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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

Petit Verdot On Long Island

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Petit Verdot is one of the classic varieties used in blending in Bordeaux. It’s an early ripening varietal and its dense fruit, dark color and high tannins mean “a little goes a long way” when used in the blend.

It’s grown on Long Island in small amounts used primarily as a blending grape as well but a few wineries bottle it on its own and when you go to the tasting room, it’s usually the most expensive wine by the glass option.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon I drove out to wine country to sample a few.

 

Sannino Bella Vita Vineyards  7490 Alvans Lane, Cutchogue

This winery practices sustainable viticulture and has a Bed & Breakfast on property

2014 Petit Verdot “Spotlight”. Black in color with a purple rim, crushed raspberry on the nose with slate and crushed rock notes on the tight and tart finish, moderate tannins.

2013 Petit Verdot “Spotlight”. Inky black with a purple rim, mint and cooked fruit on the nose, chewy dusty dark chocolate on the fruit with nice acidity. More fruit forward than the ’14.

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Pellegrini Vineyards  23005 Main Road, Cutchogue

This winery was founded in 1991 and features a two-story oak beamed tasting room.

2012 Petit Verdot “Estate”. Black with a purple rim, slate and crushed black fruit on the nose, crushed red berries and some smoke on the fruit, moderate tannins and low acid with lavender notes on the finish.

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Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards  44075 Main Road, Peconic

The first vines at this vineyard were planted in 1983, this was the most crowded tasting room the day I visited.

2013 Petit Verdot “Reserve”. Inky black, corked?, closed nose with smoky, dense fruit with moderate acids. Corked notes blew off after a few minutes in the glass.

 

 

More Red Blends On Long Island

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Long Island wine country is about a hundred miles East of Manhattan. From my neighborhood it’s an easy drive on the Long Island expressway straight East as the crow flies to the end of the highway at exit 73. Make a quick right at the outlet mall and keep driving East until you come across the wineries. The road splits in two, main road (route 25) and sound avenue with wineries lining both roads.

On an overcast Sunday afternoon I took another drive out and sampled red blends.

 

Peconic Cellar Door  2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic

This tasting room shares the same building at the Winemakers Studio, they pour wines from wineries that don’t have their own tasting rooms.

2014 As If Wines “Persistence”. This is the first time I’ve tried wines from this producer, they buy local grapes and vinify at a local crush.

A blend of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, very dark purple with a purple rim, dark chocolate and sour cherry notes on the nose, tight, bright fruit with crisp acidity and some stemmines on the finish.

 

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Mattebella Vineyards  46005 Main Road, Southhold.

The is a small, mom and pop vineyard operation using sustainable viticultural practices for their Italian heritage influenced wines with a small, cozy tasting room.

2008 “Old World Blend”. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the owners was pouring and highly recommended that I try this wine because the wine has aged well and at its peak now. Dark red to black in color with crushed dark fruit and some mint on the nose, chewy dusty fruit and silky tannins, roast nuts and violets on the finish. If I would have tasted this wine blind I would have guessed Chianti.

 

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Lenz Vineyards  38355 Main Road, Peconic

One of the original wineries out east, established in 1978.

2014 Merlot “Estate”. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, Black and thick in color, peppermint and crushed rocks on the nose, tight, plummy fruit with tart, firm acids at the end.  

 

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Roanoke Vineyards Tasting Room, Love Lane, Mattituck.

Long Island’s only membership based vineyard, their tasting room is on Love Lane, a two block long business district with a nice deli across the street and a cheese shop next door.

2015 “Marco Tulio“. About an equal blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, dark red, damp earth and slate on the nose, chewy dark fruit, balance acidity with chocolate notes on the finish.

 

 

More Rosé On Long Island

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We’re now at the dog days of Summer which in New York City usually means hot sweltering days and muggy nights reminding me of some the lyrics from the 1966 Loving Spoonful song “Summer in the City” about the back of me head getting dirty and gritty.

But not this Summer. It has been unusually mild and comfortable with Spring like temperatures and low humidity. It still is rosé season though and I drove out East to try some more.

 

Winemaker Studio  2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic

The Studio is a 100 year old general store owned by winemaker Anthony Nappa as a cooperative tasting room to showcase and taste his wines as well as the wines of Vineyards that don’t have their own tasting rooms. Since I was there last the deli next door was converted into another tasting room.

2016 Saltbird “Roseate”

This is the first wine I’ve tried from this producer. Made from a Syrah and Cabernet Franc blend, medium pink, crushed strawberry on the nose, light fruit, low acid, a little neutral but easy drinking.

 

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Kontokosta Winery  825 North Road, Greenport

This winery is a fairly new one on the east end wine scene with the North Fork’s “first and only waterfront winery and tasting room”. About as far East as you can get on the north fork of the island near the town of Greenport. It’s a huge if a little sterile, property with views of the Long Island sound.

2016 Rosé

A blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Light copper in color, honeydew on the nose with green herbs on the fruit, low acids.

 

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Laurel Lake Vineyards  3165 Main Road, Laurel

A small vineyard owned by Chilean and American vintners.

2016 “Lake Rosé”

Made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Pale pink in color, cantaloupe on the nose, juicy melon notes on the fruit, moderate acidity.

 

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Paumonok Vineyards  1074 Main Road, Aquebogue

One of the original wineries founded in 1983

2016 Rosé

A Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend. Rust in color with asparagus notes on the nose with crisp cherry notes on the fruit.