Friday, July 13, 2012

Sip and Taste From Montauk to the Hamptons Wine Trail

It was a cloudy and cool morning, but it was nice to wake up to the sounds of the ocean from my condo at the Surf Club in Montauk. I threw some sweats on and took a walk to town, stopping at the Continental Deli for a fresh piece of guavaberry bread and some coffee.

After getting a bit of work done, I drove to Wolffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack. I wanted to see the place and taste their wines, but I also wanted to hear about the newly formed Hamptons Wine Trail.

My daughter Sam met me for a day and we sat down with Winemaker Roman Roth to talk about the nearly five years it took for him – along with the Long Island Wine Council – to have this declared a wine region. He explained how the richer soil than the North Folk holds the water better, making for more elegant wines here.

Wolffer grows 50 acres of grapes on the 170 acre Hampton estate. Roth grows a selection of varietals by being honest about what works in this region. I was impressed with the just bottled 2011 Rosé Wine, a combination of merlot (54%), chardonnay (21%), pinot noir (9%), cabernet sauvignon (8%) and cabernet franc (8%).  It had a light lemon flavor with a bit of minerality, making it a good food friendly summer wine.  

At a higher price point, the 2008 Caya Cabernet Franc (with 15% merlot) has a nose full of fruit thanks very careful hand picking, sorting and cleaning. Behind the fruit is a bit of white and green pepper, as well as some licorice.

We took a walk through the downstairs library, barrel and tank rooms at Wolffer before driving to downtown East Hampton for some fresh mozzarella Paninis at Golden Pear. We needed some sustenance before hitting the next winery, Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton.

Alice Dubin was waiting for us at Channing Daughters and started by telling us about the wineries passion for rosés. They make eight unique ones here as well as a few “oranges.” Under that category I tried the 2011 Ramoto, which got its orange color from skin fermented pinot grigio. It spent eight months in oak – long enough to pick up some extra flavor, but not too long to be on the vanilla side. I could taste the baked apples and dried apricots within what was almost a dry rose.

Also impressive at Channing Daughters was the 2008 Clones, made from 10 clones of Chardonnay grown on Long Island, and the 2008 Channing Daughters Sculpture Garden, a distinct blend of 95% Merlot from the oldest vineyard of its kind on the South Fork and 5% Blaufrankisch.

Another interesting thing I learned about Channing Daughters was that they love to teach about wine and offer a series of tasting seminars so that their customers are more aware about what they are drinking.

The final stop of the day was at a winery I had previously tasted. Duck Walk is a fairly well-known Long Island winery on the North Fork. The location there was twice the size of this one, yet size does not always matter.

Just like at the other two wineries on the Hamptons Wine Trail, Duck Walk used their Water Mill location for specific wines, producing 20 wines at this plant. The other difference is in the visitors the winery gets. I was in agreement with the explanation that people who come to this location are here for the Hamptons experience and happen to discover wine here, while those who go to the North Fork have usually traveled there for the wine experience.

Many of the wines at Duck Walk are light and white, which happens to be my favorite kind. We started with the Southampton White, a non-vintage blend of Cayuga and chardonnay that was filled with grapefruit and similar to Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

The 2009 Chardonnay Reserve was very buttery and a little oaky, but not at all smoky, retaining the lightness after eight months in oak.

On the red side, the 2008 Pinot Meunier, a grape that Duck Walk is the only producer on the east coast to make on its own, was a ripe red cherry that I really enjoyed. The 2010 Blueberry Port is just wonderful and must be tasted, as is the 2008 Ice Wine Vidal Blanc, not at all overly sweet, but overflowing with peach and tropical flavors.

Sam and I drove back to the Surf Club to get ready for the Montauk Mixer at South Edison, just down the road from where we were staying. It was nice to meet some of the local business owners and here about the Montauk Music Festival, party boats leaving from the area and the renovation of Navy Beach. We also tasted some interesting food, like the waffles and chicken, but had to save our appetite for a big dinner at Gurney’sInn & Spa.

I think Gurney’s was on Long Island even before I arrived as an 11 year old from the Bronx. Its each location is ideal for a getaway or a meal and the new deck overlooking the beach is a nice add on. Unfortunately, it was a cool night so we didn’t want to spend much time outside, but instead took a window seat.

We started with cocktails and I ordered a Black Cherry Cosmo, with Van Gough Black Cherry Vodka, a splash of triple sec and white cranberry juice. It was very good and went well with the vegetable puree soup. Sam had crab cakes that she said were flavorful.

Both our main courses were excellent. For me it was Goat Cheese Ravioli, with spinach and sundried tomatoes in a truffle cream sauce. Sam had the Bouillabaisse and it was filled to the brim with fresh seafood.

We were both pretty full, but managed to enjoy a few bites of the Montauk Mudd Pie and Gurney’s Cheesecake before heading back to the Surf Club. There was one more Long Island day to come as I began to make my way west. 

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