Our Sunday Afternoon Tasting Crawl
I’ll spare you the details of our visit to the Tanger Outlets in Riverhead, until we arrived at the Empire State Cellars tasting room, in Tanger One. You didn’t know there was a tasting room in the mall? Well, now you do, and your resistance to visiting the outlets has likely decreased measurably. This well-organized and professionally run tasting room is the brainchild of the folks who own Peconic Bay Winery. No, you can’t taste at the winery. They have closed that site. Yes, you can taste their wines, and many other great NY State wines, right there in the mall.
Marian and I have traveled, wined, and dined in Alsace, France, where they produce some spectacular Rieslings. Most of what we tasted in Alsace never makes it out of France. So, we are always interested in trying domestic Rieslings, recalling the ones we loved in the past. We tasted the 2010 Peconic Bay Riesling, and the Forge Cellars 2012 Riesling from New York State’s Finger Lakes region. These are dry Rieslings, so don’t reach for the insulin.
The Peconic Bay 2010 Riesling ($14.99/bottle) at 11.1% alc is super-dry with amazing minerality. This is a wine for oysters and other raw bar denizens. Dryer than a Muscadet, please do appreciate the craft of the winemaker, and don’t mistake it for an afternoon sipper. Give it the food it deserves, and you will be pleased. Two corks up!
The Forge Cellars 2012 ($26.99) at 12.5% alc was modestly less dry, and we gave it two corks up, as well. Also spare, with pronounced minerality, we did pick up notes of apricot on the nose. Great, but if price is an issue, go for the Peconic Bay. Either way, if you are a dry Riesling lover, you will enjoy these two wines.
On to Raphael Winery
In the early fall, when we could put the top down on the convertible and scoot around, Marian and I ended up on some back road behind the Raphael Winery. Well, months later we finally got through the front door, and found a lively scene in progress. While many winery parking lots were empty on this January afternoon, Raphael had a good crowd, music, and a friendly, inviting atmosphere. Consider it a destination for a cold winter afternoon. A friendly tasting room staff and fellow visitors made our brief visit enjoyable, as did the live music on offer. What did we taste? A trio of reds.
Raphael’s Cabernet Blend ($18.00/bottle) at 12.8% offered some delicious red fruit on nose and palate, with great acid. We both thought this one could take a light chill and be a refreshing summer wine as well as a tractable winter partner with meals. Two corks up for this one.
The 2010 La Tavola Merlot Blend ($20.00/bottle) at 12.9% was had a tarry and smokey presence. It was almost “Bretty” in character, and would complement smoked meats and grilled sausages. For those who like a chewy wine, this one is a keeper.
The 2010 Estate Merlot ($22.00/bottle) at 12.8% was a much more complex wine than the La Tavola. The blend included some Malbec. In combination with the Merlot, it added black fruit and tobacco to the palate. We remarked at how different this wine was from its stablemate the La Tavola. I would serve this wine with a grilled steak, and have no complaints.
So, on that cold and dull winter weekend afternoon, head to Raphael, meet your neighbors, and enjoy some wine and music. You will be glad you did.
We have visited Mattebella Vineyards in warm weather and have enjoyed the congenial atmosphere and relaxed tasting style of this vineyard. On this visit, late on a January afternoon, the weather was blustery and cold. We were welcomed into an inviting and warm tasting room where we enjoyed some of their wine. At Mattebella, a tasting comes with a canape or two, and you will enjoy their generosity. We tried two of their reds.
The Famiglia Red ($20.00) at 12.7% is a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend with lush dark fruit on the nose and palate. We detected a bit pepper from the Cab Franc, and would enjoy this wine with grilled meats. We gave it two corks up.
The 2008 Old World Blend ($35.00) at $12.9% is a jump up in price and complexity. We really enjoyed this wine. (three corks up). It opens with a super black fruit nose and finishes with terrific acid. We were served a delicious Blue Cheese and Fig Jam canape that brought out the best in this tasting. Want something special? Take home a bottle of this one.
Deciding that this tasting couldn’t be topped, we called it quits for the day and headed home. Your take-away is that the wineries are open, there are no crowds, the wine is flowing, and the atmosphere is welcoming. Winter is a great time to visit the North Fork wineries. Enjoy yourselves.
Yes, we are still planning to visit South and First in Greenport, and who knows what else. The good news is that there is no shortage of places to go, people to meet, and wine to taste. Don’t stay home. Go out and enjoy your trip around town.