For the purpose of the wines and beverages class, our class project required that we attend an AVA Winery or vineyard, and write a response paper. At 29 years old, prior to this class, I had a great knowledge of spirits due to working in the Live Events sector, but never had an understanding of Wines. I also had never had alcohol, choosing to stay away as i was hit by a drunk driver at the age of 7. By the time wine became a popular past time in the US, I had already gone so long without it that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, so I decided to stay away. Up until this point, all the wines that we have experienced have been either department or professor recommended, so I took great care in mulling over the decision of what I wanted my first chosen drink to be.
I thought long and hard about what it was I wanted to experience before I choose the location that I wanted to visit. I have always had an extreme fascination with alcohol, and more importantly the effects it has had on status and pop culture. After studying here in class, I found myself very intrigued by the concepts around German and African wines, but seeing as how the assignment didn’t come with a plane ticket, no Gewurztraminer for me. Then a few days ago, knee deep in the planning for my 30th birthday, the thought hit me. I want to study Champagne, which due to the trends in live events, falls right into that category of information i should know just in case. After doing some research, the information pertaining to Champagne and more so, Champagne in the US, that I was hooked. Upon research into Long Island Wine Country, I booked a rental, and scheduled a trip to Sparkling Point in North Fork, Long Island.
AVA- North Fork, Long Island
Located at the very eastern point of Long Island, North Fork is an AVA that is surrounded on 3 sides by the ocean, and the home of the Long Island Wine Trail. North Fork is one of the very few places on the north east coast where Vitis Vinifera grapes ripen, and producers specialize in Merlot, Cabernet France, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Approximately an hour and a half from the city via the Long Island Expressway, i appreciated that the travel time to get to the location was no more than my regular commute to work. Compared to New York City, Sparkling Pointe is located in what feels like a rural city, peppered with farmers markets, flower shops, and a Cheesecake stands that garners the fame of being the best in the world. Momentarily distracted by the thought of stopping at the notorious Tanger Outlets in Riverhead that i passed getting off the expressway, i found myself so anxious to reach my destination, that once I saw the sign indicating that i had arrived, I pulled over and took a picture of it from the roadside.
Upon parking the car, I immediately began taking pictures of this beautifully serene location.
While it didn’t seem as large as I thought it would be
based on the pictures, I would soon realize just how big of an effect point of view has on personal perception. I parked the car, and headed toward the entrance to the house. Once I entered the house, I was impressed with the Cape style house, with a beach feeling, straight out of the scene of Hampton Weddings. Upon entering, there was a gift shop set up like a wine store to my left, with the sparkling wines categorized and titled for easy purchasing.
Walking past the shop, you were immediately in the middle of a very large tasting room, with the hints of other rooms that it led to in each corner.
The house had glass windows, which allowed you to see the lovely entrance (a different side from which I entered), and to the back yard, which was set up in a large patio style, which then led right into the grapes.
Coming back into the first tasting room, to the left was a bar, which was manned by the lovely woman named Ann, who would go on to provide the amazing customer service, warmly welcomed me to Sparkling Pointe and began to tell me about their offerings. I set my bag down, and began my experience.
Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine Designation
Traditionally, as we have learned that the French are very big on terrior, the term “Champagne” refers to a product made from traditional methods
using grapes specifically grown in the Champagne region of France, which was so important to them, that it was included in the Treaty of Versailles at the end of WW1. In 2006, a wine trade agreement was signed between the US and France, and it was agreed that the term would not be used in a generic manner, in terms of wines, not beer and other spirits.
Originally used in Champagne region of France, Methode Champenoise is the traditional method to produce sparkling wine. In this process, there is a primary fermentation, followed by blending, the wine is then bottled, and fermentation is then undergone in the bottle. The second fermentation is the point at which Carbon Dioxide is trapped in the wine, causing the bubbles. Here at Sparkling Pointe, the grapes used in the process are dominantly Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvigon Blanc.
For a great price of $17, I engaged in a tasting menu of the 4 jewels of Sparkling Pointe. While she offered me tasting notes, I politely declined, as I attempted to test my knowledge by doing the tasting on my own, and then going thru it with Ann, and letting her talk me thru each tasting.
- 2011 Brut
56 % Chardonnay, 32% Pinot Noir, 12% Pinot Meunier
Appearance: Pale yellow, with light hints of green, tiny amount of bubbles
Nose: apple, apricot (as per Ann, it is fresh apple, pear, orange blossom)
Taste: Apple, feeling somewhere in-between skim milk and regular milk (thanks Raj) (As per Ann, crisp, complex, creamy with a floral and mineral laden taste that is well balanced.)
Food Pairings: Seafood (As per Ann, oysters, Sushi, Caviar, and any kind of sharp cheeses.)
Ann’s notes: This is one of her favorites, as she described that 2011 was a hard year, as it had a lot of rain and a lot of heat, requiring them to drop a lot of fruit to allow what was left to ripen fully. While it did not affect the sparkling wines as much, they harvested at 19 brix.
- 2010 Balanc de Blancs
Appearance: a beautiful deep yellow color
Nose: floral, possible citrus (As per Ann, tree blossoms, green apple, and biscuit.)
Taste: fruit forward, light, lemon (As per Ann, lemon zest and doughy characters)
Food Pairings: Grilled Tilapia with asparagus (As per Ann, triple cream chesses, truffle popcorn, smoked salmon, eggs benedict, as well as garlic stuffed mushrooms and Greek cuisine)
Ann’s Notes: 2010 was a year where the grapes ripened quickly, and was their earliest harvest ever. It was aged for 3 years on its fine yeast lees, and it is one of their prized sparkling wines, but not a favorite of hers.
3. 2005 Brut Seduction
57% Pinot Noir, 43% Chardonnay
Appearance: deep yellow color (as per Ann she said golden)
Nose: almonds and floral (As per Ann, Almonds, brioche, wild berry and floral)
Taste: Almonds, and a taste that I can’t place. Something very fruit forward. (As per Ann, Its Wild Berry and Florals)
Food Pairings: seafood, specifically boiled crab (As per Ann, Lobster and butter sauce, foie gras, creamy mushroom risotto)
Brut Seduction is the Vineyard’s prized possession, (prestige cuvee) receiving tons of accolades in the press, and designation as 2014 Best Sparkling wine in NY State. The harvest this year took place the 1st wk. of September, and resulted in excellent ripeness and balance.
- NV Cuvee Carnaval Rose
62% Chardonnay, 38% Pinot Noir (24% Reserve Wine)
Appearance: a beautiful light red/pink color (As per Ann, pale pink)
Nose: strawberries, floral (As per Ann, strawberry, cherry, florals.)
Taste: fruit forward, cherry (As per Ann, subtle sweetness of brioche and sugar cookie)
Food Pairings: Duck (As per Ann, rich cheeses and game meats, leg of lamb, or ham)
Ann’s notes: Her other personal favorite, most of the fruit was sourced from a 2012 blend, as there was the a mild winter and early budbreak, and minus some frost at certain sites, the warm temps sped up the flowering. It’s a lush and ripe and makes for a great aperitif.
Overall, the experience was an amazing one.
The vineyard being located on such a beautiful part of the island was heightened by the beautiful summer breeze of the day.
The warm welcoming hospitality and customer service displayed by the staff, allowed this tasting to feel more like a one day destination getaway as opposed to a trip to a vineyard. The only downfall for me was that the vineyard did not contain a full restaurant, only limited items for pairing with the sparkling wines, as per regulations. As a picky eater, I did bring my own assortment of honey roasted almond, and helped myself to a Gluten Free Brownie, which was surprisingly amazing, but alas, expensive.
Overall, it was such an amazing experience that I scheduled a larger group tasting for later on this month, for the first time I actually drink alcohol. Thank you for inspiring this experience, as it was a great one!
North Fork of Long Island Wine.” Wine Searcher. Wine-Searcher, 14 June 2014. Web. 10 May 2015. <http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-north+fork+of+long+island
Vinny, Dr. “Ask Dr. Vinny.” What’s the Story with the Use of the Word “Champagne” on American Products? Wine Spectator, n.d. Web. 15 May 2015. <http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/5011>.