As our server explained a couple of times, the winemaker at Lenz likes the French style; hence their pinot gris, not pinot grigio, for example. But they recently changed their winemaker, so it will be interesting to check back in a couple of years and see if the wines are any different.
On this gray, drizzly late March day there was only one other group at the winery, so we were able to have a nice chat with the very well-informed server, who seemed to have a real appreciation for the wines. Because she had to open fresh bottles for us, she carefully sniffed a small portion of each one before she poured, actually rejecting one bottle as not quite right.
The attractively barn-like tasting room has plenty of room for groups, and a small selection of wine-themed gifts, as well as local art for purchase. They offer a Catapano cheese tray, and, though they currently allow you to bring in snacks, they may expand their food offerings in the future and limit outside foods, so check their web site before you go. My husband thinks it is amusing that a couple of lower beams have signs warning “Please Watch Your Head!,” a feat he deems impossible without a mirror. And that was before we had a drink.
As we sipped and chatted, we discussed the changeover at many wineries from cork to screw top. Screw tops have several advantages over corks, although, as our server explained to us, if you use a top end supplier, as many NoFo wineries do, they’re actually not all that much cheaper. However, there is less chance for a wine to become “corked,” among other problems. On the other hand, if you have a wine you want to age, aging happens more quickly with the breathability of a cork.
On the menu are three options: Library, of their highest end wines, $15 per taste or $20 for two; Estate, five of their middle label wines for $16; or Premium, five of their higher end wines for $20. Since Lenz is one of the older wineries on the North Fork, first established in 1978, they can label some wines “Old Vines” without exaggeration. Though many of their wines are reasonably priced, the price tags on some of the Library wines gave us pause. $125? Wow. I don’t know whether they’re worth that much, and I also haven’t tried them!
We opted for the Estate flight.
- 2014 Pinot Gris $25
We liked this French style expression of the grape, with its aromas of yeast and citrus and tastes of kumquat or mandarin orange. My tasting buddy said it has a creamy mouth feel.
- 2014 White Label Chardonnay $15
One reason we picked this flight was because the Premium flight featured an oaked chard, and though I have had oaked chards that were unobjectionable, in general I prefer steel fermented. This one is steel fermented, but has a small amount—about 5%–of oaked chard added “to soften” it. We liked this wine, too. The aroma includes lemon and a touch of cedar, and the taste is mildly lemony, like a Meyer lemon, plus a little pear. We are a bit short on whites in the cellar, so we decide to buy two bottles of this one.
- 2016 Blanc de Noir $24
This rosé is made from 100% pinot noir (hence the name, though I bet someone thought it was amusing to call this “white of black”), and is left on the skins for just three and a half hours. Again, this is a French style rosé, so quite dry, with the expected aroma of strawberries, though also quite minerally. Like a bunch of sliced strawberries without added sugar, perhaps early in the season before they get very sweet and fruity.
- 2014 Estate Selection Cabernet Sauvignon $35
Our server explains that they make the Estate Selection wines from the better vintages. This is a “typical Long Island cab,” she adds, “lighter, less tannic, fruit driven.” I’d agree. I really like the smell, which has lots of berry and cherry. It tastes like plums, and is pleasant, but rather monochromatic, I tell my husband, just as he turns to me and opines that it is “not complex.” So we are in agreement.
- 2014 Estate Selection Merlot $35
Although it is called merlot, our server informs us that it is 10-20% cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot. There’s a touch of the earthiness you find sometimes in NoFo merlots, which I don’t care for. Although the wine is not bad, I like it the least of the ones we’ve tasted. It does have that black cherry taste of merlot. I think it might do better if it ages a while longer. My husband says it “lacks gravitas,” one of his favorite phrases recently. I could see having it with lamb chops.
Reasons to visit: a good-sized tasting room whether you are with a group or just a couple, with an outdoor area for summer seating; small selection of gift items and local art for sale; the Pinot Gris and the White Label Chardonnay; they have some serious wines.