Another visit to the North Fork, Part Two

Shinn Tasting Room

Shinn Tasting Room

The fun continued after Paumanok with a repeat of our March lunch at the delicious Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. This eatery came highly recommended, and again there was a wait. Luckily Love Lane has a wonderful cheese shop, bookstore with an appropriate selection of wine books, and a tasting room for Roanoke Vineyards across the street to browse while you wait.  Again, lunch did not disappoint, and I treated myself to a nice red from Lenz who we visited in March.

It was then on to nearby Shinn Vineyards Estate for our Winery tour.  The $20 included a tasting flight afterwards of four of their wines.

A little background on the owners: David Page and Barbara Shinn met in California while he was a chef and she an art student. They later moved to New York City and opened a farm-to-table restaurant called ‘Home,’ now a local legend, and where they first paired New York state wines with their local cuisine.  They would go on to do this in another restaurant they opened on the island before buying the Tuthill farmhouse estate that later became their winery. Rustic lodging and paired local food and wine are still on the menu at their bed-and-breakfast, and this experience is one we are coming back for.

Shinn's biodynamic vineyards

Shinn’s biodynamic vineyards

They then planted 20 acres of vines, and it became the first winery and inn on the east coast to be fully powered by alternative energy. The winemaking too, is biodynamic, furthering their belief in harnessing the power of mother nature to create their wine. Barbara grows the grapes using holistic sustainable farming methods and ‘whatever grows or is left by nature around the vines’ including grape compost, animal manure and the local fauna and flora. David joins their winemaker Patrick Caserta to ferment, bottle, and get the wine to you and restaurants around the region.

The tour was more than I expected. I was not only excited myself but excited for my sister-in-law to get this behind-the-scenes experience. Owner and vintner David Page himself took us into the fermenting tank room in an old barn on the premises, gave the group the background on their winery and principles, and then let us listen to the tanks to hear the fermenting in action.

Owner/vintner David Page and fermenting Cabernet Sauvignon

Owner/vintner David Page and fermenting Cabernet Sauvignon

From there, we went into the barrel room, where many barrels of French oak were busy fermenting wine and large oxygen-proof bins were busy fermenting grapes.  They do not add any indigenous yeast here. All of the fermenting occurs naturally as the weight of the grapes compresses upon itself and initiates the process. There were barrels from several cooperages and they use both new and used oak barrels, as do most wineries. This allows for varying levels of oak as the older used barrels will impart less of their flavor into the wine. Eventually they will be rotated out after a few years of use.  And, as I learned in Bordeaux, different woods each impart different aromas and flavors depending what forest and cooperage they come from. You have very different results from a forest in northern France than you do in the south. You could feel the heat in the containers from the fermenting.

As we exited we passed through the ‘wine archive’ where they had wines from vintages reaching back many years. I can see now why this winery was recommended. It’s experiences like this that keep my passion alive.

We then made it to the tasting room where each of us picked 4 of their wines. I opted for 2 reds and 2 whites. My wife and her sister shared with me some of the wines which I hadn’t selected. One was the Coalescence, a white blend that was my favorite of the whites. It had a nice ‘zing’ to it, but I think maybe the Gewürz pushed it into the ‘like’ territory for me.  I also tried their ‘Wild Boar Doe,” a red Merlot-driven Bordeaux blend ($30) that was pleasant. But the Merlot was in my opinion most impressive and that is the bottle I brought home and am enjoying now. I have had a lot of fine Merlots, from California to St. Emilion to right here on the North Fork, where many of these winemakers are doing great things with it.

Shinn 2009 Estate Merlot

Shinn 2009 Estate Merlot

At $27 it is average price for a better one in the region. I usually have access to bottles of this quality and premium for less, so I have no complaints with the extra spend to support local growers and vintners if the quality is there. They are not mass-produced, and so you are supporting their hard work and great results.

This one is very good. To me. very good = premium price. It’s up there with some of those I had in Bordeaux in October and paid way more than this to obtain. The color was an expected deep ruby. On the nose was subtle vanilla and oak and wafts of enticing black cherry.  On the palate was more black cherry, oak, chocolate and spice. It has a medium body and acidity with a nice finish, and is well-balanced and delicious all on its own. I intend to pair it with some nice cheese in the coming days. It is unfiltered and unfined like most fine wines, so I expect some residue when I do finish it.  This wine I highly recommend. While it is ready to drink, it can age 5-7 years.

They have also been doing some distilling in alembic (copper pots, known for Cognac) stills, making micro-batches of grape and fruit brandy. Their wines are available in restaurants and shops all over New York city and Long Island.

Visit them at:

Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse

2000 Oregon Road

Mattituck, New York 11952

(631) 804 0367

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