Black Stallion Estate Winery

We first encountered Black Stallion ( about a decade ago.  All that stuck in our minds since then was the large statue of a horse and the fact that they were emphasizing the food they served then more than the wine.  We are happy to report that the statue is still there; the facility has been greatly expanded and improved and that we will now remember the wines they serve.

Before discussing the wine tasting experience at Black Stallion, it’s worthwhile explaining a bit of the back story.  The winery is owned by the Indelicato family, now in its fourth generation in America.  Gaspare Indelicato arrived in 1924, planted a vineyard and expanded his holdings so that the company named for him today owns many wineries, the best known of which is Coppola.  Now, about that horse: The land on which the winery sits was previously an equestrian academy.  Situated in the Oak Knoll AVA, the land is better used today for wine than horses, so we believe.  All that’s left is the statue, which they call Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great.  Great horse, great wines – get it?

We did not realize, on our previous visit, that the winery had just been erected and wasn’t yet finished.  The tasting room was long and narrow, had a bar and some outdoor seating.  The bar is still there, but is no longer used in this era of seated tastings.  The tasting area is in a large, canopied patio furnished with low tables and comfortable chairs, from which you can see vineyards and olive trees.  It’s the patio you wished you had, times thirty.  That’s the impression that Black Stallion wants to give, that you are at home, relaxing with some fine wines.  We felt welcome the moment we sat down.

We were offered a choice of four tasting flights, running from $40 to $80 for the Prestige Tasting of their better wines.  In the latter flight, two wines were a mini-vertical of the 2014 and 2018 Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons.  There were also a Cabernet Sauvignon called Gaspare, named for Grandpa, and a Bordeaux blend that they call Transcendent.  We expressed interest in the Tempranillo and the Pinot Noir from other lists, and so were given tastes of these as well.  Power Tasting does not review wines, but suffice it to say that these wines pleased us much more than those we can (barely) remember from a decade ago.

The educational vineyard at Black Stallion.

Alongside the tasting patio, Black Stallion has planted a micro-vineyard with vines of all the grapes they use in their wines.  It’s there for educational purposes and adds a serious vibe to the comfortable setting.  We can’t resist relating the comments of one patron who clearly needs some wine education.  “Oh, Malbec is a grape, too.  I thought it was a brand.  And the grapes all come from France!”  There is another garden which they call the “insectory”, where they raise plants that attract birds and bugs that are beneficial to grape vines.  This is further evidence of Black Stallion’s commitment to informative wine tasting.

One of the pleasures of wine tasting travels is the opportunity to discover new experiences.  In the case of Black Stallion, the revisit was just such a discovery.

Iron Horse Vineyards

The first time we ever heard about the sparkling wines of Iron Horse, it was because Ronald Reagan served it to Mikhail Gorbachev at the White House.  It was such a funny name that we wanted to learn more about it, but it took us a while to actually visit the winery.  As to the funny name, it comes from a railroad spur that was erected in the 19th century specifically to serve a nearby winery.  The fact that Iron Horse is located on Ross Station Road in Sebastopol indicates there was once a stop there.

Aside from the wines, which we’ll get to later, there are three reasons to visit Iron Horse.  The first of these is that it is family-owned.  In these days of corporate takeovers, it’s a good idea to support the families who develop, farm and vinify on their own.  Sure, there are software zillionaires who buy wineries as a hobby.  They have families, too, but they’re not real wine people.  We should all help to make sure that these traditions continue.

Tasting at Iron Horse.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The second is the tasting room.  Or, rather, make that the tasting “room”.  It’s actually an extended shed with a porch outside and an overhanging wooden roof (so that tasting is possible on a rainy day).  On that porch, there are rough-hewn planks suspended between wine barrels.  Here you can sip rather elegant sparkling wines, physically proving that these wines don’t have to be reserved for fancy occasions.

The view from the Iron Horse tasting “room”.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

Finally, if you tear yourself away from looking at the wines and turn around, there is one of the most impressive vineyard views in Sonoma County, or maybe anywhere.  The tasting area (let’s stop calling it a room) is atop a steep hill and the vineyards extend through the valley below.  So when you visit, don’t just stand at the “bar” (there’s something about the Iron Horse experience that just demands quotation marks).  Turn around a look over the rows of vines, or better still take your glass and sit on a bench, soaking in both the wine and the view.

As to those wines, Iron Horse does make some still wines, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not the reason to visit.  Iron Horse is famed for its sparklers, and justly so.  They make twelve (!) different sparkling wines, ranging from an ultra-brut to a somewhat sweet wine that they claim is the best choice for a toast.  Their biggest seller (and the one often served at the White House, over five more administrations) is their Wedding Cuvee.  The name is clever marketing for a beverage that often accompanies nuptial celebrations.  They say that it’s their “interpretation” (those danged quote marks again) of a Blanc de Noir, but they use some Chardonnay so it’s not really pure white wine from red grapes.

It seems that Iron Horse hasn’t been served at the White House in the current administration.  So, come on, Joe, get with the program.

We admit to a weakness for any winery that still offers service behind two barrels and a plank, but as noted there are lots of reasons to visit Iron Horse.  It’s a bit of a trek across Sonoma County to the far reaches of Green Valley, but’s it’s worth the trip.

Domaine le Clos des Cazaux

In the village of Vacqueyras, just beyond the center of town, there is a winery that we have visited several times when we have been in the Southern Rhône.  The first time, it was highly recommended by the hotel where we were staying so we headed there after lunch in the village.  The rest of the story belongs in the Experiences section of Power Tasting as much as in Wineries, but it is also instructive about Clos des Cazaux.

The vines of Clos de Cazaux, just outside the village of Vacqueyras.  Photo courtesy of Kysela Pere et Fils.

Over 20 years ago…as we parked, a petite elderly woman came out to greet us.

Elderly Woman: Bonjour, Monsieur.  Bonjour, Madame.

All the rest of the conversation was also in French, so we’ll translate from here on.

EW: A taste of my wines, perhaps?

Power Tasting: Of course, that’s why we’re here.

EW: Please enter my cave.

The cave was little more than a shed.  Inside was a shelf with four bottles of red wine.  Clos de Cazaux makes more wines than that today.

EW: There are two Vacqueyras and two Gigondas.

This is a relevant point.  Many of the Vacqueyras wineries own parcels of land both in that village and in the neighboring hamlet of Gigondas.  Although they are as close together as uptown and downtown in a city, the elevation and soil conditions in the two are substantially different.

EW: The two Vacqueyras wines and one of the Gigondas are traditional, a blend of Grenache and Syrah.  The other is pure Syrah, pour les anglais (for the English).

PT: (to ourselves) Oh, she means us!

And that says a lot about Clos de Cazaux and the Vacqueyras vignerons in general.  While they can be innovative in their winemaking, the winemakers of Vacqueyras are tightly wedded to tradition.  Still, they try to please, even us anglais.

A Templar, with the Dentelles de Montmirail in the background.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

That wine that was made just for us was and is called the Cuvée des Templiers (or Templars, in English, who were freebooting soldiers who fought for and occupied the Holy Lands during the Crusades.  It is no longer just Syrah, but having tasted it again in ensuing years, it’s still our favorite from this winery.

The Clos des Cazaux vineyards. Photo courtesy of the winery.

As then, Clos des Cazaux makes wine from grapes of both Vacqueyras and Gigondas.  There are whites and a few rosés, but most of their wines are reds.  The whites are predominantly Clairette from vines the elderly woman might have planted in her youth.  The reds are mostly Grenache, Syrah and some Mourvèdre.  There are a few interesting exceptions, including a pure Grenache from Gigondas (maybe the anglais have changed their tastes).  There’s also a wine they call Grenat Noble, which is a Grenache, with 30% of the grapes having been infected with botrytis, the Noble Rot, that is the base of Sauternes dessert wines.  It’s not quite a dessert wine, not quite a table wine.  It’s just unique.

We’re sure that the elderly woman has long since passed on, but there is an interesting coda to this story.  Years later we were at the tourist information office in Rasteau, village near Vacqueyras, and we related the story above to the young woman who was helping us.  She looked at us, amazed, and said, “That woman is my grandmother!”

Rodney Strong Vineyards

The Rodney Strong winery is located in the northeastern corner of The Russian River district in Sonoma County.  It is a little out of the way, since the Old Redwood Highway, where Rodney Strong sits, isn’t chockablock full of wineries, as compared, say, with Dry Creek Road or Westside Road, both relatively nearby.  While there are other wineries we favor close to Rodney Strong, such as Limerick Lane or Foppiano, you pretty much have to consider it to be a destination, rather than a place you would be one stop among many.

The Rodney Strong facility.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

And a destination it should be.  It is not a Sonoma Palace, but it is rather grand.  You enter up a long staircase with splendid foliage all around you.  Once inside, you find an elegant, if a bit austere tasting room with servers who know quite a lot about the Rodney Strong wines.  They had better, because there are so many of them.

The tasting room at Rodney Strong.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The reason we say that this winery is atypical for Russian River is that they don’t just make Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Chardonnay, although they do produce all those varietals.  But there are also Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon, red and white blends and rosé.  In this regard, Rodney Strong is more like a winery in Napa Valley than Russian River.

The sheer number of wines that are available for tasting is one of this winery’s strengths.  Particularly for those who are not familiar with Sonoma County wines, this is a great place for an introduction, especially to Sonoma County as it used to be.  For Rodney Strong has been making wine here since 1959, with a family history stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century.  Mr. Strong himself was a Broadway dancer, who retired to buy vineyards and make wine.  It is always a pleasure to acquaint yourself with some of the pioneers of California winemaking as we know it today.  Since Mr. Strong was among the first to plant Pinot Noir in Russian River and Chardonnay in Chalk Hill, you really have a chance there to indulge in wine history.

Another way that Rodney Strong reflects the past is the price points for its wines.  In these days when the top bottles in many wineries go for well north of a hundred dollars, their most expensive wines under the Rodney Strong label can be purchased for two digits.  The cost of a wine is not necessarily indicative of its quality, but the overall pricing does set expectations.  Within that restriction, Rodney Strong delivers good, drinkable wine, some definitely worth sampling.

Unfortunately, the strength of such a wide range of varietals is also a weakness.  No one can make that many wines equally well.  But if your intent is to have wine for everyday dinners or barbecues, you can do very well at Rodney Strong.  And there are some wines you might taste that will do well with a weekend steak dinner as well.

The experience of a tasting at Rodney Strong – ambience, selection and wine – make a trip there quite satisfying.

Groth Vineyards and Winery

There’s a certain mystique about visiting Groth (  When we tell knowledgeable friends that we’ve been there, we often get that look, as though we had joined them as members of a secret society of wine insiders.  It’s hard to call Groth a cult wine but many of those who love their wines treat it that way.

So let’s deal with the wines first, before discussing the tasting experience there.  They make Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oh yes, they grow other Bordeaux blending grapes and they do have some white wines.  But believe us (and the Groth people themselves) Groth is all about Cab.  We don’t review wines at Power Tasting, but suffice it to say that their Cabernet Sauvignons are rather good and have won awards over the 40+ years they have been growing grapes and making wines.

The entrance to the Groth winery.

You don’t just drop in for a tasting at Groth.  Their policy is strictly “by appointment only”.  So, as you drive along the shady Oakville Cross Road and see Groth’s remarkable building, you will want to visit.  To do so, however, you would have needed to make a reservation well in advance.

The building seems from afar like a pink stucco Spanish hacienda.  It is set well off the road behind acres of vines, so that when you actually do approach you might find it surprising to see how large it is.  That’s because it’s an industrial property where people crush grapes, age wine and then bottle and sell it.  But it is also the home of the Groth family, so a visit to the winery is also a house call.

Inside the Groth winery.

That spirit is carried forward by the guide assigned to your visit who shows you round and serves you some wine.  The hacienda feeling is enhanced by the furnishings, made of gleaming wood and seemingly antique.  The daughter of the winery’s founder, now in charge of their operations, had once intended to be a professional artist and you can see several of her paintings on the walls.

Not surprisingly, the guides talk reverently about the Groths, particularly the founder, Dennis.  We’ve also heard that tone applied to winery owners who inherited their wealth or bet early on Microsoft.  When you walk around the winery, you might see old photos of Mr. Groth with fellows such as Mr. Mondavi, Mr. Winiarski and Mr. Heitz, you realize that he was one of Napa Valley’s pioneers.  True, the Groth family came to the valley “only” in 1982.  They intended to make fine Bordeaux style wines and they did it.  It’s no mean feat to look back on your career and say that you accomplished your goal.

All that history means nothing to the visitor if the essentials aren’t there.  But fine architecture, a warm greeting and good wine should always go together in Wine Country.  Sadly, that’s not always the case in Napa Valley and elsewhere.  Visitors should treasure the combination when they encounter it, as we have done at Groth.


Conn Creek Winery

In Napa Valley, there are some wineries that are very famous for the quality of the wine they make and sometimes for the wine they used to make.  Conn Creek may not be the most famous name in the valley, but we would say that it is definitely a winery worth visiting, for newbies and experienced tasters as well.

Conn Creek Winery.  Photo courtesy of

There are a number of reasons for saying this.  Conn Creek was established in 1973, prior to the famous Judgment of Paris tasting that established northern California as a winemaking area worthy of international repute.  These pioneering wineries, which include the more famous ones such as Stag’s Leap, Mondavi and Chateau Montelena, are worth knowing if only because of the accumulated expertise that only the decades can bring.

It is also one of the earliest environmentally sustainable wineries.  They proudly assert that Conn Creek is certified as a “Napa Green” winery.  Their website boasts that the original facility was built with 12-inch walls stuffed with 20,000 corks.  (We’re not certain what those corks have to do with sustainability, but it’s an interesting factoid.)

Of course, the primary reason to visit is to taste their wines.  Here Conn Creek’s philosophy of winemaking in Napa Valley comes into play.  For openers, the house specialty is Cabernet Sauvignon, as is true of many wineries in the region.  Conn Creek does grow some of their grapes on their own 2½ acres, which is not a lot.  The rest of their production comes from sourced grapes from everywhere in the valley.  And we do mean everywhere.  In their tasting room you can compare and contrast Cabernet Sauvignons from Diamond Mountain, Stags Leap, Chiles Valley, St. Helena, Calistoga, Spring Mountain, Rutherford, Oakville, Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder.  What a tour!

What Conn Creek is proudest of is their premier wine, Anthology.  This is a made from grapes from all over Napa Valley.  Almost every year, it’s a blend, differing each year in the composition.  For the most part, they make a Bordeaux blend, plus or minus one or two of the “official” grapes.  In 2017 and 2018, they made Anthology from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but even that was a blend of AVAs.  Conn Creek tells us that they have returned to blends, but with fewer varietals.

Part of the display of the single vineyard versions of Cabernet Sauvignon

In the tasting room, there is a display explaining the way that Conn Creek approaches winemaking, with soil samples and explanations of the characteristics of the grapes from each vineyard they source from.  Moreover, Conn Creek offers a very interesting course in an area adjoining the tasting room.  They call it “The Barrel Blending Experience” (with a little registered trademark sign).  After explaining and sampling the different single vineyard wines, the participants are given the chance to create their own blends.  For one thing, it creates appreciation of what real winemakers do to get the perfect blend into a bottle.  For another, everyone gets to take home his or her own version of Anthology.

For many years, we drove past Conn Creek as we were going somewhere else along the Silverado Trail or up in the mountains.  Now we often make a point to stop and see what they have been making, and how their wines have evolved over time.

Darioush Winery

There’s the jewelry store around the corner, and then there’s Tiffany.  There’s your favorite diner, and then there’s French Laundry.  So there are Napa palaces, and then there’s Darioush.

The entrance to Darioush Winery.

From the time that it opened in 2004, the Darioush “hospitality center” has stood out for its architecture, its wine, its shopping and, to our point of view, its excess.  Power Tasting is dedicated to the wine tasting experience.  We put the emphasis on tasting wine as a vacation activity and a pleasant avocation.  We have found that Darioush places the emphasis on the experience, more so than the wine itself.

Let us hasten to say Darioush does make some very fine wines.  Their style runs to big, round, powerful wines.  A number of them are based on Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.  In our opinion, the strength of Darioush’s list resides in their Rhone grapes: Viognier and Shiraz.  At Darioush, the grape is called Shiraz, not Syrah; what animates the Darioush winery is the glory that was once Persia, where the grape originated.


The name of the founder, Darioush Khaledi, harkens back to the great Persian emperor Darius, which not coincidentally is the name of their top-of-the-line Cabernet Sauvignon.  The proprietor is an Iranian immigrant to the United States who made his fortune in the grocery business and then entered the world of wine.  He built his Persian temple alongside Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail so that it would be noticed.


Tasting at Darioush.

It certainly can’t be missed.  Out front, there is a flaming cauldron that heralds a colonnade of pillars topped with Persian-like double sculptures of horses.  These lead to a large building made of warm, honey-toned stones.  The interior is equally commanding, with more columns holding up a high ceiling and a skylight, over a large, square tasting bar.  Scattered around are small rooms and nooks for private seated tastings; these too are furnished in Persian style.

Along the walls and in the corners are items for sale: purses, scarves, knick-knacks and wine-related implements.  All of them are exquisite and, as we were told by a Darioush representative, “our clients expect the items we sell to be expensive”.

And that says everything about the winery.  Everything about it, including the wine, is designed to overwhelm the visitors’ senses.  You are certainly invited to try and enjoy the wines, in the context of beauty, refinement and luxury.

It is notable that the building is called a hospitality center, not a tasting room.  The owners say that the experience at their winery is based on the culture of “Tarof”, a Persian word that can indeed be translated as “hospitality” but also with connotations of an emphasis on deference and social rank.  You are surely welcome, in the same sense as a visit to your wealthy uncle.  You are introduced to many wonderful and precious things, but in the end you feel smaller, rather than enriched.

Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery

There are no wineries on Long Island’s North Fork that are anything like the palaces that have grown up in some parts of California’s Wine Country.  The closest is Sparkling Pointe, in Southold.  In fairness, the architecture is not palatial.  From the outside, the building that houses the tasting room is reminiscent of a mansion in an upscale suburb.  The interior is grand without being overwhelming, with widely spaced tables, crystal chandeliers and lively contemporary artwork.

The exterior of Sparkling Pointe.  Photo courtesy of The Knot.

However, if you visit on a day with fair weather (which we have been lucky enough to find when we’ve been there) you’ll walk through the tasting room, note the wide bar and allow yourself to be seated on the spacious patio overlooking the vineyards.  Ahh, this is wonderful…and it can only be improved by being served some sparkling wine.  Which, as the name indicates, is what they make at Sparkling Pointe.


The view from the terrace in front of the vineyards.

Although Sparkling Pointe advertises openly that they use the méthode champenoise, it’s not Champagne, which can only be made in the eponymous region of France.  There have been other North Fork wineries that have made wine with bubbles in it, but to our tastes there’s nothing else there that approaches the quality of Sparkling Pointe.  We at Power Tasting do not review wines, but rather the wine tasting experience.  That said, we find that this winery’s sparkling wines can stand up to those of their California cousins.

All tastings are seated, with service offered from a fairly wide cross-section of Sparkling Pointe’s wines.  Flights are available as are individual glasses.  There are assemblages of the three Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  They also make blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs and a rosé.

Of course, each sparkling wine has its own characteristics and each taster will find some that they prefer to the others.  We were taken by the rosé, but there’s no reason for us to believe that everyone will agree with us.  But, wow, it is fun to have six small flutes in front of yourself and get to make a choice.

Too many Long Island vineyards attract visitors with rock bands, pizza trucks and an overall carnival atmosphere.  Sparkling Pointe is all about the wines, so there’s none of that.  However, like many Long Island wineries, Sparkling Pointe has a side business as a venue for weddings.  For the most part, this shouldn’t affect wine tasters, unless they happen to be there near the end of the day when revelers are beginning to assemble.

To a degree, this problem is ameliorated by a “by reservation only” policy.  However, we have never had a reservation and have never seen a crowd at Sparkling Pointe.  That may be because of our policy of tasting at Long Island wineries on weekdays, just as we try to do in California.  If you know that you will be there on a Saturday afternoon in high summer, a reservation is a good idea.

As is the case with several of the newer North Fork wineries, Sparkling Pointe is showing how dedication and money can help the Long Island corner of Wine Country reach its potential.  It’s well worth traveling from New York City, or elsewhere, to be a part of the journey.


Écluse Wines

Écluse Wines (, in Paso Robles, offers wine tasting the way it used to be in the long gone Napa Valley times.  The tastings are held in the barrel room.  The bottles are laid out on a plank between two barrels.  And if you’re lucky, your glass will be filled by the owner and winemaker, Steve Lock.

Steve Lock, proprietor and winemaker, Écluse Wines.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

Mr. Lock and his wife Pam started their vineyard in 1997 and began making wine from their own property in 2001.  They have focused on Bordeaux and Rhône grapes ever since.  And, of course, since they’re in Paso Robles, they grow Zinfandel.

The setting of Écluse, atop a hill off a back road in Paso Robles, is quite rustic.  However, there’s nothing bucolic about the winemaking.  They are quite proud of the awards they have won, especially those from the San Francisco Chronicle’s annual wine competition.

The Central Coast climate leads to very high sugar concentrations.  The Locks believe in letting their grapes ripen to their peak flavors, so the alcohol content of their wines tends to run quite high.  Since they offer a significant number of their wines at each tasting, a bit of restraint is in order for the visitors.

Those wines fall into two categories.  There are single varietal wines, such as Merlot, Malbec and Zinfandel.  But then there are blends.  For a few examples, Ensemble is Écluse’s five-grape Bordeaux blend.  This you will find elsewhere. The others are like nothing else you’re likely to find in the Central Coast, or in all of California for that matter.  Improv is Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, Merlot, Malbec and Carignan. Insider has Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec (not so unusual) but half the wine is made from Tannat grapes!  A visit at Écluse is like a trip to Australia, without having to cross the Pacific.

The barrel room at Écluse.  Photo courtesy of Paso Robles Wineries.

Another distinguishing feature of a tasting at Écluse is that all of them include a barrel tasting.  If they’re not too crowded and you show genuine interest, Mr. Lock may treat you to an extraordinary experience.  He’ll draw wine from three barrels, each with oak of a different origin: France, Hungary and the United States.  The wine you taste will be from the same grape and vintage so the only differentiator is the wood.  This is an unforgettable experiment that offers proof of Écluse’s commitment to their wines.

Écluse is only open from Thursday through Sunday and reservations are advisable.  But we have found that if you’re not going to be in Paso Robles on the weekend, a call might win you a private tasting, if they can accommodate you.

There’s a sly play on words in the name.  Écluse is the French word for lock, of the sort that are found on canals to raise and lower the boats.  Pictures of a lock are on the labels and considering the family name of the owner…



McCall Wines

Driving along Route 25 on Long Island’s North Fork isn’t much like motoring up Napa Valley’s Route 29.  Yes, there are wineries on both sides, but the California version is much grander.  There are a few wineries in Long Island with architecture that’s impressive, such as Raphael and Pellegrini, but most are understated.  Architecturally speaking, McCall is understated to the point of a whisper.  As you drive up to the winery, it seems like it could be farmhouse or a stable.

The tasting room at McCall Wines.

Well, it was a stable.  The owner, Russell McCall, is a horseman.  The tasting room has retained its equine charm, with a décor of saddles, farm implements  pictures of Mr. McCall playing polo.  Two of the stalls have been retained and you can taste your wine in them, if that’s your wish.   There is a small bar but tasting is done as table service, outside in the summer.

The site has historic interest.  It was once a meeting place of local Native Americans, known hundreds of years ago as Fort Corchaug.  The vineyard at the winery (they have another nearby) is still known as the Corchaug.  In good weather, we prefer to leave the stable behind us and sit at a picnic table on an expansive lawn overlooking that vineyard.

Tasting by the vines.

McCall also raises cattle on the property.  One of the popular attractions at the winery is Burger nights on seasonable Thursdays and Fridays, with the main attraction made from their own Charolais beef.  It may be a little unsettling to know that what you’re eating once lived just over there, but we recommend you wash down your concern with some wine.

We were first attracted to McCall by their Pinot Noirs, of which there are four.  It’s not a grape that is generally found on the North Fork, where Bordeaux grapes are more commonly grown.  These wines are not Burgundies, nor are they much like Pinot Noirs from Russian River.  They have their own local character.  You’ll have to judge for yourself how Long Island terroir plus maritime breezes work for these wines.

There are also Chardonnays and Rosés to sample.  But the star of the show, to our tastes, is a Bordeaux Blend they call Ben’s Blend, named for their founding winemaker.  McCall ages these wines – the youngest available for sale in 2022 is the 2014 vintage – and we find it more Californian in character and quality than any other red wine we have tasted from a Long Island winery.

One thing we appreciated when we last visited was that the winemaker, Miguel Martin, walked around to each table and had a few words with the patrons.  Mr. Martin is a Napa Valley veteran, transplanted to the East Coast.  We were quite impressed with the experience of wine tasting at McCall and urge visitors to the North Fork to include it on their itineraries.