Gimme Shelter Island, Fenway Park and North Fork wine

Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.
June 27, 2013
Photo: Michael Godel

as seen on

There is nothing quite like a good road trip. No matter the intended destination, a journey through heartlands, heaving cities and bucolic paths stir, enrich and develop the final stew. A roadhouse in Syracuse, N.Y. The Blue Jays at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass. The Cross Island Ferry to Orient, N.Y. Shelter Island, N.Y. Sag Harbor, Montauk, Amagansett, East Hampton and Wainscot, N.Y. The East Island Golf Club and Greenport, N.Y.

All stops contribute towards what will eventually become a wine region’s interest in laying up the riches of the mind. The eastern tip of Long Island mesmerizes as a sandy headland of bluff and dune begging into the Atlantic. Shelter Island is equally if not doubly halcyon in pace and though tiny in mass, seems enveloped in rainforest-like green and canopy. I traveled across and back, circumnavigated its perimeter and sat motionless on its beaches for hours. Time standing still.

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Shelter Island

Though other visits on the North Fork Long Island wine trail offered a taste of local flavour, the exception and lost time came from a small family operation in Southold. Here are my notes on nine heart struck wines not yet widely discovered.

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Michael and Christine

Mattebella Vineyards

46005 Route 25 (Main Rd)
Southold, NY 11971

North Fork wines have yet to storm cellars and tables beyond metropolitan New York, but it’s not for lack of quality or concupiscence. Case in point Mattebella Vineyards. Drive up the gravel driveway, turn past the herb garden, overgrown fennocchio and try to figure out which quaint little building is the tasting room. Crawl inside, pull up a bench and spend two hours sampling, contemplating and discussing with Christine Tobin what just may be the least known, most complex set of wines you would least likely expect to discover. Walk away feeling a part of the famiglia. Cottage industry incarnate. “We’re so chill here” says Chris. Goosebumps.

Christine Tobin holds the fort while Florida to Southold and back commuter husband/winemaker Mark is away on business. The couple purchased the 1997 planted vineyard in 2005. Their photo resides in that dictionary entry titled “labour of love.” Low density, French existentialist-style, 2200 plants per acre viticulture cursed by an oft-inhospitable, maritime climate is what Chris calls a “lottery ticket” of vines. Chardonnay not to be considered as Mâconnais or Meursault. Bordeaux blends not to be measured by either bank of the Gironde. These wines are expressions of this terroir, this spit of sandy soil a stone’s hurl from the Sound. The Magic of Findhorn.

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Mattebella Vineyards

Famiglia Chardonnay 2009 ($17) is the child of a wet and cold growing season yet composes itself with help from a persistent toast quotient that speaks of new oak. Tart green apple and juicy acidity beg for fatty fare; braised pork belly, buttery, braised rabbit or rillettes of either. Tree fruit brings game, brightly, like tangerine.  88

Famiglia Chardonnay 2010 ($19) spent 18 months in (20 per cent) new oak barrel.  Warmer, tame and propitious with a squeeze of lemon and a dusting of scorched earth. Butternut, in squash and roasted almond as if it were waving to Sebastopol, but only to shout, “hey, we are North Fork Chardonnay.” 90 

Reserve Chardonnay 2010 ($25) squared up the new oak barrel ferment for a butter and marmalade spread so rich and continental I could drink it for breakfast. The toast meets oceanic salinity intimates spa mineral, beach shell and fine stone. Deft winemaking has given this absolute steal structure and length.  91

Rosé 2011 ($18) seeks dry Provence and as far as the savoury strawberry/rhubarb is concerned, in that it succeeds. “A little more stark than in ’12,” concedes Chris, but the length follows a tine and it should never be envisaged as simple and sugary. Amazing what Merlot can concede here for Rosé.  88

Rosé 2012 ($18) is a fleshier, rounder style, savoury still and with more Cab Franc bell pepper. The rhubarb gives way to strawberry gelée and the complexity quotient warms up with a crumble of chèvre.  87

Famiglia Red NV ($18) serves a consistency of style for table wine purpose. A union from many plots and clones that sees some oak and more stainless. Raspberry, currants and tobacco smoke stand out. Perfectly reasonable Vino di Tavola.  86

Old World Blend 2007 ($35) murmurs in melodious tones flecked by iron and anise, like tender-aged IGT. From 667 cases, with black cherry, charcoal and plums rolling away. Tannins have a few lashes left in them. There is something Henry of Pelham ’07 Cab-Merlot about this Matebella. Heading soon to toffee and über relaxed REM sleep. A red to share with “a perfect circle of acquaintances and friends.” What the tasting room felt like on this day.  89

Old World Blend 2008 ($30) produced 489 cases of gorgeous, lush, velvety crimson fruit despite the wet vintage. Whatever underground anxiety may once have unsettled this Lou meets Nico meritage is now long gone. Deft winemaking here. When you’ve got Merlot, you make Merlot. When you’ve got Bordeaux grapes, you make Bordeaux. But this is pure North Fork. “I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don’t know.”  91

Old World Blend 2009 ($35) is the child of a tempestuous vintage, marred by a pittance of fruit set, no need for any drop and therefore only 220 cases produced. This one’s got the funk, smoking coal, pipe tobacco and licorice. Tight, focused and with a quick dissertation heard from the Petit Verdot. Tobin’s consistency of style shows once again, despite the rigours of fighting inconsistent vintages.  92

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Island’s End Golf Club, Greenport, N.Y.

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: Grapes and Peaches

Má Pêche, Momofuku – Duck Two Ways PHOTO: GABRIELE STABILE

as seen on

If I had my little way

I’d eat peaches every day

Eat a peach. Listen to the music. Taste wine. Feel like a president. My wine codex is in full, binary cross-cultural mode. These days I can’t help myself singing (in a quiet whisper) Dave Grohl songs – I’m not even such a big fan of his music! Maybe it’s because he seems to be everywhere; in tweets about the SXSW Festival, on the cover of Delta’s in-flight magazine, on satellite radio in the rental car. Recent wine events and food experiences have left me with the distinct impression that “it’s times like these you learn to live again.”

Passionate chefs, exceptional “100km” wines, and a good cause are a triumvirate for success. Also, a city that never sleeps, a superstar chef’s empirical outpost, and sublime food are a second triad for victory. And what do these two scenarios have in common? Grapes and peaches.

BAAH! The Great Lamby Cook-Off, Thursday, March 21st, 2013, Imperial Ballroom, Fairmont Royal York Hotel

BAAHTony Aspler knows more about wine than just about anyone I know. That he has taken his knowledge, his craft and his contacts in the food and wine world to champion a noble cause, well that is something to be admired. The organization he gives time to is called Grapes for Humanity, globally providing much needed relief to those less fortunate. Mr. Aspler organized yet another memorable GFH event, to benefit a child’s education by constructing a needed school in Guatemala. Twelve chefs, 12 lamb dishes, 12 wine pairings. You couldn’t spit without hitting a sommelier or a local oenologist. Chef Michael Pataran took home the top prize for his Goan Lamb Shoulder with a coconut, chili, lime chutney and paddle skewer. The best wine pairing went to the Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2010, poured alongside Pataran’s “curry”; a double win. Stock Sommelier Zoltan Szabo directed the room with tireless energy.

Here, my favourite three wines at “BAAH”, plus a gorgeous Gigondas tasted in NYC on Saturday night.

From left: Rosewood Estates Merlot 2010, Tawse Merlot ‘David’s Block’ 2010, Norman Hardie ‘County Unfiltered’ Cabernet Franc 2011, and Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Gigondas 2007

Rosewood Estates Merlot 2010 (211896, $22.00) on this night walked a Niagara Wallendian tightrope of balance between heft and deft, sidling effortlessly up to Barque Smokehouse chefs David Neinstein and Tony Starratt’s ‘Mici‘ and travelling further on up the evolutionary road past “enjoyable if unremarkable.” From my earlier note: “Continues to show a reductive note in the form of vanilla and maple syrup, no honey actually, but all signs point to further excellence. High quality chocolate spiked by cherry, orange and a peppery, nasal tickle open up beautifully and expressively towards the dusty, berry main event. Knock your baby’s socks off with this double-stuffed Oreo and let the night unfold.  89 @Rosewoodwine

Tawse Merlot ‘David’s Block’ 2010 ($49.95) from certified organic and biodynamic estate fruit puts the double ‘L’ back in lush. Endowed of a caressing cashmere. Could act as spokesperson for Niagara Merlot announcing, “there are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who like Merlot, and those who don’t.” Calm, confident and marked by an insouciant nature. Earlier note: “Suffers no stenosis and instead flows as a sanguine and savoury riverine expression. Olives and the smokey whiff of yeasty bread on the grill. Not surprising considering the quality of Pender’s lees so often collected and added back to the next generation’s barrels.”  91  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

Norman Hardie ‘County Unfiltered’ Cabernet Franc 2011 ($25) rolls the barrel out from a velvet underground into the Prince Edward County sun, pours singular Foster Vineyard fruit over crushed limestone then infuses the juice with ripe cherries. The warmth of 2010 lingers on in the ’11 CF’s pale blue eyes. Makes “the world as pure and strange as what I see.” Persists as the definitive expression of this grape in The County.  91  @normhardie

Dinner at Momofuku, Má Pêche, 15 w. 56th street, New York City, @momofuku

Má Pêche knows how to treat a lady, the President of the United States, and me. David Chang’s midtown eatery located in the Chambers Hotel opened in April, 2010. The Executive Chef is Paul Carmichael, a Barbados native who transmits Chef’s vision through elegant, restrained and poetic flavours. Carmichael and Chef de Cuisine Johnny Leach compose dishes as colourful canvasses but they are never over-painted nor monochromatic abstractions. Food of distinction and singularly distinct from plate to plate. Vegetables, many of the root kind, are succulent, glossy, al dente, and clearly defined. Service offers no pretense, no hovering, no massaging. Casual and professional. No hipster attitude neither.

Má Pêche AppetizersPhoto: Michael Godel

Má Pêche Oysters
Photo: Michael Godel

Oysters, especially New Brunswick Hurricane and Salt Pond Rhode Island are fresh makers, like spirits moving through the ocean. Washed those suckers down with 21st Amendment “Bitter American” Extra Pale Ale. Spanish Mackerel is a smokey, charred wave of umami with crisp, crunchy romaine and a silken tofu sauce, like citrus-spiked tahini. Barnegat Light Scallops are buttery, whispering, ethereal.


Má Pêche Appetizers

Chatham, MA Cod is foam cloud-enveloped, braised fish and brussel sprout ‘chips’ attenuated by malt vinegar. Jurgielewicz Farm, PA Duck two ways is perfect pink breast accented by candied orange rind and also piquant mici-like sausage, bucked by peppery spice. Provitello Fams, NJ Veal is fall apart, rosy neo-osso bucco, soft, supple and flat out delicious. The only non-wow moment comes from Barnegat Light, NJ Monkfish which shows indifference and a dry, dusty mole that barely mingles with needs to be further-rendered skin.

The wine list is more than thoughtful, embracing many needed food companion varieties, like Sylvaner, Trebbiano, Scheuerebe, Cabernet Franc, Nerello Mascalese and Teroldego. I opted for a southern Rhône Grenache blend imbued with just the perfect amount of age.

Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Gigondas 2007 ($31, Menu: 375 mL $32) of black/crimson mephitic and inky berry blush and lush, full-on sun-drenched fruit has reached full resolve. Licorice, kirsch and stony, meta-anthracite show off in the wine’s perfect window.  Decadent Gigondas.  92

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: Around the world in 20 whites

Photo Credit:

In sweltering times like these the refreshing vigor of white wine is irrefutable and necessary. I would steer you to just about any global example from this list. Standing tall above is a 20th choice, the Terredora Greco di Tufo that I reviewed the other day. The Iberians too are all solid selections.

Stag’s Leap Winery Viognier 2011 (597369, $34.95) tasted twice tarried true to type. Velvety proof found in the pudding, the Viognier’s a Napa squall of plum flowering white in the wind. Apples baking and an Indonesian spice market with the citrus spray of a fresh squeezed grapefruit. Then the wine goes underground, into a heated, peppery lair. “Aww she surely do moves me,” she must be illegal stuff.  89

Ferngrove Cossack Riesling 2010 (275206, $24.95) adventures into herbal grass, spinifex and mangrove musk. Some petrol and shucked mollusk shell join the omnipresent lemon and lime of Aussie Riesling. Like rice pudding wine. The Cossack’s twain marks not in Ukraine. “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”   87

Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (10421, $21.95) formerly known as Voyage, formerly, formerly just Astrolabe. Kiwi non-starter in search of an identity in a sea of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Vegetal asparagus and blanched beans lift a dead bale but a kicking caboose shakes that thing on the finale88

Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (141499, $19.95) does not run with Marlborough’s reliably charitable gooseberry, grass and acidity. “Well it was back in Blind River” when I last saw this SB alive. Young but long on decline.  84

Seifried Riesling 2011 (989541, $17.95) is a robotically off-dry, stone fruit and cold Steve Austin reeking of A16. Blanched, bionic, bitter, sweet and sour gooseberagus. Would fare better as Cantonese chicken balls. Wrestles with identity. Could pass for Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cyborg or Steve Andersen. No matter the Riesling.  85

Vrede en Lust White Mischief 2011 (280156, $16.95) is bees-waxy, dank and yet juicy South African Vin Gris. A kitchen sink of protractive, not so floral smells. Five blended varietals cancel each other out. Pinot Grigio always wins. 87

Meinklang Grüner Veltliner 2010 (219014, $15.95) is some kind of Mostellian edible oil product. S, green herbs and Pam. A snail minus the butter and garlic. Zero acidity, humourless, see that “S” car go.  84

Domaine Gresser Duttenberg Riesling 2009 (283523, $21.95) fights the Alsatian fight. Light and expressive of primeval stone, caraway and Sommer Special Amer. Bucketmouth watering salinity.  87

Lucien Albrecht Réserve Pinot Gris 2010 (281394, $17.95) is pungent in a dry rub ginger, zeotar and galangal sort of way. To taste it is sweet and to mouth viscous like Muskateler. Rustic and ready for porky burnt ends roasted over felled Linden.  86

Château Haut Bertinerie 2009 (422220, $23.95) of old vines from the woods of the Blye has been “down on the rock for so long.” Marl, barley and Fuissé-esque peach toast. Allen’s Apple Juice too. Talking White Bordeaux with 100% Sauvignon Blanc Blues.  87

Domaine De La Tourlaudière Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine 2010 (171694, $13.95) shows off more weight and depth for the appellation, if less acidity so fish matches ahead of seafood. A peppery kick and tangy melon rind remind me of Verdejo or Albarinho. A Melon de Bourgogne à la Loire easy to get along with.  I think Norm might agree.  87

Masion Foucher La Vigne Aux Sandres Pouilly Fumé 2010 (277350, $20.95) seems to act green with Kiwi envy. How else to explain the extreme grassy and goosey behaviour?   86

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2008 (606202, $16.95) hails from less than 1er Cru Vineyard stock,  fumes odiferously of orange peel and Mandarin sauce reduction. This passes and leads to a cleaner Gardenia scent. To taste much more confected than expected with spiced honey. Got a lot going on here but the focus is not on the trolley.  87

Darting Riesling Kabinett 2009 (950212, $15.95) is guarded, a mastiff in protection mode. Bawdy lime and not much else. Almost always enjoy this Michelsberg. Funny bottle.  NR

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2011 (954024, $17.95) the Gallo of Alto Adige effervesces yeast meets western volcanic and dolomitic crust and sea. Peaches and cream, nectarine with length but campestral like Beck’s melancholy. “Keep your lamplight trimmed and burning.”  87

Michele Chiarlo Le Marne Gavi 2011 (228528, $14.95) is a salt lick of crustaceous shells and dripping stone fruit goodness. A simple and fun summer quaffer.  87

Casa Do Valle Grande Escolha 2011 (276220, $14.95) while unmistakably Portuguese Vinho Verde, this could be a ringer for Greco di Tufo or Viognier. The long visit to the haberdashery at once wears baking spice, Mezzogiorno mangia cake at Christmas and then white rose, honeysuckle Hermitage. Lofty comparisons for sure but this exceptional IVR* treacle is a chef mastered sweetbread of a double “V.”  89








Nessa Albariño 2010 (282558, $15.95) maybe pale but a gale of vinous expression abounds. Lemon, wax and citrus along with the bitter roots of Wormwood and Horseradish. Would work well with Fried clams and donuts.  88

Domaine Des Chouans 2010 (278945, $15.95) chassays over all pretty and sallow. Dry, sweet at first, then turns bitter. A Blue Podded Blauwschokker Garden Pea. Ornamental but inedible.  85

More notes from the VINTAGES, June 23, 2012 release:

The Wine Diaries:  Chardonnay close to the edge

The Wine Diaries: MMVA’s sparkling wine showers

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

Good to go!