RGNY: Many Changes

November 3, 2021

From the outside, the winery that used to be called Martha Clara looks much the same, but as soon as we stepped inside, we saw that it looks very different.  And once we tasted the wines, made by winemaker Lilia Perez, we knew that it was not at all the same.  I find it so interesting that the same grapes, grown in the same vineyard, can yield such different-tasting wines.  Martha Clara’s wines, for example, definitely tended to feature some sweetness, while the RG wines (named for the Rivero Gonzàlez family) we tasted were dry.

The shop inside the entrance used to have all sorts of items, including snacks, while now it is much simpler, with just the RG wines and a few Mexican items, such as baskets.  Then we walked into the large tasting room, which used to feature a huge bar, which more or less snaked through the entire room.  Now the bar is only on one side, with the rest of the space taken up by some small round tables with comfy chairs and some couches.  The walls are bare, and the overall effect is rather stark.  I think they could do more to warm up the space, and suggested to my husband that a pot-bellied stove would be a nice focal point.  He looked skeptical.  The side room (where the restrooms are located) is still pretty similar, filled with tables and chairs.    

We were greeted by a friendly server who asked us if we had a reservation.  We looked around the large room, empty except for one other couple, and asked in mock concern, “Oh no, should we have made one?  Will you have room for us?”  She laughed, as did we, and explained that she actually had three reservations for that afternoon, and so wanted to be sure that she honored the process.  (Quite a few wineries are continuing their pandemic-caused practice of requiring reservations, so be sure you check websites before you go.)  Then she presented us with a QR code to scan in order to read the menu.  

We had intended to sit at the bar, but found the chairs there not comfortable, and so moved to a table, where we liked the chairs very much.  We recently had been shopping for new dining room chairs, and my husband commented that these would have worked nicely.  The menu features three different flights, labelled Scielo, White, and RG.  The RG flight, for $22, seemed the most varied, so we opted to share it.  We were glad we were sharing, since the pour, of four wines, is quite generous, and we actually left over some wine!  There’s also a short but creative menu of food items, including chicken tacos, a Mexican PB&J, and paletas, which, Google informed me, are a kind of Mexican ice pop.

With our flight she brought a bottle of water and two cups, a nice touch, and asked if there was anything else we wanted.  We asked her to turn down the very loud music, which she immediately did.  Whew.  Then later, I asked about the vintages of the wines, since that information was not anywhere to be seen.

  •  2019 Sparkling Rosé      $30

Sometimes sparkling rosés are too sweet, but this one is just right, with a refreshing taste of strawberries and pink grapefruit and moderate bubbles.  We like this, and decide that if we wanted a celebratory pink wine, we might get this one.

  • 2018 Viognier    $33

Many of the wineries on the North Fork that grow viognier use it in blends, so I don’t often see it on its own.  Again, this is a dry wine, mouth-watering, with tastes of spice and pears.  The aroma is a bit funky, with some scent of stewed pears.  We like it.

  • 2018 White Merlot         $32

White merlot?  You may ask, I thought merlot was a red wine grape.  And so it is.  But if you ferment it without the skins, you get a white wine.  Anthony Nappa used to make a wine called Anomaly, a white pinot noir, which we liked very much.  This is also good, and is a nice, light, good sipping white, though not very interesting.  I say it tastes like gooseberries.  Some day I will buy gooseberries again and see if the taste I remember is correct…

  • 2019 Cabernet Franc      $37

Lovely aroma—chocolate covered cherries!  This is another easy to drink wine, with soft tannins, dry, and a flavor that makes me think of dried fruit compote, or maybe stewed prunes (which I happen to like very much). 

Reasons to visit:  large venue with plenty of room for groups, including outside areas; pleasant wines and a large pour; the sparkling rosé and the viognier, though all the wines were easy to drink; an interesting food menu.         

Peconic Bay Vineyards: Under New Ownership

October 21, 2021

I expect I will be able to use the subtitle “under new ownership” quite a few times this year, as recently a number of wineries have changed hands.  In some cases, already existing wineries have expanded by buying their neighbors, while in others new owners have entered the North Fork wine scene.  Peconic Bay is a case of the latter, as the Soloviev family has been actively investing in the North Fork over the past few years.  Peconic has been officially closed for about eight years, though we stopped in there in 2017 when it was briefly open, as the previous owner was, according to our server, trying to sell out his stock.

Since they have been closed, they have been selling their grapes to other local wineries, which is why they only have limited quantities of certain varieties.  However, we were told by Sam, our charming and chatty server, those contracts are about to end, so she is looking forward to seeing what their winemaker—who is the same one who worked at Peconic before—will come up with.  For now, they offer seven wines, though two of them—the sauvignon blanc and the merlot—are in such limited quantity that they are not selling them by the bottle. 

It was another beautiful warm day, so we planned to sit outside wherever we went, and when we walked into Peconic we were sure, as the inside area is quite small, with uncomfortable-looking stools at the bar.  Outside, however, featured a roomy patio, with nice wooden chairs (maybe they could add seat cushions in the future?) and comfy Adirondack chairs grouped around fire pits.  The fire pit areas, we were told, are all reserved already for “movie night,” when they will be showing Hocus Pocus.  They also plan to have live music at various times.  However, today we and one other couple were the only visitors, though Sam assured us it was busier on the weekends.

The menu offers a flight of three wines, called the “Crossroads Flight” for $18, and seemed to be limited to just the chardonnay, riesling, and red blend.  However, Sam told us we could substitute any other wines if we preferred, and after she described the riesling as semi-sweet, we did prefer—not to have it—so we opted for the viognier instead.  Good choice.  After we shared the small flight, we decided we would like to sit and enjoy the beautiful afternoon a while longer, so we shared a glass of the sauvignon blanc and a bag of North Fork potato chips.  The food menu features the usual cheese and charcuterie choices, as well as a chocolate tasting from Disset, a new fancy chocolatier in Cutchogue, and, on the weekends, local oysters.   As we contemplate the menu, Sam brings us a carafe of chilled water, always a nice touch.

  •  2020 Viognier   $22

I get a touch of kerosene and metal when I sniff, but fortunately it tastes of pineapple, not gas!  We like it.  It is dry with nice fruit tastes, refreshing, and different from most North Fork wines.

  • 2020 Chardonnay           $25

Sam informs us that this is the “musque” clone of chardonnay grape, which I have not knowingly encountered before.  In any event, the taste is quite distinct, a smooth, mellow sip that reminds me of thyme honey, though it is not sweet.  Most local chardonnays have a citrus flavor, but this does not.  The menu suggests pairing it with hard cheese, and I think it would go well with a truffle-infused pecorino we had from the Love Lane Cheese Shop recently.

  • Horizon Red Blend          $32

We decided to describe this as a “starter” red, or in other words a red for someone who is not yet into reds.  It is light and dry, with soft tannins, and tastes of wood and cherry.  Sam suggests calling it a “summer” red.  A blend of 73% malbec, 18% merlot, and 9% cabernet sauvignon, the aroma, of cherry, wood, tobacco, and coffee, promises more than the wine delivers.

  • 2020 Sauvignon Blanc

As I mentioned, we decided to share a glass of wine, and, based on a discussion with Sam, we opted for the sauvignon blanc, at $12 for a glass, plus a $4 bag of North Fork potato chips.  Again, this is a different-tasting sb than the usual out here.  It is mellow, not citrusy, with an almost thick mouth feel, and a trace of saltiness and fruit.  We chuckle over the observation that it actually goes very well with the chips.

Reasons to visit:  someplace new; nice outdoor area, with firepits for colder weather; local oysters on the weekend; the viognier and the sauvignon blanc; oh, and for $55 per person you can tour the vineyard in the Moke, an adorable electric vehicle that looks like a mini safari car, with tastings of three wines next to the vines where they grow.

The Moke!

Peconic Cellar Door: Women Rule December 20, 2019

https://www.peconiccellardoor.com/peconic-cellar-door

IMG_7352

Unlike most wineries on the North Fork, Peconic Cellar Door is owned and run by women: Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy. It is another of the very small tasting rooms, and in fact adjoins last week’s site, The Winemaker Studio, but is even smaller. Despite its small size, however, it offers quite an array of wines to taste, under four labels: As If Wines, Brooklyn Oenology, Haywater Cove, and Saltbird Cellars. All the wines are now under the umbrella name Chronicle, with the tag line, “Every bottle holds a story.” Ask Robin (or whomever is behind the counter) about the logo, because it tells a story, too.

IMG_7356

Robin was our server, and since there were no other customers, we had time to chat. There were a couple of visitors who came by just wish Robin and Alie happy holidays. Robin told us about her travels around the world to learn the craft and art of wine-making, particularly her six months in New Zealand, which influenced the style of some of her wines. She is clearly passionate about wine-making, and she and Alie have their own original ideas about it. We enjoyed all of their experiments.

The menu offers two flights, the Cellar Door flight, of five wines for $15, and the Signature Flight, of five higher-priced wines for $20. We decided to share the Signature Flight, and perhaps return for the Cellar Door, though Robin cautioned us that they change the options every month. Given that the price list includes 28 wines, I guess they can come up with quite a few permutations. We may have to go back more than once…

IMG_7366

Though they don’t allow outside food (or pets), the only snack on offer is packs of cookies from local baker Ali Katz. I do recommend a visit to her little bakery and food shop in Mattituck (only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). We’ve only been there a couple of times, but found her baked goods excellent.

IMG_7355

  1. 2014 As If Serendipity $35

If the name of this wine describes how it came to be, it was a fortunate accident indeed. A blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and viognier, it is aged more than one expects for a white, particularly on the North Fork, where most whites are from the most recent vintage. This wine has a floral and mineral aroma, and is nicely dry. Some notes of lemony citrus, but also more depth than one expects from a white. As we sip, I find the viognier taste, which I quite like, coming through.

IMG_7359

I thought this label was particularly pretty.

  1. 2017 Saltbird Migratus $27

Of course, I have to ask about the name of this wine, which comes in a bottle with a very pretty painting of birds in flight. Robin explains that it is a reference to her own migrations, away from the North Fork and back, but also to the birds she loves. The making of this wine was influenced by her time in New Zealand. Though plenty of cheap sauvignon blanc comes here from there, the wines they keep for themselves tend to be made like this one, spending six months on the lees and aged in oak. When I note a faint oak taste, she mentions that “one of the barrels” was new oak, so it came out a bit oakier than she wanted. Overall, it is a good wine, with a nice mouth feel and a taste my drinking buddy compares to “drinking flowers.” Well, it does have an aroma that combines something vegetal with flowers.

IMG_7360

This rose is almost like a light red.

  1. 2016 As If Courage $28

Robin calls this a rosé made from a Meritage blend. I guess it does take courage to make a rosé from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and syrah, a classic Bordeaux blend. She compares the aroma to buckwheat honey, and I agree. This is almost as much a very light red as it is a rosé. It has some strawberry and citrus tastes, but more depth (again) than your typical rosé. She suggests serving it with a pork roast, an excellent idea.

IMG_7362

  1. 2016 Saltbird Harbinger $36

A blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this is a wine they only make in good years, so there is no 2018 but will surely be a 2019. I’ve heard in several tasting rooms that this was a very good year on the North Fork, with the right amount of warm days and rain. It has some cherry taste, but is not really fruity, dry, with some tannins. Nice legs, if that means anything!

IMG_7367

The array of our tasting.

  1. 2014 As If Persistence $40

I’m glad they persisted with making this wine, a blend of cabernet franc, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon. Despite the price, we decide to buy a bottle to save in the cellar for a special occasion. I think it could age a few more years, but it is also delicious to drink now. Fruitier than the previous wine, it has some interesting flavors, and could stand up to a steak.

Reasons to visit: another small winery, where you can talk to the winemakers and learn about what inspired them and how they made each wine; we liked all the wines, but especially the Serendipity and the Persistence; they change their offerings periodically, so you can go more than once; though they don’t allow groups larger than six, if you happen to be with a group you can split up, with some going to the Winemaker Studio, connected by an open doorway and a window in the wall.

IMG_7357IMG_7369

 

Macari Vineyard: No Tricks, Several Treats October 30, 2019

http://macariwines.com/

IMG_7216

It was the day before Halloween, and oddly warm, when we drove over to Macari. We had the tasting room to ourselves, so it wasn’t surprising that there were no pre-made cheese trays available. (No outside food allowed.) However, we could have bought any package of cheese on display, plus some crackers, and our server would have supplied us with a knife and cheese board.  We decided to content ourselves with a bag of very tasty black truffle-flavored potato chips. Then I worried that they were interfering with the tasting, so I requested a glass of water, which was quickly forthcoming.

The tasting room on Bergen Road is large, with a beautiful stone fireplace on one side, and ample displays of their wines all around. There is also a second large room filled with tables, and seating on a veranda off to one side. We stood at the bar and shared an Estate tasting, of five wines for $30. The other flight is called Vintage, and also includes five wines for $30. My tasting buddy complained that it was a small pour, though I noted that the glass was large.

IMG_7218

The main tasting room.

When you stand at the bar you have a clear view of the huge steel vats in the wine-making area, and we watched with interest as a worker tethered himself with a safety harness before checking on one vat. Makes sense, I suppose. What a way to go, drowned in a vat of wine!

In general, we have liked Macari wines, and often buy a bottle with dinner in local restaurants. Today was no exception, though in general we liked the whites better than the reds, and really liked the rosé we tried.

IMG_7221

  1. 2018 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc $24

Why Katherine’s Field? All our server could tell us was that the grapes for this wine all came from an area of the vineyard called Katherine’s Field, and that it is the part closest to Long Island Sound. Perhaps that closeness to the water accounts for the slight note of saltiness I detected. The wine is light and easy to drink, with tastes of green apple, mineral, and pineapple. Like many NoFo sauvignon blancs, it would go well with local oysters. Good.

IMG_7227

  1. 2017 Dos Aguas White $22

Dos Aguas is, of course, a reference to the two waters which surround the North Fork: the Sound and Peconic Bay. This is a blend of 52% grüner veltliner, 27% viognier, 10% sauvignon blanc, 7% pinot gris, 3% friulano, and 1% gewürztraminer. It smells very much like honeysuckle, which I think might be due to the grüner, and also gets some of its fruitiness from that. My husband thinks it is too sweet, but I argue what he’s tasting as sweet is actually fruitiness. It has some lemon taste, as well as gooseberry. I would buy it, and it would go well with spicy food, but he doesn’t like it as much as I do.

IMG_7228

Even visually, you can tell this rose is more robust than most.

  1. 2018 Lifeforce Rosé $28

The term “lifeforce” in the title of a Macari wine refers to the fermentation method used. Instead of steel or wood, these wines are fermented in a concrete “egg.” They used to explain that egg on their website, but I couldn’t find that information now. In any event, this rosé is made from cabernet franc grapes, and was described by our server as their “fall rosé.” It is heavier and darker than a typical rosé, and as we discussed it he told us that what had happened was that in 2018 they were not happy with the way the cabernet was turning out, so rather than make a red from it they decided to turn it into a rosé. We are happy they did, as we quite liked it. Though it has some typical strawberry aroma and flavor, it has more oomph than many rosés. We bought a bottle. I think it will go great with seared rare duck breasts, which we get at Bayview farm stand.

IMG_7229

By this time our server–a bright young man–had figured out how I like to pose these photos. We had a nice chat about how he has learned to like wine.

  1. 2014 Merlot Reserve $40

Our server tells us this in aged twenty months, 9% in new French oak, so it is not super oaky or tannic. It smells fruity, like black cherries. The taste is soft and pleasant, but rather unidimensional. At that price, I’d want a more exciting wine. However, it is quite drinkable.

IMG_7230

  1. 2016 Dos Aguas $35

This is another blend, this time a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 62% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec, 8% petit verdot, and 6% cabernet franc. I like the aroma of red raspberries, but again the taste is good but not exciting. Dry, soft, with no tannins, this is an everyday type of red that you could even have with roast chicken. It would not stand up to a steak.

IMG_7217

Reasons to visit: spacious tasting room; the sauvignon blanc, the Dos Aguas white, and the Lifeforce Rosé; we often get the Sette in restaurants, a nice blend of half and half cabernet franc and merlot; no food allowed, but they do have a large selection of snacks and will do cheese trays on busier days.

IMG_7233

The grapes have been picked, and soon the leaves will be gone as well, leaving the vines bare until spring.

Kontokosta Winery: Close to Greenport October 4, 2019

https://www.theharborfrontinn.com/kontokosta-winery

IMG_7108

The flowers are being blown sideways by the wind.

We had errands to run in Greenport (oil and vinegar at Vines & Branches, for one), so we decided to visit the closest winery to Greenport, Kontokosta. As we got out of our car, a gust of wind reminded us that the Long Island Sound is in sight of the tasting room, and we noted the vanes of the windmill spinning rapidly. No shortage of wind energy here!

IMG_7116

That’s my new notebook in the corner of the photo. I filled the old one!

The tasting room is large and airy, and, mostly empty on this October Friday, seemed somewhat echoey. Since we’d spent some time walking around Greenport, we decided we wanted to sit, so we took our tastes over to one of the long wooden tables. We also, feeling a bit peckish, ordered a round of St. Stephen’s 4 Fat Fowl cheese, which was $17, plus $2.50 if we wanted crackers with it. It seemed a bit chintzy to us to charge separately for crackers, but they do offer gluten free crackers as an option. No outside food allowed. The cheese was quite delicious, and more than enough for the two of us, so we had the server wrap up our leftovers to take home.

While in Greenport we amused ourselves by figuring out from what angle the pictures of Greenport were taken which appear in the new TV series “Emergence.” It’s mostly shot in New Jersey (one look at the beach where a plane crashes makes it clear it was not shot on the North Fork), but it is set in Southold and Greenport and uses shots of Front Street and Main Street for atmosphere.

A tasting consists of three one-ounce pours for $16, so we decided to do one tasting of three of the four whites, and another of three of the four reds. The servers gave us basic information on the wines, and the tasting menu had a few brief notes, but otherwise we were on our own.

IMG_7115

Our flight of whites.

  1. 2018 Orient Chardonnay $22

This is a fairly classic example of a North Fork chard, steel-fermented, with a floral aroma and a lemony, fruity, minerally taste. We also detected a slight salty note in this and some other wines, and wondered if the vineyard’s location so close to the Sound caused that. It went well with the soft, creamy cheese.

IMG_7109

That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance.

  1. 2018 Sauvignon Blanc $25

Another easy-to-drink white, this smells to me like thyme honey. The taste is a touch sweet, but not too sweet, with some pineapple taste. Sometimes sauvignon blancs have a lot of lemon taste, but this one does not. It does have a touch of minerality.

IMG_7117

Each glass was labeled with the wine in it, so we would know which we were tasting.

  1. 2018 Field Blend $22

As I’ve mentioned before, the name field blend implies that it is made from various grapes which all grow in the same field. This one is 50% riesling, 33% viognier, and 17% chardonnay. I detect the riesling in the aroma, which had a bit of that cat pee smell, as well as honeysuckle. We like it the best of the whites, as it is more interesting than most. I think it tastes like a Granny Smith apple, and he agrees.

IMG_7119

The reds.  We did not try the rose, which you can see off to one side.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Franc $29

I return our three empty glasses to the bar and order our three reds. To make sure we know what we’re drinking, the server uses a white marker of some sort to put the initials of each wine on the base of the glass. Clever. This is aged four months in Hungarian oak, she tells me. The aroma is jammy, like blackberry jam. The wine tastes like dark figs, with some nice acidity, but it is rather lean, with no finish.

IMG_7118

The cheese was delicious, and went well with the wines.

  1. 2015 Merlot $34

Typically, merlots around here taste and smell like cherries, and this is no exception. It has no depth, and is rather monochromatic, says my tasting pal. I agree that it would be a good pizza/pasta wine, if not for the price. I also note that it was served too cold, a common fault.

  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $29

Aged twelve months in Hungarian oak, this wine finally has some tannins. I smell black olives and pine, maybe something a bit funky. My poor husband is suffering from a major allergy attack, perhaps brought on by pollens blown on that brisk breeze, so he’s not much help in the what-does-it-smell-like department. His comment on this one is, “I can taste that it’s wine.” They do say that smell is a crucial element in taste. I taste purple plums, but I agree that it’s not very complex, though, like all the wines here, very drinkable.

IMG_7120

Perhaps if we’d stood at the bar we could have had more discussions about the wine.

Reasons to visit: it’s close to Greenport, which is getting quite popular these days; large tasting room with a view of Long Island Sound; menu of good cheeses (though I think the crackers should be included in the cost. What are you going to do, spread the cheese on your fingers?); all the wines are pleasant, if unexciting, but we especially liked the Field Blend white and the cabernet franc.

IMG_7121

Pretty view out the window.

IMG_7125

The grapes, covered with netting to keep critters out, look about ready to harvest. At some wineries we pass, they have already been picked.

Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser January 26,2019

Pindar Vineyards: Crowd Pleaser              January 26,2019

img_6135

https://www.pindar.net/

We thought it was safe, on this cold day in January, to go to Pindar for a quiet tasting.  Nope.  When we entered, a group of young women were having a wonderful but excruciatingly loud time at one end of the bar.  However, we could see that they were almost done, so we stayed and prepaid (as requested) for two tastings.  Halfway into the first five tastes, they left—only to be replaced by two bus loads!  Our server apologetically explained that one group had arrived early for their reservation, while the other arrived late, hence the crowd of almost forty women around the bar.

img_6112

Don’t let the serenity of this image fool you. Just off to the right there’s a noisy crowd at the bar.

img_6113

We decided we could see why Pindar is popular with the limo group.  The pour is generous, the bottles are reasonably priced, and most of the wines are easy to drink and rather on the sweet side.  That is also true of the other wineries owned by the Damianos family:  Duck Walk and Jason’s.  Though the founder, referred to fondly by staff as “Dr. Dan,” has passed, clearly his legacy lives on.

img_6132

The tasting room is large, with several oval bars plus a number of tables, at one of which two women were attempting to enjoy their glasses of wine and a game of Scrabble.  We commiserated about the noise.  By the way, if you need the restroom you need to walk out of the tasting room and across the outdoor porch to find it.

img_6111

A tasting consists of five wines for $12, selected from a list of over two dozen wines.  We chose our ten tastes with some help from the well-informed but sorely over-worked server.  He clearly would have liked to hang with us and discuss what we did and did not like, but once the third group arrived, he had plenty of work on his hands.    Not wanting to prolong the experience, we decided not to order a cheese tray, which consists of a cheese you choose from their cooler plus crackers for $10.

img_6131

Looks like a fairly pedestrian selection of cheeses.

img_6114

  1. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc   $16.99

I generally think of North Fork sauvignon blancs as perfect matches for Peconic Bay oysters.  This one had a promising aroma of Granny Smith apples and lemons, and an initial tart flavor, also of lemon and green apple.  However, it ended a bit too sweet.  We liked it enough to imagine drinking it as an aperitif on a hot day, or pairing it with New England clam chowder, but it lacked that minerality we like with oysters.

img_6115

The pretty label has quite a story behind it.

  1. 2017 Viognier $21.99

Not that many NoFo wineries feature viognier, so we knew we wanted to try this one.  The aroma was somewhat funky, and my tasting buddy compared it to wet cardboard.  Fortunately, it tasted better than it smelled, though the taste was rather simple.  “It tastes like white wine,” he declared.  Ha ha.  Basically, it has a sort of generic white wine taste, with some unripe peach flavor.  The label is very pretty, a painting of flowers made by a quadriplegic patient of Dr. Dan.  She made it by holding a brush in her mouth!  Quite an achievement.  Her art also adorns the Syrah.

  1. Autumn Gold $12.99 (or $18.99 for a quart)

Our server explained that this blend of seyval blanc, Cayuga, and chardonnay is “like a pinot grigio.”  That sounded good, since I like pinot grigios.  However, I felt it mainly tasted like a typical North Fork steel-fermented chardonnay, with a combination of citrus and a touch of peach.  Drinkable.

img_6119

  1. 2017 Rosé $16.99

Made from pinot meunier grapes, this is a rather sweet rosé.  It has the typical rosé aroma of strawberries, though in this case it reminded me of the smell of a bunch of strawberries macerating in sugar in preparation for being made into strawberry shortcake.  The taste also reminded me of strawberry shortcake, cut with a touch of lemon.

img_6120

I should have known that I wouldn’t like this one, based on the description. Oh well.

  1. Spring Splendor $12.99

I was curious to try this because the menu describes it as “fermented with natural American cranberry.”  It has a pretty pink color, tastes like a slightly alcoholic cranberry juice, and I suppose one could use it to make a wine-based cocktail. Too sweet. We dumped the rest of our taste.

img_6121

This label reminds us of the 20s-inspired labels at Duck Walk.

  1. 2016 Gamay Noir $18.99

If you are out to dinner and one person orders fish or chicken and the other orders meat, but you want one bottle of wine, this would work.  It is a very light red, like a less fruity Beaujolais.  It is dry, with no tannins, and rather mono-dimensional.  Drinkable.

  1. Pythagoras $16.99

The name of this wine and the name of the winery are nods to the Damianos family’s Greek roots, in case you were wondering why a wine is named for that annoying theorem you had to memorize in high school geometry.  This is their Bordeaux blend—cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, and petit verdot.  The fragrance reminds me of stewed prunes, and the taste also has some purple plum notes.  The wine is dry, with soft tannins, and is good but not deep or complex.  My husband says it is a “teeny tiny Bordeaux.”

img_6124

Another pretty label, and our favorite wine of the day.

  1. 2015 Syrah $16.99

This one, as my grandma used to say with the birth of each grandchild, beats the bunch.  Though our server apologetically explains that is it “not as bold or peppery” as some syrahs, we quite like it.  I say it smells like blueberries, and my husband says blackberries.  It tastes of those berries and plums, with nice tannins.  It would go well with lamb—or, we decide, as we buy a bottle, with the eggplant parmesan I’m making for dinner.

img_6126

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $18.99

I say it smells like “forest floor,” and my husband adds “auto repair shop.”  Really?  Then I sniff some more and get it:  rubber, metal, some sort of chemical spray.  Our server notes that he just opened the bottle, and it probably needed more time to breathe.  (Given how many people he is serving at once, he could probably use some time to breathe as well!)  It tastes pretty good, however.  We get dark fruits, cherries, spice, and chocolate.

  1. 2014 Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot $24.99

We get a new glass for this special wine, which is aged 32 months in French oak and made with grapes from 40-year-old vines.  It smells delicious.  It has the dark cherry taste of North Fork merlots, plus blackberry and a touch of vanilla.  Though it is not complex, it is good.  We decide overall we prefer the reds to the whites.

img_6130

If you like raspberry soda, you might like this sparkler.

  1. Raspberry Bubbly (sparkling wine) $21.99

No, this is not a special extra because of the book.  The menu highlights it as a free taste.  It is listed as “’méthode champenoise with raspberry dosage,” and, having noted our likes and dislikes, our server offers this somewhat apologetically.  It tastes like raspberry soda, and one sip is enough for us.  We leave the rest of the taste in the glass, thank our server, and go buy a bottle of the syrah.

img_6134

We found this calico cat sunning herself on Pindar’s porch.

Reasons to visit:  it is winter and you are hoping for a quiet tasting—but don’t count on it; the sauvignon blanc, the syrah, the cabernet franc, Dr. Dan’s Signature Merlot; they also serve you need a place that will accommodate a large group.

img_6137

Not sure if you can read this, but this hand-written sign was at the entrance to the Pindar driveway.

 

 

 

Bedell Cellars: Price/Quality Question September 8, 2018

Bedell Cellars:  Price/Quality Question    September 8, 2018

IMG_5629

https://www.bedellcellars.com/

I’ve read a number of articles about the price of a bottle in relation to the quality of the wine inside it, with many opining that it is not a simple relationship.  Often, what you are paying for with an expensive bottle is some measure of prestige or canny marketing, not necessarily the experience of drinking the wine.  My husband and I have had the good fortune and pleasure to go to events which included very expensive wines—vintage Dom Perignon, premium Bordeaux—which we certainly enjoyed.  But the question is, were they that much better than the $20 bottles of wine we often have with dinner.  Better, yes, but exponentially better?  Not so sure.  I was thinking about this because the wines at Bedell, while mostly pleasant and drinkable, are overall fairly expensive for what you get.

On a surprisingly chilly day (It’s been too hot to sit outside most of the summer, and then today it was too cold!), we headed to Bedell Cellars, knowing they have a pleasant tasting room, and not planning to sit on the porch—which was good, since the outdoor area was closed in preparation for a wedding.  We stood at the bar in the elegant black and white room and studied the menu, which didn’t take long since they only have one flight option, of five wines for $20, though you can add tastes of any other wines for $5-$7 each.  They are already sold out of two of their wines.

Our server was enthusiastic and chatty, though somewhat self-conscious about my notebook, even though I assured her that our main interest was in the wines.  She informed us at the end of our tasting that we could take our receipt and go over to Corey Creek, now owned by Bedell, for two free tastes of the wines on tap there, about which more later.

IMG_5616

1.        2017 Sparkling Rosé      $45

Just as I said, “This would make a perfect bachelorette party drink,” as if on cue, a group of women surrounding one who wore a headband that proudly proclaimed “Bride” entered.  Pink, bubbly, fruity, with a touch of minerality, this blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot seems like it would be pleasant to drink.  However, we felt that ultimately it did not cohere and was a bit too sweet for us.  We still would prefer Croteaux.

IMG_5625

The label is certainly pretty.

2.       2017 Viognier    $30

Although only a few wineries on the North Fork grow viognier, we just happen to have visited both Palmer and Kontokosta recently, and their bottles of viognier are $25, while at Bedell it costs $30.  We liked all three of the viogniers, and Bedell’s is no better than the others. This one has an orange blossom aroma with a slight metallic tang.  It has some nice fruitiness, and while I found it a bit too sweet my husband felt it had a nice balance between sweetness and minerality.  While we were discussing the wine, several people stopped in for glasses of wine, and two of them got the viognier, so clearly it is a wine people like.  My tasting buddy said it was a good summer wine, and I theorized that it could stand up to an assertive dish like bouillabaisse. 

3.       2016 Taste White            $40

Both the wine and the image on the bottle are blends.  The wine mixes 64% albariño, 18% chardonnay,10% sauvignon blanc, and 8% viognier.  How is the image a blend?  According to our server, the artist did a composite portrait of five people to end with a face that looks like Marilyn Monroe.  (The owner of the winery sits on the board of MOMA, as we are always informed.)  The aroma and taste are both relatively complex and interesting, with smells of honeysuckle, baked pear, and something vegetal, maybe asparagus or grass.  I laugh and say it tastes like white grapes, because it seems funny to think that a drink made from grapes rarely tastes like grapes.  We also detect a hint of pineapple, and other fruits, plus pleasant acidity.  It’s not a white for sipping, nor would you want it with something very delicate.

IMG_5626

4.       2016 Cabernet Franc      $45

The tasting menu describes this light red as juicy and ripe.  I say meh.  It is barely aged—six to nine months in neutral French oak—and has no depth and a very short finish.  It evanesces, as we say.  The aroma is of dark fruit, but the wine mostly tastes of minerals and a little fruit.  If you want a robust red, don’t pick this nothing burger!

IMG_5623

It is a fairly generous pour.

5.       2016 Malbec     $50

I’m not too crazy about this red either, though I think people would find it easy to drink.  It’s a very simple, slightly cherry-flavored red, with no tannins.  It does develop a bit more flavor as it sits, and we think it might be better with something like lamb chops.

 

On to Corey Creek!

https://www.bedellcellars.com/the-tap-room/

 

              Just a little further east from Bedell is Corey Creek, which used to be a separate winery until Bedell took it over.  There they offer wine from a tap, like beer, and you can bring a bottle to be filled.  The building is pleasantly rustic, with a pretty back porch overlooking pinot gris vines.  The atmosphere is more informal than Bedell, and we saw families whose children were running around outside, plus several dogs on leashes.  The bachelorette party was here, too. 

              Many of the wines here are aged in clay vessels, an ancient method being revived, so we were interested to see if the cabernet franc here tasted any different than the one we’d just had.  They also offer Frosé, a frozen concoction of rosé, sugar, and water.  No, thank you. 

 

1.       Syrah

For a syrah, this is a very light wine, with not much in the way of aroma or taste.  My husband says it has “forward tongue tingle.” 

IMG_5637

Our Corey Creek tastes

2.       Cabernet Franc

This is another not-much-there wine, though if you found reds challenging you might like it.  Our conclusion?  “Free is the right price” for these tastes.

 

Reasons to visit:  elegant tasting room, artistic labels, the Viognier and the Taste White; Corey Creek has a pleasantly rustic setting and the novelty of wine on tap, plus a taste is free if you’ve been to Bedell.

IMG_5643

Look how big those grapes are getting!

Kontokosta: The Far East August 28, 2018

Kontokosta: The Far East              August 28, 2018

https://kontokostawinery.com/

IMG_5573

Don’t be fooled by the weathered barn look; this is a fairly recently built tasting room.

East of Greenport sits the last winery on the North Fork wine trail:  Kontokosta.  We were there on yet another of the ridiculously hot and humid days of this hot and humid August, but a small contingent of our party braved the heat to hike the property to a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound.  Then they returned to the tasting room, red-cheeked and sweaty, to be revived with Kontokosta’s own sparkling water and grape soda.  It may have been the effect of the heat, but one member of our party who describes herself as a “grape soda connoisseur” said it was the best grape soda she’d ever had.

IMG_5587

That’s the Long Island Sound in the distance. It was really hot out there!

 

The rest of us stayed inside and shared tastings and glasses of wine, enjoying the air-conditioning and the company of each other—and the wine.  We sat at one of the long tables in Kontokosta’s airy, modern tasting room, transporting our tastings to the table ourselves.  A tasting consists of your choice of any three of their twelve wines for $16.  My husband and I decided that we would share a tasting of three whites and another of three reds, since it is a one-ounce pour.  So clearly, we could return for a completely different set of six tastes, which we may yet do.

IMG_5580

Part of the bar area.

They also offer a menu of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.  No dogs or outside food allowed.

  1. 2017 Viognier   $25

The aroma is sweet, of honeysuckle and peach, and the taste has some peachiness as well.  One friend described it as an “unctuous peachiness,” and we went on the discuss its appropriateness as an aperitif.  “It’s a crowd pleaser,” he said.  We also thought it would pair well with a chicken dish that had either a white sauce of something citrusy, or perhaps charcuterie.  It’s a refreshing, pleasant white.

IMG_5578

Our three whites. We took the glasses to a table.

  1. 2016 Field Blend $22

A field blend means just what it sounds like—a blend of various grapes, all grown in the same field.  This one blends 50% riesling, 30% viognier, and 20% sauvignon blanc.  The aroma is mostly mineral, and the wine itself is super dry, rather tart, with not much fruit.  It really needs to be drunk with food, but since we had just had a big delicious lunch at the Olive Branch café in Greenport, we were not about to buy any snacks.  We were not particularly fond of this one.

  1. 2014 Anemometer White $35

Another blend, this time of 45% chardonnay, 40% sauvignon blanc, and 15% viognier, Anemometer (the name a reference to the windmill which provides much of their power) is aged in neutral French oak, so it is not too oaky.  There is a subtle vanilla aroma, but also minerality.  One friend compares it to a Chablis, not surprising given the chardonnay in it.  The taste combines minerality, pineapple, some tropical fruit, and a touch of saltiness.  I don’t usually like oaked chardonnays, but this one has only a hint of butteriness.  Our friend says it is rather rich for a white, and could actually go with a steak, albeit not one with a lot of taste.  Maybe a filet mignon with a sauce that included some of the wine?

IMG_5579

The reds.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc $29

Now we move on to our second group of three, the reds.  We asked the server for her recommendations, not having any reason to choose one red over another, and this was her first pick, as she noted it scored 90 points in Wine Enthusiast.  It’s good, fairly light for a red, with lots of fruit aroma and dried fruit tastes, with some tannins.

IMG_5581

One part of the tasting room, looking towards the door.

  1. 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve $40

I often wonder about wines labeled “reserve,” and priced higher than the same grape from the same place.  However, this wine is actually better than the previous one.  The aroma combines dark fruits like black cherry, plus pepper.  It has more character than the other cab franc, and is softer and less tannic.  It would go well with duck, like the duck breasts from Bayview we plan to barbeque that evening.

  1. 2014 Anemometer Red $50

When they first opened, the anemometers were their least expensive wines, but now they are the most expensive.  This one is a blend of 40% cabernet franc, 22% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, and 18% syrah, which makes it their Bordeaux type.  Meh.  I much prefer the Cabernet Franc Reserve.  Not a lot of fruit to this one, nor is it at all complex.  One friend notes that it is “not challenging to drink,” and reminds him of a rioja.  Lots of tannins, so maybe given time…

IMG_5588

Now there’s something you don’t see at every winery.

Reasons to visit:  pretty setting on the shore of Long Island Sound; modern, airy tasting room; menu of snacks; the Viognier and the Cabernet Franc Reserve; the grape soda.

Palmer Vineyards: Sold! August 10, 2018

Palmer Vineyards:  Sold!              August 10, 2018

IMG_5496

This is the building with the tasting room, not to be confused with the first building you come to, which is the wine-making facility.

https://www.palmervineyards.com/#established-1983

The big news locally for those who are interested in wineries was that Paumanok Vineyards bought Palmer Vineyards.  My review will apply to the wines for the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the future brought some changes.  According to one article I read, Paumanok’s winemaker will take over at Palmer.  It will be interesting to return in a couple of years to see how they’re doing.

IMG_5505

Meanwhile, this was our first visit to Palmer since 2016, since a couple of times we stopped by and found the place too noisy and crowded for our comfort.  So we decided to try a Friday afternoon, and found we had the place to ourselves, aside from a few people out on the covered porch area. The last time we came we sat out there, since we were with relatives who had brought their dog with them, and we also shared a cheese platter.  We didn’t get one this time, but do note that they do not allow outside food.

After discussing the menu with the manager and each other, we decided to share two tastings, one of the whites and one of the reds, and settled into a booth.  We enjoy the décor at Palmer, which reminds us of our favorite British pubs, with cozy booths and old signs.  We only wish we liked the wines better.  They are all drinkable, but only one was a standout as far as I’m concerned.  The menu offers three options, all for four wines for $16 to $18.  My husband characterized the pour as “micro”:  each taste was just that, about two sips per person.

  1. 2016 Viognier                 $24.99

Only a few North Fork wineries offer viognier, which is too bad, as I tend to like wines made from this grape.  This one is dry, with an aroma of baked pear, and some nice fruit tastes plus minerality.  The menu says it tastes like quince.  Maybe.

IMG_5501

Small pour!

  1. 2016 Aromatico            $24.99

Often when a wine has a name other than the varietal it is a blend, and that is true of this one, which the manager tells me is, he thinks, 60% muscat and 40% malvasia.  Steel fermented.  When I hear muscat I wonder whether it will be sweet, but this one is not.  It’s fairly interesting, not your average Long Island white, with, according to my tasting pal, “lots of body for a white.”  There’s a taste of gooseberries and a tanginess to it that would make it a good match for the scallops we picked up earlier at Braun’s.

IMG_5506

  1. 2016 Gewürztraminer $23.99

Uh-oh.  The manager describes this as “semi-sweet.”  Too sweet for us!  It smells like honey and nutmeg, but actually doesn’t have much flavor.  There’s a trace of a chemical flavor I dislike, and we dump the last little bit of the small taste.

  1. 2017 Sparkling Rouge Rosé $21.99

He pours this from a partly used bottle with one of those champagne re-sealing corks in it, and at the end I ask him if perhaps it had lost its sparkle by the time he poured our taste.  No, he replies, it’s just not a very bubbly sparkler.  My husband says it has NDA—no detectable aroma.  Not even the strawberry one would expect from a rosé.  It is at least dry, but if you want a sparkling rosé I suggest you seek out Croteaux’s.  Vintage liquor store in the Mattituck shopping center carries all of their wines now.

IMG_5513

Not very sparkling and not very rose.

  1. 2015 Merlot (No price on the menu, but the 2014 is $24.99.)

As I told my brother the last time we were here, merlot is the Ford of North Fork reds, the reliable grapes that almost everyone grows (despite the opprobrium they got in the movie Sideways).  As expected, it has a cherry aroma and flavor, plus maybe some purple plum.  Dry, with faint tannins and a short finish, it is aged twelve months in French oak.  You could have this with lamb chops, or even roast chicken, but it would not stand up to a steak.

IMG_5512

  1. 2013 Old Roots Merlot $34.99

Why Old Roots?  Not surprisingly, because these grapes come from the oldest vines on the property, dating back thirty-five years.  The grapes are hand harvested, and aged for eighteen months, leading to a slightly more intense merlot experience than the previous taste.  Lots of cherry flavor, but no depth, is our verdict.  Maybe you could have it with grilled sausages, like the ones 8 Hands Farm makes.

IMG_5507

  1. 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon $28.99

According to the menu, the tastes for this include “subtle cigar box.”  Not sure what that is, but there is a smokiness to the aroma.  Not complex, it has lots of fruit flavor and is pleasant enough to be a wine one could sip as an aperitif.

 

  1. 2013 Cabernet Franc $28.99

The previous wine is aged for twelve months, while this one ages for eighteen, and it is more complex.  The aroma includes fruit and tobacco, and we taste plums and other dark fruits.  Not much tannin.  I remember a dish I used to make, of tongue in a pickle sauce, and think this would go with that.

IMG_5514

A glimpse of the covered porch. We decided to stay in the air conditioning!

Reasons to visit:  pleasant tasting room which looks like an English pub, plus a wide covered porch for outside tastings; the Aromatico and the Cabernet Franc; they serve pitchers of water if you ask; dogs are allowed outside.  Note—the first building you come to is a “self-guided” tour of the winemaking facility, so pull around to the back for the tasting room.

IMG_5515

This is the first building you see, but the tasting room is around the back.

Roanoke: A Highlight of Love Lane July 25, 2018

Roanoke:  A Highlight of Love Lane          July 25, 2018

https://www.roanokevineyards.net/

We had some visitors who had never experienced the delights of Love Lane, so we gave them a little guided tour, from the funky Broken Down Valise bar across from the train station to the excellent Village Cheese Shop, with stops along the way to admire the Sweet Shop and Lombardi’s Market and the wall murals.  Then we settled down on the shaded back patio (which would be a nicer setting if it didn’t look out on the parking lot) for a tasting at the Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar.

IMG_5426

One view of the back patio area

You used to be able to go to the Roanoke winery itself (on Sound Avenue just off Roanoke Avenue), but now the only way to taste their wines is in their wine bar on Love Lane, as the winery itself is only open to members of their wine club and their guests.  I particularly remember one chilly winter evening when we were the only people at the winery and had a tasting of red wines and chocolates.  Yum.  However, the wine bar is conveniently located in the middle of the North Fork.

The room itself is rather small, with a bar along one side and a few tables and some comfortable chairs, and so is the back patio.  But even in July, Wednesdays are rather quiet on the North Fork, and for much of our time there we were the only customers.  As has been the rule this week, the weather alternated between rainy and steamy, but we were comfortable on the patio and enjoyed sipping and chatting with our friends.

The tasting menu used to be more extensive, but at the moment there is only one option:  four tastes for $14.  We decided each couple would share one taste, which the server brought out to us one at a time, quickly adapting to our slow and thoughtful pace.  You can also buy bottles of wine from a few other wineries, including our favorite, Channing Daughters, and also Wölffer Estates, Red Hook, and Grapes of Roth.

IMG_5429

  1. 2016 Roanoke Vineyards Pinot Blanc     $24

Our friend’s initial reaction to the aroma of this wine was “pungent!”  And yes, it has a rather sharp aroma of pineapple, with a whiff of some sort of chemical.  A blend of 95% pinot blanc and 5% viognier, this is a light, dry summery wine with tastes of pineapple and citrus.  It would be good with clams or oysters.

IMG_5431

Pretty labels

  1. 2017 Infinite Possibility $22

Just consider all the possibilities of taste and aroma you can get from a blend, in this case of 60% sauvignon blanc, 39.5% chardonnay, and .5% muscat and malvasia.   Our server describes this wine as smelling sweeter than it tastes, and she’s not wrong.   It smells like honeysuckle and tropical fruits, but the taste is dry and lemony, with hints of guava and spice.  Tasty.

IMG_5433

We liked the concept and the label better than the wine for this one.

  1. 2017 Site Specific Chardonnay The Wild! $22

Yes, that is the exact name of this wine, including the italics and the exclamation point.  Made from a muscat clone and steel-tank fermented with wild yeasts, you would never think this was a chardonnay if not for the name.  A year ago we liked it, and the friend we were with bought a bottle.  This year, not so much.  There’s something verging on the unpleasant in the taste, which our friend describes as “yeasty.”  We also get minerals and a touch of the nuttiness we liked last year, though this time it is more like bitter almond.  And that’s why we have to go back every year!

  1. 2016 (Greater Than)  $22

The only red in the tasting, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of 53% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon, and 17% cabernet franc.  It has a pleasant aroma of cherry and other fruit and also tastes of the cherry one would expect with a merlot.  It is very dry, with some nice tannins, and would be good with a juicy hamburger (It is getting close to supper time!)  We are intrigued by the name, and discover that it has a dual meaning.  One is that, as a blend, it is greater than the sum of its parts.  The other involves a dispute over the previous name of the wine, which was Bond.  It turned out a California winery had a prior claim to the name, so the new name is a quiet dig at them…this one’s greater than yours!  We bought a bottle.

IMG_5430

This leafy alley leads to Love Lane on one side and the parking lot on the other.

Reasons to visit:  convenient location amid the shops and restaurants of Love Lane; pleasant backyard patio; Greater Than; you can buy bottles of wine from other wineries; they have a variety of special events for members.

IMG_5432

The back patio is a relaxing place to spend some time drinking wine.