It was a drier, sunny summer day. We started at Lenz in Peconic. Founded in 1978, this is one of the wineries I used to visit when I lived in Queens back in the 80’s. I had not yet had my wine awakening and used to take the 120 mile drive out on “the island” to spend the day doing something adult, whenever the opportunity arose. I was glad to see they were still on the list of recommended wineries to visit. They have 70 acres of vines growing a good mix of reds and whites. You enter a rustic, vine-covered barn that serves as the tasting room. There in the middle of a long stretch of bar we met Jordan. He was soft-spoken but very engaging and knowledgeable about Lenz wines, and the region. Everything at Lenz is estate grown. They offered two different flight options (both of which we chose): the Estate Flight ($7) included their blanc de noir, Gewürztraminer, white label and gold label Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and estate selection Merlot. The Premium Flight ($12) included their cuvees, old vines chardonnay, old vines Cabernet Sauvignon, and old vines Merlot.
As we went through the tasting we learned that Jordan is a teacher working in the winery during the summer (my wife is a teacher, drinking wine during the summer). He asked us where else we had been and stilled planned to go. It was good to have my recommendations confirmed by him, and he gave us several corks with his recommendations on them and said we should give them to whoever poured for us at those wineries. The wines were very good and since it was early and no one else was in the tasting room we took our time enjoying them. After buying a nice little four pack we exited the tasting room to a tree filled courtyard with barrels stacked high on one side, an area with tables and chairs off to another side, the vines on another, and in the center was a grouping of Adirondack chairs around a table, under a mature tree, and that’s where we decided to linger.
Sitting there enjoying the comfortable chairs, the sun and shade, and the pleasant euphoria that comes with tasting ten different wines on a relatively empty stomach Jordan walked by on his way to another of the winery’s buildings. He stopped to ask if we would like to enjoy a glass fo wine out there. We said what the heck and ordered their gold label chardonnay. We had a cooler in the car with a picnic of bread, cheeses, olives, and charcuterie to enjoy with that chard. We really had a good time at Lenz.
Next we went to Shinn Estate Vineyards. On their 20 acres Barbara and Dave Shinn use sustainable farming practices and 100% hand harvesting to create their wines. By this time the day was getting a little hotter and the small, also rustic tasting room was not air-conditioned. The room had several functional pieces for sale of things made from wine barrel staves: votive candle holders, tables with storage, chandelier type light fixture, etc. They didn’t have a tasting bar set up like most of the other wineries. You sat at a small glass table with a tasting menu and chose from a la carte selections. There was only one other gentleman in the room who was obviously doing a professional tasting (he was spitting). He had a female companion with him who was not participating in the tastings and was waiting for him outside under the grapevine covered arbor. Unfortunately this was not our favorite tasting room experience. Our pourer was a woman bent on multi-tasking. There was virtually no engagement with us as she periodically appeared to take our order of the next wine we’d selected on our own from the tasting menu, then returning to her laptop and phone calls.
The other gentleman made one final selection, scratched some notes in his book and then quietly left without buying anything or exchanging any words with the woman who was pouring. I had heard many good things about this vineyard so I was giving it the benefit of the doubt that our tasting experience was not a true reflection of the personality of this winery. I follow Barbara Shinn on Twitter. We left buying two bottles, the Wild Boar Doe, and the 2010 Coalescence, their Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Merlot blanc, Riesling blend. It was not unpleasant but no whoop about their tasting room experience though.
Mid-afternoon and we had a great and then a blah experience so far and needed to bring things back up a notch. We started cruising some of the many farm stands, large and small that line both Route 25 (Main Street in most towns out there) and Route 48 (Middle Road). At Wickham’s Farm Stand (yeah, they even have a website!) in Cutchogue we picked up a cantaloupe, some bread and butter pickles and a jam the Asian woman I presumed owned the stand said she was calling Patriotic jam because it was made from red, white, and blue fruits – raspberries, apples, and blueberries. In Mattituck we stopped into an ice cream stand that had obviously been around a while, Magic Fountain. A little to do was going on in the parking lot when we pulled up as two old men in an equally old Lincoln Continental side swiped a suv’s rear door while backing out of their space. The woman in the passenger seat of the suv leaps out of the car and throws herself in front of the Lincoln whose driver was going to continue to back out and leave. Risky for her considering the driver didn’t appear to even know he had hit their car. Then we noticed that she was a mother going from zero to 75 into mama bear mode. She was livid and screaming at the two old men that her baby was in the seat near the door they had hit. Ok so all of this hullaballoo is going on while we’re trying to get us some ice cream. Studying the menu we notice that they seem to have some interesting flavors.
|Year Round FlavorsVanilla
Lots of Stuff
Cookies and Cream
Kahlua & Cream
Peanut Butter Fudge
Pralines and Cream
Chocolate Fudge Brownie
Chocolate Raspberry Truffle
Black Cherry Bourbon
Chocolate Chocolate Chip
Red Velvet Cake
Key Lime Pie
Vanilla Swiss Almond
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk
Vanilla Raspberry Truffle
Red Wine Strawberry
White Wine Peach
Then there were the special flavors: Goat Cheese, Sweet Corn, Chocolate Chili, and Coconut Avocado. We have some studying to do and find out that we can pick three flavors each for the size we’re ordering. I picked Black Cherry Bourbon, Sweet Corn, and Caramel Apple. Suzanne chose two – Peach Melba, and Chocolate Fudge Brownie. The Black Cherry Bourbon was nothing to write home about but I really liked the Sweet Corn and the Caramel Apple. That was very refreshing stop.
Back to Peconic, in fact down Peconic Lane we found the brand new Winemakers Studio. It calls itself a cooperative tasting room. Lead by Anthony Nappa, head winemaker at Shinn Estate Vineyards, the Winemakers Studio features private label wines made by some of Long Island’s best winemakers such as Roman Roth, winemaker at Wolffer Estate Vineyards bottling his own – Grapes of Roth. Russell Hearn bottles Suhru wines while working as winemaker for Pellegrini. There is a big blackboard behind a bar listing the wines currently being featured.
We sit at one of the small tables near the window looking out on the small street lined with interesting little shops. We meet Chris Fanjul who tells us a little something about the studio and the artist in residence Corey Solinger’s work lining the walls. We study the a la carte menu and start with Anthony Nappa’s Luminous Riesling and Spezia Gewurztraminer.
From the Grapes of Roth we tasted the Dry Riesling and the Late Harvest Riesling.
Then we tried Russell Hearn’s Suhru Shiraz Rose.
What a nice way to enjoy an afternoon. I haven’t felt this relaxed on a vacation in years. You could ask Suzanne, my vacations have actual itineraries with every minute accounted for from start to finish. Several other parties came and went as we lingered here as out last tasting of the day. By the time we made up our minds to go we bought the two Anthony Nappa wines and the Late Harvest Riesling from the Grapes of Roth.
Feeling extremely lazy we go back to our cheap but very clean motel room to relax for a while, try to catch some wifi/3G action before giving consideration to where we will eat dinner. Browsing all of my guides, and brochures (I work in tourism so I gather everyone’s collateral everywhere I go) I have it in my mind that I really want to Greenport to Cuvee, the wine bar in the Greenporter Hotel. One of the disadvantages of visiting places mid-week is that occasionally the places you may want to visit are closed. Such was the case with Cuvee. We park the car downtown and try to come up with a plan B. Of course if you’ve ever spent five minutes in Greenport you’re going to figure out that there’s this place called Claudio’s. Actually there’s four places called Claudio’s, all in the downtown span of this quaint looking fishing village of shops and restaurants. They have a Fine Dining Restaurant, a Clam Bar, a Marina Restaurant, and a place called Crabby Jerry’s which reminded me of a place we ate at in Key West called Crabby Dick’s. I was assuming that the whole Claudio’s operation was tourist trap thing and maybe the locals do think that but we chose the main restaurant. At Cuvee I had been planning a tapas and tasting kind of evening so we decided to try the same thing at Claudio’s once we saw the menu and how many local wines were served. Still in tasting mode we each ordered the white wine flight. It included three wineries we knew we would not be visiting during this trip – Jamesport Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Pugliese Pinot Grigio, and Claudio’s private label, wild ferment Chardonnay from Roanoke Vineyards. With the flight we ordered a Cajun Dusted Calamari served with banana peppers, red onion relish, and chipotle aioli, and unbelieveably tender stuffed clams.
Deciding not to order entrees we did pick a Spinach Stuffed Brie with crushed pistachios and a strawberry reduction.
We enjoyed the wines but we could not believe how much we liked the Claudio’s private label wine from Roanoke Vineyards. I would never think to order the house wine anywhere, just as I would usually not eat in a restaurant I suspected was a tourist trap but this whole evening was a surprise. We each ordered a glass of the house wine. The chardonnay was made from mature vines, hand-picked and fermented with its own wild yeasts. Bright and crisp, citrus with a creamy, full mouthfeel, this wine definitely made the short list of favorites during our summer of discovering we really do like chardonnay. That was Day Three.