Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Rosy Start to Spring

It’s a holiday weekend and as my neighbor Joan said to me, “All the people are out.” I wasn’t sure if Joan meant everyone was outdoors enjoying the spring weather, everyone from Up the Island had come out to the North Fork for the day or, finally, if she meant from a census-taking perspective. Joan is officially employed by our federal government as a census taker and no one could possibly appreciate her job more than Joan- though I suspect part of it is the voyeuristic possibilities inherent in census-taking. “I get to see all the great houses,” Joan says.

But I digress. This post is about the first wines I tasted from the 2009 vintage of the North Fork – specifically those of my neighbors, Paula and Michael Croteau of Croteaux Vineyards and their rosé wines, which they call “rosé on purpose.”

Their vineyards, planted mostly to Merlot and a little bit of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are not far from my house. The vines are fanatically well-tended- actually everything about Croteaux Vineyards is fanatically well-tended as well as stylish- the house, the vineyard, the Croteaus themselves. This isn’t surprising given that Paula was once in the fashion business and Michael is a first-rate designer. If they weren’t individually and collectively so nice I’d have a decidedly large inferiority complex about just being their neighbor. (Michael designs all their wine labels – above- admittedly not a great shot by me).  Three of us went over to taste the new wines- including my friend Louisa Hargrave, who driven from her house a few miles away.

“We just bottled some of these wines two days ago!” Paula said (In pride or exhaustion or as a disclaimer?) We tasted the first three ‘basic’ rosés, each made from a different Merlot clone, as well as the “sauvage” wine made from wild yeasts and finally, a rosé of Cabernet Franc that was more red than rosé. “Rosé for red wine lovers,” Paula said. I loved the Merlot 314 (the clonal number) which was bright and charming with a wonderful texture- more substantial than the lighter Merlot 181 and more accessible right now than the Merlot 3, which is a barrel-aged version of rosé.

Although it’s only the second  day they’ve been open (unlike most wineries on the North Fork, Croteaux Vineyards is closed during the winter),  the cars were streaming into the driveway. “We’ve had people calling up all week asking us if we’ll be opening this weekend,” Paula said. I bought a bottle of the 314 and told Paula I’d be back at the end of the week for more and maybe the Sauvage as well. “If we aren’t sold out by then,” she replied.

Wordsmithing Snow

Rudy is sick of all the snow

Have there ever been as many nouns applied to the arrival of snow as there is this winter? So far we’ve had snowpocalypse and snowicane and snowmaggedon and of course – the bland but accurate ‘snowstorm.”  Actually, no one ever uses that last noun anymore. Too straightforward,  too simple- and definitely lacking the dramatic wordsmithing required of meteorologists these days. And the snow-exaggeration does not seem to be confined to the weathermen on television… I had dinner with some friends on the North Fork the other night who proclaimed (about our most recent winter dusting), “We got hit pretty hard- we must have gotten four or five inches of snow.” (The North Fork, admittedly, got a lot less of the stuff than Manhattan) But the consensus is clear: Everyone – including and perhaps the corgi (above) is sick of the snow. I wonder if there could be as many ways to describe snow-disgust as there are to express snow-excess. Stay tuned.

Meetup In Mattituck

East End Wine Lovers Meetup at Love Lane Kitchen

The third meeting of the East End Wine Lovers meetup group (an unwieldy name admittedly) took place a few nights ago at our ‘usual’ spot, the Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck.  The theme was wine paired with Asian food, in honor of the Chinese New Year’s, which began last Sunday. I’m pleased to report only one person brought a Gewurztraminer. Although it’s inevitably touted as the choice companion I find Gewurztraminer rarely goes well many Asian dishes. I have (more) strong feelings about the unsuitability of Gewurztraminer paired with potstickers and the like- but insufficient room to rant here – at least right now. (I did actually love the Gewurz in question – from Standing Stone, a Finger Lakes winery- just not with the food).

There were a lot of good Rieslings (including one from superstar Mosel producer, Donnhof) a few Pinot Noirs and even a North Fork Carmenere – from Osprey’s Dominion. The food was fabulous, as it always is at Love Lane and there was lots of it (some people, including yours truly, took home extras for lunch). There was even a large platter of fresh sushi handmade by Rick, the Love Lane Kitchen guest sushi chef, who is in Mattituck right now by way of Japan.

I wrote a column for Food & Wine that appears in this month’s issue of the magazine here about East End Wine Lovers and how I came to put the group together- with lots of help from Carolyn and Michael at Love Lane Kitchen- and I’m proud to say that people from as far away as Toronto and New Jersey have been petitioning to join our little group (85 members- so far). If you’re not a member right now, perhaps you’d like to join? Meetup here Our next meeting will be sometime in mid-March.

A Brutishly Cold Note

Snow Would be better than this Bitter Cold

This is the time of year when the talk on the Fork turns almost exclusively to weather- at least among the people I know.  And ‘brutal’ is the  term I hear most commonly employed. “The cold is brutal,” we’ll say to one another, as if  the outside temperature (currently a steady sixteen degrees) wasn’t just weather but a terrible, boorish presence bent on ruining the substance of our days. And, I suppose, in many ways, that it truly has – save for the hardiest souls like my friend Louisa, who will (still) go walking on the beach, admiring the water, exclaiming at the beauty – to nobody’s ears but her own.

Or at least I’m assuming that Louisa, won’t have much company out on the beach. Instead, others have told me, thanks to the cold, all the things that they can no longer do: including bike to the post office, go for a walk or even, in some extreme cases, get out of bed.(My friend who told me this said she has dedicated this period of intense cold to  watching the Food Channel instead.)  Of course I also have friends who have used the weather as a reason to get out of town, to places that are either warmer and colder. (Yes, the latter really is true.) I’m staying put- for now- and having dinner parties with friends. Like the dinner I’ll be attending this evening- I’ll bring the wine (as I almost always do) – probably a bottle of Samling, a Slovenian wine I discovered in the course of writing a story for The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. Even though my friends are in the wine business too, they’re likely to all be cooking- they’re very good cooks. That is, of course, something else can be done in the cold. Cooking. Or baking. I could bake cookies or bread- though I will probably go buy some instead. Baking is just too much effort – in brutish times such as these.

Love Story for a New Year

Eberhard Muller and Paulette Satur: A North Fork Love Story

Love seems like a good first word for my first post of the New Year – appropriate and even  timely. Not that love requires good timing. In fact, love often comes at all the wrong times and is directed at all the ‘wrong’ people. It’s inconvenient and embarrassing as often as it is transcendent and life-affirming. It’s like what Ronny Camareri aka Nic Cage says to Loretta aka Cher in one of my favorite scenes from my favorite movie, Moonstruck:

I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.

Today’s post is about the love story of my friends, the remarkable Eberhard Muller and Paulette Satur, their business, Satur Farms, and the life that they built on the North Fork. I wrote it for Guideposts a short time ago and you can read it here…

May your New Year be filled with love and laughter and, as Eberhard and Paulette would probably say, good lettuce.

Mystery of Mocha

An (un) Monikered Mocha

I took a very early bike ride this morning to the snazzy Blue Duck Bakery (the Southold branch – there’s one in Southampton as well) to buy my friend Kathy a birthday cake. She loves mocha cake so I thought it would be a perfect way to surprise her (cake for breakfast!) and I’m a big fan of the Blue Duck baked goods – especially their breads. But their only mocha cake had the word MOCHA written across the top in block letters so big there was no room for Kathy’s name, let alone a Birthday wish.

But Kathy was a good sport about – in fact, she said she found the same thing at her bakery back home in New Jersey when she tried to buy a mocha cake. (Kathy and our mutual friend Maryellen were visiting me for the weekend.) “Every time I go to buy a cake in my bakery at home for someone’s birthday they have MOCHA written across the top so there’s no room,” Kathy said. “But why? It’s not like they have CARROT written on the top of carrot cake or CHEESE on a cheese cake!”

She had a good point. Can someone solve this mystery please?

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Kathy, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the MO cake (the three of us ate the CHA for breakfast).

In the Sodom School District


Walt Whitman, Poet and Fan/Infamous Resident (?) of the North Fork

I recently became a volunteer at the Southold Historical Society- a worthy and genteel organization staffed by professionals with a passion for history and volunteers with a talent for commerce … and an eye for antiques. I’m referring, of course, to the men and women who volunteer at the Society’s Treasure Exchange, a retail treasure trove of Other People’s Stuff.  I’ve resisted buying anything – so far- though there are a few earrings and some china that I’d like to own. The women on the Treasure Exchange  Appraisal Committee (many of them former antique store owners) are very discerning and will only accept the very nicest things for sale at the store. As one committee member told me, they don’t let “just anything” show up on their shelves.

I spend half my volunteer time half at the Exchange and half in the Archives Room upstairs, where I help Dan, the archives director, catalog local history. I’ve learned a great deal about the area already though nothing quite as interesting as the fact that Walt Whitman once lived very close to my house. And not only that but Whitman was a school teacher (briefly) and had, according to legend, been run out of town for molesting a boy.

All of this remains historical heresay though it has been much written-about and the school where Whitman taught for a year was labeled the “Sodom School” and later torn down. But the Sodom School actually showed up on local maps and according to one published in 1840, my house lies squarely within the Sodom School District.

I wonder if I could put the Sodom School District as my return address?

Fear of Deer


Deer Farm Resident

There’s a farm down the road that I call the Deer Farm. They don’t actually raise or breed deer-it just happens to be a place where some deer have chosen to live. They seem to spend most of their time in the wide meadow behind the little white farmhouse though occasionally they get very close to the front porch. Nobody seems to live in the farmhouse; I’ve seen a car in the driveway exactly once. I’m guessing this is one of the reasons that the deer have made the Deer Farm their own.

Everyone around here complains about deer: they eat the grapes in the vineyards, the flowers in the gardens and they have a dangerous nocturnal habit of darting in front of cars- causing great damage to vehicles – and sometimes to their passengers as well. “Drive home slowly,” my friends have warned me when I’ve left their houses at night. “Be careful of the deer.” But what about their great fear of us?

I felt their fear this morning when I passed the small herd of deer that live on Deer Farm while taking a ride on my bike.  There were five deer were grazing in the meadow. Four were content to watch me cycle past but a fifth panicked and began running, or rather, careening, up the road. Three of the five deer decided that he (or she?) might be onto something and followed suit. But instead of simply running straight up the road, one tried to leap the chain link fence on the side that separated the forest from the road. It was too high. She tried and failed again. Another banged herself against the fence over and over, as if trying to force a hole. Then she tried to crawl underneath it. They were like criminals on the run (which is pretty much how everyone around here views them, of course.) The third, much smaller deer kept running down the road. I got off my bike, hoping they would all realize there was no longer a reason to fear. But they were too focused on their efforts to flee.

I turned around and rode off in the opposite direction, hoping they’d realize I was gone and return to the Farm. I thought about the nature of fear and of perceived dangers and how our fears are so rarely the result of actual threats but much more often our perception of things. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, seeking to comfort a nation deep in the throes of a depression reassured Americans that they had nothing to fear but fear itself- which successfully quelled a run on the banks. Today, with so much dark news all around us- job losses, property losses, banking crises, flu and e coli scares – it seems as if we need to be reassured once again- lest we panic and begin running in all directions, well, like the deer.


Farmers' Favored Breed of Deer

Interesting Women


Long Island Wine Country (Three Forks Press) by Jane Taylor Starwood

After a (very) short stint washing crates at Lenz (Winemaker Eric Fry told me “You can get away with this now, but I’ll need you to make a real commitment when we start harvesting reds”) I left to get ready for my lunch with Jane Taylor Starwood, the most recent interesting woman I’ve met in my short time on the Fork. Jane not only wrote a beautiful and comprehensive book about Long Island Wine Country but she’s also a local powerhouse – editor in chief of the Long Island Wine Press and she’s in charge of all the special issues and inserts into the local paper- and there seem to be dozens and dozens of those. Jane has lived on the North Fork for about thirty years and had many “previous lives” before she got here. I hope to hear about them all some day.

Jane and I had lunch at Love Lane Kitchen which is the Mattituck equivalent of Michael’s restaurant in New York (minus the money and plastic surgery.) But like Michael’s, it’s where “everyone” goes. Barbara Smithen, owner of Sherwood House Vineyards, was eating lunch at the bar and the restaurant’s manager, Carolyn Iannone was running around. Carolyn, who used to work Paumanok Vineyards, is a cute twentysomething year old for whom the word ‘bubbly’ seems to have been coined.

“There are so many interesting women on the North Fork,” I observed to my friend Louisa Hargrave at dinner that night. Louisa, of course, is right up at the top of my Interesting Women file. “But I haven’t run across as many interesting men,” I added. “They are a lot harder to find,” Louisa said.

My dream came true

I rode my bike to my favorite farm stand yesterday (okay, it’s just the closest farmstand to my house) and I picked up some (more) brussel sprouts for the dinner party I was invited to by my new friend, Lea. The farm stand is right next to a winery (cabbage is planted next to  Chardonnay vines) and just a field away from the town dog pound. I’ve never purchased fresh vegetables before surrounded by the sound of barking dogs and I wanted to ask the woman at the farm stand if the barking dogs bothered her,  or for that matter, broke her heart but she’d already gone back to reading her book.

It was such a nice day I decided to keep riding- so I went east toward Southold and took an arbitrary turn left down a twisting, turning lane. There were falling-down houses. One house looked like someone had just kicked in the front door though the van in its driveway was a Church Van (was the front door the work of some angry parishoner?). There were also some fine old homes on the road, several of which had historical markers. And there was a pristine farmhouse with a white board fence all around and barn emblazoned with the words MY DREAM CAME TRUE over the doors. Had the dream just come true, I wondered or was it old news? And if so, was it still true?  I’d certainly heard of wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve- though never one’s happiness on a barn…

This morning I’ll be going over to my neighbors to pick some grapes (Cab Franc) and later, to hold some hoses or do whatever grubby work that Eric Fry at Lenz Winery has found for me to do.