On Day #16 of spring training, the Mets played their first game. Rafael Montero got off to a rocky start giving up four runs in the first inning. The Mets were never able to recover and lost to the Nationals 9-4. On Day #3 of my grand tour, I decided to do the Oregon Trail. No, I’m not talking about the Lewis and Clark expedition that explored the country west of the Missouri River, but Oregon Road west of Bridge Lane on the North Fork on Long Island.
First stop on the Oregon Trail was Shinn Estates, which was founded by Barbara Shinn and David Page, a pair of native Midwesterners who met in the late 1980’s while in the Bay Area. After immersing themselves in Northern California art and cuisine, they moved to NYC and opened Home in Greenwich Village, one of the first farm-to-table restaurants on the East Coast. In 1998, after a successful career in the New York culinary world, they decided to reconnect with nature and purchased the historic Tuthill homestead on Oregon Road in Mattituck, NY. There they planted 20 acres of grapevines and built an estate winery and Farmhouse B&B. Today, the Shinn team (viticulturist Barbara, vintner and distiller David & winemaker Patrick Caserta) utilize holistic farming techniques and sustainable agriculture to produce both wine and spirits.
Being a regular at Shinn, my first question to Barbara (who was manning the tasting room) was “Any new releases in the past few weeks?” There were two: the Coalescence and the Rosé, both from 2015. The Coalescence was a harmonious blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling, that was both tangy and refreshing. Next was their rosé, which I had tasted last year at their annual futures dinner. A year ago it had a noticeable sweetness, which had entirely disappeared during fermentation and was now dry. I ended my tasting with the “no sulfites-added” 2013 Diaphanous, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. While delicious now, this wine needs to be cellared for a few years. So, I took home a couple of bottles; one to taste in a year or two and one to save for the long run. On the way out, I ran into Patrick who was bottling the new Sauvignon Blanc.
Continuing down Oregon Road, the next stop was Lieb Cellars, an 85-acre sustainable farm and was founded in 1992. In 1999, under the direction of Australian-born winemaker Russell Hearn, they introduced their first wines. Russell worked in New Zealand, France and his native Australia before moving to the States to work for La Reve (now Duck Walk) on the South Fork. He became the winemaker at Pellegrini Vineyards in 1991, where he made wine for almost two decades. In 2000, he was one of the founding partners for the Premium Wine Group, a custom crush facility in Mattituck and in 2012; he became the fulltime winemaker at Lieb Cellars. In addition to producing a wide range of wines, Lieb has expanded into non-bottle formats (boxes and kegs) and in 2004 they introduced the Bridge Lane series of “every day” wines (which I’ll be tasting when I visit the Bridge Lane tasting room later in my tour.) Lieb has one of the larger tasting rooms on the North Fork with ample space (and a deck during the warm months) to relax with friends over a glass of wine. I first did a comparison of their two sparkling wines: The 2010 Blanc de Blanc (a Methode Champenoise wine that is 100% Pinot Blanc) and the 2013 Reserve Sparkling Rosé (made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). I preferred the Blanc de Blanc. I finished with their dessert wine, a deliciously smooth “ice wine” made from a blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Which went exceedingly well with the artisanal chocolates that were for sale in the tasting room..
Time for some lunch. So, I headed down Cox Lane to the main road in Cutchogue for a quick stop at Karen’s Country Deli. In keeping with my wine theme, I ordered the “Wolffer” (ham, turkey, American cheese, red onion & Italian dressing.) (Karen has named many of her sandwiches after wineries, which is a whole other “grand tour”). Then back on the trail again for some more exploration, to the first outpost out east: now called Castello di Borghese. The first winery on Long Island was Hargrave Vineyards, established by Louisa and Alex Hargrave in 1973. After an extensive search, they purchased an old potato farm in Cutchogue and founded their vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island, thus launching the region’s wine industry. After 27 growing seasons, they decided it was time to move on and sold their vineyard to Marco and Ann Marie Borghese, who established Castello di Borghese Vineyard. Evie Kahn, the tasting room manager, explained “Borghese continues in the no-nonsense approach of the Hargraves and concentrate their efforts on producing great wine without getting sidetracked in the agro-entertainment business.” At Evie’s suggestion, I did a couple of illuminating side-by-side comparisons. First was the 2013 Barrel-fermented Chardonnay compared with the 2013 steel fermented Chardonnay. This was followed by a Pinot Noir tasting: 2013 and the 2014 Select. If you can do it, side-by-side comparisons are both instructive and fascinating as they highlight the differences in both vintage and processing variations.
The final stop was at Martha Clara. After the Entenmann Family sold their business in 1978, Robert Entenmann purchased a potato farm and transformed it into a thoroughbred horse farm on the North Fork of Long Island. As the neighboring potato farms began to give way to vineyards; Robert decided to join the winemaking club and planted 18 acres of grapes in 1995, naming the vineyard after his mother Martha Clara Entenmann. The vineyard has since grown to over 100 acres and since 2007 has been producing wines under the guidance of experienced winemaker Juan E. Micieli-Martinez. Juan, who has been involved in wine (and craft beer) industry since 1999, brings a unique perspective to winemaking at Martha Clara. First up was the 2014 Pinot Grigio. With notes of honey and pineapple, this high acid wine was an excellent way to start the tasting. Next was a trio of reds: 2010 Syrah, 2013 Malbec & Merlot blend and the 2013 Northville (a mostly Merlot Bordeaux blend). Surprisingly, my favorite was the 2010 Syrah, a grape I don’t normally enjoy. Possibly, it was the 3% Viognier that was blended into the wine. While 3% does not sound like much, in the world of blending (much like the world of cooking) a small addition can make a big difference. Just over 5 weeks (37 days) to the Mets home opener.
Today’s Line Score: 4 wineries, 14 wines and 144 miles.
Season Statistics: 11 wineries, 37 wines and 433 miles
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