I confess. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd. How else would you describe a person who collected TV Guide covers for over 30 years? Or whose favorite tee-shirt says “I am not a number, I am a free man” (referring to The Prisoner, a cult British show from the 1960’s). Or has an innate knowledge of obscure computer commands. (I’m probably one of the few people around who is actually comfortable going down to system level and using old DOS commands on my PC). Yes, I’ve always been a bit of a nerd. Which is why I love visiting Coffee Pot Cellars on the North Fork of Long Island. Not that their wines are nerdy. Far from it. Winemaker Adam Suprenant makes some of the most sophisticated wines on Long Island. It’s just that the atmosphere in the tasting room is highly conducive to some rather fascinating and intellectually stimulating discussions.
The tasting room is managed by Laura Klahre. She is not only the wife of winemaker Adam, but she is a marine biologist, conservationist, oceanographer, naturalist, professional beekeeper and the proprietor of Blossom Meadow, a company that produces local honey. She is also the resident Mr. Wizard on the North Fork. A recent visit to Coffee Pot (which has nothing to do with Starbucks, but refers to a distinctively-shaped lighthouse off Orient Point at the tip of Long Island) was fairly typical.
“I usually start with the Sauvignon Blanc,” Laura explained, but “I’m so excited about the new release of the Gewürztraminer, I think we should start with that.” The Gewürzt, which includes 8% Reisling, is reminiscent of the finest ones from Germany, and has notes of lychee and pineapple. While I’m sipping the wine, Laura launches into a dissertation on Mason Bees. Mason Bees see primarily orange and blue, only live a month and are fantastic pollinators. We then take a field trip to behind the tasting room where the mason bees were just hatching out of their cocoons and the nesting shelters were buzzing with activity.
We then taste the Sauvignon Blanc, accompanied by a talk about the monarch butterfly. The Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation. It is crisp, refreshing and has aromas of citrus and freshly cut grass with a lingering finish of honeydew melon. To help with their migration, Coffee Pot sells monarch butterfly plant seed kits, so “Monarch Moms and Dads” can help establish a habitat for the butterflies by planting milkweed, which in a brilliant marketing move is now called Monarch Plants.
Next up is the 2012 Chardonnay and another field trip. The chard is aged in neutral oak barrels with no malolactic fermentation. The wine has aromas of fresh cut apple and orange zest and has a crisp citrusy acid finish. In front of the tasting room, Laura showed me her solar wax melter, which is used to convert wax from old bee hives into pure bees wax, which is then used to make candles.
We move on to the reds with a 2009 Merlot. The Merlot is a single vineyard wine, with the grapes exclusively from the McCullough Vineyard in Aquebogue. With aromas of black cherry, dried herbs and cocoa, the Merlot is medium bodied, well balanced and screaming out for some Long Island duck. We now talk about the “Feed a Bird, Plant a Tree” campaign. Available for sale at the winery, ornamental wreaths made from seeds then are only germinated after being ingested by birds. The wreaths are hung outside, the birds pick at the wreaths, hopefully leading to the germination of an indigenous tree.
The last red we tasted was the 2010 Meritage, which is a blend of Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has intense aromas of blueberries and blackberries and has an earthiness that makes it pair well with grilled lamb, braised short ribs or a nice juicy steak. This time our conversation includes discussions on terrariums, recycling wine tote bags, apitherapy (the healing properties of bee products including bee venom), invasive species, the possibility that histamines in some wines can lead to RWH (red wine headache), the “Cheerios Effect” (a phenomenon in fluid mechanics whereby floating objects that don’t normally float are attracted to each another) and the Winasaur. The Winasaur is a piece of public sculpture that is being constructed from used corks from Coffee Pot wine which have been decorated by wine drinkers.
Then it was full circle as we talked more about bees and their critical role in life on Earth and how we need to protect the pollinators by planting food sources for the bees. In the near future, Laura hopes to start a buyback program where she would buy old bee hives from bee ranchers, so she can harvest the beeswax. This fall, Laura will begin her mason bee buyback program whereby bee ranchers will sell their surplus mason bee cocoons to Blossom Meadow, further enabling others to keep these docile solitary bees and enhance the pollination of their own orchards and gardens.
I love their wines, but the real joy of visiting Coffee Pot for me is the scientific dialogues between discussions about wine. It’s like the School of Athens, only Plato and Aristotle are joined by Bacchus. Of course, you can just taste the wine, which is perfectly acceptable as the wine is consistently great. (Adam, who is also the winemaker at Osprey Dominion Vineyards, has been a mainstay on the Long Island wine scene for quite a few years and is an expert at his craft.) And there is absolutely no requirement to participate in the scientific and philosophic discussions. And you don’t have to be a fan of “The Big Bang Theory” to enjoy visiting Coffee Pot Cellars. Nerds and connoisseurs are equally at home. Just don’t ask for a skinny vanilla latte.