merlot to top them off.  In any event, our tasting notes suggest decanting this one for at least an hour, which has not been done today—our server just opened the bottle—so the taste might be quite different than what we sense.  We smell an earthy, almost mushroomy odor, but the wine itself is delicious.  Though it lacks the depth of flavor a truly great wine, this would be a fine wine to serve with a gourmet dinner, like boeuf bourguignon.  We plan to cellar this for a couple of years (assuming we remember and don’t grab it before then!).

4)      2010 Vintner’s Pride                       $49.99

This is, notes my tasting pal, a Right Bank Bordeaux—60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot—aged 20 months in French oak.  The aroma is not very fruity, with a touch of pine and maybe cinnamon, less earthy than the others.  The wine is also not very fruity, though it is good, with some tannins, and, we decide, would also be better with food.  A friend recently described a wine-tasting course she took, and commented how differently one wine could taste depending on which foods it was paired with.  We agree!

Reasons to visit:  Good reds; reasonably priced Merlot, which is almost always on sale for about $15 per bottle if you buy three; pleasant tasting room; ability to take your tray of tastes to a table; oyster cracker packets included with each tasting so you can clear your palateENTER.


Channing Daughters Winery


Okay, so Channing Daughters is not actually a North Fork winery, though they do get some of their grapes from fields on the North Fork, but it is our favorite winery.   In fact, their Scuttlehole Chardonnay is more or less our house white, and is what we served at our daughter’s wedding.  We are here today (after two ferries and a pleasant drive across Shelter Island) because a relative with a house in East Hampton has invited us for a visit, so we intend to get a bottle of wine to bring and to buy a case of Scuttlehole Chard for ourselves.  The tasting room is small but pleasant, and the staff is always very knowledgeable.   You can also check out the interesting sculptures, often made from tree roots, by the owner.  We decide to try their four rosatos (roses), which all cost $20 per bottle.

1)  2011 Rosato di Cabernet Sauvignon

According to our server, all the rosatos spend about 15 minutes on the skins, and then are steel fermented.  They all are drink-now wines, not keepers!  This one is good, with a pleasant cherry/strawberry taste and some nice spiciness to it.

2)  Franconia 2011

This one uses blaufrankish grapes, and would make a nice aperitif wine, with again some cherry flavor and a tart, lemony finish.

3)  Petit Verdot 2011

The aroma reminds us of unripe cantelope, with a flavor reminiscent of pink lemonade–but without much sugar.  There is some complexity.

4)  Lagrein 2011

This is the best of the four, with sweeter notes at the end and a strawberry aroma and flavor.  We buy this one to bring to the party!

Reasons to visit:  you’re on the South Fork but you want to visit a winery; great wines, including our favorite Long Island chardonnay, their Scuttlehole chardonnay; they experiment all the time with new wines and new methods, so it’s fun to explore.

Addendum:  On a recent visit, all the roses bore “sold out” signs, so if you’re interested in buying them I suggest you get there early next year!