Thursday, May 28, 2009

TasteCamp - The Last Day

Three weeks and several blog posts later, I have finally come to the end of the story of TasteCamp. It was a lot of fun, we had a lot of laughs, we sipped, we spit, we slurped, and we... sorry, ran out of 's' words... we enjoyed ourselves.

On the last day we visited two wineries, Wolffer Estate Vineyards and Channing Daughters. Both of these wineries are located on the South Fork of Long Island, better known as the Hamptons. You may have heard of them.

To get there, Leah and I had the choice to drive down the North Fork to where the two forks merge and then dive back up the South Fork or to take a ferry over to Shelter Island and then another ferry to the South Fork. Being a water-going gal, Leah immediately opted for the ferry ride. We got primo parking on the ferry boat so that we could see the stretch of the water and the island we were approaching. While it was a grey day, it was still much nicer than watching highway...

I will not spend too much time talking about Wolffer, although not because I did not enjoy the visit. My company represents Wolffer and I feel it would be inappropriate for me to talk about the wines. What I will say is that I would love to go back and visit one a bright sunny day. Their tasting room was very nice and there was a porch that overlooked the vineyards that I would imagine to be stunning when the sun was shinning. As it was, the day was rainy and a little chilly.

After leaving Wolffer we went to Channing Daughters, which for me was one of the best visits of the trip. There were giant sculptures in each of the vineyards, which we later learned was one of the ways they marked each block and called them by the sculpture's name. All of the pieces of artwork are the creation of Owner/Sculptor Walter Channing. In the middle of the vineyards was an upside-down oak, which is the winery's logo.

The tasting room at Channing Daughters is small in comparison to many of the other wineries that we had visited over the weekend. We walked in, grabbed glasses, and walked back out onto a back porch. It was still raining and still chilly, but all of that evaporated as soon as we started talking with the Winemaker, Christopher Tracy and the General Manager, Allison Dubin.

You meet plenty of people in the wine industry who know the ins and outs of the world of wine. It is a rare that you meet someone that is so enthusiastic about teaching others about wine (especially when it is their own wine) that the enthusiasm rubs off on you. Chris was not only knowledgeable, but he was so pleased to be able to share his visions and thoughts about wine with others interested in listening. He was a joy to taste with and a double pleasure because his wines were fantastic.

Chris makes twenty-three wines at Channing Daughters, fourteen of which are white, three roses, and six reds. What was most impressed me was the consistency from one wine to the next. All were wines I would gladly drink again (in fact I bought six bottles while I was there).

And there was so much diversity! There was crisp Chardonnay, oak integrated Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Field Blends, Tokai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Blends of each white varietal with different levels of malolactic fermentation, Merlot, Blaufrankish (dude! Blaufrankish in Long Island!), and a wine combining the ripasso method and the solera method. It was fresh! It was fun! And the wines were damn good!

The best moment was when Chris gave us a look like that of a wicked child that had a hidden stash of candy and asked us if we wanted to stick our nose in his Madeira. Of course we had to say yes! He lead us through what was probably the smallest winery room I have ever seen (probably smaller than my apartment!) and into the back of the winery where there were barrels sitting. Barrels full of wine! Exposed to the elements! He lead us to a barrel left on its own between several rows of stacked barrels and pulled the plug from the bunghole. When my turn came around, I stuck my snozz in and there was no doubt, it was Madeira! When asked what grape it was, he said Merlot.

Chris showed us that experimentation is alive and well on Long Island, and his wines are all the better for it. Even more impressive is that the wines were moderately price and, in my opinion, worth every penny.

Thanks go to Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS for putting together such a great weekend and showing wineries that bloggers are a valuable advocate in today's wine market.
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