Lenz Winery: The Older the Better January 11, 2018



Lenz is justifiably proud of being one of the oldest wineries on the North Fork.

“We’re the second oldest winery on Long Island,” our server proudly told us.  Most people know that certain wines improve with age, but I’ve also learned that grape vines do, too.  As the vines get older, their roots go deeper and get stronger, and the grapes also get better.  The first modern winery on the North Fork was Hargraves, now Castello di Borghese, founded in 1973.  Lenz started in 1978, but didn’t harvest their grapes for wine until 1988.  Now in their fortieth year, they have some really good wines on their list.


Plenty of room at the bar during the week in the winter.

We had been housebound by snow and cold, and it was still rather chilly when we set out to do a tasting.  A quick walk around Greenport revealed a very quiet town, with many stores and restaurants closed for the season or open with limited hours or days.  However, we were able to stop into the book store to pick up a copy of On Tyranny and into The Weathered Barn to drop off dead light bulbs for recycling.


One side of the tasting room.

Then we headed back west to Lenz.  The barn-like Lenz tasting room was quiet as well, as we were the only customers.  However, that meant we were able to have some in-depth discussions with our server on wine and the tastes of the ones we chose.


And the other side.

The menu offers two choices: five Estate wines for $14 or five Premium wines for $18.  She also offered to customize an all red or all white tasting for a dollar or two more, and described the Estate choices as “lighter.”  We decided to share a tasting of the Premium wines, and were quite happy with all six of the wines we tried (Thanks to the power of the book, we got a sixth taste!).


Lenz also has some wine-related items for sale, and a small gallery of art, also for sale.  They offer Catapano cheese for a snack, and do allow people to bring their own snacks.


  1. 2015 Blanc de Noir Rosé            $24

We always compare rosés to Croteaux, and this one can stand up to the comparison.  It’s made from pinot noir grapes and has an aroma of strawberry.   It’s dry, but mouth-watering, with some nice citrus tastes.  I think blood orange, rather than lemon.  It’s not really a rosé for sipping on its own, but would be great with food.


Cute label, too.

  1. 2014 Tête à Tête $25

As a blend, this changes from year to year.  This is a good one.  It blends 45% sauvignon blanc, 35% chardonnay, and 20% gewürztraminer for a dry, minerally and lemony white that would be great with lobster or Peconic Bay scallops.  We joked about gooseberries and other more obscure fruit comparisons, but I insisted that it did smell like gooseberries.


  1. 2013 Old Vines Chardonnay $30

Lenz makes three different chardonnays, so at some point I’ll have to try their others, one of which is steel fermented and the other spends eleven months in oak.  This is sort of in the middle of those two, spending three months in neutral oak.  You can smell a bit of the oak, and also a light floral aroma.  This might be a good wine for someone who finds steel chards too lemony, but doesn’t like that big oaky taste of oaked chards.  Although there is a slight note of vanilla, what I mostly taste is green apple, plus some other flavors that make this a relatively complex white.  We decide it would be perfect with bluefish, or some other assertive fish.


  1. 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon $50

We get a clean glass as we move on to the reds.  Cabernet sauvignon is a grape that takes longer to ripen than, say merlot, so it doesn’t do well every year.  However, 2010 had a long warm season, and was a good year for North Fork reds—including this one.  Blended with merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec, this is a very dark red with lots of dark fruit flavors including black cherry and a touch of tobacco.  It was aged two years in French oak.  It has the tannins to stand up to steak or roast lamb.  Another good one.


  1. 2010 Old Vines Merlot $65

We like this one, too, though not as much as the cab sauv.  It is somewhat austere, a bit light for a red at this price point, with a purple plum and cherry flavor.  Not much aroma.  Our server tells us this could age 20 years, and tells about some of the older Lenz wines she has tasted.  We get the last of the bottle, so there’s a bit of sediment at the bottom of the glass. They don’t filter their wines.


The one we took home.

  1. 2014 Estate Select Merlot $30

Extra!  Having noticed our preferences in the wines we’ve tasted, our server offers us a taste of her favorite of their reds, a new release.  Good move, as we buy a bottle and date it to be drunk in a few years.  The merlot is blended with cabernet franc and petit verdot and aged in French oak.  We like it much better than the Old Vines Merlot, and especially prefer the price.  It has more fruit, layers of flavor, and good tannins.


Reasons to visit:  lots of good wines; a good compromise between the big commercial wineries and the smaller boutique ones, as it has characteristics of both; in the summer, they have an outdoor courtyard; the Estate Select Merlot, the Tête à Tête, and the Old Vines Chardonnay in particular, but we liked all the wines.



Sometimes the vines in the snow remind me of dancers. In this case, they are hip deep in old snow.

Lenz Winery: Solid Place, Slushy Day January 24, 2015


Despite the slushy roads, people still come to the wineries.

Despite the slushy roads, people still come to the wineries.

Lenz has some of the oldest vines on Long Island, having planted its first ones in 1978, and they are quite proud of the fact that all of their wines are made from their own grapes.  The attractively rustic tasting room (open every day all year long) is not very big, though it is augmented by an outdoor seating area in the summer, and their selection of wine-related gifts tends to be somewhat less hokey than others.  In addition, a winery dog made a brief appearance—always a plus in my book.  Both of the servers we talked with were smart, attentive, and knowledgeable, with an evident passion for the wines.

Low beams are marked with this warning.  Can one watch one's head without a mirror, wondered my husband.

Low beams are marked with this warning. Can one watch one’s head without a mirror, wondered my husband.

Despite the slushy streets and cold rain, we shared the room with a small group of women who had arrived in a limo and a few other couples and small groups.

The tasting menu offers two main options, the Estate menu of 5 wines for $12 and the Premium list of 5 wines for $15.  You can also put together an all white or an all red tasting, plus there are a few additional wines—dessert, sparkling, and Late Harvest wines—not included in the tastings.  We opted to do one of each menu, sharing tastes as we went, and our server quickly caught on to what we were doing and carefully arranged the samples, pointing out which of the two or three tastes to begin with.  I mark the Premium selections with an *.

  1. *2010 Old Vines Gewürztraminer            $30

This, our server tells us, in an Alsatian style Gewürz, so it is dry and refreshing.  Indeed, it is quite dry, with lots of pineapple and mineral tastes.  Hmmm, maybe a bit too dry, and a bit harsh on the finish.

When we commented on the cute label for the Tete-a-Tete we learned that it was designed by a former winery worker, who also still comes in and does the blackboards.

When we commented on the cute label for the Tete-a-Tete we learned that it was designed by a former winery worker, who also still comes in and does the blackboards.

  1. 2011 Tete-à-Tete $25

Since they only make the Gewürztraminer in years when they are particularly happy with the grapes, they decided to use the Gewürztraminer grapes in a blend in 2011, so this wine is 50% Gewürztraminer and 50% Pinot Gris.  Good decision!  We really like this one.  The aroma is rather mineral, but when we taste it we definitely get the pineapple of the Gewürztraminer and then some earthiness, maybe mushroom?  I could see enjoying this with a creamy clam chowder.



  1. *2010 Cuvee $40

100% pinot noir grapes were fermented using the Champagne method, we are told.  Sniff.  “Apple pie!” exclaims my husband, perhaps, I think, suffering from Briermere pie withdrawal (they are closed for the season).  But he’s right.  Not only does it smell all warm and toasty and apple-y, it also has a definite apple taste.  This is a relatively simple sparkling wine, but quite pleasant.

  1. 2011 White Label Chardonnay $15

We are now about to have one of my favorite tasting experiences—tasting two very different wines made from the same grape.  The White Label Chard is steel fermented, yielding a light, crisp, flinty, very drinkable wine, perfect for summer sipping.  The aroma is of baked pear.  Very buyable, which we do.

Chardonnays going head to head

Chardonnays going head to head

  1. *2012 Gold Label Chardonnay $20

After ten months in oak, the wine definitely has the typical vanilla and freshly baked bread aroma of an oaked chard, but it is not too oaky.  The finish is both tart and sweet, and my husband tries to convince me that it reminds him of Reese’s Pieces.  I was with him on the apple pie, but not on this!

  1. 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $25

The reds all seem to note that they are unfiltered and unfined.  We’re doing another head to head comparison, this time of cab sauvs.   This one has a delicious woodsy and berry aroma, and a taste of ripe plums.  It is good, but simple, with no tannins.  “It lacks gravitas,” opines my tasting companion.  I could see it with barbequed sausages.

  1. *2007 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvnignon $40

You can age this wine for ten years, enthuses our server.  We’re not so sure, as it also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of tannins.  However, it is a lovely wine, with a delicious aroma and good fruit tastes—raspberries, plums.  Though it is primarily cab sauv, it also is blended with merlot, malbec, and cabernet franc.

Not one, not two, but three merlots!

Not one, not two, but three merlots!

  1. 2011 Merlot $20

This is a perfectly fine table wine, we agree.  We smell spice and cherry, with none of the earthy smell some North Fork merlots can have.  The taste is also of cherry.  The tasting notes suggest having it with roast turkey, and I think duck would also work well.

  1. 2010 Merlot $28

We have in front of us a line-up of three merlots.  What fun!  This one is a bit of a blend, and though it is 80-90% merlot it also has some cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.  We do smell a touch of earthiness, but also lots of cherry.  The wine itself is very dense, tannic, and dry.  Despite the blend, the taste is rather simple with a flat finish, but overall we like it.

  1. *2007 Old Vines Merlot $60

Now this one you can age for 20 years, we are told.  We should live so long, as my grandmother used to say.  You can definitely smell the wood from the oak it was aged in, and also another smell my husband compares to rubber bands.  Perhaps.  The taste is terrific, with dark fruit flavors and lots of interesting layers, though again not much in the way of tannins.  For the price I would probably try to find a Bordeaux—from France.

A view of the tasting bar

A view of the tasting bar

lenz more boards

Reasons to visit: pleasant tasting room with good selection of gift items; very knowledgeable and attentive staff; the Tete-à-Tete, the White Label Chardonnay, the 2007 Old Vines Merlot.

lenz board

Not a good day for sitting outside...

Not a good day for sitting outside…