Several of us lucky winos from the New York/New Jersey area were fortunate enough to get together on Saturday, June 5th at the Metuchen estate of winemaker Andrew Scott for an informal afternoon of tours, talk and tastings, beginning with barbeque in the afternoon sun and segueing into port-sipping by starlight out behind the grapevines.

Due to some train mishaps Lisa and I arrived a bit later than we'd have liked, and I didn't switch into full-throttle-geek notetaking mode until after several nice Loire whites had washed the dust of the afternoon's travel out of my mouth. From piecemeal recollections, there was a Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon Blanc Cuvée Buster 1997 (I think), which struck me as more floral, mellony and open than the regular Clos Roche Blanche SB; there was also an Anjou that everyone kept calling 'Pierre-Bise', which confused me because the label had not a trace of that name that I could see, until the tiny 'Papin-Chevalier' on the bottom of the label was pointed out to me. How do these Loireheads decipher all this stuff?

At any rate, after a tour of the cellars, where Mr. Scott's eagerly-awaited La Resultant D'Erreurs Metuchen 1998 was spotted resting peacefully, we turned to some ribs and some reds:

Steele Zinfandel Medocino Pacini Vineyard 1995: Medium-dark garnet; rich black cherry/prune nose with sweet oaky butteriness. Fairly crisp & tangy, but also mouth-dryingly tannic. Lots of oak, sweet black-cherry flavors; rich enough but not terribly interesting.

Turley Zinfandel California Old Vines 1997: Ripe Turley nose of jammy black cherry, pepper and candied popcorn. Nice, full-flavored zin with good zinberry/smoky flavors and some crisp acidity making a decent attempt to balance out the rich fruitiness. Bit hot, but hey, what can ya do? Mr. Scott, who had raised eyebrows earlier in the afternoon by wandering the grounds sipping a beer, raised them up into hairlines by coddling a glass of this late in the evening and commenting that it was 'developing some nice herbaceous notes...'

Daniello Vino da Tavola di Toscana 1990: Medium red, with hints of brownishness; nose of light tomato, cedar, raisin, kind of older Bordeaux-like smells; in the mouth very tight, not giving much. Light & tannic, muted cherry/berry & cedar flavors. Dry gritty tannins kind of overwhelm the fruit.

Paolo Scavino 'Vigneto del Fiasc' Dolcetto D'Alba 1997: Bright purply-red; aromatically light, cranberry/raspberry, maybe a light cabbagey note. Lots of acidity, bit mouth-puckering, dark redfruit notes, tangy, with dry tannins. TIGHT.

Jean-Paul Brun Pinot Noir Beaujolais 1997: Medium-light translucent garnet; jammy sweet plum/strawberry nose. Light, fruity & dusty, with an intriguing celeryish note under the soft redfruit flavors. Crisp, with light, very fine tannins. Clean, pleasant pinot noir with some interesting complexity and nicely balanced.

A sparkler to clear the palate:

Huet Vouvray Petillant 1995: Light appley, bready nose; touch of sweetness at first, not at all unpleasant, along with light peach & pear notes. Light & flavorful, very refreshing.

A meat wine to keep folks on their toes:

Yes, my old friend Wincarnis NV Tonic Wine, D. & G. Wines, Ltd., Kingston, Jamaica: Still promising renewed vitality, still made with 'The finest extracts of meat and malt,' still red-orange, still tasting like cheap cooking sherry with a bouillon cube dissolved in it. What's left to say...?

After a brief tour of the vineyardette ("What kind of grapevines are these?" "Ummm... white?") we switched to some New York/New Jersey wines...

Dr. Konstantin Frank New York Johannisberg Riesling 1998: pale, pale, slight almost greenish tint; light apple-juicy, 'rainwater'/limey nose. Medium-crisp, touch of sweetness, honeyed taste, pleasant apple-cobbler tastes. A dispute broke out among the tasters as to whether or not this wine was actually sweet, with a certain Mr. Kane of New York holding forth in the face of open hoots of disparagement that the sweetness was an illusion caused by the floral, honeyed fruitiness. Brave lad!

Tomasello Collier's Victorian Cape May New Jersey Chardonnay 1998: Funky, chalky, stinky-celery nose, inspiring a few 'Cuvée Meadowlands' jokes; under the nose mostly fruitless, tasting mainly of buttery brown-sugar/vanilla with touches of pear & apple popping up once in awhile and turning butterscotchy on the finish. Not undrinkable, but not too far off. There was a faction that thought this was badly corked--it certainly did seem like it was 'off', and I don't have much of a nose for TCA (Lisa does, and she thought it corked), so I'd like to try this one again.

Hunt Country Vineyards Foxy Lady Finger Lakes Red (NV): Medium light garnet-brown; watermelon/strawberry nose; jammy-fruity, lettucey. Sweet & mellony, but somehow kind of friendly, more like a wine cooler than table wine, but served well-chilled on a hot day it had a certain appeal, not to mention it's hard to seriously rap a wine called 'Foxy Lady...'

Homemade Rustic Red, Brooklyn, NY (NV): (I didn't quite catch the whole story on this one--apparently made by a little old man in Brooklyn and dispened in five-gallon jugs, it arrived with two strips of masking tape on the bottle with the name written on them in felt-tip marker...) Purply-dark Kool-Aid color; grapy, grapy nose, whiff of nail polish; dusty, earthy taste, crisp, juicy, utterly woodless. Simple & quite pleasant.

De Gluck Gluck Agustus El Niño Syrah/Grenache Metuchen 1997: Medium garnet; muted earthy-cherry nose, not lush, but smooth & crisp with just a hint of horehound; cran-cherry comes through on the midpalate, very light tannins. During impromptu discussions with the winemaker it came out that there had been a need to adjust the acidity levels, which seemed very nice to me in the final product. The opinions of those who had tasted the wine last year (I didn't) seemed to be almost universal in agreeing that it had come together remarkably in the interval.

And finally, Quinto do Noval Vintage Port 1966: Decanted for three or four minutes, this one continued to open up nicely in the glass as the night went on; pungent nose--nutty dark marshmallow/vanilla/orange rind; sweet & rich & creamy, with considerable heat on the finish, especially at first. Medium-crisp, dark and progressively more and more complex and smooth as it opened up. Nice.

All in all, a lovely time with some oddball wines and some just plain oddballs. Many thanks and kudos to Mr. Scott and his lovely fiancée Jennifer for putting together such a festive event!

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