Fit me on the jitney

I have to admit that I’ve taken this title from the name of a nail polish, one that was my toe color a few summers ago. I’m using it because I rode a Hampton Jitney yesterday. But don’t be confused, I wasn’t on a bus full of aspiring socialites; I was with a bunch of chef instructors from the French Culinary Institute.

Mercer Tools sponsored a professional development trip for some of the instructors at my school and took us to Paumanok Vineyards, Peconic Bay Winery and The North Fork Table.

It was a special day at Paumanok because budbreak was starting on some of the vines, like this Sauvignon Blanc:

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The grounds at Paumanok are beautiful and I would’ve taken more shots had it not been for the constant rain. They have a deck overlooking the vineyards and it’s just begging you to sit out with a glass of wine. I think the trip might have changed a few minds that would have previously poo-pooed spending a weekend day on Long Island.

Kareem Massoud, the winemaker, tasted us through 3 whites, 3 reds and their late harvest Riesling.

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We tried the 2008 Chenin Blanc, the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2007 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay:

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I’ve used the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay in some of my wine classes before to show a good, local example of Chardonnay that exhibits well-integrated oak. You can still taste the apples, pears and melon instead of having the sensation of chewing on oak chips.

The unofficial crowd favorite of the day was the 2008 Chenin Blanc. Just bottled, it was bright, crisp and refreshing with lots of pink grapefruit. Luckily, the Massouds were willing to wheel out a few cases at the end of the tasting so several of us could make purchases.

We also tried the 2006 Cabernet Franc, the 2004 Grand Vintage Merlot and the 2005 Assemblage (this vintage was 44% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Petit Verdot). We’ll be pouring the Cabernet Franc by the glass soon at L’Ecole – cherries, earth and spice dominate this light to medium red. The reds of Paumanok recently got a nice write up in the NYT, so if you’d like to learn more, go here. The late harvest Riesling was also a hit – not too viscous, with great acidity and lots of peaches and dried apricots on the nose and palate.

The next stop was Peconic Bay, the third oldest vineyards in Long Island, with Chardonnay vines dating back to the late 1970s. Pascal, their Retail Operations Manager, led us through a tasting of their 2006 Steel Fermented Chardonnay, 2006 La Barrique Chardonnay, 2006 Riesling, 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Lowerre Reserve Merlot and Polaris, their signature dessert wine.

The highlight of this visit was when we left the tasting room and went into the winery for some barrel samples:

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We tried their Steel Fermented Chardonnay again, this time the wine was still waiting for an additional filtration before bottling and the star of the show, their 2007 Merlot. It was juicy, with plums and cherries and plenty of chewy tannins. Conditions in 2007 were warm and dry and this will be a vintage to watch in Long Island. If you’re a fan of Wine Spectator, they’ve given the 2007 vintage in Long Island an A.

This blog is making it seem like I spend every weekend in Long Island – I’m two for two since A Thirsty Spirit’s inception. I can assure you I’m not being paid by their tourism board, but I’ll admit that it’s easy to get to (even without a van or jitney), green and has lots of tasty things to eat and drink.

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