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.
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.
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.
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.
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… http://www.guideposts.com/story/satur-farms-food.
May your New Year be filled with love and laughter and, as Eberhard and Paulette would probably say, good lettuce.
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).
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?