As a reminder, this is me writing and me using my money. Channing Daughters & Co. have no idea who I am or that I am a writer. As a matter of fact, I was really shy when I was in the tasting room. I still have a lot to learn; their tasting room is a great place to listen, learn and taste some exciting wines made right in my backyard.
After an early morning visit to Montauk lighthouse and the Hither Hills Beach, I made my way to Bridgehampton's Scuttlehole Road. (You turn off of Montauk Highway @ Grace Presbyterian church). This is Long Island Wine Country (Hamptons AVA). Now, while I like some Long Island Wine, I have never been so intrigued. Channing Daughters uses grapes that I have never heard of in some of their blends, and they are really good blends. (which is shameful, I am studying for my CSW. I need to crack down on memorizing my varietals).
This trip was an amuse bouche. I am driving home with three bottles. But there will be more - after the tasting and talking with Ron and the man working with him, for the first time in my life, I joined a wine club. They are creating magic elixir using old style processes on the East End of Long Island. (really, cluster pressing, stomped by foot,"Orange Wine".. The list goes on....) Is it possible that Chef/Winemaker Christopher Tracy is genetically related to Feran Adria, Mario Batali and Eric Ripert? After all, his wines are cutting edge (with roots in the old world), a flavor of Northern Italy, served highly refined in small packages (I saw production notes of 80 and 30 cases on some of their library wines. They sell out quickly - which is why I "joined the club") What finally pushed me to pull the trigger? Envelope, their "Orange Wine".
I had been fretting about what bottle to bring to this year's Wine Bloggers Conference in Oregon. There is a BYOB "Night of Many Bottles" and I'll be bringing something from Channing Daughters.
What I tasted (Tasting flight $10.00 - free to wine club members):
Cuvee Tropical `08 $18.00: A yummy, fresh white 92% Chardonnay and 8% Muscat, aged in stainless steel tanks. It is a crisp, exotic wine that I would love to try with a spicy Tuna Roll or Chicken Curry.
Mosaico `08 $29.00: I didn't want to dump this one. (I was tasting then driving) Dry, but with an excellent mouth feel. A blend of :Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Tocai, and Gewurztraminer, this wine brought me back to Pimonte, Italy. I wanted to grab the glass and whip up a Mushroom Risotto. Trufles? Porcini?? Creamy Rice with a subtle bacon flavor. I want this wine. It would also be interesting with spicy salmon with a hint of soy & red pepper flakes. Maybe Shrimp Pad Thai? Really, the flavors are so unique that this may be the most versatile wine I have tried since Barren Ridge's Vidal Blanc. Very few wines haunt me like that.
Clones`08 $29.00: Clones messed with my head. Just like the first time I had molecular gastronomy. When I smelled this wine, over and over again, I smelled the sweetness of the Gewurztraminer so, I expected sweet. But on my first sip realized that the sweetness was all in the nose. It is a dry, mouthful of wine, well structured. 90% Chardonnay, 6% Tocai Friulano, 1% Gewurztraminer, 1% Aligote, 1% Semillon and 1% Viognier. My mind went to Gremany, and then to Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine for seafood. Could it be that I found a great bridge between Germany and France right here in the Hamptons? What a great American "melting pot" wine.
Rosso Fresco `08 $18.00 This is their go to burger/pizza wine. It is light, red and fruity. A big production, cased and kegged for restaurant use. 58% Merlot, 28% Syrah 10% Petit Verdot, and 14% DORNFELDER. (A German grape that I had never heard of, let alone tasted). At 12.5% ETOH, you could have a glass or two and not be too worried about a heavy head the next morning. Leave it to Channing Daughters to make a perfectly good consumer wine with an exotic twist.
Sculpture Garden `08 $30.00 After the tasting, I took a walk through this wine's namesake Sculpture Garden. Walter Channing is the Sculptor/ Healthcare Venture Capitalist of Channing Daughters. His work is mostly in found wood. Back to the wine: A blend of 95% Merlot from the Sculpture Garden vineyard (the statues are an oasis of space framed on one side by manicured vines that were planted in 1982) and 5% Blaufrankisch (I'll admit, I rolled my eyes at this point and said "Blaufrankisch?") More German/Slovakian influence - exotic. This wine is pressed by foot. Now I want to go to see the pressing this Fall. (it brings out my inner Lucy Ricardo!). The wine is dark and complex (dried red fruit with a hint of smoke) that will just get better and better with age. I'll call it a classic old world red wine with a "Burning Man" twist (there IS a rainbow fence in the garden after all - and where there is smoke, there is fire- hence Burning Man). It is well balanced and I hope to have more of it in the future. At 12.7% ETOH, this wine is pure. No added sugar to bump the ETOH, it is pure and straightforward with complexity and depth of flavor. A lot like Channing's tree carved into a Corinthian column of vicious carnivores - natural yet refined with a stark reminder that you are experiencing life.
Mudd `07 $40.00 A red blend of 60% Merlot, 21% Syrah, 9% Dornfelder, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Blaufrankisch. 12% ETOH. It shares a complexity with the Sculpture Garden, but it adds an adventure in OAK. A lot of the flavor seems to have been refined in the racking. It is delicious, and not too tannic. Again, I didn't want to dump this wine. I bought a bottle. It is coming home with me. You'll hear a lot more about this wine.
The tasting didn't stop with the Mudd. (Although it could/should have) Ron and his friend/co-worker decided to blow my mind.
Envelope `09 $42.00 Channing Daughter's "Orange" wine. A "white wine, made like a red". 66% Chardonnay, 22% Gewurztraminer and 12% Malvasia Bianca. (you got me again, what is Malvasia Bianca?!? ahhh vin santo...) You have to taste it to believe it. At first, I thought it was called "Orange" because I got a hit of citrus on my first sip, but it was fleeting, and then my mouth watered. I bought a bottle. You'll get a full review very soon.
I filled out my Club Membership then and there. In March I'll get my first delivery. It will be like Christmas every two months. Like I said, you'll be reading more about this winery.
Here are some pictures from the weekend: