As I mentioned in the previous entry, last week my wife and I went to a wine tasting and pairing of Long Island Winery (surprise, surprise) Channing Daughters and NYC’s perhaps best-known cheese monger, Murray’s. It was part of “New York in New York Week” and was held at City Winery, at their Tribeca location. There is also one in Chicago. This winery is not only a winery, but a top-notch music performance venue where I go to see some of my favorite solo or group performers in an intimate seated dinner setting, with the benefit of a fantastic wine selection. As a premier vinofile member, I am entitled to advanced ticket purchases, among other things. The tasting table was beautiful, positioned directly adjacent to their barrel room for maximum ambiance. The rattling of the subway below added some unmistakable NYC flare, but not enough to do any damage to the glassware or experience.
You already know about my love for the wines coming out of the North Fork of Long Island, though I have never tried one from the South Fork. This area has three wineries vs. the 40 or so on the North Fork. Channing is located in Bridgehampton; the Hamptons being more known for celebrity mansions and beaches. I have heard great things about their wine and I was not disappointed. My wife had her first ‘orange wine’ from Channing. These are fermented on the skins like red wine but from white grapes. You will therefore also get the tannins and body more like a red wine. Some are also slightly oxidized, giving you similar aromas to sherry wine. They are a bit of a hot fad these days and getting a fair share of criticism from skeptics or wine purists however they’ve been making them like this for millenia in the region now known as the countries of Georgia and Slovenia, so perhaps those critics should do their homework. They tend to be more expensive as they are not made in large scale. And you can pair them with meat just as easily as fish, and in any order. Channing is one of the few US winemakers to make the wine under the guidance of head winemaker Christopher Tracy, the first being in 2004.
That night, it was Christopher himself guiding us through 5 of their wines paired with 5 fine cheeses under the guidance of Murray’s Cheese expert Beth. Currently a candidate for the MW program, he has many qualifications from the Sommelier Society, the WSET and Certified Wine Educators. But best of all, he has a very friendly, unpretentious and accessable demeanor that made the experience a joy. Everyone interprets wine differently, and a good educator is not only someone who can teach and loves the subject, but one that makes it fun and accessable. My WSET instructor was the same way, and learning with him only amplified my passion for the subject as I studied. He invited us to visit the winery this summer and ask for him personally. That’s a no-brainer. The 5 wines and tasting /pairing notes below.
Sylvanus 2010 – A hand-picked , whole-cluster pressed, bone dry and aromatic blend of 60% Muscat, 30% Pinot Grigio and 10% Pinot Blanco. The grapes were grown, harvested and fermented together. The wine is named after the vineyard and a legendary ‘green man’ who they honor ( I meant to get the story on that, but did not). Its purpose is capturing terroir and time and place. Both steel and oak fermented, it was tangy and lively with floral, grapefruit and honeysuckle notes. Paired with La Tur cheese, a creamy cow, sheep and goats milk blend described as ‘ice cream without the sweet’.
Pinot Grigio 2010 – a pleasantly citrus-tinged wine with chalky minerality and pear fruit that were to me extremely reminiscent of Loire Chenin if I didn’t know any better. Definitely not the bulk type Pinot Grigio that gives it a bad rap outside of those in regular contact with good wine. Also grown and harvested by hand and fermented in both oak and steel. Actually its 88% Pinot Grigio and 12% Chardonnay. The fruit is both from the Channing vineyards and Mudd West in the nearby North Fork. Paired with Valencay, a wonderful Loire (and hence brilliant match IMHO) pasteurized goat cheese that is cave-aged. A wonderful story behind it too. Its pointed tips reminded Napoleon so much of his failure in Egypt (think pyramids) that he demanded they be removed.
Rosato Di Syrah 2012 – things just got even more interesting, as the next two wines were both rosés, but this one was made from a red grape and the next from a white grape, like the orange wines described above. This one had a nice floral and berry nose and palate with nice body, yet still dry in a Provencal style. After 3-4 hours in the press it is then steel-fermented and made like a white wine in every other way. The fruit was specifically selected and picked for a rosé wine. It paired wonderfully with Berkswell cheese from the West Midlands of England. Dry and musky and delicious, this was my favorite cheese. Lanolin notes and even some wild berry can be found within.
Ramato 2010 – the “orange” wine of the evening (see my description above), its name refers to the original Fruilian style — Pinot Grigio fermented on the skins over a period of 13 days. Pear, citrus, clove spice and baked fruit aromas compliment its nicely balanced acidity and body. To me it was reminiscent and similar to white Pinot Noirs I’ve had a lot of recently. This will pair with just about any meat or cheese out there, and did so with the Vacherin, a creamy Swiss mountain cheese, known for its use in fondue. It is aged 3 months in caves wrapped in cheesecloth.
Due Uve – Last was this Rhône-style Syrah, with 16% Merlot in the blend. The grapes are from North Fork vineyards and are de-stemmed and harvested by hand into bins where they are crushed by foot, punched down and fermented “wild” which means with naturally occuring yeast. Second fermentation is 16 months in neutral oak and it’s unfiltered and gravity-bottled. It had lovely black fruit, stone, pepper and a bit of wildflower notes. Deep ruby, classy and light but I feel strong enough to hold up with spicy dishes. It went great with Cabot clothbound cheddar, an amazing cheese aged 12-13 months and just a little sharp and nutty all at once.
Apparently they also make a Blaufrankisch, an Austrian red variety I have yet to try as well as wines using Tokai and Malvasia. I will be visiting this summer for sure!