Since dogs are “man’s best friend” it only makes sense that they would have a place –- and an important one at that –- in many winery operations. By patrolling the vines, they keep the vineyard free of hungry birds and deer. Their friendship can cheer the staff with the wag of a tail. But perhaps most importantly, they serve as canine ambassadors in the tasting room, greeting and entertaining visitors. Besides, since a sense of smell is a big part of enjoying wine, who better to help sniff out the best?


Matt Campbell, co-owner of Charles John Vineyard along with his wife Jackie, can trace his love of wine back to when he and Jackie were living in Rochester, N.Y., in the early 1980s. “I knew nothing about wine. (But) we went to dinner and I ordered an ‘expensive’ glass of Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon for about $7 – to impress Jackie. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted.” For a man who grew up on the Jersey Shore “listening to Bruce Springsteen” and knowing beer “as the only alcoholic beverage that had four letters,” that glass of Cabernet was a revelation that Campbell jokingly calls “getting religion.”


Okay, it’s official. Martha Clara Vineyards (and its winemaker, Gilles Martin) have climbed up my ranking of Long Island vineyards. I don’t actually have a list from one to thirty-plus, of course, but what was once a winery highlighted by its high-profile events is really starting to win me over with what matters — the juice. Sure, they still make (and sell) a ton of their white zinfandel-esque rose (isn’t the beagle-adorned label cute?) and the Glacier’s End line of wines, but a look further down on the tasting sheet reveals wines with nice varietal character that are worth elbowing your way up to their always-packed tasting bar for.


Wet. Wet. Wet. After only about an inch of wine rain over the summer, Long Island’s East End has endured at least a foot of the wet stuff in just the past seven days. The result — water-covered roads, some vine damage…and very few tasting room visitors yesterday as Beau, Kori and I visited four of the six tasting rooms we had planned. I guess no matter how hard you try to stick to an itinerary, talking to owners/winemakers/tasting room staff always results in extended, and enjoyable, stays. I’m sure you can expect a more complete write up in the coming days (from by me and Beau) but I’ll cleanse your palate with a couple pictures:

What do you get when the premier Utah-based wine blogger (Beau) gets together with the foremost New York wine blogger (that’s me) and the Wine Goddess (that’s Kori) on Long Island’s bucolic, but currently soggy North Fork? We’ll find out tomorrow…but I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun. The current plan is to hit six tasting rooms, including: Macari Vineyards where we’ll get a taste of one of my favorite dessert wines The Tasting Room where we’ll get to sample wines from a handful of artisanal producers Lieb Family Cellars where we’ll taste one of my favorite local bubblies Castello di Borghese where we’ll get a little bit of Long Island winery history Bedell Cellars where we’ll enjoy some of the best reds around Paumanok Vineyards where we’ll drink great wines and meet one of my favorite owner/winemakers Sadly, I can’t take them to all of the…


Chateau Lafayette Reneau isn’t a new winery to the LENNDEVOURS tasting team. We’ve had their seyval blanc blend before (it’s not bad) and for July’s WBW#11, we tasted their Johannisburg Riesling. The basics are: Located in Hector, NY on  Seneca Lake (in the Finger Lakes region) Bottlings include: pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, chardonnay and a late harvest riesling After I was disappointed by a different Finger Lakes pinot for the most recent WBW, I wanted to get right back on the proverbial horse and try another one. The cool growing conditions in that region make it hard for me to believe that someone isn’t making good pinot noir there. This bottle proves me right. Eyes: Medium-to-light ruby Nose: The nose offers mostly cherry and toasty oak aromas with hints of cherry cola Tongue: "Now this is a nice pinot noir." Not the most complex pinot in the world, but…


Brotherhood Winery was founded by John Jaques, with a first commercial vintage 1839. (see previous post) And while their winery and tasting room are located in Washingtonville, NY and thus in the Hudson Valley, the grapes for this particular wine were grown right in my back yard on Long Island. Any time I see that, I worry a bit. In my experience, most of the best grapes (particularly Merlot) stay on Long Island. There are exceptions I’m sure, but I digress. I popped the cork on this bottle to enjoy with Nena’s spiced chicken black bean soup because I remembered a black peppery spice hint when we tasted this in Brotherhood’s tasting room. Eyes: Medium ruby red Nose: Not overly aromatic, it has a somewhat simple nose of sweet cherries Tongue: Simple, rather fruity and gulpable with slight black pepper character (less than I remembered) and just a little oak…


250. For November’s edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, the fun and talented Fatemeh from Gastronomie isn’t limiting us by varietal, country of origin or any else of the sort. Her one and only rule: drink a wine of which 250 or fewer cases were made. That’s right, we’re turning our eyes to the small producers this month. She’s offereing bonus points to anyone who chooses a wine produced by a winery that makes fewer than 1000 total cases per year as well. To steal a baseball analogy…this theme is a batting practice fastball in my wheelhouse. I can choose from any number of local bottlings that are made in such small quantities. So I think I’m going to take the challenge even further and try to find the smallest production wine possible. I’ve got a few producers in mind…but it will take a little research. So on November 2nd, join…


Sigh. The 2005 vintage was widely expected to be one of the best ever on Long Island (particularly for red wines). A hot, dry growing season led to small, concentrated fruit that was ripening extremely well. We literally have had almost no rain all summer and early fall…until the last few days. Rain has been soaking most of Long Island (and the eastern seaboard) for days…and I fear all that water is going to dilute the flavors and potentially neccessitate earlier-than-wanted harvesting. I know several vineyards already picked their chardonnay (and some other whites) before the rains…but most were holding onto the reds…pushing the limits of hang time. Let’s hope I’m overreacting.