More Barrel Tastings And A Sit-Down Tasting

 

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The Barrel Festival in Sonoma was a three-day event. Since over 100 wineries were participating, I decided to spend each day in one of the sub appellations of Sonoma. Friday afternoon was spent in Russian River Valley, Saturday afternoon in Dry Creek Valley and Sunday afternoon in Alexander Valley with a stop in the town of Healdsburg which is pretty much the center of the Sonoma wine region and has many tasting rooms.

In addition to barrel tastings I was able to attend a sit down tasting at the Ramey Cellars tasting room and a tasting at the Stonestreet tasting room both in downtown Healdsburg.

 

Ramey Wine Cellars

2010 Chardonnay “Ritchie Vineyards” RRV: Medium gold, slightly cloudy, big honeyed nose, thick and chewy, moderate acids.

2015 Chardonnay “Ritchie Vineyards” RRV: Medium gold, closed nose of honey with green herbs, tropical fruit notes and lime custard on the fruit.

2015 Chardonnay “Rochioli Vineyard” RRV: Medium gold, tropical fruit, toast and earth on the nose, tighter than Ritchie with tropical fruit on notes, clean finish.

2015 Chardonnay Estate “Westside Farms” RRV: Clear medium gold with green tints, big peach nose with lime notes on the finish.

2016 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley: Clear medium purple, plummy nose, raspberry jam on the moderate fruit, tight with some heat at the end.

2014 Syrah “Rodgers Creek Vineyard”: With 10% Viognier, dark red with a perfume of crushed fruit and black pepper on the nose, chewy, spicy with firm tannins.

2015 “Template” Napa Valley: Merlot focused blend, medium to dark red with a perfume of pencil shavings and crushed black fruit, silky dark fruit ending with firm tannins. Only 139 cases made.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Annum” Napa Valley: This is their “winemaker’s wine”, dark red with dusty green notes on the nose, juicy and plummy with firm tannins on the long finish.

 

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards High altitude grown wines

2015 Estate Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc: Medium gold, toasty, oily nose, moderate oily fruit and acids, mouth-watering.

2015 Chardonnay “Broken Road”: Medium gold with a greenish tint, toasty nose, moderate tropical fruit and acids, toast notes on the nose.

2016 Chardonnay “Red Point”: Light yellow with greenish tints, tight, toasty tropical fruit on the finish.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Bear Point Vineyard”: Dark purple, black olives, bell pepper and pencil shavings on the nose, tight and concentrated with black olive notes on the fruit.

2014 Red Blend “Ridge Walk Mountains”: Dark red to black, dark chocolate on the nose, firm silky red fruit, balance, long finish.

 

Barrel Tastings

Alexander Valley Vineyards: 2017 Estate Pinot Noir, 2014 Sin Zin, 2013 Cyrus Bordeaux Blend.

Acorn Winery: 2015 Cabernet Franc Alegria Vineyard, 2015 Syrah Axiom, 2014 Zinfandel Heritage Vines.

Christopher Creek Winery: 2018 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi, 2018 Pinot Noir Estate, 2016 Pinot Noir Love Vineyard.

David Coffaro Winery: 2018 Zinfandel, 2018 Estate Cuvee, 2018 Terre Melange.

Merriam Vineyards: 2017 Malbec Lower Pond, 2017 Cabernet Franc Windacre, 2017 Right Bank Bordeaux Blend, 2017 Miktos Bordeaux Blend.

Porter Creek Vineyards: 2018 Chardonnay RRV, 2018 Pinot Noir Fiona Hill Vineyard, 2018 Carignane Old Vine.

Soda Rock Winery: 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Twisted Rail, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon The General, 2018 Primitivo Los Amigos.

Viszlay Vineyards: 2018 Chardonnay, 2017 Pinot Noir.

 

Lodi California

 

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The 42nd annual Sonoma barrel tasting event was held on the first two weekends in March. Over 100 wineries participated in the event where you had the opportunity to sample wines that are still aging in the barrel. Arriving in California a couple of days before the event I decided to visit a wine region that I had not visited on my previous wine tours in California and that wine region was Lodi. In 2015 Wine Enthusiast magazine named Lodi wine region of the year.

The Lodi AVA (American Vinicultural Area) is located about 100 miles east of San Francisco Bay and just west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The grape growing industry in the area goes back to the mid 1800’s but was only granted AVA status in 1986. Lodi has over 75,000 acres of vineyards and supplies 20% of the California wine grape crop each year producing more wine than Sonoma and Napa combined.

It’s known as the Zinfandel capital of the world with many 100 year old+ zinfandel vines. Driving through the wine country you see rows and rows of those old, gnarly stumps that are still producing fruit. In addition to Zins, because of its Mediterranean climate the region grows over 100 varietals of grapes from many of the wine producing countries of Europe. Spanish varietals such as Albariño, Verdejo and Tempranillo, Portuguese varietals of Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão, Italian varietals such as Sangiovese, Aglianico and Terlodago and German varietals of Kerner and Dornfelder just to name a few of the100 varietals that are grown in the Lodi AVA.

It should have been about an hour and a half drive from San Francisco airport to the wineries as the crow flies, but the crow didn’t have to sit in city traffic on the way. I had one full day of tasting. Many of the wineries are run by people who have been in the business for generations. This is farm country and the vibe was very casual.

 

Klinker Brick Winery  15887 North Alpine Road

2017 Granache Blanc: Greenish tint with a green apple nose, green apple fruit, crisp and light.

2015 Dolcetto: Dark purple to black, big perfume of crushed black fruit, tight with rosemary notes on the fruit.

2015 Old Vine Zinfandel “Marisa Vineyard”: Black with a purple rim, crushed black fruit and dried herbs on the nose, black licorice on the tight finish.

2015 1850°: 1850 is the number in degrees the temperature needed to make a Klinker Brick. Dark purple, sweet nose of baked apples, tight, dusty fruit.

2015 Petit Sirah: Inky black, some stinky notes on the nose, chalky, dusty, crushed black fruit finishing with tight, firm tannins.

2015 Carignan: Medium purple, roasted nuts on the nose, sweet red leather fruit with firm tannings and a long finish.

 

Van Ruiten Family Vineyards  340 West Highway 12

2017 Pinot Grigio: Medium gold, floral, earth with some peach notes on the nose, moderate acids with some RS on the fruit.

2016 Tempranillo: Medium red, tar and black pepper on the nose, tight black licorice fruit, crisp acids.

 

Oak Farm Vineyards  23627 North Devries Road

2018 Grenache Rosé: Light copper in color, strawberry nose, strawberry fruit, dry.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc: Light yellow, sweet kiwi on the nose, medium to light fruit, low acid, easy drinking.

2017 Corset: Blend of Syrah, Granache, Zinfandel and Malbec. Medium red, roast meat notes on the nose, tight with oak notes on the firm finish.

2016 Petit Verdot: Inky purple, sweet black cherry notes on the nose, juicy with dried herbs on the finish.

2017 Zinfandel “Vapor Trail”: Medium purple, jammy, smoky nose, jammy, smoky black berry fruit, good balance. 16.5% Alcohol.

 

m2 Wines  2900 East Peltier Road

2018 Vermentino: Light gold, sweet nose of peaches, mod fruit with honey notes on the fruit, nice balance.

2016 Lodi Native Zinfandel: Medium brick, beautiful perfume of tar and leather, dark chocolate on the tight fruit, long finish

2016 Zinfandel “Soucie”: From 100 year-old vines, medium red, perfume of warm red berries on the nose, jammy, dark chocolate fruit.

 

Fields Family Wines  3803 East Woodbridge Road

2017 Vermentino Delu Vineyard: Light gold, stinky nose, floral, moderate fruit, nice balance.

2017 Cinsault: Light red, turned earth on the nose, tight cherry fruit with a firm finish.

2014 Syrah “Roasted Slope”: Medium purple, roasted meat on the nose, tight green herbs on the fruit, firm acidity.

2015 Mouvedre: Medium red, red cherry and earth on the nose, juicy with bitter cherry notes, good balance.

 

Harney Lane Winery  9010 East Harney Lane

2016 Tempranillo: Medium purple, perfume of cherries, red cherry fruit ending with bitter cherry notes.

2016 Zinfandel “Lizzy James”: From 115 year old vines, medium purple, jammy, blueberry fruit, firm finish.

2016 Petite Sirah: Dark purple to black, crushed black fruit on the nose, concentrated dark chocolate on the fruit.

 

 

Pét-Nat On Long Island

 

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Pét-Nat (pétillant natural) wines are how they made sparkling wines in the old country (methode ancestral) before they came up with the methode champenoise method. Simply, after the wine undergoes its initial fermentation, it’s put in a bottle and capped while the wine continues to ferment and releases carbon dioxide into the wine. That’s simpler than the two-step process used in making Champagne. The wines are usually not disgorged or filtered which gives them a cloudy look with sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

This type of wine is trendy right now so it’s not surprising that some wineries on Long Island would produce them though they are in limited production as I found out when I went out for a tasting. I showed up at a couple of wineries that I knew poured pét-nats from previous visits only to find they were all out and the current inventory were still in the cellar.

I was still able to find a few to try. Anyone who enjoys a nice Lambrusco from Italy would like these wines. The ones I tried were crisp and refreshing and would be perfect for the upcoming warmer days.  

 

Peconic Cellar Door 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic

This is a small tasting room opened by the wine makers from BQE and Saltbird Cellars and is adjacent to another tasting room (Winemakers Studio). They pour wines from small producers who don’t have their own tasting facilities.

 

2018 As If Wines “GratitudeGewürztraminer

Orange hue, green apple on the nose, clear with sediment at the bottom of the bottle, dry and crisp with orange notes on the finish.

 

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Jamesport Vineyards  1216 Main Road, Jamesport

One of the first wineries you run into on the north fork wine trail as you drive East with one of the oldest vineyards on the North Fork. The tasting room is in a 165 year old barn.  

 

2016 Albarino

Cloudy medium yellow, lemon, pineapple and green apple on the nose, crisp and bone dry with flinty notes on the finish.

 

2015 Cabernet Franc

Clear copper with sediment at the bottom of the bottle, hints of strawberry on the nose, tight with lemony tartness on the finish. A bit more one-dimensional than the Albarino.

 

 

 

Winter Wine Crawl On Long Island

 

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It’s that time of year, after the holiday rush when things slow down a bit including social events, but not completely this is New York City after all. I decided to spend a chilly Sunday afternoon in wine country. Usually I have a theme that guides me in tasting decisions but this time around I had none. When I got to wine country I decided on Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

 

Mattebella Vineyards  46005 Main Road, Southold

Mattebella is a small, family farm whose motto is “wine, passion, craftmanship”and who make “old world style wines” using sustainable winemaking practices. To get to the tiny tasting room you walk through a garage-sale motif yard.

NV Famiglia Red Blend: 932 cases produced, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Dark purple to black in color with slate and crushed blueberries on the nose, thick and juicy with gun-metal and  dark chocolate on the balanced fruit with soft and silky tannins.

 

Lenz Winery  38355 Main Road, Peconic

Lenz winery was established in 1978 making it one of the founding fathers of the industry out east, the tasting room is an old barn. They are known for their old vine Merlot but today I sampled a Cabernet Sauvignon.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate”: 2014 was an excellent year on Long Island. The wine is black in color with dark chocolate and slate on the nose, thick and chunky with moderate tannins, red cherry and slate notes on the finish, an enjoyable glass of wine.

 

Pellegrini Vineyards  23005 Main Road, Cutchogue

Winery with an Italian cloister design courtyard and building with a cellar and barrel room that you can take a self tour of. You sample the wines in a two-story, cherub strewn, wood-beamed tasting room.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate”: Dark red to black with a purple rim, roasted coffee and ripe red fruit on the nose, thick and chunky with ripe red leather notes on the fruit with moderate tannins and acids.

 

Sherwood House/Hound’s Tree Vineyards  1291 Main Road, Jamesport

Finally, a tasting room with a proper wine glass and a nice one at that. I wish that tasting rooms would realize that their wines would show better in a wine glass that wasn’t thimble sized. The cozy tasting room is in a 1870’s farm-house with a fireplace and is attached to an antique/art store so there’s always some funky artwork on the property. They serve wines from two wineries.

2016 Hound’s Tree Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark red with an amber rim, roast bacon and hazelnuts on the nose, clean, fairly neutral fruit with moderate to light tannin and acids, easy drinking.

 

 

Italian Heritage On Long Island

 

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Italy is one of the great wine-producing countries,vacillating between itself and France as the largest wine producer in the world. With a climate ideally suited to viticulture, wine had been a part of the country’s culture and everyday life for thousands of years. With more than 350 varieties, the peninsula is one big vineyard.

With millions of Italians migrating the New World and many to the New York City area, it was only natural that some of the ancestors of those immigrants would be a part of the burgeoning wine industry on Long Island.  

With that, Italian wine varietals are very rare at the north and south fork wineries. You would think with many varietals grown in the cooler areas of the Italian peninsula, that wine makers would adapt those grapes for Long Island. Channing Daughters Winery on the south fork grows several such as tocai friulano, lagrein, teroldego and ribolla gialla but on the north fork there is practically none grown. The only winery I remember making an effort to grow Italian varieties on the north fork was Southhold Farm + Cellars but they closed down and moved on to greener pastures in Texas.

I spent one Sunday afternoon stopping at some of the wineries owned by Italian-Americans.

 

 

Macari Vineyards  150 Bergen Avenue, Mattitiuck

Owners: Joseph and Alexandra Macari

This is one of two tasting rooms they have on the north fork. As with a typical Italian-American experience, in his youth Mr. Macari made wine with his grandfather in the basement of his grandfathers home in Corona, Queens. On this Sunday, the tasting was decked out in Christmas decorations and a good crowd of people.

2014 Red Blend “Dos Aquas” A blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Opaque dark red with a purple rim, roast coffee and crushed black fruit on the nose, thick and juicy with some hazelnut notes, moderate tannins and acids.

 

 

Raphael Vineyards  39390 Main Road, Peconic

Owners: Jack and Joan Petrocelli

A family built, owned and operated winery named for the owners father and that “continues a centuries old family tradition of winemaking”. There are tasting rooms in the north fork that are cozy and rustic but this is not one of them. This is a huge facility built to look like an Italian villa that often serves as a wedding venue.

2015 White Reserve “Primo” An interesting blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling.  Dark gold with a honeyed nose with ripe tropical fruit though dry. The wine is starting to show its age and I think it’s past its prime.

 

 

Pugliese Vineyards  34515 Main Road, Cutchogue

Owner: The Pugliese Family

One of the original wineries out East established in 1980 and family owned and operated since. They were one of the first to make sparkling wines out East and the only winery I know on Long Island that grows Sangiovese (3-4 acres). They specialize in hand painted bottles and gift baskets which are on display in the understated tasting room.

2012 Sangiovese Clear medium red, crushed red fruit, black licorice and rosemary on the nose, soft red fruit with moderate to low tannins and some tartness at the end.

 

 

 

Sauvignon Blanc On Long Island

 

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Sauvignon Blanc is a white varietal and the parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s ancestral home is the Bordeaux region of France where (along with Semillon) used in Bordeaux whites. It’s also a major grape in the Loire with Sancerre and Pouilly Fume and as with most of the Bordeaux varietals, exported around the world.

Out on Long Island it plays second fiddle to Chardonnay which is the Queen of white wine out here. Most wineries out East grow and bottle a sauvignon blanc and since it’s rarely aged in oak, most versions of it are clean, crisp and herbaceous if it’s made well, if not the herbaceous notes can get robust.  I spent a Sunday afternoon in wine country sampling a few.

 

One Women Winery  5195 Old North Road, Southhold

A small winery off the main road with “Old World Roots on the North Fork”. Certified sustainable and owner/winemaker a Claudia Purita as the one women of the winery. They grow and bottle Gruner Vetliner which is not very common on the North Fork.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc: Light yellow with a greenish tint, rosemary on the nose with tight lime and green herb notes on the crisp finish.

 

Coffee Pot Cellars  31855 Route 25, Cutchogue

A small production winery with their tasting room on the main road and who are also beekeepers so there are always some honey product available at the tasting room. You’ll find Beasley the pug on guard duty.

2014 Sauvignon Blanc: Unusual to find a SB with this bottle age and it showed, ripe mango on the nose, tight, slate and tropical fruit notes with nice acidity on the finish.

 

Suhru Wines  28735 Main Road, Cutchogue

A family run winery established in 2008 whose goal is “to make the wines we most enjoy” with a new tasting house on the main road.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc: Very light yellow with greenish tints, closed nose with some funkiness, fresh light fruit with moderate acids.

 

Clovis Point Winery  1935 Main Road, Jamesport

A relative newcomer to the North Fork established in 2001 with 10 acres under vine, the tasting room is in a renovated potato barn. One of the few tasting rooms that use a proper wine glass.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc: Light yellow, mowed grass and honeydew melon on the nose, starts with melon fruit notes followed by lime tartness with good acidity.

 

 

 

Pinot Blanc On Long Island

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Pinot Blanc is a white grape that is a genetic cousin to Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and has similar characteristics to Chardonnay. It’s a major grape in places like Alsace, France and Friuli, Italy but not widely grown on the North Fork of Long Island. Only a handful of wineries bottle a Pinot Blanc.  On a sunny Saturday afternoon I took a drive out to sample a few.

 

Lieb Cellars  13050 Oregon Road, Cutchogue

Winery established in 1992 with small production, all estate wines.

2016 Pinot Blanc “Reserve”. Their signature wine from some of the oldest vines on the North Fork (circa 1983). 100% fermented in stainless steel with zero percent residual sugar. Medium yellow with white flowers and lemon custard on the nose, crisp and steely with lime notes on the finish

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Shinn Estate Vineyards  2000 Oregon Road, Mattituck

A certified sustainable winery with a Bed & Breakfast, new owners took over in 2017 and recently renovated the tasting room including an impressive barrel room tasting area.

2016 Pinot Blanc. Hand harvested and fermented in oak for six months in puncheon barrels, this wine is stylistically 180° from the Lieb Pinot Blanc. Medium to dark gold in color with very ripe peaches and oak on the nose, ripe fruit with cooked notes on the finish,  not nearly as fresh as the Lieb. 96 cases.

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Palmer Vineyards  108 Sound Avenue, Aquabogue

One of the original wineries on the North Fork established in 1983 with 90 acres planted and one of the few if only winery on Long Island to bottle an Albariño.

2017 Pinot Blanc. Medium to light yellow in color with a greenish tint, pineapple and ripe flowers on the nose, crisp with green herb notes on the finish. 124 cases.