North Fork, Old and New

North Fork Long Island Wines

North Fork Long Island Wines

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went back to the North Fork of Long Island to celebrate another anniversary. We tried a new B&B just outside the seaside town of Greenport which we became enamored with on previous visits. We stopped at some favorites wineries we’ve visited since we began exploring the region, and ventured out to some new wineries on the scene. Without going into too much repeat detail on visits already documented on this blog, I will name drop the old favorites we re-visited:

Croteaux (home to nothing but great rosés), Lieb Cellars (for some more Bridge Lane Chardonnay-natch), One Woman (great Grüner Veltliner) and ordered some of our favorite Anthony Nappa wines while dining at Noah’s in Greenport and A-mano in Mattituck.

And now on to the new!

Kontokosta Winery

Kontokosta Winery

The first stop was Kontokosta, started by brothers Michael and Constantine Kontokosta. Owners of local inns in Greenport and Aqueboque, the brothers took an interest in winemaking as a result of the locale and, I would assume, their Greek backround. The first vines were planted between 2002 and 2004 with the first wines produced in 2006. With no formal winemaking training, the first wines and the art of winemaking was taught to Michael by Peconic Bay founder and Ackerly Vineyards’ Ray Blum until his passing in 2007. Eric Fry from Lenz helped with the next few vintages at his winery, and Gilles Martin of Sparkling Pointe is currently winemaking consultant and assisted on the 2012 vintage. They sell some of their fruit to other local wineries, and some of the wines are made from the fruit of other local vineyards (including a tribute to Ray Blum from Ackerly Pond), rounding out a nice current line of 8 wines.

It is a stunning state-of-the-art winery replete with modern architecture and sound-side views.There is no detail missing here. The winery building is made with 90% recycled steel and wood and is powered by a giant windmill on the property, with an energy and environmental award to show for it. It is elegant and high-class yet surrounded by beautiful vineyards and a short walk to the northern coast of Long Island with commanding views of Connecticut across the sound.

Duck Walk Pinot Meunier 2010

Duck Walk Pinot Meunier 2010

The rosé and the Cabernet Sauvignon were favorites of mine and I brought one of each home and enjoyed them recently.  Their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc won Best of Class and Double Gold at the International East Meets West Wine Challenge. We enjoyed that one as well. While Chardonnay shows well in the region, they specialize in Loire grapes Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc which also do well here and they do not make a Chardonnay.  If you want their wines, you will have to go to the winery to purchase them.

After a visit to Croteaux, we also made it to Duck Walk North, the other Duck Walk being on the South Fork. We enjoyed many of their wines but the most interesting to me was the Pinot Meunier. This you may know as one of the three grapes used in the production of Champagne and other fine sparkling wines. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the others, and in varying combinations including just the red grapes (blanc de noir) or just Chardonnay (blanc de blanc). Pinot Meunier is a grape I’ve never had on its own before, and you know I can’t resist a new wine experience. It pours out a bright ruby red of medium body. Blackberry, bramble and oak fill the nose and continue on the palate. The tannins were firm but not harsh. A pleasant red wine and a fortunate discovery, as no one else on the east coast makes a Pinot Meunier on its own.

Goose at the Old Field

Goose at the Old Field

Next stop was The Old Field. We tried the first day we were there but they weren’t open (weekends only it turns out) so we were pleased when we tried again that it was open and went in for a visit. This is really an old farm, and is still occupied by numerous chickens, turkeys, and a curious goose, who enjoyed staring at us through the tasting barn window as we tasted through their wines poured by our host and family winemaker Perry. Maybe the goose is a Cabernet Franc fan? We enjoyed their wines and the conversation with Perry and some other customers who we saw earlier in the day at Croteaux.

There was none of the Pinot Noir to be had that day but we did enjoy the wines we tasted, particularly the Cacklin’ rosé, Cabernet Franc and Commander Perry Merlot. This winery’s vines go right down to the water and a private beach, and the space is available for weddings. The property’s documented history goes back to the 1600s and has been in the family’s ownership for 95 years. The first vines were planted there in 1974 and bio-dynamic and organic practices are used, with the chickens providing extra natural fertilizer as well as eggs. Everything is done by hand, from harvesting to labeling each bottle.

Wines on Tap at Martha Clara

Wines on Tap at Martha Clara

We finished the weekend with a visit to Martha Clara Vineyards, owned and operated by the Entenmanns, just across from their family farm. This potato farm was purchased in 1978 to raise thoroughbreds after Robert Entenmann sold off the family bakery business.  In 1995 he caught on to the local vinifera craze and began planting what would become 100 acres of vines.  He named it after his mother, Martha Clara Entenmann.

The tasting room was a beautiful building adorned with large scale classic movie posters, several tasting tables, a private tasting room for events, a gift shop and a large gathering space for snacking while enjoying newly purchased wines. Also to note is all their wines were on tap! They have a new winemaker and the wines were definitely showing well. I was pleased to find the Pinot Noir more developed and ripe than many from the region, and bought myself a bottle. And the nose on that Pinot pleased as well, so you know I was happy.

Célèbrating with Dr. Konstantin Frank Célèbre Rosé NV

Dr. Konstantin Frank Célèbre Rosé

Dr. Konstantin Frank Célèbre Rosé

Wow… after all that snow, we’ve got some spring-like conditions and I’ve got some pink Finger Lakes sparkling wine from the one and only Dr. Kontstantin Frank, some fresh Gruyere Surchoix and Vermont common crackers to celebrate a fun little milestone. The wine is called “Célèbre” and today it is for a celebration of both warm air, sunny skies, and my new membership in the Wine Century Club.

In case you didn’t know, Dr. Konstantin Frank was a German man who came to the region in his 50s and was the first to grow and promote the culture of growing Vinifera vines in Central New York State, in the early 1960s. The New York wine industry was happy growing local varieties and remaining relatively obscure internationally. Dr Frank’s persistence and a new position in researching and experimenting with the old-world European varieties eventually put this region on the world wine map. He had a degree in viticulture and agronomy, experience as manager of a large vineyard in the Ukraine, and an ongoing interest in cold-climate viticulture. All of these helped land him a job at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment station in Geneva, New York. Despite much resistance to the idea that Vinifera could grow successfully in the climate, he succeeded in making believers then, and now. The region is now a blend of great wines made from Vinifera (particularly Riesling in many styles old and new) and many local stars like Cornell’s weather-resistant hybrid Cayuga, ice-wine star Vidal, Niagara and grape-juice-friendly Concord.

The Dr. Konstantin Frank winery has won about 79 gold medals since its inception, as well as awards for pioneering wine-making in the region.  The property, and the wine room are located on a gorgeous plot on a hill above the western coast of Keuka lake. The vineyards are now over 50 years old, making them some of the oldest vines in the country.  They are also the only winery I know to make the ancient varietal Rkatseteli —a racy, dry, peach-pear and honey-laden medium-bodied white.

In the glass, this lovely méthode Champagnoise rosé is a rich pink color with some orange hues. The bubbles are small and refined as a sparkling wine made in this method would display, with a nice consistent fizz stream. On the nose, wild strawberry and raspberry notes abound and on the palate these continue in the flavors therein. It is light and crisp, yet fruity. It also pairs very nicely with the dry hard cheese and the salty crackers. This sparkling wine is made with Pinot Noir and Petit Meunier — no Chardonnay here. I sipped this happily last July when visiting (more on Dr Frank here…) New York’s Finger Lakes region for the first time. I’m not a big bubbly drinker as it goes to my head too fast, but there is an occasion now and then that calls for it and I am enjoying this one again… which of course is why I bought it in the first place.

The Wine Century Club is a wonderful organization with many international chapters that celebrates the exploration of grape varietals. There are thousands out there, and while many of us have tried several, this encouraged me and the other members to go out there and try as many as possible. To fully explore the diversity and potential of the grape. There are several levels, with the initial application and membership beginning at 100 varietals. I am now working on level 2, “Doppel,” and eventually “Treble,” “Quattro,” and “Pentavini.” A few of my fellow favorite wine-bloggers are members and through their writings I discovered the club and began my quest. There are nearly 1,400 members around the world. I might just have to buy the t-shirt.

Next weekend I am heading back to the North Fork of Long Island for another anniversary celebration. I will be sure to review some wines I am yet to discover.  Can’t wait!

Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008

Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008

Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008

Apparently, it’s “National Drink Wine Day.” I thought that was every day. But in any case, please feel free to raise a glass to yourself or a loved one, and enjoy another wine-centric entry on my blog.

Another Christmas has gone by, and another wonderful wine gift from my father-in-law showed up at my door to ring in some merriment. This past year it was in the form of 8 bottles of Tardieu-Laurent Côte-Rôtie 2008. Yes, I am lucky! This time the wine came from my (and now one of his) favorite sources, Last Bottle Wines.  I had the first of these just after Christmas, and in the fray of a busy holiday season, I am finally getting around to writing about it while I enjoy the third.  We shared that first bottle with friends in Washington DC over dinner at their home, and caught up on at least a year of stories. What better way to do it? We paired it with grilled burgers and salmon. A little cold was not stopping a good grilling. The wine went beautifully with both entrées.

As you may or may not know, the laws of the Côte-Rôtie appellation dictate that this wine be 80-100% Syrah, with the other 20% allowed being the more prestigious white grape of the Rhône, Viognier. The rest of the northern Rhône appellations — Cornas, Hermitage, St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage — also require the only red grape in the blend to be Syrah.  Cornas and Hermitage have to be 100% Syrah whereas St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage also permit around 10% of white grapes, which can include Marsanne and Roussanne.  The wines of the Côte-Rôtie are in their own right catching up with the stature, and complexity of the very famous Hermitage and the Southern Rhone’s Châteauneuf. They age beautifully and have been made here for centuries.

The wine is purple in color, smoothly balanced and has well-integrated acidity and tannin. On the nose are ripe black and red fruits, leather, wildflowers and the game and black pepper notes that are classic Syrah. Côte-Rôtie literally translates into the ‘roasted slope,’ paying tribute to the abundant sunshine afforded these steep, eastern-facing slopes. While aspect contributes the sunshine, altitude lends the cooling counterpart needed to perfectly ripen grapes, particularly grapes like Syrah which require ample time to develop fully. The Viognier brings the nice floral note to the wine and the schist soil adds the final piece of the wine’s terroir profile by retaining heat and aiding drainage and root strength. While I don’t know (and don’t want to, being a gift) what they were pricing them at, wine-searcher has the average price for this vintage at $69 a bottle.

It is delicous yet again. I better save the rest for a while, but it is hard to resist such an elegant and structured wine.

Finding Devotion in the Cold and in Wine

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

This is my entry in the monthly wine writing challenge (#MWWC7). If you like it, go over to their website and vote for it.  And please take time to enjoy my fellow wine-bloggers’ wonderful entries as well. And now…

While I’ve truly enjoyed both of the wines below in this cold snap, they share some common threads and inspire my own story on the theme of devotion, this month’s topic, chosen by last month’s winner, SAHMmelier. I’ve been enjoying reading all the entries from my fellow wine bloggers.

The last 3 weeks have brought epic amounts of snow to my front door. This has had some negative implications. To name a few: back-breaking shoveling, dangerous driving and lots of cold. But also, some positives such as ski trips, extra days spent home with family, and time and reason to open some additional wines and catch up with my reading on my favorite subject.

Land of Nod Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Wine

I wrote up our visit to this rustic Connecticut family winery about 18 months ago and briefly mentioned my enjoyment of this wine among the several tasted. You can read that here. I don’t know what took me so long to open the bottle I brought home. Maybe just that I was collecting so many more and determined to visit as many wineries and try as many different wines as possible since then. I’d say mission accomplished. There it was sitting on my smaller rack, and I was craving something sweet with a little heat for a night cap. As soon as I opened it, it brought back the pleasant recollection of that first tasting.  On the nose, this wine IS a dessert in itself. Rich cocoa notes paired with aromatic raspberry fruit waft from the glass, as well as obvious alcohol. At 17% abv, it’s no lightweight. Yet everything was so smoothly integrated, and I found myself not needing any actual dessert to accompany it, though I did pair it with one or two Valentine’s chocolates to much success.

Land of Nod Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Wine

Land of Nod Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Wine

I then returned to more of the wine itself, as it was fitting my mood precisely. And, that kick from the alcohol certainly kept me warm and cozy.  I shared some with the family and everyone agreed this is a delicious little gem from the northwest corner of our state. I pass there often on my way to hike or ski the beautiful Berkshires and Appalachians, and I will be stopping in again for more. A nationally recognized bicentennial family farm going back to before the American Revolution, I would surmise the Adam family are well-devoted to agriculture and their surroundings, and the wines are just another successful side of their endeavors with a passion that shows in the product. At the time I don’t think I knew that I’d have fallen even deeper for the subject and craft that is wine, but that devotion is alive and well today, and even stronger.

2011 Corvallis Cellars Pinot Noir

While Pinot Noir isn’t normally the big winter-warming red one would reach for in the cold, I can’t keep away from this grape, and recently just about everything I’ve been eating has been a better pairing with Pinot Noir than a big red like Cabernet. Make it a Willamette Pinot and well, I succumb to it’s allure. And, being wine, it warms me up just fine, even at 13% abv. This Corvallis Pinot Noir came from a local shop and while not a 90+ point example with a price tag to match, I can’t justify that cost for everyday drinking. I love finding values for my daily sips and this one that my wife brought home does a nice job of exemplifying the style in the region on a budget. A little less rich in fruit and spice and a shorter finish than the top dogs in the region, but enough to enjoy with a good meal, and thereafter. Definitely a value at $16.

2011 Corvallis Cellars Pinot Noir

2011 Corvallis Cellars Pinot Noir

This of course brings me to my own steadfast devotion to Pinot Noir, and those from this region in Oregon that started my full-blown enthusiasm for the wine world.  I have my father-in-law to thank for those six bottles of Patton Valley Pinot Noir he sent me for Christmas in 2010. At that time I had only interviewed for my first career in the wine business. And here I am today, fully entrenched in the field, or should I say vineyard. A few months later while studying for the first of my WSET certifications offered at my new wine job, I began this blog to further my own education, and share my stories and learning in the process.  My first blog entry was a Pinot Noir, my last entry was a Pinot Noir, and here we are again. I imagine there’s many in between. In everyday application, I tell my customers my stories, and my devotion to it, and pass on that enthusiasm in the process, hopefully making new fans of the grape and the region. I have many more in my cellar that I’m saving for a special occasion. And my eyes light up every time I discover a new one.

I have also been using this extra time to finally get through the majority of my latest wine-read, Neil Rosenthal’s “Reflections of a Wine Merchant.” There’s nothing more exciting and educational for me than first-hand accounts of another wine lover who has devoted his life to the subject and turned that passion into a career. Meeting and courting vignerons both world-recognized and virtually unknown, and the ups and downs of each journey to their cellars and the business made or lost in each experience makes for an eye-opening read. I recently enjoyed Lawrence Osborne’s own memoir on the subject, “The Accidental Connoisseur” (which I very much see myself as). I look forward to my next adventure, with Kermit Lynch’s “Adventures on the Wine Route“.  Throw in all the trades I keep on top of, tasting, collecting and cataloging my own cellar, and sharing my experiences with you all here, and its just a wonderful way for me to also try and inspire devotion in you, my readers. And there is so much more to come.

Cheers!

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

If you know me you know I worship Pinot Noir. And if you know me well, you know I love Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. And since those wines sent me into a full-on frenzy of tasting Pinots from around the world over the following years, I discovered many other regions where they were producing amazing results (Burgundy aside). The region this one is from may be an obvious one to many a Pinot-lover, but for me all of this discovery happened more recently. Lately I’ve really been honing in on a second-favorite region for Pinot Noir, California’s Russian River Valley (though Carneros is not far behind). While I’m plotting my first Rochioli purchase, I drink a lot of this stuff and I need something a little more friendly to my budget.  Enter this lovely Laurel Cellars Pinot Noir. My colleague at work lives nearby and so we frequent the same shops. You know, for when I need something not from my company’s line… She recommended this one knowing my love for the grape, and this bottle I’m reviewing is actually my second. I drank the first one before I got around to writing about it. Again, I am down to the end of this bottle and just making absolutely sure I get to it this time. But that in itself is compliment enough.

On the nose there is smoky cedar, wild red berries and some leather and even a gamey meat note.. pancetta maybe? On the palate, there is cherry pie, wild raspberry, white pepper and more wood. The fruit is ripe yet expressive and complex, the acids and tannins very well-integrated, and the body and finish a happy medium. It is developed even more today, the third day since I opened it. A lovely wine and the reason why these never last in my house. Abv is 13.5 pct, and at $20, a great value to get such a delicious example of what’s being done in this region.

Shatter 2011 Grenache

Shatter 2011 Grenache

Shatter 2011 Grenache

One of my favorite new discoveries of late is this wine. While at a new restaurant in town a few weeks ago, the waitress insisted I at least try this wine and brought me a sample. She thought it was fantastic, and she was right. I loved this rich juicy red – it went equally well with my gourmet mac and cheese as it did with my strip steak with green chimichurri sauce. A few days later, I saw it in my local wine store at $30 and bought it immediately. I was sold by the 2 glasses I had at the restaurant, for sure. While back there last week for dinner I was eager to have my father try it but it was all out already, and that waiter too was raving about it.

It comes from the Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes in France. Geographically its in the Pyranees-Orientals department of France – in the wine world, Roussillon. As this wine does not adhere to the Cotes du Roussillon appellation rules, it falls within this VDP. But to fall would imply it is bad, which it is certainly not!

On the nose it has ripe black fruit as well as some bright strawberry notes, as well as obvious oak. On the palate it packs a punch of fruit and acidity with moderate tannin and full body. It lingers a while, the fruit still going. There’s also a good kick of alcohol there which you can taste but its also quite well-integrated for being almost 16%. Just a great wine. I am buying another the next time I am there and maybe more than one for that matter. I love it on its own or with food.

Variations on a Theme

Anam Cara 2010 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir

Anam Cara 2010 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir

I Just returned from a nice trip (well except for the travel part) to Washington DC, where I went to visit a dear old friend. And of course I couldn’t just takeover his life and his room for two days without bringing something to share. I picked a few bottles I’ve been wanting to try and we enjoyed them very much. Amusingly, I realized there was an unintentional theme going here.

The first was a 2008 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir. Ruby-garnet in color, it had a beautiful nose of luscious cherry fruit, leather and toasty oak with white pepper, cherry pie and cedar on the palate. Vibrant, well-balanced and clean. A medium, fruit-filled finish. A classic Oregon Pinot and an example of why I love Pinot from this region so much. It is their flagship wine and includes fruit from all 5 blocks of the vineyard.  It received 90 pts from Parker, Tanzer, and Wine Enthusiast. Indeed. A great wine and great price for the quality and the region, at $35. Abv is 13.5% which for a Pinot Noir packs a good kick, as these are well-ripened on the high hills of the Chehalem.

Nicolas Granata 2003 Malbec

Nicolas Granata 2003 Malbec

Next up was a Nicolás Granata 2003 Malbec. See the theme yet? Fed by fresh water from the Andes this just-south-of-Mendoza beauty from Luján de Cuyo was ripe and rich. Hand-picked grapes fermented in steel and then aged in fine French barriques make a smooth and very balanced Malbec that exemplifies the region’s best.

The hot daytime temperatures and sunshine mean well-ripened grapes and the cooler evening temperatures at over 3,000ft up guarantee good hang time as well to preserve the acidity and keep the resulting wine balanced. Cocoa notes abound and compliment the black and red fruit and the elegance of the oak rounds it out.  I purchased this wine after tasting it at the “Wine into Water” benefit tasting I mentioned in my last blog. If I recall correctly it is named after the winemaker’s son and he only makes it every four years as a special edition. Wine Enthusiast gave it 86 points.  Average price was about $50 and abv was 14%.